Worship: August 23, 2020

ZION UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST

22 Gettysburg Street  Box 538

Arendtsville, Pennsylvania

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

August 23, 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

Dear friends, as we gather in worship,

let us dismiss anxiety from our minds,

let us seek God’s mercy, let us bask in God’s love,

let us seek God’s will, let us enjoy the presence of God’s people,

let us be still and know that God is God.

 

* PRAYER OF INVOCATION

O God, all things come from you, and you are in all things. 

Yet you are not confined to what we can see or imagine. 

You are beyond our highest and deepest thoughts. 

The tallest trees and deepest seas are as nothing before you. 

The vast reaches of time and space are your design. 

Sovereign Ruler, how dare we harden our hearts against you? 

Speak to us here to remind us of your glory and our need for you.

 

TIME OF CONFESSION

In what do we take pride?

To whose standards do we conform?

Is our faith all that God intends?

Are we functioning effectively as members of one body?

Are we using the gifts God has given for the benefit of all of God’s creation?

As we examine ourselves before the wonder of God,

let us confess all that falls short of God’s plan for us.

We hang our heads in shame, O God,

 when we consider our broken and damaged relationships.

 You have made us for community,

but we act as if all that mattered was ourselves. 

You seek our transformation and renewal,

but we tend to conform to what is comfortable for us. 

You call us to love what is genuine, and to seek the good of all,

 but we have put self-interest first. 

You have called us to be zealous for the good and for justice,

but we have become complacent. 

You have given us gifts to use for the common good,

but we have hoarded them for our advantage.

 Save us from our self-destructive ways. 

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

keep us from being fully free.

 

ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS

Of what advantage will it be to gain the whole world and forfeit our lives?

God has entrusted us with the gift of life

and challenged us to spend it as followers of Jesus.

In Christ we find our true identity and experience the forgiveness

and wholeness God intends for us and all people.

God claims us, grants us gifts, and equips us for service in the world.

Thanks be to God for this magnificent gift of love.

 

THE GIVING OF OURSELVES AND OUR OFFERINGS

God has given us time.

God has given us talents.

God has given us treasure.

Let us share all three.

(Your ongoing support is appreciated and can be mailed to Zion United Church of Christ, PO Box 538, Arendtsville, Pennsylvania 17303.  The work and witness of Zion continues in new ways as we adjust to this new normal.)

*PRAYER OF DEDICATION

We thank you, Lord, not only for what we have, but also for what we are.

In appreciation, we present all we have to you.

 

EPISTLE LESSON

Romans 12: 1-8, p. 151 (NT)

12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God–what is good and acceptable and perfect.
12:3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
12:4 For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function,
12:5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.
12:6 We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith;
12:7 ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching;
12:8 the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

 

GOSPEL LESSON

St. Matthew 16: 13-20, p. 17 (NT)

16:13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
16:14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
16:15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
16:16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
16:17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.
16:18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.
16:19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
16:20 Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

 

THE MESSAGE FOR THE MORNING – You can also view the sermon at https://youtu.be/z4kkAbaxzCw

August 23, 2020

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

Romans 12: 1-8

St. Matthew 16: 13-20

Peter.  Wonderful, exasperating Peter.  A fisherman on the Sea of Galilee until one day Jesus called him to be a fisher of men.  Peter.  Plain old, common Peter.  A simple life made complicated by this prophet who was gathering quite a crowd around him.  Peter, who walked on water until he noticed the wind.  Losing his faith, he began to sink.  Peter, who when he heard Jesus talking about the suffering and death about to occur, rebuked Jesus.  So Jesus called Peter, “Satan,” and a “stumbling block” for setting his mind on human things rather than divine things.  Peter, who was a witness to the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain.  When Jesus was done talking to Elijah and Moses, Peter misunderstood and wanted to build three worship sites on the spot.  It was Peter who wanted to know how many times he had to forgive another person.  And it was Peter who wanted to know what he would be given for leaving everything and following Jesus.  And it was Peter who said to Jesus, “I will never deny you,” and again, “I will never desert you.”  Yet on the same night he said those words, Peter both deserted Jesus and then denied him three times.  But Jesus also calls Peter, “the rock”, and after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, the early church formed under the leadership of Peter.  And it is Peter’s faithful witness that is the solid rock upon which the church stands today.

Can you identify with this man, Peter?  Are there moments in your life when you are feeling close to God, when you feel like your faith is strong enough so that you could walk on water and just when that faith seems such a powerful presence in your life, along comes a snag and you begin to have doubt – a doubt that throws confusion into your life and you begin to sink?  I suspect that all of us have, at one time or another, questioned why faith so often leads to suffering and pain and seemingly endless self-sacrifice; why isn’t it that faith is easy and painless and struggle free?  There are moments as well that we wonder what we get out of faithful living, for the immediate rewards don’t seem so great.  Like Peter, our journey sometimes brings more confusion than certainty; our journey has its peaks of faithfulness, but there are long stretches of inner doubt.  Like Peter as well, we must make a choice about Jesus.

When Jesus had his disciples alone, he posed a question to them: “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”  Those disciples respond, saying John the Baptist, or Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets.  And then Jesus redirects the question, looking squarely at the disciples and asking, “Who do you say I am?”  It is a crucial moment, a moment when those disciples have to express their convictions; it is then that Peter, speaking for himself and the rest say, “You are the Messiah, the son of the living God.”

Peter had been with Jesus for a long time.  He had heard the words of comfort and challenge offered to the crowds.  He had witnessed the miraculous acts of healing.  He had seen how people’s lives had been changed.  He had shared in the depth of relationship with this holy man.  Now Peter, for himself, had to express the conviction of his heart and decide.  “You are the Messiah, the son of the living God.”

It is a decision that each of us, like Peter, must make about our lives, about the direction of our journey.  For those of us who have been nurtured and raised in the faith all our lives, it is easy to just skip over this decision – to assume, without too much thought that since we have always been identified and called ourselves, “Christian”, it must be so.  We, like Peter, have heard the words of Jesus, seen how lives have been changed, and have experienced the presence of God in our midst.  Yet what we so often avoid doing is to honestly and sincerely confront ourselves with Jesus’ question: “Who do you say I am?”  That requires a personal confession and conviction that comes from the heart.  And it carries life-time implications as well.

For you see, once the decision is made, when we like Peter, out of the depth of our hearts confess, “Jesus, you are the Messiah, the son of the living God,” then comes the next step – the one that we are reluctant to face.  What are you going to do about that decision?  When Peter professed Jesus as the Messiah, the son of the living God, Jesus immediately commended him – but he also put him to work.  “Peter,” Jesus says, “You are a rock, and on this rock foundation I will build my church.”  You see, Peter could not just confess Jesus as the Messiah and then walk away from that confession.  If his profession of faith is truly sincere and to having meaning for his life, then Peter must act on it in concrete ways.  Peter must go about the work of building up Christ’s church. Hand in hand with the decision that Jesus Christ is the Savior, the son of the living God, comes the implications of that decision.  What are you doing and going to do to build Christ’s church?  Unfortunately, there are many people who will confess Jesus Christ as Savior of the world, but who are unwilling to put forth much energy to support and to strengthen the church which is indeed the body of Christ.  They want Jesus to be the Savior of their lives and yet, at the same time, they want to avoid the implications of that choice.  You can’t have one without the other.

If Peter is the rock upon which the church of Jesus Christ is built, then each one of us is a stone of the walls that stand as a witness to the world.  The question remains: what is each of us doing to create those walls?  Paul writes to the Romans that each of us is called to be transformed by the power of God and led to service.  Service is using the gifts that God has given for the purpose of strengthening the body of Christ.  Paul names specific gifts: making God’s message known, service to others, teaching, encouragement, generosity, healthy use of authority and kindness.  They are not meant, however, to be the only gifts.  Paul’s list is not exclusive.  One person can quicken the heartbeat of the rest of us with a beautiful solo.  Another can lift the heart with a silent ‘hello’.  One has the ability to make things easily understood, while another has the patience to listen quietly.  One has the stamina to perform physical labor, while another can make others laugh.  Each gift is a stone which adds to the walls, the building of the body of Christ, the church.

We realize that Christ depends on us.  We are his hands, his voice, his touch, his feet in the world.  It is through the church of Jesus Christ that the message of what a difference Jesus can make in a person’s life becomes known.  The issue that each of us faces is what kind of stone we are adding to the walls.  If all the stones were the same size and shape as the stone we provide, would the walls of the church be strong and sturdy, secure and hopeful, or would those walls be weak and crooked, shaky and dilapidated?  What would the walls of this church look like if all the stones were composed of the gifts we willingly share with the church?

Jesus does not let us go our own way when we profess him as the Messiah, the son of the living God.  He calls us to work for the building of his church, his body.  We cannot sincerely profess Jesus as the Messiah without a willingness to follow through with the sharing of our gifts.  How much of yourself you are willing to offer is a decision which each of us makes seriously, prayerfully, and intentionally.  If you, who declare Jesus as the son of the living God, will not do it, then who will?

 

SERVICE OF THE BREAD OF LIFE

(please take the bread into your hands)

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.

We recognize that, in the midst of what seem like endless days,  we need your encouragement and the endurance you can give us to deal with the ongoing need for social distancing and a cautious approach to life.

We get tired of wearing masks every time we go out as if we were hiding from each other.

Grant us the hope that we will be enabled to continue as long as is necessary to prevent the spread of this disease within our community.

We know that we need to be nourished by you, so we ask for you to make your presence known in this bread which we bring to you this morning.

Bless it and fill it with your Spirit that we may know that we abide in your love.

Send your Holy Spirit and its mighty power to be with us, that in you we might have strength and patience in these times.

We pray for all who are working to try to help us maintain as normal a life as possible; medical personnel, grocery store workers, first responders, trash collectors, sales clerks, truck drivers, and the many others who provide essential work at some risk to themselves.

We lift up to you particularly the school system as they try to grapple with educating our children.

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.

We give you thanks, O merciful God, for this bread

through which we receive the presence of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

May it strengthen us always to be your willing and obedient servants

until that time when life’s journey ends

and we share in the eternal feast of your heavenly realm.  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 23                        Outdoor Worship             Zion House            9:00 a.m.

August 29                        PCC Annual Mtg             Virtual

Looking Forward:

August 30                        Outdoor Worship             Zion House            9:00 a.m.

 

Please note:  No August hot dog roast!  We are hoping for cooler weather in September.  Watch the bulletin for announcements.

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

Soda Can Tabs for Ronald McDonald House:  Folks, if you have soda can tabs piling up during these hot summer days, please feel free to bring them to worship in plastic bags and place them on the table near the offering basket or in the container there.  We are still collecting tabs and the mission continues!  Thanks for participating.

Book & Puzzle Shelves:  If Covid-19 has had one bright side, it has been the gift of time to pursue leisure activities.   Zion’s family members are burning through books and puzzles, and it has been observed that bags of these items are making their way from car trunk to car trunk on Sundays after worship.  To facilitate the exchange, a lending repository has been set up in Fellowship Hall.  The shelves are along the side wall with one set for puzzles and one for books.  After worship on Sundays, feel free to deposit your items on those shelves and help yourself to new material.  Keep those brains active!

A Message from John’s Meals:  John’s Meals completed its sixth (and challenging!) year of providing supplemental weekend food bags to students and siblings in food insecure homes in the Upper Adams School District. A total of 4811 bags containing 33,677 meals were distributed during the 2019–2020 school year. After schools closed in mid-March due to COVID-19, distribution of food bags continued outside Biglerville Elementary through the end of June and also a porch drop delivery of food bags was arranged for families who were unable to make it to the pickups. John’s Meals thanks our hard-working purchasing, staging, packing, and delivery team volunteers and everyone who made food or financial donations to help make all this possible!

John’s Meals is now gearing up for the 2020–2021 school year—restocking our shelves, scheduling teams of volunteers, and working with school officials to determine the best way to safely deliver food bags to the students each week. Please pray for the schools, our volunteers and the students and their families we will be serving.

Financial donations are welcome any time and may be mailed to UACT/John’s Meals, PO Box 593, Arendtsville, PA 17303. Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer, contact Angie Vines, Program Coordinator, at 4vines752@comcast.net or 717-253-8624. Thank you for helping us feed hungry children in our community!

We are also extremely pleased to announce that John’s Meals has been accepted to participate in the Adams County Community Foundation 2020 Giving Spree on November 5. John’s Meals received over $7500 at the 2019 Giving Spree, and we are hoping to match or exceed that amount this year. Donors will be able to give online, by mail or at a drive-through location at Gettysburg Area High School from 1-5 pm on November 5. For details, visit ACCFGivingSpree.org or here’s another way to learn more:

Giving Spree Donors! Our weekly conference call is the perfect opportunity for donors and those new to the Adams County Community Foundation Giving Spree to learn about this year’s event.

On Fridays at 1pm beginning September 11, donors can hear a brief overview of this year’s Giving Spree and ask questions. Join us by phone at 1pm sharp! We will finish early if there are few questions. We will repeat this call weekly through October. All are welcome to join the call. Simply call this number at 1pm (605) 472-5617 and enter Access code: 108495#