Saturday, July 11, 2020

July 12, 2020





At Home Worship
First Presbyterian Churches of
Deport, Texas




GREETINGS

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

OPENING SENTENCES     

The word of the Lord will not return empty;       Isa.55:11

it will accomplish all that God intends

                                            

CALL TO WORSHIP (responsive)

God’s Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.

Open yourselves this day to receive the Word.

We have committed ourselves to follow the light.

We come now to be instructed by God’s law.

Minds set on the flesh are hostile to God.

Let us, therefore, open ourselves to the Spirit.

We reach out for more than we can see and hear.

We long to know Love’s embrace deep within.

The Spirit of God raised Jesus from the dead.

That Spirit dwells in you and offers you new life.

We praise God, who saves us and gives us hope.

God cares for earth and for each one of us.



PRAYER OF THE DAY (in unison)

All-powerful God, we celebrate the freedom you give us to make our own response to all the possibilities you lay out before us. We are grateful for the revelation you provide through the witness of many in the Scriptures. Through their words, help us to discern your Word. Come to us in the midst of our diversity to bring understanding and mutual caring. Open us to a new appreciation of our birthright as your children. Beyond all our clamor for the things of this world, we long for the riches of spirit you alone can provide. Feed us here, we pray.  Amen.

Note: the following video is a YouTube of a recording from before Covid-19 and social distancing rules.  Don't be alarmed that these people are so standing and singing so close together.  It was safe when they were doing it.  We just wanted you to enjoy the music.  



CALL TO CONFESSION

We have gathered to find release from the cares of life which sap our energy and depress our spirits. We have come seeking deeper roots for our faith and the ability to survive and thrive amid life’s thorny pathways. We open all the hidden places of our lives to the light of God’s forgiving love, that we might be cleansed, healed, and set free from sin. God knows our need for this time of confession.

Let us confess our sin.

PRAYER OF CONFESSION   (in unison)

All-knowing God, we know you understand us more deeply than we understand ourselves. You know how much the cares of this life weighs us down. Our thoughts and actions are often very shortsighted. We take so much for granted, failing to value the wonder of life all around us, the gift of family and friends, the amazing reality of your Spirit dwelling in us. We want to be like good soil, receiving the seed of your word with understanding that nourishes roots of trust and joy. Free us from all that keeps us from bearing fruit for you.    Amen

Silence Prayer and Confession


ASSURANCE OF GOD’S PARDON

There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. As disciples of Jesus, we have the opportunity to grow in understanding and in the joy of serving other in Christ’s name. The Spirit of life sets us free from our narrow concerns to celebrate the good within and around us. Life is transformed by our new attitude of gratitude.



*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

Spirit of Life, whose care for us is constant through low times of despair and high moments of hope, teach us your ordinances that we might not forget your law or stray from your precept. May your decrees be our joy as you incline our hearts to perform your statutes, that we may bear fruit in our own realm, even a hundredfold.

Amen

LISTEN FOR THE WORD OF GOD      

OLD TESTAMENT READING:      Genesis 25:19-34@

 These are the descendants of Isaac, Abraham's son: Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, sister of Laban the Aramean. Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD granted his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived. The children struggled together within her; and she said, "If it is to be this way, why do I live?" So she went to inquire of the LORD. And the LORD said to her, "Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples born of you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger." When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau. Afterward his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau's heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them. When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents. Isaac loved Esau, because he was fond of game; but Rebekah loved Jacob.  Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. Esau said to Jacob, "Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!" (Therefore he was called Edom.) Jacob said, "First sell me your birthright."
Esau said, "I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?" Jacob said, "Swear to me first." So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.

Psalm 119:105-112


 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to observe your righteous ordinances.
I am severely afflicted; give me life, O LORD, according to your word.
Accept my offerings of praise, O LORD, and teach me your ordinances.
I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget your law.
The wicked have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from your precepts.
Your decrees are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.
 I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end.















Jane’s sermon: 

Last week’s scripture and this week are a matched set.  Last week we set up a problem and this week we look at how to deal with it.  Last week we looked at the issue of Sin:  What is sin and the idea that there’s no getting around it.  People sin.  It comes with being human.  Today we will look at how we can live our life even when we know we are weak sometimes. 

I would like to use a different version of the bible.  Sometimes Romans is hard to understand.  Paul trips over his words in Romans and in today’s translation the NRSV uses the term “flesh” for “sin” so many times that it sounds almost like we’re at a Weight Watchers meeting. So, in order to keep us focused I will use Eugene Peterson’s paraphrasing of The Message.  We’re not all bible scholars here today and I will take all the help I can get.  

So, let us follow up on our reading from last week—Romans 7.  Today we will read Romans 8:1-11    

“With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death. 

God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that. 

The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. And now what the law code asked for but we couldn’t deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us. 

Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored. 

But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!” 

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

Last week we talked about sin and how it is caused by being dis-connected from God.  Today out scripture tells us how we can overcome sin by being connected to God. 

If sin is caused by a disconnect that happens when we let go of God’s hand, so to speak, then the answer will be to hold tightly—as tightly as we can manage, as though a violent windstorm was blowing and we might be swept away from God’s side.  And we should use any and all means we can find to connect ourselves to God.  This includes not just the physical.  It would include daily reading of scripture to connect our thoughts and feelings.  It would include service to connect our actions to God’s purposes.  We should take care to include matching our finances to God’s intentions for our resources and make sure our money is spent as though Jesus Christ was signing our checks himself.  

There is a prayer written in the fifth century called the Breastplate of St Patrick.  Patrick was going through something similar to what modern Christians live through-- with competing cultures clashing against God’s intentions for our lives.  

I can’t remember when I first heard the song based on this prayer but it is a good set of words to wake up to; a good song to carry you through your day.  

I arise today through the strength of heaven 
Light of sun, radiance of moon
Splendor of fire, speed of lightning
Swiftness of wind, depth of the sea
Stability of earth, firmness of rock 

I arise today through God's strength to pilot me 
God's eye to look before me
God's wisdom to guide me
God's way to lie before me
God's shield to protect me 

From all who shall wish me ill 
Afar and a-near
Alone and in a multitude
Against every cruel, merciless power
That may oppose my body and soul 

Now we come to the part of the song that reminds me of our Romans scripture and what it says about God taking up residence in you: 


Christ with me, Christ before me 
Christ behind me, Christ in me
Christ beneath me, Christ above me
Christ on my right, Christ on my left
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down
Christ when I arise, Christ to shield me 

Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me 
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me 

I arise today 

This is the way Paul tells us we should live every day of our lives.  Surrounded by Christ like a blanket.  Like the waters of baptism surrounding us:  completely with not a part of us separate from Him.   

When we live this way then sin cannot find a way in.  There is no room for sin.  With a Completely Christ Life what more would we need anyway? 

Let us pray.   

Come into our lives, O Christ.  Fill us completely from the hairs on our head to the soles of our feet.  From our inmost desires to the words we speak. From our waking thoughts to our nightly prayers, fill our day; our actions and our intentions. Replace every part of our life with you. In your name we pray. 



GOSPEL READING: MATTHEW 13: 1-9, 18-23@

 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: "Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.  Let anyone with ears listen!"

 "Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy;  yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away.  As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty."




The Sower's Lesson                    Armel Crocker



In today's Gospel lesson Jesus is having a problem that we would love to have--that when any pastor preaches on Sunday morning the crowds would be so great that she/he would have to sit out on a boat to avoid being consumed by the growing congregation on the shore.

But while I know that this is not the problem of many churches in our denomination or other members of the mainline this Sunday morning, in my church, like so many churches, there was once the problem of not having enough space.

In this parable, we hear about a farmer who has gone out to sow seed. The farmer seems careless, sowing seed along the path where birds would eat it up, on rocky places where the plants would sprout quickly but with shallow roots that the sun would scorch, other seed scattered among thorns that would outgrow the plants and choke them out--seed going all these places besides its intended destination, among the good soil.

This parable describes a farmer, but surely not a farmer who knows what he's doing. There is no mention of plowing the field, irrigating or fertilizing it. The farmer carelessly sows seed without thinking much about the maximum yield of his field, depending on a miracle for any kind of harvest at all.

Modern farmers don't depend on miracles; they plan ahead, plowing, irrigating, and fertilizing--minimizing waste by sowing with some precision, recognizing that minimizing waste means maximizing profit.

But Jesus admires this less economical farmer, and he interprets his parable far away from the crowds so that only the disciples hear, the disciples, who, in a way, are like sowers, sowing the Good News of the Kingdom of God. To them, those who would soon be entrusted with spreading the Gospel to all the earth, Jesus offers a parable about a farmer who sows seed and leaves the rest up to God.

Like modern farmers, we do our best to control everything that we can. We maximize the soil's fertility, adding in Miracle-Gro ourselves, doing our best not to leave too much of the process up to chance or up to God.

When we seem to be successful, the temptation is to take credit for a job well done; and when we seem to struggle, we assume we have done something wrong, we haven't planned enough. We want to maximize our yields, minimize our waste, and with the opportunity to control more and more, to know more and more, we run the risk of forgetting that ours is a vital, but ultimately small, part of the great miracle God has been doing in our world since the dawn of creation.

Our seed must be sown or there will never be a crop, but by no means is the harvest all up to us. We must sow the seeds, but we must also trust that what will grow will grow and what doesn't is out of our control.

Our world is changing, and I, like many of you, am worried about the future of the Church.

I worry about the world we are living in--what, according to too many Christians is a culture of drugs, greed, divisions of every kind, filling young men and women with apathy, cynicism--eating up seeds of hope and truth like birds to seeds sown along the path.

I worry about the soil--that too many in our communities are unresponsive to the Gospel, as hardened to the church as the rocky places that have no use for seeds of faith.

I worry about the shallow faith of others who have not left the Church but have left the mainline for holograms of preachers offering clearly-communicated moral lessons at best and a gospel of prosperity at worst. I worry about what will come of, what seems to me, a shallow faith or the lonely faith of those who are spiritual but not religious. When the sun comes up, will their belief be scorched and wither into nothing?

I worry about the thorns of our world--knowing what forces will take over to strangle humanity should the faithful fade away. A world left to ambition, the reckless pursuit of wealth with no regard for the common good--surely without the Church, too many would be left to the thorns that grow up and choke, first the poor, the disenfranchised, people of color, the oppressed, then us all.

But Jesus doesn't call our attention to the seed that is lost. "Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop--a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Let anyone with ears listen!"

Jesus entrusted twelve people with the future of the church, twelve people who launched a campaign that changed the whole world while the mainline church in the United States is consumed by worries. This image of the sower is not an image of worry. So why does the mainline church in the United States seem consumed by worries?

More and more, either having experienced rejection or just fearing it, we are reluctant to reach out to people in love though we so desperately want to--as though our hands are cold despite our warm hearts. We are reluctant to reach out in love, to cast seeds of hope, to invite friends to worship in our communities of faith.

We are reluctant, as though we already knew how our offer would be received, though the only thing that guarantees the rejection of what we have to offer is keeping the seed in our hand, never casting it out into the world.

Rather than cast concerned eyes on our world wondering where all the good Christians moved off to, the parable of the sower calls you to trust that you are not the Lord of the harvest--that the state of our communities, like the state of the sower's soil, is not yours to worry over.

Rather than split hairs of theological principle--the parable of the sower calls you to sow seeds of love.

Rather than worry over members lost, the parable of the sower calls you to sow seeds of grace and mercy over new ground--worried not over where it will land--concerned only with casting as much seed as possible--leaving all the rest up to God.

The parable of the sower demands that you sow seed.

Don't complicate matters any more than that--just sow seeds of love--and leave the rest up to God.

Leave the rest up to God?

Maybe it doesn't sound so American, but it sure does sound faithful.

Let us pray.

Holy God, in a changing world that seems reluctant to accept the gifts we the Church have to offer, grant us hope enough to go on casting seed and grant us the faith to leave the rest up to you. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.


         

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 Sonfree 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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