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  • Rev. Cathy Surgenor

September 27 Worship

Updated: Dec 2, 2020

Hello Union Church Presbyterians,

Worship this Sunday, September 27 will be hosted on Zoom. We will share prayers, songs, and reflections.

Next Sunday, October 4 will see us hosting a Zoom based worship service and social distanced in the Church Sanctuary with limited attendees. Watch for more information early next week. Starting on October 4 worship will begin at 10:30 am (Zoom opening at 10:15).

Take a moment and follow the steps above before Sunday as Zoom will need to download files for worship. If you are familiar with Zoom, relax and prepare for worship on Sunday morning.

The Zoom meeting will open at 9:45 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.

The bulletin is attached and posted on the church website,


Union Church, Newburgh NY

September 27, 2020 10:00 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.


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

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.

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


PRELUDE Toccata in E minor Margaret Small

CALL TO WORSHIP Psalm 25 John Safran

Leader: To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul. People: Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous. Leader: Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. People: Lead us in your truth, and teach us, for you are the God of our salvation; for you we wait all day long. Leader: Be mindful of your mercy, O LORD, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. People: Good and upright is the LORD; therefore God instructs sinners in the way.


Lord our God, we are still in the wilderness and we come together seeking your wisdom. We hunger and thirst for security and a clear path, for we have neither compass nor map. Instruct us Lord, as you taught our ancestors, so that we may follow your way in your creation.


Lord, we are on a long journey where the familiar has changed somehow. Each new day confronts us with a new challenge for which we feel unprepared. We grow weary of adjusting and we long for the old normal when at least we knew what to expect. Anxiety bleeds into our thoughts and causes us to stumble about. Center us and cause us to see and repent of the ways in which we wasted our time and resources on things that did not truly bring life to your people. Let this wilderness be a time of formation when we learn to become your people, trusting in you and your path. May we become a nation, a people who rely on your guidance. Please take a moment for silent prayer. Amen.

ASSURANCE OF PARDON 2 Chronicals 7:14

God assures us from of old “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” So then, know that if we are willing to turn and, in our hearts, and minds and actions do turn, we are forgiven. Amen.






New Testament Philippians 2:1-13 John Safran

Old Testament Exodus 17:1-7 Rev. Cathy Surgenor

SERMON Feeling Lost Even as We Are Being Made Whole Rev. Cathy Surgenor

HYMN It Is Well with My Soul


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




Death and the fear of dying seem to encompass us O God. The pandemic and cancer and rage seem ever before us. Walk with us through this dark valley as you walked with us through two world wars and a dozen smaller armed conflicts. We have already lost nearly half as many Americans as we did in World War II to this silent killer, Covid. Bring us together so that we may see each other through this difficult time. With you we can abide and be comforted. (Review of names of those for whom we pray.)

Response: Comfort and strengthen them O Lord in whom we trust.


CHORAL BENEDICTION The Blessing The Moody Church Children's Choir



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 Feeling Lost Even as We Are Being Made Whole

Exodus 17:1-7

From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” So, Moses cried out to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” The Lord said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

Feeling Lost Even as God Makes Us Whole

In one sense this is a hard text for us to grapple with on a gut level. How many of us have experienced thirst such as the Israelites experienced here? WE feel deprived when we are occasionally asked to ration our water, take 3-minute showers, not water our yards. Not having safe water to drink has become more of a local issue recently. But have we experienced the parched throat, cracked lips, muscle cramps, children growing listless, animals dying.

Pause and think about those who, in our own time, are crossing deserts trying to reach a promised land. A 2018 report stated that 6,600 Africans had died over the previous five years, most while crossing the Sahara Desert toward Europe. The study noted that these numbers are “just the tip of the iceberg.”

There is a long desert terrain along our border with Mexico. Last year 800 people died trying to cross into the US. Since 1994 the number is 10,000. For these refugees, this Exodus story is about their lived reality. They hear it at that gut level.

Today’s scripture describes how Moses came again to Mt Horeb, the same mountain where Moses had first met God in the flames of a burning bush. This is still early in the wilderness journey. The people are still looking backward to what they had left behind. It looks better and better. You can hear them saying to each other, “We were beaten and forced into hard labor. But at least there was water to drink. At least there was something to eat. At least we knew what to expect!” They were used to being slaves. They were still mentally attached to that unhealth relationship. They had a slave mentality. In order to become a nation, they needed to let go of that unhealthy attachment and form a strong bond with Someone who cared deeply about their wellbeing. Someone who loved them.

Our reading today asks Five questions:

The people are desperate and turn to Moses, not God. Moses responds to them.

Why do you quarrel with me? Moses points out that he is just a human like them. God brought them out of Egypt. God provided manna. Why do you quarrel with the Lord?

The people react: “Why did YOU bring us out here to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”

Moses pleads with God “What shall I do with this people?”

Finally, the whole argument is summed up, “Is the Lord with us or not?”

The Israelites are asking “Why are we experiencing this pain, fear, anger, grief, doubt, depression, helplessness, despair? This thirst!

How many of us have experienced times when we have asked those questions? We can call them wilderness times. When we lose someone we love, especially if we weren’t expecting it. If they were young, healthy, active. We cry out “Why?” When a mother or father whose child is murdered, and no one is held accountable. Why?! Despair can turn to rage. (We have seen that rage on our television screens.) Moses experienced that rage turned on him for he cried out that the people were ready to stone him!

If something happens to our own health that changes our present and our future, we are thrown for a time into that pit of despair. Why did this happen to me? How can I go on? We can get stuck right there.

If someone we trusted with our lives and future betrays us – spouse, partner, parent, we are thrown into a pit. Why did this happen to me? How could you do this to me? If you did this than who can I trust? And also, How could I have been so blind, why am I such a fool? I can’t even trust myself. A deep pit. And yet, for future happiness to have a chance, we have to learn to trust again.

We know that these first reactions can create ways of thinking, mind sets that warp not only our own lives but the lives of those around us. If we aren’t aware of mind sets we can even pass them on to our own children, even generations. If we don’t take the time to process what has happened to us. To grieve. To acknowledge the hurt. To name it. Perhaps in a journal. Perhaps with a counselor. To share our story with others. To ask for help. To accept help and allow healing so that our damaged past does not damage our present and our future, and our children’s future.

Sometimes what we need is wilderness – a place where we can breathe, rest – grief and rage can be exhausting and Sleep can be a healing escape. We also need a place, a space, where we can focus on the crisis at hand. Some of us have found that space in a physical wilderness. Spending time away from civilization to center ourselves, test ourselves. My grandson just completed a 12-day course in the mountains of Montana. He came home more confident and with new friends. His mom had done a 5 week course during her college years that turned her life around – gave her a sense of confidence and sense of direction. Certainly we know that we can get a sense of God’s presence away from all the distractions of this modern life. The first time Moses fled into the wilderness he had that time to ponder and reflect and begin again, starting a new life.

In an article entitled “The Meaning of the Wilderness” Catholic theologian Juliana Weber writes: “All suffering, abuse, family conflicts, confusion, and other pains in this life can bring us into a spiritual (if not physical) wilderness where we encounter God. Ultimately, this means that suffering has a purpose, and that a life in which there appears to be nothing but suffering can have the deepest meaning of all.”

But there is something even deeper going on here. A huge group of slave families is being transformed into a nation that trusts an invisible God.

The Wilderness itself is testing them. Where, in the emptiness, they can do almost nothing for themselves. Where they find themselves calling out to God as a last resort. They are at their wits end. And it is then that they are willing to let God be God. Be still and know that I am God. In our reading today Moses turns to God and says “What shall I do? Not how shall I get water – but “What shall I do with this people??”

And God answers – Take the tool that I gave you – the staff by which you freed the people – remember? Go ahead of them but take some elders as witnesses. You will see me where you encountered me before – Remember? At Mt. Horeb. Strike the rock on which I stand – as you struck the Red Sea. And Moses believes, gets up and acts – doing what God instructs. Water comes pouring out of the rock – a river of water -enough for all. And they camp and rest there and are content for that time. But Moses names the place Meribah – reminding the people that they had quarreled with God and tested God. God had been gracious to them, patient with them. Met their need abundantly. But again and again the people would forget, get frustrated, angry and defensive.

It was not the last time the Israelites quarreled with God. Forgot God and got into trouble. Frequently God punished them. But God did not abandon them. This is the story of Exodus and much of the Hebrew Testament.

Juliana Weber explains “Through a group process of remembrance, Israel did exactly what is required to overcome an insecure attachment. (slavery) She developed a coherent narrative to explain God’s treatment of her as one integral whole including laws, events, the origins of the universe, and the ultimate purpose of creation.”

Can WE truly trust God to be with us through all that we have endured? Can we trust that God is for us? Can we trust with Jeremiah when we read, “The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” Jeremiah 31:3. Do we believe him when he writes “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29: 11.

We don’t know what the future months and years hold for us. Chaos and fires and rising seas may increase. We certainly don’t know where the Church will be in 40 years. In the midst of this, can we trust that God’s love for us is everlasting and beyond our understanding. If so let us surrender to it, rest in it and then act upon it. Amen.

Note for more information on one explanation of the evidence for this scripture text you can go to

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