Worship: July 12, 2020

 

 

 

ZION UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST

22 Gettysburg Street  Box 538

Arendtsville, Pennsylvania

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

July 12, 2020

 

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, but we are here social distancing and trying to maintain a safe environment as we worship in the parking lot.  We will continue to worship on the parking lot for the foreseeable future; in case of inclement weather, the announcement of cancelation of worship will be sent by an email blast to those of you who have provided your email address to the church office and there will also be an announcement on the church office answering machine by 7:30 am Sunday morning.  If there is no worship on the parking lot, there will be a Zoom worship at 9:00 am; otherwise, Zoom worship begins at 11:00 am each Sunday.  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!!

 

A TIME OF SHARING AND CONCERNS

(If you have concerns or an announcement, please write it down and give it to the greeter stationed at the bulletin and offering table before you are seated.)

 

*CALL TO WORSHIP

Draw near to God, who has heard your complaining.

Come in the name of Jesus, who understands your need.

We have received manna in the wilderness.

We have been offered the bread of life.

Open yourselves to God’s steadfast love.

Be honest before the Holy One who knows all you do.

We are judged according to our deeds.

Our inmost fears are known to our God.

The Holy Spirit has come to restore your joy.

God’s presence is real to those who accept God’s gift.

Whoever comes to Jesus will not be hungry.

Whoever trusts in Christ will never be thirsty.

 

* PRAYER OF INVOCATION

We are grateful, gracious God, for the dawning of another new day;

the night has gone, and the sun again brings us warmth and light.

Our life is alive to new possibilities,

and we are assured of your gracious presence with us.

Yes, we rejoice in a new day with each other and with you.

 

TIME OF CONFESSION

What difference has it made in our lives to have hands laid on us,

to have been entrusted with Good News to share?

Are we moving from rebellion to obedience,

from strife to unity in Christ?

Are we growing beyond the things of this earth to embrace the realm of heaven?

Let us seek God’s mercy.

God of holiness and grace,

who knows us better than we know ourselves,

and who sees the inner being,

we confess that we are often not what we appear to be;

our actions do not measure up to our words,

and sometimes our words misrepresent our thoughts.

Help us, Lord, to be both truthful and good,

 through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

 

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

keep us from being fully free.

 

ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS

In Christ, we are drawn together

and entrusted with gifts for the good of all.

We are knit into one body for mutual support,

encouragement, and growth.

Some of us are apostles, some prophets,

some evangelists, some pastors, and some teachers.

All of us have a part in building up the body of Christ

and equipping the saints for the work of ministry.

Thanks be to God for this magnificent gift of love.

 

THE GIVING OF OURSELVES AND OUR OFFERINGS

We are told that money is power — and surely it is,

for our money opens doors and opportunities for ourselves.

But money is also a mighty power in helping others and supporting good causes.

Let us now exercise that power.

 

(If you did not place your offering in the basket prior to being seated for worship, you are invited to place your offering there before you leave this morning.  You can also choose to mail it to Zion United Church of Christ, PO Box 538, Arendtsville, Pennsylvania 17303.  Your ongoing support of the church is deeply appreciated in these days.)

 

*PRAYER OF DEDICATION

As we give, we pray that you will use these tithes and offerings

to exercise power for good, power to transform lives,

power to bring about positive change.

 

HYMN # 39   “Great is Thy Faithfulness”

Printed with permission under license CCLI #1149146

 

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father,

there is no shadow of turning with thee.

Thou changest not; thy compassions they fail not.

As thou hast been thou forever wilt be.

Great is thy faithfulness!  Great is thy faithfulness!

Morning by morning, new mercies I see.

All I have needed thy hand hath provided.

Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!

 

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,

Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above

Join with all nature in manifold witness

To thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.

Great is thy faithfulness!  Great is thy faithfulness!

Morning by morning, new mercies I see.

All I have needed thy hand hath provided.

Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!

 

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,

Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide,

Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow;

Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.

Great is thy faithfulness!  Great is thy faithfulness!

Morning by morning, new mercies I see.

All I have needed thy hand hath provided.

Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!

 

OLD TESTAMENT LESSON

Genesis 25: 19-34, p.20  (OT)

 

25:19 These are the descendants of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham was the father of Isaac,
25:20 and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, sister of Laban the Aramean.
25:21 Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD granted his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived.
25:22 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.
25:23 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.”
25:24 When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb.
25:25 The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau.
25:26 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.
25:27 When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents.
25:28 Isaac loved Esau, because he was fond of game; but Rebekah loved Jacob.
25:29 Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished.
25:30 Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!” (Therefore he was called Edom.)
25:31 Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.”
25:32 Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?”
25:33 Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob.
25:34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.

 

EPISTLE LESSON

Romans 8: 1-11, p. 147 (NT)

 

8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
8:3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,
8:4 so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
8:5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.
8:6 To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
8:7 For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law–indeed it cannot,
8:8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
8:9 But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
8:10 But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
8:11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

 

GOSPEL LESSON

St. Matthew 13: 1-9, 18-23, p. 13 (NT)

 

13:1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea.
13:2 Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach.
13:3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow.
13:4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up.
13:5 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.
13:6 But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away.
13:7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.
13:8 Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
13:9 Let anyone with ears listen!”
13:18 “Hear then the parable of the sower.
13:19 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.
13:20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy;
13:21 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.
13:22 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.
13:23 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.”

 

SILENT PRAYER AND PREPARATION

 

THE MESSAGE FOR THE MORNING

July 12, 2020

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Genesis 25: 19-34

Romans 8: 1-11

St. Matthew 13: 1-9, 18-23

The beginning of any great endeavor usually generates excitement and enthusiasm.  There are high hopes and expectations for success; the future looks bright and full of promise.  Whether it be a young couple looking forward to their marriage, or a student anticipating the beginning of a college career, or a woman leaping into starting her own business, each expects to do the thing they are beginning with great success.  Such is the case when Jesus began his ministry in Galilee.  He began to proclaim that the kingdom of God was near, and that there was reason for new hope and a new understanding of God’s love and mercy at work.  The people were attracted to this message and they began immediately to see that incredible things were happening.  They sensed in Jesus an authority and a vitality that was missing from their religious leaders up to that time.  They had heard other teachers who seemed gloomy and always scolding and warning them.  But along came Jesus with a different sort of message; one that offered them a way to live in relationship with God and assured them that God was close to them.  They experienced for themselves the healing power at work through Jesus.  And the message about Jesus began to spread quickly throughout that region, so that crowds rushed to hear, to see, even to touch this messenger from God.

But some time later, we find Jesus telling the parable that is this morning’s Gospel lesson.  There is a notable shift in the tone of Jesus’ message.  As he spoke of the sower who went out to sow and all the possible consequences, we notice that there seems to be a reality about Jesus’ attitude.  By the time that Jesus tells this parable, there must have been failures; not everyone who heard the message about God’s love and the closeness of the kingdom, accepted the message.  Not everyone was pleased with this new understanding of how people should relate to God and to each other.  Jesus’ message was met with hostility by some, by apathy from others.  If you remember from last Sunday, this parable follows closely on the heels of last week’s Gospel reading when Jesus was expressing some frustration with the lack of an enthusiastic response to his words and deeds.

There are other forces at work besides the sower and the seed.  And when it comes to the outcome, the results are not always as hoped.  Of course, the farmer goes out into his fields with the idea that each and every seed that he plants will sprout, will grow to maturity, and will bear fruit.  He wants there to be a full harvest.  But there is also the beaten path, the rocky soil and all the thorn bushes, and they would play a factor in the fate of the seed.  Reality enters the picture.

We know the reality that nothing is as simple as it seems.  There are always complications that enter into the whole fabric of our planning.  To get anything done in our kind of world is by no means simple or easy.  There are the unexpected factors – it rains on the day that the outdoor wedding is planned; machinery breaks down in your business and it will be expensive to repair; your children really don’t want to go on that vacation with you that was so carefully scheduled.  The human factor and the unexpected run smack into reality.  Our idealism and high hopes and dreams crash into the wall.

When faced with those obstacles, we are dealing with a crucial moment, for it is easy to go to the opposite extreme.  Where, at the beginning, you were sure that you would succeed, now it is often tempting to be firmly convinced that you will fail.  Our tendency is to bounce from a feeling of total optimism to a feeling of total despair.  We will go to the extent of saying, “What’s the use; I may as well give up.”

Now that is not what Jesus is saying here at all.  Jesus is not tempted to give up, and he tells us not to be so discouraged either.  This parable is really a parable of encouragement, but it is a realistic assessment of what will happen as you and I seek to be disciples and witnesses to the will of God at work in our world.  Jesus saw in his own ministry that not everyone was responding to the good news that he was sharing and that, in spite of his best efforts, Jesus was really making some people very angry.  The religious leaders of his day found the message Jesus shared totally unacceptable and a slap in their faces.  He was offering hope and comfort to people whom they had spent years telling that they were outcasts and totally unworthy of the mercy of God.  Jesus offered healing to lepers, whom the Pharisees had written off as deserving their disease as a punishment for their own sins or the sins of their parents.  Jesus granted forgiveness to those who, in the eyes of those who saw themselves as religious people, were beyond being forgiven.

So, Jesus admits that there are some who will hear God’s word made known through him who will not respond.  As a matter of fact, we can speculate that three out of four of the seeds sown by the farmer never reach maturity and bear fruit.  That’s only one-fourth of the seed that was brought to the harvest.

Now that is a bit interesting, isn’t it?  Think about baseball.  The players who are honored as the best professional ball players are those who have had the best batting averages over their careers (except, of course, for pitchers).  If you look at batting averages, however, you stop to realize that a player who hits .250 or one-fourth of the time that he stands at home plate to bat is considered about an average or a little bit above average player.  To get as high as a .300 average is considered quite exceptional.  And if anyone manages to approach .350, well it’s practically legendary.  But consider what hitting .250 means.  It means that for every four times you are at bat, you reach first base one time.  In other words, three of the times you either strike out or hit a fly ball that is caught or a grounder that is thrown to tag you out at first base.  So that means that the hitter fails three out of four times.

Now that is an interesting perspective, isn’t it?  Could it be that if we don’t succeed all the time, we are tempted to give up and could it be that we do a great disservice to ourselves and to others when we expect that if we share our faith with someone else and they don’t respond the way we think they should, we are tempted to refrain from sharing that faith the next opportunity we have because the first time it failed?  And could it be that we expect when we are generous there should be some sort of ‘pat on the back’ and some sort of gratitude expressed by the recipient of our generosity – and if it doesn’t come, we won’t be so generous the next time.  Do we fail to sow the seeds of the good news of Jesus Christ because we expect that all of those seeds should bear a full harvest, and when that doesn’t happen we become discouraged and reluctant to sow seed again?

We miss the whole point of the parable if we concentrate on the beaten path and the rocky soil and the thorn bushes.  What we need to focus our attention toward is the fact that some of the seed makes it to good ground and reaches maturity and bears fruit.  That is what justifies the whole process of sharing the good news.  And we don’t know which seed will sprout and reach maturity.  We can’t judge ahead of time; we are only called upon to take the risk of sowing the seed and spreading the news by our words and by our deeds.  Not everything that we would like to do are we able to do because of factors beyond our control.  But some good does come from our efforts.  In fact, enough good that we need to faithfully stay with the process and keep at the task of sharing the good news.

The harvest in Jesus’ parable was not as great as it would have been had all the seed reached maturity.  But had the sower given up entirely, there would have been no harvest at all.  A mature faith faces that reality, is not discouraged by it, and keeps on sowing the seeds of faith wherever there is the opportunity.  This is the kind of world we live in.  Three out of four seeds didn’t make it, but some did.  The seeds that we sow, by our example and by our faith, make a difference – they matter in the whole scheme of the world.  Some of the seeds that we sow will bear good fruit.  Accept that fact.  Never stop sowing the seeds because not all of it matures to the harvest.  Rather keep sowing because some will mature and the harvest will bring joy and hope to the world.

 

PASTORAL PRAYER AND THE LORD’S PRAYER

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 sins

As we forgive those who sin against us.

And lead us not into temptation,

But deliver us from evil.

For Thine is the kingdom,

And the power, and the glory, forever.  Amen.

 

HYMN # 315  “In the Midst of New Dimensions”

Printed with permission under license CCLI #1149146

In the midst of new dimensions, in the face of changing ways,

Who will lead the pilgrim peoples wandering in their separate ways?

God of rainbow, fiery pillar, leading where the eagles soar,

We your people, ours the journey, now and ever

Now and ever, now and evermore.

 

As we stand, a world divided, by our own self-seeking schemes,

Grant that we, your global village, might envision wider dreams.

God of rainbow, fiery pillar, leading where the eagles soar,

We your people, ours the journey, now and ever

Now and ever, now and evermore.

 

Should the threats of dire predictions cause us to withdraw in pain,

May your blazing phoenix spirit, resurrect the church again.

God of rainbow, fiery pillar, leading where the eagles soar,

We your people, ours the journey, now and ever

Now and ever, now and evermore.

 

COMMISSION

Return to the fields of your world as God’s faithful farmers,

sowing the seeds of kindness and the kernels of God’s word,

looking to the harvest of God’s grace.

 

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:

July 12                             Outdoor Worship             Zion House            9:00 a.m.

July 12 – 19                     REACH week

July 13                             Ladies Breakfast              Apple Bin              9:00 a.m.

Looking Forward:

July 19                             Outdoor Worship             Zion House            9:00 a.m.

July 20                             Mens Breakfast                Apple Bin              8:00 a.m.

Pastoral Care:  Now that we have entered the “green” phase, if you are interested in having a visit from the pastor please let him know.  George is quite willing to do home visitation, but it needs to be at your comfort and convenience.

Volunteer Needed – Zion is looking for someone to fill the shoes of Dawn C. as Christian Ed. Secretary.  If you’ve been searching for a way to be more involved with the life of the church, this might be the opportunity you want!  Please see Minda H. or Craig L. about the duties involved.

Ladies Breakfast Group:  Don’t forget about the Ladies Breakfast at The Apple Bin this Monday, July 13th at 9:00 a.m.!

Men’s Breakfast Group:  Zion’s men will meet for breakfast at The Apple Bin on Monday, July 20th at 8:00 a.m.  Please call Eddie D. if you plan to attend.

Ice Cream Fundraiser:  McDannell’s Fruit Market is planning to hold an ice cream sale to benefit the Bieseckers on August 2nd.  In previous years, Zion also held a Bake Sale at the market but has decided to not do that this year.  We hope to pick up again next year so if you discover a delightful dessert or snack, keep that recipe on hand for next year!