Worship: October 18, 2020

ZION UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST

22 Gettysburg Street  Box 538

Arendtsville, Pennsylvania

Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

October 18, 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 a.m.  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

We come to this place from the east and west, from the north and south.

We come to be knit and bonded together in Jesus Christ.

We come that the Spirit might renew and refresh us.

We come to remember that more important than fame,

more important than power, and, yes, even more important than money,

is our relationship with God and with each other.

 

* PRAYER OF INVOCATION

God of all seasons, you are with us as we look back and look ahead,

seeking to discern our purpose in the here and now.

Day by day your Spirit moves through us,

enabling your holy purpose to be manifest in our lives.

Your Spirit, O God, has not been timid in our past.

Today we look to our future in the assurance

of your loving embrace and eternal support.

 

TIME OF CONFESSION

At our best, we seek to be upright and blameless,

people of integrity who live with unwavering trust in God.

We aspire to live as brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ,

faithful and responsive to our Creator.

But, in truth, we forget God in our hectic busyness,

and we turn from the way of love in our relationships with others.

There is much for us to confess.

Save us, Lord,

from ambitions that are unworthy,

from successes that trample on others,

from thoughts that poison our souls,

from words that poison the air,

and from desires that could lead to disaster.

Pardon us where we have strayed,

and take our hand as we walk the narrow path that leads to eternal life.

 

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

keep us from being fully free.

 

ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS

Our self-disclosing God proclaims:

“I will forgive your iniquity and remember your sin no more.

I will be your God and you will be my people.

I will put my law within you; I will write it on your hearts.”

Give thanks for the new life God offers and live as forgiven people.

Thanks be to God for this magnificent gift of love.

 

THE GIVING OF OURSELVES AND OUR OFFERINGS

As we give, let us remember that money given for the cause of Christ is not just money.

It means such things as reconciliation, hope, knowledge, pardon, and joy.

 

(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 continue in new ways as we adjust to this new normal.)

*PRAYER OF DEDICATION

We pray that as we offer these tithes and offerings,

you will invest them in such a way that bodies will be fed,

children will be educated, families will be strengthened,

lives will be changed, and hope will replace despair.

 

EPISTLE LESSON

I Thessalonians 1: 1-10, p. 191 (NT)

1:1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.
1:2 We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly
1:3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
1:4 For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you,
1:5 because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake.
1:6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit,
1:7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.
1:8 For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it.
1:9 For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God,
1:10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead–Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.

 

GOSPEL LESSON

St. Matthew 22: 15-22, p. 23 (NT)

22:15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said.
22:16 So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality.
22:17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?”
22:18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites?
22:19 Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius.
22:20 Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?”
22:21 They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
22:22 When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

 

THE MESSAGE FOR THE MORNING – you can also view the sermon at https://youtu.be/5IfOwzz3V0A

October 18, 2020

Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

I Thessalonians 1: 1-10

St. Matthew 22: 15-22

The old, wise man welcomes the young student into his quiet room.  Cupped in the student’s hands is a bird, hidden from the master’s view.  “This bird,” the student asks, “Is it dead or is it alive?”  Immediately the old man recognizes the trap.  It is a question which, if asked to gain knowledge or insight, is indeed very profound, but if it is asked to embarrass the master, is a matter of bad faith.  “The choice is really yours,” the old man responds.  “If I say the bird is dead, you will open your hands and he will fly away.  But if I say the bird is alive, you will squash your hands together and the bird will lose its life.”

Have you ever been put in a situation where you knew that whatever you did was wrong or whatever answer you gave was going to bring trouble down on your head?  “Dear,” the wife asks, “have you noticed that I am starting to get wrinkles around my eyes?”   A seemingly innocent question, but one that carries with it all the pitfalls and traps – if her husband answers, “Yes,” he runs the risk of inferring that she is old and losing her appearance; if her husband answers, “No,” he faces the possibility that she will accuse him of not paying any attention to her.

These are questions whose answers seem to be intended to alienate, or the consequences of which will cause a person to get into trouble.  In a very real sense, this morning’s question as posed by the Pharisees and the Herodians (a group of Jews who supported the rule of the Roman installed King Herod), was a trap, intended to put Jesus at odds with the political authorities – or at odds with the people in the crowd who deeply resented the rule of King Herod.  How can the Pharisees compromise Jesus?  They get together and plan: one of them, obviously very shrewd, comes up with the perfect idea.  A surefire question to alienate Jesus from a significant number of people, to make him lose credibility.  “Should we pay taxes to the Roman Empire or not?”  If Jesus says “yes,” than he has labeled himself as a friend of the Romans and an enemy of the Jews.  If he answers, “no,” then he will be arrested as a traitor and rebel.  It seems to be a no-win situation for Jesus.  Just the kind of position that will both destroy Jesus and rescue the Pharisees’ reputation.

So, they go to him to ask this question, not because they sincerely want to know the answer, but rather to trap Jesus.  They don’t want direction for their lives, they are not honest seekers — rather their intention is to destroy.  Any answer holds the potential to rid the Pharisees of this troublemaker.

Then Jesus asks to see a Roman coin.  He points out to his listeners that the coin bears a particular image.  Having been minted under the authorization of the emperor and bearing his likeness, it is a means of exchange, a common value for all those who live under Roman rule, including the Jews.  Therefore, it is entirely proper to give back to the Romans and their emperor that which belongs to them.  But now Jesus takes a politically charged question and gives it a highly spiritual answer.  This coin belongs to an earthly ruler; therefore, he has the right to claim it for himself.  You, however, belong to a heavenly ruler.  Referring back to the very beginning of creation, Jesus alludes to the story of Genesis.  You are created in another image, the image of God.  And the one in whose image you are created has a right to make a claim on you.  You bear God’s image; not merely a physical image, not most importantly a physical image.  Rather the image of God within you consists of your attitudes, your spirit, your abilities, the very depth of your soul.  All the mysterious qualities that put us in a unique relationship with God and with each other ultimately belong to God.

In the act of creating us, God has stamped us in the image of the Almighty.  Each of us has a life quality that allows us to develop into the unique individuals we are; each of us different, each of us special; held together by the image of God.  Just as the emperor has a right to make a claim to the coin which bears his imprint, so God has the right to expect us to respond to God’s claims of ownership.  You know what would happen if you deny the government’s claim on you – if you failed to pay your income taxes, you would be penalized, fined, perhaps even go to jail.  How much greater is God’s claim on each of us, and we cannot cheat or fool God.

And yet we try.  We label our achievements and our accomplishments as our own and claim who we are is solely the result of our own efforts.  The patterns and attitudes and actions we adopt are not those of God, but rather those of the world.  We worship the image of the coin rather than the God who has created us.  We refuse to allow God’s gifts to grow inside of us; out of a false sense of humility or just laziness or an inner fear, we never develop the potential within.  We allow what God has given us to stagnate.  We tend to sit back and let others carry the burden.  We make all kinds of excuses.  We are extremely busy or unqualified.  We are too old or too young.  We have done enough already, or we are clearly just not interested.  Sadly, just as we sometimes resent government, we also resent God.

We live on dangerous ground.  To deny God’s claim on our lives by refusing to admit that God has given us this image leads us farther and farther from God.  As we seek to put distance between ourselves and God, our lives become more filled with fear, more dominated by worries, less able to cope with stress, less satisfying, and more uncertain about eternity.  If God expected more of us than was possible, if God’s demands on us were unreasonable, if God expected us to do more than meet the potential image within us, then perhaps we would be justified in trying to escape from God’s creativity within each of us.  But God only claims the best from us. And we cannot give that by sitting passively by while others respond.  God’s claim is not merely that we attend worship on a regular basis – it is not enough to simply acknowledge God and then go about our own way.  God claims our active service as well.  We are obligated to act for God’s sake.  We have not been created to sit idle and look pretty.  God’s image is not some delicate, fragile piece of china created to sit on a shelf and gather dust.

The image given to each of us is meant to be used.  We have been given it for a purpose.  If we don’t use it, that image is a very poor investment, and we are useful for nothing.  When each of us made a commitment to our God – whether in our confirmation vows or whatever way in which we came into a personal relationship with God, we affirmed that we belonged to God, we acknowledged God’s claim on us, and consequently said we would respond to that claim by serving to the end.  Those vows of commitment go unfulfilled when we ignore God’s rightful expectations of us.  God cannot be fooled nor tricked.  God knows our potential.  God knows what we can do to serve.  God created our lives and claims back our repayment in service.  God accepts no excuses.

There is within us the temptation to say what is the least that I have to give, the least I have to do, the least I have to commit, in order to be considered a faithful Christian.  We also tend to think, what benefit will I get by following the way of Jesus Christ, and I want to experience those benefits immediately.  We think that if we send a check to a worthy cause, that ought to be sufficient as a response, and, of course, we think we should receive a thank you letter in return.  We tend to think that God should be pleased with whatever minimal response we make because it is at least better than some other folks.  And yet we miss the whole point of being God’s image, God’s people in the world.  We will receive back only as much as we give; that is the risk of living by faith.  No grandiose promises, no good intentions, no caring thoughts can replace the commitment of the whole self to God’s claims on us.

Think about it.  Do you feel you are created in the image of God?  Do you sense that image seeking to burst out of you?  Do you want to experience the fullness that God promises to all who reach out to allow that image to grow and to blossom?  May we always seek to be God’s people and live out the image within.  May we affirm to whom we belong by expressing that image not only by our words but our deeds also.  May we serve the God who makes a rightful claim on us.

 

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 covid19 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 that 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.

 Happy Anniversary to Harold and Betty T. who celebrate 62 years together today!  Happy Anniversary also to Eddie and Peggy D. who celebrate 61 years together on October 24th! And Happy Anniversary to Chub and Joan R. who celebrate 66 years together on October 24th!

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 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 Annual Day         Oakside Park           1:30 p.m.

 

Looking Forward:

October 25                       Worship                           Zion House            10:00 a.m

October 29                       Search Cmte                    Fellowship Hall       6:30 p.m.

 

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

Neighbors in Need:  Donations to the Neighbors In Need collection will still be accepted next Sunday.  Thank you for generously supporting this collection.

Mens Breakfast:  Zion’s men are invited to meet at the Apple Bin at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow for breakfast.

Pumpkin Sunday Today!   Today, 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).

UACT Annual Day of Fellowship:  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.

Confirmation News:  Next Sunday, October 25th, Aubree D. and Charlotte S. will be confirmed during outdoor services at Trinity Lutheran Church as they have completed the UACT Confirmation Program over the past two years.   We welcome them into full fellowship with Zion and pray for their continued growth in the Christian faith.

In-Person Worship:  In-person worship begins on Sunday, November 1st, at 9 a.m., with the service also being live streamed that day (the link for services will be sent out via email during the week prior).  We ask for your patience and your cooperation as we begin this adventure in our new normal circumstances.

You are asked to use only the Gettysburg Street door to enter and to leave the sanctuary (the other doors will be marked “Do Not Enter”).  There will be a greeter at the door to welcome you to worship and to ask if there are any special prayer requests that you might have.   There will be another person to write down your name in case we need to do contact tracing in the week following worship.  An usher will escort you to an available pew for seating; families who normally socialize are invited to sit together as we maintain social distancing.    Masks will be required, and if everyone wears their mask for the service it will allow us to sing the hymns.

After worship services, the ushers will release one row at a time in order to maintain safe distancing upon leaving the sanctuary.

We will not be taking your temperature upon entering the sanctuary, trusting that if you are not feeling well or have had recent contact with someone who has been diagnosed with Covid-19 you will choose to live stream the service.

Thank you for your support and understanding during these times.  As we seek to continue in-person worship, we will make changes as needed in order to maintain your safety and comfort for worship.

All Saints Sunday Reminders:  On Sunday, November 1st, we celebrate All Saints’ Sunday as we remember those of our members, relatives and friends who have died since last November.  If you would like someone included in the Prayer for the Saints that morning, please contact the church office by October 25th.   We will also be celebrating the Sacrament of Holy Communion during worship services and you are asked to bring your own communion elements (bread or crackers, juice or wine or grapes) for that service.   We are also scheduled to begin in person Sunday School for children on November 1st, scheduled to begin at 10 am until 10:45 am.

Search Committee News:  The Search Committee has begun preparing to receive pastoral profiles in the quest to recommend a new permanent called pastor to Zion.  Their preparation will take several weeks until they feel comfortable and confident in the task which they have been asked to fulfill.  Please keep the members of the Search Committee in your thoughts and prayers asking for God’s wisdom and guidance for them.  Members of the Search Committee are Heather B., Juli H., Kim J., Jess P., Fred M., Wes M. and Dave W.

Current Homewood Auxiliary members may have received a letter regarding 2021 dues. Please give dues to Angie V. Anyone interested in joining the Homewood Auxiliary, dues are $3/single or $5/couple. Please see Angie.

 Sunday School:     Reminder:  Zion’s position of Christian Ed Director is open as of November 1st.  Contact Minda H. if interested.

Community Aid Bin: Although the bin will be removed 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.  Thanks for participating in this fundraiser.