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  • John T. Redman, CRE

January 17 Worship

Updated: Jan 19, 2021

Hello Union Church Presbyterians,

Worship this Sunday, January 17 will be hosted on Zoom. We will share prayers, songs, and reflections.


For computers:

(Or use )

For smartphones and tablets, download and install the Zoom app.

If prompted: Click “JOIN Meeting” and enter:

Meeting ID: 925 1336 9513 Passcode: 465734

The Zoom meeting will open at 10:15 am to allow folks to connect and greet each other. If you have a camera, you will have the option to share your face and smile—be prepared. You can also have a cup of your favorite morning beverage at hand.

The worship will include familiar elements (although recorded rather than live) as well as live leadership of prayers, scripture reading, and the sermon.


Union Church, Newburgh NY

January 17, 2021 10:30 am

Second Sunday after Epiphany


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. Jan 18 and Wed. Jan 20 from 9:30-11:30 am. Serving LOTS of people! If you would like to help, contact Kathy or Debby.

ANNUAL MEETING: Sunday, Jan 31 following worship. Zoom information will be available at a later date.

Pledge Update: As of Dec. 27, we have received 33 pledges (4 new) for 2021 in the amount of $89,430. Last year at this time, we received 40 pledges in the amount of $87,859.

VIRTUAL Fellowship Time: Begins immediately after worship. If you have joined worship on Zoom you don’t need to do anything more. If you are joining us for fellowship time only use mobile phone or computer video. Check email for access instructions. Questions? Call James at (301) 335-8677


PRELUDE Help Us Accept Each Other

CALL TO WORSHIP Adapted from Psalm 139 Cathy McCarty O LORD, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O LORD, you know it completely. How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! I try to count them — they are more than the sand; I come to the end — I am still with you.


We are in awe of your magnificent power displayed through the entire universe, for through you all things were made, and all things have their being. Lord, may we know the presence of the Holy Spirit here with us today. May we be open to your leading, sensitive to your speaking and alert to your calling. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.


We are imperfect creatures who cannot help but fail despite our best intentions. Let us confess our sins together.


Gracious God, our sins are too heavy to carry, too real to hide, and too deep to undo.

Forgive what our lips tremble to name, what our hearts can no longer bear, and what has become for us a consuming flame of guilt.

Set us free from a past we cannot change; open to us a future in which we can be changed; and grant us the grace to grow more and more in your image;

through Jesus Christ, the light of the world.

(A moment for silent personal confession)


Brothers and Sisters the Lord of Heaven knows all our actions and all our prayers. In the name of Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.


GLORIA PATRI Westminster Virtual Choir

HYMN 557 (Red) Open My Eyes, That I May See Joslin Grove Choral Society


Lord, open our hearts and minds by the power of your Holy Spirit, that as the Scriptures are read and your Word is proclaimed, we may hear with joy what you say to us today. Amen.



OLD TESTAMENT READING 1 Samuel 3: 1-12 Cathy McCarty

NEW TESTAMENT READING John 1: 43-51 John Redman, CRE

SERMON “Can Anything Good?” John Redman, CRE


Lord we come to you asking, even though you already know the names and hearts of each of us. We also pray for our nation in this time of struggle and uncertainty. We ask for wisdom in our elected leaders, for patience in those crying out for change and for your blessings to continue for all or our sakes. We know that you watch over us, healing those in pain and comforting those in mourning, and looking after one another as we navigate the troubled waters of a health crisis and helping those in greater need than we may be. And we ask you dearest Lord to especially stretch out your healing hands for those we name here.


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. And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

OFFERTORY ANTHEM Al Shlosha D’varim Union Children’s Choir

Al Shlosha D’varim is a lyrical setting of the popular maxim from

Pirkei Avot (Jewish morality laws). The text translation means;

The world is sustained by three things,

By truth, by justice, and by peace

Using the universal language of music, Al Shlosha D’varim conveys this

important and universal theme through its beautiful simplicity.


You can support the work of Union Church by mailing donations to 44 Balmville Rd, Newburgh, NY 12550 or visit to donate online.



DOXOLOGY Union Chancel Choir


POSTLUDE Glory from the film “Selma” John Legend & Common


SERMON TEXT “Can Anything Good?” John Redman, CRE

No matter which of the years in the three-year cycle of the lectionary, the second Sunday after Epiphany always features passages from the first chapter of John, before moving back to Gospel lessons from the three synoptic Gospels, Mark, Matthew and Luke. In our Gospel passage for today we see Jesus gathering some of the first of his disciples, and as he does, they come to see him as the true Messiah. We have Andrew and Simon, renamed Peter, and then Andrew’s friend Philip, then extending on to his friend Nathanael.

And why do you suppose that Nathanael, Philip’s friend, only appears in the Gospel of John, while in the three synoptic gospels there is a similar disciple known as Bartholomew? If you want to get a fundamentalist who claims that every word in the bible is literally true, to explode his or her head, then ask them how this disciple only appears in this book, but another appears in three other Gospels.

You will likely get an argument that whatever translation you are using is somehow flawed, just as your faith is flawed by even asking such a question, and then it’s really how names got mistranslated, and it really doesn’t matter in the greater scheme of things. So much for the literal truth of every word in this Book.

But no, this book is full of truth, but it’s like the truth that we have to mine, that we have to dig for, or that we glean like the Hebrews who gleaned the straw from the fields to bind the bricks that created the mighty structures of Egypt before the Exodus.

And that’s sort of what we are doing here today, gleaning and mining what these new disciples were finding, even as they discovered the True Messiah, even as Jesus himself told them not to say anything about it. But first, Nathanael has an interesting take on Jesus, when Philip tells him he’s the son of Joseph the carpenter from Nazareth. “Nathanael’s reaction is classic “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” That might like one of us saying “Can anything good come from Marlborough?” In his translation in The Message, Eugene Peterson puts it this way “Nazareth? You’ve got to be kidding.”

But Nathanael’s recognition of Jesus as the Messiah comes pretty fast, almost immediately after his first reaction of disdain. Why do you suppose that might be? Jesus seems to have seen right into Nathanael’s heart, telling him he knew him as soon as he saw him sitting under the fig tree. In Jewish philosophical tradition, the fig tree had great significance, the place where one might sit in its shade and ponder the great issues of life. And remember that later Jesus will curse the fig tree to wither and die when it produces no fruit for him. Perhaps we have some symbolism there, too.

And then Jesus tells him, if you are amazed at my seeing you under the fig tree, before I even met you, then you haven’t seen anything yet. You will see the heavens open up with the angels descending and ascending, sounding a lot like Genesis 28, where Jacob dreams of angels climbing up and down a ladder to heaven. This has long been seen as the connection between God and Israel, where the fugitive Jacob receives the message that he will father the nation of Israel, as his twelve sons become the origins of the twelve tribes.

So here Jesus is making the connection not just to Israel but to all creation, even as he refers to himself not as the son of God, but the Son of Man, but he is the connection that summons angels moving up and down that celestial Stairway to Heaven that now is no longer a ladder, but Jesus himself.

And our reading from the first book of Samuel this morning seems very strange at first, with all this calling back and forth. In fact, I almost left it out today and went to look for something else from the Old Testament, but I decided to look further. In an essay from a site called Working Preacher, the Reverend Dr. Beth Tanner says the following about these calls to Samuel:

“Throughout the Bible, God does not always choose the expected ones. Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and David were all unlikely choices. Jesus calls fishermen and laborers to serve as disciples instead of the priests and prophets of Jerusalem. Power and position in the church or community do not guarantee a similar place in God’s world. All, even outsiders, are given tasks in God’s kingdom.”

And as for Samuel to be heeding that call? She goes on to say something I can most certainly relate to:

“In speaking of their call, most people do not describe a major disruption in their lives. Instead, they speak of a quiet, slow awakening−perhaps to a life of service or an injustice that needs to be addressed. Like Samuel, they often tell about a period of uncertainty regarding what they are being called to do or be.”

No, it’s not necessarily a Road to Damascus kind of moment when one receives the call, and if anyone can ever attest to that, I can for sure.

But back to poor Samuel, what does God call him to do? To go out and begin his work as a prophet by delivering terrible bad news to old Eli, his mentor, that God is going to punish Eli’s entire family for the greed and sins of his sons. And that curse will follow not just the family of Eli, but the whole nation of Israel as they are defeated by the Philistines and the Ark of the Covenant is captured, thus setting the stage for decades of war and finally anointing Saul as a king and then later comes David and of course, Goliath.

But Samuel is a straight shooter and he never holds back on bad news if God has called for it, and there’s no shortage of bad news as Israel struggles on every side to survive. Even David’s heroic efforts will be scrutinized and criticized by Samuel’s judgements and prophecies as Israel begins a new phase in its history.

And going back to the image of those angels on Jacob’s Ladder now ascending and descending through Jesus, that’s an allegorical image that we just can’t escape. As Jesus says, it’s only through Him that we find the gates of heaven. It’s not through blind faith that we find the true message of Jesus, it’s through the deeper faith of belief in God’s love and grace of a savior, who constantly reminds us to treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves and that loving our neighbors is truly the most valuable commandment.

On this day before Martin Luther King’s birthday observance, let’s remember those thoughts, not just for tomorrow, but for every day as we honor Dr. King and his mighty accomplishments but as we move into a new and historic chapter of government administration even as we continue to struggle with our own health and wellness, as well as that of our economy, our community, and indeed our country.

And so, my sisters and brothers in faith, please know that I have shared these thoughts and words with you today by the love of the Father, the grace of the Son, and the healing power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


John Redman, CRE

Mobile: (914) 474-0722

Union Church

44 Balmville Rd, Newburgh NY 12550

Phone: (845) 562-0954 Fax: (845) 562-0955

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