February 13, 2022
WELCOME AND ANNOUNCEMENTS
Let me remind you quickly of our protocols for everyone’s safety.
· Attendance was taken by Ushers as you entered.
· masks are required by Session, as well as social distancing
bulletins are placed in the pews to help with 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 will be continuing with beverages only, in Calvin Hall
Gary Iverson, Bob Bock, Joan Boyd, Wanda Hirl, Marilyn Neymeyer, Joan Pinkston, Maxine Wagner, Annette Conzett, Jo Lefleur, Dr Dyke, , Harlan Marx ,Tom Kelly, Lois Seger, Jon Ryner, Abagail Niles, Helanah Niles, Kay Werner, and Arlene Pawlik
Be with us, Loving Savior. Winter seems long, and the cold darkness grinds at our spirits. You are the light and the hope of our world. So we gather in your name, opening our hearts to seek out your light and truth. Warm us in your love, Holy One, and allow us moments of clarity and refreshment. Amen
*Call to Worship
L: We come seeking holy blessings.
P: We come hoping to be released of our woes.
L: We come, knowing that God’s word challenges us to fresh awareness.
P: We come seeking new life which blooms as we walk in the paths of our Lord.
L: Come people of God! Let us meet our Savior and learn new ways to serve as a people of grace and hope.
*HYMN From All That Dwell Below the Skies #229
Call to Confession
We are called to be like trees planted by streams of water, fed by holy grace, yielding sweet fruit and allowing the refuse of our sins to be washed away. Let us dip ourselves in the flow of God’s goodness. Let us drink deep of God’s life as we also release our failings and see them flow away. Please join me in our prayer of Confession.
Prayer of Confession (unison)
Author of Goodness and Mercy. We confess that too often we have trusted in mortals and in the strength of our own flesh. We have listened and followed as powerful voices magnified our fears and tickled our pride. We have raised fists of outrage against our brothers and sisters. We have shouted for our own advantage. We have trusted our own truths while pushing yours aside. Forgive us, Lord. In the name of your Son, Jesus Christ we lean upon your mercy and seek a new start that we might walk with our hand held tightly in yours. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon
The one who calls and equips us sent his Son to ascend a cross that we might be washed clean. With the blood of Christ we are enabled to stand upright before our God. Feel the refreshment; know this new life and sing praises to God’s glory!
Passing of the Peace
For the many gifts you shower upon us, Gracious Lord, we give you thanks and praise. Bless these, the tokens which we return to you. May they be used to offer life and hope to our world in need while awakening in us an awareness of your almighty love that holds us close. Amen.
Prayer of Illumination
Lord as we come to your holy word this morning some of us rejoice in the “Blessed are you” pronouncements--hope for days ahead. Others of us feel convicted and confused by the “Woe are you” warnings! Help all of us to stretch our imaginations and glimpse your invitation that offer avenues of healing to us and to our world. Amen .
Jeremiah 17: 5- 10
This is what the Lord says: “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the Lord. 6 They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future.
They will live in the barren wilderness, in an uninhabited salty land. 7 “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. 8 They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. 9Their leaves stay green, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? 10 But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.”
Luke 6: 17-26
17 When they came down from the mountain, the disciples stood with Jesus on a large, level area, surrounded by many of his followers and by the crowds. There were people from all over Judea and from Jerusalem and from as far north as the seacoasts of Tyre and Sidon. 18 They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those troubled by evil[a] spirits were healed. 19 Everyone tried to touch him, because healing power went out from him, and he healed everyone. 20 Then Jesus turned to his disciples and said, “God blesses you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours. 21 God blesses you who are hungry now, for you will be satisfied. God blesses you who weep now, for in due time you will laugh. 22 What blessings await you when people hate you and exclude you and mock you and curse you as evil because you follow the Son of Man. 23 When that happens, be happy! Yes, leap for joy! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, their ancestors treated the ancient prophets that same way. 24 “What sorrow awaits you who are rich, for you have your only happiness now. 25 What sorrow awaits you who are fat and prosperous now, for a time of awful hunger awaits you. What sorrow awaits you who laugh now for your laughing will turn to mourning and sorrow. 26 What sorrow awaits you who are praised by the crowds, for their ancestors also praised false prophet
Sermon “In Praise of Roots that Cling! ”
In Praise of Roots that Cling.
Many years ago I had the privilege to go on a mission trip to visit our sister Presbytery in Brazil. Now when most people think of Brazil, they think Amazon River and dense, tropical jungle. The area to which we travelled was directly south of that region, but it is, in fact, one of the most arid, pervasive deserts in the western hemisphere. It is not totally sand, but there’s a lot of sand there, let me tell you. One of the places we visited was a settlement area that had been created in the midst of that very dry, desolate landscape. Outside relief dollars had allowed a cooperative of refugees from extreme poverty to dig a very deep well and begin a farm to grow tomatoes for sale in grocery stores for up to a couple hundred miles away. They showed us their crop of beautiful, bushy tomato plants in different stages of growth. The trick was an irrigation system that ran in tubes directly beneath each plant. The tubes were a closed loop of piping that sent water circulating through. The plants got the moisture needed through the tubes sweating. Cool water + hot surroundings you know. They told us that each of the plants would tightly wrap their roots around that tubing and in the process flourish. Those tubes were the source of that plant’s life.
It think of those tomato plants when I read our passage from Jeremiah. “Blessed are those who trust in the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its root by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green.” I think about the tomato roots tightly wrapped around tubing trusting the circulating water to sustain it and allow it to offer good fruit that further sustains that community of people.
Isn’t that what we all want – to have a source of vitality and life to which we can cling when difficulties arise? That way we can produce fruit in our own lives. As Christians we declare that the source of life is our relationship with our Lord, Jesus Christ, with God, the Father and with the Holy Spirit, our Sustainer. Together they are the tubing to which we cling!
And when we do that we are not disappointed. Have you ever known someone who seems to have a charmed life? Everything seems to just fall in line for them? My daughter’s best friend had that going. She and her sister were the only grandchildren on both sides, and those grandparents competed with one another to make sure the girls had everything they could possibly want. Add to that successful, attractive parents, good grades, even some decent athletic skills! My daughter loved her friend, but she SO wanted to be her, too. But when this young lady got into college, she totally lost her way and descended into several years of drug addiction before she eventually found her way back out. Sometimes when we have things too easy, we come to expect easy. We don’t know how to scrap and struggle, to persevere and work to find our way out of a bad situation. We don’t know how to fail and then get back up and move forward.
I think both of our scriptures for today deal with helping us to center our lives on those things that offer a way forward when life gets tough. We all need those tools in our belt because sooner or later we all find ourselves in situations of pain, failure and loss. It’s just a part of life.
Jeremiah tells us, “Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the Lord.”
I don’t think he means that God curses them or causes bad things to happen. Not at all. Rather, it’s that when we trust in our own devises or in the powers that are available to us humans, we’re not trusting in God. We’re not seeking out God’s will for us. We’re not asking ourselves, “What is the loving, compassionate and fair thing to do here?” And when that is the case, things will eventually go upside down on us. Those things we were counting on—Grandma and Grandpa, Mom and Dad’s influence, insurance, bank accounts, friends in powerful places—they just don’t work. How do any of those things address cancer or a devastating car accident, or if we have done something really stupid and now look at 6-10 years in a Federal prison? Sometimes it’s our own choices that get us into trouble. At other times life just throws us a curve ball, and we don’t know how to handle it.
My daughter was jealous of her friend who seemed to have things so easy. I think all of us can relate. But Jesus has some important words for us about what seems easy and happy and celebratory.
Let’s look as some of these blessings.
“Blessed are you who are poor.” Do you notice that Luke doesn’t add, “in spirit.” As in blessed are you who are poor in spirit.” That is the way Matthew reports these words. There is no wiggle room for Luke. Jesus is talking to those of us who have money in the bank, who have 401Ks , who drive nice cars, who go on vacation or out to dinner or a movie. In our world if we can claim any of those things, we’re in the top 10% of the world’s wealthiest! We might not be Warren Buffet or Bill Gates rich, but we’re not even close to poor. “Blessed are the poor for yours is the Kingdom of God.” And why does Jesus place such emphasis on the poor? Why does God bless the poor and say woe to those who are rich? Does God have something against money in the bank or a 401K? No. I don’t think so, but to have wealth means that we often think we can fix our own difficulties. We don’t have to rely on God. We can lean on our resources. We don’t need to curl our roots around that plastic tubing filled with water or put our roots into the mud of that stream. That self-reliance makes us vulnerable when real trouble comes, and it always does—eventually.
“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.” Filled with what? With God’s grace—with food that satisfies—with opportunities because God opens doors when we rely upon him.
“Blessed are you who weep, for you will laugh.” In weeping we learn how to truly laugh. Think about it. Those who have never wept don’t know how to really appreciate the blessings they enjoy. Human experiences of pain and suffering open up new abilities for us to truly understand and savor the good stuff. We appreciate a beautiful sunrise and a nice day because we’ve lived through dreary, cold, uncomfortable days. We enjoy a really nice lunch when we have the experience of hunger or of less than tasty food. We know the exquisite joy of a 5 year old who takes our hand when we have known loneliness. We appreciate happy when sorrow has been our experience. God cares about our weeping. God wants happiness for us. God is the one who opens possibilities and puts things in our path that helps us to wipe away our tears.
“Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you, revile you and defame you on account of the Son of Man.” If that’s the case, it might well mean that we are doing the work that God has put in front of us. We’re calling out injustice. We’re challenging systems that keep people locked in despair. We’re reaching out to people who are on the fringes of our society. Those things are often unpopular, but an important part of following Christ.
And by comparison those who are rich, full of nutrition, happy and popular—Maybe that means they are doing the things that support their own welfare, the status quo. Their roots don’t have to wrap around that tubing because there’s enough moisture in the soil—for now, at least. That is until we are called to make a choice between the kingdom of God or the easy path that seems to lead to our own well-being.
So which do we choose? Remember we’ve gotten used to things going our way. We’ve gotten used to power and popularity, satisfaction and comfort. At that point do we even know how to turn to God? Do we even think of that as an option?
So here we are. What do you think? Are we sunk? We’ve explored the fact that we, at least most of us, are rich, nutritionally satisfied, happy and well accepted in our lives. We’ve always assumed that was a good thing, even something which God desires for us.
NO. I don’t believe we’re doomed to the woe category. Because the underlying requisite is still available to us. We still have the choice to wrap our roots around that tubing that lies beneath the soil of our lives. It doesn’t mean that we completely ignore the other sources of nutrients, but a major part of our life comes from the faith in Jesus as our Christ.
It means we view the world differently. It means our financial resources aren’t for our benefit alone, but those funds become a tool to share with others. Our compassion demands it. Our love in Christ calls it forth. Our trust that God is the source of our lives demands it.
It means that when we see poor and hungry and weeping people, we know that God stands with them and God calls for us to stand with them, too.
It means that when we encounter attitudes of superiority, prejudice, of exclusion and the maintenance of the status quo, we by necessity have to speak out and proclaim God’s design for something better. It won’t be popular. We are likely to take some heat for such a stance, but in those moments we know that we stand for God’s hope for life and well-being for all. We’re a part of that hope.
If we can trust in our Christ, if we can allow God’s grace and love and goodness to be our source of life, if we can set our own selfishness aside and share, then we have wrapped our roots around that tubing. We’ve put our roots deep in the mud of the stream. We’ve lived our faith in very real, very significant ways and God will carry us through the struggle.
Blessed are you whose lives are connected and fed by the love and the hope of God.
May we all know that blessing. May we all grow into God’s love and justice. May we share it with all our being.
Praise be to God. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name,
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done in 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.
*AFFIRMATION OF FAITH Apostle’s Creed (Ecumenical) p. 14
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.
*Hymn O Master, Let Me Walk with Thee # 357
*CHARGE & BLESSING
We are called to abide in Christ our Lord, to wrap our lives around this living vine who offers hope and goodness to all the world. Go forth and know God’s amazing love. Dance with the joy of your life held within God’s heart. Praise be to Christ, our Lord. Amen.
* 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.