ZION UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST
22 Gettysburg Street Box 538
Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 9, 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
Our faith draws us together this day.
Let us trust enough to open our ears and hearts.
We have heard of God’s miracles in other times;
our ancestors kept the story alive for us.
Give ear, all people, to God’s word for today.
Taste the bounty of God’s blessing here and now.
We long for a faith that makes sense today.
We want to keep the story alive for new generations.
PRAYER OF INVOCATION
Help us, Lord, to focus our minds and our souls —
to focus on your presence,
to focus on your goodness,
to focus on your grace,
to focus on your pardon,
to focus on your call upon our lives,
following Jesus Christ, our Lord and example.
TIME OF CONFESSION
What attention have we given this week to our journey with God?
Do we recognize God’s presence, and dwell in it?
Have we remembered the ways God has led us and provided for us?
Or are our lives full of other concerns,
so that forgetfulness breaks our relationship with the Eternal?
Let us be honest with ourselves and with God.
All too often we are like Peter, who seeing the wind and the waves,
became overcome with fear.
We are intimidated by those who challenge our faith.
We are worried about the health of our bodies.
We are worried about our financial welfare.
We are worried about what the future holds for our nation and our world.
We sometimes question your providential care.
We allow ourselves to get so worried that we forget
We are held in your ever-loving arms.
Forgive us, we pray, and lift us up to a new level of confidence and faith.
Now let us silently reflect on the personal sins and fears that
keep us from being fully free.
ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS
I was sinking deep in sin far from the peaceful shore,
very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more.
But the master of the sea heard my despairing cry;
from the waters lifted me, now safe am I.
When nothing else could help, love lifted me.
Thanks be to God for this magnificent gift of love.
THE GIVING OF OURSELVES AND OUR OFFERINGS
“Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the Word of Christ”
So wrote Paul in his letter to the Christians at Rome.
Let us share our tithes and offerings so the Word of Christ
can be proclaimed throughout the world.
(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 know that unless someone takes the initiative,
people around the world will never hear the good news of Jesus Christ,
so today we present these tithes and offerings in order to share the story.
Romans 10: 5-15, p. 149 (NT)
10:5 Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that “the person who does these things will live by them.”
10:6 But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'” (that is, to bring Christ down)
10:7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?'” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).
10:8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);
10:9 because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
10:10 For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.
10:11 The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.”
10:12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him.
10:13 For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
10:14 But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?
10:15 And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
St. Matthew 14: 22-33, p. 15 (NT)
14:22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.
14:23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,
14:24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them.
14:25 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea.
14:26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear.
14:27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”
14:28 Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
14:29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus.
14:30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
14:31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
14:32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased.
14:33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
THE MESSAGE FOR THE MORNING – you can listen to the recorded sermon at https://youtu.be/4i1ryU7qkKI
August 9, 2020
Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
Romans 10: 5-15
St. Matthew 14: 22-33
“When evening came, Jesus was there all alone.” Imagine if you will, the scene that day. A large crowd, five thousand men plus the women and children, having been fed with five loaves and two fish, are now departed homeward. The disciples have launched their boat and set out for the other side of Lake Galilee ahead of Jesus. The noise, the hubbub of activity, the laughter and the tension. All replaced by the quietness of the evening, the solitude of aloneness. Jesus is alone.
There is perhaps no concept that has been more downgraded or ignored than our need for ‘alone time,’ time apart for ourselves for prayer and rest. We feel uncomfortable if we are not busy, filling up our time with activity. How foolish we would feel if someone asked us, “What did you do last evening?” and our answer would be, “I spent the evening at prayer and rest.” We would feel like we would be looked at strangely, as if somehow we had wasted a whole evening for no purpose at all. In a society that evaluates worth or what can be measurably accomplished or how busy we have been, rest and solitude are seen as unproductive. Busy is better.
The value of rest is less obvious than other Christian values, and yet it is vital. If it were not important, why would it be included as one of the Ten Commandments? The fourth commandment reads (and this is a paraphrase), “Remember the Sabbath Day, to set it apart for holy purposes. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. In it you will not do any work…. The Lord blessed the sabbath day and set it aside for holy purposes.”
Now it seems that we often think that if people violate the other commandments, the consequences seem dire. When some of the other commandments, such as the commandment about murder and theft and lack of respect are violated, we feel such a violation is a threat to our society and order. But when it comes to the commandment regarding rest and prayerful solitude, that commandment is treated as some sort of luxury, as a commandment to be honored in our spare time or reserved for those who aren’t being productive or who aren’t doing something useful. We do understand the need to rest from physical labor. Certainly we understand the need to set our tools aside, whether wrenches or pencils, sewing needles or hammers. We need to take time to replenish ourselves physically and mentally. This is true, even though there are people who treat themselves like machines or robots, driven by some overwhelming need. But I have noticed that those who drive themselves continually never seem further ahead than anyone else anyway. It seems, as a matter of fact, that they are usually further behind.
A person cannot push himself beyond certain limits without inviting eventual disaster. Our bodies are not indestructible. No amount of medicine, no scientific strides can correct the human body which has been abused due to a lack of rest. Rest has healing properties that prevent self-destruction. We pay heavily for pushing ourselves beyond reasonable limits. People who work out at the gym on a regular basis know the value of rest. The motion of lifting heavy weights is a process of tearing down the muscles. Muscular growth can only occur as the muscles heal. You cannot expose the same muscles to tearing down day after day and expect the muscles to get larger. More rapid muscularity is obtained with a day of rest between work outs. Strong muscles need to be used, but also need rest to grow.
So too the brain. Mental stress is exhausting and draining to our bodies. Sometimes even more so than physical labor. To go on and on without allowing the brain to rest is risking the possibility of nervous breakdown or burn out. The brain, that magnificently complicated part of the body, so little about which is known to scientists, is subject to limitations. It too needs rest. A lively brain needs to be used, but also needs rest to grow.
But there is more to rest than just the need for relief from physical and mental exertion. There is the spiritual part of our lives; when that breaks down, we are really in trouble. Unfortunately, so many people are so busy physically and mentally, they never take the time to rest in the most vital sense. They don’t take time to be replenished spiritually. When we do rest, rest is sitting in front of the television set; rest is going for a drive or visiting the neighbors; rest is going to special events and entertainment; rest is sleeping. Alone time, time for solitude and prayers, for this we don’t really appreciate the value. We can waste time doing nothing, but we can say we are too busy for prayer, for being alone with God. As we said – our physical dimension, or muscles, need both exercise and rest to operate at their best; our mental dimension, our brains, need both exercise and rest to be healthy. So in the same way, our spiritual dimension, alone time with our relationship with God needs to be exercised if it is to be useful for us. Time set aside, according to the commandment, for holy purposes.
God’s way of telling us to sit down and turn our attention to see what life is really about. The setting aside of time to get a clearer view of where God fits into our lives. Getting our relationship with God straight in our minds gives us a proper perspective for evaluating the other things we do and have. To realize anew that there is someone beyond our daily activities takes some work on our part. We need time and opportunity to get our bearing. I need that just as regularly as you do. When I am busy out visiting in the parish, preparing for meetings, writing sermons, it is easy to forget where God is in my life – I get so caught up in the doing that I forget the one for whom I am acting. Without a concerted effort to set aside ‘alone time’ for prayer and solitude, I have a much more difficult time keeping my life in balance.
A long time ago, when radio was still just becoming popular, a letter was sent to a radio station from a prospector in the hills of Montana. It was written on a brown paper bag, folded into an envelope, and contained an unusual request, reading, “I am a regular listener of your station and I want to ask you a favor. It gets lonely up here and besides the radio and my dog, I have no company. I do have a violin, but it’s badly out of tune. Would you please be kind enough at 7:00 PM next Sunday night to strike an ‘A’ note, so I can put the fiddle in tune?”
At first the people at the radio station laughed about this request. But after some thought the manager began to put the request into perspective. So the following Sunday evening, precisely at 7:00 PM, the programming was interrupted, and an ‘A’ note sounded for the lonely prospector. So it is in our lives. We have a way of getting out of balance and we need time for prayer and solitude with God in order to get back into the daily life with proper balance. In the maddening pace of the day-to-day routines, it is good to be alone with God. Jesus knew that when he sent the crowds home and the disciples on their way across the lake. May we learn from his wisdom to do likewise.
SERVICE OF THE BREAD OF LIFE
(please take the bread into your hands)
Holy One, as we gather together at your table, let this bread be a celebration
of our thankfulness for your mercies and tender care, embodied in your Son, Jesus Christ, who walked among us, and touched us, and healed us.
By partaking in this bread, we remember your providence
when you fed our ancestors with manna as they wandered in the desert.
We remember how Jesus fed the 5000 with only a few loaves of bread and some fish. Likewise, we remember the lilies of the field, holding onto the hope that even as you care for these that neither toil nor spin, so will you also provide amply for us.
Holy God, we your people remain scattered this morning, but we trust that you are near to each of us in this day and in all days.
You have promised that nothing can ever separate us from your love,
And that as we are open to your Spirit, you will make yourself known to us wherever we might find ourselves.
As you poured out your Spirit in abundance upon those first disciples, we pray for your Spirit to be upon us and within us in these difficult days.
Empower us to be your people in the world, witnesses to your magnificent and overwhelming love at work even now.
In eating this bread may we be strengthened for the week ahead, nourished in a spiritual way to be confident and hopeful.
May we be voices of reason and compassion in the midst of the strident and often harsh rhetoric of those who are impatient and angry. We understand the frustrations but seek to find a way to provide both safety and security in these precarious times.
We pray for all essential workers, for all those who continue to struggle with unemployment and overwhelming need, for all those who are feeling forgotten,
for all who deal with illness, for all those who are afraid.
Even though we cannot be together as one, we remain together in your spirit, and we share in the breaking of the bread.
May this bread empower us to be your people wherever we might find ourselves.
May it remove all fear and all doubt, so that we might be nourished and strengthened for the days ahead, knowing that you walk with us in our journey of this life.
And being fed, may we continue with a new and profound hope, always witnessing to your love by sharing that love and care and concern with others.
Bless this bread and us, that we may be your people at work in the world.
(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:
August 9 Outdoor Worship Zion House 9:00 a.m.
August 10 Ladies Breakfast Apple Bin 9:00 a.m.
August 11 A/V Cmte Mtg Sanctuary 6:00 p.m.
August 16 Outdoor Worship Zion House 9:00 a.m.
August 17 Men’s Breakfast Apple Bin 8:00 a.m.
Consistory Mtg Fellowship Hall 7:00 p.m.
August 18 UACT Youth Cmte Zion House lawn 6:00 p.m.
Pastoral Care: If you would like a visit from George, please contact him and let him know a convenient time.
Ladies Breakfast: Don’t forget! Tomorrow Zion’s ladies are meeting at the Apple Bin at 9:00 a.m. for breakfast! You can social distance but still socialize. Join us!
Men’s Breakfast: Zion’s men will meet on August 17th at the Apple Bin at 8:00 a.m. for breakfast. Please let Eddie D. know if you plan to attend.
Hoffman Home School Supplies: Last chance! Give your money to Jo M. (cash or check made out to her) to support Zion’s commitment to Hoffman Home’s Hoffman Academy. Jo will purchase needed school supplies and see that they are delivered. Thanks to all who have contributed so far to this worthwhile Mission project.
Worship & Sunday School Update: A joint decision has been reached to continue worshipping outdoors until the end of October, at which point we hope a safe transition to the sanctuary can be made. Since the autumn can be a bit chilly, October’s worship time will be 10:00 a.m. Also, after much discussion involving the Consistory, Task Force, and Christian Education Director, it has been decided to postpone the official opening of Sunday School until at least November 1st.
Confirmation Update: With the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, schooling formats, and pastoral transition, and after discussion with parents, the Consistory has decided to postpone the start of a new Confirmation class until the fall of 2021. The maturity of another year will add to the stability necessary for students to affirm their church membership and perhaps allow for a new pastor to be called!
Search Committee: There is still time for your anonymous participation in the formation of the Search Committee! The members of this committee will work represent our congregation, and therefore the Consistory would like input from you. On the table near the bulletins and giving basket, there are slips of paper. Please take one home and, after careful consideration, list five members of the congregation whose opinions you respect and trust. Bring the paper back by August 16th and put it in the envelope. The Consistory thanks you for your participation.