Worship: October 11, 2020

ZION UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST

22 Gettysburg Street  Box 538

Arendtsville, Pennsylvania

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

October 11, 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

All of us, whatever our station in life,

need times of restoration,

times of reflection,

times of refreshment,

times of replenishment.

Therefore we come today before the Lord

to be renewed in body, mind, and soul.

 

* PRAYER OF INVOCATION

We come into your presence with many needs.

Where there is emptiness, give purpose.

Where there is confusion, give direction.

Where there is guilt, give pardon.

Where there is doubt, give assurance.

Where there is sadness, give joy.

Where there is loneliness, give love.

 

TIME OF CONFESSION

Many of us have been made weary by the pressures of life.

In our work, in the hours we give to serve others, in our times of self-sacrifice,

we have sometimes acted as if we alone were responsible for doing it all.

We have not relied on God or on each other;

we have isolated ourselves from both our community and our community of faith.

Let us seek forgiveness, asking for God’s mercy

and for freedom from the burdens of guilt we carry.

We confess, O Holy and Righteous One,

 that as much as we have felt unappreciated in our daily lives,

we too have failed to appreciate and value those around us. 

We need encouragement, yet we have not encouraged those who are our neighbors and friends. 

We need comfort, but we often fail to extend our compassion to those in crisis. 

We need to be inspired, but we fail to lift the spirits of others. 

We are not easily given to say “Thank you”, nor do we truly affirm

the talents and the abilities and the time given by others for the good of all. 

So, Gracious God, knowing our failures,

we ask you to open our hearts and our minds. 

Help us to be more aware of how our actions and attitudes affect others. 

May we accept, both in word and in deed,

 how we are dependent upon one another for the good of the entire community. 

For we ask it in the Name of Jesus.  Amen.

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

keep us from being fully free.

 

ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS

We are justified by God’s grace as a gift.

The good works we do are not to earn God’s favor,

but become our joyful response to God’s

presence in our lives, showing us mercy and hope.

God frees us from narrow self-centeredness to be supportive of one another.

God heals our brokenness and unites us as one people, children of God.

Thanks be to God for this magnificent gift of love.

 

THE GIVING OF OURSELVES AND OUR OFFERINGS

Since you are eager for spiritual gifts,

strive to excel in them for building up the church.

 

(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 care about this church and its work in our community,

as well as its witness throughout the world.

Therefore we give these tithes and offerings with faith and love,

relying on your power to bring about positive results.

 

EPISTLE LESSON

Philippians 4: 1-9, p. 187 (NT)

4:1 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.
4:2 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.
4:3 Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.
4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.
4:5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.
4:6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
4:7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
4:8 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
4:9 Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

 

GOSPEL LESSON

St. Matthew 22: 1-14, p. 23 (NT)

22:1 Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying:
22:2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son.
22:3 He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come.
22:4 Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’
22:5 But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business,
22:6 while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them.
22:7 The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
22:8 Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy.
22:9 Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’
22:10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.
22:11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe,
22:12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless.
22:13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
22:14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

 

THE MESSAGE FOR THE MORNING – You can also view the sermon at https://youtu.be/NVE7VkJwPGo

October 11, 2020

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Philippians 4: 1-9

St. Matthew 22: 1-14

It happened that late one night a retired doctor in a rural area received an urgent telephone call saying he was needed at a small hospital in a town almost thirty miles from his home.  There was a woman who had been admitted in critical condition, and death was an absolute certainty if no doctor could attend to her.  The doctor hurriedly dressed and took off in his car toward the hospital.  He came to a stop sign when suddenly a man jumped into the passenger side of his car, pulled a gun, and ordered the doctor out of the vehicle.  “I need your car. Get out!” was all he said.  The doctor complied and had to walk two miles before finding a house where the residents agreed to drive him to the hospital.  When he finally arrived, the nurse met him and told him the woman had just died.  “You are too late, doctor.  But would you go and say a word to her husband?  He is weeping uncontrollably in the waiting room.”  When the doctor entered the waiting room area, he saw the husband, head in hands, sobbing.  He walked over and the man raised his head.  The doctor was greatly surprised to discover the husband was the very man who pulled the gun on him because he needed a car.  In desperation, the husband thought he could resolve his problem if he just managed to get to the hospital.  Yet in the process, he took away the one hope that could have helped his wife.  Unfortunately, it only ended in disaster and tragedy.

Quite aside from the current pandemic, it seems we live in a time when more and more people are searching for meaning and purpose to their living.  They are busier than ever but more frustrated than ever as well.  They think that happiness can be attained, the problems of their frustration and their lack of purpose resolved, if they just had more money, or more energy, or more time, or more education.  They live day to day, focused on themselves, in a rut and feeling ill at ease.  They have never learned how to celebrate life – psychologically, physically, or spiritually.  Being so concerned about themselves and their own situation, they have either refused or ignored God’s invitation to a fullness of life promised to all who will simply respond.  They have pushed out of their lives the very thing that could give them what they want – a real sense of joy.

When you go out this week, you will invariably encounter people whom you know – friends, acquaintances, fellow workers or volunteers, the waitress at your favorite restaurant.  Among them will be some people who you know attend worship on a regular basis.  Now when you look around at people who go to church, do you see people who are rejoicing, people who are happy, people who know how richly they have been blessed?  Or do you often see long faces, and hear complaints and grumbling?

When you talk to other Christians, do you sense in them a real joy in living their daily lives to the fullest, experiencing the peace and fulfillment of God’s presence in the here and now?  Or do they talk of the wonder and joy of heaven as if it were something that can only be experienced in the future, sometime after you die?  Do you live your life rejoicing in the good news?  Or do you see the message of Jesus Christ as a burden, as a yoke that is restricting and keeps you and others from enjoying life?

Unfortunately, there are many who do look on the Christian faith as a burden. They do not understand that faith liberates us, that being a member of God’s kingdom, of God’s Church, is like being part of a wedding banquet rather than a funeral procession.  Too many people think of the Christian life as merely a set of do’s and don’ts that are designed to somehow get them into heaven if they just follow the rules closely enough.  By regarding the life of faith as a bunch of shall’s and shall not’s, they consequently miss out on the fullness of Christian life and the joy and sense of peace that comes in relationship with Jesus.  They have totally missed the point that faith is meant to lead to joyous living right now – to an abundant life – to a life that, while not free of troubles, is rich and deep and full of peace, the peace that Paul calls in his letter to the Philippians, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding.”

Today’s parable in the gospel of St. Matthew compares the kingdom of God to a marriage banquet.   Think of all the weddings and the wedding receptions you have attended over the years.  They were occasions of joy, of celebration, of rejoicing in the love of the bride and the groom for each other.   The guests enjoyed the reception as much as the bride and groom themselves – everyone joined together in a common feeling of warmth and caring and supportiveness.  In light of those feelings at a wedding reception, can we define what is missing in so many people’s faith that their beliefs end up killing joy rather than fostering it?  The problem may simply be that for many people their faith gets mired in following a bunch of rules and regulations, of putting up a self-righteous front before other people, of maintaining a sense of cultural Christianity that looks good but doesn’t reach very deeply into life.   The type of faith is literally a killjoy – it is a restrictive, limiting routine and obligation that leaves them totally unprepared for a celebration.

After all, isn’t that what this marriage feast is all about?  We are told that God’s realm – both today’s earthly kingdom and tomorrow’s heavenly kingdom – is a feast of joy, a celebration of life in all its glory.  As the parable opens, the king sends out his servants to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet to be held in honor of the king’s son.  In spite of sending his servants to personally invite each guest, none of those invited responded.  Having gone to great expense and planning for this feast, the king again initiates the invitation and again sends out his servants.  Still, there is no response.  There are a lot of excuses, for all those invited are busy about their own affairs.  As a matter of fact, some are so rude and callous as to abuse and even kill the messengers who were sent.  This, of course, angers the king, and he reacts by making sure that they will never be invited to another wedding feast.  The king is intent on celebrating, and those invited had ignored his desire to have them share and experience the joy of the feast prepared for them.

However, this is not the end of the story.  The king is determined to have a feast and not have all his preparations go to waste.  So, his servants are sent out a third time.  Now, they are told to gather up whomever they find.  It doesn’t matter who the guests are.  There are no requirements, there is no one so bad as to be unworthy of an invitation.  So, an unusual crowd comes together to celebrate the kings’ feast.  It is a very unlikely gathering of people, especially since those you would expect to be present are missing, while those who would not normally be considered eligible are present.

What about those invitations you and I receive?  You know, invitations to special events give us opportunity to share with others, to experience renewal and joy, perhaps even to grow and to learn.  But they also require us to respond, to make a commitment of time and energy.  The wedding feast of today’s parable promised to be a meaningful and worthwhile experience.  Those who refused to attend were really turning their backs on the opportunity to share in the generosity and the love of the king for them, and by doing so they missed a time of joy and fulfilment.  They lost the chance to be part of a larger celebration, to participate in something beyond themselves, to make their lives more meaningful.

Unfortunately, many continue to miss out on the joy of God’s realm today because they ignore God’s invitation for a variety of reasons.  Mostly they say they are too busy, or they say that it sounds boring, or that they just don’t want to make a commitment.  And so they miss the opportunities to find real fulfilment that can be discovered in responding to God’s invitation to be involved.  That invitation comes in many different ways.  It comes as we work together within the church and find that the more we are involved, the more we ourselves benefit and find joy.  It comes as we work for the good of the community through our service to others and find that we receive back far more than we ever give.  The truly fulfilling life comes as we reach beyond ourselves and our own self-interest and discover that God’s kingdom can be lived out in this life.  For there is no greater joy or feeling of completeness than having a strong sense of purpose and a confidence that we are working within God’s plan for creation.

It is tempting to dwell on our own problems and become so self-absorbed that we reject or ignore God’s invitations to us to join in his feast.  In a time when economic conditions are difficult, when family struggles seem more intense, and fear for the future is a concern, there is an even greater need for us to place our hope in the One who invites us, and to respond by being part of the celebration of life in service to one another and fellowship with one another.  Otherwise, we risk falling into the same trap of despair as those who have no faith.

God’s invitation for us to experience the kingdom is often compared to a marriage feast.  We are invited to experience it in the future by living in conformity with God’s will, but it is also an invitation to a feast of the present moment – fulfilment in this life on earth which can only be found by living out our faith.  God wants us to have the most out of this life, and God provides us with opportunities to have a foretaste of that joy through the fellowship of the Church of Jesus Christ and in service through Christ to the community.  It is those who are the most involved who seem to find the greatest meaning and fulfilment, and those same people who seem to have the highest joy and satisfaction in their lives.  Let us not push the very thing out of our lives that promises to create within us a sense of purpose and joy.  Let us deliver God’s invitation to participate in that joy by sharing the good news of the marriage feast and the hope of this life lived in God’s presence.  We cannot keep to ourselves the very thing that gives us a reason to celebrate life.  There are so many who need to hear and to receive this invitation to the king’s feast.  Let us be about sharing the message that we dare not push out of our lives – the message of hope, of peace, of joy today, and joy for eternity.

 

SERVICE OF THE BREAD OF LIFE

(please take the bread into your hands)

Holy and gracious God,

We come to you again today, bringing our concerns and struggles.

This is a time of great change and many distractions.  We have our personal issues that we deal with daily, but we also deal with the tensions and divisions in our society.

The Covid-19 pandemic, the unknowns of how it will affect our society in the coming

months, the divisions over exactly how we should provide safety and security for people.  There is the election and the deep and intense divisions it has brought to our nation

and the unknowns of how our democracy will survive in the coming months.

There is the ongoing struggle over what it means

to treat all people with dignity and justice.

And in the midst of all these things, it is sometimes difficult to remember

that your love and care are constant and always there for us.

Open our hearts and our minds to that presence that gives us hope in these difficult days.  Help us to trust that you are near even when things seem darkest.

We bring this bread, the Bread of Life, ever so simple and yet ever so significant,

for it truly represents your presence among us in Jesus Christ.

We ask your blessing upon it that the strength and the confidence of Jesus Christ

may be made known through it as we eat of it.

May this bread provide for us the awareness of your love at work in and through us.

So bless this bread which we eat that it might strengthen us for the week ahead,

both in giving us a sense of hope and peace and giving us the courage

to accept the challenges of living as your people.

May it so remind us of your love for us that we might share that same love with others.

And being fed, may we continue with a new and profound hope,

rejoicing in the days that you give us.

(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:

October 11                       Worship                           Zion House            10:00 a.m.

October 12                       Ladies Breakfast              Apple Bin              9:00 a.m.

October 14                       Bible Study                      Zoom                     6:30 p.m.

October 15                       Search Cmte                    Fellowship Hall     7:00 p.m.

October 17                       Clean Up Day                  Zion House            8:00 a.m.

 

Looking Forward:

October 18                       Worship                           Zion House            10:00 a.m.

Pumpkin Sunday             Zion House            10:45 a.m.

SS parents mtg                 Fellowship Hall     10:45 a.m.

October 19                       Mens Breakfast                Apple Bin                8:00 a.m.

Consistory Mtg                Fellowship Hall         7:00 p.m.

October 21                       What’s Cookin’?             Trinity Luth.            6-7:30 p.m.

October 22                       Search Cmte                    Fellowship Hall       7:00 p.m.

October 24                       UACT Fellowship Day    Oakside Park           1:30 p.m.

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

Time Change for Worship:  Don’t forget that outdoor worship is at 10:00 a.m. during the month of October!

Neighbors in Need:  Donations to the Neighbors In Need collection will be accepted throughout the month of October to support UCC justice initiatives, advocacy efforts, and direct service projects throughout the U.S.  Thank you for your generosity.

 Ladies Breakfast:  Ladies of Zion, you are invited to join us at the Apple Bin at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow.   There is room to socially distance, and antiseptic is available for your use.

Winterizing Zion House & the Church:  On Saturday, October 17, the Property Committee will hold a clean-up day to winterize Zion House and the Church.  Trimming and removal of trees top the agenda along with weeding and cleaning.  If you can participate, meet on the parking lot at 8:00 a.m.  Bring your tools and masks.  Many hands make light work!

Pumpkin Sunday, October 18th!   On Sunday, October 18th, all the children will receive a pumpkin, which they will decorate following worship services on the parking lot.  While they are decorating the pumpkins, their parents are invited to meet with the Sunday School staff in the sanctuary for a brief meeting to talk about the start of Sunday School on November 1st, some of the changes because of Covid-19, and answer any questions.   If you are not going to be attending worship, please meet at the sanctuary about 10:45 am (bring your children to decorate their pumpkin).

Save the Date:  Zion’s members are invited to attend UACT’s annual day of fellowship on October 24, 2020 at Oakside Park.  This gathering is in lieu of the annual meeting.  Arrive at pavilion #3 beginning at 1:30 p.m. to help celebrate the 5th full year of UACT Service to the Community!  You may wish to bring lawn chairs to take advantage of hopefully sunny weather.   As UACT continues its mission to strengthen the community, youth and adult, we’d like to take the opportunity to define new needs and ways to  address them while a “new normal” takes shape.  All UACT members who enjoy baking are invited to bring “Pandemic Desserts” (cookies, rice krispie treats, bar cookies, etc.) which are individually wrapped or bagged to share with others.

All Saints Sunday:  Sunday, November 1st, is All Saints’ Sunday when we remember all those loved ones, friends, and neighbors who have died in the past year.  If you would like someone included in the Prayer for the Saints on November 1st, please contact the church office by October 25th so the name can be included in the bulletin.

Sunday School:     Reminder:  Zion’s position of Christian Ed Director is open as of November 1st.  It can be filled individually or jointly (if team leadership is more attractive to you) – just let Minda H. know of your interest.  The curriculum is in place, and it is hoped that regular Sunday School can commence on November 1st after worship.

Community Aid Bin: Due to the enormous cost of disposing of unusable items found in their bins ($250,000.00 in 2019) as well as a chronic shortage of drivers for pickups, Community Aid has evaluated the placement of their bins and decided to remove some, Zion’s among them.  However, while the bin will disappear in the near future, Zion will still benefit if you take your donations to Community Aid in Hanover or Mechanicsburg and tell them to credit Zion’s account.  The Mission Committee is brainstorming some ideas for other ways to deliver donations.  Look for details in future bulletins.

Zion’s Financial Information

Income through September 2020: $129,554.28

Expenses through September 2020: $128,201.14

YTD Surplus: $1,353.14