Worship: August 2, 2020

ZION UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST

22 Gettysburg Street  Box 538

Arendtsville, Pennsylvania

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

August 2, 2020

 

Before you begin to follow this service and before you view/read the sermon, please get a piece of bread and keep it close by.

Please also read the Scripture lessons for the morning.

 Welcome to Zion and a special welcome to our visitors.  Because of the Covid-19 pandemic we are unable to gather as a community of faith in the sanctuary, so if you have chosen to view the YouTube worship opportunity, we invite you to use this revised bulletin to pause for reflection and as an expression of your abiding faith that our God is merciful and present with us in these difficult days.  It is most likely the same sermon that we will share at the outdoor worship at 9:00 am.  We hope you are keeping safe and maintaining social distance in order to slow down the spread of the virus and protect yourself.  But please continue to check on your friends and neighbors via social media or the telephone.  We may learn a new meaning of community and caring by the time that things return to a more regular routine.   God bless!!

 Light a candle before beginning your personal worship, signifying the presence of God in this time.

*CALL TO WORSHIP

The Lord is loving and merciful, slow to become angry and full of constant love.

God is good to everyone and has compassion on all creatures.

God helps those who are in trouble; and lifts those who have fallen.

All living things look hopefully to you, and you give them food when they need it.

You give them enough and satisfy the needs of all.

The Lord is righteous in everything, merciful in all acts.

God is near to those who call, who call with sincerity.

God supplies the needs of those who give honor;

God hears their cries and saves them.

God protects all who show love toward the things that are holy,

but will reject those who create chaos and discord.

I will always praise the Lord;

let all creatures praise God’s holy name forever.

 

* PRAYER OF INVOCATION

Help us, O God, as we come away for a time

from our everyday lives, our places of work, our leisure time,

our scattered thoughts, our noisy world.

As we set aside this time for restoration and renewal,

refresh our spirits and our bodies,

and prepare us for the challenges that are ahead.

 

TIME OF CONFESSION

We are together as a seeking people who often misunderstand God’s intention for us.

It is often hard to make sense of life or faith.

When we give up the search for meaning, the emptiness grows,

and we feel cut off from the One who seeks to bless us.

Let us turn to God with humility and trust.

Forgive us, Holy God, not only for disobeying your rules for life,

but also for being blind to what those rules are.

Forgive us, not only for disobeying your will,

but also for failing to seek that will.

Forgive us, not only for not doing,

but also for not caring.

Now let us silently reflect on the personal sins and fears that

keep us from being fully free.

 

ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS

The Lord is gracious and merciful,

slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

The Holy One is good to all,

and God’s compassion is over all creation.

Thanks be to God for this magnificent gift of love.

 

THE GIVING OF OURSELVES AND OUR OFFERINGS

Remembering how Jesus fed a crowd using only a few loaves and fishes,

let us present our tithes and offerings.

(Your ongoing support is appreciated and can be mailed to Zion United Church of Christ, PO Box 538, Arendtsville, Pennsylvania 17307.  The work and witness of Zion continues in new ways as we adjust to this new normal.)

 

*PRAYER OF DEDICATION

We may think that what we are giving does not amount to much,

but we ask that you will multiply these gifts as you did in Galilee.

 

EPISTLE LESSON

Romans 9: 1-5, p. 148 (NT)

9:1 I am speaking the truth in Christ–I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit–
9:2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.
9:3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh.
9:4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises;
9:5 to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

 

GOSPEL LESSON

St. Matthew 14: 13-21, p. 15 (NT)

14:13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns.
14:14 When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.
14:15 When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.”
14:16 Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”
14:17 They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.”
14:18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.”
14:19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.
14:20 And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full.
14:21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

 

THE MESSAGE FOR THE MORNING –  you may also view the sermon at https://youtu.be/SljmuRs2Q2Q

August 2, 2020

Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Romans 9: 1-5

St. Matthew 14: 13-21

Fast food has become an American way of life.  Ask any child where she wants to stop and eat and invariably you will end up looking for the ‘Golden Arches of McDonald’s’.  Even in the midst of the current pandemic, fast food has remained big business – maybe not quite as quick as when you could walk in, but the drive through lane is about as fast a service as you are going to get.  Particularly when you are traveling, fast food restaurants have become a convenient way to get a full stomach.  Yes, a full stomach perhaps, but less than satisfactory and less than nutritious.  Now that the government requires that restaurants make public the calories in what they serve, it can be quite a shock as to exactly how many calories you are consuming with that fast food.  It certainly doesn’t stop a lot of people, but they are aware.  A steady diet of fast food can rather quickly become boring and laden with cholesterol, lacking a balanced amount of vitamins and minerals.  A continual diet of fast food can result in feelings of sluggishness, lacking energy – basically, we all know that fast food is unhealthy for us.  But, that all being said, it is convenient and that is what Americans seem to want.

Perhaps one of the problems with faith in this day is that people expect faith to be as convenient as fast food.  We have a ‘Golden Arches’ mentality – convenient and easy.  When we have a problem we want quick solutions; when we are confused, we want simple answers; when we are experiencing difficult times, we expect instant results.  When these things don’t happen in our time, we become discouraged and disillusioned with faith.  We hunger for faith, but at the same time we tend to treat it like we treat fast food.  We want God to give us quick service; we want God to quickly quench our desire for faith; and we want to quickly get out the door!!

As we read today’s Gospel lesson, we encounter a crowd of people who also are hungry for faith.  In this morning’s Scripture, Jesus is pursued by large numbers of people who disturb his private moments, receive his healing touch, and then remain hanging around.  Jesus refuses to send them away.  Out of practically nothing, just five loaves and two fish, Jesus prepares a feast for the crowd; a meal that not only satisfies by filling their stomachs but brings them into a closer relationship with God.

It was not merely physical food.  The crowd had a deep hunger of human need.  The people came for a variety of reasons, a hunger for life itself.  Can you imagine the variety of human need present in that crowd that day?  A man who wanted healing so he could work again and care for his family, so they would no longer need to beg.  A woman who felt the burden of her sin and needed the healing of forgiveness so that she could have a touch of dignity and self-worth.  A leper, cast out of society, who needed healing so he could return home to his village and resume his normal activities.  Every one of them and more came to Jesus – aware of their need, hungry for the power that Jesus had to give them real life.

And they were not disappointed.  For Jesus reached out to them with compassion. To the physically handicapped he offered hope for a full life.  To those feeling guilty, he offered the assurance of God’s love.  To the outcast and downtrodden, Jesus offered wholeness.  Here was a compassion those in the crowd had never experienced before.  A compassion given freely to create hope and to restore life.  Not to bring glory to Jesus but to show the power of God at work in the world.  No wonder they were in no hurry to go back to their homes; they had been touched by the power of God and were celebrating and supporting one another.

When the disciples see that evening is coming, they get a bit on edge and want Jesus to encourage the people to go home.  But Jesus has another solution.  To the disciples, he said, “You yourselves give them something to eat.”  The disciples were not to be just bystanders, but to participate in fulfilling the hunger of the crowd.  They, who had travelled with Jesus, who had experienced his grace, were now to share in his command.  The one who feeds us demands that we feed others.  The same mercy we have received, must now be given and distributed.  “Feed my sheep.” “Love one another.”  “Forgive seventy times seven.”  We cannot just expect to have our hunger satisfied.  We are commanded to satisfy the hunger we encounter in others.

Defensively, like the first disciples, we might protest our lack of resources.  “All we have here are five loaves and two fish.”  The need is overwhelming.  The resources are so limited.  But in the hands of Jesus Christ, those five loaves and two fish feed a multitude with much to spare.  Whatever we have to offer, when it is sincerely offered to Christ for God’s use, becomes a mighty power at work in the world.  As we genuinely seek to share what we have, as we allow the power of God to enter our lives, as we are open to following Jesus’ demands, so will we be able to feed the needs around us.

This is not fast food that Jesus offers to us or demands from us.  Not the ‘Golden Arches’.  Jesus gives us healthy, nutritious food for our well-being and for our journey.  In the same way we are commanded to offer that same healthy and whole food to others.  There are no short cuts, no quick fixes, no easy or simple solutions.

On another occasion, Jesus gathered together with his disciples to share a meal.  In the course of that meal, he offered them bread, the Bread of Life, and he offered them wine, the Wine of Forgiveness.  He offered them his own body and blood as a sacrifice to nourish them so that they, in turn, could feed the crowds of those who would turn to them for the good news of the risen Savior.  Like those first disciples, we receive the Bread and the Wine, the Body and Blood of Jesus, so that we too may be witnesses, so that we may respond to the needs of those who hunger for hope in the midst of despair, who thirst for forgiveness in the midst of sin, who ache for wholeness and satisfaction in the midst of emptiness.  May this Sacrament which we share today strengthen us to do just that.

SERVICE OF THE BREAD OF LIFE

(please take the bread into your hands)

Holy One, as we gather together at your table, let this bread be a celebration  of our thankfulness for your mercies and tender care, embodied in your Son,

Jesus Christ, who walked among us, and touched us, and healed us.

By partaking in this bread, we remember your providence when you fed our ancestors with manna as they wandered in the desert.

We remember how Jesus fed the 5000 with only a few loaves of bread and some fish.  Likewise, we remember the lilies of the field, holding onto the hope that even as you care for these that neither toil nor spin, so will you also provide amply for us.

Holy God, we your people remain scattered this morning; But we trust that you are near to each of us in this day and in all days.

You have promised that nothing can ever separate us from your love, And that as we are open to your Spirit, you will make yourself known to us

wherever we might find ourselves.

As you poured out your Spirit in abundance upon those first disciples, we pray for your Spirit to be upon us and within us in these difficult days.

Empower us to be your people in the world, witnesses to your magnificent and overwhelming love at work even now.  In eating this bread may we be strengthened for the week ahead, nourished in a spiritual way to be confident and hopeful.

May we be voices of reason and compassion in the midst of the strident and often harsh rhetoric of those who are impatient and angry.

We understand the frustrations but seek to find a way to provide both safety and security in these precarious times.

We pray for all essential workers, for all those who continue to struggle with unemployment and overwhelming need, for all those who are feeling forgotten,

for all who deal with illness, for all those who are afraid.

Even though we cannot be together as one, we remain together in your spirit and we share in the breaking of the bread.

May this bread empower us to be your people wherever we might find ourselves.

May it remove all fear and all doubt, so that we might be nourished and strengthened for the days ahead, knowing that you walk with us in our journey of this life.

And being fed, may we continue with a new and profound hope, always witnessing to your love by sharing that love and care and concern with others.

Bless this bread and us, that we may be your people at work in the world.

(you may now eat the bread)

 

Let us pray.

Almighty and ever living God, we thank you for feeding us and for assuring us

 that we are living members of your blessed and eternal community.

And now, Holy One, send us out to do the work that you have given us to do,

to love and to serve you as faithful witnesses of Jesus Christ.

To him, to you, and to the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and forever. Amen.

 

BENEDICTION

 

During this virus crisis, the Office Manager will often be working from home.  Please call the office before stopping by.

Cancellation of Worship:  If outdoor worship is cancelled due to inclement weather, an email blast will be sent and a message placed on the church answering machine by 7:30 a.m.  The email will have an invitation to Zoom worship at 9:00 a.m.

Coming Up Next Week:

August 2                          Outdoor Worship             Zion House            9:00 a.m.

Looking Forward:

August 9                          Outdoor Worship             Zion House            9:00 a.m.

Pastoral Care:  If you would like a visit from George, please contact him and let him know a convenient time.

Hoffman Home School Supplies:  It’s time to start thinking about school!  Zion will again be supporting Hoffman Home’s Hoffman Academy by purchasing school supplies for the start of their academic year.  However, in deference to Covid-19, this year members are asked to simply give Jo McGlaughlin money (cash or check made out to Jo), and she will be our personal shopper and select all the necessary items!  If you have purchased items in prior years, you are encouraged to give that same amount to Jo.  She will be collecting money the next two Sundays.  Thanks for your participation in this worthwhile Mission project.

Worship & Sunday School Update:  Zion UCC is a church of many parts which collaborate and work together to promote the kingdom of God much like the larger Body of Christ.  When one part cannot function, the remaining parts gather round and shore up the body so the work continues.

A new part of our body, the Covid-10 Task Force, is working with our Consistory to carefully plan a safe way to worship.  A joint decision has been reached to continue worshipping outdoors until the end of October, at which point we hope a safe transition to the sanctuary can be made.  Since the autumn can be a bit chilly, October’s worship time will be 10:00 a.m.  The Task Force continues to meet on a regular basis to advise Consistory, keeping our safety as a top priority.

Another part of Zion’s body that is greatly affected by the pandemic is our youth.  This fall, our children’s learning dynamic will be filled with unknowns, anxieties, and adjustments.  It’s a lot for them and their parents to handle.  Therefore, after much discussion involving the Consistory, Task Force, and Christian Education Director, it has been decided to postpone the official opening of Sunday School until at least November 1st.

Resilience and adaptability will allow Zion to grow and continue the work of bringing in the kingdom!

Confirmation Update:  With the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, schooling formats, and pastoral transition, and after discussion with parents, the Consistory has decided to postpone the start of a new Confirmation class until the fall of 2021.  The maturity of another year will add to the stability necessary for students to affirm their church membership and perhaps allow for a new pastor to be called!

Search Committee:  As the Profile Committee nears completion of Zion’s profile, the next step in Pastoral Transition is the formation of the Search Committee.  The members of this committee will work for all of Zion’s members, and therefore the Consistory would like input from you.  On the table near the bulletins and giving basket, there are slips of paper.  Please take one home and, after careful consideration, list five members of the congregation whose opinions you respect and trust.  Bring the paper back by August 16th and put it in the envelope.  The Consistory thanks you for your participation!

Ice Cream Fundraiser:  Don’t forget the ice cream sale at McDannell’s Fruit Market today to benefit the Bieseckers !