July 4th Service

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~Service for the Lord’s Day~
July 4th, 2021
10:00 a.m.

Worship Leaders:
Rev. Joan Priest, Worship Leader
 Lee Priest, Guitar
Elder Jacob Priest, Liturgist
            Maria Janasz, Liturgist

 Jeff Snider, Recording Operations
Diane Snider, Usher/Greeter



PRELUDE                                                       Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing
CALL TO WORSHIP     One:  From God comes the wonder of creation.
ALL:  We will worship God the Creator.
One:  From God comes healing for the brokenness we see.
ALL:  We will worship God our Redeemer.
One:  From God comes the strength to face the new day.
ALL:  We worship God our Sustainer.  Come, let us worship God together.   
OPENING PRAYER                                                                                                                                                                                                                                *OPENING HYMN:     #630                            Fairest Lord Jesus Fairest Lord Jesus,
Ruler of all nature,
O thou of God to earth come down,
thee will I cherish,
thee will I honor,
thou, my soul’s glory, joy, and crown. Fair are the meadows,
fairer still the woodlands,
robed in the blooming garb of spring.
Jesus is fairer;
Jesus is purer,
who makes the woeful heart to sing.Fair is the sunshine,
fairer still the moonlight,
and all the twinkling, starry host.
Jesus shines brighter;
Jesus shines purer,
than all the angels heaven can boast. Beautiful Savior,
Ruler of the nations,
Son of God and Son of Man!
Glory and honor,
praise, adoration,
now and forevermore be thine!
   PRAYER OF CONFESSION                                 Gracious God, we call to you and name you as eternal, ever-present, and boundless in love, yet there are times, O God, when we fail to recognize you in the daily-ness of our lives. Sometimes shame clenches tightly around our hearts, and we hide our true feelings. Sometimes fear makes us small, and we miss the chance to speak from our strength. Sometimes doubt invades our hopefulness, and we degrade our own wisdom.
     Holy God, in the daily round from sunrise to sunset, remind us again of your holy presence hovering near us and in us. Free us from shame and self-doubt. Help us to see you in the moment-by-moment possibilities to live honestly, to act courageously, and to speak from our wisdom. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

# 581                                                                                                                                   GLORIA PATRIHEARING 
HENCE WE PUT IT AT THE CENTER OF OUR WORSHIP.FIRST READING                                                                                                                       Psalm 111                                         
                                                                   The Word of the Lord.    
       Thanks be to God.  Prayer for Illumination                                                                                                                                  SECOND READING                                                                                                      Mark 1:21-28                                                                        
The word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.                                                                                                        SERMON                Teaching with  Authority

A DEA officer stopped at a ranch in Texas and talked with the old rancher.  He told the rancher, “I need to inspect your ranch for illegally grown drugs.”  The rancher said, “Okay, but don’t go in that field over there…..”, as he pointed out the location.
     The DEA officer verbally exploded saying, ” Mister, I have the authority of the Federal Government with me!” Reaching into his rear pants pocket, he removed his badge and proudly displayed it to the rancher.  “See this badge?! This badge means I have the authority to go wherever I wish…. On any land!! No questions asked or answers given!! Have I made myself clear……do you understand ?!!”
     The rancher nodded politely, apologized, and went about his chores.
     A short time later, the old rancher heard loud screams, looked up, and saw the DEA officer running for his life, being chased by the rancher’s big huge Santa Gertrudis bull……With every step the bull was gaining ground on the officer, the officer was clearly terrified as he tried to reach safety.   
     The rancher threw down his tools, ran to the fence and yelled at the top of his lungs….. “Your badge, show him your BADGE!”    Some authority.
     While this past year I only officiated at one wedding, my own child’s.  Yeah, Lee and Maria!  A year ago I officiated at 5 weddings.  The one thing I am required to say in the Marriage Ceremony is not the vows, or the prayers, or the scripture readings, or the blessings, or even “you may kiss the bride”, but the words, “by the authority given unto me as a minister in the Presbyterian Church and by the State of CT, I proclaim”.  Authority given to me by my ordination.  Authority given to Dale just last week at his ordination.  So, today, let’s talk about authority.
     First, let’s go back in time.  It was a quiet place in the midst of a hot and noisy Palestinian city.  There was probably a fountain in the center courtyard, with wind chimes dinging in the background.  It probably had a guest house for visiting Rabbi’s and a school for children and adults.  On the Sabbath people dressed in their best clothing and came to worship.  They sang and thanked God and implored God’s help.  Jesus was becoming famous, so he was invited to preach at the synagogue.  But no one could anticipate what would happen next. 
    Today I am stepping back a bit in the Gospel of Mark to its very beginning.  Now the Gospel of Mark begins at a breathtaking pace – if you look, in just 20 verses, 20 verses, John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, Jesus was baptized, tempted in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights, begins his ministry by calling the first disciples, and he’s already teaching in the temple, and we’re not even out of the first chapter!  As one writer suggests, when reading the Gospel of Mark, “one is reminded of a child recounting some amazing tale, piling fact upon fact, as if the whole world depended upon it—which, of course, to Mark it did.” (1)
    Jesus’ first act of ministry was to teach and he never stopped teaching throughout his entire ministry.  That’s why he was always referred to as Rabbi, which means teacher.  And the people, who heard him teach, were shocked and amazed.  It’s too bad that Mark doesn’t tell us what Jesus taught here, but that’s because it wasn’t his words that mattered, it was the fact that he spoke from his heart, from the heart of God within him, not citing various spiritual authorities who taught him certain things to say.  He spoke with the authority of God.  And this was something the people had never heard before.      
     Let me ask you this:  Who was or is your favorite teacher and why?  Sid Townsend was mine.  Mr. Sidney Townsend was my High School Orchestra Teacher.  He was a wiry short round guy with more energy than most first graders, and I loved him.  I was never a very good violin player – especially with my long fingers and curved spine, but I loved to play, why?  Mr. Townsend.  He always made you feel special, a significant part of the group, giving us confidence and pride at a time when most of us had very little, and actually made the orchestra a pretty popular place to be.  He made learning fun – we learned classical, modern and sometimes ridiculous pieces of music – we played for children in elementary schools, in small groups in people’s homes, and for every musical.  One day he let us listen to his own jazz group – a bunch of middle-aged men like Mr. Townsend, playing away – and we sat in amazement as he played the Bass Guitar better than I’d ever heard anyone play that day or since, for music permeated his entire life.  Mr. Townsend was a great teacher who taught with authority. 
     All teachers have power, probably more than they realize, but not many teachers have authority.  Teachers have the power to create, change and open up new worlds to their students, but they also have the power to hurt and damage the minds and hearts of their students, creating a feeling within us of helplessness, ignorance and fear.  But great teachers teach with authority.  To teach with authority means the teacher loves what they are teaching so much, that it permeates all they do.  To teach with authority is to teach with the same heart and mind as the student they are teaching.  It isn’t about what they know but how they engage us, want to develop in us the best we can be and know, through what they are teaching us.
     This is how Jesus taught.  Plus, his words were always followed by action because for Jesus, teaching and healing went hand in hand.  So right in the middle of teaching his lesson in the synagogue, a man cries out to him – “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?” 
     Jews at the time of Jesus believed that people could be possessed or dominated by unclean or evil spirits, demons, and that all diseases, mental and physical were the result of punishment by God for something the person had done.  And back then, people with mental and physical diseases were feared, oppressed, and forbidden to be a part of the community in any way – we wonder how this man even got into the temple!  But Jesus wasn’t afraid of disease, mental or physical, and spent a lot of his time healing people of their disease, all that separated them from God and their community, all that ailed them.  When Jesus healed, he paid close attention, not only to the person’s physical symptoms but also to what was inside – to their faith, the whole person.   
     Now Jesus expels the man’s unclean spirit or whatever possessed him, without the spells or rituals used back then – he simply states, “be quiet and come out”!  “Have you come to destroy that which possesses us, that which turns us away from God and others?”  “You bet I have!”  Jesus uses his own authority given by God right from the very beginning – and heals.    Notice he doesn’t identify his title, a badge, or where his authority comes from – it is his “fame” that spread throughout the countryside, because the healings of Jesus were a symbol of liberation to the people of all that oppressed them. 
      Jesus used the ability to strip the unclean spirit from the host, from this man.  And this caused the spirits to lose all authority.  He didn’t eliminate the disease, eliminate the oppression, he denied its authority as a power to hold over the people.  It no longer defined who they are.   His teaching was not just deliberate, it was declarative, declaring facts he knew to be true.  Jesus healed on the Sabbath because he valued people over religious laws, he healed the ones no one would touch with a ten-foot pole – the unclean, mentally ill, tax collectors, prostitutes, foreigners, widows, even children – because he valued people over traditions. 
     When the people then ask each other, “what is this”?  They are really asking, how did he do it – what power and authority does his words possess that with just saying them, this man is made clean and whole again?  How?  By his God-given authority.    
     While we may no longer believe in demons or unclean spirits, we know things that can possess us. Depression, addiction, disease, loss, grief, sorrow.  We know disease, mental and physical disease as well as those things that overpower and consume us.  In fact, I think it’s one of the reasons why we come here, to receive strength to endure, embrace and maybe even conquer our own demons or that which possesses us and separates us from God and others.  And Jesus meets us here to challenge and encourage us, to renew and move us, and as our Psalmist states, and meet the one who is faithful and just, full of grace and mercy, wisdom and understanding, and will feed our hearts and souls.
    So, what are your demons?  What is it that possesses you or consumes you, and keeps you from fully enjoying this life given by God?  Is it a fear of losing your job, or becoming involved in a new relationship, or facing a past experience; is it failure, or the unknown?  Is it anxiety over money, status, or the welfare of your own children?  Is it accepting your own physical or mental state, what must change, what you must let go?
     If we want to learn and be healed just like the man in the synagogue, there are a few things we must do and the first is to be honest with ourselves.  Stop pretending everything is fine when it isn’t; confront our problems head on, no matter how scared we are.  And, get help – seek doctors, research medicine and technology available, and recognize it as another place where God works miracles. 
     And while science and doctors ask what, what is wrong; psychology asks why, why you feel as you do and that too is important.  Healing, wholeness also may come from counselors, analysts, therapists or psychiatrists, for they can help us work with reconciliation, suppression, forgiveness, and acceptance.  And while doctors ask what, and psychology asks why; it is faith that asks who, who do you want to be closer to – God, others? 
    Here may be the hardest part for some.  To learn and be healed we must be open – open to faith and the healing power of God; be open to the touch of others, the touch of God, the power of prayer.  Anxiety, fear, and disease may never fully disappear, but the power of love and faith, can give us the hope and courage to embrace whatever comes our way.  And Jesus wants us to continue his teaching and healing by being a church that embraces others in that love.
      A minister in Georgia tells this story – I so wish I had a great southern accent – you’ll just have to imagine it.  He states: “I have a friend. He’s a man in his late 60’s. Rugged, burly, brilliant guy. He’s always reminded me a little of the Marlborough Man. He studied at a prestigious university in the East some years ago, and then he moved to Texas to work on his doctorate. But somewhere along the way he became addicted to cocaine–just tumbled into that dark hole. Lost his family, lost his place in graduate school, lost big pieces of himself. But somehow, he washed up on the shores of a good church. And when he did, he was so fragile–he looked like he’d been “rode hard and put up wet”–as they say in Texas. But the folks in that church put their arms around that man and slowly he started to heal, and eventually, miraculously, even reunited with his wife and children.
     The minister continues, “we had this couple in our home and the man began to talk about where his life was going. “I want to believe,” he said, “that my best days aren’t behind me, and that my life can still count, can still make a difference for God.” He sat at our table with his head in his hands. “I just can’t help but feel like I’ve blown all of my best chances,” he said.
     That’s when his wife, who’s just this wonderful, middle-aged bohemian Texas flower-child kind of woman, reached over and took his hand and said, “Baby, you’ve got to take your sticky fingers off that steering wheel. If God could yank Jesus out of a grave, I figure he can make something beautiful out of busted parts.” And I tell you what –if I live to be a hundred and ten, I don’t expect to hear the gospel better articulated than that.” (2) Me either. 
     Jesus, the great teacher, taught with authority and had the power from God to heal.  He taught with authority because he loved what he taught and taught what he loved, God within him.  He knew it was just what the people back then and us now need to hear, need to be taught, that God loves us no matter what – that if we just take our sticky fingers off the steering wheel every once and awhile, and let God guide us and others help us, we too might be healed.  In the name of the Holy and Awesome One whose words and workings astounded the synagogue congregation in Capernaum and who continues to astound us each and every day.   Amen. 
 Penington-Russell, The Rev. Julie.  “Our First Calling”, www.day1.net.Willimon, Dean William. “The Teacher” Duke University Chapel.

*Apostles Creed
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.

TODAY.                                                                                           * HYMN:#817                                    We Walk By Faith and Not by SightWe walk by faith and not by sight;
with gracious words draw near,
O Christ, who spoke as none e’er spoke:
“My peace be with you here.” We may not touch your hands and side,
nor follow where you trod;
but in your promise we rejoice
and cry, “My Lord and God!” Help then, O Lord, our unbelief;
and may our faith abound
to call on you when you are near
and seek where you are found. And when our life of faith is done,
in realms of clearer light
may we behold you as you are,
with full and endless sight.                                                               PRESENTING OUR TITHES & OFFERINGS         (If you’re joining us via Zoom,
we invite you to make your offering online.
Thank you to everyone for your generous support!)
*Doxology #606                                                                                                         OLD HUNDREDTH 
     Praise God, From whom All blessings Flow
     Praise God, All Creatures Here below
     Praise God, above ye heavenly host
     Creator, Christ and Holy Ghost.  Amen.
 Gracious God, receive and bless our lives that we may we be devoted to sharing the love of Christ with all whom we meet.  Receive and bless these gifts that they may be dedicated to the glory of your kingdom.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

   *CLOSING HYMN:# 338                      O Beautiful for Spacious Skies    
 O beautiful for spacious skies,
for amber waves of grain,
for purple mountain majesties
above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee,
and crown thy good with *brotherhood
from sea to shining sea! O beautiful for heroes proved
in liberating strife,
who more than self their country loved,
and mercy more than life!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw;
confirm thy soul in self-control,
thy liberty in law! O beautiful for patriot dream
that sees beyond the years
thine alabaster cities gleam,
undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
till all success be nobleness