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  • Rev. Sandra Larson

May 17 At-Home Worship & Activities

Updated: Aug 3, 2020

Pass this on to those you think might appreciate it.


Union Church, Newburgh NY

May 17, 2020


What’s the Gospel (good news) according to you?

“You always know you’ve been in the presence of a Christian

by the light they leave behind.” — John Ruskin


We are glad that you are joining us today and hope you feel God’s blessings. If you do not have a church home, we invite you to be a part of Union Church fellowship.


TODAY! VIRTUAL Fellowship Time Sunday, May 17 11:30-Noon (see email for details)

Food Pantry every other week. Next: Mon. May 25 and Wed. May 27 9:30-11:30 am.


CALL TO WORSHIP Psalm 66.7-8,18 Bless our God, you peoples; make the voice of God’s praise to be heard—who holds our souls in life, and will not allow our feet to slip. Blessed be God, who has not rejected my prayer, nor withheld love from me.

PRAYER Lord—through the power of the Holy Spirit, teach us to use the faith you inspire in us. Comfort us as we need comfort and call us to things that are hard, and that are true, knowing that serving others is its own blessing. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

MESSAGE FOR ALL AGES A rowboat owner ferried people across a lake. The word “faith” was brightly painted on one oar and the word “work” on the other oar. He would ask his riders, "Which is more important, faith or works?" Then he would use only the oar marked "FAITH" and row hard, causing the boat to go around in circles, going no­where fast! Then he took the oar marked "WORKS" and went in circles in the other direction, again going nowhere. Using both "FAITH" and "WORKS" oars, the boat moved to their destination. As riders disembarked, the boatman commented, in case they did not understand his illustration: “Faith and works must work together, it is not one without the other, but both! Enjoy the rest of your journey.”

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH (a paradox) Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. [James 2:17] and God saves us, not because of any works of righteousness that we have done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. [Titus 3.5]

HYMN Gloria Patri (Glory to the Father)

Glory be to the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. World without end. Amen, amen…


God, teach us to be your faithful people in this time of global crisis and social distancing. Inspire us to trust that you equip us with everything needed for doing your will. We pray for all who need your loving care (everyone!) May each person know your healing touch in body, mind, and spirit. May all who suffer find resiliency and peace of mind…

In the name of Jesus, who taught us when we prayer to say, Our Father…

ANTHEM Faith to Carry On Union Chancel Choir

EPISTLES (New Testament letters) and GOSPEL LESSON

James 2.14-20 NRSV

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith apart from works is barren?

Titus 3.4-8 NRSV

When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is sure.

I desire that you insist on these things, so that those who have come to believe in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works; these things are excellent and profitable to everyone.

John 14.15-21

Jesus said, ”If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

“I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

SERMON Faith Indeed Rev. Sandy Larson CLICK HERE for video

Text: See end


Offering Reminder Please CLICK HERE or send check to Union Church, 44 Balmville Rd, Newburgh NY 12550

HYMN Take Time to Be Holy

CLICK HERE for music and lyrics

BENEDICTION Know that you have the blessing of God through times of joy and struggle; and remind others that they have it too. Go in peace.

ACTIVITIES – Pick what interests you!

FOR ACTION Men can do this, too.

Send virtual flowers to family and friends. Draw your own, take a photo or find a pic online.

HUMOR The Lesson mom asked her little daughter what her church school lesson had been. Her daughter replied, "Don't be scared, you'll get your quilts." Mom was perplexed. The pastor called later that day, so she asked, “What was the church school lesson about?” He said, "Be not afraid, your Comforter is coming.”

SERMON Faith Indeed Sandy Larson

James 2.14-20, Titus 3.4-8, John 14.15-21

Please note the seemingly paradoxical difference in these two scripture texts: James 2:17 states, ‘Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.’

Titus 3.5 says, ‘God saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.’

Since this seeming paradox probably makes us wonder how to balance these two New Testament messages, Jesus assured his followers: ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.’ [John 14.15] We have access to the Holy Spirit’s help to guide us.

Here is a quote from one of the most famous people in modern history. Guess who said, ‘The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel—is as good as dead... It was the experience of mystery…that engendered religion.’ [see end of sermon for name of author of this quote]

I know a man in his 60’s who is on a seemingly lifelong spiritual quest. Whenever he and I talk, it tends to be about his latest spiritual discoveries or questions. He constantly reads spiritual/theological books and has a small altar permanently set up in his dining room and a “singing” bowl for meditation. He devotes most of his spare time to spiritual pursuits and meditation. He seems to me to be searching constantly for something…He’s vegetarian and binges on starches on chocolates, so he is obese. He wanted to finish a graduate degree, but has not focused enough to complete it. His only physical exercise seems to be getting up and down from the floor for prayer. Is something out of balance in his life?

All of us know many women (and some men) who are “Do-gooders.” These good intentioned souls make helping others a high priority. Others are grateful for them. They often do multiple tasks in the church and service organizations. Their calendars are full.

Many “doers” are even busy during sheltering in place, sometimes breaking community guidelines to help others. I know one woman whose house is ALWAYS a dirty mess because she is helping out in the community. These people tend not to have much time for self-care, physical exercise or spiritual practices, except perhaps attending worship once a week, though they may skip worship during church closure. I have noticed that do-gooders tend to seem rushed or even harried. They do not tend to have a strong sense of Shalom. Is something out of balance in their lives? To what extent do we, ourselves, tend to be do-gooders?

Then there are the physical fitness focused people. Fitness is their main priority. I know one woman who obsessed so much over doing more exercise and avoided calories to such an extent that she made herself mentally and physically ill. Conversely, most people I know focus too little on physical fitness. Is something out of balance for anyone who focuses too much or too little on physical fitness?

Right now, pause to take as much time as you need to self assess your mind-body-spirit balance. Are you short-changing your mind, body, or spirit? Identify whether you tend to focus more on doing good or on faith and spirituality. Thanks to social media, we are blessed with a pause button to reflect.

The Bible shows us time and again that both faith and works are essential. Some Bible passages focus on faith. Other biblical counsel and stories focus on doing good works. I am grateful that the Bible offers this balance. Faith needs the actions of good works for faith to work. Good work needs faith are necessary for actions to be authentic and other-person centered, rather than self-serving. Doing is evidence that one believes!

Now—take a moment to ask yourself a slightly different question: Do you tend to focus more on ‘doing’ tasks or on ‘being’ and spirituality. Do you tend to be task oriented, like Martha (who focused on getting dinner on the table when Jesus visited) or relationship oriented, like Mary (who quietly sat with Jesus)?

Wise mentors across the ages and across cultures teach that health and wholeness require a BALANCE of mind, body, and spirit. The athlete who concentrates only on physical strength will face failures and health problems. The scholarly nerd who sits in his study cubicle for endless hours will fare no better. The spiritualist who neglects other parts of life will likely not attain true enlightenment.

Some people say they have faith, but they have few actual works to demonstrate that faith. The New Testament explains in many ways that faith produces a new life that produces good works. The New Testament makes it clear that faith takes form through love and believers help people in need. [e.g. Galatians 5.6, 6.10 I John 3.17-18] When referring to faith without works, James uses the Greek word nekra which means without life; a dead corpse. This word for dead can be figurative or literal. James draws a picture of faith that has no life. Genuine faith transforms a person, bringing about ongoing changed life…which includes tangible generosity, compassionate actions, and patience even during sheltering in place.

Faith and the work that flows from faith are like a two-coupon receipt for a sweepstakes. You need both receipts to win. The single receipt for works is not valid by itself; and receipt for faith is not valid if detached from the coupon for works. May we live double faceted faith, in-deed!


Albert Einstein is the author of the quote about mystery.


Sandy Larson

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