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.”
The Presbyterian Church, 142 N. 4th St., Coshocton, OH 43812
The Reverend Karen Crawford
The Reverend Chris Stewart, Guest Preacher
Liturgist: The Reverend Dr. Jim Crawford
Musicians: Mark Wagner, Debbie Clark, and Pam McMorrow
Prelude: Aria (Charles Callahan) Mark Wagner, Organ
Greeting/Announcementswith Pastor Karen
Opening Words/Gathering Prayer
Anyone who thirsts, come and drink!
If you have no money but you’re hungry,
come and receive wine and milk without a price tag.
Why do you spend money on what does not nourish you?
Why do you work for what does not nurture you?
Listen, come and eat healthy food that will delight you.
Come and partake in the Spirit that will give you life.
Become a witness of God’s free gift of grace to all people.
They will come running to you because our Covenant God
will raise you up, transform you, and make you shine!
Hymn: O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go (George Matheson) Mark Wagner, Organ
O Love that wilt not let me go, I rest my weary soul in thee; I give thee back the life I owe, that in thine ocean depths its flow may richer, fuller be.
O Light that follow’st all my way, I yield my flick’ring torch to thee; my heart restores its borrowed ray, that in thy sunshine’s blaze its day may brighter, fairer be.
O Joy that seekest me through pain, I cannot close my heart to thee; I trace the rainbow thro’ the rain, and feel the promise is not vain that morn shall tearless be.
O Cross that liftest up my head, I dare not ask to fly from thee; I lay in dust life’s glory dead, and from the ground there blossoms red, life that shall endless be.
Call to Confession/Prayer of Confession/Assurance of Pardon
God of justice and mercy, we admit that we are not always free of deceit. We are fooled by the false promises of the world into pursuing things that do not truly nourish us.Hear our cry and save us, dear God, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Time with Children: Jacob Wrestles with God
Prayer for Illumination and Genesis32:22-31
Anthem: Meditation on How Great Thou Art (Setting by John Carter) Mark Wagner, Organ
Scripture: Matthew 14:13–21
Holy mystery, holy word. Thanks be to God!
Message: The Reverend Chris Stewart
Hymn Loaves Were Broken, Words Were Spoken(Herman G. Stuempfle Jr.)Mark Wagner, Organ
Loaves were broken, words were spoken by the Galilean shore. Jesus, Bread of Life from heaven, was their food forevermore. By your body broken for us, by your wine of life out-poured, Jesus, feed again your people. Be our Host, our life, our Lord.
Loaves were broken, words were spoken in a quiet room one night. In the bread and wine you gave them, Christ, you came as Light from Light. By your body broken for us, by your wine of life out-poured, Jesus, feed again your people. Be our Host, our life, our Lord.
Loaves are broken, words are spoken, as in faith we gather here. Jesus speaks across the ages, “I am with you; do not fear!”
By your body broken for us, by your wine of life out-poured, Jesus, feed again your people. Be our Host, our life, our Lord.
By the loaves you break and give us, send us in your name to share bread for which the millions hunger, words that tell your love and care. By your body broken for us, by your wine of life out-poured, Jesus, feed again your people. Be our Host, our life, our Lord.
Invitation to the Offering
Offertory: God Will Make a Way(Don Moen)with He Leadeth Me, Debbie Clark, Soloist
Prayer of Thanksgiving/Lord’s Prayer
Loving and generous God, you provide for us and even bless us in more ways than we can number. We give these tithes and offerings to tell of your wondrous and steadfast love so that those who do not yet know you may also come to your love. 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: I Stand Amazed (Charles Hutchinson Gabriel) Pam McMorrow, Piano
I stand amazed in the presence Of Jesus the Nazarene And wonder how He could love me A sinner condemned, unclean.
How marvelous, how wonderful And my song will ever be How marvelous, how wonderful Is my Savior’s love for me!
He took my sins and my sorrows He made them his very own He bore the burden to Calvary He suffered and died for me!
Oh, how marvelous, how wonderful And my song shall ever be How marvelous, how wonderful Is my Savior’s love for me!
How marvelous, how wonderful And my song shall ever be How marvelous, how wonderful Is my Savior’s love for me!
Charge/Benedictionwith Pastor Karen
Postlude: Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross (Fannie Crosby) Pam McMorrow, Piano
Jesus, keep me near the cross; there a precious fountain, free to all, a healing stream, flows from Calvary’s mountain.
Refrain: In the cross, in the cross, be my glory ever, till my raptured soul shall find rest beyond the river.
Near the cross, a trembling soul, love and mercy found me; there the bright and morning star sheds its beams around me.
Near the cross! O Lamb of God, bring its scenes before me; help me walk from day to day with its shadow o’er me.
Near the cross I’ll watch and wait, hoping, trusting ever, till I reach the golden strand just beyond the river.
The Presbyterian Church, 142 N. Fourth St., Coshocton, OH 43812
Pastor Karen Crawford
Musicians: Mark Wagner, Mary Ann Gill
Liturgists: Ethan Swigert, Mason Gano, Ashley Bryant, Jim Crawford
Prelude: The Lord’s My Shepherd (Setting by Donald Hustad), Mark Wagner, Organ
Greeting/Announcements: Pastor Karen
Opening Words: Ashley Bryant
O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples.
Sing to him, sing praises to him;tell of all his wonderful works.
Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Seek the Lord and his strength;seek his presence continually.
Remember the wonderful works he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered, O offspring of his servant Abraham, children of Jacob, his chosen ones.
Gathering Prayer: Ethan Swigert
Holy God, we try to fix and fasten you, but you will not be stayed. You are love in motion: always breathing us into being, calling us to serve, sustaining us in the wilderness. Come to us as the morning breaks. Soften what has grown dry and brittle in our hearts until we worship with abandon, for we pray in the name of the Son you sent and through the Spirit that gives us life. Amen.
Hymn: Rejoice, Ye Pure in Heart(E. H. Plumptre), Mark Wagner, Organ
Rejoice, ye pure in heart, rejoice, give thanks, and sing; your festal banner wave on high, the cross of Christ your King.
Refrain: Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice, give thanks, and sing!
Yes, on through life’s long path, still chanting as you go, from youth to age, by night and day, in gladness and in woe. [Refrain]
At last the march shall end; the wearied ones shall rest, the pilgrims reach their home at last, Jerusalem the blest. [Refrain]
Praise God, who reigns on high, the Lord whom we adore: the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, one God forevermore. [Refrain]
Call to Confession/Prayer of Confession/Assurance of Pardonwith Pastor Karen
God of mystery, God of life, we imagine that we are capable of power and wisdom and goodness. We trust our own standards; we separate and categorize; we mark the performance of others. We fail to trust your power, hidden in all things. We fail to watch for you, working out your purposes. Gracious God, hidden and manifest transform our withered imaginations until we yield the judgments we trust to a love we cannot control. Amen.
Time with Children and Youth: Rachel and Jacob
Prayer for Illumination: Mason Gano
Spirit of life, we do not know how to pray as we ought. Meet us in words written, in words spoken; intercede for us with sighs too deep for words, until we shine with the hope that is hidden in our hearts, for we pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Scripture: Romans 8:26-39 and Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52, Jim Crawford
This is the Gospel of the Lord. Praise to You, O Christ!
Solo: Your Ways Are Higher Than Mine (Rachel McCutcheon) Mary Ann Gill
Based on Isaiah 55:9
It’s not what I prayed for It’s not what I wanted It’s not something I understand My circumstances seem so confusing I’m placing it all in Your hands.
Your ways are higher than mine I want mountains to move You want me to climb So I’m gonna trust Your work, Your will, and Your time Your ways are higher than mine.
One day I’m sure I will look back and marvel At how You knew best all along You see from Heaven You know it’s the hard times That make my faith steady and strong.
Your ways are higher than mine I want mountains to move You want me to climb So I’m gonna trust Your work, Your will, and Your time. Your ways are higher than mine,
When I start to doubt, help me believe Somewhere, so far above me.
Your ways are higher than mine I want mountains to move You want me to climb So I’m gonna trust Your work, Your will, and Your time. Oh Your ways are so much higher than mine. Your ways are higher than mine.
Scripture: Genesis 29:9-28, Pastor Karen
Holy wisdom, Holy word. Thanks be to God!
Message: The God Whose Ways Are Higher Than Ours
Hymn:Be Thou My Vision(Ancient Irish Poem, Transl. by Mary E. Byrne), Mark Wagner, Organ
Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart; naught be all else to me, save that thou art– thou my best thought by day or by night, waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.
Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise, thou mine inheritance, now and always: thou and thou only, first in my heart, High King of heaven, my treasure thou art.
Be thou my wisdom, and thou my true word; I ever with thee and thou with me, Lord; thou my great Father, I thy true son; thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one.
Invitation for Offering/Prayer of Thanksgiving and Lord’s Prayer
Holy One, receive these offerings as you receive our lives. Gather our false starts and uncertain efforts, our generosity and our reluctance. Enliven us with your breath and make your purposes known, that our lives might show forth your glory. 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: Day by Day (Lina Sandell), Fountainview Academy
“Day by Day(and with Each Passing Moment) is a Christian hymn written in 1865 by Lina Sandell several years after she had witnessed the tragic drowning death of her father. It is a hymn of assurance used in American congregational singing.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Day_by_Day_(hymn)
Day by day, and with each passing moment, Strength I find to meet my trials here; Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment, I’ve no cause for worry or for fear. He, whose heart is kind beyond all measure, Gives unto each day what He deems best, Lovingly its part of pain and pleasure, Mingling toil with peace and rest.
Every day the Lord Himself is near me, With a special mercy for each hour; All my cares He fain would bear and cheer me, He whose name is Counsellor and Pow’r. The protection of His child and treasure Is a charge that on Himself He laid; “As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,” This the pledge to me He made.
Help me then, in every tribulation, So to trust Thy promises, O Lord, That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation, Offered me within Thy holy Word. Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting, E’er to take, as from a father’s hand, One by one, the days, the moments fleeting, Till with Christ the Lord I stand.
Charge and Benediction
Postlude: March [Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1636-1704); Arranged by S. Drummond Wolff], Mark Wagner, Organ
Her name was Judith Ellen Brushwood Erickson. She went by “Judy” or “Mom” as her only daughter, Jennifer, said with a smile at her graveside service on Friday morning. Jennifer had driven from Maryland with her husband, Reese, the night before. She had held her mother’s hand as she passed away July 18. Judy was 78. She had been a widow since 1988.
We gathered at the cemetery— a half dozen family members, funeral director, and cemetery workers, who served as pall bearers. They set the casket on the stand under the tent—and then, something I had never seen before. It was opened and set up as if we were preparing for a viewing and visitation. The funeral director invited the family to gather under the tent so the service could begin.
Everyone was wearing a mask, including me, throughout the service. It was particularly strange because I had never seen their faces, and they had never seen mine. We had met for the first time at the grave. We experienced a holy and intimate moment with our faces covered, each of us being careful to maintain social distance.
It was a humbling experience, being led by the Spirit to do something, once again, out of my comfort zone—for the sake of the Lord and caring for God’s people. Later, I thought, truly, our thoughts are not God’s thoughts. Our ways are not God’s ways, as Isaiah says. But if we trust Him, he will make his ways known to us. He will be faithful. With each passing moment. Day by day.
Jacob in Genesis 29 is, like so many of us these days, frequently surprised and dismayed at the twists and turns, ups and downs, in his life. He may not be living in a pandemic that we know of, but he will go through some terrible times. He will endure a severe famine that will lead him to pick up and leave the country with his family to live as refugees in Egypt. And perhaps saddest of all, he will lose his beloved wife, Rachel, giving birth to their son, Benjamin, in Genesis 35. She will be buried on the road to Bethlehem.
God confirms, throughout these terrible days, that He is still with Jacob and his family.
In today’s reading in the 29th chapter, Jacob is on his way to Haran, fleeing from his home because of his brother Esau’s threats to kill him for stealing the blessing of the first born. Jacob is also seeking a wife among his mother, Rebekah’s kin.
Is it a coincidence that when Jacob stops for water at the well, he runs into some shepherds who know Laban, his mother’s brother? I don’t believe in coincidence! Soon, he runs into Rachel, Laban’s younger daughter, a shepherdess, at the well, come to water her father’s flocks. He sees her and is moved to serve her, helping to roll the great stone from the well’s mouth so that her father’s flocks may drink. It is love at first sight. He kisses her and weeps aloud before he tells her that he is her father’s relative; he is Rebekah’s son.
It must be love at first sight for Rachel, though we never know, for sure, because the Bible doesn’t say. She IS excited as she runs to tell her father, who runs to meet him, and they embrace and kiss him and bring him into their home. He stays one month with Laban’s family; then his uncle offers to pay him for the work he has been doing. Jacob is such a romantic! He offers to work for free for 7 years if Laban allows him to marry Rachel.
I think the wheels are turning in Laban’s mind right from the start. He didn’t have any plans to give Rachel in marriage to Jacob in 7 years, did he? Listen to the promise he makes. He doesn’t actually lie; he just doesn’t tell the whole truth. Laban says, “Well, it is better that I give her to you than another man. Stay with me.” What he doesn’t say is that he is going to get Jacob drunk at a feast when the 7 years are up and he will send his older, less attractive daughter, Leah, in to Jacob. Once they have spent the night together, she is his wife.
Verse 25 hints at Jacob’s state of mind when he wakes up after his wedding night. “When morning came, it was Leah!” This brief sentence conveys all the shock of his discovery; Laban has deceived him! And the rabbis’ point out, just as Jacob had deceived his father, Isaac, pretending to be his older brother Esau so that he might steal the blessing.
Sometimes it’s true—what goes around, comes around. Or maybe it’s just that the seeds we sow will eventually bear fruit. Good or bad, the choice is ours.
Jacob responds emotionally, “What is this that you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?”
You can almost imagine Laban shrugging his shoulders. He doesn’t admit to any deception or wrongdoing. He’s a politician. He puts the blame on Jacob for being an outsider and ignorant of their ways. Jacob should have known better! “This is not done in our country—giving the younger before the first born.”
So Laban gets 14 years of free labor from Jacob, instead of just 7, as he had offered. Jacob gets 2 wives instead of one, and they come with personal handmaids, Zilpah and Bilhah. Servants aren’t usually named in the Bible, but these are important to the family tree. Jacob will father children with them, in addition to Leah and Rachel. For their mistresses will be in competition for who can give Jacob the most children. The servants will be commanded to sleep with their master so they can bear children that Leah and Rachel will claim as their own.
With all this deception and intrigue, I don’t want you to miss that this IS a love story—a story of promises kept by Jacob, one of God’s chosen. Remember, Jacob has the blessing of Abraham, through his father, Isaac. All the families of the earth will be blessed through Jacob’s descendants. Jacob says that the 7 years that passed while he was working for Laban and anticipating marriage to Rachel, “seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.”
So what does this story reveal about the character of God who can use sinful humanity, such as Laban, to accomplish God’s good purposes? It wasn’t Jacob’s plan to have Leah and Rachel as his wives, but it was God’s plan. This was so that Jacob would father 12 sons, who would become the 12 tribes of Israel. And yes, Rachel would always be his favorite wife, as were her two sons, Joseph and Benjamin. His favoritism of Joseph, giving him a special coat, led to his brothers’ hatred and attempted murder, throwing him into a pit and leaving him for dead. But if Laban hadn’t tricked Jacob into marrying both Leah and Rachel, then Joseph would never have ended up in Egypt, where he would become the second most powerful man, next to Pharaoh. After years of struggle and suffering that would shape Joseph’s character, he was in the right place at the right time; God’s gift of dream interpretation to Joseph would change the world.
Joseph would not hold his brothers’ sins against them, years later. They would bow down to him and beg for his forgiveness. “Do not be afraid,” he would assure them in Genesis 50. “Am I in the place of God? As for you, what you intended against me for evil, God intended for good, in order to accomplish a day like this—to preserve the lives of many people.”
This sounds like our Romans reading today! How all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purposes.
At the service on Friday, I invited the family to share memories of Judy. This isn’t usual for a committal, but then there had been no funeral, and these are extraordinary times. One by one, everyone spoke—telling about the Ohio State grad, who after she moved away, would return to Coshocton and attend OSU football games. She loved to watch the marching band perform Script Ohio. She moved to Maryland, had a daughter, Jennifer, and found work as a librarian for the Engineering Library (EPSL) of University of Maryland. She was a science fiction buff who liked to go to sci-fi conventions and see people dressed up as characters from Battlestar Galactica or Star Trek. She liked to attend Renaissance Festivals. She was a certified master gardener and member of the Beltsville Garden Club. She grew perennials and vegetables and was well known for her tomatoes. She liked to eat them right off the vine, was an expert at canning, and gave many of her canned tomatoes away.
She was a genealogist and a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, serving as a docent at the DAR museum. She was a quilter and a good cook.
She was kind and would be remembered for her kindness.
As stories were shared, I was blessed by the life of a soul I had never met. And I got to know some family members who still live here, including her brother, John. I couldn’t see his smile, but his eyes lit up when he told me about all the cans of Judy’s tomatoes that are still in their family home. We joked that maybe they shouldn’t be eaten if they are decades old!
It makes me wonder if these connections that were made that day, relationships that were forged in this unusual time for us and our church, community, and nation, will be important in God’s plan in ways we might never know.
I find comfort and joy in Isaiah’s assurance, that “God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. His ways…not our ways.” Especially when I listen to the news, and it always seems to be bad news. We still have Labans in the world: people who break their promises or just fail to tell the whole truth to look out for their own interests. We don’t always know whom we can trust in this world, just as Jacob didn’t know Laban was going to break his promise after he had lived with him and worked for him for 7 years!
We can trust God and His Word. And we can be trustworthy, promise keepers, revealing the goodness of the Lord through our love, poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. We can be like Judith Erickson, remembered for her kindness.
God will be faithful to keep his covenant with us in Jesus Christ, his only Son, who died for our sins. God will keep all his promises to us! We can trust in the God whose thoughts are not our thoughts. The God whose ways are higher than ours.
Let us pray.
Holy One, thank you for keeping all your promises to us—your promise of presence, of forgiveness, of love, of eternal life with you beginning in this world. Forgive us for feeling frustrated when things don’t go the way we want them to go and for doubting your perfect plans for us, no matter what happens. Help us to be content in all circumstances. Strengthen our faith. Thank you for your promise to use us to build your Kingdom and to work through all things in our lives—people, events, jobs, illness and loss—all things to accomplish your good purposes through those whom you have called. Lead us in the way of everlasting, in your ways that are higher than ours. In Christ we pray. Amen.