Oct. 25, 2020 Worship

Reformation Sunday

The Presbyterian Church, Coshocton, Ohio

Pastor Karen Crawford

Mark Wagner, Organist

Jeff Sycks, Liturgist

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Prelude Chorale Prelude on Ein feste Burg ist unser Go Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1707)

Greeting/Announcements Pastor Karen
Flowers are given in loving memory of the King and Walling family by Randy and Cindy Walling and family.

Sharing Joys and Concerns

Opening Words (Psalm 90:1-6, 13-14) Jeff Sycks
Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
You turn us back to dust, and say, “Turn back, you mortals.”
For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past, or like a watch in the night.
You sweep them away; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning; in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.
Turn, O Lord! How long? Have compassion on your servants!
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

*Hymn A Mighty Fortress Is Our God Martin Luther
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing.
Our helper he, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe.
His craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing,
were not the right man on our side, the man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is he.
Lord Sabaoth his name, from age to age the same,
And he must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God hath willed his truth to triumph through us.
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him.
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure.
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them abideth.
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also.
The body they may kill; God’s truth abideth stll.
His kingdom is forever.

Call to Confession/Prayer of Confession/Assurance of Pardon
Lord Jesus, you have revealed the truth to us and set us free to love you and one another. But we live as if we are still slaves to sin. We are shackled by our own self-interest; we deprive the vulnerable of resources that you have given us to share. We are bound by prejudice; we deprive your children of the dignity you have given them. We are held captive to fear; we refuse opportunities to participate in your reign of grace. Speak to us again, we pray, and write your word upon our hearts until the truth we proclaim sets us free to follow you faithfully. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Time with Children and Youth

Prayer for Illumination
Readings: Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Romans 3:19-28

Holy wisdom, holy word. Thanks be to God!

Reading John 8:31-36
This is the gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ!

Message The Truth Will Make You Free

Hymn Take Thou Our Minds, Dear Lord William H. Foulkes

Take thou our minds, dear Lord, we humbly pray;
give us the mind of Christ each passing day;
teach us to know the truth that sets us free;
grant us in all our thoughts to honor thee.

Take thou ourselves, O Lord, heart, mind, and will;
Through our surrendered souls thy plans fulfill.
We yield ourselves to thee: time, talents, all;
We hear, and henceforth heed, thy sovereign call.

Confirming the Faith of Ashley Bryant, Mason Gano, Courtney Snyder and Ethan Swigert
Questions for the confirmands
Trusting in the gracious mercy of God, do you turn from the ways of sin and renounce evil and its power in the world?
I do.
Who is your Lord and Savior?
Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.
Will you be Christ’s faithful disciple, obeying his word and showing his love?
I will, with God’s help.
Will you devoted yourself to the church’s teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers?
I will, with God’s help.

Affirmation of Faith: Apostles’ Creed
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.

Welcome
Ashley Bryant, Mason Gano, Courtney Snyder and Ethan Swigert, by professing your faith publicly, you have expressed your intention to grow in the covenant God made with you in your baptism. May the Spirit continue to strengthen and sustain you in the worship and mission of the church. Amen. Alleluia!

Invitation to the Offering

Offertory Pastorale on St. Anne (Our God, Our Help in Ages Past)
O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come:
O be our guard while troubles last, and our eternal home.

*Doxology
*Prayer of Thanksgiving and Dedication/Lord’s Prayer
Lord, you have blessed the work of our hands, given us resources and talents to share in your service, entrusted us with gifts to share for the building up of your kingdom. We rejoice that you enlist us to participate in your providential care for all creation. We celebrate the work of your Spirit in us and in our world and through these gifs we give to you in faith and hope. Bless and use them in ways we may never see but can nonetheless trust. In Christ’s name we continue our 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 debts, as we forgive our debtors; 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 Come Sing, O Church, in Joy! Brian Dill

Come sing, O church, in joy! Come join, O church, in song!
For Christ the Lord has led us through the ages long!
In bold accord, come celebrate the journey now and praise the Lord!

Let courage be our friend; let wisdom be our guide,
As we in mission magnify the Crucified!
In bold accord, come celebrate the journey now and praise the Lord!

*Charge and Benediction

Postlude Toccata in F Major Dietrich Buxtehude



The Truth Will Make You Free

Meditation on John chapter 8: 31-36

Reformation Sunday

The Presbyterian Church, Coshocton, Ohio

Pastor Karen Crawford

Oct. 25, 2020

This year, our Confirmation program was nothing like we’ve ever experienced. And it wasn’t just because of the new Presbyterian Confirmation curriculum.

    We kicked off the program in January with a parent/mentor/student meeting after worship. I passed out a syllabus that would end up being changed numerous times, due to circumstances beyond our control. We struggled to come up with a day when everyone was available to meet. We settled on Wednesday nights. Each student chose a mentor from the congregation, and mentors were invited to join us for many of the classes and for pizza in West Lafayette one wintry night. We had guest speakers at every class share personal stories of faith. All of our mentors shared, as did other people in our congregation, our presbytery, and some from the community, such as Susie Stout from Roscoe United Methodist, who shared the gospel through a magic show! Now, that was a tough act to follow!  

    Sometime in February, I remember saying that I wished I had more time with the kids. I thought we were going too fast, rushing through important concepts. The curriculum was meant for a full school year. Then, a scheduling conflict with sports came up, and we worried that we might lose one of our students. We couldn’t move the class to another night, without losing others. All we could do was pray.

    And then, the church and the schools closed because of COVID-19. The kids had plenty of time for the program, but we couldn’t meet in person. We decided to meet via Zoom. We had never done that before!

The Spirit continued to guide, feed and teach us as the weeks passed. I moved away from the curriculum, so we could give more time for sharing struggles, joys, and prayer concerns. Those Zoom meetings helped ease the loneliness and isolation that the students and adults were feeling. I remember sad expressions sometimes as we said goodbye. Pentecost—the day that we were supposed to confirm the students—came and went; the church was still not gathering in person. In mid-July, we began meeting at the church parlor for confirmation, though we still weren’t worshiping in-person. It was a good thing John Addy was there the night a big bat flew into the parlor right before class began. He took care of the bat. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

At our last meeting, the students laid blue sheets on the floor to symbolize the Jordan river and the Israelites crossing to the Land of the Promise in Joshua. I brought stones from my garden, and the students were invited to choose a stone from the river, one by one. As they picked them up, we said, “Remember, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are with you.” I wonder if the students still have their stones to help them remember?

After hearing their faith statements and encouraging them, Session approved the students’ membership last month.

The one thing I have always hoped the children would know by the end of Confirmation is that this is THEIR church, not just the church of their parents and grandparents. And I have always wanted them to know me, not just as a pastor they see leading worship on Sunday morning, but as a person who cares about them. I always hope that Confirmation will be the beginning of our long friendship.

While they study Bible, Confessions, Church History, The Ten Commandments and Lord’s Prayer, and the polity of the Presbyterian Church, what I want them to know, most of all, is about God’s love, mercy and grace. In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven for all our sins!

This is the truth that makes us free!

***

It was this simple but astounding truth and other promises in God’s Word that spoke to the heart of Reformers of the later Middle Ages. Many brave and bold voices, male and female, spoke against the errors and oppression of the Roman Church, before and after Luther hammered his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg church door on Oct. 31, 1517.

Battles were fought and lives lost because of these radical ideas about our God, the Bible in the language of the people, and the work of Jesus Christ as sufficient for all sin. The question was and is for all the ages, “How can a person be saved and have eternal life?” The answer: by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ and not by our works.

The Reformation of the Church and our transformation by the Spirit continues today with our readings, including John chapter 8, the topic of which is sin. We don’t like to talk about sin—and neither did the people of Jesus’ day.

This chapter begins with the story of the woman caught in adultery. Jesus bends down and writes with his finger in the sand, before answering the Pharisees’ questions about justice and the law of Moses, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

One by one, they go away, convicted of their own sin.

“Woman, where are they?” Jesus asks. “Has no one condemned you?”

 “No one, sir,” she answers, probably with relief in her voice.

 “Neither do I condemn you,” says the gracious Son of our merciful God. “Go your way and sin no more.”

    In today’s passage, beginning at verse 31, Jesus speaks to a large group of people who had come to believe in him, but we find out, they aren’t his true disciples. Jesus says, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” His words are offensive, for he implies that they aren’t already free. Weren’t they descendants of Abraham? They had never been slaves, they said, forgetting about Exodus and their ancestors’ captivity in Egypt.

    “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus says, “everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. So, if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”

    A long, heated debate follows. The crowd turns against Jesus, calling him a Samaritan and saying he has a demon. The chapter closes with Jesus sharing his true identity, as revealed to Moses at the burning bush. “Before Abraham was,” Jesus says, “I Am.”

    The crowd picks up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hides and leaves the temple.

     Not everyone wants to know the truth, my friends, and be set free from their sin. John 3:19 says, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”

***

    On Reformation Sunday, we give thanks to God for the work of the Holy Spirit in and among us, a work that will be complete on the day of Jesus Christ, when our Lord comes again for His Church. We give thanks for the Spirit that has raised up reformers with bold voices over the centuries, when the Church has lost its way. We give thanks for the Spirit that unites us in Christ’s body, strengthens us and gives us faith; the Spirit is still speaking to us through God’s Word today.

And we have another blessing for which to give thanks. We have the pleasure of welcoming our four youth who have completed their confirmation journeys and are ready to make a deeper commitment to Christ and the Church.

  I don’t know if I can put into words all that we have learned through Confirmation this year. But I can tell you that much of the learning had nothing to do with the new curriculum. I feel that I have come to know these four students better than I would have if this had been an ordinary Confirmation class in an ordinary year. And I believe these students have come to love and respect one another and their mentors more than they would have if they hadn’t been the COVID Confirmation Class of 2020.

    I pray that our congregation will continue to be a blessing to our young people, especially these four who are our newest members. I urge you to pray for them, reach out to them with cards and calls. Say hello when you see them in church. Help them to be confident in the people God has made them to be and feel good about the gifts and talents the Lord has given them to use for God’s glory.

One day soon, I can see these four youth helping to grow the Church. Perhaps they are already reaching out to the next generation. I can see them telling the world about God’s love, mercy and grace: the truth that makes us free!

Let us pray.

Holy One, we thank you for your Spirit and praise you on this Reformation Sunday for the transforming work you are doing in your Church. We ask that you would help us to be faithful to your call on our lives in this difficult time and to be generous with ourselves and resources, seeking to act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with you, and help our neighbors in need. Bless our children and youth, O Lord, and their families. Help us to minister to all the generations. Provide for those who are struggling financially and worried about their jobs. Heal the sick. Bring peace and reconciliation. In Christ we pray. Amen.

Oct. 18, 2020 Worship

The Presbyterian Church, 142 N. 4th St., Coshocton, OH 43812

Pastor Karen Crawford

Mark Wagner, Organist

April King and Mason Gano, Liturgists

Prelude. My Shepherd Will Supply My Need setting, Charles Callahan

Greeting/Announcements

*Opening Words                                   Liturgist

Lord, you have welcomed us, saying,  

“I know you by name, and you have found favor with me.”

Lord, you have promised us,

“My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Lord, you have blessed us, saying, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you.”

Lord, you have humbled us, saying, “I will proclaim my holy name in your presence.”

 Lord, show us your glory! We worship you!

*Gathering Prayer

*Hymn 307       God of Grace and God of Glory (stanzas 1, 3, 4)

God of grace and God of glory, on thy people pour thy power;
crown thine ancient church’s story; bring its bud to glorious flower.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
for the facing of this hour, for the facing of this hour.

Cure thy children’s waring madness; bend our pride to thy control;
shame our wanton, selfish gladness, rich in things and poor in soul.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
lest we miss thy kingdom’s goal, lest we miss thy kingdom’s goal.

Save us from weak resignation to the evils we deplore.
Let the gift of thy salvation be our glory evermore.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
serving thee whom we adore, serving thee whom we adore.

*Call to Confession

*Prayer of Confession

 What a debt we owe to you, O God. You have given us all things in Christ and yet we withhold from you the honor and glory that are yours. Instead, we pay tribute to empire, plot to entrap the innocent, mock your truth with empty praise, and put your patience to the test. Forgive us, O God, and by your grace restore in us the image of your face; through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

*Assurance of Pardon

Time with Children and Youth

Prayer for Illumination

Readings

1 Thessalonians 1:1–10.

Matthew 22: 15–22.

This is the Gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ!

Exodus 33: 12–23.

Holy wisdom, holy word. Thanks be to God!

Message     Hidden, in a Cleft of The Rock

Hymn 12              Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise (stanzas 1 and 4)

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
in light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
almighty, victorious, thy great name we praise.

Thou reignest in glory; thou dwellest in light.
Thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight.
All praise we would render; O help us to see
‘tis only the splendor of light hideth thee!

Sharing Joys and Concerns

Invitation to the Offering

Offertory

Prayer of Thanksgiving/Dedication

We trust you, Lord God, to multiply the blessings these gifts represent, as we pour out your love and grace on those who long to hear your word to them, to see your power at work within them, to feel your comfort beside them, through the generous gifts of your Spirit. And we continue our prayer as Jesus taught us… Our Father who art in heaven… Amen.

*Hymn 542         God Be With You Till We Meet Again (stanzas 1 and 2)

God be with you till we meet again; loving counsels guide, uphold you,
with a shepherd’s care enfold you: God be with you till we meet again.

God be with you till we meet again; unseen wings protecting hide you,
daily manna still provide you: God be with you 6ll we meet again.

*Charge/Benediction

Postlude

Hidden, in a Cleft of The Rock

Meditation on Exodus 33:12-23

Pastor Karen Crawford

The Presbyterian Church, 142 N. 4th Street, Coshocton, OH 43812

Oct. 18, 2020

Jim and I had a good time in Cambridge, Mass., visiting family. Jim’s son, Danny, and his wife, Hiu-Fai, live there with their two little girls, 3-year-old Maddie and 6-year-old Jessie. Our time with them was limited because I was taking a class Monday through Friday, all day, on Zoom, and they were working or going to school.

     Time with them is precious. We only see them about once a year for a week or less. We do Facetime and Zoom, but there’s no substitute for face to face, is there? Not when you want to have a close relationship.

      Maddie was just a toddler when we saw her in spring 2019. Now she is speaking in complete sentences, telling us just what she wants and what she doesn’t want. She knows the word, “No,” and she says it so sweetly. She wants to do everything her big sister does, including riding a scooter. She’s fast! And fearless!

      Jessie is creative, talkative, sensitive, headstrong, at times, and a “girly girl.” She has an Elsa costume from the Frozen movies and always wants me to paint her fingernails. She makes me laugh, without trying. I complimented her on her gymnastic moves in the living room, and she said, “Well, at least somebody appreciates me!”

       In another moment, she confided, “Grandpa Jim isn’t a smiley person, is he?”

       Another time, she said, “Grandma Karen! Do you have any children?”

      “Yes. I have 3 boys,” I said. “All grown up.”

       “You do???” she asked, amazed that her grandma had kids.

        The most memorable afternoon with the family, for me, was when we took a walk in a historic cemetery. What a beautiful place! I don’t think the girls had ever been to a cemetery before, and, well, I have some experience in that area.

      We saw some tombstones more than 100 years old. I showed Jessie how when there’s a date and a dash and no other date, the person is still alive! That just blew her mind! We peeked inside ornate mausoleums with wrought iron bars from the 1800s. Jessie wanted to know where the bodies were and when they died.

     One died in 1879, I told her, pointing.

    “1879! No wonder they died!” she exclaimed. “They were really old!!!”

    She was concerned about any children who had died. She wanted to know why. I thought for a moment of what I could say that wouldn’t make her incredibly sad, so I said, “In the old days, they didn’t have all the medicines and medical care we have today.” She paused, and then smiled and said, “My mommy’s a doctor! She helps children!” And I said, “Yes! That’s right,” with a sigh of relief.

    On the morning we were preparing to leave and didn’t have time for one last impromptu gymnastic performance in her bedroom, she said, “Grandma Karen! I love you. I don’t want you to go.”

      “I love you, too!” I said and leaned in close to look right into her eyes. “We’ll be back as soon as we can. And I’ll call you so we can talk.”

      I was so proud of myself that I didn’t cry, this time! Because now I know she’s old enough that she won’t forget me.

***

      In our Exodus reading today, we have an intimate look at the close relationship between God and Moses. This relationship grew over time and was formed through trials, where God showed himself to be faithful, providing for all the Israelites’ needs and even some demands—such as when they wanted meat and God gave them quail. Moses brings the people to meet God at Mount Sinai and be consecrated in Ex. 19, shortly before the Lord summons him to the top of the mountain to meet with him alone.  God gives Moses the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai and many other laws governing their worship and life together as God’s people in this new community. Just as Moses is about to bring down the two stone tablets of the covenant, written “with the finger of God,” the Lord says, “Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them.” Aaron has melted down their jewelry and made a golden calf, for they have demanded “gods to worship.” When Moses is delayed descending the mountain, the people, who have been complaining about his leadership all along, are impatient and decide he isn’t coming back.

    Before our passage in Exodus 33, Moses has interceded with God on behalf of the people two times since the golden calf incident. And it’s not because Moses isn’t angry with them. In a rage, he confronts his brother, Aaron, who let the people “run wild” and he confronts the people, throwing and breaking the stone tablets. A battle is fought. Many people die. And there’s a plague believed to be sent by the Lord because of their idolatry.

     The Lord keeps his covenant, however, with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all their descendants, telling Moses that an angel will lead them to the land “flowing with milk and honey.” But God isn’t going with them, for they are “a stiff-necked people,” the Lord says.  Stiff-necked, meaning prideful and disobedient, refusing to bow their heads and humbly submit to the Lord.

    This doesn’t satisfy Moses—going to the Land of the Promise without the Lord. For God and Moses have spoken through a pillar of cloud in the tent of meeting, “face to face,” says Exodus 33:11, “as one speaks to a friend.” Moses reminds the Lord of their relationship, and how God has told him that he knows him by name and has found favor in his sight.  He says, “Consider, too, that this nation is your people.” In other words, you created them and chose them! You know how bad they are!!! And you still love them and want a relationship with them. He reminds the Lord of His promise of presence. For God said, “I will always be with you.” And how will the earth know they are God’s people if God’s presence is no longer with them?

     The Lord is persuaded, saying, “for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” Then, when Moses wants to know God even more and look on God’s glory, the Lord allows him a glimpse of his back. But first, the Lord hides Moses in a cleft of a rock, and covers him with his hand.

***

   I keep thinking about our visit with our family in Massachusetts, words that were said, what we did. The wonderful feeling of holding my granddaughters. Of giving myself fully to them whenever I am with them. I long to see them again and hear their little voices. I don’t know the future, of course, but I am in wonder and awe of who they will become, trusting in God’s plan.

     Those thoughts and feelings that I have about my granddaughters, God has ever so much more about us! God’s love is unconditional and promise of presence is for all eternity. God wants us to give ourselves fully to Him! He has created and chosen us and knows all our weaknesses—and still, God loves us! He is our God. We are His people. We belong to Him. Why do we just offer the piece of us that is left over after the world consumes us—when we are exhausted from all our daily struggles and stress? God desires and deserves our first and our best, Amen?

      Moses never hesitated to talk with the Lord. That really stood out to me with today’s reading! He wasn’t afraid to challenge God’s decision to take his presence away from the Israelites and away from him. He knew enough about the character of the Lord– God’s mercy, love, and grace—to seek forgiveness for the stiff-necked, unfaithful people of God, who had really messed up and gone astray, after all that God had done for them!

     So why do we hesitate to pray? Why do we hold back or put off communing with the Lord until later? Do we think that we are a bother for God—that maybe God has more important things to worry about, especially right now, with all the problems in our world? If you can remember one thing from my message today, I hope it is that God wants you to pray! The Lord wants to be in close relationship with you. A close relationship with God is what’s going to change you and me. Just think, if everyone had a close relationship with the Lord, it would change the world! If everyone gave all of themselves to Him—the first and the best part.

    Listen to God’s promises about things to come:

     2 Cor. 3:18: “We all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image.”  

Colossians 3:1-4: “So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.”

And Revelation 21:3-4: “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.’

       Friends, may you come to know the Lord as your friend. May you come to call on the one who knows your name and will remain the same, yesterday, today and forever! The one who wants you to give yourself –all of yourself—freely to Him.

May you sense the loving presence of the one who holds you now, hidden, in the cleft of the Rock of your Salvation, covered with his hand.

Let us pray.

Holy One, thank you for drawing us near to you and holding us close in the safety of the cleft of the Rock of your Salvation. Help us to feel secure and comforted by your love and the promises in your Word, in spite of all that is happening in our world. Teach us how to trust you, like Moses did, to come to you with every concern, without hesitation, and to speak up for what is right. Teach us, as your disciples once said, how to pray. And Lord, we ask for protection and your tender care for the children and grandchildren in our troubled world today. Help us to be a godly example for our young people. Give us wisdom and courage to walk your righteous path and never go astray and worship idols of our own making. May we be pleasing to you. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

In Memory of Don Cox, Jr.

March 1, 1935- Oct. 3, 2020

Rev. Karen Crawford, Pastor

The Presbyterian Church, 142 N. 4th St., Coshocton, OH 43812

    I visited with Don Cox when he and Nancy, about a year ago, invited me to their home. He looked well and fit, though I knew he was struggling with a host of health issues that kept him from attending church. We talked some about their life together and we shared Communion– tiny cups of juice and pieces of bread on a tray, I read Scripture, and we prayed. My impression was that he was a quiet man, but his smile was bright and he expressed gratitude for my visit, after I washed the bits of bread and juice from the tray and repacked my bag before going on my way.

      It’s hard to get to know a person in the space of a few precious moments, but I treasure those I shared with Don. Especially when I visited him in the hospital in February after he had suffered a stroke. He longed to be home with Nancy and the separation then and later in rehab was hard. He endured months of struggle, even after he went home and had Nancy and some medical professionals assisting with his care. He continued to hope that he would regain his strength and be able to live and move and talk and eat as he had before the stroke.

    That was particularly difficult for a man who loved the outdoors, the one who was passionate about hunting. Nancy would fix him hot chocolate and tea, sandwiches and candy bars when he set off early in the morning. He would bring home a deer every year, without fail, and take it to Amish country to be made into bologna, steak and roasts for the family’s dinner table. He was an expert fisherman and skilled at cleaning, boning, and cutting up his catch from local rivers and streams around Coshocton County and salmon when they lived in Washington State. He was athletic and followed professional sports. He cheered for the Browns and the Indians and played some golf. He liked to hunt morel mushrooms that Nancy would soak in salt water, clean and dry, roll in flour and fry in butter. They had a meaty taste. Delicious!

     He and Nancy took regular vacations each year, when Don was well. They traveled to Myrtle Beach to stay at a hotel just a short walk from where the water flowed over the sand as they walked and enjoyed the sea air. They visited gift shops and ate seafood in nice restaurants—crab, fish, oysters, clams—any kind of ocean catch.

    Don, when he wasn’t enjoying the great outdoors, was an avid reader of fiction; mysteries and spy novels were among his favorites. When he had read all that the Coshocton library offered in his areas of interest, he ordered books from other libraries. Don had mechanical gifts and training, serving in his working years, after his time in the Marines, as the owner and operator of Cox Appliance Service and Antiques. Born in Conesville, raised in Adams Mills, and graduating from Jefferson High in Dresden, he had a love for his community, his “hometown.” He belonged to a number of groups—the Coshocton Sportsman’s Club, the VFW, the American Legion, the Elks, and The Presbyterian Church.

   He and Nancy were married by the Rev. Bob Millspaugh here on Oct. 21, 1974. It was Nancy’s church back then, but he joined officially on Feb. 13, 1984. They transferred their membership to a church in Washington State when they left Coshocton for a few years. But shortly after they came back, they rejoined on May 8, 2005.

     Although we didn’t have long conversations about faith, I knew that Don believed. He welcomed me and my prayers on that day of home Communion about a year ago, in the hospital last winter, and, when the virus prevented me from visiting him after he came home, over the phone.

     Always, I included a request that he would feel the Lord’s presence with him, as we are promised in God’s Word. Never did we give up hope or prayers that his health would be restored, that he would be comforted and healed. We chose to believe in a God of miracles, a God of mercy, grace, and love. A God whose Son, Jesus, was raised from the dead so that we, too may be raised with him.

    “I am the resurrection and the life,” our Lord says in our reading in John 11. “Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” he asks Martha, grieving the loss of her younger brother, Lazarus. Before Jesus calls him forth—ALIVE again—after 4 days in the tomb, Martha says, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

    We choose to believe in a God in whom Paul in Romans 8 assures us that nothing, NOTHING, in life or in death can separate us from His love in Christ Jesus. And that when we can’t find the words to pray in our weakness, the Holy Spirit will pray for us, for all the saints, interceding with “sighs too deep for words.” We choose to believe, even when our loved ones are struggling with pain that while all things aren’t good, all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. And that, as the Apostle assures us in Romans 8, “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.”

     We never give up hope, for the promise in Isaiah 40 for those who hope in and wait on the Lord will be renewed in strength. “They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

    This was a vision for God’s people in exile, longing for home long ago but it is also a vision for us today, when suffering and struggle are very much a part of our world, our daily existence. It is our hope, our trust in the Lord, and the Spirit that lives within us, that gives us strength to overcome all that would defeat us in this world of trials, if not for our faith.

     We are assured, today, at the service to bear witness to the resurrection and honor Don’s life, that he has entered the joy that Christ has prepared for all of us—and that he has seen the glory of the Lord. He was a man of faith, who trusted God and loved his family more than anything.

    About 20 years ago, Don gave a poem to Nancy, “When Tomorrow Starts Without Me.” He dedicated it to “Nancy, my wife, my love, and my best friend” and signed it, “with all my love, forever—Donnie.” The poem anticipates the day when he would go home to be with God for all eternity—leaving this earthly life and Nancy and the rest of his loved ones behind. In the poem, he assures her that he knew that she loved him. And that they will always be together, though they are apart.

      “For every time you think of me, Remember I’m right here in your heart.”

Amen.

Oct. 11, 2020 Worship

The Presbyterian Church, 142 N. 4th Street, Coshocton, OH

Rev. Chris Stewart, Guest Preacher and Worship Leader

Sarah Swigert, Liturgist

Alice Hoover, Organist

Prelude Where’er You Walk G. F. Handel/Parks

Greeting/Announcements Pastor Chris Stewart

Opening Words Sarah Swigert
Come, all who hunger for good news.
We thirst for words of hope and healing.
Come, from rural road and city street.
We gather at the King’s invitation.
Come, join the celebration.
Let us worship the Lord!

Hymn Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above Johann Jacob Schütz

Sing praise to God who reigns above, the God of all creation, the
God of power, the God of love, the God of our salvation. With
healing balm my soul is filled, and every faithless murmur stilled:
to God all praise and glory.

What God’s almighty power has made God’s gracious mercy keepeth;
by morning glow or evening shade God’s watchful eye ne’er sleepeth.
Within the kingdom of God’s might, lo! all is just and all is right:
to God all praise and glory!

The Lord is never far away, but, through all grief distressing,
an ever present help and stay, our peace and joy and blessing,
as with a mother’s tender hand God gently leads the chosen band:
to God all praise and glory

Call to Confession

Prayer of Confession
Extravagant God, you invite us to your table in the kingdom of heaven. But we do not take our place at the feast. We say, “We have more important things to do,” and turn back to labors that threaten to consume us. Beckon us again, we pray, that we may respond with gratitude. In your mercy, gather us in that we might experience the joy of your kingdom and taste the abundance of your grace. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon

Prayer for Illumination

Readings: Exodus 32:1-14 and Philippians 4:4-7
Holy wisdom, holy word. Thanks be to God!

Reading Mathew 22:1-14
This is the Gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.

Message A Guidepost to Faith Formation

Hymn I Want Jesus to Walk with Me African American spiritual

I want Jesus to walk with me;
I want Jesus to walk with me;
all along my pilgrim journey,
Lord, I want Jesus to walk with me.

In my trials, Lord, walk with me;
in my trials, Lord, walk with me;
when my heart is almost breaking,
Lord, I want Jesus to walk with me.

When I’m in trouble, Lord, walk with me;
When I’m in trouble, Lord, walk with me;
when my head is bowed in sorrow,
Lord, I want Jesus to walk with me.

Affirmation of Faith (Adapted from the Confession of 1967, 9.32-33)
The life, death, resurrection, and promised coming of Jesus Christ has set the pattern for the church’s mission. His human life involves the church in the common life of all people. His service to men and women commits the church to work for every form of human well-being. His suffering makes the church sensitive to all human suffering so that it sees the face of Christ in the faces of persons in every kind of need. His crucifixion discloses to
the church God’s judgment on the inhumanity that marks human relations, and the awful consequences of the church’s own complicity in injustice. In the power of the risen Christ and the hope of his coming, the church sees the promise of God’s renewal of human life in society and of God’s victory over all wrong. The church follows this pattern in the form of its life and in the method of its acon. So to live and serve is to confess Christ as Lord.

Invitation to the Offering

Offertory God Walks Beside Me Lani Smith

Prayer of Thanksgiving and Dedication/Lord’s Prayer
God of harvest, you are continually planning the seeds of your love in our world and in our lives. As we bring our gifts to you, may they be seeds of your grace, peace, and hope, planted deeply in our community. And hear us as we continue our prayer saying
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 debts, as we forgive our debtors; 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 Go with Us, Lord Mary Jackson Cathey

Charge and Benediction

Postlude Rejoice You Pure in Heart arranged, Franklin Ritter


Oct. 4, 2020 Worship for World Communion Sunday

The Presbyterian Church, 142 N. 4th. Street, Coshocton, OH 43812

The Rev. Chris Stewart, Guest Preacher

Ron Geese, Liturgist

Alice Hoover, Organist

World Communion Sunday

Prelude: How Firm a Foundation arranged, Michael Burkhardt


Greeting/Announcements: Pastor Chris Stewart

Opening Words: Ron Geese
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;
the decrees of the Lord are sure, making wise the simple;
The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
the commands of the Lord are clear, enlightening the eyes;
The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever;
the ordinances of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb.

Hymn: O Word of God Incarnate William Walsham How
O Word of God incarnate, O Wisdom from on high,
O Truth unchanged, unchanging, O Light of our dark sky;
we praise you for the radiance that from the hallowed page,
a lantern to our footsteps, shines on from age to age.

The church for you, dear Savior, received this gift divine;
and still that light is lighted on all the earth to shine.
It is the chart and compass that, all life’s voyage through,
amid the rocks and quicksands still guides, O Christ, to you.

O make your church, dear Savior, a lamp of purest gold
to bear before the na(ons your true light, as of old;
O teach your wandering pilgrims by this our path to trace,
till, clouds and storms thus ended, we see you face to face.


Call to Confession/Prayer of Confession/Assurance of Pardon
Lord, as we prepare to break the bread and drink from the cup, we cannot help but hesitate to partake of your body and blood. We remember your admonishment to go and be reconciled to our siblings before coming to your table. We recognize how we have fanned the flames of division rather than repaired the breach between us. We know we do not make evident our unity in you, our oneness made possible through your sacrifice. Too many of your children do not have a place at the table, do not have enough to eat, are
relegated to beg for crumbs when you command us to offer radical and abundant hospitality. In your relentless mercy, forgive us, free us from fear and make us conduits for your reconciling love. Amen


Prayer for Illumination

Reading: Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20
Holy wisdom, holy word. Thanks be to God!


Reading: Philippians 3:4-14
This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!


Message: Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

Hymn Spirit, Spirit of Gentleness James K. Manley

REFRAIN:
Spirit, spirit of gentleness, blow through the wilderness, calling and free.
Spirit, spirit of restlessness, s(r me from placidness, wind, wind on the sea.

You moved on the waters; you called to the deep;
Then you coaxed up the mountains from the valleys of sleep;
and over the eons you called to each thing,
“Awake from your slumbers and rise on your wings.”

You swept through the desert; you stung with the sand;
and you goaded your people with a law and a land.
When they were confounded with idols and lies,
then you spoke through your prophets to open their eyes.

REFRAIN

Affirmation of Faith (The Nicene Creed)
We believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, begotten from the Father before all ages, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made; of the same essence as the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven; he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary, and was made human. He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered and was buried. The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead. His kingdom will never end. And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life. He proceeds from the Father and the Son, and with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified. He spoke through the prophets. We believe
in one holy catholic and apostolic church. We affirm one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look forward to the resurrection of the dead, and to life in the world to come. Amen.


Invitation to the Lord’s Table and the Offering

Offertory: Be Thou My Vision arranged, Dale Wood

Great Thanksgiving
The Lord be with you. And also with you.
Li’ up your hearts. We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. It is right to give our thanks and praise.

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 debts, as we forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

Communion


Music: Bread of the World in Mercy Broken Louis Bourgeois

Prayer after Communion


Charge and Benediction

Postlude: Psalm 19 (The Heavens Declare) Benedetto Marcello

Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled

Dorothy Totsch

Meditation on John 14 (Selected Verses)

In Memory of Dorothy May Totsch

July 14, 1932-Sept. 23, 2020

Pastor Karen Crawford

South Lawn Cemetery, Coshocton, Ohio

Sept. 28, 2020

There’s an old saying that there’s someone for everyone. This was certainly true for Dorothy and Robert Totsch, who were practically inseparable for their 50 years of marriage. Up until Bob’s hospitalization in 2006, Bob and Dorothy were not apart for more than a day since they were married on Sept. 15, 1956 at Trinity Episcopal Church in Coshocton.

Dorothy, a native of Coshocton, grew up in a large family. She was born at home on July 14, 1932 to Harry and Elsea Rea. She was kind of a middle child, with two older sisters (Margaret and Alice), an older brother (Harry), and two younger brothers (William and Paul, called “Tim,” who was born on Dorothy’s birthday—seven years later!) As a middle child, she would learn to care for the younger and more vulnerable, but also have a strong bond with the older, who would be charged with looking after her.

She possessed musical gifts, among many others. She sang and took piano lessons. Neighbors would comment when she was an adult that they enjoyed the beautiful concert when she practiced with her windows open.

She graduated from Coshocton High in 1950; Bob graduated two years ahead of her—in 1948. They met in high school, said their friend John Rettos, who would be an usher for their wedding. But then Bob went off to serve in the Navy for 4 years in Korea, while Dorothy attended Ohio State, before finding work at Ohio Bell Telephone. (She was an operator and would become a supervisor and be recognized for selling the most Princess phones.) Throughout these years of separation, Bob and Dorothy stayed connected the old-fashioned way; they wrote letters. Her daughters would discover them in a box about 8 years ago in their parents’ attic, when Dorothy was preparing to leave Coshocton and move closer to Nancy and Keith. She had kept them all these years! Talk about a steadfast love!

Faith, family and community were important to Dorothy. She didn’t work outside the home when her daughters were young. She treasured that time with them. She was involved in everything they were, including 4-H, Brownies, and Girl Scouts.

“She tried to let us flap our little wings,” Nancy said. “But then came to scoop us up when we needed her.”

When she did go back to work, it was for her children’s benefit. She and Bob saved the money she earned so that Nancy and Laurie could go to college and not be saddled with student loan debt.

Dorothy and Bob raised their daughters in the Episcopal church. When they were teens, they let them join their friends at The Presbyterian Church that had a youth group. Nancy and Laurie would be married there and move out of the area before Dorothy and Bob would feel led to join The Presbyterian Church in 1989. They quickly made friends and were very involved in the life of the congregation. Dorothy’s musical gifts stirred her to play handbells in our Joy Belle Handbell Choir. She helped with community dinners and the Presbyterian Women’s twice-a-year rummage sale that raised money for local mission, such as school supplies and coats for needy children. Ordained a deacon in January 1993, she enjoyed helping Pastor Carlisle serve Communion to homebound members.

Dorothy expressed her love of God and neighbor by serving as a faithful volunteer in the community and friend to many.  She was a pink lady for many years, working in the gift shop at Coshocton Hospital. She was a Friend of the Coshocton Library, helping with book sales. She was an art enthusiast and volunteered for the Pomerene Center for the Arts. She and Bob were members of a local garden club and card club, among other groups.

Dorothy was always close with her daughters, no matter how busy they were or she was. They had favorite addresses for her: “My Momma” was Nancy’s; “Mommy Dear” was Laurie’s. Nancy and Laurie’s childhood home in Coshocton, years after they moved away for school, jobs, and families of their own, was the place for all the family gatherings for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and birthdays. But Dorothy and Bob didn’t wait for family to come to them. They enjoyed traveling to visit their children and grandchildren, wherever they were.

“Nancy and I were the apple of their eye,” Laurie said. “And then the grandchildren were.”

Dorothy had a servant’s heart and was creative. She was often doing crafts with Nancy’s daughter, Emily, not shying away from messy projects with glitter or beads. This was really something when you consider how tidy and organized a person she was! She didn’t impose her own tidiness on others, not even her daughters, as some mothers do. She made cookies and played board games with her other grandchildren, such as Tripoli, with Laurie’s sons.

What a testimony to Dorothy’s faithfulness when her daughters say that she taught them good values and kindness by example. Longtime friend John Rettos said, “Dorothy was one of the nicest people you would want to know. She was very kind to everyone.”

****

When Jesus tells his disciples that they know the way to the place he is going, he means that he has shown them how to live by faith. He has taught it by example. “Believe in God,” he says. “Believe in me.”  That word translated “believe” could also be “trust.” Trust God. Trust me. If we trust the Lord, we can overcome anxiety and fear. “Let not your hearts be troubled,” Jesus says, “Believe.”

He tries to explain the work he has to do for them—for all us—so that we would be forgiven and reconciled with God through his death and resurrection.  “Because I live,” he says, “you also will live.”

His disciples don’t feel ready to continue on without him. They don’t want him to leave. That’s why Thomas argues, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

“I am the way, the truth, and the life,” Jesus says. Leaving is part of the plan so that we may be altogether with him. “No one comes to the Father but by me.”

He says that we have good works to do that he has demonstrated and will show us how to do. We have the power to do even greater works than what he has done, he says, because when he goes to be with the Father, he will send the Spirit of truth to help us. The Advocate will abide in and with us—forever.

When we were choosing scriptures for today’s service to honor Dorothy and comfort and encourage her loved ones, Nancy suggested that her mother was the person Jesus was talking about in Matthew, when the king says, “‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’” Dorothy is one of the righteous, who will answer our Heavenly King, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer (her), ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’”

Dorothy was one of the faithful people, I believe, that God sends to us to reveal his goodness, compassion, and love. She allowed the light of Christ to shine through her in this dark world. She was used by God for great works of kindness, to be a witness for the Son without her even knowing it. This is how the Lord wants to use all of us, with the Spirit’s help, as we walk our journey of faith.

Let us remember that no matter what happens to us in this world, as we continue on the righteous path, loving and serving others, that nothing can separate us from God’s love revealed in Jesus Christ. This love was imitated by Bob and Dorothy, who, if they had had their choice, would never have been separated from one another. And now they are experiencing the joy of reunion in The Father’s House, where Jesus has gone to prepare a place for all of us.

The Lord has chosen us to follow him and be with him because of his great love for us. He wants to give us good gifts in this world as he transforms us for the world to come. Will you open your hearts to receive them? Let him carry your burdens of grief, anxiety, and yes, fear, of what life will be like, now, without our loved one with us.

 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you,” says our Lord to his followers in every time and place. “Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

Amen.

Are You Laboring in the Vineyard?

Meditation on Matthew 21:23-32

Pastor Karen Crawford

The Presbyterian Church, Coshocton, OH

Sept. 27, 2020

When Dorothy Totsch’s daughters were cleaning out the attic in her Coshocton home before her move 8 years ago, they found a box of letters dating back to the 1940s and 50s. These were love letters that their father, Bob Totsch, wrote to Dorothy Rea, whom he left behind to serve in the U.S. Navy in Korea.

Bob graduated from Coshocton High in 1948; Dorothy in 1950. Although the details of their courtship remain a mystery to their daughters, Nancy and Laurie, there’s no question of their long-lasting love. When Bob— a retired teacher, coach, and guidance counselor— was hospitalized before his passing in 2006, the couple had only been apart one day since they were married on Sept. 15, 1956 at Trinity Episcopal Church in Coshocton.

Dorothy went home to be with the Lord this week—on Sept. 23. She was 88.

Her faith and family were always important to her. After moving from Coshocton, where she had lived most of her life, to be close to her daughter, Nancy, Dorothy soon found a new worshipping community. She transferred her membership to Otterbein Lebanon Church in Lebanon, Ohio, in October 2013. She sang in the choir there and remained active in the church.

 When I talked with some of our longtime members about Dorothy, I discovered that many people knew her as a friend. An active member with Bob since 1989, she rang bells with Margaret McDowell’s Joy Belles. She helped with community dinners and the PW rummage sale for local mission. Ordained a deacon in January 1993, she enjoyed helping Pastor Carlisle serve Communion to homebound members and giving elderly widows rides to church. It was a group of widows from our church, her daughters said, who helped her in those difficult early years after Bob’s passing.

Her love of God and neighbor was expressed beyond the church walls as a faithful volunteer in our community. She served for many years as a pink lady in the gift shop at Coshocton Hospital. She was a Friend of the Coshocton Library, helping with book sales. She was an artist and volunteered for the Pomerene Center for the Arts. She was a gardener, growing daylilies and arbor-climbing clematis; she and Bob were members of a local garden club. She was a gifted pianist; neighbors would tell her how they enjoyed her music when she practiced with the windows open.

She was a Girl Scout Leader and was active in 4-H and Brownies with her daughters. “Everything we were a part of, she was there,” said her daughter, Nancy. “She tried to let us flap our little wings, and then she would scoop us up when we needed her.”

Their childhood home in Coshocton was the place for all the family gatherings for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and birthdays. But Dorothy and Bob didn’t wait for family to come to them. They enjoyed traveling to visit their children and grandchildren. “Nancy and I were the apple of their eye,” their daughter, Laurie, told me. “And then the grandchildren were.”

Dorothy was often doing crafts with Nancy’s daughter, Emily, not shying away from messy projects with glitter or beads. She made cookies and played board games with her other grandchildren, such as Tripoli, with Laurie’s sons.

What a testimony to Dorothy’s faithfulness when her daughters say that she taught them good values and kindness by example. As Paul urges the church in Philippi in 1:27, Dorothy lived a life worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And in 2:13, surely God was at work in her throughout her life, enabling her to will and to work for his good pleasure.

***

This is the message of the parable in Matthew 21 today: it isn’t enough to say we are faithful followers of Christ; we must be faithful. Amen? We must try to do the will of God. Our faith is expressed by loving and serving others, particularly those whom our society rejects and marginalizes, such as tax collectors and prostitutes whom Christ befriends in his society.

The parable is how Jesus ultimately answers the query of the elders and chief priests, “By what authority are you doing these things; and who gave you this authority?” No one questions the authority of the elders and chief priests; their realm of power goes beyond the religious life of the people. In First Century Palestine, there is no separation of church and state. The priests at the temple of Jerusalem are also rulers and judges over the community.  

What’s amazing is that Jesus is still being allowed to teach in the temple. This shows, perhaps, the power of his popularity with the people—and how the authority and respect of the leaders may be slipping. The crowds are astounded at Christ’s teaching in Matthew 7:28 and 29, for he (teaches) them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.”

Jesus has already offended religious leaders earlier in chapter 21. He rides into Jerusalem on a colt of a donkey, with the disciples crying out “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” Children cry out to Jesus in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David” angering the chief priests and elders. This follows Jesus overturning the tables of the money changers and the seats of those selling doves in the temple and driving them out. “It is written, he says, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a den of robbers.”

So now, instead of answering the chief priests’ and elders’ question about the source of his authority, Jesus has a question for them. What is the source of authority for the baptism of John the Baptist? Was it from heaven or was it of human origin?

Like politicians, the chief priests and elders talk among themselves, carefully weighing the political ramifications of their words before they give their answer. They are afraid of the crowd turning on them if they say his baptism was of human origin, for the people believe John is a prophet.

They decide to say, “We don’t know.” We are left wondering what they really believe—until Jesus tells us at the end of the passage.

The priests and elders don’t answer his question; Jesus doesn’t answer theirs. He tells, instead, the parable of the vineyard owner and his two sons. It’s about promises and choices that we make. Promises and choices. The vineyard is the Kingdom of God that Christ ushered in. It’s here, right now! It begins in this world! The owner is the Lord.

One son says flat out—he won’t work in the vineyard as his father asks. But then he changes his mind and chooses to obey. God doesn’t manipulate us into obedience., friends. He gives us the freedom to choose, offering us unconditional love when we mess up and return in repentance!

The other son says he will work in the vineyard. But he breaks his promise! He doesn’t go.

“Which one,” Jesus asks, “did the will of his father?”

He explains his parable, then, calling into question the witness and values of the chief priests and elders, who talk a good talk, and know how to say long, fancy prayers, but they aren’t doing the will of the Father! They are leading the people astray, demanding money from the poor, seeking selfish gain, rejecting the Messiah, and making outcasts of people in their community. These are the people whom Jesus befriends and lifts up as an example of godliness and faithfulness!

“Truly I tell you,” he says, “the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

***

Friends, I’m going to ask you just one question. Are you laboring in the vineyard? Don’t tell me. That’s between you and God.

I keep thinking of Dorothy and how she will be remembered for her kindness and loving spirit. What a wonderful legacy to leave your children—to have taught them kindness, by example. Tomorrow afternoon, her family and I will gather to witness to the Resurrection, give thanks for her life, and receive the comfort of the Spirit—the one that is always working in us, helping us to do God’s will.

I keep thinking about those love letters. I asked Nancy what became of them. She kept them with her, she said, all these years. Talk about faithfulness and steadfast love—that goes on beyond the grave.

Our Lord loves us that much—and more, dear brothers and sisters.

God says, “Come, my beloved, to my vineyard. All are welcome here. I have works of love for you to do! I will help you. And you will find peace like you’ve never known. My Son will give it to you.

“Come and labor for me in my kingdom. I have plans for you!”

Let us pray.

Holy One, thank you for welcoming us in your kingdom and inviting us to do your loving works. Thank you for having plans for us and offering us a peace we’ve never known! Help us, Lord, to be a witness to the kindness and compassion of your Son, who gave his life for sinners and became righteousness for us. Grant us courage to overcome any social barriers and reach out and befriend, as Christ did, the marginalized and outcast of our society today. Give us wisdom to know your will and strengthen us by your Spirit, Lord, to speak the words you want us to speak and do the things you want us to do to be obedient to your call. Help us to keep our promises and lead others into a closer relationship with you. In Christ we pray. Amen.

Worship with The Presbyterian Church

142 N. 4th St., Coshocton, OH 43812

Pastor Karen Crawford

Ashley Bryant and Debbie Clark, Liturgists

Alice Hoover, Organist

Sept. 27, 2020 10 a.m.

Prelude: Salvation Now Has Come to Earth Dietrich Buxtehude (1639-1707)

Greeting/Announcements

Minute for Mission: Tom Heading

Opening Words: Ashley Bryant

Praise the Lord who is our provider.   

The Lord is our hope. Our trust is in God.  

God brought us out of bondage and has made us free.

Glorious are the deeds of our God, and mighty are his acts.

Gathering Prayer: Ashley Bryant

Hymn      Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken 

Glorious things of thee are spoken, Zion, city of our God. God, whose word cannot be broken, formed thee for a blest abode. On the rock of ages founded, what can shake thy sure repose? With salvation’s walls surrounded, thou may’st smile at all thy foes.

Round each habitation hovering, see the cloud and fire appear for a glory and a covering, showing that the Lord is near. Thus deriving from their banner light by night and shade by day, safe they feed upon the manna which God gives them when they pray.

See, the streams of living waters, springing from eternal love, well supply thy sons and daughters and all fear of want remove. Who can faint while such a river ever flows, their thirst to assuage? Grace, so like the Lord the giver, never fails from age to age.

Call to Confession

Prayer of Confession

Almighty God, we have been wandering in the wilderness of sin. We have complained in the face of your mercy. We have been selfish and conceited in the face of your sacrifice. We have not done your will. Teach us humility. Teach us gratitude. Infuse your spirit into our beings so that we might be reconciled to you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon

Time with Children and Youth

Water from a Rock: Exodus 17:1-7
Deep and Wide

Prayer for Illumination with Debbie Clark

Reading: Exodus 17:1-7 and Philippians 2:1-13 Debbie Clark

Holy wisdom, holy word. Thanks be to God!

Reading: Matthew 21: 23-32

This is the Gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.

Message     Are You Laboring in the Vineyard? Pastor Karen

Hymn             Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Come, thou Fount of every blessing; tune my heart to sing thy grace; streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise. Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above; praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it, mount of God’s unchanging love!

Here I raise my Ebenezer; hither by thy help I’m come; and I hope, by thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home. Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God; he, to rescue me from danger, interposed his precious blood.

O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be! Let that grace now, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love; here’s my heart; O take and seal it; seal it for thy courts above.

Invitation to the Offering

Offertory: Come to the Water, arranged, Harold Helvey

Prayer of Thanksgiving/Dedication

O God, use these gifts to do your will in the world and prepare us for your coming kingdom. And hear us as we continue our prayer saying: 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 debts, as we forgive our debtors; 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               O For a World (Stanzas 1, 2, 5)

O for a world where everyone respects each other’s ways, where love is lived and all is done with justice and with praise.

O for a world where goods are shared and misery relieved, where truth is spoken, children spared, equality achieved.

O for a world preparing for God’s glorious reign of peace, where time and tears will be no more, and all but love will cease.

Charge/Benediction

Postlude   All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name    arranged by Diane Bish

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