The Presbyterian Church at Woodbury
October 3rd, 2021
PIPED INTO WORSHIP: Thom Moore
9:30 AM PEELING OF THE CHURCH BELL
WELCOME: Phil Oehler
PRAYER OF PREPARATION: Nancy Webster
God of the ages, we are very much grateful for your love and care that you have given us. We are here today to praise and glorify you for the many and wonderful things that you have done to our lives and through the 300 years of this congregation.
Our dear Lord, we thank you first as individuals and also as a church that your hand has cared for us and been with us in everything we have done and will do as your faithful disciples.
You, almighty God, knew from the foundation of the world that we shall gather here and thank you. As you have said we ask and you shall give us. Now we thank you that you are with us as we celebrate this anniversary. Thank you for the Holy Spirit and the promises in your word. As we commence this day, we dedicate everything to you and we thank you for the three centuries of service and mission in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen
PRELUDE “Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 – One” J.S. Bach 1721
CALL TO WORSHIP: Milt Fredericks
When we pass through the waters,
God is there with us.
When we suffer and feel hopeless,
God is there with us.
When we are joyful and celebratory,
God is there with us.
Whether we feel triumphant or defeated,
God is there with us, always.
Come, let us worship together with Emmanuel,
God with us.
HYMN No. 687 “Our God Our Help in Ages Past” Composed 1708
Tune: ST. ANNE Text: Issac Watts Music: William Croft
1 Our God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
our shelter from the stormy blast,
and our eternal home:
2 Beneath the shadow of thy throne
thy saints have dwelt secure;
sufficient is thine arm alone,
and our defense is sure.
3 Before the hills in order stood,
or earth received its frame,
from everlasting thou art God,
to endless years the same.
4 A thousand ages in thy sight
are like an evening gone,
short as the watch that ends the night
before the rising sun.
5 Time, like an ever rolling stream,
bears all our years away;
they fly forgotten, as a dream
dies at the opening day.
6 Our God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
be thou our guard while life shall last,
and our eternal home.
CALL TO RECONCILIATION: Eric Campo
Brothers and sisters, let us present ourselves before God, confessing our faults and sins:
PRAYER FOR FORGIVENESS
Lord God, eternal and almighty Father: We acknowledge before your holy majesty that we are poor sinners, conceived and born in guilt and in corruption, prone to do evil, unable of our own power to do good. Because of our sin, we endlessly violate your holy commandments. But, O Lord, with heartfelt sorrow we repent and turn away from all our offenses. We condemn ourselves and our evil ways, with true sorrow asking that your grace will relieve our distress. Have compassion on us, most gracious God, Father of mercies, for the sake of your son Jesus Christ our Lord. And in removing our guilt, also grant us daily increase of the grace of your Holy Spirit, and produce in us the fruits of holiness and of righteousness pleasing in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Silence is observed
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
Brothers and sisters, you know that God, being full of goodness and mercy, loved the world so greatly that he gave his only Son, who said plainly that he had come to save that which had been lost.
That good Savior has promised us that everything we ask in his name will be given us, and that if we forgive others their sins his Father will forgive our own.
Believe, therefore, that when we ask God‘s mercy in the name of our Lord Jesus, and when we forgive our neighbor, our Lord forgives us, and, through the faith we have in Jesus Christ, our hearts are cleansed.
May Jesus, the true Savior of the world, who died for us and is seated in glory at the right hand of the Father, dwell in your hearts through his Holy Spirit, that you be wholly alive in him, through living faith and perfect love. Amen.
RESPONSE No. 581 “Glory Be to the Father” 1851
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.
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.”
ANTHEM “The Anthem of Dedication” Warren Martin
CHILDREN’S MESSAGE : Judy Platt
(all children will remain in the sanctuary)
PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION: Mary Mottola
Almighty and ever gracious God, since all our salvation depends upon your holy Word: therefore, grant that our hearts may be set free from worldly things, so that we may with all diligence and faith hear your Word, rightly understand your gracious will, and in all sincerity live according to the same, to your praise and glory; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
SCRIPTURE Matthew 7:24-29
24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. 25The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. 26And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!” 28Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, 29 for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.
ANTHEM “Take My Life and Let It Be” Arr. Shawn Kirschner
Tricentennial Commissioned Anthem
Text: Frances Ridley Havergal
Music: H.A. Cesar Malan
“FOUNDATION – CLEAN SLATE?”: Phil Oehler
Several weeks ago, I helped load 25 bags of concrete into the back of a pick-up truck and then unloaded them into the church. A few days later we mixed the concrete and poured it into a mold that holds a piece of art for our Tricentennial celebration. After a bit of math, I realized that over 2000 pounds of concrete was prepared…Literally a Ton of cement was used for the foundation of the statue. As I thought about this back-breaking work, I wondered about our scripture passage about underpinnings – sand and stone, concrete and rebar. Today’s text is a parable in which Jesus proclaimed that people who are both hearers and doers of these words are like the wise man who built his house upon the rock. We are all building a house of some sort – both as individuals and as a congregation. Some of us have literally built a house. But the metaphor is that of the life we are seeking to create for ourselves. We’re all building something, a life, a career, a family, the question is: upon what footing, or foundation are we building?
This is a question that come straight to the heart of the illustration that Jesus used: because sand and rock are two very different surfaces. Sand is pliable, it moves easily, it’s soft and comfortable. It is awfully tempting to want to build our lives on beachfront property, in nice cushy sand. Rocks are hard, they require more work, they are not as pliable and are often rigid and unforgiving. Building on rock can involve more struggle, you have to work at it. When we decide to be hearers and doers of the word as Jesus proclaims, it will involve work, struggle, blood, sweat, tears – no easy task.
The Presbyterian Church at Woodbury is clearly built upon the Rock – Jesus Christ, but that work has not been easy. It has involved struggle and hard work. We are celebrating 300 years of work, of ministry that has had God’s only son as the foundation. As we began serving, we were part of the British colony, we moved into being a community in a grand political experiment and became a central part of the community in southern New Jersey, and we have remained undergirded by our Savior as we have sought to be faithful during this pandemic season. I would imagine that for those first ten families it was a difficult season to begin a congregation in Woodbury, but they relied upon Jesus. There has also been a time that didn’t feel so difficult -when the church was at the center of the culture – it was easy to be a follower of Jesus. We are once again at a season when the church doesn’t seem as important to folks as past generations. We need to rely not upon a new program or staff, but upon the bedrock that is Jesus Christ. We are called to rely upon Christ and recognize that there will again be work – difficult work to build God’s house and proclaim God’s kingdom.
What is it about this particular house of God? this community that is celebrating 300 years of ministry? I believe that it is the reliance upon our savior Jesus Christ. It is a congregation built on THE ROCK that makes it so impressive. The most impressive thing about this house built upon the rock -is not that it magically glows in the dark. Nor does it miraculously grow into a mansion. We need to be cautious about what our expectations are when we begin to hear and do the Words of Jesus, there are lots of promises can be made, we can hear lots of prominent people who hold their experience up as the model of what happens when Jesus comes into our lives. The most impressive thing about the house that is built upon the rock is that it is still standing when the storms are over. The storms will come, the water will rise, and when they do the house built on the rock will not fall.
This is a picture of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Aleppo Syria from 2018. The height of the violence in Syria terrorists came and bombed this congregation’s building. The testimony of Pastor Ibrahim Nseir tells of this community feeling the wind and the waves.
The church where Nseir is pastor was shelled twice earlier in the war and rebuilt. He was visiting patients when a hospital was hit by missiles. During the fierce bombardment the city endured recently, his three children did not sleep for a week.
About 65 percent of his congregation has now left the country, in part because young men want to avoid being conscripted. Nseir worries about how to help young people afford the costs of tuition so they can stay in Syria but avoid being forced to enter the military.
He estimates that of 150,000 Christians of all denominations in Aleppo before the war, fewer than 20,000 remain. Of those who remain, half are hoping to leave and the other half are too poor to contemplate emigrating.
The future of an ancient Christian community in Syria—the land where Paul received his revelation of the living Jesus—is increasingly in doubt, as those who have hung on through the conflict struggle to cope with a shattered economy. Costs have grown for food, medication, and fuel to run the generators made necessary because the city hasn’t had electricity in three years.
Nseir is under pressure to leave from family, some of whom are in the United States, but he resists: “Through my ministry in the last three years, I have worked very hard to be a sign of hope in the city. So many Christians, if they hear that I will leave, they will think the situation is not secure any more, and they will leave too. So, these things are a great burden on my shoulders.”
Through his ministry, this Syrian pastor has worked very hard to be a sign of hope. A demonstration of kingdom love in the world relying upon Christ as the foundation for that hope. That is also our calling as we move beyond this Tricentennial celebration. We will have a clean slate – a fresh start – a new beginning! So, how will we demonstrate in our lives that we have a foundation of rock that is Jesus Christ in the larger world? (show clean slate)
My prayer, for this community that I love, is that we can continue to demonstrate Christ’s love as we have done through worship, Bible Study, feeding of our community through the GWCM Food Pantry, feeding of the soul through our monthly community dinner, care for our neighbors in places like Cuba, Haiti and Honduras plus service through organizations like Presbyterian Disaster Assistance across the United States. Demonstrating Christ’s love for neighbor because we stand upon the bedrock of faith that is Jesus Christ. On this Sunday, I want to encourage us that when we place our trust and hope on the Word who was in the beginning, and the same word who is the Alpha and the Omega, — the wind and the waves will not destroy us. After the storms are over, after the wind and the tempest rage, after everything is thrown at us—even the kitchen sink—we will be standing, perhaps with bumps and bruises, but standing nonetheless because we built our house upon the rock, and then we can show God’s love.
While I was at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary two weeks ago, during one of the worship services, a prayer by Brian Doyle was used that asked the church to remember that Christ asked followers to do one simple thing love. This Uncommon Prayer included the following lines
“Preach the Gospel and only if necessary talk about it. Be the Word. It is easy to advise and pronounce and counsel and suggest and lecture; it is not so easy to do what must be done without sometimes shrieking. Bring love like a bright weapon against the dark. The Rabbi did not say build churches, or retreat houses, or secure a fleet of cars for general use, or convene conferences, or issue position papers. He was pretty blunt about the hungry and the naked and the sick. He was not reasonable; we forget this. The Church is not a reasonable idea. The Church should be a verb.”
May we bring love like a bright weapon against the dark. May we continue to stand on the foundation of Christ. May we begin with a clean slate and love our neighbors for another 300 years as Christ loves us!
Furious Prayer for the Church I Love and Have Always Loved but Which Drives Me Insane with Its Fussy Fidgety Prim Tin-Eared Thirst for Control and Rules and Power and Money Rather Than the One Simple Thing the Founder Insisted On
From: A Book of Uncommon Prayer: 100 Celebrations of the Miracle and Muddle of the Ordinary by Brian Doyle
Granted, it’s a tough assignment, the original assignment. I get that. Love—Lord help us, could we not have been assigned something easier, like astrophysics or quantum mechanics? But no—love those you cannot love. Love those who are poor and broken and fouled and dirty and sick with sores. Love those who wish to strike you on both cheeks. Love the blowhard, the pompous ass, the arrogant liar. Find the Christ in each heart, even those. Preach the Gospel and only if necessary talk about it. Be the Word. It is easy to advise and pronounce and counsel and suggest and lecture; it is not so easy to do what must be done without sometimes shrieking. Bring love like a bright weapon against the dark.
The Rabbi did not say build churches, or retreat houses, or secure a fleet of cars for general use, or convene conferences, or issue position papers. He was pretty blunt about the hungry and the naked and the sick. He was not reasonable; we forget this. The Church is not a reasonable idea. The Church should be a verb. When it is only a noun it is not what the Founder asked of us. Let us pray that we are ever after dissolving the formal officious arrogant thing that wants to rise, and ever fomenting the contradictory revolutionary counter-cultural thing that could change life on this planet. It could, you know. Let’s try again today. And so: amen.
Commentary provided by Richard Beaton, Scott Hoezee, Jonathan P. Cornell & Doreen Martens.
*AFFIRMATION OF FAITH The Scots Confession: Chapter 16-The Kirk: Erik Hill
As we believe in one God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, so we firmly believe that from the beginning there has been, now is, and to the end of the world shall be, one Kirk, that is to say, one company and multitude of men chosen by God, who rightly worship and embrace him by true faith in Christ Jesus, who is the only Head of the Kirk, even as it is the body and spouse of Christ Jesus. This Kirk is catholic, that is, universal, because it contains the chosen of all ages, of all realms, nations, and tongues, be they of the Jews or be they of the Gentiles, who have communion and society with God the Father, and with his Son, Christ Jesus, through the sanctification of his Holy Spirit. It is therefore called the communion, not of profane persons, but of saints, who, as citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, have the fruit of inestimable benefits, one God, one Lord Jesus, one faith, and one baptism. Out of this Kirk there is neither life nor eternal felicity. Therefore, we utterly abhor the blasphemy of those who hold that men who live according to equity and justice shall be saved, no matter what religion they profess.
For since there is neither life nor salvation without Christ Jesus; so, shall none have part therein but those whom the Father has given unto his Son Christ Jesus, and those who in time come to him, avow his doctrine, and believe in him. (We include the children with the believing parents.) This Kirk is invisible, known only to God, who alone knows whom he has chosen, and includes both the chosen who are departed, the Kirk triumphant, those who yet live and fight against sin and Satan, and those who shall live hereafter.
*HYMN No. 353 “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less” 1863
Text: Edward Mote
Music: William Batchelder Bradbury
1 My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
all other ground is sinking sand;
all other ground is sinking sand.
2 When darkness seems to hide his face,
I rest on his unchanging grace;
in every high and stormy gale,
my anchor holds within the veil. (Refrain)
3 His oath, his covenant, his blood
support me in the whelming flood;
when all around my soul gives way,
he then is all my hope and stay. (Refrain)
4 When he shall come with trumpet sound,
O may I then in him be found,
dressed in his righteousness alone,
faultless to stand before the throne. (Refrain)
THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY COMMUNION:
Phil Oehler & Milt Fredericks
INVITATION TO THE LORD’S TABLE
Having made our confession of faith to testify that we are children of God, and hoping therefore that God our faithful Father will be gracious to us, let us hear how Jesus Christ instituted his holy supper for us, as St. Paul relates it in 1 Corinthians 11: ―I have received from the Lord,‖ he says, ―that which I have delivered to you, how the Lord Jesus, on the night when he was betrayed, took bread; and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying ̳Take, eat; this is my body which is broken for you; do this remembering me.‘ And after the supper he took the cup, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, remembering me. ‘For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord‘s death until he comes.
We have heard how our Lord observed his supper with his disciples. Therefore, let each of us examine our conscience to see whether we truly repent of our sins, desire henceforth to live a live consistent with God‘s will, and above all to trust in God‘s mercy—seeking salvation wholly in Jesus Christ and, renouncing all hatred and dissention, determine to live in peace and love with our neighbors and to discern the unity of Christ‘s body which is the church.
If we have this witness in our hearts before God, never doubt that he claims us as his children, and that the Lord Jesus addresses his Word to us, inviting us to his Table and giving us this holy sacrament offered to all his disciples. Above all, believe the promises of his unfailing truth, that Christ is truly willing to make us partakers of his body and blood, in order that we may possess him wholly and so that he may live in us as we in him. Though we see only bread and wine, we affirm that he fulfills in us everything he shows us in these visible things: that he is the true bread of heaven and food for eternal life. In giving himself to us, he claims us as his own.
Therefore, come and let us receive this sacrament as a pledge of the goodness which his life and death has gained for us. May we never pull ourselves away from the one who invites us by his Word, but present ourselves to him with believing hearts, that he may give himself to us. Come, then, and receive what Christ offers.
PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Let us lift our spirits and hearts on high.
We lift them to the Lord.
Almighty God, we offer thanks and praise to you without ceasing and magnify your name in word and deed.
As on the cross our Lord Jesus offered his body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins, still he seeks to offer them to us as nourishment for eternal life. By the power of your Holy Spirit, grant us the grace of such a beneficial gift that we may sincerely receive his body and blood – indeed, Christ himself – who, being true God and truly human, is the holy bread of heaven which gives us life. No longer living for ourselves but Christ in us and we in Christ, lead us to the life that is holy, blessed, and everlasting.
As partakers in your eternal covenant of grace, by which we are made children and heirs, and through which our needs are provided, may we never cease to magnify your name in word and deed. This we pray through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.
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.
BREAKING THE BREAD & POURING THE CUP
INSTRUMENTAL “Mirror in Mirror”
Arvo Part 1978
PRAYER AFTER COMMUNION
Eternal God, we give you eternal praise and thanks that you have drawn us into the communion of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, the true bread of heaven and drink for eternal life. Grant us now this further benefit: that we may never forget these things, but hold them always in our hearts, so that we may grow in grace, increase in faith, and serve you in all we do. So, may we live to the praise of your glory, and serve others even as in Christ you have served us; through Jesus Christ your Son, who in the unity of the Holy Spirit lives and reigns with you, O God, forever and ever. Amen.
ANNOUNCEMENTS: Milt Fredericks
The flowers are given in the glory and honor of God
for the many saints of our church who have gone before.
OFFERING OF TITHES & OFFERINGS: Joyce Mixner
We sing our praises to the Lord, for God is good and worthy! We give our whole selves — our talents and material possessions — to the Church with the expectation that they be used to further God’s dream for our world. Please commit yourself and give as you’re able.
Erik Satie 1888
Praise God, from whom all blessing flow, Praise God, all creatures here below. Alleluia, Alleluia Praise God in Jesus fully know; Creator, Word and Spirit one. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia Alleluia.
*PRAYER OF DEDICATION
Loving God, we present now what we have brought to you. Things that are both visible and invisible. The coins and paper represent our work, and express in a clear and visible way our love and thanks. But we also bring as an offering the fragile dreams and hopes that we have. These invisible gifts are what sustain our lives. Receive all that we have brought in love, O God. Amen.
*HYMN No. 69 “I, the Lord, of Sea and Sky” 1981
Tune: HERE I AM
Text: Daniel L. Schutte
Music: Daniel L. Schutte
1 I, the Lord of sea and sky,
I have heard my people cry.
All who dwell in dark and sin
my hand will save.
I, who made the stars of night,
I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear my light to them?
Whom shall I send?
Here I am, Lord.
Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.
2 I, the Lord of snow and rain,
I have borne my people’s pain.
I have wept for love of them.
They turn away.
I will break their hearts of stone,
give them hearts for love alone.
I will speak my word to them.
Whom shall I send?
3 I, the Lord of wind and flame,
I will tend the poor and lame.
I will set a feast for them.
My hand will save.
Finest bread I will provide
till their hearts be satisfied.
I will give my life to them.
Whom shall I send?
The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be merciful to you.
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and keep you in virtuous prosperity. Amen.
THANK YOU! It is said that many hands make light work and that is a true statement during the last two years of preparation for today’s tricentennial celebration. We want to thank our staff. We want to thank all those members who served on the planning committee and assisted with making all our moments of celebration happen. This truly has been the work of the entire church family and today, we celebrate the congregation and its ongoing ministry. Thanks Be To God!!
Piper Thom Moore
Rev. Dr. Philip W. Oehler, Sr.
Minister of Music, Jack Hill
Elder Nancy Webster
Elder Milt Fredericks
Elder Eric Campo
Elder Judy Platt
Elder Erik Hill
Deacon Joyce Mixner