Worship: October 25, 2020

ZION UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST

22 Gettysburg Street  Box 538

Arendtsville, Pennsylvania

Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost

October 25, 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 10:00 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 need God’s presence this morning.

We need the active, living presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. 

We need the ongoing miracle of life itself,

for it is in God that we live and move and have our being.

We need God’s peace in our hearts;

God’s light in our minds;

God’s strength in our bodies. 

And we need God’s love, mercy and grace in relationship with ourselves.

 

* PRAYER OF INVOCATION

We bow before you, Sovereign God, for your power fills all the universe,

and your ways are beyond our knowing. 

We want to understand more fully what it means

to live in your realm and be guided by your Spirit. 

Meet us where we are. 

Speak to us in accents our hearts can understand. 

Move us to fuller communion with you and with all your children.

 

TIME OF CONFESSION

We who are quick to identify wrongdoing in others,

are called to confess our own sin.

We who are swayed by outward appearances,

are challenged to look into our own hearts.

We who stumble in self-created shadows,

are invited into the light that reveals,

in order to be restored to wholeness.

We confess, Lord God,

that sometimes we have acted without faith,

sometimes we have acted without hope,

sometimes we have acted without love,

and sometimes we have acted without all three.

Forgive us and help us to believe, to hope, and to love,

no matter what the circumstance.

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

keep us from being fully free.

 

ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS

Ask, and it will be given you;

search, and you will find;

knock, and the door will be opened for you.

For everyone who asks receives,

and everyone who searches finds,

and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

Thanks be to God for this magnificent gift of love.

 

THE GIVING OF OURSELVES AND OUR OFFERINGS

If I give away all I have,

and if I deliver my body to be burned,

but have not love, I gain nothing.

(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

As we give, we do so not just because we wish to raise money

or even because we wish to support a program of the church,

but because we truly love others and wish to contribute

 to their spiritual, physical, and personal welfare.

 

EPISTLE LESSON

I Thessalonians 2: 1-8, p. 191 (NT)

2:1 You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain,
2:2 but though we had already suffered and been shamefully mistreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition.
2:3 For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery,
2:4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts.
2:5 As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed;
2:6 nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others,
2:7 though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children.
2:8 So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.

 

GOSPEL LESSON

St. Matthew 22: 34-46, p. 24 (NT)

22:34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together,
22:35 and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.
22:36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
22:37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’
22:38 This is the greatest and first commandment.
22:39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
22:40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
22:41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question:
22:42 “What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.”

22:43 He said to them, “How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,
22:44 ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”‘?
22:45 If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?”
22:46 No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

 

THE MESSAGE FOR THE MORNING – you can also view the recorded sermon at https://youtu.be/fT4z4GACp74

October 25, 2020

Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost

I Thessalonians 2: 1-8

St. Matthew 22: 34-46

There are lots of four-letter words in our vocabulary.  Many of them are not appropriate or suitable to use in a church setting, and they are not really suitable to use any time.  But there are other four-letter words that I believe to be overused, and perhaps one of the most overused word in our vocabulary is the word, “love”.  The word “love” is bantered about all the time when people are talking.  I am continually amazed by how often the word love is used.  Turn on the radio and every other song is about love.  Turn on television and every talk show host, at least once a week, discusses something about love, even if it’s weird and strange.  Love gets used as an inappropriate part of our language; we love people, but we also talk in terms of loving “Italian food”, or loving our home, or loving our dog, or loving a television program or a movie, or loving ice cream.  Love is such an overused word that at best it sends mixed signals, at worst the word love has lost all its meaning.  We act as if love is such a common, natural, everyday experience; everyone should be filled with love all the time; yet in the midst of how much the word is used, there seems to be less love than ever.

Maybe that is because our society is confused about the real meaning of love.  For a lot of people, it has come to be understood as a response to something or someone which makes me feel good.  You know – middle school girls and boys who fall madly in love with one another.  “He makes me feel so good.”  And as long as he makes her feel good it’s got to be real love and Mom, you just don’t understand (as if Mom was too old to know what love is).  It’s a distorted, immature love; it responds with an emotional outburst.  The hormones take over and as long as that middle school girl is getting attention and her boyfriend at the moment says wonderful things to her, she’s in love.  Love, in this sense, is purely a response to the benefits she receives.

Maybe we who are adults think we have outgrown that immature view of love, but there are plenty of older people who take precisely this attitude in their dealing with God.  We love God because of the good things that God does for us and we have come to believe that if God truly loves us this is what God should do.  And as long as God keeps giving, I’ll love God.  As long as God protects me from harm and disaster and crisis, I’ll love God.

But it’s so easy to fall out of love with God in this immature love.  When the events and circumstances of life don’t make life easy for us, we quickly lose interest; we don’t love God when God isn’t constantly giving.  Such is an immature and distorted understanding of love.  Love is not merely an emotion; it is not simply a response to good things happening for us; it is not a good feeling.  Love is nurtured only in the relationship one has with God or with another person.  It is, above all, a particular commitment to the well-being, the fulfilment, the good of another.  “God loved the world so much that He sent His only Son, not to condemn the world, but to save it.”  So John tells us that God acted toward our human condition.  Not because we had been obedient, responsive or loving; we didn’t make God feel good.  Rather God saw our human need and desired above all else, that the human part of creation have the opportunity to experience security and goodness and happiness with God.  God demonstrates love for us in a way that makes sense.  So great is God’s love that God initiates the action, no matter what our deserving or response.  Love expects nothing in return; it is a commitment, such as God’s commitment, to the needs of another.  Not a feeling nor an emotion, but an action – deliberate, sacrificial, for our good.

If Jesus Christ is indeed the Lord of life; if we believe that Jesus alone is the source of life for us, if He is the Messiah come to earth, then we take seriously what He says about how we ought to respond to God.  His claim finds its greatest challenge in these words: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and most important command.  The second most important is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’  The whole Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets depend on these two commands.”

Love God – not because you have a trouble-free life, not because you are well off, not because you feel free from danger; these things can quickly disappear. Love God because you know God’s mercy at work in you.  Love God; above all else, desire that God’s will be done on earth.  Love God; show your love by your actions.  Follow the example of Jesus Christ who through his life and death presented God’s love to the world.  Love does not come easily; love is demanding.  It requires intention and self-sacrifice; a cross-bearing experience.  Love God.

Love your neighbor.  Even the unlovable ones.  No matter how difficult, work at seeing your neighbor as a child of God, just like you.  Love your neighbor. Desire all that is good and noble and worthwhile for that person.  Be committed to their well-being.  Especially those who are the most difficult to love.  Be an example for a better way.  Show the transforming power of love to one who may have never experienced acceptance and care.  Love with the intensity of Christ – who could scold, rebuke, touch, offer hope – all to the end of what is best for another.  Love, not merely a feeling or an emotion, but an action which works to build up, to heal, to restore wholeness and dignity and self-esteem to human life.

I would like you to notice something that I think is important here simply because I don’t want to confuse.  Notice that Jesus never says that we have to like everyone.  To love someone in the Christian way is not necessarily to like someone.  There are some people whom I do not like, because their way of approaching life is very different than mine, or their personality conflicts with mine, or they make me feel uncomfortable to be around them, or I just find them irritating and annoying.  Jesus does not ask me to be their friend, Jesus does not ask me to seek out opportunities to be around people I don’t like, I am not supposed to feel guilty for not liking someone – but I am told I need to recognize that those people are children of God just like I am.  And they deserve to be treated with some dignity and respect, and I am called to seek to build up, to be supportive of their well-being, to care about their life condition and situation, and to work toward helping them to be the best possible person they can be.

Jesus’ response to the Pharisees recognizes only one condition for standing in God’s grace.  It is a question of motivation, of attitude.  What commands and demands our attention for living as followers of God is simply stated: a love for God and a love for our neighbor is the primary law of God.  These words of Jesus are not new.  You can find these two commandments in the Old Testament.  But the combination of them stand as the essence of faith.  Not style of dress, nor the way of worship, not even one’s interpretation of Scripture is the deciding factor.  They may have some importance, but none of them is of ultimate importance.  To live a life following the way is to love God with our whole being and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.  To live a life in conformity with the ideas of another person or to be part of a specific group may satisfy them, but it is not necessarily the way of Jesus.  Simple and basic are Jesus’ emphases.  A foundation of faith which reaches vertically to God and horizontally to our fellow human beings.  A balance of faith and action.  Love for God is incomplete, a spiritual desert, unless it is matched by a lifestyle that seeks justice and peace for our neighbors in this community and the community we call the world.  Love for neighbor is incomplete unless it is held up by prayer and worship and the awareness of the presence of God actively involved in our lives.  These are the twin towers.  No one can be satisfied with just a life of prayer and worship, not content with just a feeling of compassion for those around them.

Those who seek to live in accord with these two commands are working in harmony with God’s will for creation.  The central theme of being at one with God is the simple principle that is above all other human and divine law; love God, love your neighbor.  There is no better understanding of being a Christian.  It is the whole purpose of Jesus’ ministry.  Love God; love your neighbor.

 

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 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 Fred and Betty B. who celebrate 70 years together on October 28th!

Happy Birthday to Harold T. who turns 84 on October 26th!  Also, Happy 87th Birthday to Jean O. on October 27th!

Cancellation of Worship:  Should indoor worship be cancelled due to Covid-19 or 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 25                       Worship                           Zion House            10:00 a.m

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

Looking Forward:

November 1                     In-person Worship           Church                     9:00 a.m.

With Communion

November 5                     Search Cmte                    Fellowship Hall       7:00 p.m.

November 7                     Rambler’s Walk               Peace Light              9:00 a.m.

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

Confirmation News:  Today, 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 next 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.

If we determine that there are too many people interested in attending in-person worship services to safely worship at one service, we will decide by November 8th if we will begin two services, one at 9 a.m. and the other at 11 a.m.  On November 15th, you will be given the opportunity to decide which service you would like to attend (up to the limit that is safe) and will be asked to tell one of the ushers, so that we would begin two services of worship on November 22nd.

Also, we will be following the decisions of Upper Adams School District regarding in-person school.  If UASD returns to all remote learning due to a rise in the number of covid-19 cases, we will suspend in-person worship and use both YouTube video and live stream (with only essential persons on the sanctuary) to continue to provide opportunities for you to worship.

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:  Next Sunday, November 1st, we celebrate All Saints’ Sunday as we remember those of our members, relatives and friends who have died since last November.

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.

The Ramblers are planning a hike on the battlefield for November 7th.  The rain date (should we be so lucky as to get rain!) will be November 14th.  We will meet at the Peace Light at 9:00 a.m.  Bring your mask and join us for fresh air, fellowship, and healthy walking!

Veterans Sunday, November 8th.  We will be recognizing all those who have served or are currently serving in the military.  Please contact the church office by November 2nd to let us know of anyone who should be included in that list.  Thank you.

The Ladies Breakfast Group:  On November 9th, Zion’s ladies will meet at the Apple Bin at 9:00 a.m. for breakfast followed by their annual White Elephant Sale.  Over the years, we have raised $1,200.00 for the church with this fundraiser!  If you have never joined us before, just bring a new or gently used item worth at least $20.00 and wrapped in pretty wrapping paper or even a brown paper bag!  Bidding is done in $5.00 increments, and you need to have a hint ready for the item you brought.  It is great fun, and there is room to social distance.

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.

Sunday School:     In-person Sunday School resumes November 1st.  We again are looking for sponsors for snacks for the children.  The cost is $45.00 per Sunday.  You may make your check payable to Zion UCC and include on the memo line “Sunday School snacks”.  Please put your donation in the offering basket in the back of church.