July 5, 2020
WORDS OF WORSHIP 2 Chronicles 7:14, NIV
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
Gracious and Most Merciful God, we gather this weekend, not only for worship, but still celebrating a national holiday. Against that background and aware of national concerns in our time, we recognize the need to humble ourselves, seek You sincerely, and turn as a nation away from those attitudes and actions that are harmful. Grant us as we worship today, an openness to honestly repent of our sins as a nation and a willingness to see our own role in the changes that are needed. Give us fresh insight and inspiration for our future. Amen.
CONFESSION AND PARDON
God spoke through Jeremiah to the people of Judah, “Lord, you are searching for honesty. You struck your people, but they paid no attention. You crushed them, but they refused to be corrected. They are determined, with faces set like stone; they have refused to repent.” (Jeremiah 5:3) May we instead be honest and humble as we confess the shortcomings of our own world today.
Sovereign God, we sometimes fail to seek what is best for all your children, for all your creation. We are guilty of taking too much pride in our individualism and failing to love one another as fully as we love our individual freedoms. Where we as a people have failed to hear the cry of the needy, the oppressed, and the downtrodden, we seek understanding and insight as well as forgiveness. Where we as a people have failed to meet the concerns of the refugee, the homeless, the orphan or widow, the person who is different from us, Lord, help us to see the world for a moment through their eyes, that our compassion might be kindled and our hearts changed while we ask forgiveness for our past mistakes. Where we as a people have taken concerns too lightly, where we have abused your creation, where we are in a rush to move forward rather than proceed with caution, Lord give us both knowledge and wisdom to see and speak the truth living with honorable actions, and forgive us when we error out of ignorance. Lord, where our pride or negligence, our stubbornness or greed have caused us to harm others, creation, ourselves, or to offend you, we seek mercy. But we also ask you to give us a new heart, one that will honor you and will protect this world you still love. Amen.
In Jeremiah 31:20 God says, “’Is not Israel still my son, my darling child?’ says the Lord. ‘I often have to punish him, but I still love him. That’s why I long for him and surely will have mercy on him.’” This is why God sent Jesus into our world as it says in John’s Gospel, “not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17) Through the grace and mercy of Jesus, we are forgiven.
Thanks be to God!
PASSING THE PEACE
May the peace of Christ be with you.
PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION
Lord, as we read your scripture today, may we hear what you would say to us not only as individuals but as a people. Breathe through us your message for our communities, our churches, our nation, and our world. Amen.
Jeremiah 36:1-26, NLT
1 During the fourth year that Jehoiakim son of Josiah was king in Judah, the Lord gave this message to Jeremiah: 2 “Get a scroll, and write down all my messages against Israel, Judah, and the other nations. Begin with the first message back in the days of Josiah, and write down every message, right up to the present time.
3 Perhaps the people of Judah will repent when they hear again all the terrible things I have planned for them. Then I will be able to forgive their sins and wrongdoings.”
4 So Jeremiah sent for Baruch son of Neriah, and as Jeremiah dictated all the prophecies that the Lord had given him, Baruch wrote them on a scroll. 5 Then Jeremiah said to Baruch, “I am a prisoner here and unable to go to the Temple. 6 So you go to the Temple on the next day of fasting, and read the messages from the Lord that I have had you write on this scroll. Read them so the people who are there from all over Judah will hear them. 7 Perhaps even yet they will turn from their evil ways and ask the Lord’s forgiveness before it is too late. For the Lord has threatened them with his terrible anger.”
8 Baruch did as Jeremiah told him and read these messages from the Lord to the people at the Temple. 9 He did this on a day of sacred fasting held in late autumn, during the fifth year of the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah. People from all over Judah had come to Jerusalem to attend the services at the Temple on that day.
10 Baruch read Jeremiah’s words on the scroll to all the people. He stood in front of the Temple room of Gemariah, son of Shaphan the secretary. This room was just off the upper courtyard of the Temple, near the New Gate entrance.
11 When Micaiah son of Gemariah and grandson of Shaphan heard the messages from the Lord, 12 he went down to the secretary’s room in the palace where the administrative officials were meeting. Elishama the secretary was there, along with Delaiah son of Shemaiah, Elnathan son of Acbor, Gemariah son of Shaphan, Zedekiah son of Hananiah, and all the other officials. 13 When Micaiah told them about the messages Baruch was reading to the people, 14 the officials sent Jehudi son of Nethaniah, grandson of Shelemiah and great-grandson of Cushi, to ask Baruch to come and read the messages to them, too. So Baruch took the scroll and went to them. 15 “Sit down and read the scroll to us,” the officials said, and Baruch did as they requested.
16 When they heard all the messages, they looked at one another in alarm. “We must tell the king what we have heard,” they said to Baruch. 17 “But first, tell us how you got these messages. Did they come directly from Jeremiah?”
18 So Baruch explained, “Jeremiah dictated them, and I wrote them down in ink, word for word, on this scroll.”
19 “You and Jeremiah should both hide,” the officials told Baruch. “Don’t tell anyone where you are!” 20 Then the officials left the scroll for safekeeping in the room of Elishama the secretary and went to tell the king what had happened.
21 The king sent Jehudi to get the scroll. Jehudi brought it from Elishama’s room and read it to the king as all his officials stood by. 22 It was late autumn, and the king was in a winterized part of the palace, sitting in front of a fire to keep warm. 23 Each time Jehudi finished reading three or four columns, the king took a knife and cut off that section of the scroll. He then threw it into the fire, section by section, until the whole scroll was burned up. 24 Neither the king nor his attendants showed any signs of fear or repentance at what they heard. 25 Even when Elnathan, Delaiah, and Gemariah begged the king not to burn the scroll, he wouldn’t listen.
26 Then the king commanded his son Jerahmeel, Seraiah son of Azriel, and Shelemiah son of Abdeel to arrest Baruch and Jeremiah. But the Lord had hidden them.
In the New Testament we have this about the ministry of John the Baptist:
Luke 3:3, NLT
John went from place to place on both sides of the Jordan River, preaching that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven.
We have this summary of Jesus’ early message:
Matthew 4:17, NLT
From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”
When children are playing and something gets broken or someone gets hurt, an adult is bound to ask, “Who did it?” It is not unusual for the answer to be, “He did it!” or “She did it!” pointing physically and verbally to someone else. Rarely does the culprit raise a hand to say, “I did it” with head hanging in apology even if the incident was truly an accident. We could and usually do scold children who don’t own up to their mistakes, but we have to ask ourselves, “Where did they learn this?” Chances are they have witnessed an adult, either in person or on television, who blames someone else rather than admitting a mistake or worse, a crime.
We can blame Genesis 3 perhaps, saying that this blame game is all part of original sin going back to Adam and Eve.
Listen! When “the Lord God asked. “Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?”
12 The man replied, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.”
13 Then the Lord God asked the woman, “What have you done?”
“The serpent deceived me,” she replied. “That’s why I ate it.”
That’s the Blame Game in a nutshell. Did you notice that while Adam blamed the woman, he also subtly blamed God for giving him that woman? Of course, the woman blamed the serpent, and therein is the background for Flip Wilson’s famous, “The devil made me do it.” No one in this scenario takes responsibility for their own part in the sin, not even the devilish serpent who is suddenly silent.
Melissa Spoelstra referred to this problem in Week Four, which was last week’s message, but it is a big enough concern that she gives all of Week Five to dealing with: “QUITTING THE BLAME GAME – Personal Responsibility.”[i] I want to highlight this week that the blame game is not only an individual issue but also a corporate one. We blame others not only one person to another, but as a society or any structure within society. As mentioned last week, Spoelstra sees blame in epidemic proportions in our world, and I agree with her, knowing that I am as guilty of it as anyone else. We do it just too easily out of habit. It will take intentionality to break that habit and intentional role modeling to influence change in the persons and society around us.
My opening illustration was a parent dealing with a child. Scripture deals with this in Proverbs 13:24. You may have grown up hearing it as, “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” To me this has always been a bit bewildering, and as I looked at a plethora of English translations, it is incomplete. To use that old-fashioned language should still say something like, “Those who spare the rod hate their children, but those who love them are diligent to discipline them.” (NRSV) But for generations today I find this even clearer, “If you love your children, you will correct them; if you don’t love them, you won’t correct them.” (CEV) As you put these all together, don’t miss that correction will include punishment. Whatever your parenting philosophy and style, you likely agree disciple is needed whether it was spanking in the past or time out and loss of privileges today. Correction can also mean paying for damages, or doing service.
Now take all of that parent/child disciplinary scenario and realize that this also fits God as parent and humanity as children. Spoelstra writes, “God’s justice and mercy hold hands as He disciplines His children like a good father.”[ii] Justice goes with righteousness; they are God’s expectation of us. But such justice is also tempered with mercy. Psalms puts all three together:
- “The Lord loves righteousness and justice. His mercy fills the earth.” (Psalm 33:5)
- “Righteousness and justice are the foundations of your throne. Mercy and truth stand in front of you.” (Psalm 89:14)
However, if a child is corrected time and again for the same thing, takes their punishment, listens to correction but does not make the necessary changes in behavior, what should the parent do? It comes down to what we sometimes call “tough love.” Rather than extending mercy to the point of ignoring the sin, there comes a time when children are allowed to suffer consequences for their bad behavior. God treats us the same way. This is what was going on in the time of Jeremiah.
Look again at some of the verses I read earlier from Jeremiah 36.
- 3 Perhaps the people of Judah will repent when they hear again all the terrible things I have planned for them. Then I will be able to forgive their sins and wrongdoings.”
- 7 Perhaps even yet they will turn from their evil ways and ask the Lord’s forgiveness before it is too late. For the Lord has threatened them with his terrible anger.”
I find interesting the response of the officials to whom Baruch first read Jeremiah’s scroll with God’s message. They were alarmed, because they could see the sin and the punishment coming as consequence. They knew the message needed to be carried to the king. But they also knew how that message was likely to be received. They told Baruch and Jeremiah to hide. They weren’t wrong. Rather than receive correction, the King burned the scroll section by section in rejection of God’s message. I wonder how often we are like that as a people, following God when it is convenient or fits our preconceived notions, but rejecting what we don’t like.
Perhaps this partially relates to another area of concern noted by Spoelstra. In whom do we trust? Did Judah trust the King more than they trusted Jeremiah as God’s messenger? Did they trust the Temple building and their past history with God more than they trusted God himself? I think the answer to both of those questions is yes. The Judeans had misplaced their trust and hence started living in the wrong direction.
Spoelstra points out the danger, “If we elevate anything or anyone above God in our lives, we will find our perspective of justice becomes warped. When we look to people or circumstances to find our identity, they will ultimately fail to fill our God-shaped hole. When we feel this emptiness, we must be careful to trust God instead of trying to figure out what is ‘fair’ and ‘unfair’ according to our limited view.”[iii] She goes on to say, “When we believe our security is found in relationships, status, possessions, or anything else, God is willing to allow the ground beneath our feet to shake in order to see if we remember where our true foundation lies.”[iv] Isn’t that what is happening?
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reminded us of the necessity of a stable foundation. This is in Matthew 7:
24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”
The only stable foundation for our lives is found in God’s teachings, and all human answers should be measured against these.
One of the most common questions asked of God is “Why?” Why do bad things happen? Why does evil prosper? Why is life so hard? Why does a God of justice and mercy allow suffering? Of course the answers are complicated and require more than half a sermon to address adequately. However, to the extent that we tend to blame God for our problems, let’s take a beginning look at some answers.
Jeremiah 12 begins with this question:
“Lord, you always give me justice
when I bring a case before you.
So let me bring you this complaint:
Why are the wicked so prosperous?
Why are evil people so happy?
2 You have planted them,
and they have taken root and prospered.
Your name is on their lips,
but you are far from their hearts.” (Jeremiah 12:1-2, NLT)
Reading the rest of that chapter, God doesn’t give a complete answer, but God does invite Judah to look at the bigger picture of God’s plans. That prosperity and happiness of the wicked and evil is only temporary. In God’s big picture, more is going to happen to them.
First, God deals with Judah’s own sin and lack of repentance:
“My people have planted wheat
but are harvesting thorns.
They have worn themselves out,
but it has done them no good.
They will harvest a crop of shame
because of the fierce anger of the Lord.” (v. 13)
Judah, in this case, is not innocent. As Paul wrote to the Galatians, “God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow.” (Galatians 6:7, NRSV) To use Jeremiah’s illustration there are thorns harvested along with the wheat, so to speak, because along with any good deeds or worship, Judah has also done evil and worshipped false gods. In consequence and punishment, God allows other nations to overtake them.
However, God will not leave it that way forever. Toward the end of Jeremiah 12 we read the bigger picture of God’s plan for those others and for Judah’s restoration.
14 Now this is what the Lord says: “I will uproot from their land all the evil nations reaching out for the possession I gave my people Israel. And I will uproot Judah from among them. 15 But afterward I will return and have compassion on all of them. I will bring them home to their own lands again, each nation to its own possession. 16 And if these nations truly learn the ways of my people, and if they learn to swear by my name, saying, ‘As surely as the Lord lives’ (just as they taught my people to swear by the name of Baal), then they will be given a place among my people. 17 But any nation who refuses to obey me will be uprooted and destroyed. I, the Lord, have spoken!” (Jeremiah 12:14-17, NLT)
What I notice here is that everyone who has sinned will receive just punishment. But anyone who repents and returns to God, whether originally a believer or a newcomer to the faith, they will receive mercy and be restored to fellowship and favor with God.
As to the question of why God allows suffering, Spoelstra identifies “three categories of suffering.”[v]
- “First, we suffer because we live in a fallen, sinful world.”[vi]
- “Other times we suffer because of our obedience to God.”[vii]
- “However, suffering can also be the result of bad choices we make.”[viii]
I dare to suggest that this may be true of any nation today including our own. I firmly believe that good citizenship includes making an honest and regular assessment of our national behavior. Is justice being served? Or does greed run rampant? Are we caring for the least of these among us? Or are we only looking out for ourselves? Are we being good stewards of creation? Or are we allowing our convenience to consume it? Are we a light to the nations as a compassionate people? Or do we sometimes look too much like the nations we scold? I don’t think there is anything wrong with asking such questions. Rather I think it is our duty to do so. The answers may often be some of each, but then the next question will always be, So what are we going to do about it? One of the values we treasure in the United States is that we have the right to ask these questions and hold our governing bodies accountable. But we also need to hold ourselves accountable as citizens rather than going along with the crowd when we believe the crowd is going in the wrong direction.
We’ve said this before. Not all suffering is our own fault, but we must take responsibility for what we have caused. Spoelstra writes, “God is willing to watch us suffer if that’s what it takes to bring us back into relationship with Him.”[ix] That’s the tough love. Moses reminded the people of his time, “Just as a parent disciplines a child, the Lord your God disciplines you for your own good.” (Deuteronomy 8:5, NLT) This ties back to the proverb we looked at earlier. God disciplines us, because God loves us. When we don’t keep either our personal behavior or our national behavior in check, God will hold us responsible.
In Deuteronomy 30, Moses foreshadows the exile as he gives final instructions to those about to enter the Promised Land. With the context of Jeremiah’s day in mind, listen to Moses words,
“In the future, when you experience all these blessings and curses I have listed for you, and when you are living among the nations to which the Lord your God has exiled you, take to heart all these instructions. 2 If at that time you and your children return to the Lord your God, and if you obey with all your heart and all your soul all the commands I have given you today, 3 then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes. He will have mercy on you and gather you back from all the nations where he has scattered you. …
15 “Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster. 16 For I command you this day to love the Lord your God and to keep his commands, decrees, and regulations by walking in his ways. If you do this, you will live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you and the land you are about to enter and occupy.
17 “But if your heart turns away and you refuse to listen, and if you are drawn away to serve and worship other gods, 18 then I warn you now that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live a long, good life in the land you are crossing the Jordan to occupy. (Deuteronomy 30, selected verses, NLT)
Now hear how this is echoed by Jeremiah when the people stopped following the Lord’s commands.
“Tell all the people, ‘This is what the Lord says: Take your choice of life or death! 9 Everyone who stays in Jerusalem will die from war, famine, or disease, but those who go out and surrender to the Babylonians will live. Their reward will be life!” (Jeremiah 21:8-9, NLT)
These were hard words to hear, but note that the people were given a choice about how to live, and so are we.
The people of Judah were given a difficult choice to make. Rather than stay in their homeland, God was telling them to accept the circumstance he was allowing, to go live in Babylon. In other parts of Jeremiah God tells them to settle in, to plant crops, to marry and raise children. God wasn’t planning to bring them home any time soon. They were told to pray for Babylon’s welfare, because their own well-being depended on it. This was to be the new normal for seventy years. It would not be until much later that God would bring the refugees home. Think about it, the Exile was nearly twice as long as the Exodus. It’s either most of or more than your lifetime.
I want to take one bit of advice from this in regard to COVID-19. While this disease may be attributed to the fallenness of creation rather than a particular sin, I think God is using it to get our attention. We can’t do business as usual. We have to stop and think about things, to make intelligent decisions, to pray for one another’s welfare, to realize that how we choose to behave may affect someone else’s well-being. I think God wants us to cooperate globally. I think God wants us to turn to Him and not just our own human solutions. I know we hate this disease as much as Judah hated the Exile, but it is our new normal for some time yet. It won’t last seventy years, but it won’t be over in seven months either. What God is looking for in the midst of this is our obedience to God’s Way and putting our trust in God above all else.
What the people of Judah were about to suffer from Babylon is what it says in Proverbs 1:30-31
“30 They rejected my advice
and paid no attention when I corrected them.
31 Therefore, they must eat the bitter fruit of living their own way,
choking on their own schemes.”
This is exactly why John the Baptist and Jesus both urged again in their day for the people to turn away from sin and turn back to God. This is what it means to repent. I like to add to that the way some 21st century translations are putting it, “Change your hearts and your lives.” I think that is the evidence of repentance, that hearts and lives have changed, meaning attitudes and behaviors are back in line with God’s ways.
Let’s also point out that “If only…” is another variation of the blame game. It blames circumstances rather than people. I’m guilty of this one. If only I had more time, if only I weren’t dealing with so much stress, if only I felt better. I’ve been using this blame game as my excuse for not taking care of some personal business that is long overdue. The truth I need to admit to myself is that I can take an hour or two aside and just make myself do it. I know, because I finally dealt with some paperwork this week. This is just a simple example, but it highlights the tendency we all have to pass the buck or make excuses. Again, some circumstances are genuinely beyond our control, but for those that are within what we can do, “It’s time to stop blaming others [or circumstances] for our problems, take a good look at our own sin, and begin to walk the road of repentance. We can’t change anyone else, but we can allow God to change us.”[x]
A major source of our sin problem is pride. Spoelstra defines it as “an obsession with self.”[xi] She points out that “The nations surrounding Israel and Judah struggled with pride.”[xii] So do most nations today. The struggle is not a sin itself, but the outcome of that struggle may become sinful if we put ourselves first at the expense of others or ahead of God. Spoelstra claims, “God takes pride very seriously because it is a huge barrier to close relationship with Him. We can’t embrace God until we recognize our need for Him.”[xiii] Another round of honest questions to ask ourselves, but also at social and national levels relates to pride. Scriptures would indicate that if we boast it should be boasting in the Lord. As Spoelstra puts it, “Anything good we accomplish originated in God.”[xiv] God provided the talents and resources at our disposal. So let’s ask ourselves, Have I boasted of something without giving God credit? Have I judged someone else without taking an honest look at my own faults? Have I blamed God for something without confessing my own part in it? Have I stepped on someone else to put myself forward? Have I looked only to my own needs without considering others? Again, I think these are appropriate, responsible questions to ask not only ourselves but the groups to which we belong and our society and nation. Spoelstra notes, “pride is dangerous…Recognizing our pride and addressing it with God through prayer is critical if we are to stop playing the blame game.”[xv]
One more word on blaming God. Spoelstra writes, “Sometimes we assume that God owes us a pain-free life because we have done ‘our part.’ We went to church services twice last month and even dropped a twenty-dollar bill in the offering plate….[we] jumped through all the religious hoops. Then when something bad happens, we are tempted to blame God since we have paid our dues. But it doesn’t work that way.”[xvi]
It’s not hard to blame God when we are in pain or to try to bargain with God to get out of that pain, but blame and bargaining do not constitute a healthy relationship.
Part of Judah’s problem was that they just went through the motions of worship. They filled an obligation, but they no longer sincerely loved God with heart, soul, and strength. They were in trouble, because their worship was empty, but this was not God’s fault. It was theirs. “They wanted God’s hand of help without any relationship or repentance.”[xvii]
Perhaps you have experienced this in another relationship, that the other person seems to offer you empty words or actions without follow-through, or as Spoelstra puts it, “empty words with no actions to back them up.”[xviii] It’s uncomfortable isn’t it? Something about the relationship just isn’t right. That’s what it feels like for God when our worship is obligatory or insincere.
Jeremiah called his people to come back to God, to obey God’s commands, to worship God with sincerity, to turn away from their sinful attitudes and behaviors, to care for those in need, to put their hope and their trust fully in God. God still calls to us with the same concerns. Let’s not put God to the test as Judah did them. Let’s listen to God’s plea, turn away from anything that is wrong, and follow God’s path as God’s people.
Remember the verse with which we began the day, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
AFFIRMATION Apostle’s Creed, Ecumenical Version 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 at 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.
God of all, we pray to you for concerns around the world.
We pray for an appropriate resolution to the tensions in Hong Kong.
We pray for the Uighur peoples living in China and their freedom.
We pray for the safety of officers and citizens in Seattle and elsewhere.
We pray for areas experiencing a rise in COVID-19 cases and deaths world-wide.
I pray for sensible restrictions to continue to protect us in the US and elsewhere.
We pray for those who are suffering, those who mourn,
For exhausted caregivers and researchers still fighting this disease.
We pray for those dealing with the long-term effects not only health wise
But also financially, for those struggling with the many changes and restrictions.
Most of all, dear Lord, I pray for your people to have patience.
We pray for upcoming elections in the United States.
We pray for your people anywhere who are confused, depressed, or lonely.
We pray for those who are hurting or grieving and those who are abused or scared.
Lord God, give us your mercy and grace to be kind to one another,
That we might also be a blessing to those around us and not a hindrance.
Help us to recognize that everyone may be hurting is some way,
Whether it is visible or not.
PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING
Amazing God, even in the midst of difficult times,
We have so much for which to be grateful.
We thank you for family and friends who love and support us,
We thank you for financial furloughs and help to get through tough times.
We thank you for electronics, internet, and wi-fi as well as mail and phones
To keep us connected while in isolation.
We thank you for clean water, and electricity,
For sanitation workers and delivery people.
We thank you for good weather days, a breeze, and outdoor space,
For gardens and animals.
We thank you for food, shelter, rest, and comfort,
For self-care aids, meditation and devotions.
We thank you for education, music, stories, and art.
We thank you for journalists who risk their lives to share the truth.
We thank you for good memories and laughter.
We thank you for privilege and future possibilities.
We thank you if we are able to live in a non-judgmental environment.
Above all we thank you for your providence and your love.
For all of this, O God, we praise you and bless you. Amen.
THE 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
And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power
And the glory forever. Amen.
CHARGE & BLESSING Jeremiah 29:11, NIV
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
First, news that will be welcome to many of you, First United Presbyterian will reopen for worship next Sunday, July 12. Here is what you need to know in regard to that.
- Only the ramp door and the narthex doors to the sanctuary will be open. The rest of the building will remain closed to the public on Sunday morning.
- You will be required to wear a mask and asked to use sanitizer as you arrive.
- You may have a temperature check and be requested to answer health screening questions as you arrive.
- If you have not been feeling well or have been exposed to illness, please stay home that week.
- The bathroom by the ramp door will be available if needed, but you are asked not only to wash hands thoroughly, you may be asked to wipe down handles, etc. you have touched.
- Alternating pews will be designated in the sanctuary for social distancing, one household per pew.
- This will be a no – touch service with no contact allowed for greetings, no passing of the peace, no greeting or fellowship after worship.
- There will be no singing and no congregational reading out loud.
- For July 12, 19, and 26, Kolleen will be preaching and Jon will be at the organ or piano if he is able.
Second, as a public service announcement, please keep safety precautions in mind for yourselves, and as Christians, to care for others, too.
- Please, don’t go out in public unless it’s necessary.
- Always wear a mask in public.
- Wash your hands with soap and water frequently, especially after touching surfaces others have touched. You can also wear gloves or carry wipes for public surface areas such as door handles.
- Maintain social distancing with anyone not of your own household, at least six feet.
May God help us do what we must in the midst of pandemic, and may God overcome it to restore our world.
[i] Melissa Spoelstra, Jeremiah: Daring to Hope in an Unstable World, p. 2780. (since I used the Kindle edition, p# are actually location #.)
[ii] P. 2804
[iii] P. 2834
[iv] P. 2842
[v] P. 2894
[vi] P. 2895
[vii] P. 2900
[viii] P. 2906
[ix] P. 2912
[x] P. 3019
[xi] P. 3065
[xii] P. 3078
[xiii] P. 3135
[xiv] P. 3105
[xv] P. 3190
[xvi] P. 3258
[xviii] P. 3309
Jeremiah lived 2600 years ago, but has as much to say to our world today as he did to Judah then. The Bible Study from which I am taking much of this series is Jeremiah: Daring to Hope in an Unstable World by Melissa Spoelstra. A Bible Study to accompany the sermons can be found at Faith Adventures.