Sunday, June 28, 2020

June 28, 2020

At Home Worship
First Presbyterian Churches of
Paris and Deport, Texas

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God,          2 Cor. 13:13
and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
And also with you.

Trusting in the word of life given in baptism, we are gathered in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

OPENING SENTENCES                                                     
Welcome one another in Jesus’ name,                                 Matt. 10:40
for Christ is truly presnt among us.

Early in the morning, our thoughts turn toward God.
We have been led to this mountaintop of worship.
We come, trusting in God’s steadfast love.
We gather, seeking the way of salvation and peace.
God has made an everlasting covenant with us.
Let us proclaim God’s faithfulness to all generations .
Sometimes we think God has forgotten us.
Often we don not understand what God expects of us.
God deals bountifully with us in much that we take for granted.
God shows us the value of life and helps us celebrate it.
We bring our sorrow and pain to this healing time.
May God provide what we need to grow in Christ.

LET US PRAY(in unison)
Have you forgotten us, God? Will you remain hidden from us forever? We speak of you, but we do not know you. We often distrust those who speak glibly of your intervention in their lives. We marvel at the amazing variety of life on this planet. All that we see with our eyes is but a small hint of all that is revealed through microscopes and telescopes----other worlds of form and beauty so amazing beyond any telling. Yet our spiritual ancestors have known you not only as Creator of all things but as one who knows and loves each one of us. Help us to know you are here, today.   Amen


Was it God who tested Abraham? Does God put us to the test? Do we believe that God will provide what we need most? Are we willing to trust God, or would the Apostle Paul describe us as “slaves to sin”? This time of confession is not meant to weigh us down with guilt, but to free us to respond to God’s love.

Free us, O God, from such absorption in our own concerns that we forget your loving intention for us. We find it hard to view what is happening around us through any eyes but our own. We obey our passions rather than joining your intention for the good of all. It is hard for us, who so value our autonomy, to speak of obedience. Yet we are ashamed of things we have done and things we have failed to do. We want to claim your free gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ. We sense that you intend for us to accept and live within that gift here and now. Help us loving God.      Amen      


We are not under law but under grace. We are being given God’s great bounty as we receive the teaching of Jesus, the witness of our spiritual forbears, and the exultation of the psalmist. God comes to us, not only from the past, but in every moment when we welcome another with even a cup of water in Christ’s name. We are forgiven and renewed.

Let Us Pray
Eternal God, whose provisions for us is generous and compassionate, and whose will for us is total commitment in love of you, of neighbor, and of self, keep us from with withholding any part of ourselves from obedience and loyalty to you, so we may be free to give genuine welcome to all people, to your honor and glory.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen. Amen. Amen.


Let us pray:

God of the covenant, in our baptism you called us to proclaim the coming of your kingdom. Give us courage like you gave the apostles, that we may faithfully witness to your love and peace in every circumstance of life, in the name of Jesus Christ our redeemer, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.                Amen.


THE PSALMIST                                       PSALM 13 

13:1 How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?

13:2 How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

13:3 Consider and answer me, O LORD my God! Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,

13:4 and my enemy will say, "I have prevailed"; my foes will rejoice because I am shaken.

13:5 But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.

13:6 I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

THE EPISTLE  READING                       ROMANS 6: 12-23

6:12 Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions.

6:13 No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness.

6:14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

6:15 What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!

6:16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?

6:17 But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted,

6:18 and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

6:19 I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.

6:20 When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.

6:21 So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death.

6:22 But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life.

6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Our Old Testament reading this morning is from Genesis 22:1-14

After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.” Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.

When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill[a] his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

This is the word of the Lord.  Thanks be to God.


Doing Hard Things Together
Jane Els

This a difficult story.  Probably one of the most difficult ones in the bible.  God is asking Abraham to sacrifice Abraham’s son, the most precious thing on earth to Abraham---and God knows this.  Why would God ask him to do something so hard?

We are at the beginning of the story of the relationship between God and humanity.  God is setting out the rules you might say; establishing how things are going to go between God and humans.  And one of the first things God wants to get straight is that This is an important relationship.  

God and Abraham already had a close relationship.  By this time God had asked Abraham to pack up his family and move all over the place just because God told him to.  And Abraham did it. Then they argued over Sodom and Gemorrah.  Remember that story?  When God agreed that if there were 50 decent people found in the city of Sodom then God would spare the city from destruction…Then Abraham argued God down to saving the city if there were just 45…then 40…30…20…Finally Abraham bargained God down to ten people.  So Abraham wasn’t intimidated by God.  He wasn’t afraid to stand up to God.  He had that kind of relationship with God.

And now God was asking him to take his son and a pile of firewood and a knife up to the top of the mountain.  And Abraham did it.  He never questioned God like he did over the city of Sodom.  He just did it.  This is what makes Abraham a bible hero.  This is why God picked him out.

God doesn’t want a casual relationship.  Even teenagers know the difference between when a relationship is casual and when it is important.  God is making it clear to Abraham that sometimes God will ask hard things of us.

We are watching the scene unfold at the beginning of the journey humanity is making with our Creator.  Two thousand years after God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son out of love, God does the same thing.  God sacrificed God’s own son out of love for humanity.  God wasn’t asking Abraham to do anything that God didn’t later do also.  God is telling us that this relationship between humanity and our Creator is important.  We do hard things together.

Now I have to remind us of something here:  God doesn’t do this anymore—ask people to sacrifice their children—if God ever did.  There is some question if this story is to be taken literally.  I will also tell you that God would never ask you to do this today.  If you think for a minute that God does, I hope you would quickly seek mental health care.  Seriously.  God would never ask anyone to sacrifice their own child today.  God is finished with that.

The point is that there comes a time when you need to decide what is important to you.  God was giving Abraham that opportunity.

And God is still talking.  God is still working through our relationship and what God wants us to do with this planet today and the way we live with each other today.  Sometimes whispering in the dark just before we fall asleep or wake up.  And sometimes, yes, God shouts in the streets, too. Amen.


Our gospel lesson today comes from   Matthew 10:40-42

Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.

Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet's reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous;

 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple -- truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward."

The Gospel of the Lord.      Praise to you, O Christ.   

Armel Crocker

The disciples as we have previously read, are about to go on a mission. Jesus has given them their marching orders. They're going to share the gospel message by casting out unclean spirits and curing every disease and sickness. This is a tall order. Jesus has instructed them to go out with only the clothes on their back; that's it--no extra tunic, no money, no food, and no staff The only thing they have to rely on is the kindness of strangers. Hospitality is their only provision.
Behind Jesus' instructions to the disciples is a lesson for us all: hospitality is crucial to the advancement of forgiveness and healing, of justice and mercy, of righteousness and hope. No hospitality, no gospel message. Well, if hospitality is so important, how do we practice it? Apparently, according to Jesus' instructions, by offering a cup of cold water.
It's that simple? You're talking about the advancement of a kingdom! If something that big relies on hospitality, how is a cup of cold water going to adequately express that? How is a miniscule act of kindness going to change anything? How is being nicer going to usher in God's kingdom on earth as it is in heaven?
How is that cold cup of kindness any meaningful extension of hospitality? In spiritual terms, that small gesture takes seriously the instructions Jesus gives to the disciples: "Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me." According to the Jewish law of Jesus' time, a person's emissary was synonymous with that very person. Like Paul says in Galatians, "You welcomed me as Christ Jesus." To welcome a disciple with even a cup of cold water is to receive Christ, and to receive Christ is to receive God.
Now, before we get confined on who we're supposed to show kindness to, limiting "these little ones" to being only Christians, fast forward to chapter 25 of Matthew's gospel where Jesus talks about our requirement to help everyone. Now Jesus says that extending kindness to any human being, welcoming any member of what the poet Maya Angelou beautifully terms "the human family," especially those who are among our society's most vulnerable outcasts, is to welcome Jesus and thereby to welcome the Divine.
In 2001 I was Director of Business Development for AIDS Healthcare Foundation and I worked out of the LA office at Sunset and Vine on the 19th floor.  I traveled home to San Francisco every Thursday afternoon and would return on Sunday evenings. Sometimes I would stay in Northern CA for business. In San Francisco I met the Rev Yvette Flunder. Her outreach was centered on the disenfranchise, invisible and folks that were not loved. She and I wanted the same goal, reach the unreachable. So we agreed that if AHF had the church’s air conditioning repaired then she would sign a long term lease for AHF to build out a clinic and pharmacy in what was once the fellowship hall. I learned a lot from Rev Yvette Flunder.

Yvette Flunder, the senior pastor of City of Refuge United Church of Christ in San Francisco, writes, "Oppressive theology, or a theology that welcomes those who fit a normative definition of the dominant culture while excluding those who do not, is a ball and chain on the heart of the body of Christ, and with it we keep each other in bondage."Now we start to see why hospitality is crucial to the gospel, why it's essential to the kingdom of God. See, when Jesus liberates us from having to distinguish between who is deserving in our judgment and who is not, the shackles of partiality are loosed so that we can freely offer more and more of those simple acts of kindness to all of God's little ones.
Hospitality frees us to offer a cup of cold water to someone who might be in a situation completely foreign to our experience; someone in a world that is outside our limited understanding. And when we are brought into relationship with one another by the bond that hospitality creates, there is no more host and guest, no more insider and outsider; there is only a space in which we listen to and learn from one another, value and honor one another until all the uneven ground on which we stand becomes level, and the rough places are made a plain.
I believe hospitality is crucial to the gospel message because unless we change our perspectives, unless we change the state of our hearts and minds about the strangers that our society beats down into vulnerable exhaustion, unless we are able to see others not as other but as beloved, then we cannot be about the mission of sharing the good news of forgiveness and healing, of justice and mercy, of righteousness and hope.
Jesus speaks about how when we welcomed the least of these who are members of his family, we in fact welcomed him.  The most vulnerable strangers are those people who are disconnected from relationships with family, church, economy, and civic community.  Well, if the least of these in God's family are cut off from worldly family, from church, from economy and from civic community, who in our society is Jesus telling us to welcome? Who is Jesus telling us to listen to and learn from so that the gospel message would be advanced and God's kingdom would grow?
Perhaps we need to offer a cup of cold water to the soldier back home after six tours in Afghanistan, who now suffers from depression and Post Traumatic Stress disorder, and who hears daily people all around him becoming more and more convinced by the 24-hour news cycle that people with PTSD are threats to society.
Perhaps we need to extend kindness to the teenager whose parents kicked her out of the house when they discovered that she was gay because their church teaches them that homosexuality is a sin.
Perhaps we need to be nicer to the undocumented immigrants in our midst, the women and men living in the shadows of an infrastructure maintained in no small part by their hands, who are too afraid to visit a hospital when they are injured or sick because they might be deported.
And perhaps by practicing hospitality, we would be ushered into a mutual space where all of us little ones realize that each of us is loved equally by God, and that each of us is crucial to God's kingdom of forgiveness and healing, justice and mercy, righteousness and hope on earth as it is in heaven.
Let us pray,  

God of abundant hospitality, Jesus tells us that in Your house there are many mansions, a place for all of Your children. So may our lives become a spacious sanctuary where all who enter it would find peace, rest, and adventure, and be blessed of Your love for having been welcomed there. As we have been the recipients of Your living water in Christ Jesus to the point of our cup overflowing, move us from hostility to hospitality so that we would have all we need to carry out Jesus' instructions of offering a cold cup of water to any of Your children. It's for the sake of the gospel message and Your kingdom of many blessings that we pray. Amen.

APOSTLES’ CREED                 
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy Catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.

Friends in Christ,
God invites us to hold the needs of our sisters and brothers as dear to us as our own needs. Loving our neighbors as ourselves, we offer our thanksgivings and our petitions on behalf of the church and the world. Hear our prayers, God of power, and through the ministry of your Son free us from the grip of the tomb, that we may desire you as the fullness of life and proclaim your saving deeds to all the world.
We ask this through Christ our Lord who taught us to pray;

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.


The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,                                 2 Cor. 13:13
the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 


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