Worship: July 19, 2020

ZION UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST

22 Gettysburg Street  Box 538

Arendtsville, Pennsylvania

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

July 19, 2020

 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, but we are here social distancing and trying to maintain a safe environment as we worship in the parking lot.  We will continue to worship on the parking lot for the foreseeable future; in case of inclement weather, the announcement of cancelation of worship will be sent by an email blast to those of you who have provided your email address to the church office and there will also be an announcement on the church office answering machine by 7:30 am Sunday morning.  If there is no worship on the parking lot, there will be a Zoom 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!!

A TIME OF SHARING AND CONCERNS

(If you have concerns or an announcement, please write it down and give it to the greeter stationed at the bulletin and offering table before you are seated.)

*CALL TO WORSHIP

God’s steadfast love extends beyond the farthest star,

yet that love is also present among us.

Bless the Lord, O my soul,

and all that is within me, bless God’s holy name.

God’s saving acts were experienced by our ancestors,

and God continues to act in our own day.

Bless the Lord, O my soul,

And do not forget all God’s benefits.

God’s concern is for all creation, for all worlds,

yet that care draws us close in these moments.

The whole creation is filled with eager longing;

bless the Lord, all who live in hope.

 

* PRAYER OF INVOCATION

As we keep your command to keep this day holy,

we acknowledge your righteousness.

As we obey your command to keep this day as a day of rest,

we acknowledge your wisdom.

As we follow the example of Jesus by helping others on this day,

we acknowledge your grace.

 

TIME OF CONFESSION

With the Apostle Paul we long to be set free,

with all creation, from our bondage to decay.

By our own actions, the flame of God’s Spirit

is so often dimmed within us that we cannot discern it.

Yet God is always willing to re-create and renew us

as we confess our neglect, wrongdoing, and need.

 We confess, in the words of the once‑popular song,

we want to do it our way.

We resent intrusions on our freedom.

Sometimes we have done something we knew was wrong,

 simply out of rebellion.

When we make decisions, we first ask, “How will it affect me?”

Forgive our self-centeredness,

and help us always to yield to your claim on our lives.

 

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

keep us from being fully free.

 

ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS

“My little children,” said the apostle John in his first letter,

“I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.

But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father,

Jesus Christ the righteous,

and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins,

and not for ours only,

but also for the sins of the whole world.

 

Thanks be to God for this magnificent gift of love.

 

THE GIVING OF OURSELVES AND OUR OFFERINGS

We pray by expressing our concerns and our priorities with our lips,

but we also pray by expressing our concerns and priorities

with our financial contributions.

 

(If you did not place your offering in the basket prior to being seated for worship, you are invited to place your offering there before you leave this morning.  You can also choose to mail it to Zion United Church of Christ, PO Box 538, Arendtsville, Pennsylvania 17303.  Your ongoing support of the church is deeply appreciated in these days.)

*PRAYER OF DEDICATION

Receive these tithes and offerings, Lord, as a kind of prayer —

a prayer for the ministry of this congregation in this place

 and for its ministry worldwide.

 

HYMN # 14   “For the Beauty of the Earth”

Printed with permission under license CCLI #1149146

 

For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies,

For the love which from our birth over and around us lies:

Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.

 

For the wonder of each hour of the day and of the night,

Hill and vale, and tree and flower, sun and moon, and stars of light:

Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.

 

For the joy of ear and eye, for the heart and mind’s delight,

For the mystic harmony linking sense to sound and sight:

Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.

 

For the joy of human love, brother, sister, parent child,

Friends on earth, and friends above, for all gentle thoughts and mild:

Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.

 

For thyself, best gift divine to the world so freely given;

For that great, great love of thine, peace on earth and joy in heaven:

Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.

 

OLD TESTAMENT LESSON

Genesis 28: 10-19, p.24  (OT)

 

28:10 Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran.
28:11 He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place.
28:12 And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.
28:13 And the LORD stood beside him and said, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring;
28:14 and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring.
28:15 Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
28:16 Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place–and I did not know it!”
28:17 And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
28:18 So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it.
28:19a He called that place Bethel; but the name of the city was Luz at the first.

 

EPISTLE LESSON

Romans 8: 12-25, p. 147 (NT)

 

8:12 So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh —
8:13 for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
8:14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.
8:15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!”
8:16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
8:17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ–if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
8:18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.
8:19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God;
8:20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope
8:21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
8:22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now;
8:23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
8:24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen?
8:25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

 

GOSPEL LESSON

St. Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43, p. 13 (NT)

 

13:24 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field;
13:25 but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away.
13:26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well.
13:27 And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’
13:28 He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’
13:29 But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them.
13:30 Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'”
13:36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.”
13:37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man;
13:38 the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one,
13:39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels.
13:40 Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age.
13:41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers,
13:42 and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
13:43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!

 

SILENT PRAYER AND PREPARATION

 

THE MESSAGE FOR THE MORNING – you can also view the recorded sermon at https://youtu.be/Y1DhpmJtJvY

July 19, 2020

Seventh Sunday After Pentecost

Old Testament: Genesis 28: 10-19

Romans 8: 12-25

St. Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43

Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said “Surely the Lord is in this place ‑ and I did not know it!”  Over the years I have met and become friends with people whom others would consider but little better than the devil himself.  I have known murderers, cheats, thieves, and adulterers, and I have come to one conclusion about all these people who have crossed my path, and that conclusion is that you cannot know what is going to come next, nor can you pin down just where God is and what God is about.

I want you to hold onto that thought today ‑  I want you to hold onto it when you meet people that strike you as evil, and I want you to hold onto it when you feel that you yourselves are out of reach of God.  Hold on to that thought when you watch the news and when you are feeling particularly guilty.  Hold onto that thought when you see the neighborhood gossip doing her rounds, and I want you to hold onto it when you encounter an unscrupulous salesman doing his pitch.

We do not know what is going to come next, nor can we pin down just where God is and what God is about.  This is the message of Jacob’s story.  The same Jacob who cheated his brother and stole his birthright.  The same Jacob who fled to do his father’s bidding, who fled not because he was particularly obedient but because he feared that he would be killed if he stayed at home.

And as he fled, he came to a certain place and stayed there for the night.  He took a stone and put it under his head and lay down, and he slept — and he dreamed – and in that dream God came to him. God came to Jacob who was tired and fearful, who was alone and thought that he was loved by none except his mother.  God came to Jacob who was a cheat and a rascal and goodness knows what else, and God gave to him a vision of a staircase reaching into heaven, of a ladder upon which the angels ascended and descended to do God’s bidding and as Jacob looked upon this scene God gave him a promise – the promise made to his grandfather Abraham and to his father Isaac, saying “know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, know that I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

And Jacob awoke and as if a sudden spark entered into his being, Jacob exclaimed, “Surely the Lord is in this place ‑ and I did not know it!” Have you ever had something similar happen – a sudden awareness of God’s presence in your life?  A presence that was always there but you hardly noticed it?  Have you ever suddenly realized that God had been with you long before you knew God was there? Have you ever been afraid or uncomfortable or confused only to discover God coming to your aid?

The good news that came to Jacob in a dream and that comes to us is that we are connected with God.  The good news is not that God sometimes comes to us.  The good news is not that heaven and earth are somehow linked together.  The good news is not that God comes to people who are good and obedient.  The good news is not that Jacob was a special kind of person despite his tricky ways.  Nor is the good news simply that we see God keeping and renewing the promise to Abraham and to Isaac to raise up a people and to bless them to be blessing.

No, the good news is all but hidden in that single sentence: “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.!” Do you understand?  Do you get it?   The gospel reading today, the reading about the parable of the wheat and the tares is instructive for us.  It is instructive, not because it prophecies the ultimate destruction of evil doers nor because it teaches us that the blights on our lives and the weeds that suck up the nutrition of better plants are afflictions that come from evil.  No, it is instructive for us because it counsels patience.  Patience in the face of situations that seem bad to us, patience in the face of attacks by evil, patience in the midst of our urge to go out and fix things and make them right, patience in the face of our desire to make judgements about others and to act on those judgements. We do not know what is going to come next, nor can we pin down just where God is and what God is about.

In fact, we can’t even be sure that the weeds about us will remain weeds and that the wheat will remain wheat.  Consider Moses ‑ a murderer. Consider David ‑ an adulterer. Consider the Apostle Paul ‑ a religious vigilante who persecuted the early Christians. Consider the disciple Peter ‑ a hypocrite and a coward. Who would think that God would work with them, that God would be present with them, that God would love them, that God would make them great,  that God would grant unto them the blessings of the kingdom?.

Consider this.  The servants in the parable of the wheat and the weeds ask, “Master, do you want us to go out and gather the weeds for burning?  Do you want us to pluck out the evil sown by your enemy, to try to separate out the roots, to destroy that which is doing harm?”  “No,” says the master, “for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them.  Wait till harvest time, wait until the reapers go forth.  Wait.”

What is Jesus trying to tell his listeners about our relationship with God?   Where is God?  What is God doing? We do not know what is going to come next, nor can we pin down just where God is and what God is about.  But we can be sure of one thing, we can know one truth, and that is God will surprise us.  God will surprise us by embracing us when we feel dirty and unclean, God will surprise us by turning our greatest afflictions into sources of strength and healing,  God  will surprise us by taking the lost and alone and making them great lights, God will surprise us by changing the wicked into saints and by casting down those whose righteousness turned out to be only something they wore on their sleeves.  God will surprise us by making sour lemons into thirst quenching drinks. God will surprise us by converting moments of pain into stripes that heal.  God will surprise us by changing a time of death into an eternity of glorious life.

Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it.  This could be a cry of despair coming as it does from Jacob’s most unworthy lips, it could be the kind of cry we have all uttered when we have done one thing when we ought to have done another,  it could be a cry of despair and a moment of longing for that which is past.   But it is not!  For Jacob, that cry signals a moment of awakening, a time of opening his eyes and truly seeing, a time of opening his ears and truly listening.  A time of coming from the night of uncertainty into the daylight of a holy hope.  For Jacob that cry signals a moment of discovering that, yes, God is here:  here even when we do not know it, here even when we think that God cannot, should not, will not be here, here even when we are not looking for God to be here.  And in discovering that God is here, it is for Jacob a moment in which he understands that God is here to bless and to heal; that God is here to comfort and to guide; that God is here to change, to transform; that God is here to help and to reassure.

And Jacob woke from his sleep, and he said “surely the Lord is in this place ‑ and I did not know it”.  And Jacob was afraid.  Afraid not because he had made some mistake, but afraid because he realized just how holy was the place he was in, and as he looked in that fear upon the sand and rock and the dry plants and soil of that place, he said “How awesome (for truly his fear was not like we commonly think of the word but truly an awe at the power and presence of God) is this place.  This is none other than the house of God and this is the gate of heaven”  And Jacob took the stone upon which he had laid his head while he slept and he made of it a kind of memorial.  He poured oil on the stone upon which he had his vision and he named the place in which he had slept, Bethel, “The House of God”. How awesome indeed is the place of God, the place in which the weeds are allowed to grow up with the wheat, the place in which all we have for pillows are stones,  the place in which we fear and long for comfort and think we have none, the place in which the lost are found and the blind given sight.  We do not know what is going to come next, nor can we pin down just where God is and what God is about.

But if we wait, if we let God do whatever it is God does, if we let God move in his mysterious ways his wonders to perform, we will find ourselves surprised in the most wonderful of ways, we will discover that where we are, wherever we are, is the House of God and that next to us is the gate of heaven.  As we are open to knowing God’s closeness, God’s presence, we will find our God nearer than we can imagine or hope, we will discover a sense of God’s love at work within and through us, and we will, like Jacob, know that wherever we are with God is a holy place.

 

PASTORAL PRAYER AND THE LORD’S PRAYER

Our Father who art in heaven,

Hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done

On earth, as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our sins

As we forgive those who sin against us.

And lead us not into temptation,

But deliver us from evil.

For Thine is the kingdom,

And the power, and the glory, forever.  Amen.

 

HYMN # 32  “I Sing the Mighty Power of God”

Printed with permission under license CCLI #1149146

 

I sing the mighty power of God that made the mountains rise,

That spread the flowing seas abroad and built the lofty skies.

I sing the wisdom that ordained the sun to rule the day.

The moon shines full at God’s command, and all the stars obey.

 

I sing the goodness of the Lord who filled the earth with food.

God formed the creatures through the Word, and then pronounced them good.

Lord, how thy wonders are displayed, where’er I turn my eye,

If I survey the ground I tread, or gaze upon the sky!

 

There’s not a plant or flower below but makes thy glories known.

And clouds arise and tempests blow, by order from thy throne,

While all that borrows life from thee is ever in thy care,

And everywhere that we can be, thou, God, art present there.

 

COMMISSION

In this be confident,

that God goes before you to lead you,

walks beside you to protect you,

and lives within you to strengthen you.

 

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:

July 19                             Outdoor Worship             Zion House            9:00 a.m.

July 20                             Mens Breakfast                Apple Bin              8:00 a.m.

 

Looking Forward:

July 26                             Outdoor Worship             Zion House            9:00 a.m.

Hot Dog Roast                 Zion House            6:00 p.m.

July 27                             Consistory Mtg                Zoom                     7:00 p.m.

 

Pastoral Care:  Now that we have entered the “green” phase, if you are interested in having a visit from the pastor please let him know.  George is quite willing to do home visitation, but it needs to be at your comfort and convenience.

Hot Dog Roast:  Mark your calendars for the hot dog roast next Sunday evening, July 26th at 6:00 p.m. behind Zion House.  Bring your masks and a side dish to share.

Volunteer Needed:   Zion is looking for someone to fill the shoes of Dawn C. as Christian Ed. Secretary.  If you’ve been searching for a way to be more involved with the life of the church, this might be the opportunity you want!  Please see Minda H. or Craig L. about the duties involved.

Men’s Breakfast Group:  Zion’s men will meet for breakfast at The Apple Bin on tomorrow, July 20th at 8:00 a.m.  Please call Eddie D. if you plan to attend.

Ice Cream Fundraiser:  McDannell’s Fruit Market is planning to hold an ice cream sale to benefit the Bieseckers on August 2nd.  In previous years, Zion also held a Bake Sale at the market but has decided to not do that this year.  We hope to pick up again next year so if you discover a delightful dessert or snack, keep that recipe on hand for next year!