October 25 , 2020
WELCOME AND ANNOUNCEMENTS
Let me remind you quickly of our protocols for everyone’s safety.
Attendance was taken by ushers as you entered
Offerings may be placed in the plate by the doors.
The bulletins were placed specifically for social distancing, one household per pew. Please sit exactly where you found your bulletin.
Please keep your masks on and remain seated through the whole service.
There will be no singing, and no physical contact.
You may read along silently,
The office is reopened
Church Service 9:30 am
Joint Meeting with the sessions of both First United Presbyterian Church and 1st Congregational church at 12:00 pm on October 25th at the 1st Congregational church.
Session Meeting on November 8th at 12:30 pm in the Calvin Hall
WORDS OF WORSHIP:
O come, let us sing to the Lord and shout with joy to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into God’s presence with thanksgiving, singing joyful songs of praise.
O God, light of the minds that know you, life of the souls that love you, strength of the thoughts that seek you: Help us so to know you that we may truly love you, so to love you that we may fully serve you, whose service is perfect freedom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
CONFESSION AND PARDON:
Merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart and mind and strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. In your mercy forgive what we have been, help us amend what we are, and direct what we shall be, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name.
The peace of Christ be with you.
PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION:
O Lord our God, your Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Give us grace to receive your truth in faith and love, that we may be obedient to your will and live always for your glory; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
34Moses climbed Mount Nebo the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, from Jericho. The the whole land—from Gilead to Dan, of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea, Negev the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, far as Zoar .the to him, “This is the land I promised on oath Abraham, Isaac and Jacob I said, ‘I will give its your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not crossin to it.”
5Moses the servant of the died in Moab, as the said. buried him [a]Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, to this day no one knows where his grave is. was a hundred and twenty years old he died, yet his eyes were not weak his strength gone. Israelites grieved for Moses in the plains of Moab days ,the time of weeping and mourning over. 9Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit[ b]wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. the Israelites listened to him and did what the commanded Moses.10then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses ,the face to face, did all those signs and wonders sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his official stow his whole land.no one has shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds Moses did in the sight of all Israel.
34that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, Pharisees got together. Of them, an expert in the law, him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ [a]is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ [b]the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
41the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”
“The son of David,” replied.
43said to them, “ How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says,
44“‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
until I put your enemies under your feet.” ’[c] 45then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son? ”one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.
SERMON: It’s About the What
In his biography on Martin Luther King Jr., titled Bearing the Cross, David Garrow relays the events of the night that preceded King’s assassination.
• It was storming that April night in 1968.
• Rain pelted the windows of the Mason Temple in Memphis,
Tennessee where a crowd had gathered to hear King speak.
• King was exhausted and had grown increasingly depressed by opposition to the Poor Peoples’ Campaign that he was striving to promote.
• Even his own staff was apathetic, which was particularly demoralizing to him.
• His plane had been delayed earlier that morning due to a bomb.
• King often dealt with a crushing fear for his life and the lives of his family.
He had chosen to stay at the Lorraine Hotel and rest that night.
• Ralph Abernathy had gone to the Mason Temple by himself.
• But he sensed that the crowd was disappointed to see him appear without King, and he phoned King at the Lorraine to ask him to come over.
• When King arrived, he stepped to the podium and assured the audience that the Memphis movement would go forward despite opposition.
Then he delivered what we now call his “mountaintop” speech saying:
“Well I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And he’s allowed me to go up to the mountain, and I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the promised land. I might not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people will get to the promised land. And so, I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”
• Then, with sweat streaming from his brow and his eyes watering heavily, King moved to his seat.
• Those who were with him said that though he was deeply moved, there was a calmness and a peace about him.
• Hours later, he lay dead at the hands of an assassin.
I have often thought that the verses that close Deuteronomy are among the most poignant in the whole Bible.
• In my mind’s eye, I can see Moses as he climbs to the top of Mt. Pisgah and looks out over the plush green valleys and the hillsides that rise from the Jordan River, the land promised to him by God.
• His eyes must have watered at the sight of it and he must have ached with longing knowing that he would never step foot on it.
• Moses had always been faithful to God, even when he didn’t feel adequate for the task God called him to do.
• When God revealed himself to Moses in the burning bush and commanded him to lead his people out of slavery in Egypt, Moses protested, “But I’m not a good speaker.”
• God basically said, “Go anyway Moses. I’ll be with you.”
• At God’s command, Moses persuaded his people to follow him out of Egypt.
• He was with them through the deliverance at the Red Sea.
• He led them from encampment to encampment as he listened to their complaints about his leadership.
• When they rebelled against God and worshiped idols, Moses interceded on their behalf, convincing God to withdraw his anger.
• Even when they wanted to stone Moses and appoint a new leader, Moses still begged God’s pardon for the sake of Israel.
• But then, as they approached the banks of the Jordan to cross over to their final destination, God refused to let Moses enter.
It seemed unbelievable the first time I read it.
• Moses gave his whole life in obedience to God on behalf of these people, and he never got to taste the sweetness of the victory?
• He never got to take off his sandals and rest his weary, travel-worn feet on the other side of the river?
• I went flipping back through the pages of Numbers and Deuteronomy trying to find the supposed error that Moses made that robbed him of this moment.
Some verses suggest that God was angry with Moses on account of his peoples’ lack of faithfulness.
• Others point to Moses’ failure to interpret the giving of the waters at Meribah as a sign from the Lord, though the precise nature of his unbelief isn’t clear.
• In Chapter 34, he is simply denied entry into the promised land, with no reason given at all.
• It violates our basic sense of fairness.
• If anybody got to enter the promised land, it should have been Moses.
• Finally, we have to accept that Moses’ time had come to die.
Like we often do when someone dies, we ask “why?”
• We flip back through the pages of life and search for answers.
• We might find reasons that are meaningful to us, but in the end, they are still inadequate.
• The answers aren’t finally clear.
• Even our best theology can’t fully explain the tragedies that come with being human.
It’s some consolation to know that Moses’ work was truly done.
• He had served faithfully and well.
• The people had the Word of the Lord that Moses taught them that would be their guide in the land God promised.
• Moses could move off the scene, and Israel would be led by the living Word of God, the promise and instruction of the Torah.
• Joshua would take over as the human leader with the spirit of wisdom given in the laying on of hands by Moses.
The fact is, the “why” of Moses’ death really doesn’t matter in the end.
• At the end of the story, it is said, “Never since has there arisen such a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.
• He was unequaled for all the signs and wonders that the Lord sent him to perform.”
• In the end, the “why” of his death meant nothing in comparison to the “what” of his life.
• What was Moses about? What had his life stood for?
• When we flip back through the pages of his life, we see a fierce commitment to his Lord, a consuming love for his people and a passing on of the Word of God to the next generation.
• Moses was a prophet so in tune with God’s will, so filled with God’s presence, that everything he said could be seen as coming from God.
“I just want to do God’s will,” Martin Luther King said,…mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”
• His last words, his final speech are a testimony that did little to comfort a nation in the “why” of his death. But the words ring in our ears to this day as a testimony to the “what” of his life.
• “I just want to do God’s will.”
As Christians, we often ask ourselves, “What is God’s will?”
• We face life’s choices and decisions and tragedies, and we wonder how to live according to that will.
• How do we determine the “what” of our lives?
God spelled it out clearly for Moses in the ten commandments:
“You shall have no other Gods before me, you shall not make idols, you shall not take the name of the Lord in vain, observe the Sabbath and keep it holy, honor your father and mother, you shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor, and you shall not covet what belongs to your neighbor.”
• This is what God said to Moses face to face.
• This is what you must do to follow my will.
• This is the “what” of your lives together as Israel.
Ten simple rules to follow, yet not so simple.
• So difficult, in fact that Moses apparently couldn’t keep them.
• Despite his greatness, perfection eluded him.
• Certainly, Martin Luther King, as faithful a servant as he was, could not keep them.
• Garrow relates that King was painfully aware of his shortcomings as a human being and bore a heavy burden of guilt at his inability to fully do God’s will.
• To be sure, we don’t keep the commandments perfectly, try as we might.
The New Testament combines the commandments into two.
• As we heard in our Gospel reading, as the Pharisees gathered, a lawyer asked Jesus, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
• Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
• On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
At first blush, it seems like this should be easier to follow.
• Just love God and other people. What’s so hard about that?
• It hardly seems like a commandment really does it?
• Can one command someone to love?
• Doesn’t love just rise naturally from our hearts?
• Doesn’t it just happen?
Anyone who’s ever really tried to practice constant, ongoing love of neighbor knows that it’s extremely difficult, that it requires effort and sacrifice and a keen awareness of God’s presence.
• Anyone who’s ever tried it knows that it can never be done apart from God.
• Our modern-day understandings of love tend to distort it into something romantic and sentimental.
• It bears no resemblance to the cross-bearing, self-sacrificing love that Christ commanded when he talked about love.
The kind of love Jesus talked about was the kind of love that required a decision.
• It was a decision to bend to the will of God even if it meant he had to die.
• Jesus loved life.
• He pled with God that the cup might pass from him and yet “not what I want, but what you want,” he said.
• It wasn’t fair, but it was the work to which Jesus was called
• For the sake of others, for the life of the world.
“What do you think of the Messiah?
• Whose son is he?” Jesus asked them.
• “What kind of Messiah do you want?
• They had hoped for a hero who would conquer by the sword, not one who would go around talking about love, not one who would pour himself out as a servant, not one who would hang on a cross and die.
If you’re like me, you may be asking yourself at this point, “What can I do?”
• I’m not Moses, I’m not Martin Luther King, and I’m certainly not Jesus.
• When I ponder the greatness of such leaders, my life feels a little small in comparison.
• Some days it’s all I can do to get the simple tasks of my life done
• How would I ever lead a nation of people through the desert or on a march for justice through the inner city.
• We ask ourselves, “What can we do to honor God, to be obedient to God’s will as we struggle in our daily lives just to keep the ball in the air.
I’ve always been comforted by the words of Mother Teresa, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”
• Small things with great love – the debt forgiven, the neighbor sheltered, the child encouraged, the tree planted, the stranger welcomed and fed, the prayer offered.
• Our lives are full of opportunities each day to show God’s love.
• The small things we do can add up to make big changes.
• They can lead us out of the valley and up to the mountaintop, where one day we’ll take an account of our lives and ask ourselves, “What has my life stood for?”
• Have I lived in such a way as to foster kindness and compassion to myself and others?
• Have I lifted up the lives of others in some way?
Our journeys to the mountaintop will take different paths.
• Some of us will use our voices to speak up in our community and get involved in projects to bring fairness and equity to the lives of our people.
• Some of us will bring God’s love into schools and hospitals and churches.
• We all have the opportunity to teach our children to love God and love people, people of every color, gender, ability and kind.
• We can speak up when someone makes a comment or a joke that demeans someone else.
• And we all are called to vote, to speak up for the leaders we feel God is raising up to take us closer to the mountaintop.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.
• When you stand on the mountaintop, what will your life have stood for?
• Moses gave his life for the liberation of Israel
• Martin Luther King Jr. gave his life for the liberation of African American people and the reconciliation and peace of humankind
• Jesus gave his life for all people, everywhere
• Jesus liberated us to live forgiven, to live loved,
• To love God, love ourselves, and love our neighbors
In the end, it won’t matter how long we live, what we’ve done in comparison to others, whether we’ve gotten to do everything we had hoped, or how we die
• What will matter is what our lives have been about, that our lives have been lived to lift one another up in love.
• When we stand on the mountaintop one day, what will matter is that we’ve tried to do God’s will, and to do what we can to lead the next generation a little closer to the Promised Land.
October 25 2020
AFFIRMATION Apostle’s Creed, Ecumenical Version:
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven,
He is seated on the right hand of the Father,
And he will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION AND THANKSGIVING AND THE LORD’S PRAYER
CHARGE & BLESSING