The Presbyterian Church at Woodbury
July 24, 2022
SEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
Gracious God, we gather this morning in this house of worship which, thanks to your love, is our home away from home. We come to add our human voices to the chorus of praise raised by your creation! We come as we are – distracted and weary, hopeful, and open – know that you accept us and are ever mindful of our cares and joys. Still in us now the many voices that clamor for attention, that we might center ourselves upon you. Speak to us in word and melody and quiet, that we may be renewed in our faith and strengthened for your service. This we pray through Christ our Lord. Amen.
CALL TO WORSHIP
It is in this place of holiness that we can come with our fears, our doubts, all the questions of our hearts.
We come to this place, to hear the words of peace, of hope, of joy God speaks to us.
It is in this place of discovery that we can come searching.
We come to this place, to find the One who has been looking for us.
It is in this place of openness that we can come knocking.
We come to this place, to be embraced by the One whose heart is never locked.
*HYMN No. 321 “The Church’s One Foundation”
1 The church’s one foundation
is Jesus Christ her Lord.
She is his new creation
by water and the word.
From heaven he came and sought her
to be his holy bride.
With his own blood he bought her,
and for her life he died.
2 Elect from every nation,
yet one o’er all the earth,
her charter of salvation:
one Lord, one faith, one birth.
One holy name she blesses,
partakes one holy food,
and to one hope she presses,
with every grace endued.
3 Though with a scornful wonder
this world sees her oppressed,
by schisms rent asunder,
by heresies distressed,
yet saints their watch are keeping;
their cry goes up: “How long?”
And soon the night of weeping
shall be the morn of song.
4 Mid toil and tribulation,
and tumult of her war,
she waits the consummation
of peace forevermore:
till with the vision glorious
her longing eyes are blest,
and the great church victorious
shall be the church at rest.
5 Yet she on earth has union
with God, the Three in One,
and mystic sweet communion
with those whose rest is won:
O happy ones and holy!
Lord, give us grace that we,
like them, the meek and lowly,
may live eternally.
*CALL TO RECONCILIATION
We are invited to pray – all who have hurt someone else, and all who have been hurt by another. We are called to pray: for hope, for healing, for mercy. We pray to the One who seeks to make us whole; whose will it is to restore us to new life. Join me as we pray, saying,
*PRAYER FOR CONFESSION
We do not find it easy to speak of how we do not live as your people, but you invite us to share our weaknesses and failures with you, Inviting God. Tempted to think your salvation is for a select few, we put up barriers for others. Clinging to all you give to us, we are reluctant to share with those in need. Surrounded by evil and violence, we find it easier to close ranks with those just like us, rather than seeking peace and reconciliation for our world. Forgive us, Salvation’s God. Open our eyes to our sisters and brothers all around us. Open our ears to the word of hope you speak to us. Open our spirits to the presence of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who flings wide the open doors of your kingdom, that all might find life with you.
Silence is observed
*ASSURANCE OF PARDON
Here is the good news, my friends: Christ came searching for us, calling us by name, leading us into God’s kingdom.
In Christ, we become new people: broken, we are made whole; lost, we are found; forsaken, we are restored to new life. Thanks be to God. 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
Since God has forgiven us in Christ, let us forgive one another. The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
And also with you.
THE SACRAMENT OF BAPTISM Julian James Hill
On behalf of the session,
I present _________________________,
the children of __________ and __________,
to receive the sacrament of Baptism.
MEANING OF BAPTISM
__________ and __________, you stand here now, a mother and a father into whose keeping God has dared to entrust a human soul, who is precious to you, but infinitely more precious to Him.
When your little child was born __________ came not into a cold and unregarding world, but into your home, where warmth and love awaited __________, and where many things had been thought out and prepared in advance of __________ coming. This sacrament means that in a far deeper sense preparation even more wonderful than yours have been made for your very child by the very hand of God.
It means that God’s love, in addition to yours, has waited down the centuries for this particular child, and will gladly spend itself in __________behalf.
You come now, having previously declared your own faith in Christ as Lord and Savior, to receive your child from God’s very hand, and to hear Him say to you: “This is your child, yes! But in a deeper sense, this child is mine, entrust for a time to your keeping.”
And the answer you make to God now is that, though you have great dreams for this little __________ and are prepared to deny yourselves for year in order that __________ may have __________ chance, yet what you really choose above all else for the little child is that all __________ days __________ may know Jesus Christ, and may love and serve Him.
In presenting your child for baptism, do you confess your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior; and do you promise, in dependence on the grace of God, to bring up your child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord? WE DO.
Do you, the members of this congregation, in the name of the whole Church of Christ, undertake with these parents, the Christian nurture of this child, so that in due time __________ may confess faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? WE DO.
Will you endeavor by your examples and fellowship to strengthen their family ties with the household of God? WE WILL.
PRAYER OVER THE WATER
Most merciful and loving Father, we thank you for the church of your dear Son, the ministry of your Word, and the sacraments of grace. We praise you that you have given us such gracious promises concerning our children, and that in mercy you call them to you, marking them with this sacrament as a singular token and pledge of your love. Set apart this water from a common to a sacred use, and grant that what we now do on earth may be confirmed in heaven.
As in humble faith, we present this child to you, we ask you to receive __________, to endue __________ with your Holy Spirit, and to keep __________ ever as your own; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
__________, child of the covenant, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
WALK DOWN THE AISLE
Our Father, when we give you our children, we give ourselves, since they are bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. When we give them to you, we keep them forever. When we offer them your bondage, it is perfect freedom. When we bid them love you best, they also love us the more.
Bless this father, we pray. May he continue to make his life the window through which his child shall better see and understand you as heavenly Father.
Bless this mother, O God, may she without pageantry mold this clay quietly into the likeness of Jesus Christ. Not just for __________ and __________, but for all parents in our midst.
And, O God, bless this little __________. Give __________ what __________ shall need most tomorrow; enough tears to keep __________ tender; enough hurts to keep __________ human; enough failure to keep __________ hands clenched to yours; and enough success to make __________ sure __________ walks with you. May __________ never be ashamed of you. May __________ never depart from you. And after a life of love and service to __________ Master, take __________ to be with yourself in your heavenly kingdom. Not just for __________, but for all the children in our midst, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
PLEASE JOIN ME IN THE UNISON PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION:
Father in heaven, in your goodness you pour out on your people all that they need and satisfy those who persist in prayer. Make us bold in asking, thankful in receiving, tireless in seeking, and joyful in finding, that we may always proclaim your coming kingdom and do your will on earth as in heaven. Amen.
THE SCRIPTURE READING FOR TODAY IS LUKE 11:1-13, HEAR NOW THIS PORTION OF GOD’S WORD:
11He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. 3Give us each day our daily bread. 4And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.” 5And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ 7And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. 9“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
PAUSE – COUNT TO 10
THIS IS THE WORD OF THE LORD.
THANKS BE TO GOD
This is a good day – and a good week – to think about Jesus and his teachings on PRAYER. In fact, it is always a good day to think about Jesus and PRAYER, but perhaps especially in these days.
The disciples saw Jesus praying. So, they said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” They were longing, in their often dismayed and discouraged lives, to have a center, a life rooted in God – like they saw in Jesus.
There are lots of things that leave us discouraged and dismayed – so we are invited turn to God in PRAYER.
Rabbi Harold Kushner thinks he knows God’s favorite book in the Bible. It is the Psalms. In the rest of the Bible, God is said to speak to us as God’s people. God speaks to us in the stories of Abraham and Sarah, Moses, and Miriam. God speaks to us through seers, sages, prophets, and through the history of the Israelite people. God speaks to us through Jesus and parables, and through Paul and letters. BUT in the Psalms, we speak to God – so that must be God’s favorite book.
In the Psalms, we tell God of our love, conveying our praise and honor. In the Psalms, we express our needs and affirm our gratitude: “God is our help and strength, a present help in times of trouble.” God is “our shepherd, . . . our light and our salvation.” And more than that, in the Psalms, we find lament. Because of our relationship with God, we can even shake our fist and express our anger. “Where are you God? How could you leave us in this mess?”
The Psalms show us that the covenant relationship with God is dynamic – praise and honor, gratitude and comfort, anger and appeals for help, faith and doubt, lament, and joy. The Psalms have been called the church’s “prayerbook.”
So, PRAYER is the way we relate to the Lord of our lives. PRAYER is the means to connect with the Creator of all things. PRAYER is part of any life that seeks to be enfolded in God’s life, the reign of God life. Jesus comes to inaugurate the reign of God – to show us what God intends life to look like, to be about. It includes PRAYER – relating, connecting our lives to God’s life in covenant partnership. PRAYER is our striving to know . . . and be known by the Holy One.
But PRAYER can also be very problematic.
I have had numerous conversations, even recently, about PRAYER and what it means. Like this: “I keep praying that the cancer will stop growing – but it does not. Does that mean that my prayers are not working, not any good, . . . or God is not listening?”
Or this: “I am on my knees day and night, hoping and praying that . . . my marriage will hold, . . . or my kids will find a new way, . . . or the abuse will stop, . . . or the darkness will go away, or . . . . . (fill in the blank).”
Doesn’t God care? . . . What is the point of prayer? . . . What is it all about anyway?
See, many of us tend to approach prayer in a way that makes God into a cosmic vending machine: insert prayer into a slot, make your selection, and if you are good, voila! The outcome you had in mind.
Moreover, we have numerous places in Scripture that might contribute to this line of thinking. In Matthew 21, Jesus says “whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive.” Or in our passage today: “ask, and it will be given you.” Jesus also teaches about persistence in prayer: pray, pray, pray, and God will eventually give in (Luke 18).
But, as with so much of Scripture, we get in trouble when we take verses out of context. What Jesus keeps teaching, keeps showing, is that all of life is enfolded in God – in God’s care and purposes, in God’s justice and joy – and we are to stay connected to God. The way we stay connected is through PRAYER – “pray, ask, seek, connect” – because we are part of the in-breaking of the reign of God.
We pray for healing – not because we will always see healing, because we know we may not – but so that we can connect with the mysterious and wonderful love of God that promises never to let us go. We pray for safe travel – not because God will catch our plane if it starts falling out of the air, or because God will prevent a car crash – but so that we can be prepared for whatever happens – striving always to trust God in all things and serve God in all times. We pray for an end to the drought; we pray for leaders to act in the best interest of all; we pray for peace in the Middle East; we pray for no more gun violence; we pray for the frightened families crossing the border; we pray for the deepest concerns of our hearts; we pray for all this – not because PRAYER controls these things but to be forever enfolded in God’s purposes, forever connected to God’s concerns, forever part of covenant life with God.
God’s light prevails over darkness. God wins over despair and death. As I have said before – with God, the worst thing is never the last thing. God’s reign is emerging – goodness, hope, redemption, peace. We want to be connected to God and God’s emerging reign. PRAYER is how we connect to it. PRAYER enfolds us in God. PRAYER also connects us more closely to those people and situations that we pray about.
Here is another way to think about this: we do NOT believe in PRAYER; we believe in God! PRAYER is what we practice. PRAYER is another way – a primary way – we connect to God’s love, experience God’s presence, affirm God’s promises. Our lives are rooted in God. We believe in God. PRAYER is a powerful means to connect, to relate, to become God’s trusting and serving people.
So the disciples say, “Lord, teach us to pray.” They want to be powerfully connected to God. They want to have their lives stabilized in God’s life. And Jesus says, “when you pray, say:” and he teaches them the Lord’s Prayer.
The Lord’s Prayer intends to remind us that we are all connected always to God and God’s provisions, God’s guidance, God’s care. We do not live on our own – though much of life wants to convince of us that – we live life before God, in God’s presence, accountable to God’s ways. This is what Jesus keeps teaching and showing. Jesus says, “you have heard this, . . . but I say this: “love your neighbor, help the weak, tend to the poor, pray for your enemies.” Everything Jesus says and does wants to show us that we are part of the reign of God. We live in the world – but we live as God’s people in the world. We have work to do, and relationships to nurture, and community life to share – but we live a certain way – trusting God and serving God. So when the disciples say, “Lord, teach us to pray,” he says, “pray like this,” giving them a simple model, and then following that teaching with some parables.
The simple model of the Lord’s PRAYER here in Luke has 5 petitions. After “Father,” (and some manuscripts have “Our Father”) the first two petitions affirm God with power and honor: “hallowed by your name” and “your kingdom come.” A better translation might be – “may your name be revered as holy; may your kingdom come” (J. Carroll, Luke p. 247). Those petitions want to affirm that life is lived before a holy and awesome God. We can trust God, who made us and knows us and whose reign covers us and the whole world. When we repeat those petitions, we find ourselves living a certain way – in God’s care, connected to God’s love. When we affirm God’s honor, and confirm God’s coming reign, it intends to shape us – with reverence for God and with allegiance to the coming reign of God.
Then there are three petitions – asking for divine provision of essential and critical things – food, mercy, and protection from all that threatens us. We cannot live without the basic elements of life. God provides food day by day and we daily ask for it. Neither can we live without mercy and forgiveness; and it is clear here that those who seek divine mercy in the form of forgiveness from sins must also be in the business of debt cancellation – of sharing mercy in all of life. We have heard this many times from Jesus – so it is no surprise that we should repeat this goal when we pray – forgive us our sins as we forgive others. Forgiveness leads to forgiveness – this is God’s way.
The last petition – about the time of trial – reminds us that life is full of trials and temptations. We pray, not so much for a “free pass” and no struggles. Struggles are part of life. Struggles are often what shape us the most. So we pray that we can be strong, that we can face them, like Jesus did, with persevering integrity and commitment.
Then Jesus follows this teaching with parables. These are parables about friendship and hospitality and honor. Given the importance of these values in the first century – friendship and hospitality in the village – Jesus makes a strong point emphasizing life with God. God cares. God provides. God will never leave us. We can trust God. Hence, we pray. PRAYER intends to shape us in a life with and for God.
The great spiritual writer, Thomas Merton, says this: “Prayer is an expression of who we are. . . . . we are a living incompleteness. We are a gap that calls for fulfillment.”
What a helpful concept – a living incompleteness, a gap that calls for fulfillment.
I think, when we are honest about our lives, we all know about this “living incompleteness,” this gap that “calls for fulfillment.” We seem to have an addiction to being connected, and that addiction seems to be growing more and more with all our technology and devices that keep us connected all the time.
We are a living incompleteness – a gap that longs for fulfillment.
The disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray.”
May we keep striving to devote our hearts to PRAYER – to staying connected to God and to one another – and transforming that “living incompleteness” to lives that trust God and serve God always. AMEN.
Prayer of Commitment: Holy Lord, by the power of your Spirit, move in our midst. Cover us with love; fill us with peace; and in every way melt us, mold us, fill us, use us as disciples of Jesus Christ. AMEN
Commentary and Liturgy provided by Alex Evans, John C. Lentz, JoAnn Taylor, Dawn Weaks, Scott Hoezee, Karoline Lewis, Meda Stamper, Heather A. Moody, Thom M. Shuman, Mindi Welton-Mitchell and Christine Longhurst
*AFFIRMATION OF FAITH
A portion of the Brief Statement of Faith
We trust in Jesus Christ, fully human, fully God. Jesus proclaimed the reign of God: preaching good news to the poor and release to the captives, teaching by word and deed and blessing the children, healing the sick and binding up the brokenhearted, eating with outcasts, forgiving sinners, and calling all to repent and believe the gospel. Unjustly condemned for blasphemy and sedition, Jesus was crucified, suffering the depths of human pain and giving his life for the sins of the world. God raised this Jesus from the dead, vindicating his sinless life, breaking the power of sin and evil, delivering us from death to life eternal. 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, partaking
cup 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
Great God, in you is more love than we can imagine and more grace than we can fathom. You have shown yourself in Jesus Christ as a God who meets us where we are and loves us as we are. We are glad for this day and grateful for your many gifts. You bring good things into our lives, more than we can name, more than we can number. You give us the bread of life, sustaining our souls and feeding our deepest hungers. You accompany us on our way. Thank you for your abundant faithfulness.
Our hearts are full with many things today. Disease and death and pain and sorrow are constantly among us. The journey through these days is marked by uncertainty and heartache. We are frequently overwhelmed by the needs around us and within us. Some need healing, some need encouragement, some need comfort, some need assurance, we all need hope. So we turn to you asking you to hear our prayers and grant what we need for the living of these days.
We pray for our nation. We pray for renewed commitments to our common life. Refresh us in the values of your heart: justice, righteousness, compassion, mercy, peace. Help us to find a unity of purpose as citizens and neighbors.
We pray for your church in places near and far. May the waters of your grace continually refresh and empower us to extend the love of Jesus to all people. We pray for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), for the clarity of our witness and the success of our mission. We pray for our congregation, for our life together, and for our efforts to follow in the way of Jesus.
Hear us. Hold us. Heal us. Help us. For the sake of our Savior, our Lord, Jesus Christ who taught us to pray like this: “Our Father …”
The Lord’s Prayer
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.
Today’s flowers Are given in the glory and honor of God by Jan and Jesse Edick in memory of MaryAnn and Jesse Edick; and by Sue Beane in memory of Ruth Farley.
OFFERING OF TITHES
Compassion stirs us to generous action and hopeful giving. We share the abundance of our resources and spread the gifts we have received for the good of the world and the work of the kingdom.
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
God our Companion, receive these gifts as seeds to be nurtured and grown into new abundance, more possibilities, and magnifying gifts for your kingdom on earth. In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.
*HYMN No. 340 “This Is My Song”
1 This is my song, O God of all the nations,
a song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine;
but other hearts in other lands are beating
with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.
2 My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,
and sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine.
But other lands have sunlight too, and clover,
and skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
So hear my song, O God of all the nations,
a song of peace for their land and for mine.
3 This is my prayer, O Lord of all earth’s kingdoms:
thy kingdom come; on earth thy will be done.
Let Christ be lifted up till all shall serve him,
and hearts united learn to live as one.
So hear my prayer, O God of all the nations:
myself I give thee; let thy will be done.
You have heard the words of peace and hope from God, so go.
We will go to speak to those filled with fear and doubt.
You have been reminded of the One who came looking for us, so go.
We will go to search for all tossed aside by the world.
You have been embraced in the love and grace of the Spirit, so go.
We will go to open our hearts to all searching for hope.