June 25, 2023
4th Sunday after Pentecost
· Please join us in Calvin Hall following worship today for a time of fellowship.
· We are now receiving the Pentecost Offering which goes to benefit youth. 40% of our receipts will go to The Vince Jetter Center here in Clinton.
· Find the address for Rich and Lois Lewis posted on the bulletin board.
· Our donation to Information, Referral and Assistance Agency will be delivered on Thursday morning, June 29.
· School Supply Drive. See more information about this United Way effort to provide school supplies to all the elementary students in Clinton County. A box has been placed in the hall outside the sanctuary.
· Your Help is Needed! We have some projects that need extra hands and your assistance: 1. Hostesses for The Gathering Place. Come to play a couple games and enjoy an afternoon with some of our neighbors. If this effort is going to be sustainable, we need 8-12 people who can contribute up to 3 hours per month. 2. We will be packing up the household of a lady who has recently gone into the nursing home. She is donating all of her items to the Gateway Community Center. The Community Center will do the moving. We will put things in boxes. 2 hours of your time on Tuesday, afternoon, June 27 will make all the difference in this effort. Please speak to Pastor Joyce to let her know you can help with either, or both projects.
JoAnn Grimm who struggles with health problems.
Arlene Pawlik who is recovering from a broken leg.
Joan Pinkston, on hospice.
The Mike Nile’s and family as they mourn the loss of his dad.
*CALL TO WORSHIP
To the God who counts the hairs on our head.
To the Lord who holds the sparrows in his hand,
To the Almighty who proclaims us as even more valuable and precious than these birds of the air.
To our Savior who walks the path ahead of us.
We sing your praise, O Lord.
We lift to you worship and thanksgiving. Amen.
Loving Savior. You have asked us to pick up our cross and follow you. How frightening that is! So we come this day to be filled with your spirit and offered the strength of your love. Hear our prayers and give us what we need to be worthy to follow you. Amen.
*HYMN Sing Praise to God, Who Reigns Above #483 (You may be seated.)
CALL TO CONFESSION
God is good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all. God hears our confessions and is anxious to wipe away our guilt. Let us approach our Lord and offer our failings into his ear. Please join me in our prayer of confession.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
O Lord, We come to you, lifting to you our hopes and dreams. Sometimes there are appropriate steps we can take to make these things happen, but at other moments we have to leave matters in your hands. Forgive us for the times when we ask, but then impatiently try to manipulate things. Forgive us for the times when our request is selfishly aimed at our own well-being. Forgive us for demanding that you grant our request instead of asking for your wisdom to show us the way. Help us, Lord, to live more in tune to your design for our lives and for our world. Amen.
WORDS OF ASSURANCE
Take heart, People of God, for our Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Know this day that our guilt has been wiped away in the blood of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
SONG OF PRAISE Gloria Patri #579
PASSING THE PEACE
May the peace of Christ be with you.
And also with you.
PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION
As your word is read and proclaimed, O Lord, give us the courage to be your disciples who follow in your footsteps, carrying our cross and finding true life in you. Amen
Genesis 21: 8-21
8 The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. 9 But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, 10 and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” 11 The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. 12 But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. 13 I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.” 14 Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba.15 When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. 16 Then she went off and sat down about a bowshot away, for she thought, “I cannot watch the boy die.” And as she sat there, she began to sob. 17 God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. 18 Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” 19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink. 20 God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer. 21 While he was living in the Desert of Paran, his mother got a wife for him from Egypt.
Matthew 10: 24-39
24 “The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household! 26 “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. 32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven. 34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother,a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— 36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ 37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
SERMON It Will Be OK.
Do you remember that time when you were 16 and the cute boy (or girl) that you liked made fun of your new haircut in front of the whole class? You were mortified and humiliated and so very hurt. Do you also remember what your mom said when you came home all upset? “It will be OK.”
Moms say that a lot. They say it to comfort their children and others. We say it to our friends, to our spouse, and even to ourselves at times. It will be OK. Perhaps we’ve totally embarrassed ourselves. Maybe our friend betrayed us by telling our secret. Maybe our project went all catty-wompus, and we have no idea how to fix it. But it will be OK. Perhaps we have to start over and work all night. Maybe we need to confront our friend to tell them how hurtful their words were. Maybe we need to recognize that our embarrassment isn’t that big a deal. These things happen, after all.
Abraham would really like for someone to tell him, “It will be OK.” He was really afraid it wouldn’t be OK, not at all. Between him and Sarah they had really messed things up. You see, God had promised them a child. In fact, he’d promised children as many as the stars in the sky, but it just wasn’t happening. For over 20 years he and Sarah had waited—NOTHING. So when Sarah had suggested that they should help themselves, Abraham went along. Sarah gave him her maid servant, Hagar, saying that the child born of the union would be like her own. So that’s what happened. Hagar had become pregnant, but it hadn’t quite worked the way they had imagined. Being pregnant with the child who would inherit lifted Hagar’s standing and suddenly she was seeing herself as an equal (or maybe even a bit above) Sarah. That didn’t go over well. Sarah still had the power of the mistress, so she made Hagar’s life miserable—so miserable that Hagar ran away. But an angel of the Lord found her and told her, “It will be OK” She was instructed to return to Sarah and that God would bless her son.
So Ishmael was born.
But Ishmael was the product of human manipulation and human effort. This wasn’t what God had promised. God had promised a child for Abraham and Sarah. They day came to pass and Isaac was born.
Now Abraham had two sons, and by the custom of the land, Ishmael as the oldest should receive the lion’s share of inheritance, blessing and title.
Sarah knew that, and one day when she looked out and saw her beautiful boy playing with the son of the maid, something hard and brittle snapped inside her. She went to her husband demanding that he cast aside Hagar and Ishmael. Not her finest moment, but it was a very human, moment, none the less.
Now what will Abraham do? Ishmael was his son. Hagar was innocent in all of this—well, mostly innocent! What a mess!
That’s the thing about our humanly designed answers. The unintended consequences can really tie us in knots. Abraham goes to God. Did he expect that God would scold him? Did he expect that God would shake his head and tell him to figure it out?
God didn’t do either of those things. Rather God told Abraham to go forward with Sarah’s plan. It would be OK. It would be OK because Isaac was the child of the promise. Isaac was the future. Isaac was God’s design. But that didn’t mean that Ishmael was a rubber chicken to be tossed aside.
When Abraham left Hagar and Ishmael in the wilderness with a skin of water and a bit of food, Hagar assumed the worst. She would have to watch her son die. But God had another plan. God spoke to Hagar. He spoke to a woman. That’s not something that happens very often in our Old Testament. God spoke to this grieving mother and he made some promises to Hagar and Ishmael—the same promise he had made regarding Isaac. Ishmael would be the father of a great nation. God would be with him. God would guide the boy AND his mother.
It will be OK. Our human messes are a part of the experience for us human creatures. We blow it, but God has the capacity to step in and clean things up. Our faithful God doesn’t let us down. It might not be the outcome that we are looking for, but it will be OK. That’s the amazing good news of our scripture, and we see it over and over again.
It think that’s a big part of the message from our Gospel lesson, too. Jesus is telling his disciples to get out there and tell the story of our faith. He know and acknowledges that there will be people who don’t want to hear what they have to say, who will persecute them for speaking Jesus’ name. Do it anyway. It will be difficult and painful at times, but it WILL be Ok. After all, just as God stood with both Abraham AND Hagar, God will stand with us. God even takes care of the sparrows. How much more are we to our Lord?
But there’s a caveat here. It’s a take-note, and don’t be surprised. Don’t assume that the pain and division will all come from sources beyond the family unit. There could be division within your most intimate ties.
“I have not come to bring peace but a sword.” For some, Jesus will be that sword which cuts apart families. A man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Maybe even a husband against his wife!
Now that’s the really scary stuff. Our family is suppose to be that place we come home to, the lace where we can be safe, where the outside world is held at bay. But Jesus is telling us that when we choose to follow him, even our closest loved ones might not understand. They might try to move heaven and earth to get us back to their side of things.
Michaels’s family grew up Roman Catholic, and they were very devoted to their faith. But when Michael married Cathy who was Methodist, Michael was very happy to join her church—much to the terror of his parents who were terrified that their son and future grandchildren were losing their salvation.
Marie was asked to take on the youth group in her church. She enjoyed the kids and she had the time, but her own children were mortified that their mom would be managing the group, and her husband was mad because he wanted Marie home with him.
Jane was feeling God’s call and she signed up to be a young adult missionary in Mozambique for a year. Her parents didn’t understand. Her boyfriend felt like she was running away from him. Her sister was mad that Joni would miss her wedding.
James had spent some time volunteering at the homeless shelter. It gave him a whole new perspective on our capitalistic econo9mic system. His dad hated when James started talking about how the upper 1% was grabbing all the wealth and making it so difficult for the bottom 30% to enjoy some of the basics of life. “Just be quiet,” his father said one day. “You don’ know what you’re talking about.” But James couldn’t be quiet. For him it was the language of speaking God’s justice into our world.
And I bet you can come up with other examples of the ways our faith can divide families. It’s so tempting to bow to the pressure. We love these important people in our lives. We don’t want to make them unhappy. Perhaps we even questions our own position and wonder if we should just go along—make peace in the family.
But that’s not our message today. “Pick up your cross and follow me,”
Jesus said. That cross can be really heavy when it amounts to family divisions. The pain is big. But Jesus tells us, “Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lost their life for my sake will find it.” In other words, to go along, to push away God’s command in order to keep our life—well, we’ve already lost a big piece of ourselves. But to let go of our life for Jesus’ sake is to truly find the meaning and joy that will define us.
And here’s the scoop. If we hand tight to God’s truth and God’s call to us—if we do so with some compassion for our loved ones, God’s healing can happen. God will help us move forward and probably, likely can help us retain the relationships that are so important. Just like God was there for Hagar and Ishmael, God will be there for our loved ones, too.
It will be OK. Just don’t turn aside from God’s call. Don’t bend to the pressure around us. Don’t be nasty and combative, but don’t turn away from God.
God’s healing and love is so much bigger than we might imagine. God will handle our lives, but we are called to listen and respond and hold tight to our faith.
It’ll be OK. It really will. Here we are, Lord. Use us. Amen.
*HYMN O Love That Wilt Not Let me Go. #384
(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 GIFTS TO GOD
*DOXOLOGY Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow #592
*PRAYER OF DEDICATION
*AFFIRMATION OF FAITH -- Apostle’s Creed
*HYMN Lift High the Cross #371
(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.