God our liberator,
as you delivered your people
from the armies of the Pharaoh,
set us free from all evil,
that we may have faith in you
and tell the story of your great work
to every coming generation.
Through Christ we pray. Amen.
PRELUDE “Echo Alleluia” Henry Purcell
CALL TO WORSHIP
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me.
Bless God’s holy name.
God forgives. God heals. Gods transforms with steadfast love.
Bless God’s holy name.
*HYMN No. 13 “The Mighty God With Power Speaks”
1 The Mighty God with power speaks,
and all the world obeys;
from dawn until the setting sun,
God’s wonder earth displays.
The perfect beauty all around
from Zion’s height shines forth;
and stars across the firmament
so brightly beam their worth.
2 God comes not with a silent form,
but riding on the winds;
before God’s face, the raging storm
its blast of thunder sends.
All hail the Judge, in bold array,
whose promise is to bless;
who sees our sins, yet also feels
our thirst for righteousness.
3 The heavens declare your justice, Lord,
as endless as the sky;
against the taunts of disbelief,
our God will testify.
Receive my heartfelt gift of thanks,
as honor to your might;
refresh my faith with each new day;
protect me through the night.
*CALL TO CONFESSION
Before we can hear God’s truth spoken in love, we must free ourselves from all that obstructs us from honestly acknowledging our wrongdoing. Let us examine our hearts and confess our sins to God.
*PRAYER FOR CONFESSION
Nurturing God, like a hen gathers her brood under her wings, you desire to gather your children. But division and disagreement plague us. We cling to rigid certainties, approach each other in arrogance, and fail to listen. We walk away from conflict, rather than working through it. For- give us, Holy God. Help us grow in faith, mature in relationship, and be transformed through your steadfast love. Amen.
*SILENT PRAYER FOR CONFESSION
*ASSURANCE OF PARDON
The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. Anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. In the name of Jesus Christ, we are forgiven, redeemed and restored to God’s path of righteousness. Amen.
*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 “Be Thou My Vision” John Rutter
UNISON PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION
Open us, Eternal God, to your Word read and proclaimed. Help us not to turn from your truth or avoid your message. Help us be receptive to the wisdom you offer. Amen.
SCRIPTURE Romans 14-1-12
14 Welcome those who are weak in faith[a] but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. 2 Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. 3 Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat, for God has welcomed them. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on slaves of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord[b] is able to make them stand.
5 Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. 6 Those who observe the day, observe it for the Lord. Also those who eat, eat for the Lord, since they give thanks to God, while those who abstain, abstain for the Lord and give thanks to God.
7 For we do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.
10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.[c] 11 For it is written,
“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall give praise to[d]God.”
12 So then, each one of us will be held accountable.
This is the Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!!
SERMON “We are the Lord’s”
A man died and met St. Peter at the pearly gates. Peter offered to give the man a tour of heaven. St. Peter took the man down a long hall with many doors. They stopped at the first door where St. Peter opened it and whispered: “These are the Presbyterians.” He quietly closed the door and lead the man to the next door. Quietly opening the door St. Peter whispered, “Here are the Baptists.” Quietly closing the door St. Peter led the man to the next door. Opening it quietly he whispered, “Here are the Methodists.” St. Peter opened quietly opened each door with the same procedure. After he quietly closed the last door, St. Peter led the man back to the pearly gates. The man asked St. Peter, “Why did you whisper?” St. Peter replied, “Because each group thinks they are the only ones here.”
I guess, we even have difficulty living together even in heaven.
From the earliest days of the infant church, we saints, we humans have struggled to figure out how to live into Jesus Christ together. Yet, here we are. Here we are.
In the very new-born church, the saints were arguing about the distribution of food at the agape – the love meal — for corn’s sake. To solve this controversy, Peter and the 12 gave us the gift of Deacons. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.
I always say, our technology is different after 2,000 years but as the saints, in whom Jesus dwells, are still the same, human. And always will be.
The Roman Christian church of 55 ad was just a baby congregation. They were NOT a mega-church with all the answers, with the charismatic pastor who was on TV weeknights at 11pm preaching from the arena sized sanctuary.
The Roman Christians were less than 100 saints, trying to figure out church. And they were human. Sometimes they struggled. They loved each other and they groused at each other.
In those days in Rome, every pagan god, small “g”, had their own temple in town. People would go to that temple, parade around, spend hours yelling out the name of that god. Say it is Artemus. “Yay Artemus… As they yelled, they would offer food / meat to the altar of Artemus.
After all the hubbub, they would have a BBQ with the sacrificed meat. The pagan worshipers would invite their neighbors to the block party including their Christian friends.
Now those who described themselves as “Spiritually Strong” – Faithful people who lived out their faith in Jesus Christ by kind of ignoring all the small g pagan silliness. They would come bringing a salad, or a Jell-O mold, and would party. Enjoying a big slice of brisket or a gyro or a pulled pork sandwich once offered to say Artemus and think nothing of it.
Those who the Spiritually Strong considered the Spiritually Weak would go Ewww – yuck – that is gross. In fact, those dubbed the weak wouldn’t even hang out with the pagan or meat-eating Christians.
All the while both groups, both groups did their very best to ignore the Lord’s demand that we not judge one another. There was a whole lot of judging going on by the Christians about their brothers and sisters in Christ. And you know what Paul said.
STOP IT! All of you hush up!
Stop judging. Stop fussing. Don’t you know that the Lord Jesus is with you. AND the Lord Jesus is with all who have faith and are working it out the best way they can.
Those who eat pagan meat: Give thanks to God! Jesus is here!
Those who don’t eat pagan meat: Give thanks to God! Jesus is here!
No matter how much we think it is about us, it isn’t.
For we do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. We are the Lord’s – And Jesus is right here with ALL OF US!
And if you hold onto to whatever it is your judging about another saint: eating meat sacrificed to idols or whatever our 21st century stuff might be – It is held so tightly nobody can move. You, the other saints, and the church are stuck. Bound up and hog tied, pun intended.
But, if you let go and let God. Look the other saints in the eye and try to remember Jesus is in your heart and Jesus is your neighbor’s heart we will be loosed – witnessing to reality of our Heavenly Savior! A foretaste of the Kingdom of Heaven.
For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.
I feel like saying to Jesus what they say to me when I walk into Starbucks – “Welcome in.”
I say to all of you. Welcome into the church. Not the perfect human institution but the imperfect – prone to make mistakes – easily distracted – cause of controversies – holder on-ers to our own stuff and judgement makers.
AND AND AND the place where we find love and forgiveness and Jesus. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Matthew 18:17, what Jesus says if you are going through a thing with another saint.
If you are looking each other in the eye and if they or you can’t or won’t get over it – and the church itself is fussing with THEM, then here is what you do, and I am quoting Jesus: “Let such a one be to you as a gentile and a tax collector.”
For years, decades I thought treating others with whom I am going around and round with like tax collectors and gentiles meant that it is ok to cut them off. See yah. You act in this way; I don’t need you or want you in my life or in my church. I could not have been more wrong.
However, Jesus, being Jesus, the Forgiver. The Redeemer. The Prince of Peace. The One Who Always Judges with Love means just the opposite.
Treat those with whom you are having issues like you would someone who you know needs God in their lives! Bring them closer. Keep plugging away at finding common ground. Love them even when you want to slug them.
Don’t shun those with whom you are at odds. Bring them closer. Try and try harder.
If you give up on them and they on you, if we hold onto to whatever it is we are fighting about with another saint: eating meat sacrificed to idols or whatever our 21st century stuff might be – It is held so tightly nobody can move. You, the other saints, and the church are bound – tied up so tight circulation stops, gangrene sets in and the system dies.
But, if you let go and let God. Look the other saints in the eye and try to remember Jesus is in your heart and Jesus is your neighbor’s heart we will be loosed – witnessing to reality of our Heavenly Savior! A foretaste of the Kingdom of Heaven. A community that welcomes all.
In 2017, there was a story on NPR about Coventry Cathedral in England. In 1940, during the Coventry Blitz, it was nearly bombed to destruction. The ruins of the medieval tower and the outer wall have been kept as a space for remembrance, and the only thing added was an inscription on the wall behind the altar that says simply, “Father, forgive.” They congregation built the new cathedral next to the remains of the old. But now, many decades later, in the middle of a world that seems primarily bound together only by fear and by disdain of others, Coventry Cathedral has erected another sign, this one on the front door of the church. The sign says this:
We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, widowed, straight, gay, confused, well-heeled, or down-at-the-heel. We welcome wailing babies and excited toddlers. We welcome you whether you can sing like Pavarotti or just growl quietly to yourself. You are welcome here if you are just browsing, you just woke up, or just got out of prison. No matter what color you are, you are welcome here. We don’t care if you are more Christian than the Archbishop of Canterbury or haven’t been to church since Christmas ten years ago. We extend a special welcome to those who are over sixty but still not grown up yet and to teenagers who are growing up too fast.
We welcome keep-fit moms, football dads, starving artists, tree huggers, latte sippers, vegetarians, junk-food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you’re having problems, are down in the dumps, or don’t like organized religion. We’re not keen on it either. We offer welcome to those who work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or are here because Granny is visiting and wanted to come to the cathedral. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down their throats as kids, or just got lost and wound up here by mistake. We welcome pilgrims, tourists, seekers, doubters, and you.
When asked about the sign, the current rector said in the interview, “It’s simply about being a place where people can leave their differences at the door and come into conversation with one another and with God.”
Now, while I do not think leaving our differences at the door is necessary or even useful, I get what the rector and that congregation are trying to create. They are trying to create a community that is as wide and as welcoming as God’s own grace. They are trying to create an honest community where everyone knows to whom they belong— to each other and also to God primarily, or as Paul proclaims it “7 For we do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” We are the Lord’s – all of us…thanks be to God!
Commentary and Liturgy from the Book of Common Worship (PCUSA), Shanon J. Kershner, David L. Bartlett, NT Wright, Paul Achtemeier, Scott Hoezee, Elizabeth Shively, Audrey West, and Doug Bratt
*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. 824 “There Is A Place Of Quiet Rest”
1 There is a place of quiet rest,
near to the heart of God,
a place where sin cannot molest,
near to the heart of God.
O Jesus, blest Redeemer,
sent from the heart of God,
hold us, who wait before thee,
near to the heart of God.
2 There is a place of comfort sweet,
near to the heart of God,
a place where we our Savior meet,
near to the heart of God. (Refrain)
3 There is a place of full release,
near to the heart of God,
a place where all is joy and peace,
near to the heart of God. (Refrain)
THE PASTORAL PRAYER & THE LORD’S PRAYER
Loving God, as summer rapidly rolls into fall and busy schedules give us little space to pause and contemplate the eternal, we quiet ourselves now to enter your presence, to open our minds and hearts, to breathe the air you provide, to feel our hearts’ beat, to give thanks, and to lift our prayerful petitions.
You bless us, God, with your steadfast love, surrounding us during times of suffering, comforting us in sorrow, offering us hope to face whatever is ahead. There is so much devastation, so much pain — we cannot wrap our minds around it all. Yet we petition you, Great God of All, to be with your people struggling to recover from natural disasters, to strengthen your people oppressed by worldly powers and greedy regimes, to soften hearts hell bent on war and violence, to heal those who are wounded, sick and grieving.
Faithful God, we trust you will never abandon us. We trust in your promise to provide for us, our children and your creation. We know joy be- cause of you. We are blessed with friends and family and neighbors by your call to beloved community. Even amid suffering, you grace us with joyful opportunities to laugh, play, sing and dance. Help us, Holy God, to not be so focused on all that is going wrong that we miss all that is going right.
Finally, ground us in your good news, O God, and help us hold on to your promise of redemption in Jesus our Christ. Keep our feet steady on Christ’s path, help us follow his teachings, help us love as he loved. Now, hear us as we pray the prayer Jesus taught us, 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, for ever. Amen.
OFFERING OF TITHES & OFFERINGS
We are inspired to be generous by a generous God. We are inspired to give by the greatest of givers. In gratitude to God, let us present our tithes and offerings.
*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
Holy God, bless these gifts for your good use. May these tokens of our gratitude be of service in blessing the poor, feeding the hungry, clothing and sheltering those struggling to survive. Use these gifts to further Christ’s mission and ministry in a hurting world. Amen.
*HYMN No. 39 “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”
1 Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
there is no shadow of turning with thee.
Thou changest not; thy compassions they fail not.
As thou hast been thou forever wilt be.
Great is thy faithfulness!
Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning, new mercies I see.
All I have needed thy hand hath provided.
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!
2 Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
join with all nature in manifold witness
to thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.
3 Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide,
strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow:
blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!
God does not abandon us. God’s love is steadfast. May this love inspire all our relationships as we leave this house of worship, knit together in God’s love, bound as a community of Christ, guided by the gift of the Holy Spirit. Amen.