Let me remind you quickly of our protocols for everyone’s safety.
· Attendance was taken by Ushers as you entered.
· Masks are required by those not vaccinated as well as social distancing
· Offerings may be placed in the plate by the doors.
· Please write your prayer request on the Yellow cards. An usher will pick them up during the 1st hymn.
· Please join us after service for fellowship in Calvin Hall
Gary Iverson, Bob Bock, Joan Boyd, Wanda Hirl, Marilyn Neymeyer, Joan Pinkston, Maxine Wagner, Annette Conzett, Jo Lefleur, Judy Welcher, Dr Dyke, Harlan Marx, Lois Seger, Jon Ryner, Abagail Niles, Helanah Niles, Werner & Kelly Families, Ukraine, Arlene Pawlik, Angela and Tristan, Bonnie Pillers, Deb Weller.
*CALL TO WORSHIP Psalm 33:18, 20-22, GW
The Lord’s eyes are on those who fear him,
on those who wait with hope for his mercy.
We wait for the Lord. He is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts find joy. In his holy name we trust.
Let your mercy rest on us, O Lord since we wait with hope for you.
Lord, we come with hope seeking your mercy. We acknowledge that you are the source of all that is good, and we give thanks for those people you have put in our lives to help us along the way. May we truly put our trust in you as we seek joy and strength for living our days. Amen.
*HYMN O God, Our Help in Ages Past #210
(You may be seated.)
CALL TO CONFESSION Isaiah 1:16-17, NET
16 Wash! Cleanse yourselves! Remove your sinful deeds from my sight.
Stop sinning. 17 Learn to do what is right. Promote justice. Give the oppressed reason to celebrate. Take up the cause of the orphan. Defend the rights of the widow.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Our society is too often guilty of these same things that caused God pain in Old Testament times. Therefore, Let us confess the sins of our world to the Lord.
Merciful God, in your gracious presence we confess our sin and the sin of this world. Although Christ is among us as our peace, we are a people divided against ourselves as we cling to the values of a broken world. The profit and pleasures we pursue lay waste the land and pollute the seas. The fears and jealousies that we harbor set neighbor against neighbor and nation against nation. We abuse your good gifts of imagination and freedom, of intellect and reason, and have turned them into bonds of oppression. Lord, have mercy upon us; heal and forgive us. Set us free to serve you in the world as agents of your reconciling love in Jesus Christ. Amen.
WORDS OF ASSURANCE Isaiah 1:18, NIV
“’Come now, let us settle the matter,’ says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be clean as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” Through Jesus Christ we are cleansed, forgiven, and set free.
Thanks be to God!
SONG OF PRAISE Gloria Patri #579
PASSING THE PEACE
(Please greet those around you as we all say these words in unison.)
May the peace of Christ be with you. And also with you.
PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION
As the scriptures are read, may our hearts and minds to open to receive your Word, O God. Amen.
Colossians 1:1-14, NLT
1 This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy.
2 We are writing to God’s holy people in the city of Colosse, who are faithful brothers and sisters in Christ. May God our Father give you grace and peace.
3 We always pray for you, and we give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
4 For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God’s people, 5 which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven. You have had this expectation ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News.
6 This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace.
7 You learned about the Good News from Epaphras, our beloved co-worker. He is Christ’s faithful servant, and he is helping us on your behalf. 8 He has told us about the love for others that the Holy Spirit has given you.
9 So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.
11 We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, 12 always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. 13 For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, 14 who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.
Luke 10:25-37, CEB
25 A legal expert stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to gain eternal life?”
26 Jesus replied, “What is written in the Law? How do you interpret it?”
27 He responded, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”
28 Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live.”
29 But the legal expert wanted to prove that he was right, so he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 Jesus replied, “A man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. He encountered thieves, who stripped him naked, beat him up, and left him near death. 31 Now it just so happened that a priest was also going down the same road. When he saw the injured man, he crossed over to the other side of the road and went on his way.
32 Likewise, a Levite came by that spot, saw the injured man, and crossed over to the other side of the road and went on his way. 33 A Samaritan, who was on a journey, came to where the man was. But when he saw him, he was moved with compassion. 34 The Samaritan went to him and bandaged his wounds, tending them with oil and wine. Then he placed the wounded man on his own donkey, took him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day, he took two full days’ worth of wages and gave them to the innkeeper. He said, ‘Take care of him, and when I return, I will pay you back for any additional costs.’ 36 What do you think? Which one of these three was a neighbor to the man who encountered thieves?”
37 Then the legal expert said, “The one who demonstrated mercy toward him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
SERMON Thanking God for You
I don’t usually recycle sermons, but July 10 I had the opportunity to preach at the Church of the Brethren in Lanark IL. I wanted to also share that message with you.
The week I might have started preparing for July preaching appointments, I was instead back home in Beloit, WI, sitting either in my motel room or in my mother’s hospital room. The call had come that mom wasn’t expected to last more than another day or two. I booked a room, packed quickly, did what absolutely had to be done at home, called my daughters, and drove home.
When I got to the hospital mom had just been moved into the special care unit where there were fewer patients, quieter private rooms, and nurses trained for this last stage of life. Over the next week, mom hung in there on nothing but ice chips and occasional pain meds. Tali and Sean came for a couple of days, Jessika called twice, dad and I took turns with our meal breaks. Two pastors visited and a couple of close neighbors we had known since they were born. There were prayers and expressions of love from many. The nursing staff were exceptionally kind, gentle, caring, and compassionate not only toward mom but also toward us. Mom slipped away peacefully when she was ready to let go.
In the midst of this experience, there were people who lived out the greatest and second greatest commandments and those who became good Samaritans for us. There were also many people in my life for whom I want to thank our God. They became living examples for me of where I could do better as well.
Let me tell you first about a couple of women whose living expression of their faith made a difference for me that week. As mom lingered, my motel plans had to change a couple of times. When I was set to go home a second time, I could tell mom was declining rapidly and the end was near. It didn’t make sense to go home that night, so I booked another room in a third motel only a couple hours before checking in. When I arrived the room was reserved but the pre-payment hadn’t gone through yet. The warm-hearted woman behind the desk told me not to worry. She’d try again in a bit. I told her why I was there; she gave me kind words of encouragement and said she would pray. When I told her the next day that mom had passed, she extended her sympathy with a genuine warmth and kindness that felt like a verbal hug. I thank God for this woman and for the rest of the staff who were the best examples of motel hospitality I have ever experienced.
That first night when mom was moved into special care, the nurse who had just come on duty was Jolie. She settled mom into her new room with gentle care as well as expressing her compassion and concern for dad and I. Jolie was with mom again her last two nights, continuing that gentle care and compassion. Jolie was the one who called dad and I at 6:00 in the morning. Jolie was the one sitting with mom when mom couldn’t hang on any longer. I thank God for Jolie, for the faith she expressed, but especially for the way she lived that faith for mom and for dad and myself. I also thank God for the rest of the nursing staff who were caring and gentle and kind and did their best, even when they were busy, to keep my mom as clean and comfortable as possible while also being considerate to us and to our guests. They made those last days so much easier than they might have been.
I thank God for those who came to visit. I thank God that my daughter and son-in-law could be flexible with work to make a quick trip to Beloit from Chicago spending a couple days with us. They really were a big help. I thank God for the former neighbor who drove up from Chicago to sit with dad, so I could go home for a night. I thank God for the friends and churches who prayed for us. I thank God for the women who took care of my home while I was away. I thank God for the support and love I felt from family and friends.
Most of all I want to thank God for the mom who raised me, who taught me many things, who took me on trips, who did crafts, who worked hard, who shared her faith, who gave me so many wonderful positive life lessons and memories, who loved me without question or judgement. I thank God for my mom, but I also thank God for my dad, who became my stepdad when I was 17. I thank God that he accepted me and did his best for me in spite of our differences. I thank God for what he brought to my mother’s life, for the faith and church service they shared, and especially for how well he took care of my mother as her health declined. I could not have asked God for a better man to love my mother.
As you can see, there are many people in my life for whom I give thanks to God, not only as my mom was dying, but throughout our lives.
In Colossians, Paul expresses his thanks to God for the people of Colossae even as he prays for them. Think for a moment about the people on your prayer list. You might have family or friends you pray for regularly. Perhaps you offer a traditional God bless prayer. Dad and I prayed one with mom at night in her hospital room, just as she used to pray with me at my bedside when I was little. You might also have a list of prayer requests, people you pray for when they are ill, distressed, in crisis, in transition, or in grief. As you are praying for them, are you also giving thanks for them? Are there individuals or groups of people who are part of your grateful list? For example, in my neighborhood Monday is garbage day and also the day the park across the street is cleaned up and mowed, so on Mondays I pray for and give thanks for sanitation workers and other city employees.
As Paul prayed for the Colossians he went on to mention their faith in Christ and their love for others. We know these are important as Jesus expressed the greatest commandments to love God and love others. From whom did you learn about Christ? Who set an example for you by living out their faith and inspired you to do the same? Who do you see helping others without demanding recognition, but quietly caring for others out of their love for the Lord? I invite you to bring some of these to mind this week and take the time to offer God thanks for each of them. If you have the opportunity, you might also say thank you to them for being that kind of blessing and example in your life. Paul was aware that the message the Colossians heard from Epaphras had born fruit in their lives. He prayed they would continue to grow in loving and serving God, to live faithfully and joyfully, forgiven and loved, as heirs to the kingdom of light. May we also pray these blessings on those for whom we give thanks to God.
The NIV Biblical Theological Study Bible claims, “The gospel continues to grow because it speaks to the universal condition of all people regardless of their cultural, ethnic, or socioeconomic background.” This means our living witness for Christ is meant for whoever crosses our path, whether they are just like us or just the opposite. God loves and cares about all peoples and all creation; therefore we are called to extend God’s love without labels or exclusion.
If we live out the grace and mercy we have received by how we treat others, they too will come to know Christ through us or be encouraged to grow in Christ along with us. As I heard recently in another sermon, preachers can’t take the gospel everywhere by themselves. The world is reached by how each one of us live in front of those whose lives cross paths with ours. What kind of message does your life offer?
In the midst of all the encouragement I received after mom’s death, God offered me a challenge. One area where I could definitely grow is to be more compassionate and caring in my encouragement to others. I could take time to offer a word of comfort or blessing on that social media post as so many did for me. I could be more intentional about sympathy cards. I could call someone who I know is grieving or discouraged. It’s not that I don’t do these things sometimes, but I know I could do more and I could extend my circle of caring wider when the Spirit is nudging me to do so.
Did you notice Paul was praying for and thanking God for people he had not personally met? It was Epaphras who taught them about Christ. Paul “heard” about their faith and their love. He was writing to strengthen and encourage them. Our compassion wasn’t meant to be limited to immediate family or a tight circle of our closest friends. On the other hand, I am not suggesting invading someone else’s privacy for the sake of “your” mission. What I am saying is we can all learn to listen for the Holy Spirit and watch for the opportunities God puts before us. Then respond to the situation as Jesus might have responded: to love people as you find them and lend a helping hand when you are able.
The story of the Good Samaritan reminds us that our “neighbor” whom the commandment asks us to love could be anyone. It could be a complete stranger. It could be someone we think is an enemy. As the Believer’s Bible Commentary puts it, “To the Samaritan, a Jew in need was his neighbor.” Though Samaritans and Jews did not get along, in fact did not trust each other, this man put all that aside to help the person in front of him. He had the means to help, so he did. Nothing else got in the way.
So many things divide us. People disagree about politics and ethical issues. People argue about what should be legal and what shouldn’t. People distrust those whose background, status, or opinions differ from their own. We humans have a long way to go toward being of “one mind in Christ” as Paul prayed for in another letter. But our differences don’t need to get in the way of extending the love of Christ to another person. What we have in common is a better starting point. Even if we cannot find any other point of agreement, at least this much is true. We were all created by God, and we are all loved by God. If I am offering my love to God by showing God’s love to my neighbor, what else do I need to know?
The people who cared so well for my mom in the hospital didn’t know her. The people who helped me at the motel didn’t know me either. We might have guessed some of our differences by the way we look, but we had no clue about each other’s politics, opinions, lifestyle, or background. None of that mattered. They could have done their jobs just to meet requirements, but they went beyond that because of who they were in their inner being. Some of them expressed a faith that might be similar to my own; I have no way of knowing what the others believed. But I can tell you that their behavior honored their creator by giving their best to take care of the person in front of them without bias or prejudice. That is an example any of us can follow. But for us, there is more to it.
I believe there is a significant reason Jesus put these two commandments together out of all that is recorded in the Torah, the Law as it is written in our Old Testament. I think Jesus was teaching us that we love God with heart, mind, soul, and strength precisely when we share God’s compassionate, caring love with the people around us in the same ways we want to be loved. As you go into your daily lives this week, I invite you to sincerely give thanks to God for the people around you and to pray for them. But I also encourage you to pay attention to the opportunities God is giving you to show your love for God by sharing God’s love with others.
*HYMN Jesu, Jesu
(You may be seated.)
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.
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, now and forever. Amen.
OFFERING OUR LIVES
Lord, in gratitude for the many ways others have enriched our lives and helped us, we offer ourselves now in service to be a blessing to others. Amen.
*DOXOLOGY Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow #592
*AFFIRMATION OF FAITH
In life and in death we belong to God.
Through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God,
and the communion of the Holy Spirit,
we trust in the one triune God, the Holy One of Israel,
whom alone we worship and serve.
We trust in God the Holy Spirit,
everywhere the giver and renewer of life.
The Spirit justifies us by grace through faith,
sets us free to accept ourselves and to love God and neighbor,
and binds us together with all believers
in the one body of Christ, the church.
The same Spirit who inspired the prophets and apostles
rules our faith and life in Christ through Scripture,
engages us through the Word proclaimed,
claims us in the waters of baptism,
feeds us with the bread of life and the cup of salvation,
and calls women and men to all ministries of the church.
In a broken and fearful world the Spirit gives us courage
to pray without ceasing,
to witness among all peoples to Christ as Lord and Savior,
to unmask idolatries in church and culture,
to hear the voices of peoples long silenced,
and to work with others for justice, freedom, and peace.
In gratitude to God, empowered by the Spirit,
we strive to serve Christ in our daily tasks
and to live holy and joyful lives,
even as we watch for God’s new heaven and new earth,
praying, “Come, Lord Jesus!”
With believers in every time and place,
we rejoice that nothing in life or in death
can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen
*HYMN Lord, Dismiss Us With Thy Blessing #538
(You may be seated.)
*CHARGE & BLESSING
* Sections of the service preceded with * are times to stand if you are able to do so.
Bold text is to be read together aloud as a congregation.