The Presbyterian Church at Woodbury
June 13, 2021
Third Sunday after Pentecost
CHILDREN’S BIBLE SONGS
“Jesus Loves Me”
PRAYER OF PREPARATION
Creator and Ruler of the Earth, we lift up our voices, our eyes, our hearts, our lives to You in praise. Make us Your alleluia people. Uphold the weary, for whom praise may be very difficult. Humble the strong, for whom “alleluia” may be too easy.
Creator and Ruler of the Earth, continue to form us into Your new creation, that we might welcome You to more fully become the ruler of our hearts and minds.
Through Him who came as a servant, and who now reigns over all creation, Jesus, our Christ. Amen.
PRELUDE “Children of the Heavenly Father” Kathryn Elting
CALL TO WORSHIP
Loving God, we come today yearning for that which is trustworthy.
We come as those needing to be surprised by your unexpected answers.
We come remembering how you, O Lord, work through things we dismiss and overlook.
Grant us new eyes to see your works, Gracious God, And new hearts to love the world as you love us.
CALL TO RECONCILIATION
Scripture reminds us that our sins are like scarlet. But we are invited to confess those sins to a God who has always seen beyond our limitations, faults and failures. Let us turn again to our God of abundant grace and ready mercy.
PRAYER FOR FORGIVENESS
God of generations and eons, we come to you confessing that we prefer the deceptive comfort of our short attention span. Lord of all things, small and large, we acknowledge that we seek after the “bigger and better” version of our lives. Creator who offers us the peace that passes all understanding, we know the meaning of Scripture’s plea: “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.”
God of unending patience and mercy, relieve us of the tyranny of believing that we see all there is. Renew in us faith and trust the grandeur of your time-transcending providence. Grant us the gift of faith that rests in things unseen. Teach us, again and again, what it means to trust in you. Amen
Silence is observed
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
Friends, hear the good news. Our God is always a step ahead of us, calling us to grow in the gift of our forgiveness made available to us in Christ Jesus.
PASSING OF THE PEACE OF CHRIST
In sharing the peace of Christ, we express the reconciliation, unity, and love that come only from God, and we open ourselves to the power of God’s love to heal our brokenness and make us agents of that love in the world. 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.
ANTHEM “They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love” Fred Bock
(all children will remain in the sanctuary)
PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION
Sovereign God, Quiet all the voices within our heads, hearts and spirits. Open our ears that we may receive your truth above the din of the world. And open us anew to how you work through the smallest, least likely things, even us, to advance your kingdom on earth. Amen.
Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
praise him in the heights!
2 Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his host!
3 Praise him, sun and moon;
praise him, all you shining stars!
4 Praise him, you highest heavens,
and you waters above the heavens!
5 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for he commanded and they were created.
6 He established them forever and ever;
he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.[a]
7 Praise the Lord from the earth,
you sea monsters and all deeps,
8 fire and hail, snow and frost,
stormy wind fulfilling his command!
9 Mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars!
10 Wild animals and all cattle,
creeping things and flying birds!
11 Kings of the earth and all peoples,
princes and all rulers of the earth!
12 Young men and women alike,
old and young together!
13 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for his name alone is exalted;
his glory is above earth and heaven.
14 He has raised up a horn for his people,
praise for all his faithful,
for the people of Israel who are close to him.
Praise the Lord!
Matthew 19: 13-15
13 Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” 15 And he laid his hands on them and went on his way.
SERMON This I Know: Bible Songs, They Tell Me So
Growing up in the Presbyterian Church meant Vacation Bible School every summer with a different theme for the week and different bible stories for each day/night of VBS. Some years we focused upon the Old Testament, or the Apostle Paul or the miracles of Jesus. Other years, we looked at discipleship or being a beloved child of God. This week of the summer always included a lesson on the theme, typically presented in theatrical form, a daily art project, outdoor games, snacks and of course, music…. more specifically singing by everyone in attendance – always at the beginning an ending of each day. And also on the Sunday after VBS during worship. There was always a theme song that we learned, but more typically we sang those classic VBS and campfire songs: “This is the Day,” “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” “This is the Day,” “Michael Row Your boat Ashore,” “This Little Light of Mine,” “Do, Lord,” “I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Down in my Heart, “The B.I.B.L.E. and of course, “Jesus Loves Me”
“Jesus Loves Me” is one of those hymns that has embedded itself into our consciousness. It’s nearly impossible to read the hymn lyrics without singing along! Many of us associate this song with our childhood, and indeed this hymn from the 1860s is still an important part of the repertoire of any children’s ministry program like my childhood Vacation Bible School. The simple tune and lyrics translate beautifully to singing with children, and it allows them to walk out of our doors with an understanding that they are each known and loved by God—a goal that we as a church set before any biblical instruction or mission work.
However, we don’t do this hymn justice if we merely view it as a relic of our childhood. It’s simple lyrics nonetheless contain a deep theological truth: Jesus loves each one of us no matter whether we are weak or strong, young or old. That may not sound deep at all, but it is Christ’s love for us that is the basis for our entire faith, from Jesus’ teaching to his ministry to the cross. It is from that base of love that our work and ministry and hope are founded. If we do not have that love at the center of our shared life together, then who are we?
Jesus loves each one of us no matter whether we are weak or strong, young or old. The key phrase in understanding just what is happening in this scene is, “that he might lay his hands on them.” These are children who are sick, diseased, ill perhaps to the point of death. And not just one, though we don’t know how many. The scene, then, is likely a swarm of desperate parents who are bringing their diseased children to Jesus in the hope that he can do something. It is likely chaotic, with pushing and shoving, and probably more than a few heated exchanges, as each parent feels compelled to vie for Jesus’ attention for the sake of his or her child. Desperation makes competitors of us all.
All of which helps to explain, if still not excuse, the reaction of the disciples. They are trying to protect their Lord, keeping him from the crush of the crowds and the contagion of these sickly children.
What the disciples don’t understand is that this is exactly why Jesus came – to heal those who are sick, to protect those that are vulnerable, and to respond to those in need. And yet it’s more than that. Jesus doesn’t just pity these children, he elevates them, saying that, indeed, this is what the kingdom of God is all about and this is for whom the kingdom of God exists. Precisely these sickly, vulnerably, incredibly needy children.
We know that, of course. We’ve heard it before. Let the children come unto me. God is for those in need. And so forth. But here Jesus ups the ante, inviting us to image just how backwards the kingdom of God is in comparison to the kingdom of the world we know so well. It’s not just that the sick and vulnerable have a place in the kingdom of God; it’s that the kingdom belongs to them, exists for them, and is constituted by them.
There are not two kinds of citizens in God’s kingdom – those who get in on their merit and have little need and those pitied by God and brought in by the back door. NO, there is only one kind of person in God’s kingdom – the utterly vulnerable person who is in desperate need, whether of comfort, healing, wholeness, forgiveness, hope, you name it. This is a kingdom of the needy…whom God calls blessed. This is the kingdom of friends and neighbors…who God calls blessed. This is the kingdom of republicans and democrats…who God calls blessed. This is the kingdom of haves and have-nots…who God calls blessed. This is the kingdom of people who own shore house and whose who don’t own any property…who God calls blessed. This is the kingdom of those who attend worship every Sunday and those who worship on Christmas/Easter…who God calls blessed. This is the kingdom of you and me….who God calls blessed. This is the kingdom that we are called to proclaim and share with others, and the lyrics of “Jesus Loves Me,” may be the best way to share this Good News, whither we are a small child or a theological professor.
On April 23, 1962, Karl Barth (the renowned 20th Century Swiss-German, neo-orthodox theologian) spoke at Rockefeller Chapel on the campus of the University of Chicago. Many have reported that, during the Q & A time, a student asked Karl Barth, if he could summarize his theology in a single sentence. As the story goes, Barth responded by saying,
“In the words of a song I learned at my mother’s knee: ‘Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.'”
Whether or not this story will ever be historically validated or not, the statement itself is one of the most profound biblical and theological truths; it is all the more important that we are settled on this issue when we come to answer the question, “How do I know that Jesus loves me,” but also just as importantly how do we demonstrate that love as citizens of God’s kingdom? How do we love all of God’s children? How do we welcome all of God’s beloved? Especially those who are weak, frail and vulnerable! May we know that we are loved by Christ and may we love Christ’s children!!
Prayer: Dear God, thank you for showing your love in the gift of your Son. let us acknowledge our need confident of your love and grace, and then let us reach out to others in their need recognizing them as fellow citizens of your kingdom. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Commentary and Liturgy provided by Karl Barth, Nick Batzig, David Lose, Stan Mast. Matt Helms, and John Cleghorn.
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.
THE PASTORAL PRAYER & THE LORD’S PRAYER
God of all times, places and peoples, we came today so full of concerns, confessions, hopes, dreams and questions. We came because the world is full of voices and distractions that would take our eyes off you and your will for us. We came seeking that which is worthy of our trust. We came because you promise us the sufficiency of faith, hope and love.
You are a God who hears all prayers and who is working out your will in ways we cannot always see. You are also a God who invites our prayers and petitions, for that is how we are called to be with you. So we lift up the prayers you already know are on our hearts, the concerns you know that keep us up at night, the worries and anxieties that ground us in our need for you.
We pray for a wayward world that loves violence and abides inequality that breaks your heart; for a nation in sore need of healing; for mercy and empathy for the one we do not understand; for those in our congregation and families who wait for news of a diagnosis, who are living with health challenges, who care for the sick and dying. May they feel your Spirit surround, embrace and encourage them.
Triune God, as we prepare to go out from this place, teach and sustain us as your children and servants, that we may bear witness to your unexpected choices and your wondrous and mysterious means of working in ways that we might never imagine.
For we pray all this in the name of the one who came to show us your love, Christ Jesus, who taught us to pray, 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, forever. Amen.
The flowers are given in the glory and honor of God by the Tatham and Craven Families in loving memory of Tooie Tatham Craven; and by Phil Oehler, Happy 29th Anniversary to Stacey Lee.
OFFERING OF TITHES & OFFERINGS
Whether our response to God’s grace today is the size of the mustard seed or the size of the bush that houses all of the birds, our Lord receives our gifts with the same gratitude and the same promise that it will bear abundant fruit in God’s kingdom. So let us give joyfully.
PRAYER OF DEDICATION
We offer all of this grateful for your covenant — that, in all things, you are working your purposes out within our sight and well beyond. Amen
Now go forth into the world, knowing that God sees within you the promise of the boy-king David and the potential of the mustard seed. And hear these words from the Apostle Paul to the new Christians at Philippi:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.