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 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, Kolleen , Ukraine, Arlene Pawlik, Angela and Tristan, Bonnie Pillers, Deb Weller, and Linda Wenzel.
*CALL TO WORSHIP
L: God is doing a new thing. Can you see it? Can you hear it?
P: It settles in our midst. It makes our hearts tingle!
L: A new path springs forth, a way in the wilderness--
P: Life and hope and healing!
L: Let us gather before our God of new possibilities.
P: With confidence may we step onto this path of new hope,
L: Where rivers in the desert give drink to God’s people.
All: Glory to our God. Amen and Amen.
O Lord, as we pray “Your Kingdom Come; Your will be done.” Let us experience a hint of that new realm as we gather this day. Let us sing your praise and invite your healing into our lives and within our community. May we be nourished and equipped in your power and glory forever more. Amen.
*HYMN Praise Ye the Lord, the Almighty #482
Call to Confession
Like children stomping in mud puddles, we come before you, Lord, dripping with sin and despair. How we want to be washed clean, but we can’t do it of our own accord. Hear our confessions, Loving God, and help us to be scrubbed afresh. May the blessing of your grace offer us the new life we seek this day. Amen
Prayer of Confession
You stand at our shoulder, Lord. How you want to give us the gifts of life and hope and healing! Yet we turn away to the clamor of our world. We pour our energies into things that do not satisfy; we support practices that diminish life for others; we carelessly abuse your good earth for our personal comfort. Still you open your arms to invite us in. You listen for our cries and point us in directions of healing. Forgive us for our stubborn refusal to lay our whole lives before you. Help us to embody the prayer you taught us and to experience the joy of your kingdom come-- on earth as it is in heaven. Amen
WORDS OF ASSURANCE
The heart of God rejoices when his children open to the gift of forgiveness. We are God’s by grace. We are washed clean in our Lord’s amazing love. Let us rejoice in the new life given through Jesus Christ, our Savior. Thanks be to God.
PASSING THE PEACE (facing those across the aisle from you)
Left: May the peace of Christ be with you.
Right: And also with you. May the peace of Christ be with you.
Left: And also with you.
Prayer of Illumination
Lord, quiet our hearts and still our thoughts as your holy word is read and proclaimed. Help us to hear and recognize that we are raised with Christ in the power of new life and new possibilities. May we discover the possibilities you have for us and rejoice in your amazing love. Amen.
Isaiah 43: 16-21
16 This is what the Lord says—he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, 17 who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: 18 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. 20 The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, 21the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.
Luke 11: 1-13
11 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” 2 He said to them, “When you pray, say:” ‘father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread. 4 Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’” 5 Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ 7 And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity[e] he will surely get up and give you as much as you need. 9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for[f] a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
SERMON “Prayers for New Beginnings ”
I am so pleased to be your new interim pastor! I am an interim. I think that’s an important distinction. Certain parts of being a pastor are universal—preaching on Sunday (even though I am only able to be here 2 or 3 Sundays per month)—loving you, helping you to feel God’s presence in the different moments of your life. There are also some things that are unique to the role of interim. Primarily it’s walking with you in the midst of the unknown, in a transition time. You are moving from what has been towards what will be. That’s always a little scary because we humans get really comfortable with our habits and traditions. We claim our own spot in the sanctuary and our own way of doing things and it’s hard to think about changes to that. We ask, “will it be OK? Will we each find our place in the new design? Will we be able to have what we need? I think transitions in ministry is even more challenging because our entire society is in transition about the way we think of church. Church has fallen out of vogue for much of our society. That means we have to do things differently on many different levels.
A couple weeks ago when I was visiting with one of your more senior members she told me about the incredible number of children who attended your Sunday School brought in the palms and the long parade of bright shiny faces waving those branches. She lit up when she told about that and mentioned that everyone had to arrive early to get a seat in the sanctuary. Latecomers had to sit on chairs around the edges and couldn’t see as well.
Today those youth programs have gone away, so we might well ask, NOW WHAT? Now how do we do the important work of teaching the faith to our children and grandchildren? Or do we? Maybe we just throw up our hands and consider it an impossible task!
Seeking the new way of doing things in order to accomplish the goals of our faith is the work of the church today, and it’s absolutely the work of a church in transition between pastors. That means I will need to learn about what has been, as well as what energy you have for being the church in the future.
The people to whom Isaiah is writing have a rich and vital history. They are God’s people, the ones whom the Lord had selected for himself. They are the sons and daughters of Abraham. They are the fulfillment of God’s promise made to this pillar of the faith. They are the offspring of the Hebrew slaves whom God led out of bondage—through the Red Sea, giving manna in the desert. They are the recipients of the law which God spoke to the people and then wrote with his own hand of stone tablets. They are the powerful nation that King David established. But all of that is in their past. Now they sit in Babylon, a defeated people. God had allowed these heathens to conquer them as a punishment for their lack of compliance to God’s laws of justice and compassion. The Babylonians had rounded up any who had any leadership capacity and marched them across the desert. It was a brutal march, and new they sat in a foreign land watching foreign gods bless their captors.
OK. The punishment was deserved, but what now? Had God turned his back on them for all time? Had God selected a new people? Would they ever know the pride and the joy of worshipping in their temple? Oh wait, the Babylonians had destroyed it!
Some of the priests and visionaries were saying that God would allow them to return to their beloved Jerusalem—even after all these many years. But how would they be able to return? It was a desert, a wilderness with no roads, harsh and difficult to pass without massive support. How could they even think about returning?
That’s where the prophet who we now call Second Isaiah comes in (This Isaiah is actually writing some 100+ years after the first, so probably not the same guy.)
Isaiah brings a new word from God. Earlier he had spoken God’s comfort upon the people. Now he brings a word about their future. In chapter 43 he tells the people that God will gather them from all the corners of the earth. He would claim his people, “whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”
He then reminds them of their own experience, how God was a critical part in their escape from slavery. “Thus says the Lord who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, who brings out chariot and horse, army and warrior” He’s talking, of course about the Red Sea corridor which opened to allow the escaping slaves to walk across on dry land. Then it closed over top of the pursuing army. “They lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick.” This was such a celebrated part of their history. Can’t you just feel the people settling into this story that was so important to them? This was a part of their identity, so what comes next must have been quite a jolt.
God said, “Do not remember the former things or consider the things of old.” Wait a minute God had said they should always remember these things. They had a whole feast day to remember this.” God said, “I am about to do a new thing, now it springs forth. Do you not perceive it?”
This new thing has been framed in the richness of their story, escape across the Red Sea. God said, “I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The wild animals will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches.”
Do you notice anything? This is a reverse Red Sea Crossing. Before, God had carved out dry land in the midst of water. Now God is making a highway in the desert, offering the presence of life-giving water and calm in a hostile land. It’s a new thing, but it’s another version of the Red Sea! God gives life and hope and meaning to his people.
Sometimes we think about such stories as all in the past. That’s what God did then! But I maintain that it’s just as present today. How will God call us forward to live in new ways to experience his grace and goodness and to offer it to the world around us? I doubt it will be a massive Sunday School, plays that celebrate Christmas or Easter, or a parade of palms. But what will it be? How will God call us forward to serve him right here in Clinton, Iowa? Discovering that will be our task together in the coming months. And then, of course we will need to work with imagination and courage to put one foot in front of the other to enact that new reality.
Remember the folks who sat in Babylon? They would need to put on their shoes, grab their babies and elderly, and put one foot in front of the other to get back to Jerusalem where they would need to rebuild the temple and a new way of life. They likely encountered road construction along the way. Detours caused by poor signage, weather delays, a few flat tires, even unscheduled bathroom breaks. There were likely times when they needed to retrace their path to a juncture where they would take the other fork in the road. At other times they would need to wait for God to clear the rock slide that had blocked their path. They were active participants. They weren’t sitting on a train or a plane allowing someone else to drive the vehicle. They were out there moving forward with God.
And that will be our task—to listen, to discern, to participate, to recheck our bearings to make sure we haven’t wandered off course. There will be times when we find ourselves at a dead end. Things didn’t go as planned. That’s not a reason to throw up our hands. It’s a new learning that leads to the next step forward. I happen to believe that we learn more from our mistakes than for our success! But either way, God is leading us!
Prayer will be essential. Prayer is the act of laying our lives before our God. Prayer allows God to make adjustments in our software so that we are better able to follow where he leads.
In our Gospel lesson, Jesus’ disciples ask him to teach them to pray. One might ask, doesn’t everyone know how to pray? Don’t you just open your heart and mind and allow all that is there to pour into God’s lap? You don’t filter. You just put it out there. But that’s personal prayer. The disciples are asking about corporate prayer for the entire community. Jesus offers what we have come to know as the Lord’s Prayer. We pray it almost without thinking. The words feel polished and comforting because we’ve said them so often.
But this is a radical prayer. To fully delve into it is a whole other sermon, but suffice it to say that it’s a prayer that invites God’s design for our world to fully come into being. Many of us might struggle with whether that were a good thing. There would be a leveling of our society and our world. There would be a completely new way of thinking about our culture, our economic system, governmental system and so much more. Daily reliance upon God becomes the norm, and that leaves a lot of anxiety about what happens tomorrow.
As a congregation in transition, we invite God’s realm into our ministry. So there will be ambiguity, questions, discomfort and likely difference of opinion. We need to expect that and to recognize that it’s a part of the process. We need to work hard to lift up one another—even when we disagree because those disagreements will often create a better product than when everyone is gung ho on a plan.
God is in our midst. God is our wagon master as we move along this path in the desert. God will provide streams of water and manna to nourish us—body and soul, but to make this journey we will need everyone to come along. You are each an important part of the process. Your thoughts and dreams, your hopes and struggles will inform us and help us to find God’s way for us.
In the coming weeks we will be asking you to answer some questions. We hope to invite you in to think together in groups so we can build relationships, as well. I hope you will find those opportunities instructive and fun. I think fun is an important part of this process, so that’s my plan, too!!!
God is good. God is doing a new thing here at First United Presbyterian Church and I’m so please that I get to be a part of it. I think I speak for Kolleen, too, that we look forward to the journey.
Praise to our Lord of new beginnings and new life. Amen
*HYMN Today We All Are Called to Be Disciples #434
Prayer of Dedication
How you bless us, Lord, with life and opportunities, with our daily bread and gifts beyond our imagination! As we bring our offerings before you, our hearts sing with gratitude and praise. May these gifts bring your kingdom to earth and glorify your holy name. Amen.
Litany of New Beginnings.
J : First United Presbyterian Church, let us claim our identity.
P: We are a people of God; blessed by our Creator; Called by our Lord, Jesus Christ; Equipped and accompanied by the Holy Spirit.
K: We call ourselves the stone church with a warm heart! We are God's people Receiving Christ, Reaching Out, Sharing Love.
P: Our history is rich and filled with faith and joy. We have been a part of God’s love, breathing life into the community around us.
J: We are at a crossroads, but your call has not been revoked. Your mission has not been set aside.
P: God holds our future and is preparing us to take the next steps into a new ministry, a new way of being, a new call to service in Christ’s name.
K: As part of that preparation, this congregation has stepped into a relationship with a new interim pastor. Pastor Joyce, will you accept this opportunity to serve this congregation and walk beside the good people of First United Presbyterian Church?
J: I will. I will love them, pray for them, encourage them, and do my best to help them to know God’s presence in their midst. I will ask questions, listen carefully, pray diligently and strive to faithfully serve in ways that open the doors of God’s new beginnings and new hope for First United Presbyterian Church.
P: We thank God for all that has brought us to this point and for God’s presence as we move forward with Pastor Joyce.
J: Pastor Kolleen, you have been a much beloved part of this congregation, and now you step back into the pulpit on a part time basis. Will you speak God’s word of grace and goodness to God’s people?
K: I will. I will preach with imagination and love. I will seek to be open to the Spirit’s guidance, and I will pray for this church to find those new roads in the wilderness.
J: People of God, Kolleen and I are but 2 voices, 2 pray-ers, 2 energies for Christ. Will you be a part of this movement? Will you speak your love? Will you pray for this congregation? Will you offer your energies that together we might march the pathway God is preparing for us?
P: We will actively participate, share our hopes and dreams, pray our faith and love, and offer our energies to serve Christ and to discover God’s new mission for us. We will listen and care for Pastor Joyce and Pastor Kolleen. We will invite others to join with us, and we will hold out our hands in friendship to our fellow members and new people alike.
K: God is not finished with us.
J: God is doing a new thing, and we will be a part of God’s design and God’s grace.
ALL: Praise be to our God of New Beginnings. Praise be to our Savior who calls us forward. Praise be to the Spirit who walks with us along the way. Amen and Amen.
PASTORAL PRAYER AND LORD’S PRAYER
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.
*HYMN Arise, Your Light is Come #411
*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.
Some of today’s liturgy came from the Presbyterian Book of Common Worship