January 15, 2023
Third Sunday of Christmas
Gracious God, once again you have called us together in this place. Here we open our hearts and lives before you, here we seek to hear Your life-giving Word. God in this time of song and prayer and speech, open our very souls to receive your challenge, open our wills to accept your instruction. Turn our mourning into dancing, replace our sack cloths with garments of joy. And when our time of worship is ended, lead us back out into the world to share the Good News with the world around us. We pray in the name of the One who brought Your healing love, Jesus of Nazareth.Amen.
“Brightest & Best” Dennis Johnson
CALL TO WORSHIP
To all searching for grace and truth,
Come and see!
To all searching for meaning and purpose,
Come and see!
To all searching for abundant life,
Come and see!
Let us worship God together.
*HYMN No. 307: God of Grace and God of Glory
1 God of grace and God of glory,
on thy people pour thy power;
crown thine ancient church’s story;
bring its bud to glorious flower.
Grant us wisdom,
grant us courage,
for the facing of this hour,
for the facing of this hour.
2 Lo! the hosts of evil round us scorn thy Christ,
assail his ways!
From the fears that long have bound us
free our hearts to faith and praise.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
for the living of these days,
for the living of these days.
3 Cure thy children’s warring madness;
bend our pride to thy control;
shame our wanton,
rich in things and poor in soul.
Grant us wisdom,
grant us courage,
lest we miss thy kingdom’s goal,
lest we miss thy kingdom’s goal.
4 Save us from weak resignation
to the evils we deplore.
Let the gift of thy salvation
be our glory evermore.
Grant us wisdom,
grant us courage,
serving thee whom we adore,
serving thee whom we adore.
*CALL TO CONFESSION
God, who knit us in the womb, knows us completely. God inclines towards us and hears our cry. Assured of God’s grace and steadfast love, let us confess our sin together.
*PRAYER FOR CONFESSION
We confess that we have been timid and unreliable witnesses of Jesus Christ. Forgive us…
…for the times we have stayed silent in the face of injustice and hate,
…for the times our actions have not matched our beliefs,
…for the times we have hoarded our abundance,
…for the times we have turned away from your children in need.
For the many ways we fail to follow Jesus, forgive us. Invite us again to come and see, and to abide in your presence so that we may be transformed and renewed. Empower us to witness, with our words and lives, to the love and grace we’ve experienced in Jesus Christ. Amen.
Silence is observed
*ASSURANCE OF PARDON
Hear the good news of the gospel: God will not withhold mercy from us. The steadfast love and faithfulness of the Lord is with us, now and forever. In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven! 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.Amen, amen.
*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.”
SPECIAL MUSIC “Deep River”
UNISON PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION
God of wisdom, by the power of your Holy Spirit, invite us into your Word. Give us ears to hear, wisdom to understand, and courage to answer your call to us today. Amen.
UNISON SCRIPTURE Psalm 951
O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! 2Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! 3For the Lord is a great God and a great King above all gods. 4In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. 5The sea is his, for he made it,and the dry land, which his hands have formed. 6O come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before theLord, our Maker! 7For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.O that today you would listen to his voice!
8Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, 9when your ancestors tested me and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. 10For forty years I loathed that generation and said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they do not regard my ways..”
11Therefore in my anger I swore,“They shall not enter my rest.”
SERMON “A Living Hallelujah”
What is Worship?
Clement of Alexander: Worship is celebration. All of life is a festival: being persuaded that God is everywhere present on all sides, we praise him as we till the ground, we sing hymns as we sow the seed, we feel his inspiration in all we do.
Langdon Gilkey: Worship is a response to the presence of God, or reaction to the appearance of the Holy.
Richard Foster: To worship is experience reality, to touch life. It is to know, to feel, to experience the resurrected Christ in the midst of the gathered community. It is breaking into the shekinah (glory) of God, or better yet, being invaded by the shekinah of God.
Raymond Bailey: Worship is the ordered expression of love of God throughthe total person. Worship is human loving reaction to God’s loving action –the Creator acts: the creature responds.
Sally Morgenthaler: Christian worship is not only offering all that we are to a Holy God. It is the intentional response of praise, thanksgiving, and adoration The God, the One revealed in the Word, made known and accessible to us in Jesus Christ and witnessed in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. In real worship, we carry on an exchange of love with the God who is present, the God who speaks to us in the now, who has done and is doing marvelous things.
Evelyn Underhill: Worship is the primary and appropriate of the creature of the Creator
The official PCUSA answer is a bit wordy: “Christian worship gives all glory and honor, praise, and thanksgiving to the holy, triune God. We are gathered in worship to glorify the God who is present and active among us—particularly through the gifts of Word and Sacrament. We are sent out in service to glorify the same God who is present and active in the world.” W-1.0101: Glory to God Do any of these definitions touch our hearts? Or do we have our own understanding of worship. As worshipers gather at aPresbyterian Church,instead of asking for a definition of worship,it would be very interesting to ask, “Why are you here?” “What are you expecting to do in this hour?” “What is this all about?”The answers individual Presbyterians givewould be wide-ranging. Some would say:“I come here to be part of a caring community.” Others might muse, “I’ve been coming to church ever since I was a child. I miss it when I’m not here.”
Those who are newer to the church might say, “I come because of the sermon/music/prayer/ liturgy.” “My parents make me”While all of these answers may be honest, none of them express a Reformed understanding of why we bother to worship God at all. Each of these answers is centered on the needs, habits, or expectations of individual worshipers.As Reformed Christians we believe Christian worship is all about God.The modern English word “worship” comes from an Old English word, woerthship or worth-ship. Worth-ship suggests something or someone is recognized of honor. Worship is how we respond to a Creator who is uniquely worthy of our admiration, our reverence, our awe, our thanksgiving, and our praise. When we worship, we acknowledge God’s glory, majesty, greatness, power, and goodness. We recognize and honor God as Good, while recognizing that we are not God, but the children of God.Again, reformed worship is all about God!The gathering of the children of God is about approaching worship as our opportunity to give praise and thanks to our Creator, but this isn’t always the case in our world today? More and more people today are approaching worship as consumers. George Barna’s research shows that most Americans expect worship to satisfy or pleasethemselves, not to honor or please God.–Again, reformed worship is all about God and not about us!“Amazingly, few worship-service regulars argue that worship is something they do primarily for God,” says Barna. “A substantially larger percentage of attenders claim that attending worship services is something they do for personal benefit and pleasure.”In other words, we often come to church to “get blessed” by God rather than to focus our praise, adoration,and attention on the One who alone is worthy ofworship. The writer of Psalm 95 brings us back to the “main thing” of worship.First, we arecalledto worship.1O come, let us sing to the Lord let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!2Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!(Ps. 95: 1-2, NRSV).Four times inthe opening verseswe read,“Let us….”The psalmist states that worship is designed to be congregational, not merely individual. There is a benefit to corporate worship that cannot be found elsewhere.Next, we have cause to worship(vv. 3-6). The sovereignty of God is given as a basis for our worship.Verse 3says,3For theLordis a great Godand a great King above all gods.God is the sovereign Lord of the whole creation. There is absolutely nothing that happens in the universe that is outside of God’s influence and authority. As such, we should worship him in the reality of who he is.Finally, we are given a caution in worship (vv. 7-11).8Do not harden your hearts,as at Meribah,as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,9when your ancestors tested meand put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.(vv 8-9, NRSV).Psalm 95 ends with a reminder of some disappointing episodes in Israel’s history.Meribah and Massah are two places that the children of Israel hardened their hearts and even chose to question and rebel against the Lord. God asks in verse 11, which will it be, my wrath or my rest? We either give attention to the voice of the Lord or we harden our hearts to his voice.Are weobediently listening to God’s Word or stubbornly hardening our hearts? Perhaps the best way to gauge our heart is to examine our attitudes in the area of worship. Whether slow or fast, modern,or vintage, keep the focus where it belongs—exclusively on God.Pastor and author Sam Storms sums it up well: “If you come to worship for any reason other than the joy and pleasure and satisfaction that are to be found in God, you dishonor him …. God’s greatest delight is your delight in him.”We were created to display God’s glory. Our lives are only properly oriented when we are seeking to give glory to God, honoring revering and recognizing God as the source of our lives. Our praise is not merely in words, but from the heart and from every part of our being. We are meant to be a living hallelujah. In seeking to give thanks, to praise God not only with our wordsbut also with our lives, rendering our worship to God, we find communion with God and the grace, strength,and love to live as God’s people.We will be continuing this worship service focused upon God later today, when several representative from the Session and congregation will go to welcome a family into the church and celebrate the sacrament of Baptism for Sovana Raimonda Janka. Sovana’s parents, Vinny and Lauren have asked to join the Presbyterian Church at Woodbury and have their daughter baptized –but due to Sovana’shealth condition, she can’t join us in corporate worship, so we will take the community to her. It is a rarity to have our Sacraments outside of the regularly scheduled worship but is allowable: A Sessionmay authorize a Baptism, to be administered by a minister of the Word and Sacrament†, in certain situations beyond the congregational setting, such as hospitals, prisons, schools, military bases, or other ministry settings. During that extension of our Service for the Lord’s Day, we will continue to makeworship allaboutGod, even as new members make a profession of faith and the baptismof asmall girl into the body of Christ. This will be a living hallelujah! May we continue to make worship about God as we sing to the Lord, make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation, come into to his presence with thanksgiving!!!Liturgy and Commentaries provided by Stephine Sorge, Adam Hamilton,PCUSA Book of Orderand PCUSA Book of Confession
*AFFIRMATION OF FAITH The Apostles’ Creed
I BELIEVE in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.
*HYMN No. 490 “Wash, O God, Your Sons and Daughters”
1 Wash, O God, your sons and daughters,newborn creatures of your womb.Number them among your people,raised like Christ from death and tomb.Weave them garments bright and sparkling;compass them with love and light.Fill, anoint them; send your Spirit,holy dove and heart’s delight.
2 Every day we need your nurture;by your milk may we be fed.Let us join your feast, partakingcup of blessing, living bread.God, renew us; guide our footsteps,free from sin and all its snares,one with Christ in living, dying,by your Spirit, children, heirs.
3 O how deep your holy wisdom!Unimagined, all your ways!To your name be glory, honor!With our lives we worship, praise!We your people stand before you,water-washed and Spirit-born.By your grace, our lives we offer.Re-create us; God, transform!
THE PASTORAL PRAYER & THE LORD’S PRAYER
Loving God, we are so grateful that you invite us to come and see, to experience your presence with us, and to abide with you. We thank you for the gift of community, and for connections that are made and strengthened in church.