- Rev. Sandra Larson
July 26 At-Home Worship
Updated: Aug 10, 2020
AT-HOME WORSHIP & ACTIVITIES
Union Church, Newburgh NY
July 26, 2020
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 sincerely invite you to be a part of the Union Church fellowship.
Food Pantry operates every other week. Next: Mon. and Wed. August 3 and 5 from 9:30-11:30 am. Serving LOTS of people! If you would like to help, contact Kathy or Debby.
VIRTUAL Fellowship Time: Next date TBD from 11:30-Noon. Use mobile phone or computer video. Check email for access instructions. Questions? Call James.
Please use your own Bible or use biblegateway.com/ if you want alternate scripture translations
THOUGHT FOR REFLECTION
Please look anew at these likely familiar assurances from the Apostle Paul (Romans 8:38-39). I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
ORDER OF WORSHIP
PRACTICING THE PEACE OF CHRIST in American Sign Language
Click here for video: https://youtu.be/WuuBvR7El9s
PRELUDE Blessed Assurance Bell Choir
Click here for music: https://youtu.be/6Nv03aTrNV0
CALL TO WORSHIP Psalm 105.1-5
O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples. Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wonderful works. Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually. Remember the wonderful works he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he has uttered.
PRAYER (silent or aloud)
Lord—We trust that you are present to those who seek you. You guide and help even those who need but do not expect any aid. You help the poor and appear at the door of those who are homebound, bearing companionship and food. You promise the earth to the meek. You invite neglected prisoners to sit at the head table of heaven. So with the poor, the lame, the foolish, the orphaned, and the forgotten, we come to worship you hoping to live immersed in your loving-kindness. Fill us with wonder and joy, and inspire us to share your love by taking creative initiate to connect with others near and far. In the spirit of Jesus we pray. Amen.
HYMN When We Face an Unknown Future Carolyn Winfrey Gillette
Click here for familiar melody piano accompaniment: https://youtu.be/cBFm1Q9iRwo
MESSAGE FOR ALL AGES Lord Listen to Your Children Praying
Click here for lyrics and music video: https://youtu.be/Qp5Ck6BsWJQ
Think about this hymn: Who are God’s “children?” When we ask God to listen, is that because God is not paying attention to us or is it because we need to remind ourselves that God is present? When we ask for things from God, is it because God might not care for us otherwise, or is it to heighten our receptivity to God’s gifts?
AFFIRMATION OF FAITH PCUSA Confession 9.43 of 1967 In each time and place there are particular problems and crises through which God calls the church to act. The church, guided by the Spirit, humbled by its own complicity and instructed by all attainable knowledge, seeks to discern the will of God and learn how to obey in the concrete situations. Amen.
HYMN Gloria Patri (Latin for 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.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE and LORD’S PRAYER
…Silent prayer… Our Father, which art in Heaven
ANTHEM Song of a Faithful Servant Union Chancel Choir
Click here for video: https://youtu.be/7I_u4L1qgeU
SCRIPTURE LESSON Romans 8:26-28 NRSV For alternate translations, see your Bible or biblegateway.com/
The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. SERMON Our Story of Faith Rev. Sandy Larson
Click here for video: https://youtu.be/pCyUcUxTveU
OFFERING Reminder: Please click here OR send check to Union Church, 44 Balmville Rd, Newburgh NY 12550
HYMN What A Friend We have in Jesus Click here for video: https://youtu.be/LarFhGeE-ac
BENEDICTION The Lord Bless You and Keep You—even in the midst of pandemic
CHORAL RESPONSE The Lord Bless You and Keep You Union Chancel Choir
Click here for video: https://youtu.be/IvRlcCiLTn4
Dear God, how do you feel about people who don’t believe in you? Somebody else wants to know. A friend, Tony
Sandy, Interim Pastor
Union Church 44 Balmville Rd, Newburgh NY 12550
Phone: (845) 562-0954 Fax: (845) 562-0955
SERMON Our Story of Faith Rev. Sandy Larson
As I prepare to leave my position as Interim Pastor for Union Church and return to the Seattle area, I feel a bit like a parent giving a toast at my child's wedding reception. I want to keep you close. I want to bless you with joy in the new phase of your life with a new partner (new pastors). I want to express my love for you. And I want to tell you all the things that I somehow did not share with you as we lived together as a family.
So, today, I want to share my hopes for you.
I hope that you will thrive as individuals and as a congregation. Over the course of decades of ministry, I have observed that congregations and individuals thrive if they have strong and continually maturing faith. Strong and continually deepening relationship ties also make a huge difference in congregation and personal well-being. Interpersonal relationships are challenging during social distancing. That makes it more important to have a strong faith connection. God is always available. If we look at the biblical witness as a whole, it seems to focus on these dual priorities: Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.
Loving God is complicated. Faith is much more inclusive and more evolving than a confirmation class commitment to a set of beliefs. Most confirmands today know that their confirmation is the beginning of a faith journey, rather than a completed course, like graduation. Likewise, the marriage pledge "I take thee to be my lawfully wedded husband or wife," entails a lifetime of learning, caring and trial and error. Each day, we learn more about how to love. Otherwise the marriage becomes stagnant and lifeless. A man who liked to fraternize with pretty ladies, had a marriage guilt reducing habit. Each Friday, he bought his wife a dozen grocery store roses. That pattern which required no new thoughtfulness; and it did not particularly enhance their relationship. How could he have enriched his marriage? Attentiveness seems to be a key to meaningful relationships. Instead of the stale roses ritual, he might have asked his wife, "What can I do to show you how much I love you?" or, "Would you like me to give your tired feet a massage this evening?"
Our relationship with God is similar. Do we slide by with a habit of weekly worship attendance or by regularly citing a Christian affirmation or traditional prayer? What if social distancing prevents going to church—how do we keep our faith vibrant? Are we in active communion with God when we recite the Lord's Prayer? Do we consciously mean it when we sing "Praise God from whom all blessings flow?" Or are these affirmations mere rote words like the "Love ya," can become when we habitually toss out that affirmation at the end of conversations with family?
If we were on our own, we might likely slip into grocery store roses faith. Throughout each day, we readily fall into habits that begin to lose their significance. But, God offers us awesome help. As the Apostle Paul explains in his letter to the Romans, "The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. / We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? …37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. [Romans 8]
God’s part in the relationship with us is sure. All we have to do is remain open to God’s Spirit.
I hope for you that you regularly reclaim a vibrant, growing, question-asking faith. Such faith can be bolstered by sharing insights and questions with trustable spiritual companions. And if you don't have spiritual companions—FIND some. Jesus used the pick-up line, "Follow me," when he sought companions. Our approach can be more mutually balanced, inviting a shared exploration. For example, saying to a friend or family member: "I've been thinking about... (any faith question you're wondering about)."
If you want to go for the gold, you can ask something profound like, "I've been doing a lot of soul searching about the uniqueness of Christ. What are your recent thoughts about the nature of Christ?" Often, rich conversations ensue, even with strangers — all because one person might ask something like, "Are you active in a faith tradition?" or any opening question. What questions are you curious to talk with others about? Faith is nurtured by respectful and attentive dialog. Even closed-minded religionists of any ilk can challenge you to deepen your own faith understanding. I once went to a church where a display table had a huge sign saying, "Save the nuclear family--oppose homosexuality." Or that's what I remember its meaning to be. They probably had a better sounding phrase. I asked the table attendant, "How does homosexuality harm nuclear families?" The attendant was flummoxed and had no answer. I hope both of us grew in our understanding of homosexuality and nuclear families as a result of raising the question.
In addition to strengthening your relationship with God, I hope that your friendships will deepen and include new people. George and I have a precious affection for you. We regret not getting to know each of you on a deeper personal level. I am confident your new pastors will soon develop an appreciation and caring for you, as well. Take initiative to let them know your interests, questions, struggles and hopes.
All of us yearn for the caring connections that God instilled in our DNA. Please be intentional to deepen and expand your friendships to include new friends from the congregation and friendships beyond your current network of friends. The mutual caring and support of friends and family are especially valuable as we face difficulties and challenges. Friendships are one of the most tangible evidences of God's love. Everyone would benefit if we took more frequent initiative to meaningfully connect with one another. Who would you like to get to know better? My guess is that they have a similar yearning; or at least they'd be receptive to your initiative. Most likely, they have time on their hands these days. Reach out. Even a phone call can bring a sense of belonging and hope from building a friendship.
I hope that you can also build more meaningful friendships across generational lines. Some of the most precious relationships can be with those who are many years different from our own age. I hope that as individuals, you build wonderful intergenerational commaradaries; and I hope the social pattern in the Union congregation is intentional to build intergenerational bonds of friendship. Different generations have much to offer each other, like the young child who asked me, "Is God really real?" I know one woman who did not get to connect with her grandchildren, and so she "adopted" some of the children in the church.
With a little imagination, we can find ways to build cross-generational relationships even in the midst of social distancing. Please do not blow bubbles off a balcony to spark children's interests. Yet...using a bubble wand might be a good conversation starter. I am grateful to Cici who taught me how to "virtual hug" while standing 20 feet from each other.
Building meaningful relationships across cultural divides may be especially important as fear-triggered nationalist protectionism expands. God commissioned Abraham to be a light to all nations. Jesus charged his followers to baptize people from all nations. Sharing God's light and love starts by building mutual caring relationships. Through relationships with people very different from ourselves, we begin to see ourselves more clearly. In what ways are you similar or different from a Muslim or Native American friend? If all our friends are plain vanilla, our taste palette will be quite limited. A Jewish friend told me he'd read the New Testament Gospels and he wondered if most Christians despised Jews because Jews caused Jesus to be killed. Even though the answer is apparent, his sincere question made us both think about accountability for the death of Jesus and about forgiveness. If we listen to a Muslim friend explain why he stops his daily routines to pray at appointed times, maybe our own prayer discipline will be enriched.
As I have said often before, I also hope that you are intentional about nurturing mind, body and spirit so that you may stay balanced. All of us could benefit from expanding our spiritual discipline. I have proven from personal experience, for example, that when I regularly engage in daily meditation, my need for more sleep is decreased and the meditation improves the quality of my waking hours.
The Apostle Paul is credited with being perhaps the greatest social organizer of all time.One of his strengths was that he maintained substantial relationships with Christian groups, even those he had not seen in person for a long time. Paul lived in a time when communication with people who lived more than a few blocks away was extremely slow and difficult to accomplish. Yet Paul regularly encouraged, instructed and challenged his fellow Christians via letters and messengers. Mainly, he encouraged reliance on God. Paul demonstrated his reliance on God during his own treacherous sea and land journeys, through life-threatening persecution, imprisonment and even competition with other community organizers. A foundation of Paul's effectiveness and resilience is summarized in today's lesson from his letter to the Romans, so I repeat this assurance to the Roman Christians who were already facing persecution which probably included severe economic sanctions:
"The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. [Romans 8]
My prayer and hope for you is that you will thrive as individuals and as a congregation. Please be intentional about enriching your relationship with God and other people. Continue to deepen your faith that God loves you, no matter what. God bless you and keep you!