ZION UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST
22 Gettysburg Street Box 538
Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 6, 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
As we come before God in this worship,
may our praises be sincere,
our motives pure,
our prayers uttered in humble faith,
our hymns sung from the heart,
our minds be alert,
and our wills be open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
* PRAYER OF INVOCATION
We greet you, Lord, as one who looks upon us with compassion,
welcoming all who come and turning no one away.
We are ready, now, to respond to your love,
to expand our spiritual horizons,
and to consider how we may more perfectly walk in your way.
TIME OF CONFESSION
We who so often seek glory for ourselves rather than glorify God,
are invited to examine ourselves before the Eternal One.
We who are far more likely to judge others than to look at our own shortcomings,
are summoned to honest self-appraisal.
For in confronting our sin and seeking forgiveness,
we can be freed from its deadly grasp.
If we have been dishonest in our business,
Forgive us and cleanse us.
If we have been untruthful in our assertions,
Forgive us and cleanse us.
If we have been rude in our actions,
Forgive us and cleanse us.
If we have been offensive in our speech,
Forgive us and cleanse us.
Now let us silently reflect on the personal sins and fears that
keep us from being fully free.
ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS
God loves us, even when we do not return that love.
God’s forgiveness is always available to anyone who is truly sorry
for all the wrong that has broken trust with God and fractured community with neighbors.
God is our help and shield when we put our trust in God.
Live as forgiven people, gathering in Christ’s name,
consecrated and committed to a new way of life.
Thanks be to God for this magnificent gift of love.
THE GIVING OF OURSELVES AND OUR OFFERINGS
If you are offering your gift at the altar,
and there remember that your brother has something against you,
leave your gift there before the altar and go;
first be reconciled to your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.
(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 give our tithes and offerings,
not as a substitute for personal relationships or reconciliation with others,
but as an effort to promote the gospel of reconciliation around the world.
Romans 13: 8-14, p. 152 (NT)
13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
13:9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
13:10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.
13:11 Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers;
13:12 the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light;
13:13 let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy.
13:14 Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
St. Matthew 18: 15-20, p. 19 (NT)
18:15 “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one.
18:16 But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses.
18:17 If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
18:18 Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
18:19 Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.
18:20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”
THE MESSAGE FOR THE MORNING – you can also view the sermon at https://youtu.be/cRfd8Os9XxU
September 6, 2020
Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
St. Matthew 18: 15-20
I don’t know about you, but there have been several times in the course of my life that I have wished that I lived in the remote mountains of Montana or Wyoming, in a little cabin surrounded by forest, surviving with a small garden and fishing and hunting, cut off from the issues of politics and the stress of deadlines and appointments and traffic, with only an occasional trip to the nearest town for supplies. There are days when that has seemed like the ideal life for me. To keep company with myself and nature around me, with my companion being a faithful dog. There are times through the years that this has been very tempting, mostly because I have gotten tired of dealing with people. I have to admit that I sometimes have found dealing with people to be very annoying and stressful; it would be so much easier to just be alone. That has been a fleeting thought along the way, and I suspect that I have not done that simply because I know that in the long run, a life in a cabin in the middle of nowhere would not work for me. But there have been days….
This morning’s Scripture and next Sunday’s Scripture as well deal with relationships between and among people, and the problems that we encounter along the way. Misunderstanding, I suppose, is part of relationships. Individuals have differences of opinion, different ideas, different approaches to life out of their personal life experiences and what they have learned along the way. This morning’s Scripture seeks to help us to understand how we might live together with a healthier sense of relationship – where relationships seeks healing, building bridges instead of walls, mutuality rather than one-sidedness.
It seems to me that the first step to healing in relationships is acknowledging that we have a problem that needs to be faced and dealt with. Oftentimes we don’t want to realize that our relationships are not what they ought to be. Sometimes rather than go through the painful process of healing, we would rather live with the hurt. And sometimes we allow the brokenness to create walls so that in the end, the relationship deteriorates so there is no hope for reconciliation.
Alcoholics Anonymous is famous for the healing work that it does to help those who are struggling to overcome the self-destructive consequences of alcohol abuse. Many times, the alcoholic needs to be confronted with his/her actions in order to face the issue. The most common method is to gather a group of friends and family with the alcoholic and tell him the impact that drinking has on those relationships – violent behavior, depression, lack of stability, the inability to rely on him, the fear generated by her behavior, the deception and the lack of trust. It’s called an intervention. Facing his family and friends, the alcoholic must make a choice. He has to listen to how those around him feel about his drinking. A similar kind of program is developed for those who are heavily into drug use and those who have mental problems.
But there is one thing about those people who are gathered around the alcoholic or the drug addict or the mentally ill person. They are all people who love and care about that person and what he/she is doing. They care enough to want to see the self-destructive patterns change and the person get the needed help to overcome the problem. The key to effectiveness is the love and the support that is offered. Without that, the chance for success, the opportunity for developing a new way, is severely limited. To confront without loving support; to confront without a promise of long-term help; to confront in a threatening manner; is simply to drive the person who needs help farther and farther from it.
Let’s say your son, or mine, let’s call him Rick, starts going with the wrong crowd, doing drugs and becomes addicted. We find out and respond with parental love and care. It’s tough, but he’s my son. We’re talking about people who are important and yet need to be held accountable for their actions. Now if Rick doesn’t listen, then perhaps we take along a couple of other people, friends of Rick whom he has trusted in the past. There’s strength in numbers. Besides, someone else may get through to Rick. We confront Rick. Perhaps a counselor or a pastor can make sense for him. And yet, if that is unsuccessful, then Rick might have to be placed in a rehabilitation center. We work and we work to help Rick overcome his addiction, so that he can find real joy and meaning and purpose in his life. We do that, not because we dislike Rick, but because we care about him and know the eventual consequences if the pattern continues unchanged.
With an understanding of the essential nature of love and concern and caring as part of our approach to Rick, we can come to a better understanding of Jesus’ words to his disciples this morning. Just prior to this morning’s Gospel lesson, Jesus tells the familiar story of how a shepherd will leave ninety-nine sheep grazing on the hillside and search for the one who is lost. And when the shepherd finds that one, he will rejoice and feel far happier about this one sheep than about the ninety-nine that were not lost. Jesus goes on to say that God does not want anyone to be lost and separated from God.
In that context, then Jesus tells his disciples how they need to approach someone whom they see as having committed some sin. Conflict is part of society; rebuilding of any relationship creates a bond of peace and reduces tension. So how the church handles conflict is to serve as an example to society. The church is meant to be a community of reconciliation, a place where conflicts are overcome and broken relationships restored. So first of all, we need to acknowledge that conflict is inevitable. Each of us comes at life out of our personal experiences, from a different perspective. No one sees the world exactly the same as anyone else. If we are honest with ourselves, we see things not only from our own perspective, but also from our own self-interest. When an employer looks at the stub of a paycheck, he sees the gross amount and adds to it the cost of health care insurance, social security and other benefits. When an employee looks at a paycheck stub, he or she sees the amount left after taxes and other deductions and considers the cost of travel and other expenses related to the job that are not covered. These are two widely different views of the same paycheck stub.
Recognizing that there are different perspectives, we notice that the responsibility for making things right lies with us. If someone sins against you, go to that person. No matter who is at fault, Jesus says it is our responsibility to take the initiative to rebuild relationships. How that contrasts with our natural inclination to sit back and nurse our wounds and allow the hurt to fester and grow inside of us. We want to wait for the other person to make the first move – naturally, we also assume that they know they have hurt us. Jesus does not let us off the hook so easily. If there is to be reconciliation, we need to initiate it. One of the aspects of relationship that I talk about with young couples in pre-marriage counseling is the need for communication. If your marriage partner does something that offends you and you let it go for two weeks and then, in the midst of a heated discussion, you raise the action of two weeks ago, that is unfair. Your partner never realized how that action upset you, and you are responsible for allowing it to fester inside unspoken. Or, when you decide that you have been offended in some way and never approach the person who offended you, but talk about it with your neighbors and friends and relatives, you are not working toward reconciliation but rather toward creating more of a division. That is only perpetuating and hardening the problem rather than solving and healing it.
The next point to be made is that we need to evaluate the genuineness of our desire for reconciliation. Are we approaching with a love and concern, or are we merely trying to hurt as we feel we have been hurt? What is our attitude? Accusations and hurling insults do little to bring about healing to the brokenness of relationships. If we truly want to work toward rebuilding trust and mutuality, then we affirm our hurt, but at the same time we give opportunity for healing to take place. We will discover often times that how we approach another person and the attitude we carry with us, goes a long way toward understanding.
But what happens if you cannot be reconciled, one on one? Then you seek outside help. That may take the form of counseling or gathering together people who can help the process of reconciliation – not merely those who will make further accusations and charges, but rather those who can offer helpful ways to rebuild the relationship. This form of intervention can be one of the most effective ways of helping people who are seriously destroying their own lives and the lives of people around them. It is tough, and it can be emotionally exhausting, but ultimately it is one of the most loving things any group of people can do for someone.
And now we come to the most difficult part of this passage, for some in the church have used it to justify shunning or even excommunicating others. In Jesus’ day there were those who would take it to mean that you should have nothing to do with that person ever again, just as the Jews had nothing to do with Gentiles or tax collectors in their day. But there is one who would have heard it differently – namely, the tax collector, Matthew, who records this story for us. Matthew would have understood that nothing could separate him from the love of Christ and that ultimately nothing should separate us from the people we love in Christ. They may choose to go their own way. We may have to put some distance between ourselves and other people to protect ourselves. But that does not mean that we stop loving them or that we wish them badly or that we condemn them. We show them the same love of Christ that we have experienced in our lives. We continue to pray for them, and we continue to be concerned about their well-being. As far as is possible, we act in ways that still may bring about reconciliation and the rebuilding of relationships in the future. It may take weeks or months or even years, but we continue to work toward a way to develop mutuality and common understanding. We are not allowed to give up. For when two or more people agree that even someone who has hurt them deeply can be loved, won’t God grant anything that they ask?
We cannot live in isolation from other people. We recognize that conflict in relationships is common and misunderstandings will happen. But we also discover in Jesus’ words of hope and reconciliation this day a way to rebuild relationships that have been broken, to restore oneness where there has been division and to heal the wounded lives of those who have been hurt. And this is, after all, the ministry that has been given to us, isn’t it?
SERVICE OF THE BREAD OF LIFE
(please take the bread into your hands)
We lift up to you, O God, our praise and thanksgiving for your wondrous love made known in all times and in all places.
Even though we live in days of change, when we are not exactly sure how the future will unfold, your care and concern for us is steadfast and secure.
We trust that, through you, we will find a hope and a peace that will endure wherever the journey may lead.
You challenge us to be your witnesses as we go about our daily living.
May we be found faithful to you. Enable us to look within ourselves and see how we might make a difference as we go about our daily tasks.
A kind word, a gesture of care and concern, the ability to make others know they are children of your love, recognizing that all people should be treated with worth and dignity, able to express our faith as a reassurance to those who need hope.
Help us to understand that even the smallest gesture on our part can make a world of difference to someone who feels stressed and alone.
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.
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:
September 6 Outdoor Worship Zion House 9:00 a.m.
September 9 Bible Study Zoom 6:30 p.m.
September 10 Book Club Zion House 7:00 p.m.
September 13 Outdoor Worship Zion House 9:00 a.m.
September 14 Ladies Breakfast Apple Bin 9:00 a.m.
Special Consistory Mtg Fellowship Hall 7:00 p.m.
September 16 Bible Study Zoom 6:30 p.m.
What’s Cookin’? Trinity Lutheran 6:00 p.m.
Pastoral Care: If you would like a visit from George, please contact him and let him know a convenient time.
Happy Birthday to: Geri B. who celebrates 99 years on September 9th and to Gertie P. who celebrates 85 years on September 10th!
Rally Sunday September 6, 2020
|Congratulations to these students for their faithful attendance during the
2019-2020 Sunday School year
|Kash B.||Jace H.||Logan M.||Jasmine P.|
|Keller B.||Mark H.||Anthony M.||Marshall S.|
|Teighan E.||Noah H.||William M.||Isabelle S.|
|Brielle H.||Zoe H.||Grace M.||Charlotte W.|
|Congratulations to the following 5th graders who will receive their Bibles|
|Keller B.||Carter J.||Anthony M.|
|Allison K.||McKinley L.||Landon V.|
|Alyssa K.||Bradyn L.||Abby W.|
Sunday School: Zion needs your help! Christian Ed Director Dana B. has regretfully submitted her resignation effective the end of October. While we thank her
for her service, Zion needs to find a replacement so that our Sunday School program can seamlessly continue educating our kiddos and preparing them to lead a Christian life. Please prayerfully consider if God might be calling you to this position. Nothing is set in stone as to how this position is filled, it could be one person or a team, but we would like to have someone in place before October. Sunday School parents and other church members present a rich field of laborers for this particular harvest. Any interested individual or team should contact Minda H.
Upcoming Adult Education Opportunities:
Bible Study begins again on Wednesday, September 9th, from 6:30 to 7:30 pm! We began last spring with a study of the book of Genesis and will continue by starting with Exodus. Don’t worry if you missed the spring study and feel you have missed something. A fresh start. If you are interested contact the church office by September 6th so you can be included in the Zoom invitation.
Adult Sunday School via Zoom begins on Tuesday, October 6th, from 6:30 to 7:30 pm, using Max Lucado’s book, Unshakable Hope: Building our Lives on the Promises of God. This is a joint venture with the folks of Trinity Lutheran Church as we experiment with working together in learning and a new adventure. Please contact the church office by September 13th so that we can order a copy of the book for you. The class is scheduled for 7 weeks, ending on November 17th.
Book Club: If you enjoy reading, consider joining Zion’s readers on Thursday, September 10th, outside Zion House to discuss September’s selection Company of Liars by Karen Maitland. A synopsis:
“In this extraordinary novel, Karen Maitland delivers a dazzling reinterpretation of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, an ingenious alchemy of history, mystery, and powerful human drama. The year is 1348. The Black Plague grips the country. In a world ruled by faith and fear, nine desperate strangers, brought together by chance, attempt to outrun the certain death that is running inexorably toward them. Each member of this motley company has a story to tell. From Camelot, the relic-seller who will become the group’s
leader, to Cygnus, the one-armed storyteller . . . from the strange, silent child called Narigorm to a painter and his pregnant wife, each has a secret. None is what they seem. And one among them conceals the darkest secret of all—propelling these liars to a destiny they never saw coming.
Ladies Breakfast: Ladies, mark your calendars for September 14th to join us for breakfast at the Apple Bin at 9:00 a.m. Social distancing is available.
Soda Can Tabs for Ronald McDonald House: Folks, if you have soda can tabs piling up during these hot summer days, please feel free to bring them to worship in plastic bags and place them on the table near the offering basket or in the container there. We are still collecting tabs and the mission continues! Thanks for participating.
Book & Puzzle Shelves: If Covid-19 has had one bright side, it has been the gift of time to pursue leisure activities. Zion’s family members are burning through books and puzzles, and it has been observed that bags of these items are making their way from car trunk to car trunk on Sundays after worship. To facilitate the exchange, a lending repository has been set up in Fellowship Hall. The shelves are along the side wall with one set for puzzles and one for books. After worship on Sundays, feel free to deposit your items on those shelves and help yourself to new material. Keep those brains active!