The Presbyterian Church, 142 N. Fourth St., Coshocton, OH 43812
Pastor Karen Crawford
Liturgist: Rev. Dr. Jim Crawford
Musician: Alice Hoover, Organist
Prelude: Lord, Whose Love Through Humble Service (Setting by Wilbur Held) Alice Hoover, Organ
Greeting/Announcementswith Pastor Karen
Opening Wordsand Gathering Prayer with Jim
You, who are many, are transformed to become one in Christ.
We, who are many, are called to worship God, the Three in One.
Let us worship God.
Hymn: Lift Every Voice and Sing (James Weldon Johnson & J. Rosamond Johnson)Alice Hoover, Organ
Lift ev’ry voice and sing, Till earth and heaven ring, Ring with the harmonies of liberty; Let our rejoicing rise High as the list’ning skies, Let it resound loud as the rolling sea. Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us; Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us; Facing the rising sun Of our new day begun, Let us march on till victory is won.
Stony the road we trod, Bitter the chast’ning rod, Felt in the days when hope unborn had died; Yet with a steady beat, Have not our weary feet Come to the place for which our people sighed? We have come over a way that with tears has been watered; We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered; Out from the gloomy past, Till now we stand at last Where the bright gleam of our bright star is cast.
God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, You who have brought us thus far on the way; You who have by your might Led us into the light, Keep us forever in the path, we pray. Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met you; Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget you; Shadowed beneath your hand, May we forever stand, True to our God, true to our native land.
Call to Confession/Prayer of Confession/Assurance of Pardon with Pastor Karen
Forgiving God, we confess that we are conformed to this world. We conform to this world’s frantic pace, too hectic to notice all the blessings you provide. We conform to this world’s reckless waste, exploiting what you entrust to our care. We conform to this world’s shallow values, oblivious to the giftedness of people different from us. We conform to this world’s impatient attitudes, preferring the latest instead of the lasting. Forgive our conformity and transform us, O God. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Time with Children and Youth/Pastor Karen
Is He Worthy(Written by Andrew Peterson, Sung by Livi and Casey Kramer)
Prayer for Illumination and Romans 12:1-8 with Jim
Holy wisdom, holy word. Thanks be to God!
Anthem: For All He’s Done(West Coast Choir)
Exodus 1:8-2:10 with Pastor Karen
This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!
Messagewith Pastor Karen: Your Voice Matters!
Hymn: I Saw the Light (Hank Williams Jr.) Sung by Ransomed Bluegrass
I wandered so aimless life filed with sin. I wouldn’t let my dear savior in. Then Jesus came like a stranger in the night. Praise the Lord I saw the light.
I saw the light, I saw the light. No more darkness, no more night. Now I’m so happy no sorrow in sight. Praise the Lord I saw the light.
Just like a blind man I wandered along. Worries and fears I claimed for my own. Then like the blind man that God gave back his sight. Praise the Lord I saw the light.
I saw the light, I saw the light. No more darkness, no more night. Now I’m so happy no sorrow in sight. Praise the Lord I saw the light.
I was a fool to wander and stray. Straight is the gate and narrow’s the way. Now I have traded the wrong for the right. Praise the Lord I saw the light,
I saw the light, I saw the light. No more darkness, no more night. Now I’m so happy no sorrow in sight. Praise the Lord I saw the light.
Invitation to the Offering with Pastor Karen
Offertory: Deep River (African American spiritual, setting by Robert J. Powell) Meditative music in which you can hear the moving water, reminding us of Moses in his basket rocking with the current.Alice Hoover, Organ
Prayer of Thanksgiving with Lord’s Prayer(Pastor Karen)
Almighty God, you took a baby from the Nile and used him to lead your people to the promised land. Take our offerings and use them for your people in this land and throughout your world. And we continue our prayer using the words that Jesus gave us. 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: Song of Hope(Argentina) Alice Hoover, Organ
May the God of hope go with us every day, Filling all our lives with love and joy and peace. May the God of justice speed us on our way, Bringing light and hope to every land and race.
Refrain: Praying, let us work for peace, Singing, share our joy with all, Working for a world that’s new, Faithful when we hear Christ’s call.
Charge/Benedictionwith Pastor Karen
Postlude: Hornpipe from “Water Music” (G. F. Handel) Alice Hoover, Organ
I didn’t know it at the time, but I grew up as a child of privilege. White, middle class. Both of my parents were college educated. Our family of 5 lived in a bedroom community that by its location near Washington, D.C., was a place of privilege and opportunity.
My parents had good jobs and owned a home when I came along in 1965, after my sister and brother were born. We had not one but two color TVs and two cars, including a station wagon that carried us on family vacations every year.
I was a child of privilege for other reasons, too. We had many books in our house, and my parents loved to read. I remember my father with a book in his hands every night after washing the dishes, dozing on the couch before bedtime. My mother used to take us to the public library to check out more books every week in summer. We hung out at the community swimming pool, reading books, eating snacks, and lying on towels spread on the grass.
Living in suburban, Montgomery County, Maryland, we had nice schools before I knew that some kids in other places didn’t have schools that nice. We had all sorts of important visitors to our schools, including astronauts in the 1970s who let us try on their space suits and consume freeze dried food and packets of Tang Instant Breakfast Drink.
Opportunities for learning, recreation, and service were always there for me. I was taught that I should always work hard and do my best. Nothing, including my gender, should ever get in the way of what I wanted to do for a living. I was taught that my voice mattered, and, when I answered a call to ministry in my 40s, that I should use it to help others and serve the Lord.
God has always used women to do amazing things—both women of privilege and women from more ordinary and humble means. Think of Mary, the ordinary, pious young woman who was chosen to be the mother of Jesus. And there are many others in the Bible.
In our OT reading today in Exodus, both a woman of privilege, the pagan daughter of the Pharaoh, and two ordinary women of extraordinary faith, Hebrew midwives, are used to ultimately, rescue the perishing and set free God’s people from slavery in Egypt. All are in the right place at the right time to do important work for God.
The Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, are given a monstrous command. The king of Egypt tells them to kill all the Hebrew baby boys as they are born. Their ancestors had come to Egypt when Joseph was second only in power and authority to the Pharaoh of the time. He interprets the Pharaoh’s troubling dreams and saves the lives of countless people—Israelites and Egyptians and all the other refugees to Egypt during a great famine.
By the first chapter of Exodus, Joseph has died, with all his brothers, and that whole generation. A new king, who didn’t know Joseph, comes to the throne. He doesn’t like the Israelites. He’s afraid of them. There’s too many of them! He tells his people that before you know it, they will be in power over us and Egypt will belong to the Israelites, who will “join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.”
Fear works for the king. He turns the Egyptians against the Israelites, who have lived as neighbors for more than 400 years, and have respected Joseph and his people for his service to Egypt during the famine and beyond. They learn to “dread the Israelites” and become ruthless in the tasks they impose on them, enslaving them, oppressing them into forced labor, building supply cities for the Pharaoh, making their lives bitter.
But the midwives fear the Lord and courageously allow the male infants to live. This draws us back to that Romans reading—how we are a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God and this IS our worship, living in submission to God. We shouldn’t be conformed to the evil of this world. We should resist! The Hebrew midwives—again, ordinary women with extraordinary faith—are examples to us. And they are clever! They play into the king’s prejudice by coming up with a story about how Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women. This is what the Pharaoh already believes—they are less then human, a worthless, throwaway people. Hebrew women are “vigorous,” Shiphrah and Puah say—again, playing into his fear of their strength and increasing numbers. They give birth before the midwife arrives to help them, they say.
And the other heroine of the story? The Pharaoh’s own daughter who rescues the Hebrew baby whom God will call as his prophet. The Egyptian princess, whose name we will discover later is Bithiah, sees the basket with the Hebrew baby among the weeds. She has so much privilege that she sends one of her maids to fetch it and bring it to her. She sees the handsome child, hears his cries. God stirs her to compassion. Compassion is a divine quality that leads us to serve. In Matthew 8:35-37, “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness. (And) when he saw the crowds, he was moved to compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.’”
Bithiah spares the Hebrew child’s life, and she returns him to his own family to be raised, under her protection. And not only that, she pays Jochebed, the infant’s mother, for what is usually the unpaid work of mothering! The child doesn’t go to live with Bithiah in the palace until he is raised in his Hebrew family, learning their faith and culture. When he grows up, Jochebed keeps her promise and brings her son to live with the Pharaoh’s daughter.
Don’t you wonder what the Pharaoh thinks of his daughter, adopting a Hebrew child? This doesn’t seem to be a secret, for the princess is the one who names him “Moses,” from the Hebrew root that means “to pull out or draw out,” because,” she says, “I drew him out of the water.”
Bithiah disappears from the story and from the book of Exodus, then. And wouldn’t you like to know what happened to her, as Liddy Barlow, a Pennsylvania minister asks in this week’s Christian Century magazine? How did she feel when the baby she had saved became an exiled murderer? How does she feel when the child she drew out of the water one day while taking a bath returns to Egypt as a prophet with a speech impediment and demands of her father, “Let my people go,” in Exodus 5:1? How does she feel throughout the horrible plagues that visit Egypt because of her father’s refusal to release the captives?
How does she feel on the night Moses brings his people out of Egypt, crossing the Red Sea on dry land and leading her father’s armies to drown behind them?
In Jewish tradition, though not in the Bible, she was exiled by her father. What we know for sure is that she is listed in the genealogies of Israel in I Chronicles 4:17-18 under the descendants of Judah.
The Egyptian princess who had been attended by servants became a wilderness refugee with Moses, wandering with her new family for 40 years. She marries an Israelite named Mered and names her daughter, Miriam, after Moses’ older sister, the brave girl who was charged with following along the riverbank that day to watch the baby in the basket float downstream.
The genealogy in 1 Chronicles 4, then, makes Bithiah the great great aunt of Jesus, says Liddy Barlow, “an unlikely ancestor winking from the family tree.”
Think for a moment how God has blessed you. Think of the times that the Lord has rescued in your distress, guided you through the wilderness, and how God has used you to help others, perhaps while you were hurting. You don’t know all the ways God has used you, but you know some of them!
How has the Lord put you in positions of privilege or simply in the right place at the right time, like Shiphrah and Puah, the midwives who spared the lives of the Hebrew babies, and Bithiah, who drew God’s would-be prophet out of the water and adopted him as her own son?
Though their lives are very different, Shiphrah, Puah, and Bithiah have hearts filled with compassion and courage when God desires to use them for his loving purposes. They resist the temptation to give in to fear and be conformed to the dark world around them. They are willing to risk everything, their very existence, to do the right thing. Their hearts would not let them do otherwise.
Their voices mattered, just as your voice matters! Are you using your voice to help others and serve the Lord? I hope you will!
The one who stands out to me in our Exodus passage today is the woman of privilege—the daughter of the Pharaoh. For after she used her privilege to help others, she gave up her life of privilege to embrace a new life of trusting in the God of Moses as a wandering wilderness refugee, marrying into the family of Jesus.
Be courageous like Shiphrah, Puah, Bithiah, and Moses. The Lord your God will be with you as He always was with them.
Remember God’s everlasting love and forgiveness for you. God has a good plan for your life—for your wellbeing and not your harm. A future filled with hope, no matter how dark the world around you may seem. Cry out to the Lord, and he will answer you.
“Be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Let us pray.
Heavenly Father, we are grateful for the privilege of calling you Father, for being chosen to do your work. Thank you for the promise of transformation and that you will renew our minds and allow us to discern your will—what is good and acceptable and perfect—when we seek you. Thank you for using people of privilege and ordinary, humble means to accomplish your loving purposes. Help us to be courageous and use our voices to serve you and help others in need. Give us grace to see one another as you see us—not as we are, but what we will become as you transform us. Help us to be patient with ourselves and all the circumstances of our lives, trusting in your goodness, compassion and love. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
The Presbyterian Church, 142 N. Fourth St., Coshocton, OH 43812
The Rev. Karen Crawford, Pastor
Diane Jones, Liturgist
Alice Hoover and Mark Wagner, Musicians
Prelude: Partita on Crimond (Arr. by Gordon Young) Alice Hoover, Organ
Greeting/Announcements: Pastor Karen
Opening Words and Gathering Prayer with Diane Jones
God has forgiven us and drawn us close, reconciling us through Jesus Christ, who has lavished upon us the fullness of the blessed Holy Spirit.
With glad and grateful hearts, praise the Lord!
Hymn: You Servants of God, Your Master Proclaim(Charles Wesley)Alice Hoover, Organ
You servants of God, your Master proclaim, and publish abroad his wonderful name; the name all-victorious of Jesus extol; his kingdom is glorious and rules over all.
God rules in the height, almighty to save; though hid from our sight, his presence we have; the great congregation his triumph shall sing, ascribing salvation to Jesus our King.
“Salvation to God, who sits on the throne!” let all cry aloud, and honor the Son; the praises of Jesus the angels proclaim, fall down on their faces and worship the Lamb.
Then let us adore and give him his right: all glory and power, all wisdom and might, all honor and blessing with angels above and thanks never ceasing for infinite love.
Call to Confession/Prayer of Confession/Assurance of Pardonwith Pastor Karen
Have mercy on us, Lord Jesus; Our lives have been disrupted by the devil and by our own devilish desires and evil exploits. We are dismayed at your presence, anguished by the awful fallout of our own failures. We cannot take back what we have said or undo what we have done or atone for the agony we have caused. We are haunted by the past, plagued by the present, and fearful of the future. We shrink away from your gaze as strangers outside your circle of blessing. Yet the faith you have planted in us reaches out for your favor, returns to your presence, and hungers for your mercy, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Time with Children and Youth
Hymn: Let Us Build a House(All Are Welcome)(Marty Haugen)
Prayer for Illumination with Pastor Karen
Merciful Savior, your suffering has saved our lives, secured our future, and restored us to relationship with God. Remove the shame and fear that cause us to cower in your presence. By the power of your Spirit, open our eyes and hearts to your Word of love, mercy, healing, and blessing; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Genesis 45:1-15 Reading with Diane Jones
Holy wisdom, Holy word. Thanks be to God!
Matthew 15:10–28Reading with Pastor Karen
This is the Gospel of the Lord. Praise to You, O Christ.
MessageWhat’s Growing in Your Garden?
Hymn: In the Bulb There Is a Flower(Natalie Sleeth)Alice Hoover, Organ
In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree; In cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free! In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be, Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.
There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody; There’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me. From the past will come the future; what it holds, a mystery, Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.
In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity; In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity, In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory, Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.
Invitation to the Offeringwith Pastor Karen
Offertory: Praising the Almighty (Edward Broughton)Mark Wagner, Organ
Prayer of Thanksgiving and Dedication/The Lord’s Prayerwith Pastor Karen
Gracious Lord, you have given us more mercy than we could imagine and more blessings than we deserve. Receive now these gifts as tokens of our gratitude to you, that your mercy may be multiplied and your blessings abound to embrace all those in need. 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: The Welcome Table (African American Folk Song)Courtney Patton
I’m gonna sit at the welcome table I’m gonna sit at the welcome table one of these days, hallelujah I’m gonna sit at the welcome table Sit at the welcome table one of these days, one of these days
I’m gonna feast on milk and honey Oh yes, I’m gonna feast on milk and honey one of these days, hallelujah I’m gonna feast on milk and honey Feast on milk and honey one of these days, one of these days
I’m gonna to tell God how you treat me Yes, I’m gonna to tell God how you treat me one of these days, hallelujah I’m gonna to tell God how you treat me Tell God how you treat me one of these days, one of these days
Yes, hallelujah Welcome table, one of these days
All God’s children gonna sit together Yes, all God’s children gonna sit together one of these days, hallelujah All God’s children gonna sit together All God’s children gonna sit together, one of these days, one of these days
I’m gonna sit at the welcome table Yes, I’m gonna sit at the welcome table one of these days, hallelujah I’m gonna sit at the welcome table Sit at the welcome table one of these days, one of these days Sit at the welcome table one of these days, one of these days Yes, gonna sit at the welcome table one of these days, one of these days
Charge and Benedictionwith Pastor Karen
Postlude: O, for a Thousand Tonguesto Sing (Arr. by Marilyn Arison) Alice Hoover, Organ
It’s hard to believe that we are halfway through the month of August. Have you noticed how the light has changed and the days are growing shorter?
As the last blossoms fade, the work of the gardener isn’t finished. My focus has turned from planting and pruning to mulching, watering, and, yes, weeding.
I am often tempted to be lazy and just let the weeds go. But the old saying is true for weeds: “If you give ‘em an inch, they take a mile.”
It’s hot, I’m busy, I’m too tired. My back hurts. I can come up with lots of excuses not to dig up the weeds properly by the root. And some of them don’t seem half bad in spite of their invasive habit. They sort of grow on you, so to speak. But the plants that you have planted and nurtured from sprout or seed are now fighting for space, water, sun, nutrients, air. They’re in danger! They aren’t as hardy as the weeds. That’s why we call them weeds! They grow big, fast; good luck getting them out of your yard if you procrastinate!
And the trouble with weeds, while you might think you’ve nipped them in the bud, they’re not easily rooted out. Don’t be surprised when they come back. If not in the same place, somewhere else.
The problem of weeds is one that an ancient agricultural society like the one in which Jesus ministered is a familiar one, just as it is to us. Jesus, in Matthew chapter 15, talks about weeds with his disciples when they are afraid of the scribes and Pharisees, the religious leaders of the time. You have to imagine the anxious political climate in which they live. Herod, the ruler of the Jewish people, a puppet of the Empire, has murdered Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, for telling him that it wasn’t lawful for him to take his brother’s wife. He does this in spite of his fear of the crowds who believe John is a prophet.
After John’s death, Jesus goes off to a deserted place to pray, but the crowds of needy people follow him. Though Jesus is weary from ministry and grief, he leads the disciples to miraculously feed 5,000 men plus women and children from a couple loaves and a few fish, bringing glory to God the Father. Afterward, Jesus sends his disciples off in the boat, a storm overtakes them, and Jesus comes to them on the water. He reaches out with his hand to save Peter from drowning when he walks on water to prove his faith, then nearly drowns when he sinks into doubt.
Those in the boat worship Jesus, then, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”
They arrive on shore and word has gone out through the region about Jesus and his miracles. The sick are brought to him, begging to touch “even the fringe of his cloak. And all who touch are healed.”
This is the context for the Pharisees and scribes, at the beginning of chapter 15, who come to this rural rabbi, bringing the authority of the Holy City of Jerusalem with them. They confront him with, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands before they eat.”
They’re lost in the weeds!! Their traditions have grown like weeds and taken over the beautiful garden God had planted and intended for their lives of faith. Daily rituals that, at first, may have been meant to draw them nearer to God and set them apart as a holy people have distorted their beliefs and practices and led them down a path away from God.
Jesus sees right through their argument, saying, “For the sake of your tradition, you make void the word of God. You hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied rightly about you when he said, ‘This people honors me with their lips; but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.’”
Then he begins to teach the crowd that it isn’t “what goes into the mouth that defiles a person.” With this, he calls into question their obsession with dietary laws and purity traditions like hand washing that satisfy their desire to feel and appear religious, rather than actually living righteously, by the word of God.
Jesus says, “It’s what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” He means the garbage that the Pharisees are teaching, the lies they are saying to protect their power and positions and control the people.
The disciples, remembering what happened to John, approach Jesus, attempting to dissuade him from challenging the Pharisees’ teaching and the traditions of the faith. “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense,” they ask, “when they heard what you said?”
That’s when Jesus uses the parable of the weeds. “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted,” he says.
The plants God didn’t plant—the weeds—are the traditions of human beings and the false doctrine added to God’s Word, leading the people astray and condemning the innocent. The weeds could also be Jesus speaking against those who are teaching the false doctrine to keep the people in submission to them, terrified of making a mistake or offending them. This brings to mind what Jesus will say in Matthew 18:6, “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.”
The weeds cannot be pulled without facing the root of the problem: the evil in the scribes and Pharisees’ hearts. Jesus says, “For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander.” Notice the order of the sins. The last two are in the most prominent position of the sentence for emphasis. Lies and slander.
This is what the scribes and Pharisees are doing to Jesus!
Our passage ends with a miraculous healing of a demon-possessed girl. You might think this is some random story, totally unrelated to Christ’s confrontation with the Pharisees over handwashing.
But these events are connected. Here he is, breaking more laws of the religious community by associating with a Canaanite and holding up her mother’s faith as an example! He demonstrates with this healing that if we love God and desire to serve Him, He leads us to occasionally put aside traditionally held beliefs and practices to reach out with acts of compassion, loving and serving our neighbors, including those whom we might be tempted to ignore and walk right by.
Jesus, indeed, seems reluctant to heal this woman’s daughter. She is considered “unclean” in his faith community. She wasn’t born to a Jewish family. “Canaanite” is code for “pagan.” She is one of the “dogs,” Jesus says. And we are shocked that he would refer to another human being this way!
His disciples and others living in his society at the time would not have been shocked. They are all prejudiced against Canaanites, seeing them as unworthy of God’s love, and therefore, relieving them of any responsibility to help them if they are in need.
Jesus tells his disciples what they expect to hear, “I was sent only to the lost sheep in the house of Israel.” But then, he stops and listens to the screaming woman who reveals that she knows who Jesus is. She’s never been to a synagogue or the temple in Jerusalem or listened to a reading of Scripture. She doesn’t follow the dietary laws! But she knows to kneel down before him in humility, addressing him by the word translated Lord with a capital L. “Lord, help me.” She persists in her requests, in spite of his calling her and other Canaanites “dogs.” “Yes, Lord,” she says, “yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” She calls him her master!
“Woman, great is your faith!” he says. “Let it be done for you as you wish.”
Her daughter is healed instantly!
As we persevere through a pandemic that has gone on much longer than we thought it could and kept us from worshiping together in person, this is a good time to examine our own hearts and think seriously about our ministry—as individuals and as a church of Jesus Christ. What is growing in our gardens? Do we have weeds that need pulling? Is the Heavenly Father uprooting some plants in us that He didn’t plant? Are there rituals, routines, and preferences that have become an obstacle to our faithfulness?
When I find myself worrying about all the details of the worship service that are so comfortable and enjoyable for us, and yet, now must be considered in the light of protecting our health during a pandemic, I hear the Lord speaking words of encouragement to us.
“Don’t make this more complicated or difficult than it needs to be,” I hear Him saying. “Let the past go and let me do a new thing with you. Live as my Son has shown you to live. Stay focused on my greatest commandment.”
In other words, “Don’t let your faith get lost in the weeds. Let your faith be anchored to ME.”
Jesus puts all traditions, routines, and rituals in their proper place when he responds to a lawyer’s question in Matthew 22. Which commandment in the law is the greatest?
Jesus says, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Let us pray.
Heavenly Father, thank you for your love and for your Word, which continues to reveal to us our humanity and our need to rely on you for everything and trust you to guide us continually. We admit that we have many idols, people and things that, at times, we love more than you, as evidenced by the time and our resources we give to them, in contrast to the time and resources we give to you. We admit that we want to limit our worship to how we want to worship you, forgetting our calling to live lives of worship and obedience every day. We have gotten lost in the weeds, allowed sin to sprout and take root in our hearts and let human doctrines and traditions crowd and damage our faith. Please reveal to us the things that we do and love in the name of religion that might hurt our relationship with you and get in the way of following your greatest and first commandment—to love you with all our heart, soul, and mind and to love our neighbor as ourself. Give us hearts of compassion to see and help our neighbors, including those whom we are tempted to see like the Israelites saw the Canaanites—who seem distinctly “other” to us. We cry out for your Spirit’s transformation, dear Lord. Recreate us into the image of your Son. Amen.
Today, I am reading the story, Joseph, the Favorite Son. It doesn’t tell everything that happens to Joseph! If you want to know the whole story, with all the wonderful details, you can find it in the book of Genesis, beginning at chapter 37.
You can also watch a cartoon that tells a little bit more about Joseph’s story in Genesis.
The Presbyterian Church, 142 N. 4th Street, Coshocton, OH 43812
The Rev. Chris Stewart, Guest Preacher
The Rev. Dr. Jim Crawford, Liturgist
Musicians: Mark Wagnerand Roger Besst
Prelude: By Waters Still (Austin C. Lovelace) Mark Wagner, Organ
Greeting with Rev. Chris Stewart
Happy birthday this week to Jan Leavengood, Debbie Clark, Cole Mullen, Wes Simpson, Katie Hildreth, Barb Custer, and Geri Nichols!
Happy anniversary this week to Chris and Karen Yost, Bill and Jo Ellen Kobel, and Randy and Cindy Walling!
Opening Words and Gathering Prayer with Jim Crawford
The peace God speaks envelops us with wholeness, restores balance, and repairs all brokenness.
Steadfast love and faithfulness, righteousness and peace, meet, kiss, spring up, gaze down, encompassing all creation in goodness.
Surely God’s salvation is at hand!
Hymn: I Sing the Mighty Power of God (Isaac Watts, Arr. by Mark Thallander ) Mark Wagner, Organ
I sing the mighty pow’r of God, that made the mountains rise, That spread the flowing seas abroad, and built the lofty skies. I sing the wisdom that ordained the sun to rule the day; The moon shines full at His command, and all the stars obey.
I sing the goodness of the Lord, who filled the earth with food, Who formed the creatures through the Word, and then pronounced them good. Lord, how Thy wonders are displayed, where’er I turn my eye, If I survey the ground I tread, or gaze upon the sky.
There’s not a plant or flow’r below, but makes Thy glories known, And clouds arise, and tempests blow, by order from Thy throne; While all that borrows life from Thee is ever in Thy care; And everywhere that we can be, Thou, God, art present there.
Call to Confession, Prayer of Confession, Assurance of Pardon with Jim Crawford
Gracious God, you call us to step out in faith, trusting in you for all things. We respond to your command but then sink in doubt and fear. We hide from the challenges of bold discipleship. We are not able to fulfill your commandments, for our purposes are never in full accord with yours. Forgive us, we pray, when we confess with our lips but do not believe in our hearts. Help us to practice our faith in all circumstances. Lift us out of sin into the arms of your mercy. Though we are distracted by noise all around, allow us to hear your voice even when it is the sound of sheer silence. . . . We pray in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Time with Children: Joseph’s Brothers are Jealous: Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28
Prayer for Illumination and I Kings 19:9-18 and Matt. 14:22-33, with Pastor Chris
Message: No Pandemic Can Overcome Us
Hymn: O Master Let Me Walk with Thee(Washington Gladden, Arr. by Mark Thallander)Mark Wagner, Organ
O Master, let me walk with Thee in lowly paths of service free; tell me Thy secret; help me bear the strain of toil, the fret of care.
Help me the slow of heart to move by some clear, winning word of love; teach me the wayward feet to stay, and guide them in the homeward way.
Teach me Thy patience, still with Thee in closer, dearer company, in work that keeps faith sweet and strong, in trust that triumphs over wrong.
In hope that sends a shining ray far down the future’s broad’ning way; in peace that only Thou canst give, with Thee, O Master, let me live.
Prayers of the People and Lord’s Prayer with Jill Duffield, Editor of Presbyterian Outlook
Invitation to the Offering and Prayer of Thanksgiving with Jim Crawford
Generous God, we thank you for your call and claim upon our lives. Because there is so much more we can become, and so much more we can do, we pray that our faith will increase; that our practice of generosity will be enlarged; and that our joy in believing will encourage others as we share with them the good news of Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.
Hymn: How Great Thou Art (Swedish Folk Melody) Roger Besst, Piano
O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee, How great Thou art, how great Thou art! Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee, How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
And when I think of God, His Son not sparing Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing He bled and died to take away my sin.
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee, How great Thou art, how great Thou art! Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation And lead me home, what joy shall fill my heart. Then I shall bow with humble adoration And then proclaim, my God, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee How great Thou art, how great Thou art! Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Charge and Benediction with Chris Stewart
Postlude: Precious Lord, Take My Hand(Arranged by Diane Bish)Mark Wagner, Organ
Covid-19, a pandemic of the twenty-first century, is not only deadly but has awakened the individual, the family, the community, the society, and the world to a new order.
People throughout the world, are anxious about the future but at the same time doing something at present in their places: working from home, dealing with joblessness, searching food for tomorrow, empty pockets without even coins, uncertainties in their lives, somewhat giving possible education to their children, more and more laying off jobs from many companies.
Will this be normal? A million-dollar question without any certainty, without any answer.
Leaving apart all these, will there be a future for the Church? I say a big ‘YES’.
Before we start let us listen to the Word of God from the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 14:22-33): “Then he made the disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening, he was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night, he came towards them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. ‘It is a ghost,’ they said, and they cried out in fear. At once [Jesus] spoke to them, ‘Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.’
Peter said to him in reply, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water towards Jesus. But when he saw how [strong] the wind was he became frightened. And, beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’
Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, ‘Truly, you are the Son of God.'”
Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side. Jesus was not present with the disciples. He sent them to the other side before him. But, the disciples did not ask him how he would come to the other side to be with them or to meet them. It simply showed that the disciples took for granted that without Jesus they could reach the other side with the help of the boat, a material thing. The disciples did not even think that the sea way was not an easy way to travel to the other side. The boat would be troubled by the waves and winds against the boat and would make the travel difficult for them. The disciples did not have strong faith. They did not have little faith too. They had blind faith on the material thing, the boat. They believed that they could reach the other side with the help of the boat. Did the boat help them?
What would have helped the disciples to feel secure and safe on the boat and to reach the other side? With closed eyes, without rational thinking, having little faith in Jesus, we can say that Jesus would have helped them to feel secure and safe on the boat and reach them the other side. Here, I wonder if the disciples represent everyone? If the boat symbolizes material things, our own belief system, rational thinking and so on? Is the sea the world?
Then, Jesus dismissed the crowds. Jesus went up on the mountain by himself to pray. There was no one with Jesus at that moment. He sent off the disciples by the boat and he dismissed the crowds too. He did not have any materials or persons to climb on the mountain. He went alone to the mountain. He went to pray.
We read in the book of Kings (1Kings 19:11-13): “Then the LORD said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD—but the LORD was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire—but the LORD was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.”
Elijah heard God not in a strong and violent wind, nor in crushing rocks, not in an earthquake, not in the fire, but a light silent sound. In other words, we can say that Elijah heard God in a gentle silence. In the same way, Jesus went up to the mountain to be with his Father. He wanted to listen to his Father in silence. He went to the mountain to understand the invisible presence of his Father in silence. He went to the mountain to listen to his Father in peace of his mind, in the silence of his heart. Nothing could disturb him. Nothing could divert his mind. Nothing could trouble his heart. There were no material things and human persons, that could boast his divine presence and love, rather his Father gave him the divine presence to conquer this world with love and presence in silence and in isolation.
Our lives are filled with material things. Political power, gadgets, social media, money rule the world. Today there are not as many meaningful relationships in our lives. We have many friends in Facebook rather than real life. We do not wish a good morning to our neighbors but send hundreds of good morning messages. We have come to believe that without God everything is possible in this world. Across the country, many have left the Church because they think there is no God in this world. We have rational thinking. We have scientific knowledge. We passionately believe that science has a solution for everything in this digital and genetic world.
For example, we are faced with Covid-19, the twenty-first century’s biggest pandemic, which has turned the world upside and down. People believed before the pandemic that with our scientific knowledge, we could rule the world, that science and technologies could solve and reduce our suffering. Months are over since the news of Covid-19 broke out in the world. Scientists and epistemologists are trying their best to find a solution. But nothing has brought the pandemic to a halt. Nonetheless, the pandemic is being widespread even though there is a well administered health systems in some countries, like here in America.
Despite all these, we know that the pandemic has troubled each one of us in one way or the other. It brought a new social order. People were quarantined. People were isolated. We could not see our loved one in their final journey to heaven. It altered the lives of many in drastic way. The world will never become normal as it was in the past. Future is uncertain.
The disciples of the text were in the same line. They thought that they could manage without Jesus. They thought that they could reach the other side. What happened?
They believed in the material and human knowledge rather than the Divine presence and love. They were anxious when the troubles approached them. They soon realized that they needed Jesus to help them. Did the disciples recognize Jesus exactly? No. They were not able to recognize Jesus with their brokenness.
We go behind scientific knowledge, rational thinking for help to be at peace in heart and mind. Meanwhile, we lose our souls in those material things and human weaknesses.
The apostle Paul would say (Romans 9: 1-5) very beautifully that he was accursed for the sake of his people: “I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie; my conscience joins with the Holy Spirit in bearing me witness that I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and separated from Christ for the sake of my brothers, (& sisters) my kin according to the flesh. They are Israelites; theirs the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; theirs the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, is the Messiah. God who is over all be blessed forever. Amen.”
Here I would like to enumerate that Jesus could walk on the sea, the world without any trouble of waves and winds against him because he was filled with the presence of his Father, the Divine love. He could manage and face those troubles without any fear because he believed and surrendered in his Father all the time.
We say that it is ok. Jesus did it. How do we do? We have desire to be like Jesus in the world like Peter desired to walk like Jesus on the water. But we are frightened when we see wind of troubles, difficulties, pains, sufferings and so on like Peter. Peter did not focus on Jesus, the Divine love and presence, rather he focused on the winds of the sea and he was frightened. We too are the same like Peter, we focus on material things and science so much that our focus on Jesus is disturbed. It makes us to feel that we are not cared by Jesus.
We read in the text that Jesus had not abandoned the disciples, even though he was not present with them. Jesus did not delay his approach to reach out at once and immediately (these are two words used in the text), when they faced trouble.
We too think that Jesus abandons us and does not reach out to us immediately when we face troubles and when we need him the most. Today, Jesus promises us and assures us that he comes at once and immediately when we call him, when we approach him, when we surrender to him. Once Jesus comes to our life, our troubles will die down.
This was the experience of the disciples and it is our experience too. Are we ready to surrender to Jesus alone every day? We will surely recognize Jesus, experience Jesus when we go to the mountain in silence to understand his divine love and presence in our lives.
No Covid-19 can overpower us when Jesus our Savior is with us.
May the heart of Jesus live in the hearts of all. Amen…
In today’s Bible lesson in Genesis, there was a man named Jacob. He was Joseph’s father, and he had 12 sons. Jacob loved Joseph the best of all his sons because he was born to him in his old age. To show how much he loved Joseph, Jacob made him a beautiful coat that had many colors. Joseph’s brothers were jealous because it showed that he was his father’s favorite son.
A few days later Joseph’s father said to Joseph, “Your brothers are out tending my sheep. I want you to go check and make sure that they are ok.” Joseph did what his father told him to do, but when his brothers saw him coming, they made plans to kill him.
“Let’s kill him and throw him into a pit and say that he was eaten by a wild animal.”
When Reuben, the oldest of the brothers heard of their scheme, he came to Joseph’s rescue. “Let’s not take his life. Instead, let’s throw him into this pit here in the desert, but don’t harm him. Then he’ll die without laying a hand on him.” Reuben said this because he planned to come back later and rescue Joseph and take him back to his father.
When Joseph arrived, his brothers grabbed him, ripped off the beautiful robe he was wearing, and threw him into the pit. Then they sat down to eat their dinner. As they were eating, they looked up and saw a caravan of merchants coming their way. The merchants were on their way to Egypt. The brothers asked, “What will we gain if we kill our brother? Let’s sell him to these merchants instead.” So when the merchants came by, Joseph’s brothers pulled him up out of the pit and sold him for twenty pieces of silver.
The brothers began to make up a story to tell their father. They killed a goat and smeared its blood over Joseph’s coat of many colors. They took the bloody coat back to Jacob and said to him. “We found this bloody coat in the wilderness. Look at it and see if it is Joseph’s coat.”
“It is my son’s coat!” Jacob cried. “Surely some ferocious animal has eaten him.”
What a terrible thing for Joseph’s brothers to do — just because they were jealous of their brother. I hope that we would never do anything terrible, but we can learn from the Bible that jealousy can cause us to do things that will hurt other people. Jealousy is something we should guard against. We have to learn to be happy with whatever our Heavenly Father has given us.
Before we close, I must tell you that this is not the end of the story of Joseph and his brothers. The story does have a happy ending and Joseph is reunited with his father and brothers. But for today, we learn the lesson of the terrible things that happen because of the sin of jealousy.
Will you pray with me? Let’s pray.
Dear God, You love all of Your children and You want the very best for them. Help us to guard against feelings of jealousy that might come into our heart. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
We are social creatures. So, it’s no surprise that COVID-19 fatigue has set in for so many of us. We humans are wired to come together physically, but social distancing has just made that nearly impossible. Obviously, there is no playbook for COVID-19.
We are still developing guidelines that explain how isolation should be done, how hospitals should be prepared, or what we can expect when and if things start to go back to normal. The truth is much of what we are doing is unscripted, unknowable, and uncertain. And that, it turns out, is creating a great deal of anxiety, fear, and even depression for Americans.
I hear a lot of folks saying that they feel a kind of emptiness inside them. It’s as if, perhaps, many of us are grieving what we have lost—the ability to have backyard cookouts with our friends, get-togethers at Church, in-person worship…or even being able to go out to eat or grab a cup of coffee with a friend. Others are struggling to piece together money to pay bills, or they’re worried about their health and safety (or that of everyone in their house).Today, Americans are reporting more symptoms and signs of depression, anxiety, and fear than historic norms.
It’s easy to feel lonely when so many people are staying close to home, avoiding gatherings, and many businesses are shuttered. Social connection is essential to our well-being, and prolonged isolation can increase the risk of depression and anxiety, and emptiness.
But that doesn’t mean we just throw up our hands. What it does mean is its time to start doing something about it.
This morning’s Gospel Lesson from Matthew is the only miracle, aside from the Resurrection, that is included in all four Gospels. This should tell us something about its importance.
One of the things I like best about the feeding of the 5,000 is that this miracle captures Jesus’ concern for both the material and spiritual needs of people. In this story Jesus heals the sick, encourages people when they are sad, and when they are hungry—he feeds them.
And the key word that holds all this together is “compassion.” “Jesus…saw a crowd” and “he had compassion on them.” Of all the descriptions of how Jesus views us—that is my favorite—by far.
In the Gospels, we are told that Jesus had compassion on folks before He healed them, compassion for sinners, for the lost, for the lonely, for the sad, and when he was traveling through the different villages we are told that “he had compassion on [the people], because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
That is Who our Savior is—that is what our God is like. The verb “have compassion” is always evoked by a need that Jesus sees.
Jesus is very observant. He looks at the crowds with a heart sensitive to their needs. And what Jesus sees is the helplessness of people, and that touches Him deeply. He feels compassion. He is moved to help people and to teach His disciples the great necessity of really seeing people and having compassion for them. Compassion is a feeling, and like any feeling, it’s not something we can just decide to have. It comes in reaction to something.
I personally believe that our capacity to have compassion is shaped by how we look at others. It’s a way in which we are able to identify with people, and it seems to me that this empathetic identification with others begins when we listen well to the other person. This is what Jesus did and does. I mean, to hear someone is one thing. To really listen is to hear and to appreciate where someone else stands, how someone else feels, how someone else thinks. It’s a means by which we take another person seriously and thus give them dignity.
We can’t have compassion unless we enter into another person’s life by identifying with them. And that is what Jesus does. That is also what, we, as Jesus’ followers are called to do as well. And when we do this, it helps to fill our empty spaces.
Our Gospel Passage this morning starts in the middle of something else that is going on.
What do I mean by that?
Well, just look at verse 13 where we began.
It says, “When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns.”
What has Jesus just heard? King Herod has executed Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist. He had been beheaded as a party favor for Herod’s daughter.
It’s no wonder Jesus needed some time alone to pray and grieve.
But Jesus is not the only one to hear the gruesome news. We are told the crowds have also heard about John’s murder. And so, the people are understandably frightened and are seeking after Jesus for both comfort and guidance.
Thus, while Jesus is out in a boat on the sea, they follow Him on foot from the shore. And so, when Jesus brings His boat to shore, He sees this huge crowd of people.
He sees their grief. He sees their fear. He sees their longing for hope and a word of encouragement. He sees their emptiness, and He has compassion on them. He knows and identifies with what they are feeling, and He reaches out and heals their sick.
He spends the day in conversations with them and then night begins to fall. And this is when the disciples come to Jesus with a genuine concern that the people need to leave to avoid the problems of being stuck on the road, in the dark with no food.
“This is a remote place,” they say, “Send the crowds away, so that they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
But Jesus takes a different approach: “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” And in calling on His disciples to get involved in this temporary refugee problem, Jesus makes clear His expectation for us, as His disciples, is to tap into His compassion to make good things happen. And in doing so, Jesus is entrusting us to be a part of the miracles of God.
That’s pretty amazing, to say the least.
And those of us who have been involved in the Food Pantries have experienced this miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 over and over again…
And look at all that has happened.
Thousands of people have been fed.
We normally have leftovers, more than we need…
One of the awesome things about this story in Matthew Chapter 14 is that it captures the way Jesus challenges us to address a problem and not ignore it.
Now the disciples were shocked by what Jesus was suggesting, and that’s because the disciples were approaching this situation with a theology of scarcity rather than a theology of plenty.
Ever find yourself thinking this way?
“We don’t have enough.”
“We can’t do this.”
“It’s out of the question.”
“We have only five loaves of bread and two fish!”
I wonder did the miracle occur, as Barbara Brown Taylor suggested, when the meager basket of bread and fish was passed among the people and they dug into their pockets to add the secret bit of bread they had brought along the journey? By the time the baskets had been passed around, had people taken enough to eat, but also put a little back in to share with others because that seemed like the only right thing to do?
I don’t know how miracles occur, but the gospel tells us that when the faithful act boldly, sharing our resources with others, miraculous things begin to happen. When people trust in God and act with compassion, scarcity can and often is transformed into abundance.
But Jesus wants us to think, not in terms of what we don’t have, but rather in terms of what God has given us—and that’s a theology of plenty!!!
And this is important to remember especially during this time of COVID-19.
What has God entrusted us with, even in times such as these?
We still have our church.
We have resources.
There are means by which we can grow in our relationship with God and other people—even if we are socially isolating—we just must look at things through the eyes of Christ.
We need people who will make phone calls and organize volunteers.
We need this desperately.
You can do this from home.
You know, it is when we are sharing in God’s work that life becomes meaningful.
And we can do this, even as we socially isolate.
And for that, I am so grateful.
How about you?
I think the message God is giving us in our Gospel Lesson for this morning is that if we will embrace a challenge, bringing forward what we have, no matter how little, then God will do the rest—and what God does with what we offer Him is always more than sufficient to get the job done.
You know, this story is a sharp reminder to us that we, as individual Christians, must never be so wrapped up in our own problems and concerns that we withdraw from the world and refuse to be a part of the ministry of Jesus Christ—which is providing help, love and support when others are in need.
Left alone, we can easily think like the disciples and say: “Send them away…they are not our concern…they aren’t our problem.” But this is not an attitude our Lord will accept. He, instead, calls us to be generous and share.
This story is a clear call for us—the Church of Jesus Christ to be a compassionate people, which hears and listens to the cries of people and responds to their needs.
And the needs are so great. People are hungering all around us. They are hungering for a deeper connection with God and each other. They are hungering for purpose and meaning. They are hungering for hope. Many are hungering, quite literally, for their next meal.
And our task is to share what we have been given—our talents, our money, our compassion, our love, our time—we are to share what we have been given, trusting that it is enough.
We are to share freely, wildly, irrationally with others, expecting that God will take our limited resources and turn them into a feast to serve thousands.
The feeding of the 5,000 isn’t some kind of spectacle to enlarge Jesus’ fame and popularity among the people, rather it is an insistence by God that we—Jesus’ followers–distinguish ourselves by our love, compassion, resourcefulness, generosity and faith.
We are called to have the compassion of Christ. And this is what fills our empty spaces along with filling the empty spaces of the world.
Today, even though we are living in desperate and lonely times, are called to learn what it means to follow Jesus. What an opportunity we have. What grace Christ offers! What more could we need or ask for? This is a great time to be alive.
Jesus Christ had suffered the loss of His cousin, John the Baptist. But instead of focusing on Himself and what He lost, Jesus looked outward toward the crowd. And that is where we find TRUE freedom—when we think of the needs of others before ourselves. We are called to compassion. The crowds are starving for love, for hope, for meaning, for God.
Jesus says to you, Jesus says to me: “Don’t send them away. YOU give them something to eat.”