The Presbyterian Church at Woodbury
February 14, 2021
PRAYER OF PREPARATION
God, you bring us together in this place, we come to be fed, to be renewed, to seek understanding.
God, you challenge us in this place, we embrace the challenge, trusting that through challenge we grow in faith.
God, you are revealed in this place, sometimes in shining glory, sometimes in tears and struggle.
God as we worship in this place, refresh, renew, and challenge us so that we would see your awesomeness.
We pray in Jesus’ name, as we strive to walk the path of discipleship. Amen
CALL TO WORSHIP
God speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.
Our God comes and does not keep silence.
God calls to the heavens above and to the earth, that God may bring justice to God’s people.
The heavens declare God’s right and just relations for all of the people of the earth.
CALL TO RECONCILIATION
In the transfiguration story, Jesus’ clothes became dazzling white, a sign of resurrection out of the violence the world inflicted upon him. Resurrection reminds us that the brokenness of the world and of our lives will not have the last world. God’s love, compassion and justice will not be conquered. So, let us make the good confession before God and one another.
PRAYER FOR FORGIVENESS
Merciful God, even when we see your love and justice transfigured before us, we cower in our fear of what it would mean to follow your way in the world. We wonder what it might cost us to be disciples of Jesus. Help us to listen to Jesus. Empower us to be formed by his life. Restore in us the confidence to be Jesus’ disciples. Amen.
Silence is observed
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
Just as a cloud overshadowed the disciples in the transfiguration story and just as they heard a voice say that Jesus is God’s beloved, so too are we God’s beloved people. Be forgiven and restored to our right standing as beloved of God.
PASSING OF THE PEACE OF CHRIST
Our peace comes from knowing how much God loves us in Jesus Christ. With God’s help, we try to love and forgive one another as Christ loves and forgives us.
“The peace of Christ be with you,”
“And also with you.”
ANTHEM “Living Bread” Williamson
(all children will remain in the sanctuary)
PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION
Mighty God, you spoke to your people in the pillar of cloud as they walked together in the wilderness. Speak to us through your Word today, that we may hear you calling us out of the wilderness places in our lives and into new places you have promised to show us. In the name of Christ, we pray. Amen.
SCRIPTURE 2 Corinthians 4:3-6
3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.4In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. 6For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Earlier in Second Corinthians Paul proclaims “We do not lose heart.” What a wonderful proclamation, but is it realistic for the congregation that Paul was writing to? Is it a realistic message for the church in 2021?
Have you ever felt that you are beginning to lose heart?
Have you ever said, “I just don’t know how much more of this I can take” or “I don’t know how much longer I can keep doing this”?
You may be saying something like it today, as you deal with the impact of COVID-19 in your life.
Or, you may be saying it in reference to your employment, or your marriage, or your children, or your chronic disease. Regardless of the situation, we have all experienced times when we felt like we were losing heart.
The apostle Paul certainly felt like that at times. He knew about discouragement, about being weary and tired, about feeling worn out and lacking the energy to accomplish the tasks before him. He knew about human frailty. I think sometimes we mistakenly believe that biblical characters like Paul were superhuman. Like a super apostle, Paul would swoop into a group of Christians, complete with cape and a capital “P” on his chest, proclaiming: “Here I come to save the day.” Far from it, says Paul, who throughout his letters talks about his human weakness, as he does in the text this morning from 2nd Corinthians. It begins with Paul referencing a light. In the preceding verses he has told us that this light that is shining in our hearts is Jesus Christ.
We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.
In Paul’s day, fragile clay jars were a dime-a-dozen. They were the Tupperware of the ancient world, inexpensive containers you could pick up cheap in the local market in which to store your household goods. That’s who we are, says Paul, ordinary people living everyday lives, trying to deal with the extraordinary troubles of the times in which we live. Troubles that press us on every side, that perplex us and make us feel like they are after us, that knock us down and tell us, “Don’t bother getting up.”
Because we are ordinary people and not super-humans, when trouble comes it hurts. We carry trouble’s scars, sometimes on our body and always in our souls. And we feel like crying out, “I am leaving, I am leaving” but we don’t. We remain because, while we are outwardly like fragile clays jars, there is a treasure within us that helps us to get back up and battle our troubles another day. The treasure we bear is not diminished by the vessel we are; rather, the vessel we are is made resilient by the treasure it contains. That treasure is Jesus Christ, and because of him we do not lose heart.
While life sometimes knocks us down, it doesn’t knock us out. We remain the children of God, weak and fragile as we are in our human selves, but strong and durable through Christ. As God’s people, we are a lot tougher than we sometimes think, and it is encouraging for us to realize that we can cope with a great deal because of the strength that Christ gives.
We shouldn’t lose heart because our confidence is in Jesus Christ through whom we have been saved. We shouldn’t lose heart because our assurance is in a heavenly Father who promises to provide us with all we need. We shouldn’t lose heart because we know that we will be raised with Christ, into the new heaven and new earth. We should not lose heart because in spite of our outward fragile shells as clay pots, the Lord is daily renewing our inner spirits.
Know that we shouldn’t lose heart because of our relationship with Jesus Christ, we are given a specific task: to shine Christ’s light into the darkness! The call is not to “proclaim ourselves;” but to “proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake.” We are clay pots that are called to shine light into the world. We are fragile vessels that are challenged to illuminate the world with divine light. I think sometimes we may hear a word from the culture that sounds like scripture and forget that it is actually not from Christ. Recently, I heard the following words:
There’s a chapel in Kansas
Standing on the exact center of the lower forty-eight.
It never closes.
All are more than welcome
To come meet here, in the middle.
It’s no secret the middle has been a hard place to get to lately
Between red and blue
Between servant and citizen
Between our freedom and our fear.
Now, fear has never been the best of who we are.
And as for freedom, it’s not the property of just the fortunate few.
It belongs to us all.
Whoever you are, wherever you’re from
It’s what connects us.
And we need that connection.
We need the middle.
We just have to remember the very soil we stand on is common ground.
So, we can get there.
We can make it to the mountaintop
Through the desert
And we will cross this divide.
Our light has always found its way through the darkness
And there’s hope on the road up ahead.
These words may sound familiar…
You may have heard them last Sunday evening during the football game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs. It was an advertisement featuring Bruce Springsteen for Jeep. I reposted the commercial on my Facebook page and had several comments from folks concerned that this message was not an appropriate message for our world today – Several friends didn’t like the message from “The Boss”:
I wish I could buy into this sentiment. But churches are among the most divisive institutions in our society. The mere fact that there are so many denominations alone is testimony to that. That churches can play a role in healing our fractured society is certainly true, but it involves a great deal of soul searching inside the churches, and I see little evidence of a willingness to do that.
The culture will continue to see supposed Christian messages (read as Christian Nationalist propaganda) as good news, and folks will struggle with our message as the church (seeing us as hypocritical), BUT our task is to proclaim the good news. Our task is to share the love of God with everyone!! We are still called to shine light in the world. Bearers of Christ’s Good News!!
We are challenged to make it to the mountaintop through the desert.
We are invited to cross this divide.
Our light has always found its way through the darkness
And there’s hope on the road up ahead.
But our hope is not from Mr. Springsteen or driving a jeep
Our hope is Jesus Christ! Thanks be to God!!
Commentary provided by Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson, Steve Wilbraham, Karl Jacobson, Eric Barreto, Carla Works, Scott Hoezee, David Lose, Karoline Lewis, and Roger Gench
AFFIRMATION OF FAITH
“Christ calls us to be disciples.”
In forming his people and sending them into the world Jesus called individuals to be disciples. They were to share the joy of his companionship, to understand and obey his teachings, and to follow him in life and death. We confess that Christians today are called to discipleship. Life shared with Christ and shaped by Christ is God’s undeserved gift to each of us. It is also God’s demand upon every one of us, never perfectly fulfilled by any of us. Forgiven by God and supported by brothers and sisters, we strive to become more faithful and effective in our daily practice of the Christian life. Amen.
THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY COMMUNION
Friends, this is the joyful feast of the people of God! They will come from east and west, and from north and south, and sit at table in the kingdom of God. According to Luke, when our risen Lord was at table with his disciples, he took the bread, and blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him. This is the Lord’s table. Our Savior invites those who trust him to share the feast which he has prepared.
Prayer of Thanksgiving
We praise you, for in Jesus Christ,
the mystery of the Word made flesh,
you sent a light to shine upon the world,
that we might be brought out of darkness
into your marvelous light. Therefore we praise you joining our voices with choirs of angels, and with all the faithful of every time and place, who forever sing to the glory of your name:
Holy, holy, holy God of power and might,
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest. You are holy, O God of majesty, and blessed is Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord. In Jesus, born of Mary, your Word became flesh
and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. He lived as one of us, knowing joy and sorrow. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, opened blind eyes, and broke bread with outcasts and sinners. Dying on the cross, he gave himself for the life of the world. Raised from the grave, he won for us victory over death. We praise you that Christ now reigns with you and will come again to make all things new.
We give you thanks that the Lord Jesus on the night before he died, took bread, and after giving thanks to you, he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying: Take, eat. This is my body, given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.
In the same way he took the cup, saying: This cup is the new covenant sealed in my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this in remembrance of me. Remembering your gracious acts in Jesus Christ, we take this bread and wine from the gifts you have given us, and joyfully celebrate his dying and rising, as we await the day of his coming. With thanksgiving, we offer our very selves to you to be a living and holy sacrifice, dedicated to your service.
According to his commandment:
We remember his death,
We proclaim his resurrection,
We await his coming in glory.
Gracious God, pour out your Holy Spirit upon us and upon these your gifts of bread and wine, that the bread we break and the cup we bless may be the communion of the body and blood of Christ. By your Spirit make us one with all who share this feast, united in ministry in every place. As this bread is Christ’s body for us, send us out to be the body of Christ in the world.
Give us strength to serve you faithfully until we feast with you and all your people in the fullness of your joy.
We ask all these things in the name of Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray saying, Our Father…
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.
Break Bread & Pour Cup
Creator of all, just as this broken bread was first scattered upon the hills, then was gathered and became one, so may your church be gathered from the ends of the earth into the kingdom.
Gracious God, you have made us one with all your people in heaven and on earth. You have fed us with the bread of life and renewed us for your service. Help us who have shared Christ’s body and received his cup, to be his faithful disciples so that our daily living may be part of the life of your kingdom, and our love be your love reaching out into the life of the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
OFFERING OF TITHES & OFFERINGS
God is the giver of life and the resources therein. Let us now dedicate our lives and resources to the Holy One in whom we live and move and have our being.
PRAYER OF DEDICATION
We give you thanks, O God, for the gifts we have received from your good creation. We now ask your blessing upon the gifts we offer here today, so that they might be a sign of our commitment to serve you in all that we are and do. Amen.
Hear the voice from the cloud saying to each and to all: “You are my beloved”
So beloved of God,
Listen to Christ,
Follow in the way of Christ.
Love one another,
As God in Christ has loved you. Amen.