The Presbyterian Church at Woodbury
June 26, 2022
THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
Living and faithful Spirit, the God in whom we live and move and have our being, the God who is made known in Christ Jesus, bless us one and all as we wait on you this day. Please remove from our minds and hearts whatever impediments hinder worship or dampen our joy. Increase within us that holy longing for closeness which can open our lives to fuller delight and to a deeper commitment. May our hymns and prayers, our searching thoughts, and our hearing of the Scriptures, be an exercise in the holiest love making. By you, with you and for you, may our lives publish your praise. In the name of Christ Jesus. Amen!
CALL TO WORSHIP
Christ has set us free
Free to serve
Free to welcome and include
Free to love our neighbors as ourselves
*HYMN No. 403 “Open Now Thy Gates of Beauty”
1 Open now thy gates of beauty,
Zion, let me enter there,
where my soul in joyful duty
waits for God who answers prayer;
O how blessed is this place,
filled with solace, light, and grace.
2 Gracious God, I come before thee;
come thou also unto me;
where we find thee and adore thee,
there a heaven on earth must be;
to my heart O enter thou;
let it be thy temple now.
3 Speak, O Lord, and I will hear thee;
let thy will be done indeed;
may I undisturbed draw near thee,
while thou dost thy people feed.
Here of life the fountain flows;
here is balm for all our woes.
*CALL TO RECONCILIATION
In Galatians, Paul lays out the ways our desires lead us to oppose the Spirit. Before we hear the Word read and proclaimed, let us confess these sins before our God.
*PRAYER FOR CONFESSION
Spirit of the Living God, your fruit includes love, peace, patience and kindness, but we are a divided, hateful people. We turn to violent means and violent words to settle our disputes. We are impatient with each other and fail to honor your commandment to love. Our idols fascinate and distract us from your rightful path. Forgive us. Turn us from our sinful ways. Set us free in Jesus Christ. Amen.
Silence is observed
*ASSURANCE OF PARDON
Christ has set us free. Claim your forgiveness. Rejoice in God’s grace. Respond with love. 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.
ANTHEM “Dona Nobis Pacem” Mary Lightfoot
CHILDREN’S MESSAGE Laken Franchetti
PLEASE JOIN ME IN THE UNISON PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION:
Open our hearts and minds by the power of your Spirit, Holy God, that we might hear and receive the message you intend for us today. Amen.
THE SCRIPTURE READING FOR TODAY IS Galatians 5:1, 13-25, LET US READ AND HEAR, GOD’S WORD TOGETHER:
5For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
13For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. 14For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. 16Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. 19Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions,21envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.
PAUSE – COUNT TO 10
THIS IS THE WORD OF THE LORD.
THANKS BE TO GOD
SERMON “Live by the Spirit”
The Apostle Paul writes to a people seeking to be faithful Christians in a region known as Galatia – an area that would be today central Turkey. This is an area that was claimed by the Roman Empire around 25 BC. This letter is most likely written, in the middle of the first century, not to one group of people or church, but to a number of congregations in the area of Galatia. In Paul’s first and second missionary journeys through the region (recorded in Acts), he met people, shared the story of Jesus with them, and urged them to keep meeting, to form churches, to grow in faith and service.
But as we know, church life can get complicated. We strive to worship and serve God, but various questions and conflicts always come up. Certain questions and issues can divide people. How is the Spirit at work in a very pagan world? How do people balance traditional customs in Galatia, (or even modern America) and their Spirit-filled faith? Do these new churches, who are excited about Jesus, need to align with Jewish practices, like many of the other new churches? Do they need to be circumcised to be God’s people? Do they have to follow certain rules and expectations, about what and when to eat, or how to dress? What are the rules and practices? There were many opinions on these things.
Here is how Eugene Peterson explains the problems in Galatia: When men and women get their hands on religion, one of the first things they often do is turn it into an instrument for controlling others, either putting or keeping them ‘in their place.’ The history of such religious manipulation and coercion is long and tedious. It is little wonder that people who have only known religion on such terms experience release or escape from it as freedom. . .. Paul, of Tarsus, . . . was doing his diligent best to show something radically and entirely different – the free life in God. . . . Paul learned that God was not an impersonal force to be used to make people behave in certain prescribed ways, but a personal savior who set us FREE to live a FREE life. He founded churches. Then when Paul visited a few years later, Paul learned that religious leaders of the old school had come into those churches, herding all these FREEDOM-loving Christians back into the corral of religious rules and regulations. Paul was furious – furious with this old guard with their strong-arm religious tactics, but also furious with the Christians in Galatia for caving in to the intimidation. His letter to Galatians wants to help them recover their FREEDOM.
Paul’s letter to the Galatians does not mention the turmoil for families at the southern border, or cages for children. His letter does not mention gun violence, or the need for prison reform. He does mention, “for freedom, Christ has set us free.” He does mention, “stand firm, and do not submit to the yoke of slavery.” He does remind us: “love your neighbor as yourself.” And he does say, “if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.” His words are always relevant to our life and times.
Paul is trying to remind us what the FREE life in God looks like. It is more than singing patriotic songs and waving the red, white, and blue. It is more than enjoying fireworks and festivals. It is about being absolutely FREE to live lives that honor God, that promote peace and healing, that guide us into the reign of God.
“For FREEDOM, Christ has set us free.” That is a statement of fact – to move us into the ways of God – the ways of the Spirit – not the ways of the flesh.
The ways of the flesh are all around – enmity, strife, jealousy, quarrels, dissensions, factions, . . . the list is very long and very familiar.
But “for FREEDOM, Christ has set us free.” And it looks like this: joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Imagine a world filled with those traits!
FREEDOM means our lives are FREE to look like Jesus’ life.
FREEDOM means we are no longer trapped in the ways of enmity and strife which lead to death; no, we love one another. FREEDOM allows us to live for that!
Dorothy Day said it so well – Christians are commanded, Christians are expected, Christians are exhorted “to live in a way that doesn’t make sense unless God exists.”
Last week I watched the movie “Emanuel.” Emanuel, you might recall, is the name of the great AME Church in historic Charleston, SC, “Mother Emanuel,” which was also the scene of a horrific shooting 7 years ago this month. “Emanuel” is a documentary about the people closest to that shooting. This documentary delves into the lives of those 9 people killed while they were in a Bible study at the church. The film shows so much about their faith and commitments. There are extensive interviews with the families of the Emanuel nine – the husbands and wives and daughters and other relatives.
This is an amazing and inspiring story. You may recall – and it is depicted in the film – how the judge allowed family members of the victims to speak directly to the shooter at his initial arraignment just days after the shooting. And in that initial encounter, some of those faithful members of Mother Emanuel told the shooter that they forgave him. Forgave him!
That story of forgiveness sent shock-waves – both inspiring and conflicting – around the world. That forgiveness was an awesome witness to a bedrock principle of Christian faith. For FREEDOM, Christ has set us free – free to live like Christ!
That forgiveness also created tension and uncertainty among the community because those words of forgiveness dissipated the anger and the inclination of so many to riot, to express anger.
Charleston, SC has a 400-year history of racism and oppression of African Americans, as do many American cities. For some, the word of forgiveness to a white supremacist felt like giving in – one more time!
The movie shows that not all of the families of the Emanuel nine could express this forgiveness. Some said they were “a work in progress” (no small matter!). Others said they would pray for their loved ones’ murderer (also no small matter). Yet, all of them talked about the importance in their lives of their Christian faith, their church community, and God’s sustaining care for them as an angry, racist, young man entered their church and brought such unspeakable pain to their lives.
The film is amazing and powerful. At the conclusion of the film, I was in awe and just set in front of my computer for several minutes in silence after the credits rolled.
The movie is a witness to the power of faith and the promises of God. God never gives up on us. God keeps calling us to deeper lives or love, service, trust, and commitment. In amazing ways, the faith, and lives of the people at Mother Emanuel give us current, real-life inspiration for what Paul is urging from all of us – “for FREEDOM, Christ as set us free; stand firm therefore. . .. you shall love your neighbor as yourself. If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. . . . The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. . .. For if we live by the Spirit, let us be guided by the Spirit.”
We never know what standing firm and living by the Spirit is going to look like in our lives. We never know what is going to be called forth from our lives as we strive to trust God and serve God.
We do know that with God the worst thing . . . is never the last thing! God has the last word – and it is always a word of hope and light.
Let us always remember – especially in these days – that “for FREEDOM, Christ has set us free” and our real and only goal and purpose is to live – not by the flesh, not in enmity and strife, jealousy, and anger – but to live by the Spirit and so inherit the wonderful reign of God. Alleluia. Amen.
Prayer of Commitment: We believe, O Lord; help our unbelief. And by your Spirit, keep shaping us in the ways of Jesus. Amen.
Commentary and Liturgy provided by Joanna Adams, Philip Gladden, Cecelia Armstrong, Scott Hoezee, Jane Lancaster Patterson, Alicia Vargas, Sarah Henrich, Teri McDowell Ott, Alex Evans and Rachel McDonald.
*AFFIRMATION OF FAITH from the Iona Community in Scotland
We believe in God above us, maker and sustainer of all life.
We believe in God beside us, Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, born of a woman, servant of the poor, tortured and nailed to a tree. A man of sorrows, he died forsaken. He descended into the earth to the place of death. On the third day he rose from the tomb. He ascended into heaven to be everywhere present, and his kingdom will come on earth.
We believe in God within us, the Holy Spirit of Pentecostal fire, life-giving breath of the church, Spirit of healing and forgiveness, source of resurrection and eternal life. Amen.
*HYMN No. 613 “O Lord Our Lord” x3
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.
O Lord, we praise your name.
O Lord, we magnify your name:
Prince of Peace, mighty God;
O Lord God Almighty.
THE PASTORAL PRAYER AND LORD’S PRAYER
Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge (Psalm 16:1).
We are lost without you, God. Protect us from ourselves, our idolatrous ways, the violence we perpetrate, the destruction we fail to prevent. Our power is nothing compared to yours. Therefore, we seek your guidance through Word and worship. We pray for the Spirit to lead us in the path of righteousness. We seek our freedom in Jesus Christ.
Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows (Psalm 16:1).
God of our ancestors, who worshiped golden idols when distraught, help us to heed the warnings of our biblical narrative. We place idols above you and prioritize self- centered concerns over sacred. We mythologize our nation as a land of the free, refusing to hear your condemnation and critique. Our sorrows multiply when we fail to heed your truth.
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot (Psalm 16:1).
Good God of grace, we choose you and return to you today. You have set a table before us, and we gladly accept your welcome. Your portion and your cup fill us as nothing else in this world can. As your guests, we give thanks for your acceptance, your inclusion and your overwhelming love. At your table, may we be freed to love others as you have loved us.
You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:1).
Prince of Peace, our world is broken by violence, our relationships severed by grief. We lament the ways of our world that lead to death. We revel in your path of life. In your presence we know the fullness of joy. Renew us, Great God, in this moment of worship, so we can tread your path, and labor in your field. Grow your kin-dom here on earth. Start with us, we pray.
In your mercy, Beloved God, hear these prayers of your people. Now, as the Body of Christ, we pray as Christ taught us, “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.
Today’s flowers are given in the glory and honor of God by Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Stevens in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Haas; and in honor of Phil & Stacey Oehler’s 30th wedding anniversary
OFFERING OF TITHES
Paul reminds us that generosity is a fruit of the Spirit. Let us generously share of the gifts we have been given. Let us present our offerings to God.
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
Most generous God, you have blessed us with gifts to serve and share. May the offerings we present today be used to further your Kin-dom and build your beloved community. Amen.
*HYMN No. 641 “When In Our Music God Is Glorified”
1 When in our music God is glorified,
and adoration leaves no room for pride,
it is as though the whole creation cried:
2 How often, making music, we have found
a new dimension in the world of sound,
as worship moved us to a more profound
3 So has the church, in liturgy and song,
in faith and love, through centuries of wrong,
borne witness to the truth in every tongue:
4 And did not Jesus sing a psalm that night
when utmost evil strove against the light?
Then let us sing, for whom he won the fight:
5 Let every instrument be tuned for praise!
Let all rejoice who have a voice to raise!
And may God give us faith to sing always:
God, bless us. Jesus, walk with us. Holy Spirit, guide us as we enter this new week. May the grace, hope, peace and love of God our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer be with us all, now and always. Amen.