The Presbyterian Church at Woodbury
November 6, 2022
22nd Sunday after Pentecost
Eternally righteous God, merciful judge of all the living, in your love you called us to share the glory of Christ. Strengthen our hearts in every good work and word, that we may be steadfast in your ways and always believe your truth. Amen.
PRELUDE “Simple Gifts” arr. Tom Birchwood
CALL TO WORSHIP
God is here!
We, your people, meet to offer praise and prayer.
May we find in fuller measure,
what it is in Christ we share.
*HYMN No. 326 “For All the Saints”
1 For all the saints who from their labors rest,
who thee by faith before the world confessed,
thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest.
2 Thou wast their rock, their fortress, and their might;
thou, Lord, their captain in the well-fought fight;
thou, in the darkness drear, their one true light.
3 O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle; they in glory shine;
yet all are one in thee, for all are thine.
4 And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
and hearts are brave again, and arms are strong.
5 From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
*CALL TO CONFESSION
God privileges us with time and attention. Let us not squander this time but approach our Redeemer with a humble and honest confession.
*PRAYER FOR CONFESSION
We confess our discomfort with uncertainty. We confess our desire for personal power and our desperate grabs for control. We confess our need for everything to make sense. And yet, Great God of mystery, there is so much beyond us and our understanding. Remind us we are human. Humble us in your presence. Help us rest in the faith that your grace is sufficient. Amen.
Silence is observed
*ASSURANCE OF PARDON
God’s grace is given freely. God’s love is steadfast. Receive the good news that you are forgiven, and live liberated from sin to the glory of 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.
PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION
Open us, Holy One, to your Word and your way. Clear our minds of daily distractions. Fill our hearts with the humility we need to hear and receive the message you intend for us today. Amen.
SCRIPTURE 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17
2As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we beg you, brothers and sisters, 2not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as though from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here.
3Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction. 4He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God. 5Do you not remember that I told you these things when I was still with you? 6And you know what is now restraining him, so that he may be revealed when his time comes. 7For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but only until the one who now restrains it is removed. 8And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will destroy with the breath of his mouth, annihilating him by the manifestation of his coming. 9<s/up>The coming of the lawless one is apparent in the working of Satan, who uses all power, signs, lying wonders, 10and every kind of wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion, leading them to believe what is false, 12so that all who have not believed the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness will be condemned.
13But we must always give thanks to God for you, brothers, and sisters beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14For this purpose he called you through our proclamation of the good news, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.15So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter.
16Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, 17comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word.
It seems to me that we live in a time of high anxiety! What makes you anxious? If you watch TV or check social media ~ Everything is going to hell in a handbasket! The world is about to explode in a fiery nuclear mushroom! There is so much insanity and hyped disinformation that confronts us in our daily living. The church in Thessalonica also was filled with anxiety. This community of believers was getting false news about the coming of Jesus Christ. There were rumors that Christ had returned and they had not ascended with him into the heavenly kingdom. Paul writes to them with words of hope reassurance. The first five verses of chapter two, in a nutshell, are meant to bring comfort to the church – both ancient and modern. To paraphrase: “No, Jesus hasn’t come back. No, you didn’t miss it. No, your suffering isn’t a sign that you’ve been left behind. Remember what we talked about?” Like a parent who reminds their children at bedtime that they already checked for monsters under the bed and there are none, Paul is writing to comfort a very anxious people.
That is all fine and good and even today we can read Paul’s words and understand the basic upshot and apply it to our own situation. But then again . . . after 2,000 more years have passed and after any number of leaders who here and there sort of fit the “man of lawlessness” description Paul indicates here, it’s by no means a snap to know what in the world to make of these verses or what in the 21st century their fulfillment might possibly look like, and we are driven by anxiety, fear and uncertainty.
Probably, though, even the Thessalonians were not sure. Would this be a Roman leader? A future or soon-to-be new Caesar? There were plenty such leaders who became actively hostile to the church and who declared themselves to be Deus et Dominus, “God and Lord” of the Empire and the world. Soooo?? One of those guys? Maybe? Maybe not? Even as the Thessalonians maybe tried to tie this evil figure to this or that contemporary or near-future figure, so people all through church history have done the same with these words and with also passages from especially Revelation. So many have been certain that this regime or that empire was it, that the Soviet Union was it (but then it went away) or that ________ nation would be it. Others fervently pegged the date and time of the second coming only to have that date and time pass by without fanfare. Some of those movements then died, others re-adjusted and tried again, still others claimed they had been right all along but it was a secret, quiet, private second coming that only those in the know could benefit from.
And that is perhaps just the point: if we get hung up on verses 1-12, then we will miss the true beauty that may constitute the real core of these verses in 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15:
Meanwhile, we’ve got our hands full continually thanking God for you, our good friends—so loved by God! God picked you out as his from the very start. Think of it: included in God’s original plan of salvation by the bond of faith in the living truth. This is the life of the Spirit he invited you to through the Message we delivered, in which you get in on the glory of our Master, Jesus Christ.
So, friends, take a firm stand, feet on the ground and head high. Keep a tight grip on what you were taught, whether in personal conversation or by our letter. May Jesus himself and God our Father, who reached out in love and surprised you with gifts of unending help and confidence, put a fresh heart in you, invigorate your work, enliven your speech.
The point is not finally to get nervous about all this. The point is not to focus on who the lawless man may be or when he will enter into our history. The point is not to turn Paul’s letter into a secret code that requires years of scholarly diligence to decode and crack. And above all the point is not to let any of this instill fear or uncertainty in our hearts.
Quite the opposite: where Paul “lands” in these verses is right in the heart of the Gospel, smack in the middle of reassurance, of hope and of joy. The fact is that the Thessalonian believers were already saved and already secure in Christ. They were not going to fall for the deceptions of the lawless one and they were not going to receive the punishments inflicted on those who long ago decided to make unrighteousness their lifestyle. They have been saved, they have been called, they have been given the Spirit to believe the truth over against the lies of the age. They will obtain glory and they will stand firm if they cleave to what they had already been given in the proclamation of the Gospel in the Word preached and in Paul’s own letters.
This is the real place to end this reading, and these are the words that need to frame the whole of it, even the possibly confusing things about that lawless one, whoever he is or may end up being. No, we should not read this as cause to shrug our shoulders or take the attitude Jerry Falwell, Sr., once conveyed when he said that he was not worried about nuclear war on this planet because if it happened, he would have long since been raptured out of it by Jesus anyway so who cares. Let the world burn. No, no, that cavalier attitude won’t do. We must have compassion on the unbelieving and live and witness in ways that will draw them out of the unrighteousness in which they now live to their peril.
But far from being consumed by worries and scenarios of the end times, we need to revel in what the Gospel already tells us is true of our status in Christ and let that hope, that joy, that confidence infuse our lives and fuel our witness. Such stances of confident hope and joy are where Jesus left things when he addressed this, it’s where Paul leaves things here, it’s where John of Patmos ultimately leaves things in Revelation. Believers in Thessalonica way back when and believers in the church today ought to focus upon confident hop and joy or as Paul put it to an anxious community: But we must always give thanks to God for you, brothers, and sisters beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. For this purpose, he called you through our proclamation of the good news, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, 17comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word.
LET US PRAY…. “Be not anxious,” you tell us, Lord. “Fear not,” your messengers repeat to your terrified children. “My peace I give to you,” Jesus assures us. But in this time and during this season our anxiety runs rampant.
Too many leaders stoke fear and countless justified worries keep us up at night. Hurricanes churn and turn, fires rage, the pandemic persists, political divisions deepen, economic turmoil devastates, our country heaves with the pain of injustice — and through it all, we ask how we can walk by faith and not by sight.
We want to live a life in which your perfect love casts out fear, but we confess, merciful God, that we are afraid, unsure what might come at us next, uncertain how we can endure the relentless suffering and upheaval all around us and right before us.
We cry out, “How long, O Lord?” We yearn to be still and know that you are God. We remember your promise to give when we ask and hear us when we call, so we plead with you now to send your Spirit and ease our troubled hearts. Quiet in us any voice but yours. Help us give to you those burdens we can no longer carry. Do more with us and through us than we could ever hope or imagine.
As we attempt in this tumultuous time to love you and our neighbors with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, clothe us with Christ, make of us a new creation in Christ, unite us in Christ until Christ comes again and crying and mourning and death are no more. We look to you Lord, so that we will not be afraid, and even in our fear we will seek to follow you and be faithful. Amen.
Liturgy and Commentaries provided by Jill Duffield, Marian Kamell, Teri McDowell Ott, James Boyce, Stephen Fowl and Scott Hoezee.
*AFFIRMATION OF FAITH excerpts from Confession of Belhar 1986
We believe in the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who gathers, protects, and cares for the church through Word and Spirit. This God has done since the beginning of the world and will do to the end. We believe in one holy, universal Christian church, the communion of saints called from the entire human family.
We believe that the unity of the people of God must be manifested and be active in a variety of ways: in that we love one another; that we experience, practice and pursue community with one another; that we are obligated to give ourselves willingly and joyfully to be of benefit and blessing to one another; that we share one faith, have one calling, are of one soul and one mind; have one God and Father, are filled with one Spirit, are baptized with one baptism, eat of one bread and drink of one cup, confess one name, are obedient to one Lord, work for one cause, and share one hope; that we suffer with one another for the sake of righteousness; pray together; together serve God in this world; and together fight against all which may threaten or hinder this unity. Amen.
*HYMN No. 523 “You Satisfy the Hungry Heart”
You satisfy the hungry heart
with gift of finest wheat;
come give to us, O saving Lord,
the bread of life to eat.
1 As when the shepherd calls his sheep,
they know and heed his voice,
so when you call your family, Lord,
we follow and rejoice. (Refrain)
2 With joyful lips we sing to you
our praise and gratitude
that you should count us worthy, Lord,
to share this heavenly food. (Refrain)
3 Is not the cup we bless and share
the blood of Christ outpoured?
Do not one cup, one loaf, declare
our oneness in the Lord? (Refrain)
4 The mystery of your presence, Lord,
no mortal tongue can tell:
whom all the world cannot contain
comes in our hearts to dwell. (Refrain)
5 You give yourself to us, O Lord;
then selfless let us be,
to serve each other in your name
in truth and charity. (Refrain)
THE SACRAMENT OF THE LORD’S SUPPER
Friends, this is the joyful feast of the people of God! They will come from east and west, and from north and south, and sit at table in the kingdom of God. According to Luke, when our risen Lord was at table with his disciples, he took the bread, and blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. This is the Lord’s table. Our Savior invites those who trust him to share the feast which he has prepared.
Prayer of Thanksgiving & The Lord’s Prayer
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.
It is right, and it is good, and it is our joy to give thanks to you, God of mystery and miracle. When there was only darkness, you made light. When the world was empty, you created us to be your people and loved us with an everlasting love. When we forgot our love for you, you did not forget us, renewing your promises, restoring our righteousness, through an ark on the waters, a baby in a basket, a child on the hay. For this child, your child, our savior, we stammer out our thanks and praise, tuning our voices to the angels’ songs, joining all those who sing on earth and in heaven: Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest. We praise you for this child, your son, swaddled in cloths in a manger, wrapped in a shroud in a tomb. Born in humility, raised to glory, that we might be raised with him, and all the world restored. Great is the mystery of faith. Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. Pour out your Holy Spirit on your children gathered here and on these gifts of your creation, offered, in return, to you. Bread and wine of earth to body and blood of heaven, our frail flesh and blood to your holy people, that we might show Christ to your world. For this world we pray— knit together the broken places calm warring spirits heal suffering bodies comfort aching souls and infuse us with your peace that is rooted in what is just. By your Spirit make us one with Christ and with each other. Empower us for ministry and sustain us in hope until Christ comes in final glory and we feast at his heavenly table. Through Christ, with Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor are yours now and forever.
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.
Anthem “Come to the Table” Patrick Liebergen
Breaking of Bread & Pouring of the Cup
The Lord Jesus, on the night of his arrest, took bread, and after giving thanks to God, he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying: Take, eat. This is my body, given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.
The minister lifts the cup, saying:
In the same way he took the cup, saying: This cup is the new covenant sealed in my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this in remembrance of me. Every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the saving death of the risen Lord, until he comes.
In giving the bread:
The body of Christ, the bread of heaven. Amen.
In giving the cup:
The blood of Christ, the cup of salvation. Amen.
Eternal God, you have graciously accepted us as living members of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, and you have fed us with spiritual food in the Sacrament of his body and blood. Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
The flowers are given in the glory and honor of God by Tooie, his kids: MaryAnn, Tom, Don; and spouses, grandchildren and great- grandchildren in loving memory of Tom Tatham.
OFFERING OF TITHES & OFFERINGS
“God loves a cheerful giver.” Let us present our tithes and offerings to God.
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
Holy God, how often we take for granted all that we have. How often we fail to recognize how blessed we are. Take these gifts we give in response to your generosity and use them to further Christ’s mission and ministry in a hurting world. Amen.
*HYMN No. 515 “I Come with Joy”
1 I come with joy, a child of God,
forgiven, loved, and free,
the life of Jesus to recall,
in love laid down for me,
in love laid down for me.
2 I come with Christians far and near
to find, as all are fed,
the new community of love
in Christ’s communion bread,
in Christ’s communion bread.
3 As Christ breaks bread and bids us share,
each proud division ends.
The love that made us, makes us one,
and strangers now are friends,
and strangers now are friends.
4 The Spirit of the risen Christ,
unseen, but ever near,
is in such friendship better known,
alive among us here,
alive among us here.
5 Together met, together bound
by all that God has done,
we’ll go with joy, to give the world
the love that makes us one,
the love that makes us one.
May we leave this house of worship today, redeemed by grace, renewed in faith, and restored to hope. May God, the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit, bless us and keep us as we leave to love and serve. Amen.