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  • Rev. Peter Surgenor

October 18 Worship

Updated: Dec 2, 2020

Hello Union Church Presbyterians,

Worship this Sunday, October 18 will be hosted on Zoom with an option for in the sanctuary attendance (limited seating) We will share prayers and reflections.

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

October 18, 2020 10:30 am


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. For information visit


Food Pantry operates every other week. Next: Mon. Oct 26 and Wed. Oct. 28 from 9:30-11:30 am. Serving LOTS of people! If you would like to help, contact Kathy or Debby.

VIRTUAL Coffee Hour: 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 or website for access instructions. Questions? Call James at (301) 335-8677

Choral Music will precede the worship service beginning at 9:45 as people ‘tune in’ to the zoom service.



PRELUDE Andante in E flat Beethoven


Leader: Mighty King, lover of justice, you have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.

People: Extol the LORD our God; worship at God’s footstool. Holy is God!

Leader: Moses and Aaron were among God’s priests, Samuel also was among those who called on God’s name.

People: They cried to the LORD, and God answered them.

Leader: God spoke to them in the pillar of cloud;

People: they kept God’s decrees, and the statutes that God gave them.

Leader: O LORD our God, you answered them; you were a forgiving God to them, but an avenger of their wrongdoings.

Leader: Extol the LORD our God, and worship at God’s holy mountain; for the LORD our God is holy.

OPENING PRAYER Church of Scotland

‘Don’t look into the sun!’

we are told, for the light will hurt our eyes.

‘Don’t look at my face!’ God tells Moses,

for you will be overwhelmed.

Look at where God has been,

look at what God has done,

and bow down in worship,

for the awesome God of Abraham, Isaac and Moses

is present this day in this place and in your lives each day.


Gracious and merciful God, we are sorry that we seldom live up to Your expectations.

We are sorry that our promise to follow Your example and to share Your never-ending

love are too often promises made in vain.

So, forgive us, Lord.

We are ashamed that we fail You so often.

We are ashamed that we do not always follow in Your footsteps.

We ask You to guide us and set us on the right path.

When we are weak, make us strong.

When we are discouraged, encourage us.

When we take for granted all You have given us and do not share what we have with those who live in poverty, forgive us, Lord.

Remind us that everything we have comes from You and everything we do is done for the work and the glory of Your kingdom.

Please take some moments to lift up your own thoughts of confession. Amen.


As God's own people, be merciful in action, kindly in heart, humble in mind. Be always ready to forgive as freely as the Lord has forgiven you. And, above everything else, be loving and never forget to be thankful for what God has done for you. In Jesus Christ we are forgiven.



Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you,

O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.


OLD TESTAMENT Exodus 33:12-23

Let us listen to these words of Scripture from the 33rd chapter of Exodus verses 12-23

Moses said to the LORD, “See, you have said to me, ‘Bring up this people’; but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ Now if I have found favor in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favor in your sight.”

Consider too that this nation is your people. God said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

And Moses said to God, “If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here.

For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.”

The LORD said to Moses, “I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.”

Moses said, “Show me your glory, I pray.”

And God said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, ‘The LORD’; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” God said, “you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live.”

And the LORD continued, “See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; and while my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.”

May God add blessing to this reading of scripture.

NEW TESTAMENT Matthew 22:15-22

Listen also for these words of scripture from the 22nd chapter of Matthew verses 15-22

Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. So, they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?”

But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius.

Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?”

They answered, “The emperor's.”

Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's.”

When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

SERMON “Seen or Unseen” Rev. Peter Surgenor

(Text at the end of bulletin)


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




Lord, We bring to You now our prayers for others and for ourselves.

Lord we ask that You bless and guide Your church here in this community

and throughout the world, helping us to reach out to others,

sharing with them the good news of Christ

and standing with those who are most in need of our help, love, and support.

Guide us in our relationships with others, within our families,

with friends, neighbors, and those who we struggle to love or try to avoid.

Fill our homes and communities with the warmth of Your love,

may we learn to love and accept all.

Pour out Your Spirit into the world, bless those struggling with poverty and homelessness, evil and war.

Help us to reach out to those who are in need.

(Pray for those of this community whom we have mentioned and thought of this day)

Bless those who are ill at home or in hospital,

those who are feeling anxious or low,

feeling like they would rather just give up than live on.

May they know Your love and sense Your presence with them

and may we as a church reach out to them in their time of need.

Bless the leaders of nations and people.

Guide them in the decisions that they make,

ensuring they work hard and fight for the people they represent.

Lord, may we always sense Your presence in our lives and in the lives of others.

Transform us to be the people that You would have us be.

All of this we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen


Go out into the world in peace;

have courage;

hold on to what is good;

return no one evil for evil;

strengthen the fainthearted;

support the weak, and help the suffering;

honor all people;

love and serve the Lord,

rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,

the love of God,

and the communion of the Holy Spirit

be with you all. Amen.



Rev. Cathy Surgenor Rev. Peter Surgenor

(845) 216-4328 (914) 907-9685

Union Church

44 Balmville Rd, Newburgh NY 12550

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

SERMON TEXT Seen and Unseen Rev. Peter Surgenor

Exodus 33:12-23 and Matthew 22:15-22

Our Exodus passage this morning finds the Israelites uncomfortable as Moses is unseen. Moses is in conversation with God. Moses is not able to give the people reassurance or good counsel or a message from God.

Just to back up a bit. We remember that Moses is learning how to lead this expedition of Israelites through the wilderness toward the Promised Land. Moses is not sure so spends a lot of time in conversation with God while the Israelites get into mischief. Just before this passage comes the story of the Golden Idol – the people’s solution to Moses absence and a need for reassurance. They could not trust this unseen presence in conversation with Moses and needed a physical memento.

Moses is conversing with God in a Tent of Meeting which is set up a long distance from the main body of the Israelite camp, but which they can see in the distance. God appears in a cloud which can be seen from the camp but in which Moses cannot see God clearly.

There is seen evidence of God – the Cloud, the obscured image. But in the unseen is God.

Moses asks this age-old human question: How will we know that you continue to be with us? And more specifically – when will we know we have reached the end of this expedition?

Is that familiar (Are we there yet?).

Moses is expressing to God his need to “tell an eyewitness story” to the Israelites. I need to inspire by telling what I have seen. And with great compassion God replies, “Human beings cannot survive seeing my image”. A human dilemma – Moses needs to see God. Moses will not survive seeing God.

God being wiser than a human being has a solution. Go hide yourself in the cleft of this rock. Hide yourself deep in a c rack so that the bulk of the rock will protect you. God tells Moses that God will pass by while Moses is hiding and that the gentle hand of God (a small portion of God’s image) will protect Moses and signify when Moses can look out and see the back of God and not be harmed. And so that is what happens, and Moses has an eyewitness account of what he has seen to tell to the Israelites for inspiration.

Moses is just like all human beings. We want to see to believe. We want to see for ourselves. Just like the Israelites in the next chapter won’t believe the Commandments of God until they are engraved on tablets for their own eyes to see.

As a people of faith, we understand that we, like Moses need to be satisfied or encouraged by evidence of God’s passing. This often does not take much, spring flowers, fall leaves changing and falling. Falling in love, children, grandchildren, parents.

In this unusual wilderness time (we are here with no set finish date, no description of what the future will look like and danger all around us) – It feels like what the Israelites were going through.

When have you seen God at work in this world? When have you seen God at work in your own lives? When have you been an agent of God helping others see God? Does this search for evidence of God sustain you in this wilderness time? Or is optimism fading?

We have each found our own version of faith as a result of our experience of God’s presence in our lives. Having that original experience, it becomes easier to point to moments (large or small) that have continued to strengthen our faith.

Follow me through time to this little story in Matthew. This is the opposite of the experience of the Israelites in the wilderness. Here Jesus is among them preaching a story of forgiveness and healing many.

And yet, many people of faith at that time put so much reliance on their past experiences (what they had personally seen) that they could not recognize God’s being passing through their midst in the person Jesus.

They cannot unsee their past experiences to recognize God among them. Sure, there were some exceptions – Zaccheus, Matthew the gospel writer and those in need of healing. But here are the Pharisees of the Israelite faith trying to find evidence against Jesus.

Just like all these Biblical characters we learn and begin to believe on evidence we experience. But then we get trapped in that experience. The Pharisees and recruits from the disciples of John the Baptist are once again trying to get Jesus to incriminate himself. To get him to answer a question in front of witnesses which could be taken to court as evidence of guilt. They try to trap him because what they see does not align with their faith.

Jesus sees beyond the simple question and sees the depth of the danger coming in any direct answer to the question. One answer would admit loyalty to the occupying force – Rome and find condemnation by the Israelites. The other answer would be an open act of rebellion toward the occupying force – Rome.

So Jesus goes a third way to answer the question. Whose face is on the coin? He is asking them to admit to the complex nature of the world they were living in. The Israelites had reached the Promised Land and yet they were occupied by the Romans (not slaves like in Egypt, but subjects of a foreign power).

The Pharisees were speechless and went off shaking their heads. They could not integrate what they had just experienced (God’s presence) with their experience based belief.

Let’s get practical for a moment.

Human beings experience love for each other in a number of ways. The love of two individuals for each other that does not let them be apart from each other is not seen by the outside world. Until there is a moment of recognition that they are always together! This love is felt, experienced, but not seen. In our culture this love becomes seen when a ring or two are exchanged and worn on a particular finger. In other cultures, the recognition of this relationship that is seen takes other forms. So, our practice is not universal!

We need to be always asking ourselves – How will my mind be impressed by the unseen but felt evidence of God’s passing? This year this community of faith has a different understanding of the faces of hunger and the call to feed those neighbors.

But today we are also challenged to consider how people of a different skin color are treated differently. This could just as easily be the story of the struggle of our immigrant ancestors who arrived in this country in the 1800’s and early 1900’s. The spoke with distinct accents or even different languages. There were tough struggles of ethnic integration.

How do we recognize God’s passing among us today? Cathy and I found ourselves at the Newburgh Library courtyard for the ceremony recognizing the installation of the Harriet Tubman statue. (thanks for your contribution, Chuck Thomas). Politicians spoke, poets read, singers sang and dancers danced. The statue and this celebration reminded all of us present that God was present in the 1860’s in Harriet’s life. God inspired her to escape and then to risk returning 13 more times to rescue slaves and families. Harriet continued to be active and was part of the movement to push for Women’s Right to Vote.

It is easy to look back and see God’s presence in her life. But we need to ask what changed for the next 100 years? Laws changed, but not practices. Martin Luther King was inspired by God to speak out about this continuing injustice. People listened, saw evidence of God passing. Laws changed but not practices.

2020 How do we see the hand of God in the ongoing conversation about race an equity? What is the evidence of God passing that changes our behavior as individuals and as communities.

How does the thinking of John Newton in 1799 when he wrote Amazing Grace-

How do the actions of Harriet Tubman in the 1860’s

How do the words and actions of Martin Luther King Jr, Congressman Lewis and many others

How does all this evidence of injustice seen challenge us to recognize the unseen presence of God among us. How do we recognize the back of God even in these troubling times?

We have been living in our own cleft of the rock this year (working to keep safe and comfortable). Can we recognize that we are protected as Moses was so that we can understand Gods new directions and tell the story as we have seen the possibility.

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