Saturday, August 15, 2020

August 16, 2020


At Home Worship

First Presbyterian Church of

Deport, Texas

11th Sunday after Pentecost, August 16, 2020






Maintain justice, and do what is right.                                 Isa. 56:1

God our Savior is coming soon.


How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters

Dwell in unity!                      

It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!  


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.



CALL TO WORSHIP (responsive)


This is a Sabbath dedicated to our God.

Let this gathering place be a home for all people.

         May God be gracious to us and bless us.

         May God’s face shine over all the earth’s people.

Let all the people praise the God of all nations.

Let us give thanks and enjoy the blessings God gives.

         May God grant us understanding and courage.

         May faith grow beyond our doubts.

The earth has yielded its blessing.

Let all the ends of the earth revere our Creator.

         God brings us together in unity of purpose.

         May our circle grow as we welcome newcomers.



PRAYER OF THE DAY (in unison)

How good and pleasant it is, O God, when kindred live together in unity.  Draw us now into the community you intend for all your people.  Help us to listen and understand, both your word for us and our sharing with one another.  Keep us from being misled by popular acclaim and the wisdom of the marketplace.  May we not be unobservant guides to one another but rather be fully open to your gifts and obedient to your call.  Come to us now with healing and blessing.  Amen.


 Both our speech and our actions call into question our faithfulness to God.  In times of stress, we have made statements that we regret.  Jealousy and anger have led to deceit, betrayal, and broken relationships.  Our best intentions sometimes go astray.  Rather than being distressed with ourselves, we bring the wounds of our common life to this time of confession, that we may receive God’s healing.


Forgive us, O God, for the sin we recognize in ourselves and the wounds we do not see.  Show us how we have hurt one another and grant us courage to seek forgiveness and reconciliation.  Reveal to us our disobedience to you and keep us from leading others into our sin.  We seek your mercy for the times we have willfully offended.  Help us to put aside all actions and comments that defile.  Cleanse us for new life in Christ.  Amen.


Silence Prayer and Confession


God is merciful toward us and listens to our honest prayers.  Our thoughts and deeds are fully known to God, who is eager to forgive and to lead us to new understandings.  When we earnestly seek God’s help, we are set free to discover new opportunities.  Even in the worst of circumstances, God works with us to bring some good and to preserve life.  May God be praised!


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 withoutend.  Amen. Amen.



 God of many blessings, whose gifts to us are more numerous than we can count, show us how to use these benefits according to your will and purpose, that opportunities may be opened for all your children and unity may become a reality among us.  May we know a taste of eternal life inthe quality of our mutual caring and our sharing with a needy world.  Amen



 OLD TESTAMENT READING:      Genesis 45:1-15

Psalm 133

How very good and pleasant it is
    when kindred live together in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
    running down upon the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
    running down over the collar of his robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon,
    which falls on the mountains of Zion.
For there the Lord ordained his blessing,
    life forevermore.

 Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32

I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.

29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now[a] receive mercy. 32 For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.


Matthew 15:(10-20) 21-28

10 Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand: 11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” 12 Then the disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?” 13 He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. 14 Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind.[a] And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.” 15 But Peter said to him, “Explain this parable to us.” 16 Then he said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? 18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. 19 For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.”

21 Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.


Matthew 15:10-20   "Words Matter"

Sermon - Jane Els

So, Last week, Armel talked to you about Jesus walking on water. This happened right after the feeding of the five thousand.  We’re getting into the real meat of Jesus’ ministry, the nitty gritty.  He is building up a reputation as a healer and a preacher and teacher.  His reputation is spreading.  So now the Pharisees start coming to him with questions because he is starting to break with some of the laws written in the Torah.  And Jesus is put in the position of fine-tuning some of the old rules and explaining them.

In addition to this story giving us that beautiful pithy phrase of “the blind leading the blind”, Jesus also gives us another short saying  called an aphorism when he says that “ dirty hands don’t defile you but what comes out of your mouth and your heart is what defile you.”  An aphorism is a short saying of a general truth.  And the truth in this case is that you gotta be careful with what you say.  Or, you could be even more brief and just say:  Words Matter.

It makes a lot of sense.  Especially when Jesus explains it so graphically in anatomical terms:  What you put into your mouth comes out the other end and, basically does no harm.  It goes into the sewer, so to speak. Now, this is a great anatomy lesson. And we know the Jews had very strict dietary laws.  These laws were handed to them in the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, then elaborated on later by generations of rabbis. 

But it’s what comes out of your mouth that you have to worry about because that is connected to your heart and is, therefore, of more consequence. Jesus says, “For out of the heart comes evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.  These are what defile a person.” 

It is easy to imagine a direct line from your heart to your mouth.

Notice Jesus didn’t say there was this connection between the brain to the mouth.  It might have been better for a lot of us if we had this – I know for myself this failure has gotten me into a LOT of trouble.  But this doesn’t seem to be a valid connection for Jesus.  Certainly a connection to your kidneys or your knees or your fingertips or your toes.  No, it’s your heart that he wants to connect to what comes out of your mouth.

And what is your heart?  In the 21st century we know that our heart is basically a pump that circulates blood.  But historically we consider the heart to be the center of our emotions.  Love, joy, rage, bravery and such.  Jesus says this is where we get evil thoughts, murder, sexual immorality, theft, and lies.

Then he says something that gets him in trouble with the religious leaders of the day.  He says that eating with unwashed hands are small potatoes.  This would also probably get him in trouble with the Center for Disease Control today.

But I think the point he was trying to make was that we shouldn’t waste time with religious rituals like handwashing when things like being honest and kind to each other are more important. He was balancing out spiritual matters versus what looked like housekeeping.  This is very similar to the Mary and Martha situation when he told Martha to stop worrying about cooking dinner and come listen to what he was saying.

But here we have it from Jesus that we should be watching what we say.  Our words make a difference.

 Most of the people I know are really pretty decent, well-meaning folks and yes, sometimes they can say hurtful things.  And it’s usually when they don’t think about how it’s going to sound or when they don’t research their facts and they get things garbled………..what they call in England, “ getting the wrong end of the stick”. 

Jesus is being pretty clear here:  he is telling us a message that he repeats in other places using different words but the message is the same:  he has come to refine God’s original arrangement with humanity.  Some of the rules need to be changed.  God has seen that they just aren’t working.  The old purity laws in the Old Testament that God set up for God’s people to establish their relationship with God, specifically the strict dietary laws, the hand washing, the no pork, the no cooking an animal in its mother’s milk, some of these laws either aren’t needed anymore or they are getting in the way.  Between Jesus and Paul, a lot of these rules will get shoved to the side.  God had bigger fish to fry now. 

I think Jesus wants us to put more thought into what we say.  And I think we can all agree. There’s probably not a person in this sanctuary who hasn’t said something that we regretted at some time in our life.  Or written that email—or text message—and once we saw it zip off into cyberspace realized what we had done only to grasp at the air and wish to have it back.  Maybe you instantly regretted it.  Maybe it was the next day or month you regretted it.

 One thing that is interesting in this passage is that Jesus is choosing to elevate a body part associated with an attribute…………in this case the mouth and the heart that are usually associated with speech and love.  He’s pretty much telling us to speak with love.  He could have used other body parts like feet or brains to say that it was important to walk with wisdom, couldn’t he?  Or maybe knit while we dance?  Of all the things, and he should know…………Jesus was telling us that words have power, they are to be used carefully; Jesus was telling us to use our words like he does:  use our words wisely.  After all, his own words have lasted and look what they have done in the last two thousand years.

 Now, I love Facebook.  I have friends I made on mission trips that I keep up with from Guatemala and New Orleans and even friends from other states in the US that I met in New Orleans on mission trips.  I love to keep up with them on Facebook.  When we have a common interest we will refer books or movies to each other.  So, I’m one of those people who finds a lot of good stuff on FB.  But I do see a lot of political stuff on there.  And, yes, a lot of people get into political arguments there, also.  The other day I saw the perfect solution—somebody said that in the coming election season when she saw anything that she thought was hateful she would just respond with a photo of a kitten.  How can anybody be upset when they see that? 

But I’ve also noticed something else lately, with the Covid pandemic and all the necessity of mask wearing.  Of course, nobody likes wearing a mask. It’s very restrictive.  I realize this pandemic has affected my relations with people in two very important ways:  Nobody can see my smile when I’m wearing a mask. Or when I grimace. Any shape my lips or mouth takes to indicate an opinion.  And I can’t hug people.  And I’m a big hugger. Between facial expressions and hugs I just might as well go out in public wearing a strait jacket. It’s just a very frustrating thing. 

Early on, in some subconscious battle within myself I was desperate to do something to express what I was thinking, what I was feeling.  And the next thing I knew, I just said it in words, out loud:

I love you.

And to my astonishment, the gift was accepted as it was given, understood, that it was all I had to offer, that it stood for all the other things I had that I couldn’t give. And I got an enthusiastic response back, “I love you, too.”

Now, I’ve gotten in the habit of saying these things without embarrassment.  I say them more often.  I tell total strangers “I love you”.  I tell the checker at the grocery store “I love you” and they say it back to me. 

There are two things going on below the surface, I think.  We’re in a pandemic.  Anytime you turn on the television you hear news of folks dying, they count the dead and the sick and you wonder if someone you love will become part of that statistic.  Life is starting to look a little more fragile and precious.  (2) There’s no use beating around the bush or being coy.  I am going to say good things to other people now.  And every word counts. 

Words matter.  They are connected to our hearts.  If our hearts contain good things our words will reflect those good things.  So we must keep our hearts in good shape.

How do we do that?  In the words of the old computer programmers, “Garbage in, garbage out.”

Watch what you let enter your heart.  Take care in how you select what you read or watch on TV.  You might need to spend less time watching the news.  Even the people you spend time with can affect your spiritual health.  Yes, there is such a thing as “spiritual health.”  Tend to your own spiritual health.  These are the things coming from our hearts that defile or build us up.

 There was a poem on a Christmas card years ago that became so popular that my church used it as our benediction for the Advent season.  Let me adapt it here for the pandemic:

This pandemic season

Let us mend a quarrel

Build peace

Seek out a forgotten friend

Gladden the heart of a child

Speak your love

Speak it again

Speak it still once again


 Matthew 15: 21-28

Sermons:                             Armel Crocker CIM


Matthew 15:10–28; Romans 11:1–2a, 29–32


Give me your tired, your poor, those you consider dogs.

Jesus leaves familiar, comfortable territory and people, the disciples and the Pharisees, to enter a sort of red-light district, a place most people would not dare to go. Going there is socially unacceptable; it’s where the so-called outcasts, unclean, disenfranchised, and undesirables live. On the contrary we discover that the outsider finds a place on the inside of the heart of God.

Being both a Canaanite and a woman is a double whammy. Yet the Canaanite woman is not afraid to confront this Jewish man named Jesus. He’s in her neighborhood now, and she has a desperate need, her daughter is tormented by a demon. What mother would not want her child healed? She goes against social and religious norms for the purpose of receiving healing for her child. She speaks up and out to this man she calls “Son of David” for mercy, not knowing what his response will be. She takes a stand, a risk, and crosses a borderline.

At first, Jesus doesn’t even respond. But the disciples do, taking the opportunity to show their bias when they say, “send her away.” The woman, to whom the text gives no name, receives no apparent compassion from the disciples. She is a foreign woman; they have no concern for her kind; they want to build a wall, like a border wall. And Jesus doesn’t appear to react much better, he seems concerned only with exclusivity in favor of the house of Israel.

But this woman doesn’t give up easily. She presses up against resistance; as a woman she is used to this as in today’s world. She knows that she is discounted by men. She continues to speak up and out until she gets what she wants, she is a protestor. She knows there are cultural norms that may prohibit her deepest desires, but she is not willing to accept those norms as normative, she wants to change the order of systems, she decries salvation and reparations. She pushes against them and reveals her humanity to Jesus: “Lord, help me.” She is a human in need like any other human.

Jesus seems slow in empathy toward her. He even calls her a dog, as opposed to a child of God, a valued human. Yet she doesn’t allow his insensitive, insulting words to deter her. When Jesus says, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs,” she replies, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” One might say her nerve saves her. Because she speaks the truth, Jesus says her faith is great, and her daughter is healed. The truth opens the door to freedom.

This woman shows how a person can be bold and brave in approaching God without fear. She has her eyes on the prize of the healing of her daughter, and nothing can deter her, not even an apparent insult from Jesus. Society’s strikes against her do not limit her faith, or her tenacity to reach beyond existential borders. Silence is not an option, only salvation and healing. She believes that her daughter, a valued human being, deserves healing, health care, like any other human being.

Though there is resistance at first, Jesus gives in to this foreigner and embodies God’s mercy for all. Through engagement with the other, it is possible to learn of their human need, that is, that they are not dogs but valued humans, God’s children, who have feelings, needs, and children, who desire mercy and healing like everyone else. Through this encounter, it is possible to see, even if the disciples do not, that we are more alike than different, that we are all children of God.

Jesus engages Pharisees, disciples, and Canaanite women, revealing the expansion of the heart of God to include foreigners, the disenfranchised and outcasts. God is an inclusive God; those we despise are our brothers and sisters, too. We may want to send them away but God brings them near, even to the master’s table. Crumbs are enough for the Canaanite. It may not be what everyone else receives, but she’s grateful for even a little piece of bread, because in the brokenness of that crumb, her daughter finds healing. She fights for a little piece of the dream so that her child’s nightmare can end.

And it does end, because the Lord has mercy on her, revealing how ultimately, as Paul puts it in the reading from Romans, God is “merciful to all.” Jesus welcomes her and her daughter, however begrudgingly, despite cultural, religious, and gender differences.

This scriptural border crossing brings to mind “The New Colossus,” the sonnet by Emma Lazarus inscribed on a plaque on the inner wall of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, the “Mother of Exiles”:

From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome . . .
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

A poetic remix might add, Give me those you consider dogs. Send these to me: black Americans, indigenous people, the refugee at the border with her children, people of color, the disenfranchised, the foreigner, and more. Send the wretched refuse, the ailing daughters of ostracized women, because they yearn to be free. The unnamed Canaanite woman reaches out to touch the golden door of God, to set her daughter free.



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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