At Home Worship
First Presbyterian Churches of
Let us hear what the Lord will speak. Ps. 85:8
God will speak peace to the faithful.
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)
Over the wind and waves, Christ comes to us.
Do not fear to meet Christ here.
We have heard the invittion.
Our hopes have brought us together.
The storms of life do .not have the last word
Our faith keeps us from sinking.
Our doubts lead to greater faith.
Our losses open us to greater possibilities.
Let us call upon God’s name and give thanks.
Let the hearts of all who seek God rejoice.
We will sing of God’s wonderful works.
We will share with others God’s marvelous deeds.
PRAYER OF THE DAY (in unison)
We seek your presence, holy God Break through all of our pretences that we might sense the vibrant energy embracing the whole universe yet know ourselves to be personally loved within the vast expanse of space and time. How amazing are all the miracles of life that surround us! We praise you. We thank you. We bow in awe before you. In this hour, we pray that our faith may be enlivened, our trust deepened, ou commitment expanded to meet the challenges of our times. Amen.
CALL TO CONFESSION
CALL TO CONFESSION
We profess our faith in God, yet we rely more heavily on our own ingenuity. We say we believe, but our lives seldom show confident trust. We want to care as Jesus did, but we’re often ready, as were Joseph’s brothers, to sell off those with whom we disagree. Who can save us from ourselves?
PRAYER OF CONFESSION (in unison):
God, we confess that we are dreamers more intent on our own importance than on your vision for us. We like our favored position on this earth, and we are jealous of those who have even more than we. We want to walk on water before we have even learned to stand upright on the land. We want to rise above others rather than reaching out with helping hands, that all might be uplifted by you. We pray for pardon, greater insight, for another chance to live and serve with faithfulness. Amen
Silence Prayer and Confession
ASSURANCE OF GOD’S PARDON
O you of little faith, why do you doubt? Take heart. Do not be afraid. The harsh winds will abate. The seas will not overwhelm. The treachery of some will not wipe out the good God intends. Everyone who calls on God’s name will be saved. Remember God’s wonderful works and share the good news. Let all humankind praise God. 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.
Glorious God, who’s word took on flesh in Jesus, and whose saving grace can be known by all who believe in Christ, open our hearts and minds to encounter your word personally, that the church may more fully express our identity, as the body of Christ, carrying on the mission Jesus began, assuring a frightened world of the power of love.
LISTEN FOR THE WORD OF GOD
THE PSALMIST Psalm 105: 1-6, 16-22, 45b
O give thanks to the
LORD, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples.
Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wonderful works.
Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually.
Remember the wonderful works he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered,
O offspring of his servant Abraham, children of Jacob, his chosen ones.
When he summoned famine against the land, and broke every staff of bread,
he had sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
His feet were hurt with fetters, his neck was put in a collar of iron;
until what he had said came to pass, the word of the LORD kept testing him.
The king sent and released him; the ruler of the peoples set him free.
He made him lord of his house, and ruler of all his possessions,
to instruct his officials at his pleasure, and to teach his elders wisdom.
praise the LORD!
At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night
there. Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, "What are you doing
He answered, "I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away."
He said, "Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by." Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake;
and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.
When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
He answered, "I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away."
Then the LORD said to him, "Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram.
Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place.
Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill.
Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him."
THE PSALMIST Psalm 85:8-13
Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will
speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their
Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land.
Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky.
The LORD will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before him, and will make a path for his steps.
THE EPISTLE READING Romans
Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that "the person who does these things will live by them."
But the righteousness that comes from faith says, "Do not say in your
heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?'" (that is, to bring Christ down)
"or 'Who will descend into the abyss?'" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).
But what does it say? "The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);
because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.
The scripture says, "No one who believes in him will be put to shame."
For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him.
For, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved."
But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?
And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"
THIS IS THE WORD OF THE LORD. THANKS BE TO GOD
SERMON (s) The Son of His Old Age Jane Els CIM:
Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28
Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan. This is the story of the family of Jacob.
Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.
Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem. And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” He answered, “Here I am.” So he said to him, “Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock; and bring word back to me.” So he sent him from the valley of Hebron.
He came to Shechem, and a man found him wandering in the fields; the man asked him, “What are you seeking?” “I am seeking my brothers,” he said; “tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.” The man said, “They have gone away, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’” So Joseph went after his brothers, and found them at Dothan. They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but lay no hand on him”—that he might rescue him out of their hand and restore him to his father. So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.
Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers agreed. When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.
This ends the reading of God’s holy word. Thanks be to God.
This is such a familiar story to us all. It’s a pivotal story in the saga of the Hebrew people. It moves the story from Jacob, who has been re-named Israel by now, to his son Joseph. It also moves the location of the story from Israel to Eqypt. I looked up one day from a bible study and wondered what on earth the Hebrew people were doing in Egypt if they started out in Israel? How did they end up in Egypt? Well, this scripture explains it all. Because Joseph got sold to the traveling salesmen. This story here is how all those Hebrews ended up as slaves in Egypt. He have Joseph’s brothers to thank for this.
But this still doesn’t give me something new we can explore together. Then I found it. In verse 3… “Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves.” Of course, we all remember the part of the story where Joseph got the “coat of many colors.”………..which apparently, wasn’t really different colors (I’m not sure where that misunderstanding came from) but a long robe with sleeves, maybe some fancy decorations or embroidery. And the reason this was special is because a long robe signified a position of authority. The robe was given to positions in the household holding authority over the others in the house, kind of like an overseer or a manager. Israel was giving his younger son authority over his older sons. Ouch. That had to hurt.
We have probably heard this part of the story before, also. But have we thought of the words that precede that explain: “Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children because he was the son of his old age.”
Joseph was special to Jacob because “he was the son of his old age.”
I thought on this phrase a minute and something came to my mind. I think I know a comparison. I was the child of my own father’s old age in some ways. Because I am a Baby Boomer.
I think if you asked war veterans to divide their lives into two parts the dividing line would land between Before and After the war.
My older sister was born in 1940 just before the war broke out. Then my father’s army reserve unit was activated and he went to war. I’m not sure he saw my mother and sister until the war ended five years later. I do know that my sister didn’t know who he was when she saw him when he came home. And then I was born in 1947.
If Israel had a “before” and “after” family it would have been between his children with Leah and his children with Rachel.
Let’s review Jacob’s life before the “son of his old age” was born. What led up to the time of Joseph’s arrival that would have made Joseph worth that coat with the long sleeves?
Jacob was born a twin. He was the second son born a few minutes after Esau. This entitled Esau to the birthright blessing, even though it was just a matter of minutes. But Jacob, through his own and his mother’s ambitions, stole Esau’s blessing by posing as Esau to his blind father. Esau was about to kill him but Jacob escaped.
On the run for his life, he meets the beautiful Rachel, falls in love and goes to work for her father, Laban, to earn her hand in marriage. But after working for seven years Laban makes Jacob marry the eldest daughter, Leah. He has four sons with Leah. After a second seven years of work we finally gets to marry Rachel but she is barren so Rachel gives her maid to him for children and he has four more sons by two maids. Then Leah has two more sons and a daughter. (You can’t say the guy wasn’t trying to have kids.) But still no children by the one love of his life, the beautiful Rachel. In the meantime, he has been building up his flocks and multiplying the sheep for Laban.
Everything up to now had been focused on improving things for his father-in-law. Laban had been running the show and calling the shots. Laban had told him who he could marry and where they would live. Laban had kept him in charge of tending to the sheep because he was good at it. And, remember, Jacob is an ambitious guy—he had stolen his brother’s birthright.
Then, out of the blue, Rachel turns up pregnant and has the “son of his old age”—Joseph. Whew! And now life becomes divided into two parts for him: his younger life with the 10 children by other women and his life with the woman he loves and had always wanted and finally has a son by: the life he had always wanted.
I think a lot of things changed for Jacob after the birth of Joseph. It reminds me a lot of when the Baby Boomers arrived on the scene after World War 2 ended. We were born after our parents, particularly our fathers, had been tested, had faced adversity. Now they were ready to enjoy their sons and daughters.
I think this is what brought on the long coat of authority, the coat with long sleeves.
I can relate to Jacob’s situation of his “before” and “after” life and his “before” and “after” children. I saw that my own father had a different relationship with my sister than he did with me. I think the five years he was absent for the war accounts for this. I alsothink that for some parents the ambitions of early parenthood can set up a different sort of relationship with children from the years when a father or mother has left ambition and the distractions of work behind them and are more relaxed at home.
Being the son of Jacob’s old age can be an entirely different situation from being the sons Jacob had when he was younger. And it proved to be to Joseph’s benefit.
The story of Jacob is alsoa pivotal story for another reason. In an ironic twist of the plot, by selling Jacob into slavery, the brothers saved their tribes. When Jacob ended up in Pharaoh’s house and in a position of power he was able to procure food that kept their family from starving when widespread famine hit the land. This saved the family line that extended all the way back to Abraham and into current time.
Also, the Jews by serving time as slaves, have developed a sensitivity to slavery and bondage that a lot of Christians don’t fully appreciate. If you go to any Jewish Sabbath, Bar Mitzvah or Passover you will hear stories today that repeat their ancestors’ stories. I have been to them and there is something very touching about their stories; they talk about Moses and Joseph like they were close relatives possibly only two generations in the past. The Jews have kept these stories alive and fresh. To today’s Jews, slavery is personal still. If you mention Black Lives Matter to the average Jew today they would reaffirm the position that they support the cause because they were once slaves themselves. The slavery in Egypt is still very fresh to them.
These bible stories have lasted two thousand years because they are important. The God who was present at the creation of the universe, who, indeed, birthed the creation of the universe, is the same God who heard Rachel, who knew of her longings and who gave her a son. And that son kept the Hebrew people alive.
Let us pray.
Creator God, all praise to you for this word. Stay with us as we ponder it today and let it’s meaning deepen in our minds and hearts and soul. In Christ’s holy name we pray. Amen.
SERMON Keep Your Faith’s True Focus Armel Crocker CIM:
THE GOSPEL READING Matthew 14:22-33
Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.
And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,
but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them.
And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea.
But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out in fear.
But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, "Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid."
Peter answered him, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water."
He said, "Come." So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus.
But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!"
Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?"
When they got into the boat, the wind ceased.
And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."
Jesus had a powerful lesson to teach his disciples that night on the Sea of Galilee. Your faith like, like every other component of your life, needs focus. Without focus, there is no faith. Faith’s most basic definition is trust, but if you’re trust is scattered all over the place, it doesn’t actually trust in anyone or anything. Jesus urges us, the Holy Spirit helps us, keep our faith’s true focus.
Our Gospel this morning picks up right where our Gospel for last week left off. Jesus had just learned of John the Baptist’s death and went by himself to pray over this sad event. But, his popularity was rising, and the crowds were determined. They found him, and despite his emotional state, Jesus had compassion on the crowd and taught them. But the lesson started to go long and the people needed food. Rather than sending the people away to find their own food, Jesus miraculously provided a full meal from just a few portions of food. He fed 5,000 men that day; including women and children it was probably more like 15 or 20,000.
Jesus sends his disciples on while he takes care of sending the crowd home. After the crowd was gone, he finally got the alone time to pray that he had originally been looking for. He’s able to pour out his heart to his heavenly Father in prayer for what seems to be a rather lengthy period of time, as the next time we see Jesus and the disciples together again it is the fourth watch of the night, that is, just before dawn. In the meantime, the disciples are following Jesus’s directions to go on ahead of him to the other side. But on the Sea of Galilee a storm had come up. We’re not told that this is quite as terrifying a storm as it was when Jesus calmed the storm earlier in his ministry, but still it was enough to really rock the boat and impede their progress.
While the disciples are fighting the wind and the waves, though, they see something out on the water. Not something, but someone. Their initial reaction is that they’re seeing a ghost, for what else could stand on top of stormy waters but a spirit? If they weren’t scared by the storm, this sight rocks their core. Jesus brings words of encouragement. “Take courage,” he says. And here, perhaps, our translation does us a disservice. How does Jesus bring them comfort while he looks like a ghost standing on the water? He doesn’t simply say, “It is I.” In Greek he uses the odd expression, “Ego eimi,” that is simply, “I am.”
As the disciples are being knocked around by the storm, as they’re shaking with fear at this thing they see out on the water, Jesus brings comfort by focusing their faith. It’s Jesus, but it shouldn’t surprise them to see Jesus out on the water, because he is God. Jesus in the midst of that storm takes them back to Old Testament, to the Moses and the Burning Bush. There God promised Moses that he was the one that always had been with them, was with them now, and would be with them in the future. Because he’s not the God of the past tense, as if he did his work and now it’s over, nor is he the God of the future tense so that he’ll get to his work when he’s good and ready. He’s the God of the present tense, always there to help, protect, support, and forgive his people. Jesus shows himself to be that ever-caring and protecting God by doing something no person could ever do—walking on the stormy sea.
God continues to be the I AM for us as well. We may well feel like our lives are a stormy sea, and we’re being buffeted by the waves as the disciples boat was. We may well be in great danger or trouble, filled with sadness and apprehension. But Jesus comes to us in the middle of all that torment and says, “Take courage; don’t be afraid, I AM.” And no matter what disaster has come our way, our faith can focus on Jesus. No matter what disaster has beset us, he is able to help, with his power, through his Word, and his powerful reminders of his love and forgiveness that are ours.
Peter, always the adventurous disciple, took the opportunity to focus on Jesus and showed his trust in a remarkable way. He reasoned that if Jesus was able to walk on the water himself, surely Jesus could let him walk on the water too. “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” Jesus invites him to come.
You can see in your mind’s eye this picture of Peter crawling out of the boat and walking on water, firm as ground, toward Jesus. He walked right up to him, focused on Jesus, all is well. He trusts Jesus to make this happen; his faith is focused on Jesus and on him only. After all, here is Peter’s God and Savior! Here is the one who can do anything! What does Peter have to be afraid of when Jesus is with him?
But then we’re told that Peter saw the wind. He took his eyes of his Savior, let his faith lose focus, and he looked around him. And what a ridiculous scene he saw! He was standing on the water in the middle of the Sea of Galilee in the middle of a storm! What was he doing? Why was he there? He was going to get hurt, or worse, die! These waves were too much; the wind was too strong! What was going to happen to him?! He began to sink, began to drown.
I identify with Peter far more than I’m comfortable admitting. Maybe you do too. I don’t always trust God. I don’t always trust that his will is being done and that he’s working everything that happens for my eternal good. I think that my own strength needs to protect me or work things out for me, and then I don’t know what to do when my own strength is shown to be weak and my power proved to be lacking. There are storms on this sea of life that you and I can’t deal with. Those waves are crashing in and threatening to drown us! Perhaps at those times, you and I, like Peter, lose the focus of our faith. We’re more likely to focus on the problems, rather than the solution to the problems who stands right in front of us.
Notice what Jesus did. He didn’t let Peter drown and say, “Oops, you really should have trusted me. Sorry.” Nor did he even let him “suffer” a little bit in that water before ultimately rescuing him. No, Matthew who as one of the disciples was an eyewitness to all of this, says that Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him. There is a slight reprimand on Jesus part, “Why did you doubt?” but its tone is one not of scolding but encouragement: “Why doubt? Remember I can always take care of you.”
We often lose the focus of our faith, when we’re more focused on the problems then the solution. At times perhaps we’re more interested in showing off our faith rather than showing off the one we believe in. Either way, our attention and focus goes away from Jesus and either focuses on ourselves and our individual strengths or weaknesses or on the problems that then seem insurmountable. They seem insurmountable because, on our own, they are.
But as we sink into our own seas, Jesus grabs us by the hand. As he pulls us up we’re reminded that while we have lost focus, he has not. And as he yanks us out of the water we’re reminded that there is forgiveness. I’ve been forgiven for those times I’ve not trusted him, you’ve been forgiven for the times you’ve been more focused on your problems than his solutions. “You of little faith,” he says to each of us, “Why do you doubt my love for you? Why do you doubt my ability to protect and help you? Why do you doubt my forgiveness?” And we have no answer because there is no reason to doubt. Jesus is faithful in his love as the covenant-keeping God, I AM. Jesus is faithful in his ability to protect as the one who has all power to work all things for our good. Jesus is faithful in his forgiveness because he paid for our sins, even our doubts and distractions, so they are no more than a distant memory.
Are sins plaguing you? Focus on your Savior who destroyed them. Are problems weighing you down? Focus on your Savior, who takes care of all things for you. Are you worried about the future? Focus on your Savior, who will be there to help you, no matter what storms may arise. Find that focus in his Word, which reminds us of the unending love and forgiveness for us all. Lord, help us to keep our focus on you today, tomorrow, and forever. Amen.
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 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.
CHARGE AND BLESSINGS
the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.