September 25 Worship
Updated: Sep 26
Hello Union Church Presbyterians,
Worship this Sunday, September 25 will be in-person and streamed on YouTube to view at home. We will share prayers, songs, and reflections.
YouTube broadcast will begin at 10:25 AM, https://www.youtube.com/user/NewburghPresby
ORDER OF WORSHIP
September 25, 2022 10:30 AM
SIXTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
USHERS today are Bob Beams and Sue Sloat. If you would like to usher, contact Dan Olson.
FELLOWSHIP HOSTS today are Jeff, Debby, and Paul. Thank you to everyone who signed up to host.
CHRISTIAN ED: Thank you all for your generous donations for the Back-to-School supply drive. We now have plenty of crayons, pencils, and glue sticks.
We still need: pencil cases, erasers, tissues, earbuds, scissors, 1”-2” binders.
FALL FAIR: LAST DAY for donation is Sunday, Sept 25. Please label clothes for “Fall Fair” and drop off in the nursery. NO electronics and only small furniture.
Volunteers needed to sort clothes in the Nursery and sell raffle tickets, contact Jeff Bousche
CHOIR: We are looking for volunteers to help lead the congregational singing. No rehearsal or robes. If you're interested or have questions, contact Nancy Thomas
OUTREACH: PHOTO DIRECTORY
Dan and Karen Olson will begin photographing those who wish to participate in October, after Fall Fair.
DEACONS MEETING Sun, Oct 9 after service.
FOOD PANTRY: NEXT OPEN Monday, Sept 26 and Wednesday, Sept 28 from 9:30-11:30 AM. Serving LOTS of people! If you would like to help, contact Kathy or Debby.
ORDER OF WORSHIP
If you have individual prayer requests, please write them on prayer cards in the pews and bring them up or give them to an usher during the prelude.
**Kindly stand if you are able
PRELUDE “O Trinity of Blessed Light” plainchant melody arr. by Herbert Colvin
WELCOME and ANNOUNCEMENTS
CALL TO WORSHIP (Adapted from Psalm 91)
Leader: You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, PEOPLE: will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.” Leader: For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence; PEOPLE: he will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. Leader: You will not fear the terror of the night, or the arrow that flies by day, PEOPLE: Those who love me, I will deliver; I will protect those who know my name. Leader: When they call to me, I will answer them;
PEOPLE: I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honor them.
O God, in each changing season you give us light and grace. In the bounty of the harvest, we see your generosity and concern. We rejoice in your constant care, for you are faithful in love for all people, offering the world salvation through Jesus Christ. Amen.
**OPENING HYMN On Eagle's Wings (See Insert)
MESSAGE FOR CHILDREN OF ALL AGES
CALL TO CONFESSION
Our God is not a concept, since the true presence of God defies all of our imaginations, descriptions, and definitions. Let us come before God in confession of that knowledge.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Gracious God, we confess that our words and notions about you often detract and diminish your indescribable dimensions when our attempts at understanding tend to reduce you to a larger version of ourselves. Remind us once more, by the beauty of creation and the spirit of your love that you exceed all our images, ideas, and concepts. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen. (a moment for silent personal confession)
ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS
Friends in Faith, our Lord watches over us, guides us, and always forgives us. In the name of Jesus, Amen.
**HYMN OF PRAISE “Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life” Blue #408
**PASSING OF THE PEACE
**AFFIRMATION OF FAITH, APOSTLES CREED (Traditional)
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary, Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, dead, and buried. He descended into hell; The third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; The Holy catholic Church, the Communion of Saints; The Forgiveness of sins; The Resurrection of the body, And the Life everlasting. Amen
PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION
Living God, help us so to hear your holy Word that we may truly understand; that, understanding, we may believe, and, believing, we may follow in all faithfulness and obedience, seeking your honor and glory in all that we do; through Christ our Lord, Amen.
OLD TESTAMENT Isaiah 40: 27-31 Cathy McCarty
NEW TESTAMENT 1 Timothy 6: 6-12
GOSPEL Luke 16: 14-17
SERMON Where Do We Go from Here? John Redman, CRE
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE & THE LORD’S PRAYER
And Lord we pray for those in our own hearts whose names you already know, for their own healing and comfort, in your name and that of our redeemer Jesus Christ, who taught to pray, saying:
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.
OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS
We can hoard the gifts with which you bless us, God of generosity, or we can share them with others. May what we offer in these moments be the very blessing, the very hope, the very peace others need. This we pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
OFFERTORY “In Christ There is No East or West” setting by Healey Willan
**DOXOLOGY Traditional, Blue #592
PRAYER OF THANKS
We thank you, our Lord for those gifts to us that we send to you for your work and ours in congregation, community, and culture. Guide us in good use as we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.
**HYMN OF PARTING “O God of Bethel, by Whose Hand” Blue #269
Leader: You are a blessed people. PEOPLE: We will go to be a blessing in the world. Leader: You are the face of Jesus.
PEOPLE: We will go to be love and compassion to all. Leader: You are the family of God.
PEOPLE: We will go to serve our sisters and brothers wherever we may find them.
POSTLUDE “God is Here!” Cyril V. Taylor, 1941
(In honor of the life and legacy of Queen Elizabeth II)
SERMON TEXT Where Do We Go from Here? Part 2
What do you think?
What, oh what to do? And please don’t anyone get the impression that any decisions about our future as a congregation have been made, or that anything has gone beyond the phase of ‘what if,’ or ‘how about?’
First let’s look at some facts about our Presbytery so that you can see we are not alone in our concerns; in fact it’s a pattern across most all of our congregations. First, of the 73 congregations in Hudson River Presbytery the majority of them, or 61 percent, have fewer than 100 members. You can see that it says 76 congregations, but that is from the beginning of this year, and we are now at 73. Looking at the next slide, the two categories of 50 to 100 and 100- to 200 are about half the number of our congregations, still a healthy size, in line with our current size here at Union with 140 members. When we look at the average attendance versus the number of members, it is about 37 percent of membership. In Orange County, we have 17 percent of total membership in the Presbytery but 20 percent of the attendance, so we are ahead in that respect. The average attendance for Westchester is almost precisely their percentage of Presbytery membership, at 58 to 59 percent, although they average a 38 percent attendance of membership while here in Orange County it’s only 26 percent. And here at Union, our in-person percentage is about 24 per cent, but when we add our live stream attendance to it, the figure rises to 39 percent.
Now you may say, that’s better than the Presbytery average and it is, but how about the other 61 percent? Where are they, and we know we are not likely to ever see more than half of those at any time again.
Our Scripture readings for today speak of God’s faithfulness to us, that he fulfills his promise to us when we fulfill ours in faith. And that pattern of the ratio of attendance to overall membership has likely been the same for at least the past thirty years and perhaps for longer. There is nothing pejorative about the idea that our lives are very different these days and church attendance no longer has the social urgency, or the lifestyle focus that it once had.
And there is one other item we need to look at and ponder. The average age of a member in our Presbytery is 55 or older. It’s an even 50-50 split by age distribution for ages 56 and over, and up to 55, and in the case of our congregation, we actually skew a bit older than that, with 61 percent of our pledging units over age 70, and not surprisingly, about 63 percent of total pledge income from that group.
Statistically, we are better off than many other congregations, but not by much, and we must still confront the reality of expenses increasing faster than any increase in commitment and giving.
And, as I said last Sunday, please don’t get me wrong here. This is not all gloom and doom, and I am not here as your pastor to complain about balance sheets or income over expense, or even about attendance over giving. I am here to help all of us find a pathway to the future for our congregation, reflected by the grace of God and the undying message of Jesus. And it’s a future that serves us all, from the youngest to the oldest.
In our Gospel reading today, Jesus is arguing with the Pharisees, who see money as the root goal and of course Jesus doesn’t agree. And he proceeds to tell them that nothing can change God’s law, despite their assertions that worldly power and riches can do it. It’s been said lately that in order to survive, we need to look at running our congregation’s life like a business, while others disagree most vehemently. The point is, a church needs to be run like a charitable habitation of souls, not as a business. That’s not to say that we ignore all ideas of finance and how best to navigate our mission with the resources we have. But the bottom line, to borrow a business term, is that we operate in line with God’s balance sheet, and that what we take from this place of faith is at the very least what we have put into it, if not more – much more.
Of course, we can’t quantify faith or good works, nor should we try. Nobody is keeping a journal or a ledger of what we have done versus what should be debited against our souls at the Gates of Heaven, or do you really think that St. Peter is going to do that for you? Doesn’t he already have enough to do, and frankly, can’t you audit your own good works enough to pass through the Pearly Gates in good conscience? Why not? It’s you and your own judgement, what could be more objective than that? And God doesn’t need to ask St. Peter for a column from his ledger on you, he knows it already, just as he knows the Pharisees that Jesus argues with, and nothing will pass away without God’s knowledge. And from our passage from Isaiah, nothing can stop us with the faith and love of God within us, raising us up as on the wings of eagles, where we shall never be weary, even though we are no longer young.
You may have heard me quote the Rev. Erik Parker before. He’s a Lutheran pastor in Manitoba, Canada, who bills himself as an ‘iPhone preacher in a typewriter church.’ Parker says:
“In the past few years, when people aren’t working and taking care of families and households, how people spend their precious leisure time has dramatically changed what people are willing to participate in. And we have not even begun to sort out this pandemic world and its realities. Still, in the days, weeks, months, and years to come, a lot of what we will be called to do is to let go of the idea that people *should* come to church and begin to articulate again why following Jesus is a life changing thing for us.”
These days, people may find it hard to spend the precious leisure hour or two in church, when that same time could be spent watching kids on the soccer or baseball field. But how does that time spent in whatever venue shape your life? How does it affect how you see yourself and your family? What might draw you closer to a new and greater importance of faith in your life? And what can we as a congregation do to spread that awareness to our fellow Presbyterians whom we don’t see here?
All easy questions, with not an easy answer among them, but that won’t stop us from asking even more and still searching for answers in the mystery of faith that is the Love of the Parent, the Grace of the Child, and the ever-healing power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
John Redman, CRE
Mobile: (914) 474-0722
44 Balmville Rd, Newburgh NY 12550
Phone: (845) 562-0954 Fax: (845) 562-0955