June 11, 2023
Second Sunday after Pentecost
· Please join us in Calvin Hall following worship today for a time of fellowship.
· Session will meet today at 10:45 in the Wee Dining Room.
· “THE GATHERING PLACE” will be open Thursday, June 8. Please invite a friend and join us from 1:00 to 4:00!
· We continue to receive the Pentecost Offering which goes to benefit youth. 40% of our receipts will go to The Vince Jetter Center here in Clinton.
· Our gifts to Information, Referral and Assistance will be delivered June 29. Please bring your items and put them in the chapel before that date.
· Find the address for Rich and Lois Lewis posted on the bulletin board.
· Please sign up for the Ladies Lunch Bunch for Wed. June 14 at 11:30. We will dine at Candlelight Inn.
· JoAnn Grimm who struggles with health problems.
· Arlene Pawlik who is recovering from a broken leg.
· Joan Pinkston, on hospice.
*CALL TO WORSHIP
“Come.” It is a holy summons.
Abraham heard the call and obeyed. In faith he became the father of a new people of God.
“Come,” God still calls to us today.
Will we hear? Will we be brave enough to follow?
Let us approach to listen well.
Let us hear and accept the strength to obey, to know the joy of new possibilities.
We worship our God who calls and who then takes our hand to lead the way.
Like the woman who reached to touch your robe, O Loving Savior, let us reach to you this day. We seek our own healing, our own ability to glimpse your grace in our lives. Be with us, Lord, that we too might hear your assurance, “Take heart, your faith has made you well.” Amen.
*HYMN God of Grace and God of Glory #420
(You may be seated.)
CALL TO CONFESSION
We are the recipients of God’s many blessings, more abundant that we can even name. One of those gifts is the assurance that even when we fall short of God’s desire, we can come and lay ourselves before our wonderful parent in heaven where we will be washed clean and offered new life. Let us come now to claim this most amazing gift.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Lord God. Forgive us for our arrogance and pride. Forgive us for the times when we look at the blessings we enjoy and congratulate ourselves for the hard work or good decisions we have made. Forgive us for not recognizing these gifts as flowing from your abundant grace. Forgive us for turning away from our neighbor’s misfortune. Forgive us for hard heartedly assuming that logical consequences or their lack of faith is at the root of their despair. Forgive us, Lord, and help us to recognize the many gifts that flow from your hand, including the gift of care for others. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon
How the heavens rejoice when a son or daughter claims the grace of your forgiveness! How joyfully God opens new doors that allows our faith to abound and our lives to become tethered to holy love. This is the good news that we celebrate today: We are forgiven and God’s hand leads us forward. Amen.
SONG OF PRAISE Gloria Patri #579
PASSING THE PEACE
May the peace of Christ be with you.
And also with you.
PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION
Precious Lord, You are the Great Physician. You called sinners and tax collectors to be your disciples. You desire mercy and not sacrifice. Let us hear your call this day that we might be healed of our misguided perceptions and our misplaced priorities. Amen.
Genesis 12: 1-9
12 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. 2 “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. 5 He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there. 6 Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7 The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him. 8 From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord. 9 Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev.
Matthew 9: 9-13, 18-26
9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. 10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice. ‘For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” 18 While he was saying this, a synagogue leader came and knelt before him and said, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.” 19 Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples. 20 Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. 21 She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.” 22 Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment. 23 When Jesus entered the synagogue leader’s house and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes, 24 he said, “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. 25 After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. 26 News of this spread through all that region.
SERMON Called and Healed
Abraham and Sarah were the mother and father of our faith. But it wasn’t an easy decision. Can’t you just imagine the conversation between Abram and Sarai when he came home to tell her that God had called for them to leave the life and the home they had made for themselves?
“You want to do what?”
“You do realize that with your arthritis and my glaucoma that this won’t be a stroll through the woods, right?”
“Abram, we’re old. We don’t have any children to help us with this. What can we possibly gain? There are dangers out there, bad people, wild animals, storms, diseases, unknown pitfalls. Abram they haven’t even created a map of the land you want us to go into, let alone the GPS app!”
Oh, the many reasons to stay home, and Saria didn’t even name the big ones. Fear, loneliness, and what will the neighbors say?
But Abram might have had a few answers to offer. “Sarai, God has promised that we will be the parents of a great nation. We have no children. We have nothing to show for our lives. We cannot have children at this point. That day is past—at least on our own. We have nothing to look forward to.”
So the conversations went. I imagine they went on for some time. I imagine Terah, Abram’s father, might have voiced his concerns. Other family and friends shook their heads at the folly. But still, once the decision was made, they resolutely went about the task of sorting and packing, planning and securing what they would need. Livestock was rounded up and prepared for the journey. Servants were outfitted and given specific instructions and responsibilities. And Abram probably kept in pretty close contact with God.
This story is a transition point in God’s story. Previous to this moment, we have the story of humankind. Creation and Adam and Eve. Cain and Abel. Then we notice that the people had so turned their back upon God that God sent a flood to push the reset button. Only Noah and his family would be there to start over, but it really didn’t work. Sin and rejection of God was still rampant. Finally we learn that the people had undertaken a building project that would allow them to climb right up into the heavens to confront God. This isn’t what God intended.
In chapter 11 we hear one sentence that encapsulated all of it. It was within the story of Terah and his 2 sons who moved from the land of Ur. Their wives are named and we hear, “Now Sarai was barren. She had no child.” It might have been the story of one couple, but it was a representation of humankind, as well.
All of humanity had lived and worked and reproduced, but in the midst of it all was barrenness. God’s experience with these humans whom he had created in his own image was missing the vitality and life that God had desired. It was time to do something new. God had already pushed the reset button once. That was the flood, and it sure didn’t work. So it was time for Plan B. God found one man and one woman who were motivated to try something new. God would make of them his own people, a people who would live God’s intention for humanity. The nation of Israel was being
Abram WAS motivated. Abram knew that there was exactly zero chance without God’s intervention. Abram had developed enough of a relationship with the Lord that he trusted God’s promises. He wasn’t without his own failings. He and Sarai would blow it many times as they journeyed forward. God’s grace, God’s gifts would continue to call them back, continue to give them the next steps, a way out of the jams they created. Israel was born.
So that’s the thing about being human. On our own, barrenness is our story. Have you heard the saying, “The faster I run, the behinder I get?” We all know that feeling. Nothing goes the way it should because we are trying so hard. We try to cut corners in our hurry. We get pushy and selfish in our goals. We fail to see the bigger picture. We get a little lazy, and the result is barrenness. Nothing productive or hopeful emerges. There is conflict, destruction, injustice and dis-ease.
Before we start beating ourselves up, let’s just recognize that this is the way it works. It just is! It’s part of the human condition. Some call it original sin.
But that’s not to say there is no hope. Because God can do something that we cannot. That’s the purpose of Jesus’ entry into our world. He brings the power of God to heal our errant, misbegotten lives. He brings healing and hope and new possibilities for the fullness of life.
Our gospel stories are an example of the complete futility of our efforts to heal ourselves and get it right. Two stories with one theme: On our own it is useless. With God, life flourishes!
This leader of the Synagogue came to Jesus in a panic. His beloved daughter has just died. There’s 3 things to take into consideration. The first is that death is pretty permanent. That should be obvious, but in Mark’s telling of this story, the girl is very ill, near death when her father comes to Jesus. We need to stay with Matthew here. The second thing is that girls were often given very little value in the family. A girl was much more of a burden, so it wasn’t much of a tragedy for a family to lose a daughter! But here, her father uses his Jewish standing to approach Jesus, the one who offered healing to so many others in God’s name. The third thing is that nowhere in the Bible up to this point does God offer his resurrection gift to females, and Jesus has not lifted anyone from death yet, either. So putting those 3 things together—the finality of death, it’s just a girl, and God doesn’t bring girls back from death—and this is a pretty hopeless situation. It’s a classic example of a Hail Mary pass in football. It’s unexpected and unprecedented. And yet, Jesus does it. He doesn’t need to. No one would question him for saying “NO.” This is completely God’s good gift. This child is given back to her parents. God’s grace abounds.
But there’s another story woven into this one. It also speaks to God’s gift of life in the midst of hopelessness. It also lifts a woman and demonstrates God’s care for all, regardless of societal norms.
This time it’s an older woman. We don’t know anything about her except that she has been suffering from a medical condition which, under Jewish law, made her a pariah in her society. She had a flow of blood. Now today we would know that she would also be anemic, be weak and feel terrible, but according to Jewish law she was considered unclean, AND anyone who touched her would also be unclean, at least for the rest of the day. They could not participate with others or in worship to God. There was shame in that, as well as loneliness and exclusion.
She probably shouldn’t have been out in the crowd, but this was her last hope. She’d tried everything to no avail. She knew the law. She knew she shouldn’t touch Jesus. She was afraid, but maybe, just maybe if she only touched his robe, she could attain the healing that she so desperately needed without passing on her uncleanness to him. It was suppose to be completely unnoticed.
But Jesus did notice. He recognized the healing power that flowed from him. He saw her fear, and he knew. Instead of scolding her, he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.”
What was beyond human capacity and control was offered as a free gift by God in Jesus Christ. God’s gifts are for all people.
But do you notice that in both stories the one seeking came to Jesus. The leader of the Synagogue had the authority to ask, even if the request seemed outside of God’s agenda. The woman had no right to ask, and yet she came. Her need was equally outside of God’s agenda—at least by most standards.
I wonder. Do you think Abram had also been asking God for a child before God called him out from his father’s house? Do you think there’s a formula here? Hopelessnes -> seeking God’s intervention -> God calls us -> healing and new life arrives.
God called Abraham and he followed and became the father of Israel.
Jesus instructed the leader of the Synagogue, and he obeyed and his daughter was raised from the dead.
Jesus reassured the woman and she was healed.
So, what, we might ask is the barrenness in our lives, in our world? Where to begin, right? There are almost too many to name. But isn’t our life in Christ meant is to address some of that? Maybe we need to narrow the question. Where is the barrenness in our faith life, in our faith community? It’s so easy to fall into a rut. To go through the motions, to do church instead of being the church.
Doing church isn’t what Christ calls us to. It doesn’t lead to the vibrancy of new life or the boldness of a rich and joyful faith. Doing church is showing up but keeping ourselves insulated from any of the efforts or demands of the gospel. God calls us to BE the church. That means we offer our gifts, and not just the check we put in the plate each week. We are called to be a people who offer healing and hope in the name of Christ. We offer it into the larger society in which we live.
To be called is to be healed. To be called is to be blessed. To be called is to be a blessing in the name of Christ.
We ae called to BE Christ’s church. It will take the lifting of all of us. Many hands can accomplish what just a few cannot. That might be scary, but if we remember the way Abraham was led through the wilderness, the way God guided him and cared for him along the way, we should be reassured.
There is life in the call. There is hope and healing such that the barrenness is chased away.
God is calling. Can we hear? Will we follow? Will we be healed in the name of our Lord? The next move is ours. Let’s go.
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 GIFTS TO GOD
*DOXOLOGY Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow #592
PRAYER OF DEDICATION
*HYMN For the Bread Which You Have Broken #508
(you may be seated.)
INVITATION TO THE LORD’S TABLE
THE GREAT THANKSGIVING (by Pastor)
RECEIVING THE BREAD AND THE CUP
*HYMN There is a Balm in Gilead #394
(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.