September 24, 2023
17th Sunday after Pentecost
God our provider,
as you fed your people in the wilderness
with meat in the evening
and manna in the morning,
let your grace be our daily bread,
that we might be nourished in faith
and grow as your holy people.
Through Christ we pray. Amen.
PRELUDE “Life Eternal” Gerald Peterson
CALL TO WORSHIP
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, those he redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.
Let those who are wise give heed to these things,
and consider the steadfast love of the Lord.
Let us worship God!
*HYMN No. 4
“Holy God, We Praise Your Name”
1 Holy God, we praise your name;
Lord of all, we bow before you.
All on earth your scepter claim;
all in heaven above adore you.
Infinite your vast domain,
everlasting is your reign.
2 Hark! The glad celestial hymn
angel choirs above are raising;
cherubim and seraphim,
in unceasing chorus praising,
fill the heavens with sweet accord:
“Holy, holy, holy Lord!”
3 All apostles join the strain
as your sacred name they hallow;
prophets swell the glad refrain,
and the blessed martyrs follow,
and from morn to set of sun,
through the church the song goes on.
4 Holy Father, Holy Son,
Holy Spirit: three we name you,
while in essence only one;
undivided God we claim you,
and adoring, bend the knee
while we own the mystery.
*CALL TO CONFESSION
The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in- steadfast love. With that assurance and the promise of God’s grace through Jesus Christ, let us confess our sin before God and one another.
*PRAYER FOR CONFESSION
Gracious God, forgive us when we grumble and complain against your goodness as the Israelites did in the desert, as the elder brother did to his father, as the workers in the field did to the landowner. We judge and weigh your gifts according to our standards. We often question your fairness instead of receiving your grace with thanksgiving and joy. Help us to see your world through your eyes and with your spirit of generosity and grace, that we may welcome the chance to serve in your kingdom and all who join with us. Forgive us, Lord, in your grace and mercy through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
*SILENT PRAYER FOR CONFESSION
*ASSURANCE OF PARDON
The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made. For by grace, you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing;
it is the gift of God — not the result of works, so that no one may boast.
Friends, believe the good news of the gospel!
In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven. Alleluia!
*RESPONSE No. 582 x2
“Glory to God, Whose Goodness Shines On Me”
Glory to God, whose goodness shines on me,
and to the Son, whose grace has pardoned me,
and to the Spirit, whose love has set me free.
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. Amen.
*PASSING OF THE PEACE OF CHRIST
Although we believe and trust in God, we have forgotten the covenant which God made with our ancestors and sinned.
However, God shows the mercy promised to our ancestors, and remembers this holy covenant, giving us the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of our sins.
By the tender mercy of our God, the Dawn will break upon us, shining into the darkness and the shadow of death, guiding our feet into the way of peace.
Peace be with you.
And also with you.
ANTHEM “Life Up Your Heads” John Carter
UNISON PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION
Holy God, your Word teaches us that all Scripture is inspired by you and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. As we hear your Word read and proclaimed today, speak to us, and inspire us that we may be proficient and equipped for every good work; through Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. Amen.
SCRIPTURE Philippians 1:21-30
21For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. 22If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer.23I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; 24but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. 25Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith,26so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.
27Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, 28and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. 29For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well— 30since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
This is the Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!!
SERMON “Bumper Stickers”
I don’t like it when people take Bible verses out of context and slap them on coffee mugs, put them on bookmarks, put them on bumper stickers. Philippians is the book of the Bible that has the most “life motto” verses that get taken out of context. Think about all the verses that come from Philippians:
“Do not be anxious about anything,”
“Rejoice in the Lord always,”
“Work out your salvation with fear and trembling,”
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,”
“To live is Christ, to die is gain.”
Philippians is full of these verses. We’re actually going to memorize one of these verses today, because it’s in our passage. So, you can go home and tell your friends, “I memorized a Bible verse in church today.” Philippians 1:21 says, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.” I’m going to say this twice, and you’re going to say it with me. Repeat after me: “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.” “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
Most people hear that verse or see it on a coffee mug and think, That’s a great life motto, I’m going to live by that. But we need to hear the context in which this was first spoken. The Apostle Paul is in prison in the city of Rome, facing trial, knowing he’s going to be executed for his faith in Christ. So, he writes a letter to the church in Philippi, and tells them, “This is what I believe: to live is Christ and to die is gain.” This is a man facing execution. We’ve got to wrap our heads around what he’s saying.
Nero was the emperor of Rome at this time. Paul would have to stand before Nero and give his defense for why he came under charges. Tacitus was a historian in first century Rome. He says this about Nero, the guy the Apostle Paul would be facing:
Besides being put to death, the Christians were made to serve as objects of amusement. They were clothed in the hides of beasts and torn to death by dogs. Others were crucified. Others were set on fire to serve to illuminate the night when daylight failed. Nero had thrown open his grounds for the display and was putting on a show and a circus where he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer and drove about in his chariot. All this gave rise to a feeling of pity, for it was felt that they—the Christians—were being destroyed not for the public good but to gratify the cruelty of an individual.
This is what’s going on in Rome when Paul wrote, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.” There is an emperor who is torturing Christians to satisfy his own wicked desires. This is the guy that Paul is going up against.
Every religion has to answer two questions: What is life? and, What is death? Religions answer those two questions very differently. Buddhism says, “To live is to achieve good Karma, and to die is to hope for a better reincarnation.” Islam teaches, “To live is to obey Allah, and if your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds, death is to achieve a personal paradise.” Capitalism answers that question this way: “To live is self, and to die is loss.” That’s what the average person in America believes. Life is all about the self. And to die is to lose everything. That’s very different from what the Apostle Paul says.
Let’s hear again this whole passage from today’s text. What Paul says here does battle with what our culture says. Paul says this (The Message – Eugene Petersen):
On the contrary, everything happening to me in this jail only serves to make Christ more accurately known, regardless of whether I live or die. They didn’t shut me up; they gave me a platform! Alive, I’m Christ’s messenger; dead, I’m his prize. Life versus even more life! I can’t lose.
22-26 As long as I’m alive in this body, there is good work for me to do. If I had to choose right now, I hardly know which I’d choose. Hard choice! The desire to break camp here and be with Christ is powerful. Some days I can think of nothing better. But most days, because of what you are going through, I am sure that it’s better for me to stick it out here. So I plan to be around awhile, companion to you as your growth and joy in this life of trusting God continues. You can start looking forward to a great reunion when I come visit you again. We’ll be praising Christ, enjoying each other.
27-30 Meanwhile, live in such a way that you are a credit to the Message of Christ. Let nothing in your conduct hang on whether I come or not. Your conduct must be the same whether I show up to see things for myself or hear of it from a distance. Stand united, singular in vision, contending for people’s trust in the Message, the good news, not flinching or dodging in the slightest before the opposition. Your courage and unity will show them what they’re up against: defeat for them, victory for you—and both because of God. There’s far more to this life than trusting in Christ. There’s also suffering for him. And the suffering is as much a gift as the trusting. You’re involved in the same kind of struggle you saw me go through, on which you are now getting an updated report in this letter.
Remember, Paul is in prison in Rome, and he’s writing to this church he loves in Philippi. And he says, “I don’t know how this is going to turn out. I’m in prison. My trial is coming up. I don’t know if I will be found guilty and executed. But if I die, I count it as gain because I get to be with Jesus, and I really want that. Or maybe they’ll release me instead. If they release me, that’s great, too. Because I get to be with you. I’ll come to Philippi, I’ll see you, I’ll encourage you. But no matter what happens, I want you to continue moving forward in the faith, advancing the gospel and loving your neighbor.”
That was the message to the Christians in Philippi and that is the message to the Christians in Woodbury! A message that that is way bigger than a bumper sticker!!!
Commentary and Liturgy from the Book of Common Worship (PCUSA), David L. Bartlett, NT Wright, Paul Achtemeier, Doug Bratt, Eugene Petersen, and Phillip K. Gladden.
*AFFIRMATION OF FAITH
from A Brief Statement of Faith
We trust in God the Holy Spirit,
everywhere the giver and renewer of life.
The Spirit justifies us by grace through faith,
sets us free to accept ourselves
and to love God and neighbor,
and binds us together with all believers
in the one body of Christ, the Church.
The same Spirit who inspired the prophets and apostles
rules our faith and life in Christ through Scripture,
engages us through the Word proclaimed,
claims us in the waters of baptism,
feeds us with the bread of life and the cup of salvation,
and calls women and men to all ministries of the Church.
In a broken and fearful world
the Spirit gives us courage
to pray without ceasing,
to witness among all peoples to Christ as Lord and Savior, to unmask idolatries in Church and culture,
to hear the voices of peoples long silenced,
and to work with others for justice, freedom, and peace.
*HYMN No. 14 “For the Beauty of the Earth”
1 For the beauty of the earth,
for the glory of the skies,
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies:
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.
2 For the wonder of each hour
of the day and of the night,
hill and vale, and tree and flower,
sun and moon, and stars of light: (Refrain)
3 For the joy of ear and eye,
for the heart and mind’s delight,
for the mystic harmony
linking sense to sound and sight: (Refrain)
4 For the joy of human love,
brother, sister, parent, child,
friends on earth, and friends above,
for all gentle thoughts and mild: (Refrain)
5 For thyself, best gift divine
to the world so freely given;
for that great, great love of thine,
peace on earth and joy in heaven: (Refrain)
THE PASTORAL PRAYER & THE LORD’S PRAYER
God of grace and God of glory, we come before you in prayer today, assured and comforted by the promise that when we do not know how to pray as we ought, your Holy Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. Lord, the burdens and challenges of life leave us speechless. We thank you that even as we pray, Jesus prays for us to be one and strengthened for the ministry to which you call us. Lord, hear our prayers …
… for the people who have been named in worship today, whose names are on our prayer list, whom we carry in our hearts, who are known only to you.
… for your church in every place, that we may bear faithful witness to your amazing grace in our lives and in our world, even when it offends our sense of fairness, and our understanding of the way life ought to be.
… for the mission, ministry, and work of this congregation. May we always serve with a spirit of generosity as we depend upon your gifts, rather than with a sense of scarcity that comes from looking to ourselves.
… for the peoples of this world whom you have created in your own image: for those who are in dangerous places through no fault of their own; for those who have experienced disasters that have upended their lives; for those who are oppressed and long to live as free people; for those who mourn and long to have hope in their lives.
Almighty God, help us to live lives worthy of the calling to which you call us. Remind us that we are the body of Christ. When one member suffers, may we all share the suffering and extend the loving care of Christ. When one member is honored, may we all rejoice together rather than be envious of another’s blessings. Lord God, help us to live, love, and serve as faithful followers of Jesus Christ in your kingdom.
We offer these and all our prayers in the name of Jesus Christ our Savior, who taught us to pray, “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, for ever. Amen.
OFFERING OF TITHES & OFFERINGS
The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God.” Let us brings our offerings to God, even as we present ourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.
*RESPONSE N0. 609
“Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow”
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
Gracious God, we know that every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from you. We thank you for your many blessings, especially your perfect gift of your Son Jesus Christ, your indescribable gift! Help us to receive your gifts and grace with thanksgiving and humility and to use them faithfully in and for your kingdom. We ask this in the name of your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
*HYMN No. 23
“God, You Spin the Whirling Planets”
1 God, you spin the whirling planets,
fill the seas and spread the plain,
mold the mountains, fashion blossoms,
call forth sunshine, wind, and rain.
We, created in your image,
would a true reflection be
of your justice, grace, and mercy
and the truth that makes us free.
2 You have called us to be faithful
in our life and ministry.
We respond in grateful worship
joined in one community.
When we blur your gracious image,
focus us and make us whole.
Healed and strengthened as your people,
we move onward toward your goal.
3 God, your word is still creating,
calling us to life made new.
Now reveal to us fresh vistas
where there’s work to dare and do.
Keep us clear of all distortion.
Polish us with loving care.
Thus, new creatures in your image,
we’ll proclaim Christ everywhere.
Be steadfast, immovable,
always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord
your labor is not in vain.
And whatever you do,
in word or deed,
do everything in the name
of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,
the love of God,
and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.