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.

Virtual Worship for Aug. 23, 2020

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

Pastor Karen Crawford

Liturgist: Rev. Dr. Jim Crawford

Musician: Alice Hoover, Organist

Moses in a Basket

Prelude: Lord, Whose Love Through Humble Service (Setting by Wilbur Held) Alice Hoover, Organ

Lord, Whose Love Through Humble Service (Setting by Wilbur Held) Alice Hoover, Organ

Greeting/Announcements with Pastor Karen

Greeting with Pastor Karen

Opening Words and Gathering Prayer with Jim

Opening Words and 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 Every Voice and Sing

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

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

Message for Children and Youth with Pastor Karen

Is He Worthy (Written by Andrew Peterson, Sung by Livi and Casey Kramer)

Is He Worthy (Andrew Peterson)

Prayer for Illumination and Romans 12:1-8 with Jim

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)

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!

Exodus 1:8-2:10 with Pastor Karen

Message with Pastor Karen: Your Voice Matters!

Your Voice Matters!

Hymn: I Saw the Light (Hank Williams Jr.) Sung by Ransomed Bluegrass

I Saw the Light (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

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

Deep River (African American spiritual, setting by Robert J. Powell) Alice Hoover, Organ

Prayer of Thanksgiving with Lord’s Prayer (Pastor Karen)

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

Song of Hope (Argentina)

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/Benediction with Pastor Karen

Charge and Benediction with Pastor Karen

Postlude: Hornpipe from “Water Music”  (G. F. Handel) Alice Hoover, Organ

Hornpipe from “Water Music”  (G. F. Handel) Alice Hoover, Organ

Your Voice Matters!

Meditation on Exodus 1:8-2:10

The Presbyterian Church, Coshocton, Ohio

Pastor Karen Crawford

Aug. 23, 2020

Moses in a Basket

 

Your Voice Matters (Audio only)
Your Voice Matters!

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.

Aug. 23, 2020 Message for Children and Youth

Pastor Karen Crawford, The Presbyterian Church, Coshocton, Ohio

This week, Pastor Karen reads, What Do You Do With A Voice Like That by Chris Barton and Ekua Holmes

What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? by Christ Barton and Ekua Holmes
Aug. 23, 2020 Message for Children and Youth with Pastor Karen

Here is a Lesson about how God cares for you from Sermons4Kids:

God cares for you!

And here is a wonderful song of praise:

Is He Worthy (Written by Andrew Peterson, Sung by Livi and Casey Kramer)

Is He Worthy (Andrew Peterson)

Virtual Worship for Aug. 16, 2020

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

The Rev. Karen Crawford, Pastor

Diane Jones, Liturgist

Alice Hoover and Mark Wagner, Musicians

Christ with the Canaanite Woman (Matt 15)

Prelude: Partita on Crimond (Arr. by Gordon Young) Alice Hoover, Organ

Partita on Crimond (Gordon Young) Alice Hoover, Organ

Greeting/Announcements: Pastor Karen

Greeting with Pastor Karen

Opening Words and Gathering Prayer with Diane Jones

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 (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 Pardon with Pastor Karen

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

Pastor Karen shares the story of Joseph

Hymn: Let Us Build a House (All Are Welcome) (Marty Haugen)

Collegiate Church of St. Mary, Warwick

Prayer for Illumination with Pastor Karen

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!

Genesis 45:1-15 Reading with Diane Jones

Matthew 15:10–28 Reading with Pastor Karen

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

Matthew 15 reading with Pastor Karen

Message   What’s Growing in Your Garden?

What’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 (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 Offering with Pastor Karen

Invitation to the Offering with Pastor Karen

Offertory: Praising the Almighty (Edward Broughton) Mark Wagner, Organ

Praising the Almighty (Edward Broughton) Mark Wagner, Organ

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

Prayer of Thanksgiving/Dedication/The Lord’s Prayer with 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

The Welcome Table (Sung by 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 Benediction with Pastor Karen

Charge and Benediction with Pastor Karen

Postlude: O, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing  (Arr. by Marilyn Arison) Alice Hoover, Organ

O, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing  (Setting by Marilyn Arison) Alice Hoover, Organ

What’s Growing in Your Garden?

Meditation on Matthew 15:10–28

Pastor Karen Crawford

The Presbyterian Church, Coshocton, Ohio

Aug. 16, 2020

What’s Growing in Your Garden?

This link is to my video of the message:

https://vimeo.com/448160699

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.

Do you have this weed in your garden?

    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.

Jesus Walking on Water

    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.

F.O.R. Jesus

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