ZION UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST
22 Gettysburg Street Box 538
Third Sunday after Pentecost
June 21, 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
Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth,
sing the glory of God’s name and give to God glorious praise.
Praise the Lord, all heavenly hosts;
let the courts of heaven resound with joy.
Praise the Lord, all creation;
let the hills and valleys sing for joy.
Praise the Lord, all the nations;
let all people everywhere honor God.
* PRAYER OF INVOCATION
Open our eyes to see your goodness.
Open our ears to hear your word.
Open our mouths to sing your praises.
Open our hearts to receive your Spirit.
Open our hands to share your blessings.
TIME OF CONFESSION
God is on our side, yet how easily we move away from God’s side.
God is eager to walk with us through the turmoil and troubles of life,
Yet we hide from God and flee from the only relationship that can fulfill us.
God offers us rest and renewal, but we often refuse to turn away
from our busy schedules to receive God’s gift.
Who will rescue us from our foolish ways?
we confess that we have not lived as we should;
we have not loved as we should;
we have not served as we should.
Forgive us, we pray;
remove our sins from us and renew a right spirit in us
so we may live, and love, and serve as your people.
Now let us silently reflect on the personal sins and fears that
keep us from being fully free.
ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS
The Lord is near to all who call upon him,
to all who call upon him in truth.
God fulfills the desire of all who fear him,
hearing their cry and saving them.
Thank God for this magnificent gift of love.
THE GIVING OF OURSELVES AND OUR OFFERINGS
“What good is it,” asked the Scripture writer James,
“if you say you have faith but do not have works?
Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”
(Your ongoing support is appreciated and can be mailed to Zion United Church of Christ, PO Box 538, Arendtsville, Pennsylvania 17307. The work and witness of Zion continues in new ways as we adjust to this new normal.)
*PRAYER OF DEDICATION
We present these tithes and offerings
with a sense that you have chosen us
to be channels of your grace to other people,
so we give with a sense of pride and responsibility.
OLD TESTAMENT LESSON
Genesis 21: 8-21, p.16 (OT)
21:8 The child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned.
21:9 But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac.
21:10 So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.”
21:11 The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son.
21:12 But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you.
21:13 As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.”
21:14 So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.
21:15 When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes.
21:16 Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Do not let me look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept.
21:17 And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is.
21:18 Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.”
21:19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink.
21:20 God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow.
21:21 He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt.
Romans 6: 1b-11, p. 146 (NT)
6:1b Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?
6:2 By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it?
6:3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
6:4 Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in the newness of life.
6:5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
6:6 We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.
6:7 For whoever has died is freed from sin.
6:8 But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
6:9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.
6:10 The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
6:11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
St. Matthew 10: 24-39, p. 10 (NT)
10:24 “A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master;
10:25 it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!
10:26 “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known.
10:27 What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.
10:28 Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
10:29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.
10:30 And even the hairs of your head are all counted.
10:31 So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
10:32 “Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven;
10:33 but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.
10:34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
10:35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
10:36 and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.
10:37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
10:38 and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
10:39 Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
SILENT PRAYER AND PREPARATION
THE MESSAGE FOR THE MORNING – you can also view the sermon at https://youtu.be/WgQksp9wfqQ
Third Sunday After Pentecost
Romans 6: 1-11
St. Matthew 10: 24-39
This morning’s Gospel portrays a very different Jesus from the one we commonly like to imagine – gentle Jesus, meek and mild. The Jesus who gathers children around him; the Jesus who offers hope and healing to the poor and lonely; the Jesus who reaches out in tender love and compassion to the outcasts of society; these images are all missing. This morning’s image of Jesus stands in contrast to all that – here, Jesus appears angry and frustrated, challenging his disciples, daring them to make a choice and a decision about their own life’s direction and making them aware of the possible costs and consequences.
It appears that Jesus is reacting to his own struggle to get people, even his own disciples, to truly understand the cost of following the way that leads to God’s eternal realm. It is hard for Jesus to realize that the message he proclaims is not being accepted by the religious leaders of his day; that he has angered and alienated them. It must have been difficult for him to wonder when they would react, how they would try to stop him, how much time he had left to do the work God had given. In the midst of this, Jesus talks to his followers about conflict and about the price of the way they have chosen.
This particular passage is part of a long passage regarding trust and using the gifts that God has given. Chapter ten of the Gospel of Matthew finds Jesus sending his disciples out on a mission to the nearby towns and villages. They are to proclaim good news, to offer healing and hope, and to share the message of God with the people they encounter along the way. Jesus warns them that they will meet opposition and misunderstanding and will not always receive a friendly welcome. But in the midst of all this, Jesus assures them that they can trust God, and that trust will overcome all fear.
Jesus speaks now of peace. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Again, peace is probably what Jesus would have liked most to bring to this earth. As he taught and healed, his followers caught a vision of what peace might be. The prophets before Jesus had spoken of a life that was full and whole, of a peace that included everyone and did away with injustice and oppression. Jesus spoke this same type of message. Peace was not merely the absence of war; peace was not a personal peace that insulated and isolated a person from the struggles and realities of the world; peace was not feeling good or being nice. Living in peace meant you had to choose where you would place your trust, how you would use your time, spend your money, use your power and energy.
Somewhere along the way, Jesus was aware that most people were not accepting the message. People were not eager to stop accumulating wealth and live modestly, sharing their wealth. People were not ready to trust the good of the community over their own personal ambitions. People weren’t enthusiastic about the rights of others but were very concerned about looking out for their own rights. People might have known that the way they were doing things was not leading to peace, but they were not about to change either. As destructive as their present actions were, they were unwilling to take the risks of peace on Jesus’ terms. They did not know how to live by peace, or how badly they needed it.
And the few who did try to live by Jesus’ vision found that their lives were not very peaceful either. Many of them had experienced Jesus’ healing touch, they knew the presence of God at work through Jesus, they had changed their priorities. Maybe they expected that somehow their personal lives would improve – even if the authorities and neighbors rejected them, they expected that their families would be supportive. But instead came conflict and misunderstanding.
They shared a vision with Jesus, of a world where all people were treated with dignity; a world where human need and suffering were met with a compassionate response; where people were not divided, one from the other, but were united in a mutual respect; where differences among people were not dealt with by suspicion, but by appreciation for the variety of gifts and characters. They committed themselves to work toward a world where all this would be possible. Maybe those who embraced Jesus’ vision knew that they would never change the world by themselves, but they thought that at least their families would be supportive and understanding. It must have been terribly painful that the people closest to them didn’t share that vision of peace – that they valued money and possessions, admired those who had power over others, clung to the barriers that divide people, and thought anyone who did otherwise was either a fool or “one brick short of a load”.
So, in the midst of this tension, Jesus says some new things about peace. Jesus says He has not come to bring peace, at least not the kind of peace that most people in the world are looking for – personal peace that is understood in terms of having enough money to be comfortable, being isolated and insulated from the problems of others, feeling good about yourself. Not this kind of peace, but the peace that comes in relationship to God – an eternal peace that cannot be taken away. This understanding of peace involves making choices – choices about priorities, loyalties, the use of our resources. Always those kinds of choices lead to division. Division was the only way to eternal peace. People who seek to follow should expect conflict to result from a decision to follow Jesus. They should not be ashamed or feel guilty about it. It just happens. Peace would come, but only through walking the hard road and dealing with tough conflicts along the way.
What do these hard words say to us? They acknowledge that Jesus and his followers had family conflict. Having a perfect family life was not a requirement for disciples in the early church. You could be a good disciple, even a leader, even if there was conflict at home. Jesus’ followers must have experienced great anguish when they realized that, in choosing to follow him, they had to leave their families behind because they could not accept this vision of peace, could not value Jesus’ message. They had to choose between living at peace with their families and compromising or living at peace with God even though it brought divisions.
More than addressing family conflict though, Jesus seems to be telling us that the choices we make about what we believe and what we value and where we spend our time are important. They have consequences in all our relationships. Jesus invites us to risk choosing the way that brings peace in the end – generosity of self, working for the good of all, justice – even though it may bring division at the present moment.
Yet we do not follow alone. We take heart from the knowledge that there are those who have walked the way before us and who walk the path with us now; we support one another in trying to live by values that will bring wholeness and real peace to the world; we trust that by the power of God such peace will come. We walk secure in the presence of God, knowing God’s peace in the midst of the struggle so all people may know that peace.
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.
Coming Up Next Week:
June 21 Outdoor Worship Zion House 9:00 a.m.
Zoom Worship 11:00 a.m.
June 23 Profile Cmte Mtg 7:30 p.m.
June 28 Outdoor Worship Zion House 9:00 a.m.
Zoom Worship 11:00 a.m.
Hot Dog Roast Zion House 6:00 p.m.
Happy Anniversary to Bill and Jane S. who celebrate 55 years together on June 26th.
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: Come join us for the hot dog roast on Sunday, June 28th at 6:00 p.m. by the fire pit behind Zion House. Bring a side dish to share with your friends as well as a lawn chair and mask. Social distancing will be in effect; come join us for fellowship 6 feet apart.
Ladies Breakfast Group: A note from Sally – Ladies, please join us July 13th at The Apple Bin at 9:00 a.m. for breakfast. We will be in our usual room with tables spaced for social distancing. Looking forward to seeing all of you. Please let me know a week ahead if you are attending so I can give a head count to the restaurant. It will be great to be together again.
Men’s Breakfast Group: Zion’s men will meet for breakfast at The Apple Bin on Monday, July 20th at 8:00 a.m. Please call Eddie D. if you plan to attend.
Worship Update: Wow! We have been blessed with great weather for Zion’s outdoor worship services, but it IS summer so heat will be returning! Please feel free to place your lawn chairs near the tree hedge at the back of the parking lot or near any trees to take advantage of their shade. If you have hand-held fans lying in a drawer at home, you could resurrect them. You may also want to bring along umbrellas to shield yourselves from the sun. If the heat is too bothersome, you may choose to park in the rear and start your car engine from time to time to run your air conditioning for a bit until your car cools down. Just crack your windows to continue hearing the service. Remember, if 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.