Sunday May 17, 2020


May 17, 2020 Liturgy

Announcements

  • Session and I are meeting in the coming worship to finalize our plans for in-person worship. Once the plans are finalized, we will communicate them to the congregation via mail or e-mail.

  • Glenshaw Valley will have their Spring Congregational Meeting via Zoom immediately following worship on Sunday, May 31, 2020.

  • Mt. Nebo will have their Session meeting at 6:30pm on Tuesday, March 26, 2020 in Fellowship Hall. You are welcome to wear a mask if you would like.

  • Mt. Nebo folks- the Presbytery is holding a virtual West Branch Meeting on Thursday, May 21 at 7pm. If you would like to attend, let me know, and I will send you the Zoom link.

  • If either church has any announcements for the June newsletter, please get them to me or the office as soon as possible.

Sharing of Joys and Concerns

  • Concerns

  • Dan Nelson- death in the family last week.

  • Balser Family- Bill’s wife died on Sunday morning (43).

  • For everyone going back to work under the ‘yellow’ phase of re-opening.

  • Joys

  • Kay Holman turns 100 on May 21!

  • Becca Sagi passed chemistry!

  • Mark is home, fully recovered from COVID-19.

  • BJ and Carol made 25 masks for GV, Linda made 15 for Mt. Nebo

Call to Worship

Come and hear, all you who fear God;

Let me tell you what he has done for me.

I cried out to him with my mouth;

His praise was on my tongue.

If I had cherished sin in my heart,

The Lord would not have listened;

But God has surely listened

And has heard my prayer.

Praise be to God,

Who has not rejected my prayer

Or withheld his love from me!

Opening Hymn

In the Lord I’ll Be Ever Thankful

In the Lord I will rejoice!

Look to God, do not be afraid, lift up your voices the Lord is near,

Lift up your voices the Lord is near

Prayer of Confession

Merciful God, in your gracious presence we confess our sin and the sin of this world. Although Christ is among us as our peace, we are a people divided against ourselves as we cling to the values of a broken world. The profit and pleasures we pursue lay waste the land and pollute the seas. The fears and jealousies that we harbor set neighbor against neighbor and nation against nation. We abuse your good gifts of imagination and freedom, or intellect and reason, and have turned them into bonds of oppression.

Lord, have mercy upon us; heal and forgive us. Set us free to serve you in the world as agents of your reconciling love in Jesus Christ.

Words of Assurance:

Hear the good news: In Jesus Christ we are forgiven. Alleluia. Amen.

Apostle’s Creed

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.

Pastoral Prayer (Pastor)

Almighty God, in Jesus Christ you taught us to pray, and to offer our petitions to you in his name. Guide us by your Holy Spirit, that our prayers for others may serve your will and show your steadfast love; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord:

  • Let us pray for the world.

  • Let us pray for the church.

  • Let us pray for those who govern us.

  • Let us pray for world leaders.

  • Let us pray for the sick.

God of compassion, bless us and those we love, our friends and families that, drawing close to you, though we are apart, we may be drawn closer to each other, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Offertory

What three things are you grateful for today?

Scripture Reading

Psalm 66:8-20

Praise our God, all peoples,

Let the sound of his praise be heard;

He has preserved our lives

And kept our feet from slipping.

For you, God, tested us;

You refined us like silver.

You brought us into prison

And laid burdens on our backs.

You let people ride over our heads;

We went through fire and water,

But you brought us to a place of abundance.

I will come to your temple with burnt offerings

And fulfill my vows to you-

Vows my lips promised and my mouth spoke

When I was in trouble.

I will sacrifice fat animals to you and an offering of rams;

I will offer bulls and goats.

Come and hear, all you who fear God;

Let me tell you what he has done for me.

I cried out to him with my mouth;

His praise was on my tongue.

If I had cherished sin in my heart,

The Lord would not have listened;

But God has surely listened

And has heard my prayer.

Praise be to God,

Who has not rejected my prayer

Or withheld his love from me!

Sermon “Gratitude Journal”

Let us pray,

May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of all of our hearts, be pleasing and acceptable to you, our rock and our redeemer…

Our Scripture reading for this morning comes from Psalm 66. It assures us of God’s victory in the face of suffering and persecution. If feels like a particularly fitting word for a people living in the midst of a global pandemic. Psalm 66 gives us words to express gratitude to God at a moment in our history where words of gratitude are hard to come by.

The suffering and persecution the Psalmist writes about is the Israelite’s experience of Exodus. Recall that story of Exodus from the Old Testament. The Israelites were enslaved in Egypt. God raised up Moses to deliver the Israelites from Egypt and guide them to the promised land. But the Israelites continued to disobey God and worship other gods. As punishment, God allowed them to wander around in the wilderness for 40 years. The Israelites were eventually liberated by God in the form of a covenant. God promised them favor and protection as long as they kept his laws and worshipped him alone.

The Psalms help us worship God because they teach us how to praise God. What’s great about this particular psalm is that it teaches us how to praise God both as individuals and as a group of individuals gathered together. In today’s Psalm, the psalmist proclaims that the same God who liberated the Israelites from slavery and wilderness wanderings will liberate us from whatever we are going through. We respond to who God is and what God has done for us by praising him.

The Psalmist teaches us how to offer praise befitting to God by breaking this hymn of praise into three distinct parts. The beginning part includes summons for the whole world to praise God. Because God has delivered the entire universe. A middle part illustrates how God interacts with a particular people. They will pay their vows to him by offering burnt offerings to God. And a concluding part meditates on God’s relationship with a particular people. God has surely listened to them and God has heard their prayer.

What the Psalmist is illustrating here in these three stanzas is the interconnectedness of how God relates to individuals and how God relates to humanity. God’s overall victory in the world means that God intervenes for communities. Likewise, God’s actions for communities have implications for individuals as well. We are to praise God during our daily prayer times. But we are also to gather together and offer God our praise together.

We do this because unlike the Israelites our faith is incarnational. It is a faith that we live out in our bodies. But how we live out our faith in our bodies affects the fate of the families, communities, and world we live in. Our faith then is both personal and corporate. We have a personal faith in God because God became man and dwells among us in Jesus. But if our faith stops at helping us make ethical decisions, we miss out on opportunities to participate in the inbreaking of the kingdom of God in our midst.

This week I’ve been reflecting on what it looks like to participate in the inbreaking of the kingdom of God in the midst of a global pandemic. On Friday, Allegheny County transitioned from the ‘red’ phase to the ‘yellow’ phase of re-opening Pennsylvania. Praise be to God that so far COVID-19 has not overwhelmed our hospitals. And so far we haven’t seen a surge of cases, hospitalizations, or deaths.

Under the ‘yellow’ phase, you still have to wear a mask in public places. Gyms, schools, hair and nail salons, casinos and theaters will remain closed. Bars and restaurants are still limited to carry-out and delivery only. But stores, parks, and child-care, operations will resume. And small social gatherings may take place. Session and I will be meeting in the coming weeks to discern what this ‘yellow’ phase of re-opening means for our church.

I can’t help but wonder, though, if for many of us, the yellow phase of reopening feels like a letdown. For two months we’ve stayed home, cancelled everything fun, and longed for the day when things would return to normal. And by every metric we have succeeded in flattening the curve. But we thought that the yellow phase would bring with it a return to normal. But instead we find ourselves in a new normal. A world where we must continue to wear face masks in public. Where we must limit group gatherings. Where we must imagine a summer without amusement parks, summer concerts, or baseball games.

One of the things I’ve come to realize is that life is not going to return to normal under the ‘yellow’ phase of re-opening Pennsylvania. If we mark a day on the calendar as the day life will return to normal, we will watch it come and go with disappointment and anger. Friends I think the only way forward is to discover a new normal. Where we figure out how to live with the virus. Instead of putting our lives on hold until there is a vaccine.

One practice I have found helpful as I discover a new normal in my own life is to keep a gratitude journal. Every day I write down three things I am thankful for. I try not to repeat anything. This practice is particularly helpful on the bad days. On the days when the Zoom links don’t work, or the calls drop, or I get the times wrong and miss the Presbytery meeting. Some days all I can do is write “coffee.” Or “hot shower.” Other days I write “friend taken off of the ventilator today!” Or “Able to go for a run outside!”

What I’ve particularly appreciated about this practice is that it’s a daily reminder that I have so much to be grateful for. Even and especially in the midst of all of the uncertainty I am learning to live with. It also forces me to practice gratitude when I don’t feel like it. Because even when I don’t feel like it, even when I can’t see it, I believe that God’s grace abounds. Practicing gratitude is one small way I live out my faith in the midst of a global pandemic.

My encouragement this week is for all of you to keep a gratitude journal. Every day try to write down three things you are grateful for. Try to come up with three new things everyday. At the end of the week I encourage you to share your gratitude with one another. Because you never know when someone is having a bad day and needs to hear a word of encouragement from you.

You can start by writing on the top of a sheet of paper:

Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer, or withheld his love for me!

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Closing Hymn Confitemini Domino

Confitemini Domino, quoin am bonus

Confitemini Domino, Alleluia!

Come and fill our hearts with your peace.

You alone O Lord are Holy.

Come and fill our hearts with your peace.

Alleluia.

Blessing

You go nowhere by accident. Wherever you go, God is sending you. Wherever you are, God has put you there. God has a plan and a purpose to you being there. Christ who dwells in you has something he wants to do, through you, wherever you are. Believe this and go in his grace and love and power, Amen.

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