Friday, July 3, 2020

July 5, 2020 Fifth Sunday After Pentecost - Independence Day

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

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

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

Who will save us from the ways of death? Rom. 7: 24-25 
Jesus Christ our Lord, thanks be to God. 

Come with joy and gladness to praise and honor God. 
Come to the refreshing waters that God provides. 
God is gracious and merciful and full of compassion 
All creation joins us in giving thanks. 
Give ear, all people, to the law of God. 
Give thanks for all the guidance God gives us . 
God upholds all who are falling 
God raises us up when we are bowed down. 
Come, all who are weary and carrying heavy burdens 
Come, for Christ has promised rest. 
The gentle spirit of Christ invites us 
We have come to find rest for our souls. 

LET US PRAY (in unison) 

We come together, gracious God, because we have heard your invitation. We sense that you alone know the burdens we carry. You understand our weariness. Sometimes our journey seems long and without respite. We long for the refreshment you provide as we come to worship you, The anticipation of this hour of rest and nourishment fills us with renewed joy and gladnee. We thank yo, God, that your revelation comes to us, not because we are worthy, but because we are open to your word. Open our hearts to receive all you offer.   


For Independence Day we have a song 
that we sometimes forget is really a prayer.
Let us pray:


We live in a generation of complainers, rich in things but poor in spirit. Increasingly isolated in out abundance, we have denied the community of mutual caring into which God has called us. It is easier for us to find fault with others than to celebrate their goodness. Let us seek God’s mercy . 

God, we do not understand our own actions. We turn away from the good we are intent on doing. Yet, we find wisdom in your law. We delight in the idea of mutual caring and celebrating life together, but we get bogged down in our own concerns. We are too busy to seek community and too preoccupied to ponder your will for us. We go our own way, cutting ourselves off from you and one another. O God, help us to put away this sin.       Amen 


God’s forgiveness is realized most profoundly by those who understand their own emptiness and seek the refreshment God alone can provide. We are drawn to God and to one another by the Eternal Spirit who wills our unity, who offers help with the burdens we carry and invites us to find rest for our souls. Christ assures us: “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light. 

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

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


Let us pray:  

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


OLD TESTAMENT READING Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67 
 So he said, "I am Abraham's servant. The LORD has greatly blessed my master, and he has become wealthy; he has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female slaves, camels and donkeys.   And Sarah my master's wife bore a son to my master when she was old; and he has given him all that he has. My master made me swear, saying, 'You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I live;  but you shall go to my father's house, to my kindred, and get a wife for my son.' "I came today to the spring, and said, 'O LORD, the God of my master Abraham, if now you will only make successful the way I am going!  I am standing here by the spring of water; let the young woman who comes out to draw, to whom I shall say, "Please give me a little water from your jar to drink,"  and who will say to me, "Drink, and I will draw for your camels also" --let her be the woman whom the LORD has appointed for my master's son.'  "Before I had finished speaking in my heart, there was Rebekah coming out with her water jar on her shoulder; and she went down to the spring, and drew. I said to her, 'Please let me drink.' She quickly let down her jar from her shoulder, and said, 'Drink, and I will also water your camels.' So I drank, and she also watered the camels. Then I asked her, 'Whose daughter are you?' She said, 'The daughter of BethuelNahor's son, whom Milcah bore to him.' So I put the ring on her nose, and the bracelets on her arms. Then I bowed my head and worshiped the LORD, and blessed the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me by the right way to obtain the daughter of my master's kinsman for his son. 
Now then, if you will deal loyally and truly with my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so that I may turn either to the right hand or to the left." And they called Rebekah, and said to her, "Will you go with this man?" She said, "I will." So they sent away their sister Rebekah and her nurse along with Abraham's servant and his men.  And they blessed Rebekah and said to her, "May you, our sister, become thousands of myriads; may your offspring gain possession of the gates of their foes." Then Rebekah and her maids rose up, mounted the camels, and followed the man; thus the servant took Rebekah, and went his way. Now Isaac had come from Beer-lahai-roi, and was settled in the Negeb. Isaac went out in the evening to walk in the field; and looking up, he saw camels coming. And Rebekah looked up, and when she saw Isaac, she slipped quickly from the camel, and said to the servant, "Who is the man over there, walking in the field to meet us?" The servant said, "It is my master." So she took her veil and covered herself. And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent. He took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother's death.  
THE PSALMIST  Psalm 45:10-17  
Hear, O daughter, consider and incline your ear; forget your people and your father's house,  and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your lord, bow to him; the people of Tyre will seek your favor with gifts, the richest of the people with all kinds of wealth. The princess is decked in her chamber with gold-woven robes; in many-colored robes she is led to the king; behind her the virgins, her companions, follow. With joy and gladness they are led along as they enter the palace of the king. In the place of ancestors you, O king, shall have sons; you will make them princes in all the earth. I will cause your name to be celebrated in all generations; therefore the peoples will praise you forever and ever.  

The Gospel of the Lord Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30   "But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, 
'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.' For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon'; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds."  At that time Jesus said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants;  yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.  All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.  "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." 

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


Never Enough  --  Armel Crocker 

Continuing our scripture of Matthew in today's Gospel reading, Jesus gives thanks to his heavenly Father, remarking that God "has hidden these things from the wise and intelligent, and revealed them to infants." Aha, a hidden truth. Sounds good, but what is it? And why would it be hidden from the wise and intelligent? Shouldn't they be the ones to uncover it? 

To understand what Jesus is talking about, we need to take a step back and look at what immediately precedes these words. 

"John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon.' The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.'" Sound familiar? "Nothing I do is ever enough!" Ever heard that from someone? Ever felt that yourself? It doesn't matter how much you do, how much you say, how much you pay, how much you save, how much you exercise--it just never... seems... to be... enough! Jesus acknowledges this reality, and then offers a somewhat enigmatic word of hope about true wisdom being "vindicated by her deeds," and then adding as an addendum his thanks that God has hidden these things from the wise and intelligent. 

It is a twist, a reversal that Jesus is describing here. While we continue to enmesh ourselves more completely in an ever-tightening web of clever ways and means to please ourselves and others, Jesus suggests that we have it all backwards. It is, as he bluntly puts it elsewhere in the same Gospel, an impossible task. There is no magic key, no secret formula to take the pressure off of us. Indeed, trying so hard to find such things will only add to the pressure. "Buy this product, use this tool, visit this establishment, meet this person, and then you will be okay. But we will never be good enough, clever enough,attractive enough, anything enough...not to the world around us, not even to ourselves. John the Baptist lived a sparse, strict life and was criticized. Then Jesus himself came and ate and drank with others and was criticized for that! We can't win. 

One of my favorite movies from the 1980s, Wargames,  the film stars a young Matthew Broderick and Dabney Coleman. Matthew Broderick is a young computer whiz that helps a group of military leaders and the national defense program's supercomputer learn the sobering truth that nuclear war is a deadly game that cannot be won. "The only way to win," they acknowledge at the end of the film, is "to not play." It takes a kid too young to drive to see what a roomful of so-called experts otherwise missed. The apostle Paul spent much of his adult life acting just like those cocky experts. In the realm of faith and religion, he had studied everything he could get his hands on, obeyed every commandment put before him, followed every ritual. He was determined, and he was successful... at least that is what he tried to convince himself. But as he later admitted to the Christians living in Rome, it was not enough; it could never have been enough. "I can will what is right, but I cannot do it," he said. He thought he could. To anyone looking at him it looked like he did. He was one impressive person! He wanted so badly to possess the key, to know the secret, to fulfill all the demands, to arrive. "Wretched man that I am!" he said. "Who will save me from this body of death?" 

It is a humbling thing to let go. "Let go and let God." Looks good on a bumper sticker or tee-shirt, but the reality is much more difficult, because it is far easier to add to a resume than to stand before the mirror naked. It is far simpler, or so it seems, to work harder to be loveable than to recognize how beloved we already are. I want to repeat that, It is far simpler, or so it seems, to work harder to be loveable than to recognize how beloved we already are. 

We have reason to be grateful for the opportunities to read the various books, do the various tasks, learn the various things that will help us grow and mature as individuals and as people. As Paul told the Corinthian Christians, it is important to transition from the milk of infants to meatier substances. BUT at the same time, in another sense we can--no, we must--be born anew and become as little children. An adult recognizes the importance of responsibilities, and that is good. But it is so dangerously easy to think that the mastering of such responsibilities will somehow save us and make us whole. A child knows better. Or rather, a child young enough not to have been taught otherwise knows how much she needs help. And a child innocent enough not to be caught up in the world's deceptions knows that she is loved just as she is. In fact, it is not even a matter of knowing--for the infant in our arms, it is matter of experiencing Love, being held by Love. 

It is no wonder, then, that this particular Gospel passage concludes with words that rank as some of the most comforting and most sublime ever uttered. "Come to me," Jesus invites, "all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." 

"Nothing I do is ever enough!" Yes, that's right! And the sooner I recognize that truth, the sooner I can embrace the deeper reality that God already knows me more fully than I would like to admit, and still calls me "beloved." The devotional writer Henri Nouwen once said, "When you are able to create a lonely place in the midst of your actions and concerns, then somehow, slowly, your successes and failures lose their power over you." You and I, we are not God...and we don't have to try to be. You and I can dare to let go of the heavy, wearisome yokes we put on ourselves and allow others to thrust upon us, and instead take up that blessed yoke that is no burden, the yoke of acceptance of our own beloved self in Christ, the yoke of acceptance of the beloved nature of other weary, heavy-laden ones still striving all around us. "Come to me," Jesus invites, "come, my beloved." 

Let us pray.  

Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated to you; and then use us as you will, and always to your glory and the welfare of your people, our sisters and brothers; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. 


Talking About Sin  --  Jane Els 

*******Note: this video cut off early so you'll have to go to the text for the end of the sermon...…(Oops.)****************

Romans 7:15-25a  
15 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17 But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.  
21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, 23 but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!  
So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.    
OK, so let’s talk about sin today.  If we’re going to spend the weekend being all “Independent” and all ….there will inevitably be some sin that goes along with it, right?  Because that is how this happens.  

The best way I can understand sin is to picture one of my favorite works of art:  Michaelangelo’s gorgeous fresco on the ceiling of the chapel of St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, better known as the Sistine Ceiling.  This is what I’m talking about:  
This is what the artist thinks it looked like at the moment of creation when God touched Adam, representing Humanity.  God reached out and touched humanity and created life.  Humans were created to have a close relationship with God.  We were created to be close to God.  Not distant.   
If I could crop that photo to just God’s outstretched hand and Adam’s hand, I would.  This is the essence of our relationship:  that connection there.  God and Adam are not quite touching, reaching out to each other, almost there, not quite.  Sometimes the gap between them is larger, sometimes smaller.  Sometimes they are closer and sometimes farther apart from each other.  

My understanding of sin, the way it has been described to me—is that sin is when we fall short of that connection with God.  When we do something or fail to do something that causes us to lose our connection to God.   Or, in Paul’s words, “ when “I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”  

As my theology professor from seminary, Cynthia Rigby, said in our textbook, Paul didn’t want to act that way, “He testifies that he is someone who, in reality, wills to do the good. The fact that he wishes he could act in ways other than how he is acting does not make the fact that he finds himself unable to do the good he wants to do any less of a problem, however.”  
We know that God created us to be better people.  We just can’t seem to make it happen sometimes.    
And we also know that we can’t get ourselves out of the jams once we are in them.  

When my daughter was a toddler we were shopping at a busy store one day and I kept reminding her to stay close to me and not wander off.  But she kept forgetting.  I decided to teach her a lesson.  I let her wander out of my sight and just kept watch on her from afar where she couldn’t see me but I could see her.  Once she realized she was astray from me and lost I could see that she knew she was in a jam.  Just like everyone feels when we disobey God, when we wander off on our own and follow our own rules instead of God’s rules.  I wondered what she would do.  “Mommy,” she called out in a loud voice, “Mommy, Here I am!”  She called out to me to tell me where to find her.  She knew the separation had been her fault.  And she knew she didn’t have the power to fix it on her own.  She needed me to find her.  And she had confidence that all she had to do was call out to me and that I would be able to find her and close the empty space that separated us from each other.  

Martin Luther had that same kind of confidence when he told us to “sin boldly.”  By this he didn’t mean to sin freely and without conscience but to admit that no one lives a sin-free life.  This is the baggage that comes with being human.  Accept this and don’t beat yourself up over it.  Admit your sin to God, ask God and the appropriate people for forgiveness, live a life of humility, try your best to do better. Grace comes in living a life of giving thanks to God for when our sins are forgiven.    

Remember the story of the Prodigal Son and his walk home in defeat?  What greeted him on the road home?  His father running to greet him!  Our God will always meet us more that half-way home and welcome us when we acknowledge our sin and reach out in humility with a desire to change and try again.  God knows us better than we know ourselves and that includes our imperfections.   
We can sin boldly because we have confidence in God’s love and the grace bestowed on us through Jesus Christ.    

Let us pray:  
Almighty and merciful God we thank you for loving us and for the gift of Grace.  That even when we sin and fall short of what we know you created us to be you still love and forgive.    

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.  


Popular Posts