The Presbyterian Church at Woodbury
July 11, 2021
7th Sunday after Pentecost
Click for: WELCOME AND OPENING HYMN NO. 307 “God of Grace and God of Glory”
PRAYER OF PREPARATION by John Henry Newman
Come, O Holy Spirit. Come as Holy Fire and burn within us, come as Holy Wind and cleanse us within, come as Holy Light and lead us in the darkness, come as Holy Truth and dispel our ignorance, come as Holy Power and enable our weakness, come as Holy Life and dwell in us. Convict us, convert us, consecrate us, until we are set free from the service of ourselves, to be your servants in the world. Amen
CALL TO WORSHIP
With what shall we come before the Holy One, and bow ourselves before God on high?
God has shown us what is good.
What does the Holy One require of us,
but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with our God
CALL TO RECONCILIATION
REMEMBER THAT OUR LORD JESUS CAN SYMPATHIZE WITH US IN OUR WEAKNESS, SINCE IN EVERY RESPECT HE WAS TEMPTED AS WE ARE, YET WITHOUT SIN. LET US THEN WITH BOLDNESS APPROACH THE THRONE OF GRACE, THAT WE MAY RECEIVE MERCY AND FIND GRACE TO HELP IN TIME OF NEED. LET US CONFESS OUR SINS AGAINST GOD AND NEIGHBOR. Let us confess our sin against God and our neighbor.
PRAYER FOR FORGIVENESS
MERCIFUL GOD, YOU PARDON ALL WHO TRULY REPENT AND TURN TO YOU. WE HUMBLY CONFESS OUR SINS AND ASK YOUR MERCY. WE HAVE NOT LOVED YOU WITH A PURE HEART, NOR HAVE WE LOVED OUR NEIGHBOR AS OURSELVES. WE HAVE NOT DONE JUSTICE, LOVED KINDNESS, OR WALKED HUMBLY WITH YOU, OUR GOD. HAVE MERCY ON US, O GOD, IN YOUR LOVING KINDESS. IN YOUR GREAT COMPASSION, CLEANSE US FROM OUR SIN. CREATE IN US A CLEAN HEART, O GOD, AND RENEW A RIGHT SPIRIT WITHIN US. DO NOT CAST US FROM YOUR PRESENCE, OR TAKE YOUR HOLY SPIRIT FROM US. RESTORE TO US THE JOY OF YOUR SALVATION AND SUSTAIN US WITH YOUR BOUNTIFUL SPIRIT. AMEN
Silence is observed
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
HEAR THE GOOD NEWS! WHO IS IN A POSITION TO CONDEMN? ONLY CHRIST, AND CHRIST DIED FOR US, CHRIST ROSE FOR US, CHRIST REIGNS IN POWER FOR US, CHRIST PRAYS FOR US. ANYONE WHO IS IN CHRIST IS A NEW CREATION. THE OLD LIFE HAS GONE; A NEW LIFE HAS BEGUN. KNOW THAT YOU ARE FORGIVEN AND BE AT PEACE AMEN
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.”
CHILDREN’S MESSAGE Laken Franchetti
(all children will remain in the sanctuary)
PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION
8 Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,
for he will speak peace to his people,
to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.[a]
9 Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.
10 Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
11 Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
and righteousness will look down from the sky.
12 The Lord will give what is good,
and our land will yield its increase.
13 Righteousness will go before him,
and will make a path for his steps.
14 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’[a] name had become known. Some were[b] saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” 15 But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16 But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”
17 For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod[c] had married her. 18 For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed;[d] and yet he liked to listen to him. 21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. 22 When his daughter Herodias[e] came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” 23 And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” 24 She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” 25 Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27 Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s[f] head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, 28 brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.
SERMON “That Small Voice” Elder Milt Fredericks
There are times when after you find out you will be giving the sermon on a particular day; you take a look at the scripture in the lectionary and think, really, no good Samaritan, or woman at the well, or healing of a leper, not this week, for this week is the beheading of John the Baptist. So much for some of the more obvious lessons; but pull it together man, it may turn out okay, pay attention and listen you may just hear something. Truth be told, I think I was more concerned about giving Laken the news of the scripture, which turned out to be a blessing because in starting some research I discovered another theme, which might be even more relatable to all.
My initial venture into the background, at least brought me the title, sometimes that is the last thing that happens. For this information I did not use the normal concordance or commentaries but relied on the theological and sociological words from well know characters in the 1940’s and 50’s. Buddy Ebsen and Fess Parker, provided the music and lyrics for the song, “Be sure you’re right and then go ahead”, the theme for Davy Crockett the King of the Wild Frontier. The contribution from the 40’s was “always let your conscience be your guide” a quote by none other than Jimminy Cricket in Pinocchio.
So if we are going to go from the gospel of Mark, Herod, and John the Baptist to the early films of Walt Disney, we better get started.
For perspective, we need look briefly at the text which appears just before our scripture, at the beginning of Mark, chapter 6, entitled a Prophet without a Home. Jesus has returned to his hometown, and on the Sabbath began to teach in the synagogue. Many were amazed but in a strange way. “Where did this man get these things? What’s this wisdom that has been given to him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing” isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us? They mocked him and they took offense at Him.
Jesus said to them in response, “only in their own towns, among their relatives and their own homes are prophets without honor.”
Jesus then called the twelve together, to send them out with instructions. They went out and preached that all should repent.
The passage opens ominously as word has come to King Herod about the preaching and actions of Jesus and the apostles in the village. Mark’s report calls to mind Herod the great hearing of a child’s birth in Matthew’s gospel. In Mark, however, this news about Jesus and the disciples prompts Herod Antipas to recall John the Baptist. “But when Herod heard of it, he said John, whom I beheaded has been raised. Mark then recounts, as a virtual flashback the events leading up to Herod’s order to execute John.
Joseph Bessler writes about this, in the flashback Mark portrays Herod as an ambiguous character. Herod is caught between his respect for John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and his need to save face (out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her (verse 26). Indeed, Mark writes that Herod had sought to protect John from Herodias, that he liked to listen to John even though John had indicted him for marrying his brother’s wife; and he was deeply grieved to order John’s execution.
Mark insists on showing that Herod, despite his feelings for John, remained ultimately trapped by his own political ambitions. Later in the gospel Mark will portray Pilate as similarly caught between finding no guilt in Jesus and yet, wishing to satisfy the crowd he will do so. In this way, Mark undercuts the power of Herod and later, of Pilate. Such figures appear powerful suggests Mark, but they do not even have the character to do what they know to be right.
There is the lesson, we have choices, sometimes those choices are easy, but sometimes we are faced with difficult decisions, not always because either way we choose might be problematic, but because we know in our mind, in our heart in our conscience what we should do; but temptations arise and pull us in a different direction, and we make an unwise choice. Remember back to our confession: Jesus can sympathize with us in our weakness since in every respect he was tempted as we are, yet without sin. The temptations were there for him, he faced them in the wilderness for 40 days, he faced them when teaching in his hometown, he faced them in Gethsemane, he faced them at Golgotha. But he chose rightly.
Why, because of his relationship with God the Father. Our help is in the same we need to listen to his message, listen to his voice. And listen to that little voice within us which tells us what is right and what is not. These decisions we make daily are numerous, even if they seem inconsequential to us in the moment – like saying a harsh word when none is called for like casting a disparaging look which is totally unwarranted like allowing someone else to be the victim of verbal abuse, bullying or intolerance without speaking up, and that is just the beginning, even having hateful or evil thoughts is a wrong action. With all these decisions each day one might say, no wonder I’m exhausted, but in truth, we would be a lot less emotionally exhausted if we made the right choices much more often than we do. For every time we travel the wrong path we damage more relationships with co-workers, friends, loved ones, family, and with God but if we set our course correctly the path we travel will be longer, filled with more relationships and great experiences guided by the holy spirit.
I know there are many out there who struggle with the whole idea of faith, of God, of Jesus, or the Holy Spirit. They often say they do rely on their knowledge and their conscience, my question to them is where did that conscience come from what is morality, and is that concept still valid even Sigmund Freud, who was no theologian talked of the constant battle of the demands of the id, and the teachings of the superego. And Abraham Maslow acknowledged our base interests to survive and seek pleasure but his hierarchy of needs lead to self-esteem and love and compassion. So to my agnostic and atheist friends, what is the hang-up about the word God the concept of something much much bigger than we are something so big it can be the origin of creation and the small voice of our conscience as well.
Temptations come in many forms, and the temptation to not believe in God, or not trust in God, or maybe just be very angry at God oftentimes stems from some setback, loss, illness, or tragedy suffered by someone labeled as good or kind and some say where is your God now
On this topic, Bob Setzer writes this, some years ago, Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote a bestselling book entitled “When Bad Things Happen to Good People”. Despite the book’s title, most people misstate the title as “Why Bad Things Happen to Good People”.
John Claypool, noted pastor and author once spoke about a private conversation with rabbi Kushner. Claypool asked Kushner why he did not title his book, Why Bad Things Happen to Good People, because, the rabbi answered, that book would have been just three words long, I don’t know.
So back to the scripture in the grisly tale of John the Baptist’s murder, the Why question does thrust itself upon us. How can one upon whom Jesus heaped the highest of praise, meet such an unjust and diabolical end? Mark’s gospel does not address the Why question in fact, Mark reports this unsettling story so matter-of-factly that many of us might find his witness somewhat puzzling, or even exasperating. It is as though Mark wants his readers to realize that despite high hopes for the ministry of Jesus and his disciples and the exciting things happening all around, sometimes bad things do happen to good people. These setbacks to God’s best and brightest hopes for the world must not be allowed to derail faithfulness to God’s kingdom among Jesus’ disciples, whether in first-century Jerusalem or in twenty-first-century America.
God’s best and brightest. Are we talking about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, executed in a Nazi prison camp two weeks before it was liberated? Are we talking about missionaries tortured and killed in South America? Are we talking about Martin Luther King, killed by a sniper in Tennessee? Yes, of course, but do you know who else we are talking about, you, me, our family, our friends. We are all capable of being disciples, we can all dress in God’s clothing of love, and kindness. Even those who may not believe now, have the opportunity because they still are a child of God. How do we begin to be one of God’s best and brightest and how do we maintain that?
Let us start by listening to his word, by listening to our fellow man, by listening to the world around us hearing everything. Not just the laughter, but the cries as well. Not just the praises but the laments also. Not just the adulations but the criticisms we may need.
Let us listen to His creation. Let us see it in all its splendor but see the causes for concern also. Let us take care to ensure that future generations will find a cleaner and safer earth.
Let us listen to our conscience, and yes, by jimminy, let it be our guide.
And let us listen to His voice. Let us hear it in our daily walk. Let us hear it amidst the thunder of noises trying to hide it from us. Let us hear and look for God in all things as our relationship with our creator grows and grows.
One of my favorite passages from the Old Testament comes from 1st Kings, it is one I often use in eulogies or sermons at a funeral, but I think it is so fitting for this day and topic as well:
The Lord said to Elijah, go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind.
After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.
And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled the cloak over his head and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Want to make a difference? Let us start by listening for gentle whispers and small little voices.
Liturgy and Commentary provided by The Book of Common Worship & Milt Fredericks
AFFIRMATION OF FAITH (from a Brief Statement of Faith)
We trust in God, whom Jesus called Abba, Father. In sovereign love God created the world good and makes everyone equally in God’s image, male and female, of every race and people, to live as one community. But we rebel against God; we hide from our Creator. Ignoring God’s commandments, we violate the image of God in others and ourselves, accept lies as truth, exploit neighbor and nature, and threaten death to the planet entrusted to our care. We deserve God’s condemnation. Yet God acts with justice and mercy to redeem creation. In everlasting love, the God of Abraham and Sarah chose a covenant people to bless all families of the earth. Hearing their cry, God delivered the children of Israel from the house of bondage. Loving us still, God makes us heirs with Christ of the covenant. Like a mother who will not forsake her nursing child, like a father who runs to welcome the prodigal home, God is faithful still.
THE PASTORAL PRAYER
THE LORD’S PRAYER
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.
The Flowers today are given in the glory and honor of God by Nancy Webster in loving memory of her Grandmothers Chrissie Dickensheets and Esther Hausknect
OFFERING OF TITHES & OFFERINGS
God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.