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  • Rev. Sandra Larson

August 9 Worship; Rev. Sandra Larson Farewell Service

Updated: Sep 2, 2020


Union Church, Newburgh NY August 9, 2020 10:00 am


We are glad that you are joining us today! We 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.

Click here for full service video: or see text below.


Thank you for following the Covid safety protocols here and wherever you go.

Music today: Thanks to Lindsay and Heather Stelling for the music this morning.

New pastoral leadership starting next Sunday: Welcome Rev. Peter Surgenor and Rev. Cathy Surgenor who will be leading worship and assuming basic pastoral needs for the next few months.

Worship starting next Sunday: Worship will be interactive on Zoom—watch for an email with details.

Food Pantry operates every other week. Next: Mon. and Wed. August 17 and 19 from 9:30-11:30 am. Serving LOTS of people! If you would like to volunteer in any capacity, contact Kathy or Debby.

OFFERING Options: Offerings may be placed in the plate at the back of the sanctuary, online donation at, or mail checks to Union Church, 44 Balmville Rd, Newburgh NY 12550, Attn: Jolee. Thank you for your support of the ministries here.

Farewell to Sandy Larson and George Furniss. They are moving back to the Seattle area.

Thank you from Sandy Larson and George Furniss We want to express our appreciation for the commitment, generosity, conviviality and prayer power of all the people at Union Church. Union’s vibrancy is reinforced by those strengths. Please give ongoing thanks to the leaders in the congregation for their tenacious, caring and skilled service on behalf of the church. If you have been staying in the wings, now is the time to step forward to help the congregation navigate through the pandemic and pastoral transition. Care for one another, including those on the fringes. Please give your new pastoral leaders feedback, support and prayer—pastors need uplifting, too.

We will miss you! And we will hold you in our prayers.

As Abraham told his son, “The Lord will provide.”

In God’s grace, Sandy Larson and George Furniss


I must be the change I wish to see in the world. — Gandhi

Not in one’s goals, but in one’s transitions a person is great. — Ralph Waldo Emerson, adapted


PRELUDE To God, Be the Glory

Practicing the Peace of Christ in American Sign Language


Today is a new day. Thanks be to God’s infinite creativity. Let us worship God!


Lord, we confess that we are most often scared or skeptical about change. Especially as many bad changes pile up, we are anxious and wearied. Feeling threatened, we can be snippy with those around us. When are wrong, inspire us to be willing to change. And when we are right, guide us to be easy to live with. When changes come our way, fill us with grace and fortitude. Along with Alcoholics Anonymous, we pray Richard Niehbuhr’s powerful prayer: Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change and courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.

ANTHEM Be Thou My Vision Union Chancel Choir

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH (read silently) Book of Common Prayer

“As much as we long for external signs that point the way to the future, we must search for inner signals that alert us to the proximity of new beginnings. Because the signal is often subtle, it is hard to perceive when other stimuli are strong—which is why we naturally, if unconsciously, seek emptiness and quietness in times of life-transition. Genuine beginnings depend upon deep realignment rather than on external shifts; for when we are aligned with deep longings, we become powerfully motivated. This is how God’s Spirit can work in and through us!”


Lord, we are facing so much [pause to pray for yourself]…the world is changing at unprecedented speed [pause to pray for the world], and our loved ones face challenges as never before [pause to pray for loved ones] We pray for those who are grieving and those who are suffering from health or other vulnerabilities—open them to your peace. We pray for this nations and nations of the world—that your vision of world harmony justice for all might prevail in every ghetto and seat of government. This church and other churches around the world are pressed to think anew about the purpose and ministries of the congregation [pause to pray for Union Church and Christians everywhere]. Help us stay connected to the guidance and comfort of your Spirit. And through all of this, we pray, as Jesus taught, Our Father…

PRAYER RESPONSE Jesus, Remember Me

SCRIPTURE LESSONS Genesis 12.1-7 and II Cor. 1.3-4 NRSV

Genesis 12.1-7 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

So, Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. Abram took his wife Sarai [sar-eye] and his brother’s son Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered, and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem [shek-em], to the oak of Moreh [more-A]. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram, and said, “To your offspring, I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.

II Corinthians 1:3-4 Praise be to…the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

SERMON Transitions Rev. Sandy Larson

Sermon text below or via mail (on request).


BENEDICTION The Lord Bless You and Keep You—even in the midst of pandemic

Touchless Passing the Peace of Christ American Sign Language

CHORAL RESPONSE The Lord Bless You and Keep You Union Chancel Choir

Click here for video:

POSTLUDE Be Thou My Vision

SERMON TEXT Transitions Genesis 12.1-7 and II Cor. 1.3-4 Sandy Larson

Life is transitions. Changes are what make life…life. We watch children develop new aptitudes and change—that’s their job. My grand daughter is getting more skillful at communicating what foods she does not like. Change is required for growth. Yet Mark Twain summarizes our human responses to change: The only person who likes change is a wet baby. Transitions can be sudden or gradual, good or bad. Change usually brings both benefits and losses. How do you respond to transitions or change? Are you someone who welcomes changes as long as nothing is altered or different?

Almost all Old and New Testament stories include substantial transitions. Some are good transitions. Some are devastating transitions. The famous King David was a shepherd. He fought a champion and became King. Mary of Nazareth was a young peasant and became the mother of Jesus. Having a child is a major transition. As the mother of Jesus Christ, Mary probably faced daily changes that were dramatically different from what she had known in the past. OR: Think of the transformations of people that Jesus healed of blindness, chronic paralysis, illness or seizures. Lazarus changed from life to death to life.

The Christian-persecuting Pharisee, Paul, was struck blind and became Christ’s most effective advocate, perhaps ever. The socially rebuffed Samaritan woman at the well, after conversing with Jesus, found a clear purpose in her community. The disciples of Jesus, plodded along in their daily routines--until Jesus called them. They experienced fantastic new high’s, confusion, tremendous grief and then--new missions beyond their imagining. Philip even baptized an ambassador from Ethiopia. Imagine how the African’s life changed when he returned to Ethiopia. Pharisee Nicodemus was a pillar of traditional society; then a covert encounter with Jesus turned his life around. The Bible tells story after story about transitions in people’s lives. Sometimes those transitions were wonderful, sometimes lethal; sometimes…with dramatic challenges.

Often, transitions come with both good and bad consequences—both immediate and long-term. So what’s the point? God is working his purposes out. God is present through all these changes.

As we face the consequences of the pandemic, as Union Church faces pastoral transition and adapts to new modes of worship, mutual caring and ministries—how can we best approach these transitions?

There are some bad approaches that self-help resources will remind us about: Whining, complaining, impatience, and crabbiness make our lives worse and alienate other people. Denial of change or giving up or its opposite—burning out do little good to deal with relentless transitions. We do not fear change itself. What we actually fear is the consequences of poor decisions made in times of change. Human wisdom is limited by our small life experience. People can mess up—even in wonderful transitions. The leaders of this church will need realistic vision and energy for the sake of this church’s transition. They will need help and prayers.

Trust in God can help us to bridge difficult new circumstances. Trust in God can remedy the fear of bad choices. Let go and let God brings a peace that passes all understanding. Discerning God’s guidance and empowerment is the most valuable tool with which to meet transitions of all kinds. If you win the Lottery—pray about it. If your friend dies, pray about your grief and seek solace with spiritual friends. If your finances are in trouble—do some creative and careful planning and trust in God. If your health fails or you become seriously ill—focus on the resources of your faith and find support from spiritual people near to you. When times are reasonably good, people tend to rely on themselves. Yet many people turn to faith in God when difficulties become overwhelming. For millennia, such faith has given millions of people courage, wisdom, strength and peace of mind.

George and I have come to care deeply about you all—so it is hard to say farewell. We urge you to be especially intentional about growing in faith and caring for one another. As Paul assured the Christians in Corinth: Praise be to…the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

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