The Presbyterian Church at Woodbury
July 3, 2022
FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
Blessed are You, Lord our God! Glorious is Your name in all the earth! We celebrate who You are, and all that You have done for us. You hold our lives in Your hands and catch us when we stumble. So we come together today, led by Your Holy Spirit, to worship You: to sing Your praise, to confess our mistakes, and to receive Your love and mercy, made possible through the sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Be present among us as we worship You, and as we open ourselves to Your Word. To You be all glory, now and forever. Amen.
CALL TO WORSHIP
O Lord, my God, you have drawn me up,
you have healed me.
You have turned my mourning into dancing,
you have taken off my sackcloth, you have clothed me with joy.
May my soul praise you and not be silent
I will give thanks to you forever!
*HYMN No. 338 “O Beautiful for Spacious Skies”
1 O beautiful for spacious skies,
for amber waves of grain,
for purple mountain majesties
above the fruited plain!
God shed his grace on thee,
and crown thy good with *brotherhood
from sea to shining sea!
2 O beautiful for heroes proved
in liberating strife,
who more than self their country loved,
and mercy more than life!
God mend thine every flaw;
confirm thy soul in self-control,
thy liberty in law!
3 O beautiful for patriot dream
that sees beyond the years
thine alabaster cities gleam,
undimmed by human tears!
May God thy gold refine
till all success be nobleness
and every gain divine!
*CALL TO RECONCILIATION
Sometimes God gives us the simplest of instructions; yet they don’t seem worthy of our time or commitment. Knowing that we digress and acknowledging that we transgress, let us confess our sins together at this time with our prayer of confession.
*PRAYER FOR CONFESSION
O Lord, we extol you once more. We cry for your help. For we have not followed your will. We have not helped bear one another’s burdens. We have not been your faithful laborers going out into your harvest. We have fallen into the pit of self-deception and self-reliance again. We ask that you draw us up and draw us more into your pervasive presence. By your favor we confess and through your abundant mercy we make our supplication. Hear and be gracious to us! Cleanse our souls so that we may praise you in fullness once more. Amen.
Silence is observed
*ASSURANCE OF PARDON
My friends, even though we have been detected in transgression, the Spirit seeks to restore us in a spirit of gentleness. Anyone who has washed is made clean and anyone who has asked is pardoned! In Jesus Christ, you are forgiven and restored!
*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.
PLEASE JOIN ME IN THE UNISON PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION:
Establishing and equipping God, where you say “go” may we go. When you say “restore” may we work towards your restoration. And in what you describe as “joy” may we live into and out of as we hear your Word speaking to us once again on this day. We love you, Lord. Amen.
THE SCRIPTURE READING FOR TODAY IS LUKE 10:1-20, HEAR NOW THIS PORTION OF GOD’S WORD:
10After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ 6And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. 8Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you;9cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town. 13“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, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14But at the judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 15And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades. 16“Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”
17The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” 18He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. 20Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
PAUSE – COUNT TO 10
THIS IS THE WORD OF THE LORD.
THANKS BE TO GOD
Later the Master selected seventy and sent them ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he intended to go. He gave them this charge: “What a huge harvest! And how few the harvest hands. So, on your knees, ask the God of the Harvest to send harvest hands. “On your way! But be careful—this is hazardous work. You’re like lambs in a wolf pack. “Travel light. Comb and toothbrush and no extra luggage.
“Don’t loiter and make small talk with everyone you meet along the way. “When you enter a home, greet the family, ‘Peace.’ If your greeting is received, then it’s a good place to stay. But if it’s not received, take it back and get out. Don’t impose yourself. “Stay at one home, taking your meals there, for a worker deserves three square meals. Don’t move from house to house, looking for the best cook in town. “When you enter a town and are received, eat what they set before you, heal anyone who is sick, and tell them, ‘God’s kingdom is right on your doorstep!’
What I find particularly amazing about this passage is not the miracles but the willingness to be dependent on others. Think about it: no purse, no bag, no sandals Travel light. Comb, toothbrush, no extra luggage. and, importantly, no guarantees about how they will be received. We unlike those early disciples are hung-up on our stuff. I’m just as guilty as I pass a garage full of stuff as I leave for a bike ride.
All those first disciples had was the promise of Jesus to go with them, to do great things through them, and to bring them home again. I sometimes wonder if we could match the decline of the church to the rise in disposable income in our cultures. There is something about wealth and possessions that creates the illusion of independence, that insulates us (at least for a time) from the variations of life, and that spurs us to image that we don’t really need God or each other.
Our culture consistently and compellingly suggests that security is found through our possessions, encouraging us to spend, consume, and buy to satisfy any impulse or whim we may have, promising that these purchases will secure for us a sense of well-being.
But what if these behaviors only draw us further from God and heighten our sense of insecurity by pushing us to value THINGS rather than PEOPLE and to look to possessions for our sense of security rather than to turn to God. Which is why I think, we may want to encourage some faithful dependence this week – and in coming days. I want to invite you to practice relying on each other for help, encouragement, and support, and on God through prayer to satisfy our deeper needs. There are few things more satisfying and life giving, it turns out, than sharing with others, giving of our abundance, receiving in our need, all the while being knit more closely together as the Body of Christ. We need to remember the early church were dependent upon each other, and the same can be said about the early United States of America.
We are celebrating our nation’s independence this week. We like to believe in the strength of rugged individualism. But think back to those Pilgrims and Puritans who came to the shores of North America almost 400 years ago. They had a very sure sense of their vulnerability. They knew that the only way they could survive was to depend completely on one another.
Do you remember what they called the first colonies and then states?
- The Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
- The Commonwealth of Virginia.
- The Commonwealth of Rhode Island.
- The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
They understood that they held all things in common, that the good of any one individual was inextricably linked to the good of all others. I would imagine an idea that those early colonists gleaned from the New Testament. That we are in this together. I know that seems like a very foreign idea in today’s culture, but the Biblical model is that God’s people work together – serve together – worship together – pray together – share the kingdom of God together.
Jesus sent those first disciples out in pairs to be dependent on others. Can we hear this as a good word, as Good News, as Gospel, that is addressed to us today? Can we recognize that it is our season to go out to share Christ’s message of love and hope?
“We are thinking about the mystery of the gospel, and this,” as Douglas John Hall writes, …is at the heart of that mystery: namely, that the good news always has to be discovered, rediscovered, received, and articulated ever anew. Gospel is not a once-for-all belief system, a full-blown and unchanging ideology, permanent intellectual property of the church. To the contrary, the church is the product of the gospel. That is to say, it becomes the church as, and only as, it discovers gospel for itself again and again. We come to know it only when and as we hear it for ourselves, day after day, age after age, changing context after changing context.”
Our culture – our community – our neighbors are waiting for good news. It is waiting for Gospel. Ours is a challenging time to bear witness to our faith. But it is no more challenging than the day the 70 were sent out.
I think we often forget this part of discipleship – the going part. Especially as a community of faith. Sometimes we treat the church too much like a destination and endpoint for our faith, an offramp instead of an on-ramp on which we accelerate into the world. Carol Howard Merritt challenges us on this complacency, saying:
Too often Christians are shut up in sanctuaries, concerned about leaky roofs and outdated boilers, counting the attendance, and wringing their hands because people do not seem to be worshiping God as they did in the past. Congregations spend so much time caring for their own and feeling anxious about their demise that they sometimes forget that they, like the seventy, have been sent out with the gospel of God’s love and justice and mercy. How can we get out of the pews and join in the mission of God to the world? How, like the seventy, do congregations recognize and embrace their active participation in the reconciling work of God beyond the narrow confines of their own fears and needs?
The answer, I think, lies in our ability to simply keep going, and stay focused on the call we have been given as disciples. Ultimately, that’s what Jesus tells his followers to do. Don’t carry extra things that will distract or weigh you down, rejoice in the message you’ve been given without trying to bounce around from place to place, and if things happen that block or impede the message, just move on.
If we remember how they were sent and if we let Christ send us out as they were sent out, together, depending on each other, then the Gospel will do its work. And more will be welcomed into the household of faith. For this assurance, thanks be to God. Amen.
Commentary and Liturgy provided by Carol Howard Merritt, Ben Christopher Coulter, Amy G. Oden, Karoline Lewis, Scott Hoezee, Elizabeth Lovell Milford, David Oliver-Holder and David Lose
*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. 332 “The Right Hand of God” vs. 1-4
1 The right hand of God
is writing in our land,
writing with power and with love;
our conflicts and our fears,
our triumphs and our tears,
are recorded by the right hand of God.
2 The right hand of God
is pointing in our land,
pointing the way we must go;
so clouded is the way,
so easily we stray,
but we’re guided by the right hand of God.
3 The right hand of God
is striking in our land,
striking out at envy, hate, and greed.
Our selfishness and lust,
our pride and deeds unjust,
are destroyed by the right hand of God.
4 The right hand of God
is healing in our land,
healing broken bodies, minds, and souls;
so wondrous is its touch
with love that means so much,
when we’re healed by the right hand of God.
THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY COMMUNION
This is not my table.
This is not our church’s table.
This is not our denomination’s table,
or an American table,
or a table reserved for the wealthy or well-connected.
This table is reserved for sinners,
for the poor,
for those who are cast out,
for those who hunger and thirst.
This table is reserved for all the baptized.
This table belongs to Jesus Christ.
Prayer of Thanksgiving
Blessed are you, O Lord our God, Creator of the universe,
for you made all things and called them good—
earth, sea, and sky are yours,
every tree and bird, each seed sprouting,
every firefly twinkling and every drop of precious water
is a witness to your grace.
We give you thanks this day for your generosity,
for you are the giver of every good gift.
Today we especially give you thanks for the gift of freedom,
for those who have worked and sacrificed to honor that gift,
and for the many privileges we enjoy in this place.
We thank you for the gift of this community,
the gift of curious minds and ingenuity,
the privilege of learning and teaching.
We thank you for your Son
who became flesh and lived among us
in order that we might know the gift of your abundant life
right here in these bodies, right here in this Body.
When we forget that all we have, from every tiny bone to every big cathedral, is a gift from you,
call us back to your truth.
When we are tempted by the siren song of individual independence,
remind us that we are but one part of your Body on earth.
When we separate this earth from your Spirit,
give us eyes to see and ears to hear your breath in every heartbeat, every gust of wind, every creaking joint, every neighbor’s laugh and enemy’s tear.
We hold in your light those who live in fear, in violence, under oppression.
We remember your people in Syria, in Bangladesh, in Baghdad, in West Virginia, on the streets of Chicago and the homes of our own neighborhood.
As we gather at this table, we remember that many are hungry.
As we share the cup together, we remember that many are thirsty.
May the day come soon when there may be food and water for all.
May the day come soon when justice and peace take the place of violence.
May the day come soon when your freedom may be known by all of creation.
Many grains come together to make bread, and yet our world community is fractured—
as we eat this feast, draw us together in your Spirit.
Make us again into your body, loving, serving, and caring for the world.
We pray in the name of Jesus the Christ, who taught us to pray together…
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.
God of glory, in this holy meal
you show us your will for every meal.
In Christ’s strength, let us live and work
for the day when all tables are filled with your abundance
and surrounded by your people in peace.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.
OFFERING OF TITHES
The psalmist writes, “You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, so that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give …” May we gifts today be given in that spirit!
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
O Lord, our God, you have called us into the bountiful fields of this world, may we go and fulfill your harvest. O Lord, our God, you have established us as strong mountains, may we stand for your glory and justice in this world. O Lord, my God, you have given us so much; please accept these our responses with our gratitude. 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.
The Lord has heard.
The Lord is our helper.
The Lord now sends us back into the fields with the assurance that the harvest is plentiful.
Go forth with the grace and peace of God our Creator, our Redeemer, and our Sustainer now and forevermore. Amen.