May 31, 2020 Virtual Worship for Pentecost

The Presbyterian Church, Coshocton, Ohio

Pastor Karen Crawford

Liturgists: Matt and Sarah Swigert

Musicians: Caroline Heading, Alice Hoover, and Mark Wagner

Prelude: We Now Implore the Holy Ghost by Dietrich Buxtehude (Alice Hoover, Organ)

We Now Implore the Holy Ghost by Dietrich Buxtehude

Greeting/Announcements: Pastor Karen

Pastor’s Greeting for Worship on Pentecost, Birthdays and Anniversaries

Introit: Like the Murmur of the Dove’s Song (A Capella Choir and Handbells)

Like the Murmur of the Dove’s Song, by Carl P. Daw, Jr.; arr. by Karen Reinhard

Opening Sentences/Gathering Prayer: Matt and Sarah Swigert

Wind of God, who awakened creation and stirred dry bones to life—

sweep through this space and enliven our worship.

Wind of God, who descended as tongues of flame and gave birth to the church—

sweep through this space and ignite our hearts.

Wind of God, who guides our ministry and equips us for service—

sweep through this space and empower our witness.

Matt and Sarah Opening Sentences and Gathering Prayer

Hymn 128 On Pentecost They Gathered by Jane Parker Huber (Alice Hoover, Organ)

On Pentecost They Gathered by Jane Parker Huber

On Pentecost they gathered Quite early in the day, A band of Christ’s disciples, To worship sing, and pray. A mighty wind came blowing, Filled all the swirling air, And tongues of fire aglowing Inspired each person there.

The people all around them Were startled and amazed To understand their language, As Christ the Lord they praised. What universal message, What great good news was here? That Christ, once dead, is risen To vanquish all our fear.

God pours the Holy Spirit On all who would believe, On women, men and children Who would God’s grace receive. That Spirit knows no limit, Bestowing life and power. The church, formed and reforming, Responds in every hour.

O Spirit, sent from heaven On that day long ago. Rekindle faith among us In all life’s ebb and flow. O give us ears to listen And tongues aflame with praise, So folk of every nation Glad songs of joy shall raise.

Call to Confession/Prayer/Assurance of Pardon: Pastor Karen

Call to Confession, Prayer of Confession, Assurance of Pardon for Pentecost

Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on us. We rejoice in the gifts you have given us. Yet, we confess, we do not always use them to glorify you. For using the gifts of your Spirit for selfish gain instead of using them for the common good, forgive us, O God. For thinking too little of ourselves, not trusting that you have given us gifts for your service, forgive us, O God. For believing some gifts to be better than others, ignoring how we each build up the body of Christ, forgive us, O God. Spirit of the Living God, melt us, mold us, fill us again with your power and use us for your work so that our lives may glorify you. Amen.

Hymn 322: Spirit of the Living God, by Daniel Iverson

Spirit of the Living God, Invitation Music

Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me; Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me. Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.

Time with Children

Message for Children and Youth on Pentecost

Praise Song: Holy Spirit You Are Welcome Here, by Bryan and Katie Torwalt

Holy Spirit You Are Welcome Here, sung by Abigail, Nathan and Peta

There’s nothing worth more That will ever come close, nothing can compare.
You’re our living hope. Your presence, Lord.I’ve tasted and seen, of the sweetest of loves Where my heart becomes free And my shame is undone. Your presence, Lord.

Holy Spirit, you are welcome here. Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere.
Your Glory, God, is what our hearts long for. To be overcome by your presence, Lord.

There’s nothing worth more That will ever come close, nothing can compare.
You’re our living hope. Your Presence Lord. I’ve tasted and seen, of the sweetest of Loves
Where my heart becomes free, and my shame is undone. Your presence, Lord.

Holy Spirit, you are welcome here. Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere.
Your Glory, God, is what our hearts long for. To be overcome by your presence, Lord.

Holy Spirit, you are welcome here. Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere.
Your Glory, God, is what our hearts long for. To be overcome by your presence, Lord.
Your presence, Lord.

Let us become more aware of your presence. Let us experience the Glory of Your Goodness. Let us become more aware of your presence. Let us experience the Glory of Your Goodness. Let us become more aware of your presence. Let us experience the Glory of Your Goodness.

Holy Spirit, you are welcome here. Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere.
Your Glory, God, is what our hearts long for. To be overcome by your presence, Lord.

Holy Spirit, you are welcome here. Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere.
Your Glory, God, is what our hearts long for. To be overcome by your presence, Lord.
Yeah, Holy Spirit, you are welcome here. Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your Glory, God, is what our hearts long for. To be overcome by your presence, Lord.

Prayer for Illumination and 1 Cor. 12:3b-13: Matt and Sarah Swigert

Prayer for Illumination and 1 Cor. Reading for Pentecost

Soloist: As the Wind Song: Sarah Heading, with Caroline Heading on Piano

As the Wind Song, Glory to God hymnal 292, , Music by Swee-Hong Kim; Lyrics by Shirley Erena Murray

Scripture: Acts 2:1-21, Pastor Karen

Holy wisdom, holy word. Thanks be to God!

Acts 2:1-21 for Pentecost, Pastor Karen

Message: All Together in One Place, Pastor Karen

All Together in One Place, Message for Pentecost

Hymn 315: Every Time I Feel the Spirit, African-American Spiritual, sung by Cardinal Chorale

Cardinal Chorale singing Every Time I Feel the Spirit

Refrain: Every time I feel the Spirit moving in my heart I will pray.
Yes, every time I feel the Spirit moving in my heart I will pray.

Upon the mountain, when my Lord spoke, 
out of God’s mouth came fire and smoke.
Looked all around me, it looked so fine,
till I asked my Lord if all was mine. [Refrain]

Jordan River, chilly and cold,
it chills the body but not the soul.
There is but one train upon this track;
it runs to heaven and then right back. [Refrain]

Affirmation of Faith (From the Confession of 1967, 9.20)

God the Holy Spirit fulfills the work of reconciliation in human life. The Holy Spirit creates and renews the church as the community in which people are reconciled to God and to one another. The Spirit enables people to receive forgiveness as they forgive one another and to enjoy the peace of God as they make peace among themselves. In spite of their sin, the Spirit gives people power to become representatives of Jesus Christ and his gospel of reconciliation to all.

Matt and Sarah: Affirmation of Faith for Pentecost

Invitation to the Offering, Pastor Karen

Invitation to the Offering

Offertory: Breathe on Me, Breath of God by Edwin Hatch

Traditional music by Robert Jackson, Arr and new chorus by Phil Naish, Sung by Steve Green

Prayer of Thanksgiving/Dedication/Lord’s Prayer

Prayer of Thanksgiving/Dedication and Lord’s Prayer with Pastor Karen

Great God, to you we give our thanks; your steadfast love endures forever. With gratitude we bring our gifts to you. Bless us and our gifts, that our lives and our resources may be a source of healing and hope, of joy and justice in our world. 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: Breathe on Me, Natalie Grant

Breathe on Me, Natalie Grant

In humble adoration
I kneel before Your throne in brokenness I seek Your face alone.
Above You there’s no other
Who’s able to restore my soul, come and make me whole.
And breathe on me, power of God come in and change me.
You are all I need, Holy Spirit, breathe on, breathe on me!
I will say of the Lord He is my strong tower, my rock and my fortress
In whom I trust in times of the storm, and in tribulation,
You are my source of help and my salvation! Breath of God, restore my soul.
I will say of the Lord He is my strong tower, my rock and my fortress
In whom I trust in times of the storm, and in tribulation,
He is my help and my salvation! Breath of God, restore my soul.
You are all I need, Holy Spirit. Breathe on me; You are all I need, restore me, Holy Spirit.
Breath of God, breathe of life, breathe on me.
I need you Jesus to breathe on, breathe on me.


Benediction for Pentecost

Postlude: O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing, Mark Wagner, Piano

O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing by Charles Wesley, Setting by Gail Smith

All Together in One Place

Meditation on Acts 2:1-21

Pentecost 2020

The Presbyterian Church, Coshocton, Ohio

Pastor Karen Crawford

May 31, 2020 message for Pentecost

Today, on Pentecost, we had planned to welcome into membership our Confirmation students, who have been gathering on Wednesday nights since January. Our plans have changed, but I am not going to say that it’s bad news.

Let me tell you the story of Confirmation this year. We went from meeting in person at the church through the middle of March and then by Zoom video conference in April and May. We plan to meet through June and July, as well. I have actually been planning for the class since last summer or early fall when I ordered the new curriculum from the PC (USA), Big God, Big Questions. Unlike the former curriculum from our denomination that focused on creeds, confessions and catechetical questions, this program encourages the students to ask their own “big” questions and pay attention to how different people draw on their faith and experiences to answer them in diverse ways. Wow! That’s a change from when you and I went through confirmation and had to memorize the books of the Bible, the Lord’s Prayer, the 10 Commandments and Apostles’ Creed, not to mention catechetical questions.

Looking back, I think what a shame that my church had the opportunity to nurture my faith and encourage me to develop all my God-given gifts and talents for the Lord and His Church, and they missed their chance. Instead, the program became an exercise in memorization of archaic words that I didn’t always understand. I never had the feeling that the pastor really wanted to get to know any of us. He didn’t meet us where we were; he never asked what we believed. He just told us what we were supposed to believe.

Since teaching my first confirmation class in 2011, my goal has been to get to know each of the students and hear their stories. I want to open God’s Word to them, help them to know Jesus and show them they are loved. I want them to know the Spirit that is living and breathing within them and leading them in God’s will, so they don’t have to be confused or afraid. I want them to feel accepted and heard. My hope has always been that confirmation would be a safe place to say just about anything, without being judged.

 A big part of the class is wrestling with the questions the students will be asked when they are confirmed, tentatively in August. The topics we discuss include, “How do we know and trust God?” “What is sin and how do we turn from it?” “Who is your Lord and Savior?” “What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus and to show Christ’s love?” And, “Will you devote yourself to the church’s teaching, fellowship, prayer, and the breaking of the bread?”

The emphasis is on growing in faith and seeking to apply it to our lives, through all our relationships– with one another and with God. While I use a prepared curriculum as a guide, what we do, mainly, is share stories. We have a guest speaker, usually from our own congregation, but we’ve had others, too, including Ben George, Susie Stout, and my friend, Cindy Bottomley, a longtime youth leader in Florida. Our guest speakers are ordinary people, because God uses ordinary people like us! I want the students to know that being a Christian, while always an adventure, is different for every person. Each one of us has a distinctive calling and different gifts the Lord wants to use.

     The challenge is to trust the Spirit to reveal God’s will as we seek to follow Christ every day.


     Our Acts reading today starts, “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place”—and it’s really hard not to stop right there and say, “Wouldn’t that be nice? If we could all be together in one place, gathered for prayer, fellowship, worship, and to wait on the Lord?”

     But then, we have to remind ourselves that there were no church buildings in the first centuries of Christianity. Followers of Jesus gathered in homes for worship, fellowship, and the breaking of bread. Of course, with Jesus, they had gathered around the tables of the wealthy and the poor, on mountainsides, fields, and valleys, in fishing boats and walking along the shore,  on the road to Emmaus and in gardens, at night.

      Jesus was never limited by place or anything in this world. Death could not hold him; he rose from the tomb. The Risen Christ went through locked doors to be with his followers, hiding from the world. The Spirit will never be limited, either, by place or anything in this world. As Jesus tells Nicodemus in John 3:8 about his need to be reborn from above, “The wind blows wherever it pleases,” he says. “You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

     The Spirit in Acts has the power to change the disciples’ hearts and minds and unites them in mission to the world. The disciples, who lack formal education, suddenly speak in tongues they have never known and are emboldened to share the gospel with the very people who had cried out for Christ to be crucified. The Spirit changes their hearts and minds, too, stirring them to listen to the Galileans, led by Peter, a flawed and ordinary man. This is the disciple whom Jesus had rebuked, who walked on water but fell in from lack of faith. He is the one who betrayed Jesus three times, but then is charged by the Risen Christ to feed his sheep and tend his lambs, meaning care for and build up his followers, the Church.

     Not everyone who hears the message on Pentecost come to believe—just as there are many unbelievers all around us. God doesn’t force himself on us. All are called but not everyone responds. But those who sneer at the disciples still notice something different about them. They seem too happy, all of a sudden. They are acting as if they are drunk, which of course they are not, as Peter quips. “For it is only 9 o’clock in the morning,” he says. This happy that they feel is the joy of the Lord, a gift of the Spirit.

     This same Spirit lives within us and dwells in our midst, my friends, wherever or however we are gathering– in person or electronically, by phone or letter. Let’s not put limitations on the Risen Lord who had no trouble going through locked doors to be with his disciples. This same Lord unites us in His Body by faith, though we may not be worshiping today in the building at the corner of 4th and Chestnut Streets. Let’s not limit the Spirit that, when it came on Pentecost, came as a violent, rushing wind and fire, and filled not just one room but the entire house. Thousands of people became believers that day. The Church was born.

    If I have learned anything these months of pandemic, it’s that we have to trust in the Lord—when things are going well AND when nothing seems to be going right. We trust in Him when we are comfortable—and when we are way beyond our comfort zones. We have to trust the Lord for the future of the church, knowing that it may be very different than the past. Let us keep in mind the Great Ends of the Church when judging our faithfulness to Christ’s call to us today. Our Book of Order says the Great Ends are “the proclamation of the gospel for the salvation of humankind; the shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship of the children of God; the maintenance of divine worship; the preservation of the truth; the promotion of social righteousness; and the exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the world.” To be faithful to the Great Ends may mean changing the way we have seen our church—and confined it to what happens inside a building. The Lord wants us to go out and bring His salvation to those who aren’t in our circle of friends and acquaintances. The Lord wants us to speak up for what is right, for justice, and be peacemakers, when others choose chaos and strife.

   God will answer our prayers in surprising ways. God answered my prayer about confirmation, though it wasn’t how I expected. I remember saying to one of the parents that I wished I had more time with the students. I remember being worried, at one point, if the spring sports were going to take some of our students away. By the end of March, confirmation by Zoom was one of the few if any activities on their schedule and an important connection to friends, their church and pastor, and the outside world. We will never forget the Confirmation class of 2020, meeting during COVID-19.

    The Spirit is calling us now to listen for a fresh Word—all of us ordinary, flawed human beings whom God wants to use. Don’t be surprised when we speak and witness in a different way to reach more people. The Spirit wants to fill us to overflowing, refresh and renew us and remove our fear. The Spirit wants to empower us to do more for the Kingdom—go way outside our comfort zones, speak up when we would rather be silent. The Lord wants us to experience more joy and reveal His love.

     I know how you feel – how you long to return to the church building and be with your brothers and sisters in the faith. Me, too. Maybe more than you! But I know the Lord is calling us to stay where we are, for now. Be safe, and keep reaching out to each other in all kinds of ways, encouraging one other. And keep on waiting, hoping and praying, like those first followers, trusting in the promises of God.

    For the Spirit is going to come, once again, like a rushing wind and fire to do its work of transformation in us—the Church. Because we would never change on our own. And we couldn’t change ourselves if we tried.

     I look forward to the day when we will be like they were on Pentecost—all together, in one place.

Let us pray.

Holy Spirit, fall afresh on us. Cleanse us. Renew us. Melt and mold us. Make us to be like your Son. Give us the mind and heart of Christ. Right now, the world is a confusing place, with chaos, anger, disease, and violence. Help us to work to reveal your Kingdom, here on earth, working for peace, health and healing, tranquility and order. Guide us by your Spirit so that we know your will every day. Give us courage to obey—to go when and where you want us to go and stay when you want us to stay. Let us listen to your voice, though your commands are different than what the world may be telling us to do. Grant us wisdom to make good decisions for our families and ourselves each day. Protect us, watch over us, and keep us safe. Heal the sick and lift up the downhearted and grieving. Help us to be patient as we wait until it is your time for us to gather as your Church, all together in one place. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Children’s Message for May 31, 2020


Pastor Karen Crawford

Our Pentecost Banner

Hi Kids! This is the banner you usually see hanging in our church on Pentecost. That’s today! Do you know why there is a white dove?

Children’s message for Pentecost

This is the symbol for the Holy Spirit that came down on Jesus when he was baptized in the Jordan River.

When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, the Spirit came down to rest on him, like a dove.

The Spirit came down from heaven like a dove. Do you know why the banner is red and yellow? That’s the flames of the Holy Spirit that came to rest on each of the disciples, but didn’t burn them.

The Spirit came down on the disciples at Pentecost like flames that didn’t burn. The Spirit gave the disciples power to share the good news of Jesus Christ in many languages so that all the world may come to know Jesus Christ.

They had gathered in a house in Jerusalem, waiting and praying for the Spirit as Jesus had told them to do. The Spirit would give them the power to tell the world the good news of the Risen Christ so that they would understand and believe in Jesus. When the Spirit came, the disciples all began talking at once, speaking languages they didn’t even know. It was a miracle. And that miracle still happens today. The Spirit lives in you and me and everyone who believes in Jesus. We have the power to share the good news so that everyone can hear and understand.

We can share God’s love in person, but also through phone calls and cards and letters. Evan and Andrew Swigert sent me a wonderful card this past week, and their mom, Sarah, wrote me a long letter. Eric’s mom, Linda Hores, sent Jim and me this card. Doesn’t it just make you want to smile?

Card from Linda

Thank you so much!!

I love you and miss you all! I pray that you are well. I look forward to that day when we will be able to all gather in the same place and worship the Lord.

Will you pray with me?

Heavenly Father, thank for your Spirit that came to empower the disciples on Pentecost and is still with us, living in our hearts, empowering us to share the gospel and love one another today. In Jesus’ name we pray. And everyone said, Amen.

Links to children’s activities:

The Story of Pentecost! When they were altogether in one place, waiting and praying for the Lord, as he told them to do… and the Holy Spirit came! It was a miracle, part of God’s plan to rescue the world. Anyone who believes in Jesus has the Holy Spirit in her heart. I believe in Jesus. I hope you believe, too!

Kid Bible Story: Pentecost

May You Be One

Meditation on John 17:1-11, Graduation Sunday

Pastor Karen Crawford, The Presbyterian Church, Coshocton, Ohio

Audio of Pastor Karen’s message, “May You Be One”

The little ball of fur underneath my forget-me-nots didn’t move as I reached my hand close to it, without touching it. It was early evening, not yet dark. Rain pitter-pattered on the hood of my jacket pulled up over my head.  Jim and I had just come back from a walk with our dog, Mabel.

What startled me was that I had already been standing there for a while without noticing it. I had been talking with and listening for the Lord. I often find myself still and quiet when I am in my garden, sensing God’s presence. It just happens. The Lord finds me.

Chipmunk in my garden

It was a chipmunk. I thought it must be dead. Why else wouldn’t it scamper away when I came near? I felt sad for the creature, and I didn’t know why.  For I have complained about the little diggers and chewers in my garden often. Just ask Jim. So many holes in my yard! Chipmunks, squirrels and yes, the moles are back, too, making their mounds of dirt on my nice, green lawn. Bob Bish! I need you to come and help me, again! I have encouraged and routed for the cats that visit our yard and wait patiently, stationed at the critter holes, hoping to catch one in their paws and jaws as they pop up out of the ground.

But then, as I ponder all these things, in the stillness and quiet with the Lord, I see the little guy or gal breathe. “He’s not dead,” I sigh with relief. “He’s sleeping.”

I can’t feel anger or fear in the garden. Only peace. I remember what a funeral director in York, PA, told me when I asked her how she dealt with the stress of her job. “I work in the garden,” she said. “I can’t be sad with my hands in the soil.”

With rain pattering on my hood, I feel the Lord speaking to my heart about His love for all Creation—including me. Every life is precious to God. Scripture tells us that the Lord knows about and grieves for one small sparrow when it falls from the sky. It’s funny how we like some critters and plants—and don’t like others, depending on the circumstance. What we call weeds are God’s wildflowers—the “lilies of the field.”

Sadly, that’s how it is with human beings, isn’t it? Our likes and loves are conditional. We have opinions about everything and everyone. Why can’t we all just get along, accept one another and be gentle, patient and kind to each other? Especially during a global pandemic, when we are all in this together—the entire human race. We don’t have to agree all the time. We need to share different ideas and perspectives. We certainly don’t all have to think the same way about everything. That’s the beauty of humanity, to me, how wonderfully unique each one of us is—and yet all of us created in God’s image. How can that be?

What does Jesus think about His Church, the Body of Christ, being so divided? Do we really need to have as many denominations and non-denominations in our country as flavors of ice cream? Why aren’t we praying every single day, like Jesus did, that his followers would be ONE?

When Jesus prays for his disciples in John 17, we have the rare opportunity, as the disciples do, of listening in. No retreating to a mountain or garden alone for Jesus, this time. He just pauses in his teaching and raises his eyes to heaven, speaking aloud so they will hear him! He is still teaching them.

     Before the prayer, he has told them not to be troubled and promised His Spirit. He urged them in John 15:4-5, “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.” He commanded them in 15:12 to “love one another as I have loved you.” “No one,” he goes on in 15:13, “has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” He prays that they will know the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom God has sent. He intercedes for them, claiming them as his own—given to him by the Father. “I am asking on their behalf….All mine are yours and yours are mine…. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”

     The lectionary passage leaves off an important piece of the prayer when in verse 20, Jesus prays for ALL his followers—including we who came to believe from the testimony of others. “I ask not only on behalf of these but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word,” he says, “that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

     Today, on Graduation Sunday, while I don’t have the pleasure of being with our graduates in person, I pray that they will hear this message—if not through me, through you. For we are called to support and encourage all the children and youth of our community, though our own children may be grown. We promise this at every baptism.

    We have to be good examples of mature Christians for all our young people. But we can’t be unless we are living as One with each other, in Christ. Young people are smart. They listen and watch us, all the time. So be careful to build up with your words, bless others, in their hearing and when they aren’t around. We have to be faithful to Christ’s command to love, not just on Sunday when we worship, but every day.

     To our graduates, I say this to encourage you. Our wounded world needs you desperately. I am sorry that adults behave the way they do sometimes. Please forgive us. I am sorry about COVID-19 ruining the last quarter of your senior year and cancelling so many of your plans. But you are ready to move on. Trust yourself and the Spirit that lives in you. YOU ARE needed. All your gifts and talents. Your unique personality. Your intelligence, creativity and compassion. Everything that makes you YOU. Don’t worry about the whole job thing. You will find jobs, but remember that a job doesn’t limit or define you. You ARE a child of God and always will be, no matter your paycheck or benefits package.

    You will always have your church family. You can’t get rid of us that easily! We are still here for you, as we promised, long ago when you were baptized. You have been raised in a faith that is going to stick with you, though you might journey far from your church and community. Just when you come to a fork in the road and have to make a difficult decision, the Spirit will guide you and you will have peace, knowing the way the Lord wants you to go. And when you encounter difficulties and disappointments, because we all do, the Lord will be there for you, strengthening you to carry on.

You will be stronger if your make time to be alone with God; so find that quiet place to think, listen, and pray. For me, it’s a garden, but for you, maybe some other place. Just talk with God and He who loves you will hear you and answer you. And when you can’t find any words to say because your heart is breaking, remember this. The Lord is still praying for us, like he did with his first disciples, who were scared and confused. Romans 8:26 says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes (meaning, it prays for us) with sighs too deep for words.”

     We will continue to think about you and pray for you. We love you.

     May you be one with God and each other—but that doesn’t mean you have to be like everybody else! You need to be the unique person God has made you to be.

     Be a peacemaker—in the classroom or on the job, at home, wherever you are. May you be the one who speaks truth and walks in gentleness, though you may be the only truthful and gentle person in the room.

     And may I ask one thing of you? Please pray for us. For your church and hometown. Pray that we will be One with each other, in the Lord, living in peace, each being the person God has called us to be, encouraging one another to be our best selves. Pray that we may love one another, as Christ loves us.

     This is the way the world will know the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom God has sent.

Please join me in a prayer for our graduates.

Heavenly Father, We pray for our graduates today and lift them before you. Thank you for the gift of their lives and that you have a wonderful plan for each of them. They are so precious to us. During this season of new beginnings, we ask that you would make their way clear. Keep their footsteps firm and remind them that you are with them and always will be. May they sense the freshness of your Spirit over their lives and may they be strengthened and instilled with hope for their future.

We release our children into your tender care, trusting that you know what is best for them and that no one loves them like you do. Hold them in the palm of your hand. Hide them in the safety of your powerful presence. We thank you in advance for all you have in store. Guard and protect them—body, mind and soul—as they come in and go out, as they journey far away for new opportunities and as they stay close to home, working and serving in their communities. Give them wisdom for the decisions that they will need to make. Walk beside them, draw them close to you, and reveal your will. Build up their faith. Grant them boldness, confidence, and courage to take risks and see beyond what is here and now and imagine what could be. Stir them to step outside what is comfortable, knowing that you will keep them safe and that there is no “failure” in the Kingdom of God—only love, mercy and grace.

Help us to minister to them and encourage them to become their best selves and fulfill your will for them. May they be a light to their friends, families, churches, and neighbors. Use them, Lord, to help bring hope and healing to what is broken. Give them patience, gentleness, and strength to proclaim your truth and overcome and not be overcome by evil. May they be persistent laborers for peace and justice and channels of your love. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Virtual Worship for May 24, 2020

The Presbyterian Church, Coshocton, Ohio

Pastor Karen Crawford

Liturgists: Sarah and Jacob Heading

Musicians: Alice Hoover, Mark Wagner, and Caroline Heading

“Flags for My Daddy”

Prelude: America, the Beautiful, Caroline Heading, Piano

America, the Beautiful

Greeting/Announcements: Pastor Karen

Greeting and Birthdays and Anniversaries, from Pastor Karen

Choral Introit: When You Believe, One Voice Choir

Filmed on-location at Omaha Beach and Brittany American Cemetery and Memorial in Normandy, France.This song is dedicated to all the soldiers who fought in World War II, including those who fought at Normandy’s Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword Beaches in the D-Day Invasion; and to the millions of Jewish victims who lost their lives during the Nazi Holocaust.

Opening Sentences/Gathering Prayer: Jacob Heading

We have gathered—new followers and lifelong disciples,  the powerful and the powerless, those who have too little and those who have too much. 

We have gathered, for we are one in Christ.

We have come—seekers and skeptics, sinners and saints, the poor in spirit and the rich in faith.

We have come, for we are eager to hear God’s word.

We are here, together.

Let us glorify the one true God.

Hymn: Christ Whose Glory Fills the Skies, Alice Hoover, Organ

Christ Who Glory Fills the Skies, by Charles Wesley

Christ, whose glory fills the skies,
Christ, the true, the only Light,
Sun of Righteousness, arise,
triumph o’er the shades of night;
Dayspring from on high, be near;
Daystar, in my heart appear.

Dark and cheerless is the morn
unaccompanied by thee;
joyless is the day’s return
’til thy mercy’s beams I see;
’til they inward light impart,
glad my eyes, and warm my heart.

Visit, then, this soul of mine;
pierce the gloom of sin and grief;
fill me, Radiancy divine;
scatter all my unbelief;
more and more thyself display,
shining to the perfect day.

Call to Confession/ Prayer of Confession/Assurance of Pardon: Pastor Karen

May 24, 2020 Call to Confession, Prayer of Confession, Assurance of Pardon (Pastor Karen)

Lord Jesus, you long for us to be one, just as you and the Father are one. But we gravitate toward those who think like us, behave like us, pray like us, because it is easier than looking beyond difference to discover what is good and kind and faithful in those we call the other. Even in our houses of worship, we are slow to reach across the aisle to embrace siblings in faith with whom we hold little in common. Forgive us, we pray. Wash us in the waters of our baptism, so that, with one mind, we might continue the work you gave us to do. Amen.

Time with Children: Jonah

See the Children’s Message page for more music and activities about Jonah

Children’s Message on Jonah

Praise Song: What a Beautiful Name, Hillsong, Reese Oliveira

What a Beautiful Name, Hillsong, Reese Oliveira

Prayer for Illumination/Scripture: 1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11: Sarah Heading

Prayer for Illumination and 1 Peter Reading

Anthem: Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying, sung by Cardinal Chorale

Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying, By Ken Medema, Sung By Cardinal Chorale

About the Composer: Ken Medema: Born in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1943, Ken is a song writer, composer, recording artist, and story-teller through music. Blind from birth, Ken began playing the piano at age five and studied classical music by reading Braille. He graduated from Grand Rapids Christian High School and studied music therapy at Michigan State University in Lansing, Michigan. As a music therapist in both Indiana and New Jersey, he began writing songs for hurting teenagers, an experience that helped to launch a career of writing songs on Christian life that has taken him to venues large and small all over North America and beyond. (From Wikipedia)

Scripture: John 17: 1-11 : Pastor Karen

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

John 17:1-11 for May 24, 2020

Message and Prayer for Graduates: May You Be One, Pastor Karen

Hymn: The Prayer

Celine Dion, Andrea Bocelli, Lady Gaga, Lang Lang perform “The Prayer” during One World: Together At Home on April 18.

I pray you’ll be our eyes
And watch us where we go.
And help us to be wise
In times when we don’t know.
Let this be our prayer
When we lose our way.

Lead us to a place.
Guide us with your grace
Give us space so we’ll be safe.

La luce che tu hai
(I pray we’ll find your light)
Nel cuore rester
(And hold it in our hearts)
A ricordarci che
(When stars go out each night)
L’eterna stella sei

Nella mia preghiera
(Let this be our prayer)
Quanta fede c’è
(When shadows fill our day)

Lead us to a place
(Guide us with your grace)
Give us faith so we’ll be safe

Sogniamo un mondo senza più violenza
Un mondo di giustizia e di speranza
Ognuno dia la mano al suo vicino
Simbolo di pace, e di fraternità

La forza che ci dà
(We ask that life be kind)
È il desiderio che
(And watch us from above
Ognuno trovi amor
(We hope each soul will find)
Intorno e dentro a sé
(Another soul to love)

Let this be our prayer
Let this be our prayer
Just like every child.
Just like every child.

Need to find a place
Guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we’ll be safe.

È la fede che
Hai acceso in noi
Sento che ci salvera

Affirmation of Faith: Apostles’ Creed: Jacob Heading

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.

Apostles’ Creed: Jacob Heading

Invitation to the Offering/Prayer of Thanksgiving/Dedication/Lord’s Prayer

Call for Offering/Prayer of Dedication/Lord’s Prayer with Pastor Karen

Glorious God, everything that is given to us rains forth out of the abundance of your love, even Jesus Christ our Lord. Bless these gifts and our lives together that all we are and all we offer give glory to you. 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.

Offertory: Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow, Alice Hoover, Organ

“Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow”
Setting, Johann Christoph Bach, 1642-1703

Charge/Benediction: Pastor Karen


Postlude: Battle Hymn of the Republic, Mark Wagner, Piano

Battle Hymn of the Republic, Arr. by Mark Hayes

Children’s Message for May 24, 2020

Pastor Karen Crawford, The Presbyterian Church, Coshocton, Ohio

Do you know about Jonah and the great fish? I would like to share that Bible story with you today. I am reading this book:

Jonah, by Bonnie Temple
Pastor Karen”s Children’s Message on Jonah for May 24, 2020

Links to children’s activities about Jonah:

What a Beautiful Name, Hillsong Worship

Virtual Worship for May 17, 2020

The Presbyterian Church, Coshocton, Ohio

Ascension of the Lord

Pastor Karen Crawford

Musicians: Alice Hoover, Caroline Heading and Mark Wagner

Liturgists: Gordon and Kelly Kendall

The Ascension of Jesus Christ

Prelude: Love’s Redeeming Work Is Done…… Mark Wagner, Piano

Prelude on “Savannah,” Love’s Redeeming Work Is Done  … Setting by Ross Anderson, Text by Charles Wesley

Lives again our glorious King; where, O death, is now thy sting?
dying once, he all doth save; where thy victory, O grave?

Hail the Lord of earth and heaven!  Praise to thee by both be given:
thee we greet triumphant now; hail, the Resurrection Thou!

Greeting/Announcements/Prayer Concerns: Pastor Karen

Greetings, Announcements, Prayer Concerns

Opening Sentences/Gathering Prayer: Gordon and Kelly Kendall

Clap your hands, all you peoples!

We bow before the Lord— the Most High, who reigns o’er all creation.

Shout to God with songs of joy!

We worship the Christ—the Exalted One, who sits above every ruler and authority.

Sing praises to God, sing praises!

We bless the Spirit—the Hand of God, who lifts us into heavenly courts.

Opening Sentences and Gathering Prayer

Hymn 143 All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name…. Alice Hoover, Organ

All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name by Edward Perronet

All hail the power of Jesus’ name!
Let angels prostrate fall. Let angels prostrate fall. Bring forth the royal diadem,
and crown Him, crown him, crown Him, crown Him. And crown Him Lord of all.

Ye chosen seed of Israel’s race ye ransomed from the fall, ye ransomed from the fall,
hail him who saves you by his grace, and crown Him, crown Him, crown Him, crown Him, and crown Him Lord of all.

Let every kindred, every tribe, on this terrestrial ball, on this terrestrial ball,
to him all majesty ascribe, and crown Him, crown Him, crown Him, crown Him, and crown Him Lord of all.

Oh, that with yonder sacred throng we at his feet may fall, we at his feet may fall!
We’ll join the everlasting song, and crown Him, crown Him, crown Him, crown Him, crown Him, crown Him, crown Him, and crown Him Lord of all.

Call to Confession/Prayer/Assurance of Pardon

Call to Confession, Prayer of Confession, Assurance of Pardon: Pastor Karen

Holy One, You call us to be your witnesses to the ends of the earth and clothe us with power from on high. Yet we stand still, our eyes fixed on the heavens, as though Jesus will reappear in the clouds to point the way. We cling to the past, for we find comfort in familiar traditions, even if they no longer serve your purposes. We fear the future, for we cannot imagine a new season of ministry, even though you promise to empower us. Refocus us, O Lord, and fill us with expectant hope as we step into the future you will bring. Baptize us again with your Spirit and enlighten our hearts to discern your will, so that we might embody the fullness of Christ at work in the world. Amen.

Time with Children

Pastor’s Children’s Message for May 17, 2020

Anthem: I Can Only Imagine by Mercy Me

I Can Only Imagine, by Mercy Me, Sung by One Voice Children’s Choir

Prayer for Illumination/Acts 1:1-11: Gordon and Kelly Kendall

This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!

Prayer for Illumination and Acts 1:1-11

Anthem: Jesus Loves Me, Caroline Heading, Piano

Jesus Loves Me, by William B. Bradbury, arranged by Lavawan Riley

Scripture: Ephesians 1:15-23

This is the good news which we have received, in which we stand, and by which we are saved. Thanks be to God. 

Ephesians 1:15-23

Message: Lord, Enlighten Our Hearts, Pastor Karen

Enlighten Our Hearts, Our Lord

Praise Song: Open the Eyes of My Heart, Michael W. Smith

Open the Eyes of My Heart by Michael W. Smith

Affirmation of Faith   Adapted from the Confession of 1967, 9.22

New life in Christ takes shape in a community in which people know that God loves and accepts them in spite of what they are. They therefore accept themselves and love others, knowing that no one has any ground on which to stand, except God’s grace.

Affirmation of Faith with Gordon and Kelly Kendall

Invitation to Offering/Prayer of Thanksgiving/Lord’s Prayer

Call for Offering, Prayer of Thanksgiving/Dedication/Lord’s Prayer

O God of all glory and majesty, we give you thanks for the gift of your Son, and his power at work in our lives and our gifts. Bless these gifts for the benefits they afford in bringing life to others in your name. Bless our lives that we may be your witnesses to the end of the earth as we love and serve you, O God most high. 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: Lift High the Cross

Lift High the Cross, by George William Kitchin, arr. by Sterling Procter
The Chancel Choir, The Chapel Choir, Broadway Baptist Church and The Oratorio Chorus, Southwestern Baptist Seminary, The Festival Brass

Blessing and Charge

Benediction for May 17

Benediction Response: Make Me a Servant

Make Me a Servant by Kelly Willard
The Maranatha Singers
Make me a servant
Humble and meek
Lord let me lift up
Those who are weak
And may the prayer
Of my heart always be
Make me a servant
Make me a servant
Make me a servant today.

Postlude: Crown Him Lord of All…..Alice Hoover, Organ

Crown Him Lord of All, setting by Gilbert Martin

Enlighten the Eyes of Our Hearts

Meditation on Ephesians 1:15-23 and Acts 1:1-11

 for Ascension Sunday

Jesus, Ascending into Heaven

The Presbyterian Church, Coshocton, Ohio

Pastor Karen Crawford

May 17, 2020

   Hello, dear friends. I have enjoyed recording outside in my backyard today. I am glad, however, that you can’t see how tall my grass is! I will have to get that mowed on Monday, if it isn’t raining. I have had to do several retakes, including one when I got a bug in my hair. I am not going to show you that! And then there was the time a squirrel hung from a branch above me and made a loud screeching sound. Everyone has a critic. I guess he didn’t like my sermon. Or maybe he just thought I was talking to him and he was going to respond.

This was one of the hardest weeks for me since we first started sheltering in place. The most troubling thing that happened this week, bringing the crisis closer to home, was the loss of one of our members to COVID-19. His wife has tested positive for the virus and is struggling with her breathing. We are holding her and the family in our prayers. Then on the same day, another one of our members, the husband of one of our staff, went home to be with the Lord. She and her husband had endured long separations during his illness, when he was hospitalized and staying in nursing care centers during coronavirus restrictions.

      On Thursday, I joined with more than 50 pastors and elders, our general presbyter and synod executive, for a presbytery Zoom video conference to discuss what it will mean for churches when we try to re-open our buildings and restart in-person ministries. Our presbytery is developing a manual of guidelines for churches that will be shared with our Session. These are some of the things we discussed.

      Gatherings will be limited in size, perhaps 50 or fewer. Larger churches will have to have multiple services and people will need to make reservations. Someone will have to stand at the door and check reservations and count how many are entering. Masks would be required and if people didn’t come with masks, churches would have to provide them. Some may be administering temperature checks. Others thought it would be too dangerous.

     In the worship space, families would sit together, but six feet apart from others, with no one sitting in pews in front of and behind another. The name of every person who attends each Sunday would have to be recorded, so that if someone tests positive for the virus later, even weeks later, contact tracing could be done. In between the services, churches would have to be completely emptied and wiped down, with a thorough cleaning of pews, handrails and door handles, bathrooms, lobby, etc. There would be no shared drinks or food. No fellowship meals—not indoors, anyway.

     During the service, there would be big changes. These are the most distressing to me of all. No more passing the peace or passing offering plates or communion trays. Ready-made, packaged and sealed communion cups and bread wafers could be supplied in the pews or bread and juice or wine may be brought from home. We probably wouldn’t have childcare or Sunday school for a while. No gathering of the children for children’s messages. A video clip could possibly be shown on a large screen to the entire congregation, like what I have been doing for virtual worship. But it’s not the same as having the kids coming together, surrounding me, looking into their faces, hearing what they have to say, praying with them. And no more giving out treats.

     I would have to preach with a mask or behind plexiglass. With a mask, my voice would be muffled and you wouldn’t be able to see my expressions. Of course, you all would be wearing masks—so I would look out into a sea of faces without smiles.

      So many questions remain. What would it mean for congregational meetings? Would we have to do these virtually—by Zoom or at outdoor gatherings? Would we vote through the mail or by email? What would it mean for elder and deacon ordinations and installations? What about Baptisms? Would I be permitted to hold someone’s infant or touch the forehead of a child or adult? Would wearing gloves be enough?

     One of the most upsetting things to me that we have learned is that singing is dangerous—both choral and congregational, even while wearing masks. And we are a church that SINGS!! What is worship without singing God’s praise? The pastor from a church in Alliance who led the presbytery’s discussion said his church would not be having choir for a long time-possibly a year.

      And here’s another discouraging thought. No matter what actions we take and precautionary measures are put in place, we won’t be able to guarantee everyone will be safe when we gather in person. This is something that weighs heavily on the Session. What a huge responsibility! Because if we open the church, people will come. The fact is that some people, especially the elderly and those with certain medical conditions, should remain sheltering at home. For this reason, I will continue to offer virtual worship services, after we begin to gather in person, once again.

     Additionally, there are dangers, other than to our physical health, which concern me at this time. I am worried about our emotional and spiritual health. The stress of isolation and the generalized anxiety and tensions of life with the virus is truly taking its toll. People are more fragile than they have been, more vulnerable to depression and overwhelming sadness and feelings of hopelessness. I have heard people say, “I can’t handle this.” Yes, it’s true. None of us alone, in ourselves, can handle this. But we aren’t going to handle this alone. We have one another. And we have the Lord. As Jesus says in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

      His Word is truly a lamp for our feet that will guide us on the right path. He will, when we seek him faithfully in prayer, enlighten the eyes of our heart—give us understanding and clarity when we feel uncertain, fearful, or simply exhausted from dealing with it all.

     Here on Ascension Sunday, these Scriptures are especially encouraging. The reading from Acts highlights the promises of our Risen Christ, still giving instructions by the Holy Spirit to his apostles before he is taken up into heaven and during his ascent. He orders them to stay together—in the Holy City of Jerusalem, for they are still Jewish, after all, and need concrete reminders of their faith. He knows they are stronger together, when they pray and reflect on His Words. And the Spirit is coming, he says! The Spirit that will baptize them with fire and give them immeasurable power for ministry in His name.

      Yet it won’t be ministry like they have ever known. Where will they go? What will they do? How will they live? What will become of them? They must be thinking of all these things as they watch Christ ride away on a cloud out of sight. They can’t stop looking at the sky! In horror? Fear? Awe? Sorrow? Whatever their feelings, they are stuck, not wanting to move on to an uncertain future, without Christ in the flesh walking with them.

      But God doesn’t leave them there—stuck—just like the Lord won’t leave us the way we are today, staring up the sky, wondering and fearing what is next for the church. The Lord sends 2 angels to get them moving. You know there are still angels among us today, right? They just might not be wearing white robes like they were here. The men in white say, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

    This is the promise of Christ’s return! This separation between us and the one whom, the writer of Ephesians tells us, has put all things under his feet and is still in control, is temporary! The separation between Christ’s followers and He who is head over all things for the church, which is HIS body, is only for a time! And though we are separated from Him, listen to this promise—as the Body of Christ, we still have the fullness of him, he who fills all in all.

     The apostles will endure separation not only from Christ but long separations from one another and the churches that they love. How do they persevere through years of ministry and prison sentences, often unable to be together, face to face? Through letters and messages carried by other followers across long distances—and by daily prayer. “I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus,” says the writer of Ephesians, “and your love towards all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.” And those who pray have faith that prayer can change everything and empower us to do all things God desires for us. When we pray, our connection with God and one another becomes stronger. And with God, nothing is impossible. The apostle writing the letter to the Ephesians prays that “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe…”

    Don’t you need that encouragement right now? That the power of God is with you? And that God is ready to give us the spirit of wisdom and revelation. And as we draw nearer to him in faith, we will come to know him more and the hope to which he has called us.

      There’s something more than this world! We have hope beyond the grave, in something we cannot see! There were witnesses to the empty tomb, witnesses—many convincing proofs of the Risen One. And there were witnesses on that awesome day, when Christ ascended into heaven and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father, just as we say in the Apostle’s Creed.

     This isn’t the time to be passive, angry, or despairing as we consider the future of our ministry and how different it will be. Because it will be different. The power of God is going to be with us, however, wherever we are! The power of God will certainly always be with the Church, the Body of Christ, “who is far above all rule and authority and power and dominion!” The victory over sin, sickness and death has already been won for us! The Lord is—listen to this—“above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.”

    If the earliest followers could endure the hardship and separations they did with the power of God with them, then we, too, can endure all things with our God with us.

    We have a glorious inheritance! It’s a gift! Inheritance isn’t earned!

     Keep on loving and forgiving one another. That’s part of love, regarding others’ feelings as more important than your own, having grace for one another. Everyone is going through something hard that we might not know about.

     Keep on praying for one another. Draw nearer to the Lord.

    And may the eyes of our hearts be enlightened—so that we may see the Kingdom with us now!

     May we know the hope to which we have been called, our glorious inheritance among the saints, from the One, the fullness of him who fills, all in all.

Let us pray.

Holy One, we give you thanks for your Son, risen, ascended, and seated at your right hand, coming again, and fully present with us, filling all in all. Thank you for He who has called us and united us as His Body and our glorious inheritance among the saints. This is a gift that we don’t earn. We simply receive by faith. Lord, help us to have grace for one another and live as witnesses to your Kingdom through our loving and peaceful ways. Some of us are feeling very discouraged and perhaps frightened. We are uncomfortable and disappointed with possible changes that may be in store for the church. Help us to be grateful for all that we have, to remember to whom we belong, and to be patient, trust you, and endure faithfully till you come again. We lift up those who are suffering with this terrible virus and other serious illnesses and ask for healing. We ask that you comfort the grieving and those who are separated from loved ones. Make us whole. We ask for protection for healthcare workers and other caregivers. Strengthen them, grant them wisdom and revelation, and bless them. Provide for any people who are struggling in any way, whether it be financial, emotional, physical or spiritual difficulties. Enlighten the eyes of our hearts, dear Lord, so that we know the hope to which we have been called. In His name we pray. Amen.

Children’s Message for May 17, 2020

The Presbyterian Church, Coshocton, Ohio

Pastor Karen Crawford

Ancient writers of the letters in the New Testament in our Bibles didn’t use paper like we use today. That wasn’t available to them. They wrote on papyrus scrolls, made from the papyrus plant.

Papyrus Plant used in ancient times to make “paper” for our New Testament writers
Ephesians, written in Greek on papyrus

The writer of the Letter to the Ephesians wrote in Greek on papyrus.

More Precious Than Jewels

Meditation on Proverbs 31:10-31

Pastor Karen Crawford

The Presbyterian Church, Coshocton, Ohio

May 10, 2020

Audio of Karen’s Message: More Precious Than Jewels

Happy Mother’s Day, friends!

The rain was relentless on Friday. It wasn’t a nice, gentle drizzle, splashing from the sky. It poured down on the mourners at Memory Gardens huddled under umbrellas around the grave of Johnalee Hebron. It seeped through my black boots and drenched my socks until I could no longer feel my toes, they were so cold.

    But the mourners were truly celebrating the life of someone who gave birth to two sons—but mothered everyone.  They SANG with joy and praise to recorded music at the grave, “His Eye is on the Sparrow” and “Amazing Grace.”

     Children, grandchildren, cousins, and friends stood under, outside, and beyond the flapping canopy and beside parked cars snaking around the cemetery road. I stood by Johnalee’s casket, a little taller than the rest on the raised platform. “The Lord be with you!” I said. And it came louder than I wanted it to be through the wireless microphone the funeral director had given me. This was the first microphone I have ever worn for a graveside funeral. I think the people in Columbus could hear me.

     “I am the resurrection and the life,” I said, quoting John 11:25-26. “Whoever believes in me, though they may die, will live. And whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” And someone yelled, “Amen!”

     I couldn’t stop smiling after that. Though the rain was relentless. And my feet were freezing, that is, when I could feel them at all. Someone read Philippians 4:4-7, “Rejoice in the Lord…and again I say, rejoice” and the joy just kept on building from there.

     I told the story of Johnalee, the girl from Fresno who married the boy from Warsaw, the first man she ever dated. He was too shy to ask her out himself, so he asked her through a friend. They got married in 1953. He got a job with Edmont, who sent him in 1964 to sell coated gloves in the big city of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

     But you could never take the country out of the girl, they said of the one nicknamed Johnny. Her florist father had wanted a boy, hence the name—John-a-lee. She was the kind who knocked on neighbor’s doors to introduce herself and gave elegant dinner parties, with 14 hors d’oeuvre. She was the one who made everything beautiful, said daughter-in- law, Mary. A gift from the Lord.

    She suffered much when her and Louie’s youngest child, Kyle, was born with spina bifida. She suffered more when he died at only 18 months. But she wasn’t the type to sit around and feel sorry for herself. She used her grief to help other sick children, volunteering as a play lady at a hospital in Grand Rapids. She brought a suitcase full of tricks and toys and was so engaging that when it was time for them to go home, the children wanted to stay with Johnny.

     She was the kind of person who transformed an ordinary yard into Candyland for her grandchildren—planting lollipops in the ground and dangling sweets from shrubs and trees. She painted trees and fountains on interior walls and knew how to turn a blah room into fabulous with just a few small changes. She was the kind of woman who turned a child’s tea party into a Mary Poppins-like experience, sewing the girls’ special outfits with matching hats and serving up tiny petit fours. The kind of person who never met a stranger. She loved human beings and all God’s creation. Growing up in her father’s greenhouse business, she could make anything grow. She fed birds and squirrels out of her hand. And, oh, she could make you laugh, without even trying. The funny things that would come out of her mouth and the unpredictable things she might do. You just never knew with Johnny.

    One young woman, who, like the other 10 or so who shared memories at this graveside service, said that she went out to lunch with Johnny on a warm day. Johnny was wearing pantyhose. She was hot. She took off her pantyhose right at the table, rolled them up and plopped them on the waiter’s tray, telling him to take them away and throw them out.

    She was a character, but then, most mothers are. But she was also hardworking, creative, smart, faithful, funny, gentle, generous, and, most of all, loving. Her children and grandchildren and her husband, though the rain poured down and the wind did blow, were all rising up to praise her and call her happy and blessed.

     She was like the woman of Proverbs 31. “A capable wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.”

     Here on Mother’s Day, when we honor women and give thanks for our mothers, I find myself wondering if the person who wrote Proverbs 31 really had one person in mind. I don’t think so. No one could do EVERYTHING this woman did. She was a superhero, this one, if she was. She managed a household and took care of every detail—even spinning the wool and flax into thread before making her family’s clothes. She was also a businesswoman, selling her own fine linens for a profit, considering a field and buying it, and planting a vineyard with her own hands, though she had servants to help her with the work, mind you!

    Is your curiosity stirred when you read how she was able to find food for her household from far away—like the ships of merchants? Where did she go? What exotic foods did they eat? Not just local fare. This was a sophisticated, resourceful woman, a busy, smart woman, never “eating the bread of idleness.” Don’t you love that turn of phrase? She didn’t get much sleep either, if she burned the lamp all night and rose early, while it was still dark.

   Apart from the many things she did, it was her character that the writer emphasized. She was someone who opened her hand to the poor and spoke words of wisdom and kindness. She was strong physically—girding her arms. She was strong emotionally and spiritually, too. She laughed with joy at the thought of tomorrow; this is not a woman who let anxiety and fear rule in her heart.

   What’s also wonderful about this passage is the picture of her relationship with her husband. He trusts her. He knows she would never hurt him. And he praises her! We all need praise and encouragement to be our best selves. The husband is a respected leader in their community. He is, “known in the city gates, taking his seat among the elders of the land.” Not only does he praise her at home, her good works are praised at these very same city gates, where important information is shared and decisions are made.

    The author of Proverbs 31, who might have been King Solomon himself, holds his key theological statement until verse 30 of his 31-verse poem. I want you to understand that the ideal woman bears much fruit and is able to be a blessing to others, not just because she was a hard worker and tried to be a good person. We all do that, sometimes to the point of exhaustion. The ideal woman is to be praised because of her faith; she fears the Lord, which, according to Proverbs 9:10, “is the beginning of wisdom.”

      Her husband and children call her happy or blessed! She is far more precious than jewels.

     “I can almost see her now,” I said of Johnalee at her graveside service on Friday. I imagined her in God’s beautiful garden, with Jesus and all God’s creatures, planting and arranging flowers and feeding birds and squirrels from her hand. I imagine she is making paradise even more lovely and beautiful, perhaps painting rainbows in the sky, sewing clothes for the lilies of the field, and making hors d’oeuvre for the banquet feast.  No doubt, the woman who sang in the choir at John Knox Presbyterian Church is singing God’s praise for all of her days. She has joined her son, Kyle, in the Great Cloud of Witnesses, now watching over us and cheering us on as we run the race.

      On this day that we honor our mothers, this is my hope for you, my dear sisters in the Lord:

May you feel loved and appreciated not just for all the good things you do, but for WHO you are—a beloved child of God, forgiven, freed, and redeemed! May you be emptied of fear and worry and filled with hope and joy when you think of tomorrow. May you grow in your faith, in the fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom. May the Spirit grant you a heart of compassion so that you open your hand to the poor.  May you eat not the bread of idleness, but also be granted peace and rest. You deserve it! May your husband and children rise up to praise you and call you blessed.

     A capable woman, who can find? YOU are far more precious than jewels!  

Let us pray.

Holy One, who is both Mother and Father to all of us, we thank you for creating us for love. Bless our earthly mothers, Lord, and all women. Help us to trust in you and to fear you as the Proverbs 31 woman did, which is the beginning of wisdom. Lord, teach us to appreciate our loved ones more—to rise up and praise them and call them happy and blessed. Comfort and lift up those who are mourning their mothers on this day. Grant the women in our lives peace and rest, for they are busy people, never eating the bread of idleness. Encourage them that they are doing enough. Strengthen our faith so that we, like Solomon’s ideal woman, will be emptied of anxiety about tomorrow and filled with hope and joy—enough to laugh. For you will be there with us, your beloved children—forgiven, freed and redeemed—forevermore. Amen.




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