So the Last Will Be First

Meditation on Matthew 20:1-16

The Presbyterian Church, Coshocton, OH

Pastor Karen Crawford

Sept. 20, 2020

I am SO glad our sound is fixed! Last week, if you weren’t here, we had an echo. We discovered it about 10 minutes before worship began, so we just tried to make the best of it. One of our elders said I sounded like I was preaching at Yankee Stadium! That’s never been a secret dream of mine.

Jim, on the way home from church, told me that I didn’t even need the sound system that day. I was so loud, he said, I didn’t need a microphone! That’s quite a compliment coming from the one who knows how I have struggled with finding my preaching voice.

It was summer 2007 when I preached my first sermon. I hadn’t even had a preaching class! I had been invited to serve as a park chaplain for a state park campground near Hanover, Pennsylvania. The first Sunday that I led worship in the outdoor amphitheater, I didn’t have a microphone. And I think there was an air show going on overhead, just as I started to speak.

The next week, the committee that hired me brought a portable, wireless sound system. I was the first chaplain at that park who ever needed a microphone, they said. The system plugged into an outlet enclosed in a little wooden box. My youngest son, James, in middle school at the time, operated my sound and helped with set up and take down.

It worked great until the Sunday when he opened the little wooden box to plug in the receiver—and there was a snake coiled inside! It was big! We had to call a park ranger to come and get the snake before we could start the worship service. She brought a rake and just reached in and coiled the snake around the rake and carried him away. She said he was a good snake. I can’t say that I agreed!

It truly has been a perpetual learning experience for me—these years of ministry and going back farther than that. I’m pretty sure that the Lord had been preparing me for ministry my whole life, but I didn’t have a clue. That’s what God does—he prepares us for His future, for all eternity, waiting to unfold.

***

Today’s gospel reading in Matthew 20 is about God’s grace and humanity’s mixed response. This is part of a longer teaching on the kingdom of God—and how it’s not like the world. This is hard for the disciples to grasp. It’s hard for us to understand, too.

In Matthew 18, the disciples come to Jesus and ask, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” It just dawned on me last night that they probably wanted him to choose between them! But he doesn’t pick one of them.

 He calls a child—and everyone knows children should be quiet and invisible in Jesus’ society, everyone but Jesus, that is! “Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven,” he says. In chapter 19, he says this about children again. “Let the children come to me,” he says to those who are shooing them away, “and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”

Then he totally astounds them when a young man asks Jesus “what good deed” he must do to have eternal life. This is during a time when religious people commonly believe that wealth is a sign of God’s favor. Some people believe that today! But that’s not what Jesus says! He tells the man to sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor, so he will have treasure in heaven. Then, “Come,” he says, “Follow me.” The man goes away grieving, for he has many possessions.

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus says, “it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven.”

“Then who can be saved???” the disciples ask.

“For mortals, it is impossible,” Jesus says, “but for God all things are possible.”

Chapter 19 ends the same way our passage today ends, “But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” This repetition isn’t accidental or an editorial error. Christ is emphasizing this point.

We reach today’s reading in chapter 20, and we find some disgruntled workers. Why are they complaining? Everyone received the same pay for a day’s work—a denarius, a typical wage for a laborer. Who are the people doing the most complaining? Those who worked longer, right, but received the same pay as those who worked less. They are outraged! This isn’t fair!

There’s no gratitude here for the owner of the vineyard, though they would still be standing unemployed in the market—no money, no way to buy food for their families—if the owner hadn’t given them work to do in the first place. “Are you envious because I am generous?” the owner asks. “So the last will be first and the first will be last.”

I can’t imagine that’s what they want to hear. We are left wondering what will happen next. But Jesus doesn’t tell us any more of the story, just like he doesn’t tell us what the older brother in the Parable of the Prodigal Son decides when his Father begs him to stay and celebrate the return of his rebellious brother—the one who was dead, but now alive, lost and now found. Will the workers decide they won’t labor for the generous employer who pays everyone the same, regardless of their work?

But the story isn’t over when the parable ends. And if you think that maybe the disciples got the message about humility, grace and gratitude, then you’d be mistaken. Just a few verses down, the sons of Zebedee come to Jesus with their mother, when none of the other disciples are around. She has a request. She wants one of her sons to sit at Jesus’ right hand and the other at his left in his Kingdom. Jesus explains that they don’t know what they are asking. And they don’t. Not yet. But when all the disciples are back together, and they are angry at James and John, the Lord again astounds them with his teaching.

He’s moved from God’s grace and humility to our calling to imitate God’s sacrificial love. “Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant,”  he says, “and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

No one says anything after that. What could they say?

 Their journey of faith and Christ’s ministry and teaching by example continue with two men being healed on the way to Jerusalem. “Son of David, have mercy on us!” they cry out. Jesus stops,\ and asks, “What do you want me to do for you?”

“Lord, let our eyes be opened,” they say.

Moved by compassion, Jesus touches their eyes. Immediately they regain their sight and follow him!

**

When I consider my calling to ministry, mostly I am amazed. How can God use someone like me? I often wonder. Christ’s words in Matthew 19:26 reassure me that this isn’t about me. “For God, all things are possible!”

I celebrate the anniversary of my ordination this week—Sept. 25, 2011. I give thanks to God that 9 years ago, I was led to say yes to the Lord with all my heart, committing my life to labor for the Kingdom, not knowing, of course, what was to come.

I have been continually inspired by the Great Cloud of Witnesses that surrounds me, including my good friend, Leslie Ritter, who went home to be with the Lord on Sept. 14. She was the clerk of session at my Florida congregation, but she did many other things for the church, too, such as helping to prepare and serve fellowship meals with her husband, Carl, every Tuesday night for more than 2 decades. She often assisted me with home communion, as well. She was a tiny woman, but she was tough, the daughter of a colonel. She was also kind and funny and generous. If I was anxious about something, she’d give me a fierce look with her blue eyes and say, “Be strong! Be strong!”

So many others have helped me be faithful to my call and brought me joy in this journey. Some have visited me here in Coshocton! Others aren’t free to travel, but call and write. My friend, Sis, in her 90s now, still reaches out. I just love to hear from her! When I ask her how she is, she says, “Same old, same old.” I know she has pain but she doesn’t complain. She models gratitude. She tells me that every morning, when she wakes up and puts her feet on the floor, she thanks the good Lord for another day!

And I have to say this. I would not be a pastor if God hadn’t placed Jim Crawford in my life. I would still be a journalist, working long days and writing stories on deadline, wondering if there was something else I could do for God, but what could that be? Jim has always believed in me, even when I have had doubts.

Friends, God responds to our weakness, our grumbling and complaining, our anxieties and fears. You know how God responds? By providing for all our needs and saying, “I love you. I forgive you. My grace is enough for you!”

Someday, we will see our Savior face to face. And you know what he will say to us? Because of His grace and because of His Son and not because of anything we have done?

He’s going to say, “Well done, good and faithful servants. Well done.”

Let us pray.

Gracious heavenly Father, thank you for your love and mercy for sinners, revealed by the sacrifice of your Only Son, and for your kindness and patience shown to us every day. Help us, Lord, to be your grateful children, imitating the humility and sacrifice of the One who came to serve and not be served and to give his life for a ransom for many. Lord, thank you for your call to ministry to each of us and for the Great Cloud of Witnesses, dear friends and good examples on this side of your Kingdom and in the world to come. Strengthen us to be more faithful, trusting your provision in our wildernesses, trusting you to guide us, trusting that your grace is enough. We look forward to the day when you return for your Church, when you gather us all to yourself. We long to hear you say, “Well done, good and faithful servants. Well done.” In Christ we pray. Amen.

Sept. 20, 2020 Virtual Worship

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

Rev. Karen Crawford, Pastor

Mark Wagner, Organist

Jim Arganbright, Liturgist

September 20, 2020                                                                                                   10 a.m.

Prelude Prelude and Fugue in G Johann Sebastian Bach

Greeting/Announcements

Opening Words

O give thanks to the Lord! The Lord hears the cries of the people.

Give thanks to the Lord.

The works of the Lord are great.

Remember what God has done.

God has done miracles, and the Lord always remembers God’s covenant.

Glory and praise is due to the Lord!

Gathering Prayer

Hymn Fairest Lord Jesus Anonymous
Fairest Lord Jesus,
Ruler of all nature,
O thou of God to earth come down,
Thee will I cherish,
Thee will I honor,
Thou, my soul’s glory, joy, and crown.

Beautiful Savior! Lord of all the nations!
Son of God and Son of Man!
Glory and honor,
Praise, adoration,
Now and forevermore be thine.

Call to Confession/Prayer of Confession/Assurance of Pardon
Gracious God, we have sought a(er things, but we have not sought a(er you. We have expected generosity, but we have not shown generosity. We have not been gracious or grateful. We have failed to remember all that you have done. Forgive us and fill our hearts with gratitude. Help us to share our gifts and strengthen our legs so that we can run after you, O God. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Time with Children and Youth

Prayer for Illumination

Exodus 16:2-15 and Philippians 1:21-30

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

Matthew 20:1-16

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

Message So the Last Will Be First

HYMN   God Whose Giving Knows No Ending                   Robert L. Edwards

God, whose giving knows no ending,
From Your rich and endless store:
Nature’s wonder, Jesus’ wisdom,
Costly cross, grave’s shattered door.
Gifted by You, we turn to You,
Off’ring up ourselves in praise:
Thankful song shall rise forever,
Gracious donor of our days.

Skills and time are ours for pressing
Toward the goals of Christ, Your Son:
All at peace in health and freedom,
Races joined, the church made one.
Now direct our daily labor,
Lest we strive for self alone:
Born with talents, make us servants
Fit to answer at Your throne.

Treasure, too, You have entrusted,
Gain through pow’rs Your grace conferred:
Ours to use for home and kindred,
And to spread the Gospel Word.
Open wide our hands in sharing,
As we heed Christ’s ageless call.
Healing, teaching, and reclaiming,
Serving You by loving all.

Invitation to the Offering

Offertory: How Dear to Me Is Your Dwelling Robert J. Powell

Prayer of Thanksgiving and Dedication/Lord’s Prayer

Lord, giver of all good gifts, thank you for the resources gathered here. Use these gifts for the advancement of your 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 Lord, I Want to Be a Christian African American Spiritual
Lord, I want to be a Christian
In my heart, in my heart;
Lord, I want to be a Christian
In my heart.

Refrain:
In my heart, in my heart;
Lord, I want to be a Christian
In my heart.

Lord, I want to be more loving
In my heart, in my heart;
Lord, I want to be more loving
In my heart.

Refrain

Lord, I want to be like Jesus
In my heart, in my heart;
Lord, I want to be like Jesus
In my heart.

Refrain


Charge/Benediction


Postlude Baroque Tune Giovanni Coperario (1575-1626)

I Will Not Leave You Orphaned

Meditation on John 14:1-7, 15-19, 25-27

In Memory of Joann Chambers Haynes Thompson

The Presbyterian Church, Coshocton, OH

Pastor Karen Crawford

Sept. 18, 2020

Joann Thompson

    Here is a link to the entire service:

Sept. 18, 2020 celebration of life for Joann Thompson

You know how when you meet someone and you feel like you already know them? That’s how it was when I met Joann Thompson last year. She came through the greeting line after worship. Lisa introduced us, and Joann told me she lived in Beavercreek. I immediately thought of Beaver Creek in Pennsylvania. That’s how new I was to Ohio! Am I saying it right? Beavercreek?

    Joann told me how much she enjoyed worship and loved this church, the church of her childhood. She wanted to share memories, I think, but there wasn’t time. There were other people in line behind her. Isn’t that how it always seems to be? We are in a hurry and yet these seemingly small but important openings for relationships to develop present themselves, like a beautiful but short-lived flower that blooms then fades quickly in bright sunlight.

    I didn’t know that would be the only opportunity I would have to speak with her. I can only give thanks for the privilege of meeting her, and the honor of sharing her story and the promises of Jesus Christ with you.

     Joann was born in Logan, Ohio, on Christmas Eve in 1928. She would be a middle child, with an older sister, Mary, and younger sister, Emily.  Her parents, Harold and Thelma Chambers, would live on 16th Street in Coshocton and later on Cambridge Road. Joann’s dad was a Coshocton County Extension Agent; her mom was a teacher at Lincoln Elementary School. Harold and Thelma were longtime members of The Presbyterian Church. Joann and her sisters attended Sunday school. All three girls, though they would move away when they grew up, would be married here.

    Joann joined the church on April 6, 1941. Our records say that her first name was Natalie! Her middle name was Joann. Why didn’t she like the name Natalie? I think it’s beautiful! Isn’t that funny—how we often don’t feel as if we fit the names given to us at birth? I do know this for sure, that whatever the name is that we call ourselves, God knows our names and everything about us. Psalm 139 tells us this—that God knows us before we were born. When he knit us together in our mother’s womb, we were fearfully and wonderfully made!

    Joann possessed musical gifts. She sang in choirs, played piano, and played flute in Coshocton High School’s marching band. After she graduated in 1947, she went on to study music at Ohio State. She graduated in 1952 and found a position teaching music at a school in Fairborn. She actually lived on the same street in Fairborn where her daughter, Lee, lives now–and Lee didn’t know that when she moved there!

    Joann met Howard Haynes through mutual friends while living in Fairborn. They were married June 26, 1954, here in this sanctuary, by Rev. John Abernethy. She continued to teach music in Fairborn and attended Memorial Presbyterian Church in Dayton, transferring her membership from the church of her childhood on Sept. 15, 1958. She took some time off from teaching when she had her own children—Susan and Lee Anne. When Lee was in 5th grade, the family moved to a new home they had built in Beavercreek. Joann went back to school, before that move, and attended Wright State University to study Elementary Education. She taught 3rd graders for 17 years. Isn’t that awesome?

     Tragically, Joann’s husband, Howard, died of cancer in 1986. He was 59. While some people are blessed with only one loving companion for their lives, God provided another for Joann. It was also a second chance love as Joann and Henry Thompson had dated in high school. Their relationship had ended when Henry was drafted into the U.S. Army after graduation. Joann was brokenhearted. Henry served in Korea before attending Miami University and coming back to Coshocton to work in the real estate and insurance business with his father.

     Joann and Henry married on June 23, 1990 in Tucson, Arizona, where they would make their new life together. Henry worked as a realtor there, and they attended Catalina Foothills Church. Joann sang in the choir for many years, and her daughter, Lee, sang with her.

     After Henry’s retirement in 2010, they moved back to Ohio. As we grow older, we often feel the pull to go to the place we called home when we were young.

    They were married 28 years when Henry went home to be with the Lord on April 3, 2018 at the age of 88.

***

  Our reading in John 14 is about the place Christ’s disciples will call home when the Lord goes to prepare a place for them in His Father’s house, then comes again and takes them to himself. “So that where I am,” he says, “there you may be also.”  The disciples are grieving as Jesus speaks of his departure, telling them about how he will die; this is just too much for them to bear for the one they love.

    When Jesus says, “you know the way to the place where I am going,” Thomas interrupts with an emotional plea, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

    It’s simple, Jesus says. “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

    What really touches me in this familiar passage is the promise that Jesus won’t leave us orphaned! That seems especially important today as we remember the life of Joann—a mother, stepmother and grandmother. No matter how old we are, when we lose a parent, we feel like an orphan. Jesus promises the Holy Spirit to all who love Him and seek to keep His commandments. The Lord will abide with us forever—here, now, in Spirit, and face to face in the world to come!  

      Jesus says at the beginning and end of this passage, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” He repeats this phrase because he knows they ARE anxious, just as you and I are anxious at the thought of living without our loved ones with us. Jesus knows this because he is both God and one of us, feeling all the same emotions that we do.

      Christ’s promise of peace is a gift for his earliest disciples; it strengthens them in their time of grief and helps them to continue his ministry on earth, following in his footsteps.  It’s a peace that lives in us and strengthens us today to do God’s will.

 ***

      When I asked Lee to tell me about her mother, she said. “Mom was a strong woman, who could calm your fears and make things make sense. She was a good listener when I needed to vent. She had a great sense of humor. She had a good memory! Three things she told everyone to have: a positive attitude, a sense of humor, and a glass of wine every day!

    “She used to enjoy sewing clothes when we were little; later years she enjoyed counted cross stitch and quilting. She was an avid reader, enjoying books by James Patterson and Bill O’Reilly and historical novels about Scotland or England. She also was a fan of Fox News! 

     Family meant everything to her. Joann was happy to be able to attend her step grandson Justin’s wedding on July 25—days before she went home to be with the Lord on Aug. 11. Psalm 139 assures us that the Lord knows the number of our days and that they are written down in God’s book, before they even existed.

    I am convinced that Joann, the special lady I met too briefly in a greeting line after worship, would want her family to know that it was her time to join Christ in the joy that He had prepared. This same joy awaits each of us in the house of our heavenly parent. “I will not leave you orphaned!” Christ is saying to us right now. “I am coming to you….

    “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid.”

Amen.

Sept. 13, 2020 Virtual Worship

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

Pastor Karen Crawford

Diane Jones, Liturgist

Alice Hoover, Organist

Parting the Red Sea
Sept. 13, 2020 Worship

Prelude: Thanks Be Thee  George Frideric Handel

Greeting/Announcements with Pastor Karen

Opening Words with Diane Jones

Give praise to God!

Praise the Lord, for it is God who saves. . . . 

It is God who forgives. . . .

It is God who delivers. . . .

Give thanks and praise to the Lord!

Gathering Prayer with Diane Jones

Hymn     There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy         Frederick W. Faber

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
like the wideness of the sea.
There’s a kindness in God’s justice,
which is more than liberty.
There is no place where earth’s sorrows
are more felt than up in heaven.
There is no place where earth’s failings
have such kindly judgment given.

For the love of God is broader
than the measures of the mind.
And the heart of the Eternal
is most wonderfully kind.
If our love were but more faithful,
we would gladly trust God’s Word,
and our lives reflect thanksgiving
for the goodness of our Lord.

Call to Confession

Prayer of Confession

Gracious and loving God, you lived for us—we have not lived for you. You have forgiven us—we have not forgiven others. You have loved us—we have not loved ourselves nor have we loved one another. Take pity on us and forgive us, God. Help us to forgive. Help us to live for you. Help us to love through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon

Time with Children and Youth with Pastor Karen

Parting the Red Sea From Sermons4Kids
(I Will Sing Unto the Lord (The Horse and RIder)

Prayer for Illumination and Romans 14:1-12 with Diane Jones

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

Exodus 14:19-31 with Pastor Karen

Holy wisdom, holy word. Thanks be to God!

Message The God Who Parts the Sea Pastor Karen

Hymn          Give to the Winds Thy Fears          John Wesley

Give to the winds thy fears,
hope and be undismayed;
God hears thy sighs and counts thy tears;
God shall lift up thy head.

Through waves and clouds and storms,
He gently clears the way;
wait thou His time, so shall this night
soon end in joyous day.

Invitation to the Offering

Offertory

Prayer of Thanksgiving/Lord’s Prayer

O God, we thank you for these gifts. Multiply them, and enable the work of love and the righteousness of your kingdom in the world. We thank and praise you.  Hear us as we continue our prayer in the words Jesus gave to us, 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       Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah       William Williams

Guide me, O my great Redeemer,
pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but you are mighty;
hold me with your powerful hand.
Bread of heaven, bread of heaven,
feed me now and evermore,
feed me now and evermore.

Open now the crystal fountain,
where the healing waters flow.
Let the fire and cloudy pillar
lead me all my journey through.
Strong Deliverer, strong Deliverer,
ever be my strength and shield,
ever be my strength and shield.

Charge/Benediction

Postlude: Adagio Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713) edited, S. Drummond Wolf

The God Who Parts the Sea

Meditation on Exodus 14:19-31

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

Pastor Karen Crawford

Sept. 13, 2020

We passed another milestone this week on Friday; it’s been 19 years since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Can you believe it’s been that long? Some people were talking on Facebook about where they were on that day. Do you remember where you were?

I was a religion reporter for the York Daily Record in York, PA. More than 3,000 people lost their lives when al Qaeda hijackers flew airplanes into the Pentagon and World Trade Center. More than 6,000 people were injured. While no good can possibly come from an act of terrorism and that day forever changed how we would live, we can say that terrible day brought Americans closer together in their shared grief, horror, and yes, fear. I remember people calling their family and friends to tell them they loved them, American flags flying everywhere, and people whispering, “God bless America” as a prayer. People started calling me at the newspaper, asking questions like, “Is it Armageddon?” People who had fallen away from the faith, came back to church, seeking the Lord.

One of the miracles of that day was that most of the tens of thousands of people who typically worked in the Pentagon and the World Trade Center were able to escape. Many more lives could have been lost. And on that day of the worst terrorist attacks in U.S. history, more than a few ordinary people became heroes.  

Here’s a story of one of them from “7 Incredible Stories of Heroism on 911,” Business Insider, 9/11/2017:

“Just a few minutes after United Airlines Flight 175 struck the South Tower of the World Trade Center, 24-year-old Welles Crowther called his mother and calmly left a voicemail: ‘Mom, this is Welles. I want you to know that I’m ok.’

“Crowther was an equities trader at Sandler O’Neil and Partners on the 104th floor. But after that call, the man who was a volunteer firefighter in his teens made his way down to the 78th floor sky lobby and became a hero to strangers known only as ‘the man in the red bandana.’

“Amid the smoke, chaos and debris, Crowther helped injured and disoriented office workers to safety, risking his own life in the process. Though they couldn’t see much through the haze, those he saved recalled a tall figure wearing a red bandana to shield his lungs and mouth.

“… In what’s been described as a “strong, authoritative voice,” Crowther directed survivors to the stairway and encouraged them to help others while he carried an injured woman on his back. After bringing her 15 floors down to safety, he made his way back up to help others.”

“Everyone who can stand, stand now,” Crowther told survivors while directing them to a stairway exit. “If you can help others, do so.”

Crowther is credited with saving at least a dozen people that day.

And another hero story of 911:

“Rick Rescorla was already a hero of the battlefields of Vietnam, where he earned the Silver Star and other awards for his exploits as an Army officer. Rescorla, who had been featured on the cover of the book We Were Soldiers Once…And Young,” would often sing to his men to calm them down while under fire, using songs of his youth while growing up in the United Kingdom. Many more in the South Tower would hear his songs on September 11, where Rescorla was working as head of corporate security for Morgan Stanley.

When American Flight 11 hit the tower next to him, Port Authority ordered Rescorla to keep his employees at their desks, but Rescorla who had frequently warned the Port Authority and his company about the World Trade Center’s security weaknesses, had already issued the order to evacuate. He had made Morgan Stanley employees practice emergency drills for years, and
it paid off that day: Just 16 minutes after the first plane hit the opposite tower, more than 2,700 employees and visitors were out when the second plane hit their building.”

We remember an ancient battle in our passage in Exodus 14 today. This battle and the victory belonged to the Lord. After the 10th plague is visited on his people and the firstborn children die, Pharaoh summons Moses and Aaron in the night and orders them, “Rise up, go away from my people, both you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord, as you said.”

The Israelites are about 600,000 thousand men and women, traveling on foot, plus children and flocks and herds. They journey from Rameses to Succoth with their unleavened dough and gifts from the Egyptians who oppressed them—gold and silver jewelry and clothing. God doesn’t lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, though that was nearer. God reveals his reasoning, saying, ‘If the people face war, they may change their minds and return to Egypt.’ So the Lord leads them by the roundabout way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. God goes in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, to give them light. They travel by day and by night.

Then the Lord warns Moses that he is going to harden Pharaoh’s heart. He and his armies will pursue them. This is God’s doing! Why? He wanted the Israelites to cross the Red Sea. He has a miracle planned! In 14:4, God explains, “so that I will gain glory for myself over Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.”

When the Israelites look back and see Pharaoh and his foot soldiers, officers, and 600 “chosen” chariot drivers advancing on them, they cry out in fear to the Lord. And they turn on their leader, Moses. Suddenly the past is looking good.

“Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness?” the Israelites want to know. “What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt? Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, ‘Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians?’ For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than die in the wilderness.”

Moses says, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.”

The God Who Parts the Sea

Everything happens as the Lord has said. Moses lifts his staff and stretches out his hand over the sea. “The Lord (drives) the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turn(s) the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided.” The Israelites cross and the Egyptian soldiers follow. But at the morning watch, the Egyptian army sees the Lord in the pillar of fire and cloud looking down on them—and what a sight it must be! It throws them into a panic, and as they are panicking, their chariot wheels get clogged.

Nothing good ever comes from panic, does it?

The Egyptians try to flee, but the Lord tells Moses to stretch out his hand, once again. And the army and the Pharaoh are swept away by the waters of the sea.

Israel comes together in their joy over God’s victory. And they fear the Lord, believe in the Lord, and believe in his servant Moses. The prophet, Miriam, Aaron’s sister, dances, sings and plays the tambourine and the women join her in song.

The Israelites’ joy and faith in God and Moses are short-lived. Their doubts and fears, complaining and blaming will return when they encounter more trials in the wilderness.

I don’t have to tell you, friends, that we are going through trials as a nation. We are, aren’t we? Doubts and fears, complaining and blaming are the reality for the society in which we live.

You who have come today have a special calling to share your hope in Christ with those who feel their hope slipping away. You who have strength are called to support the weak in body, mind and spirit. We are not called to judge others, for any reason—not for their politics, or what they eat or when or if they observe the Sabbath.

God still performs miracles every day. They may not be as dramatic as the ones in Exodus, but they are still miracles—a baby is born, a child learns to read or play Bach flawlessly, someone is healed of cancer or other disease, brothers learn to forgive, broken families are reconciled; men and women risk their lives caring for the sick and dying, putting out raging fires, and helping communities recover from natural disasters and acts of violence.

When we look closely, we will see God working in our midst. How do you see God working in your life?

God used many ordinary people 19 years ago on a day we will never forget. When terrorists tried to destroy as many lives as possible, ordinary people were led to heroic acts of kindness and self-sacrifice that saved many more.

During the evacuation of the World Trade Center on 911, Rescorla calmly reassured people, singing “God Bless America” over a bullhorn as they walked down the stairs. He called his wife. “Stop crying,” he told her. “I have to get these people out safely. If something should happen to me, I want you to know I’ve never been happier. You made my life.” He was last seen on the 10th floor of the South Tower, heading upward to look for any stragglers. His body was never found.

Survivor Ling Young told CNN that Crowther, the 24-year-old equities trader wearing the red bandana to shield his lungs and mouth, was her “guardian angel — no ifs, ands or buts — because without him,” she said, “we would be sitting there, waiting [until] the building came down.’ His body was later recovered alongside firefighters in a stairwell heading back up the tower with the ‘jaws of life’ rescue tool.

This is the God we serve. The God we trust. The only One who knows what’s in the road ahead and also what’s behind us. The One who revealed His love for the world when He gave His only Son.

The God who parts the sea.

Let us pray. Holy One, we are so grateful for the call on our lives—that we have the hope of all eternity with you because of your Son, who showed us the way back to you and gave his life for us. We pray for our community, for protection for the vulnerable, including the children and teachers in schools and our elderly in nursing homes, assisted living or homebound. We pray for healthcare workers and all the ordinary people who have become heroes during times of crisis, such as the terrorist attacks of 911. We lift up also the ordinary people who are everyday heroes, showing love, helping the weak, giving to people in need, feeding the hungry, working for peace and modeling faith, hope and love. Thank you for those who have lost their lives serving our country in war and acts of terrorism and those who serve our country today. Help us, Lord, when we are afraid or struggle to see your goodness in our midst. Help us to trust that you will fight our battles for us, if only we would be still and know you are the God who parts the sea. In Christ we pray. Amen.

Sept. 6, 2020 Virtual Worship

The Presbyterian Church, 142 N. Fourth Street, Coshocton, OH 43812

Pastor Karen Crawford

Alice Hoover, Organist

Sarah Swigert, Liturgist

Here is a link to the video of our service this morning:

Sept. 6, 2020 Worship with The Presbyterian Church
The night is nearly over; the day is almost here.

Prelude: I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light  (Setting by Michael Burkhardt) Alice Hoover, Organ Mr. Burkhardt has written “footsteps” into his music.

Greeting/Announcements with Pastor Karen

Opening Words: Sarah Swigert

Listen! The Lord calls out to us, offering life!          

 Teach, lead, turn us to your ways, O God.          

Walk in the paths of God’s commandments with delight.                                  

 Teach, lead, turn us to your ways, O God.

With our whole heart, we will turn to you and live!

Gathering Prayer: Sarah Swigert

Hymn (Glory to God #366) Love Divine, All Loves Excelling (stanzas 1 and 4))

Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of heav’n to earth come down:
fix in us thy humble dwelling,
all thy faithful mercies crown:
Jesus, thou art all compassion,
pure, unbounded love thou art;
visit us with thy salvation,
enter ev’ry trembling heart.

Finish, then, thy new creation;
pure and spotless let us be:
let us see thy great salvation
perfectly restored in thee;
changed from glory into glory,
’til in heav’n we take our place,
’til we cast our crowns before thee,
lost in wonder, love, and praise.

Call to Confession with Pastor/Prayer of Confession/Assurance of Pardon with Pastor

Lord God, while we were still slaves to sin, you died for our salvation. Yet we still worship the false gods of this world, forgetting that you are Lord. Loving worldly wealth, we have not loved you with our whole heart nor loved our neighbors as ourselves. Trusting worldly strength, we have not trusted your word nor followed the Word made flesh. Forgiving by worldly norms, as have not shown mercy to others as you have shown mercy to us. Forgive us, yet again, we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.

Time with Children and Youth with Pastor Karen

Praise Song: Be A Light

Be A Light (Thomas Rhett, Reba McEntire, Hillary Scott, Chris Tomlin & Keith Urban)

Prayer for Illumination and Matthew 18:15-30 with Sarah Swigert

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

Romans 13:8-14 with Pastor Karen

Holy wisdom, holy word. Thanks be to God!

Message: Put on the Armor of Light! Put on Jesus Christ!

Hymn: Glory to God # 754 Help Us Accept Each Other (stanzas 1 and 2)

Help us accept each other as Christ accepted us; teach us as sister, brother, each person to embrace. Be present, Lord, among us and bring us to believe we are ourselves accepted, and meant to love and live.

Teach us, O Lord, your lessons, as in our daily life we struggle to be human and search for hope and faith. Teach us to care for people, for all, not just for some, to love them as we find them, or as they may become.

Prayer of Intercession/Lord’s Prayer

Pastor: God of grace and steadfast love, we thank you for your commandments, which order our life together. We thank you for calling us to live honorably with one another and pray for your grace as we try to do all that you require of us.

Liturgist: Increase in us, we pray, the capacity to love you and our neighbors without reserve and to love even those who harm us. Not halfheartedly, but with our whole hearts, we bring before you the cares, the concerns, and the joys that occupy us.

Women: We remember before you those who are at odds with one another in families, in neighborhoods or offices, and even in the church. We pray for nations in the midst of internal or external struggles and conflict.

Pastor: Teach us, O God, to seek nonviolent ways toward resolution. Help us to speak the truth and to listen with understanding when perspectives are far apart. We pray for love to bring peace into every troubled heart and place.

Liturgist: We remember before you those who have physical needs today. People who are hungry and thirsty; people who are exhausted by the demands of work or caregiving; people who are sick, or undergoing surgery; and people who live with chronic pain. Bring relief and rest, we pray.

Men: We remember those weighed down with needs of heart and soul. A worry that keeps us awake at night, grief that accompanies us everywhere we go, depression that clouds us, or an addiction that grips us.

All: Lift all of these heavy burdens with the light and peace of your presence, we pray. Sustain us over the long journey toward health and give us trust in you, ourselves, and those who love us.

Liturgist: We remember before you not only our cares, but also our joys—a birthday celebrated, an anniversary enjoyed; new beginnings—a baby born, a new school year begun, a new job, a new relationship. We thank you, O God, for the gift of laughter, for enduring friendships, and for cherished memories.

Pastor: We give thanks that with you there is always a new beginning, a way where this is no way, hope beyond hope, and life beyond death. Through Jesus Christ, our risen Lord, who taught us to pray… 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.

Invitation to the Offering with Pastor

Offertory: Jesu, Jesu, Fill Us with Your Love   (Setting, Robert J. Powell) Alice Hoover, Organ

“Jesu, Jesu, fill us with your love, teach us how to serve the neighbors we have from you.”

Prayer of Thanksgiving and Dedication

God of our salvation, we know what time it is—time to wake from sleep and to turn from selfishness. We offer now our time, our talents, and our resources to be used for your good purposes and all for love’s sake. In Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

Hymn: Glory to God # 377 I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light (stanzas 1 and 3)

I want to walk as a child of the light. I want to follow Jesus. God set the stars to give light to the world. The star of my life is Jesus. In him there is no darkness at all. The night and the day are both alike. The Lamb is the light of the city of God. Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus.

I’m looking for the coming of Christ. I want to be with Jesus. When we have run with patience the race, we shall know the joy of Jesus. In him there is no darkness at all. The night and the day are both alike. The Lamb is the light of the city of God. Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus.

Charge/Benediction

Postlude: Praeludium in G  {Johann Kaspar Ferdinand Fischer (1670 – 1746)} Alice Hoover, Organ

Put on the Armor of Light! Put on Jesus Christ!

Meditation on Romans 13:8-14

The Presbyterian Church, Coshocton, OH

Pastor Karen Crawford

Sept. 6, 2020

Video of our Sept. 6, 2020 service:

Worship with The Presbyterian Church Sept. 6, 2020
Walk as Children of Light.

I am so happy to be here today! I feel the power of the Spirit as we gather in this space. I feel the joy of the Lord! Welcome back, my friends! Welcome home! I’ve missed you.

Who saw this coming? A global pandemic that would lead churches to close their doors for months? We thought maybe a few weeks, then a couple months and the crisis would pass. The virus has claimed more than 188,000 lives in our nation alone. And it’s not over, yet.

No, we didn’t see that coming.

If we had known and had time to get ready, what would we have done? Would it have been too much for us to bear?

Something about our situation made me recall the words of Corrie Ten Boom in The Hiding Place. In her book, she recounts the time in her hometown in Holland before and during the Holocaust in World War II when her Christian family were stirred to hide Jewish people and those who resisted the Nazis in a secret room built into their home. They were betrayed by a Dutch informant, arrested and imprisoned. Many of her family and friends would die as a result of their heroic acts of compassion. Corrie and her older sister, Betsie, were sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp.

Corrie, the youngest daughter, had a special relationship with her watchmaker father. She would become the first female licensed watchmaker in the Netherlands in 1922. As a little girl, she would go on train rides to the Naval Observatory. There he would hold his pocket watch and a pad and pencil, and would stand almost on tiptoe with the joy of precision to watch the tower arms drop at the stroke of 12 noon. He would say, “There; 4 seconds fast!” Within an hour, the astronomical clock in their shop in Harlaam would be accurate to the second.

On the ride home would be the time for Corrie to bring things up that were troubling her. In those days, sex was never discussed, even in the home. But young Corrie had heard a poem in school that mentioned “sex sin.”  Corrie, seated next to her Father in the train compartment, suddenly asked, “What IS sexsin?”

     “He turned to look at me,” she writes, “as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case from the rack over our heads and set it on the floor. “‘Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?’ ” he said. I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning. “It’s too heavy,” I said.

       “‘Yes, he said, ‘And it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It’s the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger, you can bear it. For no, you must trust me to carry it for you.’

      “And I was satisfied. More than satisfied—wonderfully at peace,” she writes. “There were answers to this and all my hard questions; for now, I was content to leave them in my father’s keeping.”

      I believe this is so with us. There is knowledge too heavy for us that is best to leave in our Heavenly Father’s keeping. As God speaks through Isaiah in 55:8, “My thoughts are not your thoughts.”

     No one in Corrie’s family imagined the terrible systematic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of 6 million Jewish men, women and children by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. But Corrie lived to tell the story—and tell it, she did, through the perspective of her Christian faith, from the ocean of God’s love within her.

    Love comes up again in our passage in Romans 13 today, following, strangely enough, the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to pay taxes to the authorities, and “pay to all what is due.” He shifts gears from financial debt to a debt we owe the Lord—obedience to His commands.

   “Owe no one anything,” he says, “except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”  Paul quotes Leviticus, as Jesus does, saying, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  He adds, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor.” Love, very simply, does no harm to another human being.

   It is in this way that we become spiritually ready—awake, alert, for when Jesus comes again. We want him to find us loving God and each other. For, as Paul says, salvation is nearer than when we first believed.

    Jesus may come today! Isn’t that a wonderful thought, my friends?

Corrie Ten Boom went home to be with the Lord on April 15, 1983—her 91st birthday.

What gave Corrie Ten Boom strength and courage to persevere through the harsh reality of the concentration camps and her many losses? Faith–hers and that of her older sister and father, who once said of the possibility of losing their lives for helping the Jews, “I would consider that the greatest honor to come to my family.” Corrie and Betsie led secret worship services at the camp after dark, sharing God’s Word through a smuggled Bible. Before Betsie died in the camp on Dec. 1944 at age 59, she told Corrie, “There is no pit so deep that He (God) is not deeper still.” The Lord gave her visions of a ministry to the vulnerable. Betsie’s visions would be realized through Corrie’s passion to serve the Lord.

Corrie was released from the camp 15 days later on what Corrie discovered had been a “clerical error.” A week after Corrie was released, all the women in her age group were sent to the gas chambers. She went home and opened her door to the mentally disabled who were in hiding for fear of execution and, after the war, set up a rehab center in the Netherlands for war victims. She returned to Germany in 1946 and met with and forgave two Germans who had worked at Ravensbruck and had been particularly cruel to Betsie. Her mission to share God’s love to the world and tell the story of how Jesus was Victor in the concentration camps carried her around the globe to speak and led her to write a number of books.

    Her favorite prop while speaking to groups was a flashlight. She would throw the switch and when the light failed to shine, she exclaimed, “Is there no light in your life?” She unscrewed the end of the flashlight. “Invite Jesus into your life!” She pushed a battery into the flashlight. The light still failed to shine. Her audience was startled. “What’s wrong?” she asked, echoing their surprise. She removed the battery. “What is this?” She pulled out a rag. “Pride!” And another. “Envy!” And another. “Love of money!” Finally, she would slide in the battery again and the flashlight beamed brilliant light.

   I spent some time thinking about Corrie and our Scripture readings yesterday when I took a break from writing to visit my garden. I admired the evening primroses, once again, that Dick and Alice Hoover gave us in the spring. They are the funniest looking plants. Some people call them weeds for their invasive growing habit. They kind of look like dandelions on steroids. Jim and I love them! Every evening, sometime between 8 and 8:30, as darkness falls, we go out to watch and sometimes make a video as the new, bright yellow blossoms open before our very eyes— 2, 4, 6, or 8 blooms a night. When morning comes, the flowers close and begin to fade; their work of bringing light and beauty in the darkness is done.

Evening Primrose blooming at night in our garden.

    This is a picture of our calling, dear friends. We may seem like ordinary people much of the time, but you should see us in the dark of night—when we shine the light of Christ and bring hope to the world.

It might be dark, but the time is now to wake up and get ready! Salvation is near! What will you be doing when Jesus comes back? Remember: love does no harm to a neighbor!

    Live as Children of the Light! Owe no one anything, except to love!

    Lay aside the works of darkness with which you’ve struggled—hurt, pain, anger, bitterness, disappointment, fear and unforgiveness, jealousy and quarreling. Do this with me, now, friends. Lay them aside. We don’t need that burden. It’s like that heavy suitcase that young Corrie couldn’t carry. She let her beloved father carry it for her, and she felt wonderful peace.

     Accept God’s love. Forgive! Forgive! Be healed! Be an instrument of healing for others!

    The past doesn’t matter. This is the moment that counts. Do this with me!

   Put on the armor of light. Put on Jesus Christ!

Let us pray.

Holy One, we thank you for all the saints who have gone before us and were faithful examples to us, people such as Corrie Ten Boom. Thank you for the honor of the call to serve you, Lord, and the opportunities you give us to shine your light in the darkness daily. Help us to lay aside the works of darkness, the sin that leads us away from you, hurts our witness, and causes us to stumble from the righteous path. Teach us how to put on your armor of light and clothe ourselves with Jesus Christ at the break of each new dawn. Lead us to owe no one anything except to love. In Christ we pray. Amen.

Virtual Worship for Aug. 30, 2020

The Presbyterian Church, 142 N. Fourth St., Coshocton, OH 43812

Rev. Karen Crawford, Pastor

Alice Hoover, Liturgist

Mark Wagner, Organist, and Pam McMorrow, Pianist

Moses and the Burning Bush

Prelude: Toccata on “Darwall’s 148th” – Rejoice, the Lord Is King (Arr. by Gordon Young) Mark Wagner, Organ

Rejoice the Lord Is King

Greeting/Announcements with Pastor Karen

Greeting with Pastor Karen

Opening Words and Gathering Prayer with Alice Hoover

Opening Words and Gathering
Prayer with Alice Hoover

The God of our ancestors calls us to worship.     

 Praise the Lord!                                                            

Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.

Let us worship God!

Hymn: 423 Jesus Shall Reign Where’er the Sun (Isaac Watts) (Arr. by Hal H. Hopson)

Mark Wagner, Organ

Jesus Shall Reign Where’er the Sun

Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
does its successive journeys run,
his kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
till moons shall wax and wane no more.

To him shall endless prayer be made,
and praises throng to crown his head.
His name like sweet perfume shall rise
with every morning sacrifice.

People and realms of every tongue
dwell on his love with sweetest song,
and infant voices shall proclaim
their early blessings on his name.

Blessings abound where’er he reigns:
the prisoners leap to lose their chains,
the weary find eternal rest,
and all who suffer want are blest.

Let every creature rise and bring
the highest honors to our King,
angels descend with songs again,
and earth repeat the loud amen. 

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

Call to Confession/Prayer of Confession/Assurance of Pardon with Pastor

God of mercy, we confess that, like the disciples, we set our minds not on divine things but on human things. Doubting your loving care, we grab for more than we need. Doubting your loving purposes, we shrink from living as your followers. Doubting your loving plan, we become stumbling blocks in your creation. Forgive us that we may gain new life in you, for it is in Jesus’ forgiving name we pray. Amen.

Time with Children and Youth

Pastor Karen Shares a Message about Moses

Prayer for Illumination and Romans 12:9-12 with Alice Hoover

Prayer for Illumination and Romans reading with Alice Hoover

Holy wisdom, holy word. Thanks be to God!

Wonderful Peace (arr. Don Moen) with Pam McMorrow

Wonderful Peace, arr. Don Moen, with Pam McMorrow, Piano

Far away in the depths of my spirit tonight
Rolls a melody sweeter than psalm;
In celestial-like strains it unceasingly falls
O’er my soul like an infinite calm.

Refrain:
Peace, peace! wonderful peace,
Coming down from the Father above,
Sweep over my spirit forever, I pray,
In fathomless billows of love.

What a treasure I have in this wonderful peace
Buried deep in the heart of my soul,
So secure that no power can mine it away
While the years of eternity roll. [Refrain]

I am resting tonight in this wonderful peace,
Resting sweetly in Jesus’ control,
For I’m kept from all danger by night and by day,
And His glory is flooding my soul. [Refrain]

And me thinks when I rise to that city of peace
Where the Author of peace I shall see,
That one strain of the song which the ransomed will sing
In that heavenly kingdom shall be: [Refrain]

Ah! soul, are you here without comfort and rest,
Marching down the rough pathway of time?
Make Jesus your friend ere the shadows grow dark 
O accept this sweet peace so sublime! [Refrain]

Exodus 3:1-15 with Pastor Karen

Exodus 3:1-15 with Pastor Karen

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

Message: I Will Be With You

I Will Be With You

Hymn: Take Your Shoes Off Moses (Courtney Patton)

Take Your Shoes Off Moses (Courtney Patton)

Invitation to the Offering with Pastor Karen

Invitation to the Offering with Pastor Karen

Offertory: Because He Lives (Amen) (Matt Maher) West Coast Choir

Because He Lives (Amen) (Matt Maher) West Coast Choir

Prayer of Thanksgiving/Lord’s Prayer with Pastor Karen

Prayer of Thanksgiving and Lord’s Prayer

Holy God of holy ground, like Moses, we question our fitness to serve heaven’s purposes on earth. Overcome our qualms with the assurance of your presence; bless these offerings that, through them, we may do your will; in the name of the triune One.  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 (Newbolt and Kitchin) (Harmonization by Michael Burkhardt) Mark Wagner, Organ

Lift High the Cross

(Refrain)
Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim
till all the world adore his sacred name.

1. Come, Christians, follow where the Master trod,
our King victorious, Christ the Son of God.

2. Led on their way by this triumphant sign,
the hosts of God in conquering ranks combine.

3. Each newborn servant of the Crucified
bears on the brow the seal of him who died.

4. O Lord, once lifted on the glorious tree,
your death has brought us life eternally.

5. So shall our song of triumph ever be:
praise to the Crucified for victory!

Charge and Benediction with Pastor Karen

Charge and Benediction with Pastor Karen

Postlude: Tuba Tune on “My Faith Looks Up to Thee” (Arr. by Grimoaldo Macchia) Mark Wagner, Organ

My Faith Looks Up to Thee

Dedication from Mark: I have chosen this song in honor of our dear friend, Charles R. Snyder.  As this Sunday is our last service before your official retirement, we would like to take a moment to say thank you for all that you have done, and will continue to do, for this church.  Forty-four years of service to our Lord and to this congregation is an impressive number, but even more important is the number of lives you have touched through so many different ministries of this church.  You have taught us all to have a stronger faith and to love others just a little bit more.  You have been an important part of this church’s outreach to the community, bringing many people through the doors to hear the message of God’s love.  Your leadership and vision for the music program will be greatly missed, but we rejoice for the many gifts you have given to us over the years.  The Bunn-Minnick chapel organ includes a special stop called the “Festival Trumpet” which is only used on special occasions because it is so LOUD!  Today, it seems fitting to use it as a fanfare of praise in gratitude for your service to the church.  And just as the sound of the Zimbelstern (the bell / wind chime sound) continues to ring as the song fades away, we know you will continue to be an inspiration to all of us and we look forward to your continued friendship!  Until we can properly celebrate with you, know that we love and appreciate you.  Thank you, Chuck.

“I Will Be With You”

Meditation on Exodus 3:1-15

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

Pastor Karen Crawford

Aug. 30, 2020

Moses and the Burning Bush

    


I Will Be With You

     The sky was growing dark and thunderstorms were threatening on Friday afternoon when I visited Windsorwood Place, an assisted living community here in Coshocton. Because of the coronavirus, this was the first time I had been to Windsorwood since last February, perhaps, when I led worship with Communion with about 25 residents and some of our members.

      On Friday, I was happy to finally be able to see two of our parishioners at this senior living community who have been physically separated from their church and families for months. I had to arrange the visit ahead of time with Windsorwood staff. And I wasn’t able to go inside the building, as not even family members are allowed to enter the building. But Jan and Velma could come out on the porch to visit with me. Before I was allowed to sit with them, I had to answer health questions, have my temperature taken, and sign in on a clipboard.

      Then we settled on the porch together, wearing our masks and staying 6 feet apart—I in a rocker, Velma on a bench, and Jan on a folding chair.

     The trucks rumbled by and the sky grew dark and the wind began to blow. But we continued to talk and laugh for about 45 minutes—catching up where we had left off before the pandemic had separated us. We talked about our families—children and grandchildren and siblings.

     They thanked me for sending them newsletters and copies of my messages each week. They especially enjoy reading the stories that members share in our Member Spotlight feature, stories that include times of suffering, sadness, and challenges along their journeys of faith.

      Then, Velma shared a memory with us going back to WWII—when her brother, Cletus, was killed serving our country. And though it was long ago, the memory brought fresh tears—in Velma’s eyes, Jan’s and mine.

     I could sense the healing presence of the Lord our God, breaking into what started as an ordinary day, an ordinary visit, an ordinary conversation. Or was it?

    That moment of grief was intimate and sacred. Though we sat on outdoor furniture, wearing masks, and social distancing, in that moment, we were standing on holy ground.

    As I walked back to my car, raindrops splashed down and I felt renewed joy in my call to ministry. I didn’t hear an audible voice. But I knew God was calling my name.

     “Here I am,” I said.

     “I will be with you,” answered the Lord.

***

     I don’t know if Moses felt joy that day, when he was standing on holy ground in Exodus chapter 3. He certainly wasn’t anxious to say yes to God’s call on his life. But then, neither are we when we first hear God’s voice. None of us feel ready. None of us feel like we are good enough.

     He had come with his father-in-law Jethro’s flock to Mount Horeb, the mountain of God, but he wasn’t looking for God. God was looking for him. And this is how he interrupted Moses’ ordinary life, ordinary day. He sends a sign—a bush that burns, but is not consumed by flame. Then an angel of the Lord calls out from the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And Moses, answers the voice, “Here I am.”

       He may not have known that he was in the presence of the Lord if the angel had not said, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ And, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’”

    Moses hid his face, after that, for he was afraid to look at God.

    Acts chapter 7 tells us that 40 years had passed since Moses fled from Egypt when he was 40 years old. He comes as a refugee to Midian, named for one of the sons of Abraham with his wife, Keturah, after Sarah died. While we don’t know exactly where Midian was, it may have been on the northwest Arabian Peninsula, on the east shore of the Gulf of Aqaba on the Red Sea. This would have been a journey for Moses of more than 100 miles. This is a strange twist in the story, for it was Midianites who sold Moses’ ancestor Joseph into slavery in Egypt to Potiphar, captain of the Pharaoh’s guard.

Moses flees from Egypt to Midian

     As Moses watches the fire in the bush and hears God’s voice, I wonder if he is remembering the faith in which he was raised and his miraculous survival as a Hebrew baby. His mother had placed him in a basket in the reeds of the Nile, disobeying the command that all Hebrew infant boys must be killed. Pharaoh’s own daughter discovers the Hebrew baby and adopts him as her own. But when he is grown, he witnesses the cruel treatment of his people and kills an Egyptian he has seen beating a Hebrew slave, one of his kin. Moses thinks no one has seen him and buries him in the sand. But others HAD seen him, and soon his secret is known to Pharaoh, who wants Moses killed.

      After fleeing to Midian, Moses meets the daughters of the priest, Jethro, at a well. He comes to their defense when they try to draw water for their father’s flocks and are driven away by shepherds. Moses waters their flocks, is invited into Jethro’s home, and is given the priest’s daughter, Zipporah, in marriage. Moses and Zipporah have two children and Moses begins his new life, seeking to leave the past in the past.

     Think about it. Moses is 80 years old when his peaceful life is interrupted by the burning bush! This is the first time he has heard the Lord speaking to him; the first time he hears the Lord calling his name! Moses responds reluctantly, fearfully. “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

    The Lord answers by saying who God is. “I am who I am,” he says.

   And, “I will be with you.”

     Our Lord knows our names, as well. And when he calls to us, it’s to guide, empower, and encourage us to do the work the God has for us to do. Each of us has a unique situation and role in God’s plan for salvation, just as Moses had a special role for the salvation of the Israelites.

   And when we are afraid, wondering, as Moses asked, how we can possibly do the things that God is calling us to do, we have to remember that what matters isn’t who WE are. What matters is who GOD is. “I am who I am.” What matters is that we are walking with Him each day.

    Remember that whenever you answer the call, “Here I am.”

    God says, “I will be with you.”

    If we want to know the work God has for us to do, we have to open our hearts to hear God’s Word and be ready. For if we allow it and embrace it, God’s Word will work in our hearts and minds and direct and, at times, redirect, our lives.

     Romans 12 tells us how God wants us to live in these dark days, when the nation is angry, fearful, and divided, as we draw nearer to a presidential election, and struggle with a pandemic.

     Listen to what the Spirit is saying to the church!

Let us pray.

Holy One, thank you for sending your Son to come to us, right where we are, to become one of us, and show us the way. Thank you for speaking to us in your Word and for your mighty Spirit that guides and empowers us to serve you. Stir us to see the signs of your presence in our world, like when Moses saw the burning bush. Help us, Lord, to sense when we are on holy ground. And to respond, “Here I am,” when you call. Teach us to love as you love, as you urge us in Romans 12. To hate evil. To hold fast to what is good, especially in these difficult days. Give us the desire to outdo one another in showing honor and be humble, not haughty, considering others as better than ourselves. Let us rejoice in hope and persevere in prayer, rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Stir us to generosity for the saints and to extend hospitality to strangers. Help us to bless those who persecute us. And as much as it depends on us, grant us wisdom, patience, and strength to live peaceably with all. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

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