July 9, 2023
6th Sunday after Pentecost
God, you know our deepest griefs
and our highest hopes.
Meet us in this moment
and help us to open ourselves
to your work of healing and transformation.
Let your Spirit move freely,
not only in this space,
but in every corner of our lives.
Equip us to embody
your grace and courage;
for the sake of Christ our Savior. Amen.
CALL TO WORSHIP
In this place, we gather to turn our hearts and minds to God.
We rejoice that the Triune God meets us here.
As we worship, we remember,
that we are the family of faith together!
*HYMN No. 333 “How Our Hearts With Joy Abound”
1 How our hearts with joy abound,
with your beauty all around;
words are feeble to express
your great love and righteousness.
2 Fairer still than human frame,
ever to our eyes the same,
steadfast love shines from your face;
from your lips flow words of grace.
3 Yours the scepter, yours the throne;
you to us are God alone.
Vast the mercies to us given:
wealth of earth, and joy of heaven.
*CALL TO CONFESSION
When we come to worship God, we must first remember who we are, and we are people who often sin and turn from the ways of God. Relying on God’s abundant grace, let us offer our confession together, knowing that we will be offered forgiveness in Christ.
*PRAYER FOR CONFESSION
Gracious God, we are a people who often do the wrong thing, even when we want to do what is right. We have not cared for others as you have called us to, but we have been focused primarily on ourselves. We have been a people who are more divisive than uniting, more unkind than kind, and more rebellious than faithful. Forgive us, we pray and make us new to go forth and glorify you. Amen.
*SILENT PRAYER FOR CONFESSION
*ASSURANCE OF PARDON
Through Christ’s death and resurrection, we are a new creation, ready to sing God’s glory and testify to God’s grace.
In the name of Jesus Christ, we are forgiven and freed. Amen.
*RESPONSE No. 581 “Glory Be To The Father”
Glory be to the Father,
and to the Son,
and to the Holy Ghost;
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.
*PASSING OF THE PEACE OF CHRIST
Our peace comes from knowing how much God loves us in Jesus Christ. With God’s help, we try to love and forgive one another as Christ loves and forgives us.
“The peace of Christ be with you,”
“And also with you.”
UNISON PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION
Gracious God, for generations, your Word has brought love and life to your people. Speak to us now; we pray that we may hear, and in hearing, we may be transformed. Amen.
UNISON SCRIPTURE Matthew 11:16-30
16“But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, 17‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’ 18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’;19the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” 20Then he began to reproach the cities in which most of his deeds of power had been done, because they did not repent. 21“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22But I tell you, on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades. For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24But I tell you that on the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than for you.”
25At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 26yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
SERMON “A Respite for the Weary”
Someone has rightly called Matthew 11 the chapter for the contemporary church. At first glance, you might not see it that way, but let’s look a bit closer. This chapter actually begins a new section of Matthew’s Gospel. We learn in the first verses that John the Baptist is in Herod’s prison. Hearing of our Lord’s teaching and healing ministry, John sends messengers to Jesus asking, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” (Matthew 11:3).
Jesus answers the Baptist’s questions by recounting the work God is doing: “the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them” (11:5). Poor John, languishing in a dungeon, hoping with every hope that Jesus is the promised Messiah, but wondering, if he is, why imprisonment, questions, and soon, death?
Then we come to our text. With rhetorical puzzlement, Jesus asks, “To what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn’ ” (11:16-17).
In other words, we are fickle and restless, unfulfilled in laughter and unmoved by sorrow. We act like spoiled children, never satisfied but often complaining.
Do you see now why some see this chapter as a commentary on the contemporary church? When contemporary worship was all the rage, every church, no matter what its history, had to have a contemporary worship service. Several decades ago, the rage was gifts of the Spirit. In other times, books on Revelation, filled with half-baked ideas on the world’s end, flew off the shelves. In one season, spirituality is popular; in another, music; in a third, mission endeavors; and in yet another, recreational binges. Perhaps it has always been so, but ours seems like such a restless, moody, unsatisfied generation of Christians.
After some time, Jesus, weary from all the restless roamings of his followers, looks up to heaven and prays. The substance of his prayer offers thanksgiving to God that the basic, core meanings of life are really simple, rooted in a childlike faith built on trust. That trust, according to Jesus, is found when we cast our restless lives on God’s unchanging, faithful presence.
Hear again the invitation of our Lord: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (11:28-30).
There are no more elegant, winsome, nourishing words in all of scripture. What is God saying to us?
First, nothing—no thing—can hold the place reserved in our lives for Jesus Christ. “Come to me” is still the invitation our Lord extends to each of us. Why do we chase after things that can never satisfy? Choose your worship style. Embrace whatever theological opinion of the day seems important. Read the latest book written by the touted, best Christian mind of the day, and you will still long for a personal, heart-to-heart relationship with Jesus Christ. When our restless lives plop exhausted in the uncomfortable spiritual chair of our own making, we will still long to come to Jesus.
Second, come to Jesus in your exhaustion and weariness. Our Lord recognized this restless tendency in us. Psychologists call the urge to travel “wanderlust.” In my judgment, every human being is infected with spiritual wanderlust. We look here and there for meaning and, without fail, find ourselves exhausted in every search that does not include a personal connection with Christ.
Viktor Frankl survived the horrors of Auschwitz and wrote a book that now, years after his death, is still printed and reprinted. Man’s Search for Meaning is Frankl’s story of courage and survival in which human beings came through to the other side of the Nazi madness with meaning. How? Simply put, Frankl believed that the supreme need in every life is not for pleasure, as Freud suggested, or for power, as Adler proposed. But rather, the highest need in every life is for meaning. All of us long for meaning that transcends our work, every success, and life itself.
Our Lord invites us to find in him the energizing, vital meaning that life offers. That discovery begins when we come to him, acknowledging that we are exhausted and empty from spiritual wanderlust that has taken us places rather than to a person.
Third, our Lord promises rest for the restless. We are a generation that longs for answers, solutions, neat formulas for success. Here, our Lord offers rest. “I will give you rest.” When life implodes on us, when death robs us of a loved one or disappointment snatches a friendship from our future, when even faith seems hollow and answerless, our Lord offers rest for our souls. Think about it: if you have answers but no rest, what do you have but a string of words? God in Christ offers us a much better gift.
But how? “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (11:29). A wise pastor once said that when we begin to follow Jesus, we enroll in the School of Jesus and never graduate. The Christian journey is one in which we are lifelong learners—disciples—of this one who loved us even unto death. The rest for which we long can finally and supremely be found when the one who loved us all the way to Calvary and beyond becomes the one in whom we learn to trust now and always.
At the end of the day, or the week, or even a life, there will be one who welcomes our wandering, confused, and restless lives. I commend this one to you today as the Lord of life, the Lord of love, the Lord of all, even Jesus Christ.
Commentary and Liturgy from the Book of Common Worship (PCUSA), Tara W. Bulger, Jennifer T. Kaalund, Diane Roth and Tim L. Owings.
*AFFIRMATION OF FAITH 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. 282 “Come Down, O Love Divine”
1 Come down, O Love Divine;
seek out this soul of mine,
and visit it with your own ardor glowing.
O Comforter, draw near;
within my heart appear,
and kindle it, your holy flame bestowing.
2 O let it freely burn,
till earthly passions turn
to dust and ashes in its heat consuming.
And let your glorious light
shine ever on my sight,
and clothe me round, the while my path illuming.
3 And so the yearning strong,
with which the soul will long,
shall far outpass the power of human telling.
For none can guess God’s grace,
till Love creates a place
wherein the Holy Spirit makes a dwelling.
THE PRAYER’S OF THE PEOPLE & THE LORD’S PRAYER
Gracious God, in Jesus, we are invited to come to you with our burdens, with the wearying concerns of our lives. Hear us now as we pray for the world around us.
Our national news is filled with stories of violence and harm. We live in a world in which many are in danger, and many seem unmoved by that fact. Change our moral consciousness Lord to one in which safety and preservation of life is our most important concern. May we each look deep into your Word, Lord, to find the ethic we will live by and work for your kingdom to come.
We pray for the sick or suffering people in our world and our community. We pray for your grace to be found in the unwanted diagnosis or med- ical news; may your love saturate the grief that news brings. For those who suffer from pain and discomfort, we pray that you will ease their suffering and give them fresh hope in the face of illness.
Lord, we ask that you look upon our relationships and families and strengthen them. Build up our marriages, reinforce our friendships, and bless the ties that bind us. Enable us to be the parents, grandparents, sons, and daughters you have called us to be. Bless our families — whether they are families of blood or choice.
And we ask that you guide this church into new life and health. Teach us each to live in such a way that the power of God working in us is evident to all. May all that we do as a church community and all that we do as individuals glorify you.
We ask this in Jesus’ name and join our voices in the prayer that he 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.
OFFERING OF TITHES & OFFERINGS
In response to God’s gracious action in our lives, we are called to give an offering to God. Our offering to God is our whole lives, including a part of what we have. Let us give an offering to God for God’s purposes in our community and the world.
*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.
* PRAYER OF DEDICATION
Thank you, God, for all that we have and all that we are. We take these gifts given today and dedicate them ever and only to you. Amen.
*HYMN No. 357 “The Days Are Surely Coming”
1 The days are surely coming,
says God to all the earth,
when you will see my promise:
salvation come to birth.
My righteousness and justice
will spread throughout the land
and you will be delivered
by my almighty hand.
2 The days are surely coming,
says Christ, the promised one,
when you will read my warning
in moon and stars and sun.
Though earth and heaven tremble,
stand up and do not fear,
for I am your redeemer,
and I am drawing near.
3 The days are surely coming
when we will know at last
the fullness of God’s presence,
God’s promise, come to pass.
Then righteousness and justice
will spread throughout the land
and we will be delivered
by God’s almighty hand.
May you be strengthened for the week ahead by the joy we have shared this day. May the words of hope resonate the whole weeklong. May you live for the glory of God.
And may the triune God surround us with love and care our whole lives long. Amen.