The Presbyterian Church at Woodbury
August 8, 2021
11th Sunday after Pentecost
GREETING AND PRAYER OF PREPARATION
Almighty God, we pray for your blessing on the church in this place.
Here may the faithful find salvation, and the careless be awakened.
Here may the doubting find faith and the anxious be encouraged.
Here may the tempted find help and the sorrowful comfort.
Here may the weary find rest and the strong be renewed.
Here may the aged find consolation and the young be inspired,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
PRELUDE Call to Service Robert Hughes
CALL TO WORSHIP
Cry out with joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness. Come into God’s presence with singing!
For the Lord is a gracious god, whose mercy is everlasting; and whose faithfulness endures to all generations.
Come, let us worship God.
CALL TO RECONCILIATION
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us but, if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrightousness in humility and faith, let us confess our sin to God.
PRAYER OF FORGIVENESS
Merciful god, we confess that we have sinned against You, in thought, word and deed; by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved You with our whole heart and mind and strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. In Your mercy forgive what we have been, help us amend what we are, and direct what we shall be, so that we may delight in Your will and walk in Your ways, to the glory of Your Holy Name.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting. I declare to you, in the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven. May the God of mercy, Who forgives you all your sins, strengthen you in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep you in eternal life. Amen
PEACE OF CHRIST
Since God has forgiven us in Christ, let us forgive one another. The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
ANTHEM Thy Will Wendy Hill
CHILDREN’S MESSAGE Laken Franchetti
PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION Kristen Franchetti
SCRIPTURE READINGS Ephesians 4: 25- 5: 2 Kristen Franchetti
SERMON Imitators of God
Often times when Rose and I go on vacation, we tend to gravitate to sites and locations that are not as frequently visited by most tourists. It’s not that we shy away from the so-called popular venues, but it is the case more often than not; we find ourselves enthralled by what is around us and ask, where is everybody? For example, we did visit Mt. Rushmore, it is a spectacular display of craftsmanship (don’t get me started on who was chosen to be chiseled out of rock). Even on a very hot day, the area was packed. Contrast that to a trip through the Bad Lands a day earlier, an equally spectacular creation of sculpture by nature – the crowd we encountered, another couple from New Jersey!
In Scotland and England, we visited some castles and of course Stonehenge so did many others. But off a country road near Inverness, we drove back to a cairn, an ancient burial ground (marked as a historic site) which dated back 1000 years before Stonehenge – our company that day, a herd of cows grazing in a nearby field. And on a trip south to Georgia from Chicago, we stopped at the recreated log cabin of Abraham Lincoln in the woods of Larue County, Kentucky. Admission was free, the crowd, 12 people.
And so it was just a few weeks ago when we headed, with our niece Andrea and her husband Tom, to the Tarrytown, Sleepy Hollow area of New York, along the Hudson River. Our hope was to visit and pay our respects at the site of the Sandy Hook shootings, do a drive through West Point, but focus on Sleepy Hollow. We had been there before but only briefly and now returned to the famous cemetery where Washington Irving is buried and the fabled wooden bridge where Ichabod Crane encounters the headless horseman. On a side note, the mascot for Sleepy Hollow High School is the horseman, I want one of their t-shirts.
We also wanted to see the Tarrytown lighthouse. It is not the most imposing structure in the world, but who doesn’t like a lighthouse. To get to that lighthouse you had to go on a river walk path. We arrived at the parking lot, and it had a number of cars, but they were all related to
the children’s summer camp in the wooded area we walked through. Just seeing these little kids was enough of a pleasure, but on we walked, until we spot the lighthouse. Then we spotted something else we had not anticipated – the Sleepy Hollow wishing wall.
The wall is 10 feet high and 520 feet long, comprised of huge panels adorned with artwork. It is a temporary structure which separates the edge of the Hudson construction project from the river walk, and as we discovered, it is not easy to get to. It was to be part of the Sleepy Hollow Cultural Festival in 2019, which was canceled. Then came the pandemic, there were no crowds, but the wall remained.
The wall, the work of 10 local artists, addressing how they might capture an answer to this question – what are your hopes and dreams for the future, for yourself, for your family and loved ones, for your community and for the world? And you were to center your response around these 4 categories – air, earth, water, and humanity. All of the painting was to be done by local volunteers and school children. We found ourselves mesmerized by this wall. Later on, on our walk we would see elaborate gardens, a hilltop castle and rolling terraces of the summer getaways for the wealthy of New York – nothing compared to the wall.
It was created to celebrate Sleepy Hollow’s diversity – this town of some 10,000 people is the antithesis of the world of castle dwellers, but it is the epitome of the glorious hope and promise that America can be. Represented in this one small town were volunteers and children from 41 different nations, living right now, together in this town, these were the little children at the summer camp, these are the people whose restaurants and businesses work together to battle through the struggles brought on the covid outbreak. If you think 6th Avenue in NY City has diverse food offerings, try the two main streets in Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow. This wall, sadly may be just a temporary thing, it may only be there for another 6 months to a year; somehow, it needs to stay, at least in some form, because it is a clear message of hope, and it is an imitation of God’s message to us. A message we must never grow tired of seeing and hearing.
There is an old expression, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Supposedly this has been around for centuries but never received any mark of popularity until the 19th century when Charles Cobb Cotton used it in print. In fact, there have been some ongoing debates about
whether or not this statement actually makes sense – although I don’t remember my family ever discussing this at the dinner table. That being said, we do imitate, don’t we? We do try to follow the lead of people we admire. I guess the relevant question is why. Do we do so only to align
ourselves with someone or thing that is popular, so that we might be considered so as well? Our whole cultural makeup is often structured in how we dress, look, sound or certainly act. Trends are created by imitation, and we are a culture of trends. Wearing certain clothes, or makeup, speaking in certain catch phrases or idioms, following certain political beliefs, many times these are temporary and not a valid indicator of who we are – but how we act towards each other and how we act when no one is watching. That is much more important.
A few weeks ago we dealt with a scripture in many ways, somewhat difficult to discern. That really isn’t the case today. This is more clear-cut. You heard the scripture, but now hear it again, from Eugene Peterson’s The Message:
The old way of life has to go. Get rid of it, and then take on an entirely new way of life — a God fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.
What this adds up to, then, is this: no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body we’re all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself.
Go ahead and be angry you do well to be angry, but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the devil that kind of foothold in your life.
Did you use to make ends meet by stealing? Well, no more. Get an honest job, so that you can help others who can’t work.
Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word is a gift.
Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you for Himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted.
Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another; sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.
Watch what God does, and then do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious, but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us, but to give everything of Himself to us. Love like that.
It doesn’t get much more straightforward than that. Straightforward yes, easy to understand, but again, not always so easy to do. We are given a number of responsibilities; especially as parents because children absorb everything parents do and say, and they will imitate those actions and words. What are the lessons we are teaching our children? What are the priorities that we set for ourselves? Are they the priorities we want our children to share in as well? Do we act differently outside our home than we do inside? Do we really think that children don’t hear angry or hurtful words said behind closed doors? Does the do as I say and not as I do argument hold any validity at all? Do we say grace before meals and since I am addressing a gathering of Christians today, if not, why not? Is attending church something for older people to do, because we are busy? Remember, let the children come unto me…
The responsibilities don’t end with parents what about teachers, who often spend more time with some children than their parents. You must know that many of them will look to you as someone to imitate, because you may be one of the stable forces in their life, someone not so judgmental as others, someone who is not the parent, who isn’t there for them for any kind of support.
The same holds true for friendships, coworkers, family members. Others may look to you to imitate because no one else seems to be filling the void at the moment. You never know the profound impact that a warm greeting or smile, or friendly word can have on an individual whose life has been devoid of any emotional support.
And thus, this is the opportunity for us as followers of Christ. People are always going to be drawn to certain individuals for defined and limited reasons. They love football and the star quarterback of the moment provides the best chance for their team’s success. Someone thinks the last winner of the voice is the greatest singer they have ever heard. The new whatever diet is life-changing. That miniseries is all the rage, I can’t believe you haven’t seen it yet. The things we chase, the things we want to imitate in our life are temporary, non-lasting. The quarterback gets traded, and we burn his jersey. Someone else comes on The Voice to replace yesterday’s hero. The diet fails. We get bored with the miniseries. We cheer our hero or ideal role model one week and are soon to abandon it – not necessarily a new concept. Remember people shouting Hosannah and waving palm branches and a few days later, yelling crucify Him. The challenge is still with us.
So I guess the real question is, is it a good idea to imitate anyone or anything? If we do this, do we shortchange ourselves in not seeking to be our own purpose? Well, the answer, to me is a little of both. We are unique and so our own identity is such as well, but that uniqueness was
a gift from God.
We do look to follow the teachings, the examples, and the lifestyles of certain people; our mandate here is to really choose wisely. Try to avoid the hero, or the idea, or the fad of the moment, for its life and significance will probably be short-lived and inconsequential.
To admire and respect and maybe to imitate those who have overcome hardship and diversity and worked for the betterment of all is probably good. Admire their positive traits but always acknowledge their shortcomings as well. This will give you perspective. We want children to imitate their parents, their teachers, their Sunday school and worship leaders, their family and friends, so it is incumbent upon all of us to be that proper model.
So if you really want to imitate someone with experience, how about this as a choice. Let’s imitate God, here at the creation, here as our savior in Jesus Christ, here as the Holy Spirit. Always our helper and advocate in all things in all times. Here, not wishing to be flattered, but only to be loved. Thanks be to God. Amen
AFFIRMATION OF FAITH Apostles Creed Hymnal pg 17
I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who 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. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of the saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. Amen
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE AND THE LORD’S PRAYER
PRESENTATION OF TITHES AND OFFERINGS
Do good and share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Let us now give to the Lord.
RESPONSE No. 609 Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow.
PRAYER OF DEDICATION
We give to you Lord Jesus, the foundation of our Church and our lives.
CHARGE AND BENEDICTION
Go out into the world in peace; have courage; hold on to what is good; return no one evil for evil; strengthen the fainthearted; support the weak, and help the suffering; honor all people; love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.