SERVICE FOR THE LORD’S DAY
February 20, 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 those not vaccinated 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
WORDS OF WORSHIP (Unison) “praise the Lord, all you nations! Extoll Him, all you peoples! For great is His steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord!´
GATHERING PRAYER (Unison) We come before You, O God as Your loving children. We pray You would hear us and give us the strength to be more loving, more forgiving and more willing to be the children You call us to be. Amen.
*HYMN Christ, whose glory fills the skies #462
*CONFESSION AND PARDON (UNISON) Merciful Lord, we confess with us there is an abundance of sin, but in you there is the fullness of righteousness and abundance of mercy. We are spiritually poor, but you are rich and in Jesus Christ came to be merciful to the poor. Strengthen our faith and trust in you. We are empty vessels that need to be filled; fill us. We are weak in faith; strengthen us. We are cold in love; warm us, and make our hearts fervent for you that our love may go out to one another and to our neighbors. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
*ASSURANCE OF PARDON (Pastor) Because God’s love and mercy are greater than all our sin, God loves and forgives us. because of that, we can say (All) we are forgiven people. Amen
Passing of the Peace
PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION (Unison) Open to me the words You want me to hear and help me to follow them. amen
SCRIPTURE LESSON Luke 6:27-38
27 “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. 28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. 30 Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. 31 Do to others as you would like them to do to you.32 “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! 33 And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! 34 And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.35 “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. 36 You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate. 37 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”
Sermon “Give and it will be given to you”
The reading for today is a hard one for us to hear. The challenges Jesus lays down in these 9 verses really make us swallow hard if we read them seriously. They were delivered in the midst of a series of teachings Jesus delivered not only to his disciples but to all the crowd who were following Him from near and far. These teachings make it clear Jesus is setting a new standard of behavior for anyone who is attempting to be a follower of His. In this section he says, “but I say to you” making it clear it is not enough to be a follower of the way things have been but now, they are being charged to listen to what Jesus is saying. He was a faithful Jew and atte4nded services on a regular basis as we read many times. He knows what the common teachings are. He wants to make it very clear he is setting a new, much higher, standard of behavior. When we read these, we are tempted to say they are impossible. That they cannot be done in our world with things being the way they are. While what he says is challenging to all of us, it also serves to remind us of the way God responds to us when we fall away from what we are asked to do. As we work our way through these verses we will see they are not impossible but things we can work toward.
when we read these words, our first thought is, “we live in a dog-eat-dog world. A world where you need to beat others to the punch if you want to survive. A world in which might makes right and the sorts of things Jesus is putting forth here just plain will not work. We tell ourselves if we did the things Jesus is laying out, everyone would just plain walk right over us and we would have no pride at all and would soon cease to have nothing at all. By saying these things we try to excuse ourselves from taking the things Jesus says seriously. It is easier to say these things than to try to live the way Jesus puts forth in these verses.
When we read the words challenging us to “love your enemies” or the words about “turning the other cheek” or “pray for those who abuse you” we are left with our mouths hanging open. We cannot imagine doing those things and so we listen, nod our heads in agreement and go about our lives without seriously considering what the results would be it those words could, even on a limited basis, become true. What would happen if, somehow, we were able to make these words a real part of our lives? What would be the result if, instead of calling people names when they said or did things that I disagree with, when they said misleading things, what would happen if I seriously prayed for them? How would I change if I were to do that? What would happen if, instead of hearing demeaning words, people heard me speak about praying for others? is this something that is seriously out of my reach as I like to pretend it is or is it something each of us can strive to accomplish?
A bit of historical research can give us an interesting insight into his thinking when we understand what is really the result of the things he advocated here. “if anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other” for one example comes from the way a servant could be punished by their master. The accepted way was for the servant to stand in front of the master offering their right cheek. The master than, was supposed to strike the cheek with the back of their right hand. If, then, the servant offered their left cheek, the master would not be able to strike with their right hand and would be left with no way to follow through. the master is left with no viable options. There is no way the master can follow through and they must simply walk away.
The other thing Jesus holds up presents the same predicament. “From anyone who takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt.” Again, we have to reflect on the world in which this was said. The coat, or cloak in some translations was the outer garment that served as a windbreaker, protection against the weather and, a pillow to sleep on at night for persons in lowly financial conditions. If a person gave their coat as a pledge for a debt the Jewish law demanded it be given back at the end of the day so the person would not suffer the cold. In their world, roman soldiers have the right to demand a person’s coat and they did not have to obey the Jewish law and the person could suffer with no recourse. What Jesus was proposing was for them to remove their shirt as well. It was not a shirt in the sense we think of the word but it was a robe like garment with nothing underneath it. For a person then, to offer their shirt would leave them totally exposed which would cast shame of the soldier for making a person stand there totally exposed. The one who had the legal right to demand the cloak would now be exposed as being responsible for another person being totally naked. They would be forced to relent from what they had done.
Lets take a serious look at some instances where these words were taken seriously and acted on and see how that holds up. Last month, we celebrated MLK day. A day to remember the teachings of King concerning non-violent reaction to the wrongs of society. during the days of the civil-rights movement we saw crowds of peaceful citizens merely calling for the right to be treated equally being exposed to dog attacks, being knocked off their feet by high-power water hoses, being attacked by police and other sights that made us cringe as we watched them unfold before us on the 6:00 news. The more the rest of America saw this and saw Dr. King continue to advocate non-violence and to continue to ask his followers to pray for those who were abusing them, the more the attitude of our society began to change in the way people of color were being denied things the rest of us took for granted. Eventually, laws and usual practices were changed. while it is true we still have a long way to go to achieve total equality on every front, people were willing to act in a non-violent way forced us to see what praying for those who abuse you could achieve if people were willing to stand for what they believed.
We have seen other examples of people who have taken the words of these verses seriously as well and when we saw them the examples seriously challenged the way we try to not hear what Jesus tells us. we have seen how forgiveness can be extended in the face of terrible things that happen. One of the first was in October of 2006 when Robert Bound entered an Amish schoolhouse in rural Pennsylvania and shot 10 girls, killing 5 of them before killing himself. Within hours members of the Amish community began extending their forgiveness to the killer and visited with members of his family and his parents to offer them comfort and pardon They even attended the killers funeral. A grandfather of one of the murdered girls cautioned the community not to hate the killer. He said, “we must not think evil of this man” while another father said, “He had a mother, and a wife and a soul and now he is standing before a just God” in December of 2012 6 year old Emille Parker and 25 other people were killed in Sandy Hook Pa. a few days later her father, Robbie Parker said to the press, “we’d like to offer our deepest condolences to all the families who are directly impacted by this shooting. It’s a horrific tragedy and we want everyone to know that our hearts and prayers go out to them. This includes the family of the shooter and I can’t imagine how hard this experience must be for you as well. As we move on from what happened here, what happened to so many people, let it not turn into something that defines us, but something that inspires us to be better, to be more compassionate, and more humble people” maybe you remember, as I do, how hushed the voices of the TV reporters were as they relayed these stories. These kinds of things were clearly something they were having difficulty processing within themselves. These stories were stark examples that someone did not have to return evil for evil but were capable of returning good for evil. Stories that make us examine again, the excuses we give for not looking more closely at the things Jesus tells us in these verses.
As I listened to these stories and others like them, I wondered to myself if I had the strength of faith to offer that kind of forgiveness in the face of something that horrible. Then, and now, I pray to God I will never have to find out but the question continues to loom in my mind as I read these words from today’s lesson and think about the responses these individuals made in the face of something unbelievably horrible. We see these examples of people who had the strength of faith to take these words literally and act on them. When we reflect on them we say to ourselves, “these were common everyday people just like us. they were not great pillars of the church. They were the people who sat in pews just like I do, they were people who served on church committees, taught SS, sang in the choirs just like I do. What does it take for me to really hear the words Jesus spoke and truly listen to what they demand of me? what does it take for me to try to follow these words as they did?
First of all, these words did not come out of nowhere. These people did not just decide to forgive when their children were shot. Both the examples were people who were part of the Amish community. A community that had been willing to stand up for their beliefs in non-violence even during times of war which had brought them much derision and blame during times of war. Because this tradition is a long standing one, the people who spoke out have been raised from the time they were children that this is the way they should behave. It is something that had been part of their lives and their understanding as long as they can remember. We can look at that tradition and say, that is not something I can do. Yet, each of us know within ourselves that, if we sincerely want to change something within our lives we can, over time, make the change we want to make.
A few years ago, our daughter decided, for reasons we never understood, to run the Chicago marathon. Like everything else that generation does, she looked on line until she found a program that would prepare her. As she was following this program, she shared a bit of it with us. you do not start by running a marathon. You start with a short run, you do the short run for 2-3 days in a row and you take a day of rest where you do not run at all. Then, you extend the short run for a slightly longer run and do the same thing. The program continued that sort of cycle until you were prepared to run the 26.2 miles of the marathon without, as she said, “dying at the end” by not looking at the 26 miles but looking only at a short run, over time she was ready to run and finish the race.
Our daughter’s program took about 3 months to get her ready to endure the marathon and that seems to be the way to prepare to accept the challenge of Jesus here. We cannot expect these changes within ourselves overnight. We cannot expect them to be quick and easy. More than once, she confessed, the routine was difficult and that she wanted to give it up but, at the same time she had set a challenge before herself and she wanted to see it through till she achieved her goal. In the same way, these challenges to the way we think and the way we want to excuse ourselves will sometimes seem to overwhelm us. when we are tempted to think these words are beyond our strength or ability, we need to call into mind the people who have shown us it can indeed be done. part of the answer is not in depending on ourselves to accomplish these things but to call on the strength given to those who truly seek it.
Instead of looking at the whole list Jesus gives and saying, “it is too much, I cannot do that” I need to follow the example of the training program and focus on one small piece. The next time I hear someone give false information about the vaccine, instead of calling them a name, what if I seriously took time to pray for them? This person is, after all, a child of God just as I am and needs to be guided just as I do. Ask that they be guided, ask that they listen to the voices of science. Ask that they be open to change as I need to be open to change about some of the things within me. As we do that, over time we get stronger and stronger in our own character as the runner begins to make longer and longer runs as the program continues. We may be surprised what praying for others will do for us.
What Jesus holds before me is a reminder of God’s mercy toward me. How many times have I turned away from God by the way I treat others and been forgiven? How many times have I gone my own way rather than listen to the things God asks of me and been restored by His love? Each of the things Jesus lists here are things I have done against either God or my neighbor and God has restored me when I ask with a sincere heart. If I have experienced that in my own life, can I begin to practice it toward others? I do not believe Jesus asks us to do things that are impossible because I have seen people do those very things in the midst of terrible situations. I am asked to take one small step in that direction knowing He will be with me as I take it, encouraging and strengthening me as I take it.
The result of our daughter’s training program was the ability to finish the marathon. The result of following the words we hear are given in the last part of this lesson: “Forgive and you will be forgiven, give and it will be given to you, a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over will be put in your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back”
HYMN “Come, Christians, join to sing” # 150
*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 Lead on o King Eternal # 447
*CHARGE & BLESSING
(Pastor) May the Lord bless and keep us. may the Lord strengthen us for His service. May the Lord make His face to shine upon us and give us peace, now and forever more. 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.