October 18, 2020
First Presbyterian Churches of
Paris and Deport, Texas
When Armel and I built this blog we wanted it to be as much like a regular worship service as you would find if you were walking into the sanctuary at church. But we are living in extraordinary times right now. I decided to pare this service down to just the basic elements of worship: There will be music along the way to listen to.
Let us be called to worship:
Here we go again, God, online.......again.
And we don't want to be here. But this virus has hit too close to home and we have some folks in our congregation exposed to it so we're going to play it safe and cancel in-person worship for now.
But, God, if we can't be honest with you,
We don't want to worship you online.
We would much rather be in a church.
A real church.
With real pews.
And real people.
God, you know how much we miss them--real people.
We miss seeing their smiles behind the masks..
We miss their hugs.
But we still want to worship you.
Because you haven't changed.
Not a bit.
You are still the same God.
So we will worship you in this new way.
Trusty old God,
We might need a little encouragement.
Help us, Divine Holy Spirit.
Be with us today in our worship.
Light our hearts and our souls on fire.
Turn our minds toward worship!
It is you we worship, O Holy one!
Let us confess our sins:
We are broken people who mess up. Like people in all times an places we have malice in our hearts. We wish ill upon those we do not like and fail to recognize our own shortcomings. We are certain in our opinions rather than humble about our assumptions. We think the best of ourselves and the worst of others, despite your admonishment to tend to the log in our own eye, rather than the speck in our neighbor's. We want to partition off our lives, offering you a portion of our loyalty, time and resources, when we are called to give our wholes selves to you. Forgive our pettiness, our hard-heartedness and our stubbornness. Use our repentance as a means for the Spirit to work in us and remake us into a closer likeness of our Lord, Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.
As you read the scripture today, ask God to illumine your mind and your life.
The Word of God
Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”
The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”
And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”
Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”
And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”
Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”
This is the word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
What does all this mean?
The people, who had been traveling a long time and were tired, wanted God to reassure them. They needed to know somebody was in charge. Somebody who loved them and wanted the best for them and was interested in their future. They needed to know that things were going to be OK in the end.
They knew they were not at the end of their journey. They understood that there was a long walk still ahead of them. But they were asking God to show them God's glory so they could have the energy to continue the journey.
And God did just that.
And it must have been a marvelous sight. So wonderful that God knew Moses couldn't bear to take it all in at once so God covered Moses-- protected him, you might say--from the full view of God by placing Moses in a cleft in the rocks, a kind of alcove, so Moses wouldn't get the full view of God as God passed by. Kind of like when you covered your face at something when you were a kid and peeked through your fingers.
Now, I can understand this part in the terms of peeking through my fingers as a child but it's still a difficult situation to picture: a physical God walking around shinning like an incredible bright light.
God does something similar today--if you know where to look.... I decided to take a walk one day and called the dogs and was intent on getting exercise-- never thinking of all the wonderful time I was about to have alone with my Creator. Taking a walk in my neighborhood is just a festival of nature since I live out in the country. It's all country roads and I don't even bother putting a leash on the dogs because we rarely see a car. In fact, we're more likely to see deer in the autumn. But I've started taking this all for granted lately.
Until the other day when God reminded me to take some time to think about what I was doing. Because as soon as I stepped out my front door this is what I saw:
I wonder if this might be something like what Moses saw when God passed by the cleft in the rock. When the sight of God's face would have been too awesome for Moses to take in. So God gave Moses just a suggestion of the beauty.
Now, I don't know how accurate this idea is.........but here is what I do know:
God cared enough about the people of Israel to listen to them. God knew they were tired of traveling and they needed to be reassured.
God knows we are tired of this Corona virus. God knows we are scared. God knows we need reassurance. Because our Creator lived as a human in the form of Jesus of Nazareth, God understands humanity in every way.
Look for God's face in the face of your friend. Look for God's face filtered through the cloud. God is there caring for us. The trick is to know where to look. God will be in the unexpected places... working through the nurses and doctors...in the gentle healing of the changing season around us...in someone's voice on the phone...in a greeting card... But you can be sure that God has heard us.
Let us pray:
God, we thank you for loving us and for listening to us in our fear and uncertainty. We long to see your face and know you better.
We are so worried, Lord, we don't know when or where this virus will strike next and our fear is that it will be someone we love, someone close to us, possibly even our selves.
We mention some of these people by name now: Joyce and Charlie Davidson in Deport who are both sick, several others in the Deport and Paris congregation who have either tested positive or been exposed to Covid, teachers exposed to it, first responders and others who are around the virus a lot. There was also a husband and wife in Winnsboro (Cecelia and Dewayne Bull of His House Ministries) who died and are mourned greatly in that city. God, the names are starting to come more frequently now and that worries us.
Loving God, we feel at times as if we are being tested. One crisis passes and another one comes in its wake. The hurricanes churn over warming waters, the fires burn on the West coast, injustice follows injustice and this pandemic will not cease. How long, O Lord, how long? We cannot endure without a sure sense of your presence. We cannot rest without a glimpse of your power. While we want to remain faithful, we cannot help but lag in zeal. Hear our cries for help, we pray.
Gracious God, knowing all too well that today's problems are enough for today, we entrust to your compassionate care all the burdens we can no longer carry, the worries we can no longer bear. Take from us the anxieties that threaten to overtake us, the grief of cumulative losses, the fear for our well-being and that of those we love, the shame of deeds we cannot undo and the doubts that prevent us from moving forward. We hand them over, right now, believing that our Lord intercedes for us an the Spirit translates our sighs too deep for words.
Glorious God, we are told only to ask and that in asking, we will receive. We ask now for whatever tugs on our hearts, weighs on our minds, calls from our souls. We ask all this in the name of your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, who taught us to say when we pray, Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, they kingdom come, they 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. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from temptation. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
Now may the Love of God, the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit go with you in the coming week:
Credit: the prayers of confession and prayers of the people above were written by the editor of Presbyterians Today Magazine, Jill Duffield.