Wednesday, May 13, 2020

May 17, 2020

At Home Worship
First Presbyterian Churches of
Paris and Deport, Texas
May 17, 2020

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, 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.

This blog is just getting off the ground. Our goal is to combine some video clips of Armel Crocker and Jane Els preaching with some music and the text of what you are used to in a standard Reformed worship service. We are still working with the video part. We ask for your patience as we round the learning curve.

OPENING SENTENCES                                                                Ps. 118:24
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.

The God of heaven and earth calls us together,
We come to explore matters of the Spirit.
          There is so much we do not know or understand.
          So much of God is unknown to us.
Let us look carefully at the objects of our worship.
Our attention is easily diverted from God.
          We want to worship the One who gives us breath.
          We reach for the Reality beyond our knowing.
In God we live and move and have our being.
In all that we have and are comes from God.
          God is not limited to shrines made by us.
          God is everywhere present in the whole universe.

Let the sound of praising you be heard among us today, and in all the places of your dominion.
Amen O God. We believe you are present with us even when we cannot feel or see or hear you as we would like. We thank you for the times when you have caught our attention. We ask for one of those times today. Shake us out of our complacency and our cherished iniquities. Hold us in your steadfast love and call forth within us an awareness of all of your blessings. Stimulate among us an eagerness to live as you intend.

We have been baptized and claimed in the name of Jesus Christ for a lifetime of service. Yet we are often intimidated by our fears and seduced bu our fanticies. We worship autonomy and deny community. We ignor the commandments God has given us. We need to face our guilt. God demands our repentance.

O God, we confess we that we have loved our own way more than we love you. The Spirit of truth does not abide in us, for our actions belie the words of praise we utter in worship. We neglect the spiritual disciplines that would draw us close to you and the caring outreach that would link us with sisters and brothers who need to know of your love. We have not witnessed to our faith in ways powerful enough to evoke opposition or cause us to suffer. O God, it is hard to follow Jesus! Forgive us, teach us, help us!

Merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart and soul and mind and strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. In your mercy, forgive what we have been, help us amend what we are, and direct what we shall be, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name. Book of Common Worship 

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. THE WORD

Let us pray:
Living God, with joy we celebrate the presence of your risen Word. Enliven our minds and hearts by your Holy Spirit so that we may proclaim the good news of eternal and abundant life; through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Acts 17:22-31

Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, "Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way.

For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, 'To an unknown god.' What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.

The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands,

nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things.

From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live,

so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him--though indeed he is not far from each one of us.

For 'In him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we too are his offspring.'

Since we are God's offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals.

While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent,

because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead."

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

Psalm 66:8-20

Bless our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard,

who has kept us among the living, and has not let our feet slip.

For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried.

You brought us into the net; you laid burdens on our backs;

you let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a spacious place.

I will come into your house with burnt offerings; I will pay you my vows,

those that my lips uttered and my mouth promised when I was in trouble.

I will offer to you burnt offerings of fatlings, with the smoke of the sacrifice of rams; I will make an offering of bulls and goats. Selah

Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for me.

I cried aloud to him, and he was extolled with my tongue.

If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.

But truly God has listened; he has given heed to the words of my prayer.

Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me.

1 Peter 3:13-22

Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good?

But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated,

but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you;

yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame.

For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God's will, than to suffer for doing evil.

For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit,

in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison,

who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.

And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you--not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.

The word of the Lord.          Thanks be to God.

The Gospel of our Lord Jesus according to John (14:15-21)

John 14:15-21

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.

This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

"I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.

In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live.

On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.

They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them."

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

Spiritual or Religious                                       Armel Crocker CP

When Paul was speaking to the citizens of Athens, he said that people search for God, when truly God is quite close by. 

Searchers. Isn’t that what we all are?  Maybe not everyone searches for God.  There are those who search for God, those who search for meaning, and those who search for joy.  Some seek health and happiness, some look for family and belonging, some seek peace and solitude.  There are people, who long for fame, and people who want nothing more than quiet anonymity, people who want to be rich, and people who are ready to simplify their lives by getting rid of possessions. 

Most of us, at some time or other, have a feeling that something is missing.  And we go searching, at least in our minds.  It seems that we are not unlike the ancient Athenians.  They were looking for something.  They were a pagan society, and had erected structures to every god represented in their pluralistic society, even one “to an unknown god” to cover all the bases.  Were they still searching?  Paul seemed to think so. 

Searching isn’t a bad thing.  It signifies that you care about deeper meaning.  Are some quests more noble than others?  Probably.  Shallow goals typically produce shallow results.  Fame and possessions, for example, don’t usually yield deep satisfaction. 
Those pursuits, the shallow ones, can turn into idols when they replace the deeper searches for meaning.  We Americans tend to be pretty good at the shallower pursuits.  Media outlets reach into our need to seek something, but they generally offer solutions that aren’t particularly meaningful.  False idols.  It’s the easier road, but it isn’t often fruitful in the long run. 

What if we took Paul’s advice to look for the God who is not far away, but actually close by?  What if our inward looking led us to see the places in our souls where God has already been at work, stirring in us the desire for meaning?  What if our outward searching led us to see the places where God has already been at work in the world?  What if our searching could lead us to recognize meaning, happiness, peace, belonging, and all those other things we need, that aren’t that far away at all? 

In God we live and move and have our being.  The object of our search is right here, with us and within us. 

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments." Do we love Jesus? Yes. Do we keep his commandments? I'm afraid we're not so good at this part. But Jesus reminds us that our obedience to the commandments is an expression of our love. So let's love Jesus well.

"I will not leave you orphaned." Sometimes I think we underestimate how lonely humans are. How often, despite the people in our lives, we feel we're on our own. That's why Jesus' promise is so significant and so meaningful. We're never abandoned.

"because I live, you also will live." These are words of promise often read at funerals. But remember that they are words for our lives now, not just speaking about some far off after-death hope.

And here’s what Jane Els has to say on this scripture

We all grew up singing the song, “Jesus Loves Me.”  It’s the first song we teach our children.  It’s beautiful for its simple tune and basic message.  Our scripture is today is the only place in the scripture where Jesus actually says these words even though the bible from Old to New, every story, from Adam and Eve to Revelation, all of it—is devoted to the one concept that God loves humanity. 

I think the thing we are missing the most from not being able to worship together is our music.  We can read words on paper but I miss singing together. There is something magical about singing.
And there is something magical about that simple song of my childhood, that simple basic song with such a simple message:  Jesus loves me.

It was written in 1860 as a poem in a novel in which one of the characters wanted to comfort a dying child.  Two years later someone added a tune to it along with the chorus we all know in our bones, “Yes, Jesus loves me, yes Jesus loves me….the bible tells me so.”

My church was gifted a grand piano once and, of course, everyone was excited.  It was the highlight of our music program to have such a wonderful instrument.  They scheduled a whole program of music to show what this addition to the ministry to our church would mean. They invited a great pianist to showcase the piano and the sanctuary was packed that night.  I sat there waiting to hear the first note to come from our new grand piano.  And I will never forget the first song she played to inaugurate, to “baptize” the instrument. Would it be Bach?  Beethoven?  Debussy? Gershwin?

It was “Jesus Loves Me.”

Because, at its core, at its fullest majesty, Christianity always boils down to that one simple tune, that one simple teaching.  You can preach all day and it will always come back to that. “…those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

Jesus love me.  Jesus loves you. Let us pray.

Divine Creator God, We thank you for loving us so much that you became one of us. We give praise to a God that is “hands on” and walks among us and lived our life and understands us.  Thank you for loving us.  We love you, too.  Amen.
And now, some music:

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.

Lord, in your mercy:
hear our prayer.
Almighty God, in Christ you taught us to pray,
and promised that we would receive all that we ask in his name.
Hear now our prayers:
for the church universal …
for this congregation, its mission and ministry …
for the healing of the earth …
for peace and justice in the world …
for nations and leaders …
for our local community …
for the poor and oppressed …
for the bereaved and lonely …
for all who need healing …

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.


God has listened to our prayers and abides with us.
God’s blessings rests on us as we scatter to serve.
The Spirit lives within us and among us.
We seek to live as resurrection people.
Daily God will add to your understanding if you ask.
Do not be fear to seek after the truth God will reveal.
          Everyday can be an adventure in faith.
          All encounters can link us more closely with God.
Our Creator draws us into community.
Our spiritual journey is linked to others’ stories.
          Together we will seek to know God more fully.
          We will remember one another in prayer.
Amen. Amen.

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