Holy God, by your providence you have preserved your people through many times of trouble. Bless and keep us in these days, that we may know your abundant love and proclaim your saving work; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


How wonderful, how beautiful, when brothers and sisters get along! It’s like costly anointing oil flowing down head and beard, Flowing down Aaron’s beard, flowing down the collar of his priestly robes. It’s like the dew on Mount Hermon flowing down the slopes of Zion. Yes, that’s where God commands the blessing, ordains eternal life.
*HYMN No. 673 “Jesus, Light of Joy”
1 Jesus, light of joy, surround us; let your splendid glory shine: source of every earthly blessing, heaven’s everlasting sign.
Alleluia, alleluia, we adore you, light divine. 2 Now the shadows fall around us; now the evening has begun: still your gracious light is with us, brighter than the morning sun. Alleluia, alleluia, God of glory, Three-in-One. 3 With the saints we lift our voices, God of power, God of might. All creation shines with glory, singing praises day and night: alleluia, alleluia, holy, holy, holy light.
Let us honestly acknowledge how we have gone astray and confess our sins to God.
God our refuge, you hear our cries for mercy. You lift the lowly and offer hope to the hopeless. But we, who benefit from your grace, do not emu- late you and your ways. We are quick to condemn, exaggerate critique and act mercilessly. We confess the ways we demean and dehumanize others. We pray for your forgiveness. Amen.
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. In the name of Jesus Christ, we are forgiven. Amen.
*RESPONSE No. 647 “Give Thanks”
Give thanks with a grateful heart; give thanks to the Holy One; give thanks because we’re given Jesus Christ, the Son. Give thanks with a grateful heart; give thanks to the Holy One; give thanks because we’re given Jesus Christ, the Son. And now let the weak say, “We are strong”; let the poor say,
“We are rich because of what the Lord has done for us!” And now let the weak say, “We are strong”; let the poor say, “We are rich because of what the Lord has done for us!” Give thanks. Give thanks.
As Christ welcomed everyone, no matter what their background, no matter what their social status; as Christ welcomed enemies and friends, outcasts and leaders, foreigners, and neighbors, let us open our hearts and homes and lives.
Let us be Christ to everyone we meet.
Peace be with you.
And also with you.
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on us. Open us to your life-giving Word. Quiet the voices within us that do not align with your will. Focus our minds on the message you intend for us so we may faithfully discern your way. Amen.

SCRIPTURE Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
11I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.
29for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, 31so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. 32For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.
SERMON “By No Means”
“A father passing by his son’s bedroom was astonished to see that his bed was nicely made, and everything was picked up. Then he saw an Envelope, propped up prominently on the pillow that was addressed to ‘Dad.’
With the worst premonition he opened the envelope with trembling hands and read the letter.
‘Dear Dad: It is with great regret and sorrow that I’m writing you. I had to elope with my new girlfriend because I wanted to avoid a scene with Mom and you. I have been finding

real passion with Jody and she is so nice. But I knew you would not approve of her because of all her piercing, tattoos, tight motorcycle clothes and the fact that she is much older than I am. But it’s not only the passion… …Dad she’s pregnant. Jody said that we will be very happy.
She owns a trailer in the woods and has a stack of firewood for the whole winter. We share a dream of having many more children. Jody has opened my eyes to the fact that marijuana doesn’t really hurt anyone. We’ll be growing it for ourselves and trading it with the other people that live nearby for cocaine and ecstasy. In the meantime, we will pray that science will find a cure for AIDS so Jody can get better. She deserves it. Don’t worry Dad. I’m 15 and I know how to take care of myself. Someday I’m sure that we will be back to visit so that you can get to know your grandchildren. Love, Your Son John…
PS. Dad, none of the above is true. I’m over at Tommy’s house. I Just wanted to remind you that there are worse things in life than a Report card that’s in my center desk drawer. I love you. Call me when it’s safe to come home.”
I’m sure none of you have had disobedient children or been disobedient when you were younger…that none of us have had kids that broke the rules of the family or broken the family rules…
Today, we find Paul discussing how his people – the Israelites have broken the family rules, and then he turns to the Gentiles who have also broken the family rules of God. Both sides of God’s family tree have fallen short of the glory of God, both have been disobedient, and yet… both are offered God’s compassion… both are offered God’s forgiveness… both are offered God’s mercy.
Mercy means “a mission or act performed to alleviate the suffering of others.” The word is taken from the medieval Latin words “merced” and “merces,” which mean “price paid.” The word “mercy” is also popular in a legal context, such as when a judge shows lenience upon sentencing. This is called mercy of the court. When used in this context, the word is more synonymous with clemency and leniency.
In the Bible, mercy is used in reference to giving forgiveness or withholding punishment. The scripture, both Old and New Testament speaks of God’s forgiveness, as well as the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. God’s mercy has nothing to do with human worthiness. No one deserves God’s grace. Even on our best days, we turn away from God and submit to some form of idolatry We often believe we have earned God’s love through our own goodness, when in reality we fall short of what God intends for us and rely on our own strengths instead of relying upon God.
This is the good news, however: God is merciful to disobedient people. In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven. God alone deserves our awe and our praise.
How then do we as Christians live in response to this passage?
How does our understanding of our own disobedience and God’s great mercy shape the way we live and move and have our being?
Knowing of our fallen nature and God’s great mercy, how do we live as followers of Jesus Christ?
Pope Francis tells a story of conversion by mercy. He was but seventeen, on a train to Buenos Aires, on his way to a school picnic where he was considering proposing to his girlfriend. On the way he passed a church and felt compelled to go in. There he met a young, friendly priest and decided to give his confession. As he did so, he was overwhelmed by a sense of God’s power and presence, and most of all, but an understanding of God’s mercy for him and the world. In that moment, God called him to a special vocation of mercy: “a mission or act performed to alleviate the suffering of others.”.
Responding to his vocational calling, Pope Francis continues to call Christians to ministries of mercy. When speaking at the Extraordinary Jubilee of God’s Mercy in Bogota, Columbia, he encouraged those in attendance to be “amazed by God’s mercy,” to remember their sin, and not to rest on their merits. He also called them to act in mercy towards the world:
“We live in a society that is bleeding, and the price of its wounds normally ended up being paid by the most vulnerable. But it is precisely to this society, to this culture, that the Lord sends us. He sends us with one program alone: to treat one another with mercy. To become neighbors to those thousands of defenseless people who walk in our beloved American land by proposing a different way of treating them.”
In the end, those who have knowledge of God’s endless mercy – who understand life as a mission to alleviate the suffering of others, in spite of humanity’s undeserving – in spite of our fallen nature, will seek to embrace such a gift with gratitude. This mercy should shape our knowledge of God and our knowledge of ourselves. It should remind us daily of God’s grace – unmerited grace.
I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! God seeks to forgive us daily and invites us to alleviate the suffering of others. God seeks to set us free from sin and challenges us to love our neighbor. God pardons our failures and asks us to lighten the grief of all God’s children. May we forgive, as we have been forgiven! Thanks Be To God!!
Commentary and Liturgy from the Book of Common Worship (PCUSA), Teri McDowell Ott, Mindy Adams, David L. Bartlett, NT Wright, Paul Achtemeier, Matt Skinner, Doug Bratt, Scott Hoezee and Cynthia A. Jarvis
Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty?
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
Do you believe in Jesus Christ?
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
Do you believe in the Holy Spirit?
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

*HYMN No. 442 “Just As I Am, Without One Plea”
1 Just as I am, without one plea but that thy blood was shed for me, and that thou biddest me come to thee, O Lamb of God, I come; I come! 2 Just as I am, though tossed about with many_a conflict, many_a doubt, fightings and fears within, without, O Lamb of God, I come; I come! 3 Just as I am, thou wilt receive, wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve; because thy promise I believe, O Lamb of God, I come; I come! 4 Just as I am, thy love unknown has broken every barrier down; now to be thine, yea, thine alone, O Lamb of God, I come; I come!
Eternal God, we gather with you in worship, listen to your Word read and proclaimed, and discern your will for our lives. Incline your ear to us as we raise our prayers, petitions, joys and concerns. Hear us as we pray.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
God our Rock, we are questioning what we once assumed to be sturdy and stable. Our economy feels fragile, our democracy vulnerable, our country angrily divided. Things are changing too fast, and our options feel limited. We don’t know what to do to make things better. Life is overwhelming, and we, your people, need your help.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
Creator God, the natural world groans for relief as temperatures rise, wildfires rage and natural disasters regularly and tragically endanger lives. We pray for those without the resources to rebuild after disaster strikes. We pray for the sick whose lungs are vulnerable to polluted air. We pray for the evacuated, the refugee, the desperate and the destitute. We pray for your earth to be renewed.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
Prince of Peace, save us from ourselves, our violence and warring mad- ness. Defeat dictators- hell bent on hoarding power. Protect the innocent from injustice. Strengthen the honorable. Bless us all with the moral courage to follow Christ’s way of love. Restore peace to Ukraine. Protect the persecuted of Manipur, India. Clear a path of peace for Israel and Pales- tine. Stabilize the situation in Niger, Africa. Hear the cries of your people.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
Merciful God, we are not without help or hope. Acts of compassion inspire in the face of all that is hard and harsh. Communities are collab- orating to meet needs in new and exciting ways. People long silenced are finding their voice. We are newly aware of what we can accomplish when we work together for the flourishing of your kin-dom. Holy God, the greatest threats are those that lead us to lock ourselves down, close our minds and hearts, build barriers to divide and protect. May your Spirit encourage our faith as we stand open-hearted, praying and believing in your endless mercy.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.
Now, as the Body of Christ and your covenant community, we pray the prayer Jesus taught us, saying, “Our Father….”
Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen

God’s abundance cannot be matched. Still, we are inspired to be generous by a generous God. We are inspired to give by the greatest of givers. In gratitude to God, let us present our tithes and offerings.

*RESPONSE N0. 609 “Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow”
Praise God, from whom all blessing flow, Praise God, all creatures here below. Alleluia, Alleluia Praise God in Jesus fully known; Creator, Word, and Spirit one. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

Gracious God, the gifts we offer reflect only a portion of all that you have given us. Take these offerings, we pray, and multiply them for your use. May our offerings be a blessing to those most in need, to those most vulnerable. May our offerings, given in a spirit of generosity, abate the desire to hoard, and spread the desire to share. Amen.

*HYMN No. 459 “O Word of God Incarnate”
1 O Word of God incarnate, O Wisdom from on high, O Truth unchanged, unchanging, O Light of our dark sky: we praise you for the radiance that from the hallowed page, a lantern to our footsteps, shines on from age to age. 2 The church from you, dear Savior, received this gift divine; and still that light is lifted on all the earth to shine. It is the chart and compass that, all life’s voyage through, amid the rocks and quicksands still guides, O Christ, to you. 3 O make your church, dear Savior, a lamp of purest gold to bear before the nations your true light, as of old; O teach your wandering pilgrims by this our path to trace,
till, clouds and storms thus ended, we see you face to face.

We are the Body of Christ, his hands, his feet, his heart, his lungs, Bearing witness in this world to God’s mercy and love.
May the nourishment of God’s Word, the accountability of Christian community, and the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit fortify us for faithfulness. Amen.