Sunday, July 26, 2020

July 26, 2020

At Home Worship
First Presbyterian Churches of
Deport, Texas

GREETINGS

OPENING SENTENCES     

If God is for us, who can be against us?                Rom. 8: 31,39
Nothing can separate us from God’s love.

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.
Amen
                                            
CALL TO WORSHIP (responsive)

Let us call on our God and give thanks.
Let hearts rejoice as we sing God’s praise.
Glory be to God in whose covenant we find life.
Let all the people tell of God’s wonderful works.
Let us open ourselves continually to God’ presence.
Let us seek the strength that God alone provides.
Surely the Spirit helps us in our weakness.
The Spirit searches our hearts and enlarges our prayers.
Who can separate us from the love of God?
Will hardship, distress, or peril overcome us?
Nothing can separate us from God’s love.
We can face all things, knowing God’s care.

PRAYER OF THE DAY (in unison)
Meet us here, holy God, to search our hearts and strengthen our spirits. Plant your Word among us that it may spring up in nurturing, inviting ways for the sake of all your creatures. May we find in these moments of worship the assurance we need to live triumphantly in the face of loss, discouragement, and suffering. Lead us, by the teaching example of Jesus Christ, to trust you and your will for us. We believe that whatever happens, you can bring some good from it. Show u, O God, the good you intend.    Amen.


CALL TO CONFESSION

We who profess our faith are challenged to be honest about our doubts. Our pretense of concern for others it tainted by our self-interest. Our great plans are compromised by little deceits. God judges as well as upholds. Surely all of us need to seek forgiveness.

PRAYER OF CONFESSION   (in unison):

You know us, God, better than we know ourselves. You know the ways we scheme and manipulate for our own advantage. You are aware of how often our deeds fail to match the faith we claim. Help us to face ourselves with honesty. Give us the will and courage to change our ways. We give thanks for Christ’s intercession for us. We rejoice as the Spirit gives voice to all we cannot express. Save us, O God, that our lives might give expression to your reign.    Amen

Silence Prayer and Confession

ASSURANCE OF GOD’S PARDON

Praise our God who forgives and restores. Give thanks for the inheritance that is ours in Christ Jesus. We have received a pearl of great value, a treasure undeserved, a pardon unmerited. Nothing can separate us from the love of God—not even death or life, not angels or rulers, not things present or things to come, not heights or depths; no earthly power or anything in all creation can take away God’s abiding concern and care for each one of us. Praise God!

*GLORY BE TO THE FATHER    
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.  Amen. Amen.




PRAYER FOR ILLUNIATION (In Unison)

Loving God, whose realm is like a hidden treasure in a field, like a pearl of great value, like tree with many branches that emerges from a tiny seed, focus our attention on your will for us, for our community, for our world, that we might experience your reign among us, yearn for its fulfillment, and give our best efforts toward full realization of the community of faith on earth as in heaven.
Amen


LISTEN FOR THE WORD OF GOD      

OLD TESTAMENT READING:      Genesis 29:15-28

29:15 Then Laban said to Jacob, "Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?"

29:16 Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel.

29:17 Leah's eyes were lovely, and Rachel was graceful and beautiful.

29:18 Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, "I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel."

29:19 Laban said, "It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me."

29:20 So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.

29:21 Then Jacob said to Laban, "Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed."

29:22 So Laban gathered together all the people of the place, and made a feast.

29:23 But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her.

29:24 (Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid.)

29:25 When morning came, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, "What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?"

29:26 Laban said, "This is not done in our country--giving the younger before the firstborn.

29:27 Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years."

29:28 Jacob did so, and completed her week; then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as a wife.

THIS IS THE WORD OF THE LORD.   THANKS BE TO GOD


THE PSALMPIST                          Psalm 105:1-11, 45b

105:1 O give thanks to the LORD, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples.

105:2 Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wonderful works.

105:3 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

105:4 Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually.

105:5 Remember the wonderful works he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered,

105:6 O offspring of his servant Abraham, children of Jacob, his chosen ones.

105:7 He is the LORD our God; his judgments are in all the earth.

105:8 He is mindful of his covenant forever, of the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations,

105:9 the covenant that he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac,

105:10 which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant,

105:11 saying, "To you I will give the land of Canaan as your portion for an inheritance."

105:45b Praise the LORD!


THE PSALMIST                            Psalm 128

128:1 Happy is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in his ways.

128:2 You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be happy, and it shall go well with you.

128:3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table.

128:4 Thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD.

128:5 The LORD bless you from Zion. May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.

128:6 May you see your children's children. Peace be upon Israel!




THE OLD TESTAMENT  READING                1 Kings 3:5-12

3:5 At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, "Ask what I should give you."

3:6 And Solomon said, "You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today.

3:7 And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in.

3:8 And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted.

3:9 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?"

3:10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this.

3:11 God said to him, "Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right,

3:12 I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you.

THIS IS THE WORD OF THE LORD.   THANKS BE TO GOD



THE PSALMIST                            Psalm 119:129-136

119:129 Your decrees are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them.

119:130 The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.

119:131 With open mouth I pant, because I long for your commandments.

119:132 Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is your custom toward those who love your name.

119:133 Keep my steps steady according to your promise, and never let iniquity have dominion over me.

119:134 Redeem me from human oppression, that I may keep your precepts.

119:135 Make your face shine upon your servant, and teach me your statutes.

119:136 My eyes shed streams of tears because your law is not kept.


THE EPISTLE READING                     Romans 8:26-39

8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.

8:27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

8:28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

8:29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family.

8:30 And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

8:31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?

8:32 He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?

8:33 Who will bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies.

8:34 Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.

8:35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

8:36 As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered."

8:37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

8:38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,

8:39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

THIS IS THE WORD OF THE LORD.   THANKS BE TO GOD



THE GOSPEL READING              Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

13:31 He put before them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field;

13:32 it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches."

13:33 He told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened."

13:44 "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

13:45 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls;

13:46 on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

13:47 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind;

13:48 when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad.

13:49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous

13:50 and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

13:51 "Have you understood all this?" They answered, "Yes."

13:52 And he said to them, "Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old."




 And here is Armel Crocker preaching a sermon on this text:




Here's the text of his sermon:

SERMON                              Armel Crocker CIM:

SERMON:            “Be careful what you pray for – you just might get it”

That may seem like a strange thing to say but there is truth in it. Sometimes as Christians, the prayers just roll off our tongue and we don’t really think through the implications of what we are praying for or the process that may be involved if the things we pray for come to pass.

Nowhere is that more evident, I think, than in the Lord’s Prayer which we say week in week out, perhaps some of you say it day in day out - and perhaps we don’t really think through the implications of the words we are saying.

The Lord’s Prayer is an incredibly powerful prayer with some dangerous and subversive statements in it and not least of these is the phrase, “Your Kingdom come…”

What seems like a fairly pleasant and generalized plea to God is actually a subversive, counter-cultural, revolutionary request because it is a plea for the existing social order to be turned on its head and for the world to be governed and controlled by a new set of ethics and rules: for all social and political interaction to be transformed almost completely. As we see today with the Black Lives Matter and suppression of human rights and dignities.

“Your Kingdom come…”

Be careful what you pray for…

Part of the problem is, of course, that we have created Jesus in our own image. We want to think of him as meek and mild, perhaps a white man, gently strolling round the Israeli countryside, talking in happy metaphors about sheep and lights on a hill and performing wonderful miracles for his adoring crowds. We may find it uncomfortable to think of a man who looked a whole lot more like Yassar Arafat than David Beckham; a Palestinian tradesman, on the streets of what is now Gaza and the West Bank, a social revolutionary who was dedicated to denouncing the oppressive Jewish systems and challenging the pseudo-authority of the occupying Roman army.

But that’s Jesus of Nazareth: the Palestinian liberator speaking out against the forces of injustice, who was not afraid to say, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword…”
Perhaps that is an uncomfortable image for some; but it is historical truth.

“Your Kingdom come…”

Be careful what you pray for…

So in our Gospel reading today, Jesus gives a number of parables, beginning each one with the phrase, “The Kingdom of heaven is like…” And we hear that phrase and we settle back in the pew or our chair and we get ourselves comfortable, because we know that we are about to hear Jesus spin another pretty little story for us.

No – it doesn’t work like that.

When this Palestinian revolutionary says, “The Kingdom of heaven is like…”, there should be a shiver running up our spine and we should be on edge. Because this Palestinian revolutionary has dedicated his life – and death - to taking us right outside our comfort zones and confronting us with the harsh reality of Truth.

So he begins in verse 31 with the parable of the mustard seed: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

We find that comforting, don’t we? Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, telling us that big things can come from small beginnings. We link it to Jesus’ saying that we are to have faith like a mustard seed and we think therefore that it is OK to only have a little bit of faith because that will be enough. So we can all relax. We don’t need to work particularly hard at being a Christian. We don’t need to devote ourselves too much to the spiritual disciplines - because Gentle Jesus has told us that a little bit of faith is perfectly adequate.

But Gentle Jesus didn’t tell this parable.

This parable was told by Jesus, the Palestinian revolutionary who was prepared to live and die to see a new world order come in to being…

What would the Palestinian masses have heard when Jesus told them this parable? They would have heard a story about a mustard plant, which was an invasive plant, going deep into the soil. They would have picked up on the real threat in this story. Because the sower plants the seed, perhaps in desperation and out of his poverty, in the hope that it might produce something usable very quickly. But there is also the danger that the mustard plant will grow and grow and invade the rest of the soil and take over that part of the landscape, making the soil unusable for any other form of vegetation.

And, of course, that invasive property is exactly what Jesus wants to highlight because his mustard seed becomes a tree and the birds come to nest in it.
The Kingdom of God, for Jesus the Palestinian revolutionary, is completely invasive. It might look small and it may even be sown in desperation and out of poverty - but it will grow and grow and will invade the land and eventually become a sanctuary for others to find rest in. Maybe our Black Sisters and Brothers, Maybe our Sisters and Brothers of Color.

The Kingdom of God, therefore, comes as a threat to those who cling to the old world order. Jesus of Nazareth wants God’s Kingdom to invade and dominate the land and that is the message he is prepared to live and die for.

And if we have not yet got the point about the Kingdom of God being threatening, uncontainable and invasive, Jesus the Palestinian revolutionary follows it up with another little story in verse 33: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”

Ah, the Great British Bake Off…now we know what Gentle Jesus is talking about! The woman in her kitchen, kneading the dough whilst her children play around her, the lovely smell of freshly baking bread hangs in the air, perhaps the kitchen door is opening out onto a lovely little garden where the husband sits and reads his newspaper with the faithful family dog sitting at his feet. An idyllic family scene – a comfortable image for us – from Gentle Jesus.

But Gentle Jesus didn’t tell this parable.

This parable was told by Jesus, the Palestinian revolutionary, who was prepared to live and die to see a new world order come in to being…
So what did yeast mean to the first hearers of this parable? Well, of course, yeast was to be avoided at the most holy times of the year: Unleavened Bread was the order of the day. And elsewhere, Jesus used the symbol of yeast to describe the insidious, subversive behaviour of the Pharisees. For those people who lived in an agricultural, even nomadic culture, yeast was pretty hard to handle. It was unpredictable, it bubbled up, it oozed, it collapsed, it grew again. It was hard to handle in that culture and, at certain times, was to be avoided altogether.

So again, Jesus is not giving us a neat and comfortable image here: the Kingdom of Heaven is unpredictable. It bubbles up from within and completely transforms the environment in which it grows. Maybe like the current movements in our country today Mustard seeds and Yeast. These are uncomfortable products. They are subversive. They cannot be contained or controlled. They grow in secret and then, all of a sudden, the host environment becomes transformed. Just like our systems of Racism has been challenged to make this right, considering White Privilege’

And the effects of the seed and the yeast will do what it wants to do: the sower and the baker cannot control them.
The Kingdom of heaven is subversive and we cannot control it.

There is something subversive and deeply challenging, deeply uncomfortable about then Churches Mission’s  and that is reflected in most  Church Missions - which is about transforming the unjust structures of society - and the Mission - which is about treasuring and stewarding God’s creation.

It will be important for us to move forward in mission together, we have a holistic and balanced approach; that we don’t just focus on those areas and activities that we find comfortable but that we are prepared to play our part in the subversive, socially challenging agenda of God’s Kingdom.

“The Kingdom of heaven is like…”

“Your Kingdom come”.

Be careful what you pray for…
But as well as being subversive, we need to recognize that the Kingdom of heaven is messy, too.

Now, this is an important principle for us to grasp because there is a tendency for Christians to want church to be a beautiful place, where we sing beautiful hymns and use beautiful liturgy in the comfort of a beautiful building.

But if we are to grow as a children of GOD, we will need to forsake aspects of beauty for the sake of the Kingdom of God. Let me say that again, because this is really, really important. We will need to forsake aspects of beauty for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

The truth is that the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of heaven, is not always a particularly beautiful place to be. The Kingdom of heaven can be a messy place; at times, it can be an ugly place. If we think that Gentle Jesus is telling these parables, we might expect the Kingdom of heaven to be beautiful and peaceful.

But Gentle Jesus didn’t tell this parable.

This parable was told by Jesus, the Palestinian revolutionary who was prepared to live and die to see a new world order come in to being…
Instead, he prepares us for a kingdom that can be as messy and ugly as it is beautiful, verse 47: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, and sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad.”

When the fishermen cast out their nets in the Sea of Galilee, they were primarily wanting to catch three types of fish: sardines, barbels, and musht. These were the staple fish diet of the population and would have been considered of worth. But the truth is, of course, when the nets were drawn back to shore, they wouldn’t just have been full of sardines, barbels and musht. There were 23 species of fish in the Sea of Galilee at that time. So alongside the sardines and barbels and musht, their nets would have been full of Cat-fish and Anchor - both considered unclean to the Jewish people - and eels and shellfish and all sorts of others too. So the trawl of the net would bring together the clean and the unclean, the good and the bad, and the task of the fisherman was to separate them out ready for the market place. Fishing was a messy business.

We will be sharing hospitality together in a messy place. A messy place where mistakes will be made. A messy place where hopefully children will be noisy because they are having fun. A messy place where alcoholics and drug addicts will find a welcome. A messy place where the theologically literate will nurture the theologically illiterate.
And it is in all the mess that we will create together that beauty will be found. Because, as Jesus told us in the parable in verse 45, it takes a lot of searching to find a pearl. But once it is found, the search will have been worth it…

“Your kingdom come…”

Be careful what you pray for - because the Kingdom of heaven is like that proclaimed by Jesus, the Palestinian revolutionary, not like some imaginary Gentle White Jesus, meek and mild. It is subversive and it is messy, and if we want to embrace the Kingdom, we must embrace the revolutionary nature of the kingdom and the inevitable mess that this causes…

Jesus, the Palestinian revolutionary walked the streets of Israel. He walked the streets
marginalization, he spoke out against it. His was a subversive ministry – his was a messy ministry.

Jesus was a Palestinian revolutionary who was prepared to die for the liberation of his people because he knew that the coming of the Kingdom of heaven was the ultimate goal of liberation. That was the mission of Jesus of Nazareth. And we, as a church, as invited into that mission today. It will be uncomfortable, it will be messy - but that’s the Kingdom of heaven for you.

Are we truly going to become a Truth Shaped Church? Then we need to pray, “Your Kingdom come”.

But be careful what you pray for…
                 
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.

PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION
Friends in Christ,
God invites us to hold the needs of our sisters and brothersas dear to us as our own needs.Loving our neighbors as ourselves,we offer our thanksgivings and our petitionson 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 lifeand 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.
Amen.

CHARGE AND BLESSINGS

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. 

Amen.





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