February 11, 2024

Scout Sunday






O God, your will is that all your children should grow into fullness of life.

We lift to you the ministry of scouting.
We offer you thanks for camping,
to teach us that the world is our great home;

for study and work, to build character;
for service, to see our responsibility to those in need;
for encouragement in genuine patriotism and vital faith.
Bless the work of scouting, in this place and around the world,
that, through its efforts, the young may, like our Lord,
increase in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with you and all people. Amen.




PRELUDE                   “Prayer at Dawn”                  Edward Broughton



I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart;

before the gods I sing your praise;

I bow down toward your holy temple

and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness.


*HYMN No. 35                      “Praise Ye the Lord, the Almighty”

1 Praise ye the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise him, for he is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear, now to his temple draw near;
join me in glad adoration!

2 Praise ye the Lord, who o’er all things so wondrously reigneth,
shelters thee under his wings, yea, so gently sustaineth!
Hast thou not seen how thy desires e’er have been
granted in what he ordaineth?

3 Praise ye the Lord! O let all that is in me adore him!
All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before him!
Let the amen sound from his people again;
gladly for aye we adore him.



God is vaster than the night sky, brighter than the sun, and wilder than a tornado. Yet, God loves us enough to come to us in ways that we see and understand, including Jesus Christ. Let us open our hearts to God, confessing the ways that we have fallen short of God’s call to love our neighbor and love the Lord. We can do so knowing that our Creator, who is both the Lion of Judah and the sacrificial lamb, listens.



Almighty God, when we encounter beauty and love and wonder in the world, so often we seek to control it, to contain it. Forgive us for all the ways we seek to pull things under our power, for the ways we fashion the world and put ourselves first. We are selfish, God. We push aside your command to love in order to seek comfort. Heavenly parent, we take this opportunity to acknowledge our lies and our denial, laying bare our hearts and minds before you now.





“Stand up, take your mat and walk.” Jesus says to the crippled man he has healed. We, too, are healed. Transformed by Christ’s redemption, let us get up and walk together.

Thanks be to God.



“Praise, My Soul, the God of Heaven”                    v.4

Angels, teach us adoration;
you behold God face to face.
Sun and moon and all creation,
dwellers all in time and space:
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Praise with us the God of grace!



When Jesus left his disciples, he did not leave them alone. He promised that the Holy Spirit would be present in their lives, and he gave them an amazing gift: his peace, the peace of Christ. Through the Spirit, this gift lives still, and it is ours to share with others. May we be reminded of the gift Christ offers with these words:

“The peace of Christ is yours today!”

And also with you.


ANTHEM                   “For the Beauty of the Earth”                      John Ritter





Please join me in the unison prayer…

Our God is the God who appeared to Moses on Mount Sinai and revealed God’s self to Elijah in a “sound of sheer silence” This is the same God in our midst today. This is the same God who seeks us, who created us, who loves us. Holy Spirit, move in our hearts and minds that we might hear your message for us today.


SCRIPTURE               John 11:1-44

11 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. 3 So the sisters sent a message to Jesus,[a] “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4 But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather, it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5 Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, 6 after having heard that Lazarus[b] was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.


7 Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble because they see the light of this world. 10 But those who walk at night stumble because the light is not in them.” 11 After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.”[c] 13 Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 Thomas, who was called the Twin,[d] said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” ///


17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus[e] had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.[f] Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah,[g] the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”


28 When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come to the village but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 The Jews who were with her in the house consoling her saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”


38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.”40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”




This is the Word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God!!


SERMON                   “Taking Death Seriously”

On Thursday morning, I awoke to my wife sitting on the floor in the family room with her school computer on her lap.  She was printing student presentations for Kingsway Regional Middle School’s annual African American Experience.   Each February, students choose an achiever, research, write a monologue, memorize the speech, put on a costume as their historical figure and present to the community.  The printed speeches were color coded, and I notice that actions words were in red.

As most of us learned years ago in composition class, or English class or Literature class: verbs are what make stories work. While character development matters, it’s the verbs — the parts of speech that describe what actually happens to the characters — that move the story forward. The difference between vigorous, descriptive prose that captures and keeps your attention and limp, lifeless writing that seeps out of your memory without leaving an imprint often turns on the verbs: passive or active, transitive, or intransitive, full of life or staid. Further, good verbs invite us into the story. By rendering the action of the narrative vividly and concretely, verbs create space for us not just to watch but actually and sympathetically to participate in what is happening. In reading this week’s story of the raising of Lazarus, I was struck by a particular verb in the sixth verse.  This action word reveals a dynamic insight into this crucial pivot point in John’s gospel and invite us into this powerful story.

11:6 — “Tarried” — While most versions translate this as “stayed” or “remained,” I think “tarried” better captures the intentionality inherent in the Greek meno (abide). Jesus wasn’t just held up, he intentionally waited, delayed, dragged his feet, tarried. Why? Because he saw in Lazarus’ death the in-breaking of God’s glory and he wanted to make sure no one missed it. And so, he tarried two more days so that by the time he arrived Lazarus would have been in the tomb four days, meaning his spirit — which according to Jewish tradition of the time stayed close to the body for three days — would most certainly be gone.

Whatever the holy purpose of his tarrying however, the pain it caused comes out in the half-lament, half-accusation that crosses the lips of both Mary and Martha,

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Who has not felt a similar pang during times of grief or tragedy:

“God, where are you?”

“God, couldn’t you have done something to prevent this?”

“God, why did this happen?”


I once heard a sermon that began with these few words, “And Jesus tarried…,” and in the pause that followed I was surprised by the unbidden emotion and tears that welled up at the recognition of how often it feels that God is tarrying. Hindsight in faith, as in life, is twenty-twenty, such that in the moment of delay, all we can feel is the ache of God’s absence that is deep it nearly overwhelms the poignant, fragile hope of God’s eventual redemption.

As we think about the verb – tarried or stayed or delayed, there is a certain pattern of movement that might also deserve comment: God can work even through tragedy, though that can be difficult to see and wait for; God identifies with us and feels our hopes and hurts as God’s own; God acts to redeem and save in mercy and love; God invites us into that activity and grants us lives of meaning and purpose.

As we think about waiting on God in our daily lives, two questions quickly popped into my head:

“When have you felt that God is tarrying?”

“What has helped you hold onto your faith.”


I wonder if we shouldn’t just leave these questions.  Allow them to hang in this moment.  Allow them to float out into the world.  Allow them to stick in the back of our brain.  Allow us to reflect upon them in coming days.

“When have you felt that God is tarrying?”

“What has helped you hold onto your faith.”


I believe that these are deep and profound questions with powerful verbs connected to the story of Lazarus – “felt” and “hold.”  Maybe we need more time than the 15 minutes of the sermon to reflect upon God’s waiting and how we keep our faith.

Maybe we need to get through the Super Bowl festivities to reflect upon God’s delay and how we manage our relationship with God.


After all, the God who created the vast cosmos and called Lazarus from the dead is not yet finished surprising us with light, life, hope, and meaning.

A divine surprise that includes Jesus crying with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”

Then the dead man coming out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to the disciples, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

May we give thanks for God’s time and our faith in our savior, Jesus Christ!



Commentary and Liturgy from the Book of Common Worship (PCUSA), “Call to Worship” Website, AJ Levine, Jan Richardson, Teri McDowell Ott, Marci Glass, David Lose, and The New Interpreter’s Commentary



from A Brief Statement of Faith    

We trust in God,

whom Jesus called Abba, Father.

In sovereign love God created the world good

and makes everyone equally in God’s image,

male and female, of every race and people, to live as one community.

But we rebel against God; we hide from our Creator.

Ignoring God’s commandments,

we violate the image of God in others and ourselves,

accept lies as truth, exploit neighbor and nature,

and threaten death to the planet entrusted to our care.

We deserve God’s condemnation.

Yet God acts with justice and mercy to redeem creation.

In everlasting love,
the God of Abraham and Sarah chose a covenant people

to bless all families of the earth.


Hearing their cry,
God delivered the children of Israel.

from the house of bondage.

Loving us still,
God makes us heirs with Christ of the covenant.

Like a mother who will not forsake her nursing child,
like a father who runs to welcome the prodigal home,

God is faithful still.


*HYMN No. 44                      “Like a Mother Who Has Borne Us”

1 Like a mother who has borne us, 
held us close in her delight,
fed us freely from her body,
God has called us into life.

2 Like a father who has taught us,
grasped our hand and been our guide,
lifted us and healed our sorrows,
God has walked with us in life.

3 Though as children we have wandered,
placed our trust in power and might,
left behind our brothers, sisters,
God still calls us into life.

4 When we offer food and comfort,
grasp our neighbor’s hand in love,
tread the path of peace and justice,
God still walks with us in life.



O God, your will is that all your children should grow into fullness of life. We lift to you the ministry of scouting that has been part of this community for ___ years. We give you thanks for camping and outdoor adventures, to teach us that the world is our great home; for study and work, to build character; for service, to see our responsibility to those in need; for encouragement in genuine patriotism and vital faith.


Bless the work of scouting, in this place here at ______________ and around the world, that, through its efforts, these young men and women may, like our Lord, increase in wisdom and in stature, and in love with you and all people.


We pray for continued safety and growth for scouts and leaders, their families, friends, and all who may be influenced by this program.


We pray for continued support from this congregation here at ___________, and that each and every scout may consider this community a place of welcome and love.


We thank you for your calling to serve the least of these, and in so doing, to discover ourselves in your image of grace and love.


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, forever. Amen.





God gifted us with free will that we might choose to worship the Almighty in our words, actions and thoughts. Let us make the choice now to honor the Word of God by the offering of our tithes, trusting that our money, freely given, will be a blessing to God and our neighbors.




*RESPONSE N0. 607                        “Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow”

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
praise Christ, all people here below;
praise Holy Spirit evermore;
praise Triune God, whom we adore. Amen.



Almighty, on the mountain top, you instructed Peter, James and John: “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” We are listening, God, and we hear your call to make the world a better place alongside your Holy Spirit. We offer you these gifts and our hearts alongside them. May they be blessed to do your bidding.


*HYMN No. 826                    “Lift High the Cross

Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim
till all the world adore his sacred name.

1 Come, Christians, follow where our Savior trod,
the Lamb victorious, Christ, the Son of God. (Refrain)

2 All newborn servants of the Crucified
bear on their brow the seal of Christ who died. (Refrain)

3 O Lord, once lifted on the glorious tree,
your death has brought us life eternally. (Refrain)

4 So shall our song of triumph ever be:
praise to the Crucified for victory. (Refrain)



We have been fed with God’s word in our lives;

We have been nourished by God’s living water.

We have been called to proclaim God’s abundance with the world;

We have been called to live in grace and gratitude to God’s unending love.

Go from this place with the confidence that you are loved, you are blessed, and you are sent.

Alleluia! Amen.