The Presbyterian Church at Woodbury
July 31, 2022
EIGHTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
You, Holy Friend, only you are our joy! You are the ground of our believing, the spring in our hoping, and the happiness in our loving. You are the reason why we are here and the purpose that will later take us on our journey. Help us to make the most of this time, reaching deeply and rising high in bountiful worship. Through Jesus, our guide and Savior. Amen!
CALL TO WORSHIP
Hear this, all you peoples; give ear, all inhabitants of the world:
We are both low and high; we are rich and poor together.
Listening for wisdom, longing for understanding,
We incline our ears to hear God’s wisdom in our gathering.
*HYMN No. 744 “Arise, Your Light Is Come!”
1 Arise, your light is come!
The Spirit’s call obey;
show forth the glory of your God,
which shines on you today.
2 Arise, your light is come!
Fling wide the prison door;
proclaim the captives’ liberty,
good tidings to the poor.
3 Arise, your light is come!
All you in sorrow born,
bind up the brokenhearted ones
and comfort those who mourn.
4 Arise, your light is come!
The mountains burst in song!
Rise up like eagles on the wing;
God’s power will make us strong.
*CALL TO RECONCILIATION
We know that we have fallen short of God’s ideal for our lives. Let us confess our sin to God now, trusting in God’s grace revealed in Jesus Christ.
*PRAYER FOR CONFESSION
Heavenly Creator, forgive us when we focus on earthly accumulation rather than on spiritual faithfulness. Forgive us when we are overcome by greed and neglect the needs of those around us. Forgive us when we turn inward and shirk the responsibilities of community. We seek renewal and new life in you. Amen.
Silence is observed
*ASSURANCE OF PARDON
In Jesus Christ, we have been forgiven and God has given us new life. Thanks be to God. Amen.
*RESPONSE No. 581 “Glory Be To the Father”
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen, amen.
*PASSING OF THE PEACE OF CHRIST
Since God has forgiven us in Christ, let us forgive one another. The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
And also with you.
CHILDREN’S MESSAGE: Laken Franchetti
PLEASE JOIN ME IN THE UNISON PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION:
O God, we thank you for your Word given to us in the written words of Scripture and for your living Word Jesus Christ. By the power of the Holy Spirit, open us to receive your word and to be transformed it. Amen.
THE SCRIPTURE READING FOR TODAY IS LUKE 12:13-21, HEAR NOW THIS PORTION OF GOD’S WORD:
13Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” 16Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ 18Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”
PAUSE – COUNT TO 10
THIS IS THE WORD OF THE LORD.
THANKS BE TO GOD
Fine southern preacher and social activist, Clarence Jordan – who founded the famous Koinonia Partners Community in Georgia – said whenever Jesus wanted to make an important point, “he lit a stick of dynamite and covered it with a parable.” So true!
This parable does not appear in any of the other gospels; it is only in Luke. So, let’s take note of what is getting blown up by the dynamite in the parable.
First, we note in the opening lines that money – “inheritance” – is the subject. We assume in our lives, in our society, that the money we make, or the money we have, is ours, and whatever is ours, is ours, and what we do with it is finally a matter of personal choice. And certainly, in our culture, we value and fight for personal choices. So, any talk about money feels a bit personal, more like meddling in our personal lives. Well, Jesus blows that right up.
Money is mentioned more than 150 times in the New Testament. It is a favorite subject of Jesus. But Jesus never says money is bad. It all, and always, depends on what is done with money, how it is used, how we think about money. He never condemns money per se, but the love of money, the greedy grasping of money, the covetous instincts that lead us to worship money and its ends, . . . and not God.
Notice here that Jesus refuses to be drawn in too close; he does not get pulled into the position of arbitrator for the dispute about a person’s inheritance. Jesus speaks directly to the issue of money – to warn of the dangers of money: “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”
Then he tells the parable.
“The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘what should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’”
The second thing Jesus blows up in this parable is selfishness. Notice that the man does not talk to others; he does not engage his community. He talks to . . . himself!
Don’t we learn that when we talk only to ourselves, we are way more likely to get into trouble? We talk to ourselves, and we often come to dangerous conclusions. We talk to ourselves, and our fears grow, our self-esteem falls, our paranoia increases, our rationale decreases, and our conclusions suffer. No, we are made for community, for connections – broad, diverse community is best! That is where we find life, find wholeness, and find direction and purpose – not selfishness.
William Barclay, the Biblical scholar, points out that there is no parable of Jesus that is as full as this one of the words, “I” and “me” and “my” and “mine.” Count the number – in verses 17 -19: he says, “what should I do, for I have no place to store my crops; I will do this, I will do that – I, … my… mine” – at least 10 times in 3 verses. This deserves our close attention.
A schoolboy was once asked what parts of speech “my” and “mine” are, and he said, “aggressive pronouns.” He had it right.
Jesus is blowing up our great tendency toward selfishness. There are lots of ways all around in these days when we need to hear Jesus’ warnings about “I . . . my, . . . mine.”
Just think a moment about that – the prevalence in our culture of I, . . . my, . . . mine”: my money, . . . my way, . . . my guns, . . . my border, . . ..
Selfishness is always a pervasive challenge for us – individually, . . in close community, . . . in our nation, . . . across the world. We have to watch out for the “I, . . . my, . . . mine” lest we find ourselves far away from God.
Henri Nouwen reminds us that we are all so easily lulled into living a life that seems to anticipate questions from God that will never be asked. It seems as if we are conditioned to live our lives preparing for the questions like this, anticipating that this is really what matters: “how much did you earn during your lifetime?” or “how many friends did you make?” or “how successful were you in your career” or “how much influence did you have on other people?” or even “how many conversions did you make?” These are all rooted in selfish gains, selfish achievements, self,. . self, . . . self.
Nouwen’s voice becomes prophetic: are “any of these the questions Christ will ask when he comes in glory? If so, we could approach judgment day with great confidence. But nobody is going to hear those questions. The question we are going to face,” says Nouwen, is not about selfish attainments and selfish achievement, and not about anything related to “my,” or “mine.”
“The question we are going to face is the question about “the least of these” from God’s perspective. “What have you done for the least?” As long as there are strangers; as long as there are hungry, naked, and sick people; as long as there are prisoners, and refugees and slaves; as long as there are people who are handicapped physically, mentally, emotionally, and people without work, or a home, or a piece of land, there will be that lingering question from God: “what have you done for the least?”
Jesus blows up the idea that selfishness is the way. Jesus affirms that a life centered on one’s own prosperity, one’s own security is the opposite of the faithful life: Jesus asks, “You fool, . . . the things that you have prepared (namely big barns and selfish attainments), whose will they be?”
Simon Sinek is a best-selling writer, engaging speaker, and creative thinker in these days. He has a term: “Destructive Abundance.” “Destructive Abundance” is what happens when selfish pursuits are out of balance with selfless pursuits.
The man in this story is not mean; he is not immoral; he does not steal or mistreat workers; he is simply, according to Jesus, “a fool.” He lives completely for himself, he talks to himself, he plans for himself, he congratulates himself. We see this so often. He is a “fool,” because he got caught up in destructive abundance – “what does it profit anyone if you gain the whole world and lose or forfeit your life?”
Thomas Merton, (again) the American monk, pointed out that we may spend our whole life climbing the ladder of success and achievement, only to find when we get to the top that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.
Remember, Christians are made, . . . not born. Faith and life are the result of our intentional devotion and God’s Spirit working in and through us. We want to be the people we aspire to be – full of faith and GENEROSITY. This takes our intention, our sacrifice, our attention.
The whole Bible, and Jesus especially, keeps wanting us shaped toward GENEROSITY. Generous living, generous sharing is the way to be “rich in God.” It is also the way to joy, peace, and hope, … and life eternal. May it be so. Amen.
Prayer of Commitment: Holy God, to turn from you is to fall; to turn to you is to rise; to share life with you – to live with faith and generosity – that is to abide forever. We seek that way following Jesus. AMEN
Commentary and Liturgy provided by Bruce Pewter, Millie Snyder, Alex Evans, John C. Lentz, JoAnn Taylor, Dawn Weaks, Scott Hoezee, Karoline Lewis, Meda Stamper, Heather A. Moody, Thomas Merton and Clarence Jordan.
*AFFIRMATION OF FAITH
A portion of the Brief Statement of Faith
We trust in Jesus Christ, fully human, fully God. Jesus proclaimed the reign of God: preaching good news to the poor and release to the captives, teaching by word and deed and blessing the children, healing the sick and binding up the brokenhearted, eating with outcasts, forgiving sinners, and calling all to repent and believe the gospel. Unjustly condemned for blasphemy and sedition, Jesus was crucified, suffering the depths of human pain and giving his life for the sins of the world. God raised this Jesus from the dead, vindicating his sinless life, breaking the power of sin and evil, delivering us from death to life eternal. Amen.
*HYMN No. 726 “Will You Come and Follow Me?”
1 “Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown; will you let my name be known;
will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?”
2 “Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me?”
3 “Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?
Will you set the prisoners free and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean, and do such as this unseen,
and admit to what I mean in you and you in me?”
4 “Will you love the ‘you’ you hide if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you’ve found to reshape the world around,
through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?”
5 Lord, your summons echoes true when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you and never be the same.
In your company I’ll go where your love and footsteps show.
Thus I’ll move and live and grow in you and you in me.
THE PASTORAL PRAYER & THE LORD’S PRAYER
Holy God, the world pressures us to accumulate more and more abundance. If only we had more, we believe we would achieve success. We worry about the future. If only we had more, we imagine we could finally relax. Remind us, once again, that we are your children. You created us in your image and gifted us for community life. You have called us and claimed us as your own. You give our lives meaning and you instill us with value as your people. Remind us, O Lord, of this good news.
We pray for those who do not know the good news of their own value in your eyes. We pray for those who feel like they are running on a hamster wheel every day, trying to get ahead and making no progress. We pray for those who are trying to prove themselves and constantly feel like they are falling short. We pray for those who are burdened by a false sense of independence, unable to ask for help or to admit frailty. We pray for those who have been victimized by greed and selfishness. For all these your people, we ask for the power of your good news to bring new life.
You have knit us together into community. In Jesus Christ, we are renewed and the divisions among us are overcome. Teach us the ways of interdependence. Grant us generosity to share our resources with one another. Open us to receive the wisdom and gifts of our siblings in Christ. Clothe us with new life and enable us to live faithfully in this time and place.
Hear our prayers, holy God, and respond with your grace. Now we join our voices to pray as Christ taught us: “Our Father …”.
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.
Today’s flowers Are given in the glory and honor of God by Are given in the glory and honor of God by Grace Gomez in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Constantino.
OFFERING OF TITHES
We share from our abundance so that we might be rich toward God. Let us offer our gifts in worship.
Praise God, from whom all blessing flow, Praise God, all creatures here below. Alleluia, Alleluia Praise God in Jesus fully known; Creator, Word, and Spirit one. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
* PRAYER OF DEDICATION
Receive these, our gifts, O Lord, and use them to bring good news to those in need of hope and renewal. Amen.
*HYMN No. 756 “O God of Every Nation”
1 O God of every nation,
of every race and land,
redeem the whole creation
with your almighty hand.
Where hate and fear divide us
and bitter threats are hurled,
in love and mercy guide us
and heal our strife-torn world.
2 From search for wealth and power
and scorn of truth and right,
from trust in bombs that shower
destruction through the night,
from pride of race and station
and blindness to your way,
deliver every nation,
eternal God, we pray.
3 Lord, strengthen those who labor
that all may find release
from fear of rattling saber,
from dread of war’s increase;
when hope and courage falter,
your still small voice be heard;
with faith that none can alter,
your servants undergird.
4 Keep bright in us the vision
of days when war shall cease,
when hatred and division
give way to love and peace,
till dawns the morning glorious
when truth and justice reign
and Christ shall rule victorious
o’er all the world’s domain.
Go into the world, knowing that you are rich in God’s eyes, and you have been given new life in Jesus Christ. May that good news transform you. May the grace of Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit abide with you this day and every day. Amen.