St. Andrew Presbyterian Church Zoom Recording and SermonSERVICE FOR THE LORD’S DAY
22ND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST / ALL SAINTS’
Elder Dale Green, Worship Leader
Communion Leader, Rev Shannan Vance-Ocampo – Executive Presbyter
Mr. David Warfield, Director of Music Ministry
Elder, Bill Smith Liturgist
November 1, 2020
10:00 AM Elder Dale Green, Worship Leader
To View the Zoom Recording Click Here
GATHERING WE PREPARE OURSELVES FOR WORSHIP BY PASSING THE PEACE OF CHRIST, ACKNOWLEDGING WHO WE ARE,
AND RECEIVING THE ASSURANCE OF GOD’S GRACE.PRELUDE “ Chorale Prelude on ‘Nettleton” Charles Callahan
GREETING & ANNOUNCEMENTS
MOMENT FOR STEWARDSHIP Bill Smith
CALL TO WORSHIP From Romans 12 and Psalm 51
I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God,
Which is our spiritual act of worship.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds
So that we may discern what is the will of God — what is good and acceptable and perfect. Create in us a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within us.
* HYMN 320 ” The Church of Christ in Every Age ” WAREHAM
The church of Christ, in every age, beset by change but Spirit led,
must claim and test its heritage and keep on rising from the dead.
Across the world, across the street, the victims of injustice cry
for shelter and for bread to eat, and never live until they die.
Then let the servant church arise, a caring church that longs to be
a partner in Christ’s sacrifice, and clothed in Christ’s humanity.
For he alone, whose blood was shed, can cure the fever in our blood,
and teach us how to share our bread and feed the starving multitude.
We have no mission but to serve in full obedience to our Lord,
to care for all, without reserve, and spread Christ’s liberating Word.
In this challenging text by British Methodist minister, the odd-numbered stanzas develop the image of “the servant church,” while the second surveys the many needs and the fourth describes the true source of strength for the task.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Almighty and merciful God, we have made mistakes and strayed from your ways like lost sheep.
We have too often followed the desires of our own hearts,
and followed the direction of others, who know not where they are going.
We have muddled the things you have told us to do.
We have left undone what we should have done,
but continue to do what we should not do.
Merciful God, have mercy on us and spare those who confess their faults.
Restore us to your holy presence as you have declared through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Grant us the ability to live holy, just, and humble lives, through your grace and in your name. Amen.
ASSURANCE OF GRACE
PASSING OF THE PEACE (USING ASL)HEARING
WE HEAR GOD’S WORD, WRITTEN & PROCLAIMED. GOD’S WORD IS CENTRAL TO OUR FAITH;
HENCE WE PUT IT AT THE CENTER OF OUR WORSHIP.FIRST READING Micah 3:9-11
Hear this, you rulers of the house of Jacob
and chiefs of the house of Israel,
who abhor justice
and pervert all equity,
who build Zion with blood
and Jerusalem with wrong!
Its rulers give judgment for a bribe,
its priests teach for a price,
its prophets give oracles for money;
yet they lean upon the Lord and say,
“Surely the Lord is with us!
No harm shall come upon us.”
The word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God. SECOND READING Matthew 23:1-12
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples,
“The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat;
therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach.
They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.
They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long.
They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues,
and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi.
But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students.
The word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION
| Sermon given by Elder Dale Green, Worship Leader|
November 1, 2020
So that you May Discern What is the Will of God
Last week, Bob Williams discussed in good detail, the conduct of sheep. I think you would agree that Bob has a beautiful way with words and that he opens the gospel for us with amazing clarity. I could listen to him speak truth all day.
Bob showed us how we are like sheep and they like us – sheep follow a leader. Sheep attend to and respond to their shepherd.
We would be good to respond to our Good Shepherd but of course we are human and flawed and stubborn. We, unlike sheep, often follow other shepherds of our own choosing.
So, what happens if the shepherd we choose to follow gets lost, or is leading the sheep astray?
What happens if we think we are doing right but are actually in the wrong by bending the words in the Bible to that shepherd’s will instead of Gods, distorting the message and using it wrongly?
My central point, and where the title comes from, is found in Paul’s epistle to the Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Failing to discern God’s will or following wrong shepherds can and does lead us into what is not good, what is unacceptable and what is imperfect.
Paul instructs that the solution to this is to be “transformed – by the renewing of our minds”. Because when we can do that, and only when we can do that, can we then “discern what is the will of God” and in doing so, know from God’s word, both what is right and how to use it.
But, we can’t get to what is right or how to use it, we can’t discern God’s truth, without going through being transformed and having renewed minds, first.
I tried to find a good metaphor for this idea and I came up with… it’s like trying to understand a phrase like “Du bist sehr shone” without first knowing at least some German. (It means you are very beautiful)
The prophet Micah offers us a good example of how it looks to fail Paul’s words in our reading this morning. Micah has a problem with the leaders of Israel. He says:
3:9 Hear this, you rulers of the house of Jacob and chiefs of the house of Israel, who abhor justice and pervert all equity,
3:10 who build Zion with blood and Jerusalem with wrong!
3:11 Its rulers give judgment for a bribe, its priests teach for a price, its prophets give oracles for money; yet they lean upon the LORD and say, “Surely the LORD is with us! No harm shall come upon us.”
And God’s answer through Micah, to the rulers was this: You have doomed your city and those who have followed you. 12 Because of you, Mount Zion will be plowed like an open field; Jerusalem will be reduced to ruins!
Harsh judgment, you might say but the picture is clear; all Israel was following corrupt leaders and not God. The prophet predicted disaster.
There are plenty of places in the bible where we are warned, directed, or requested to be about the business of God – yet we as a race, as a country, as a people, we choose instead to be about the business of our fallen sinful selves.
Jesus describes, for us, a kind of a worst-case scenario for humanity.
Where we pick someone to follow that is simply not right.
Where we are all in with someone or something in front of us while we are actually being sold down the river, without hope of recovery.
Where we pick the leader we should not follow, putting commitment in their thoughtsand beliefs instead of what’s offered freely to us in the Lord’s love letter (the Bible) directly to us.
In our Matthew reading today, Jesus looks at the leaders of the Jewish nation and admits that they are the rightful human leaders, that they sit on Moses’ seat so he says; “do whatever they teach you and follow it” but Jesus also knows that they are bad leaders taking their flock of sheep down a bad path so he clarifies: “but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach.”
We can and sometimes do get lost in the practice and not focused on the goal. And this is where we can get ourselves into trouble:
There are some awesome things about other practices of denominations and religions that I often look to with admiration. These are things that say “commitment to God” when you do them.
Praying is awesome – praying 5 times a day is 5 times awesome. Putting the focus on the prayer instead of the God it’s meant for – not so awesome.
Memorizing and reciting scripture is awesome – reciting the same scripture every day at the same time is every day awesome. Reciting without thought of meaning and a connection it should make to God – not so awesome.
Praying and reciting scripture in your own prayer room or wearing your special prayer garment is awesome. Making the room or the garment a shrine unto itself – not so awesome.
As example, Jesus said the Pharisees made their phylacteries broad and their fringes long to gain greater honor than those around them. They would wear, on their foreheads and arms, bigger boxes than others (called phylacteries) with scripture in them and would wear longer tassels hanging from their robes than others. Each knotted fringe (Tsit tsit in Hebrew) hanging from the 4 corners of their prayer robe represents the number 613 for the number of laws of the Torah. Long tassels look cool.
Jesus looked at these leaders; He looked at their hearts, and said to His disciples, don’t do as they do because God doesn’t work that way.
We are here in worship, seeking to offer a message to the people of St. Andrew Presbyterian but knowing that we could easily get lost in the process, the product, or the Zoom production, like modern-day Pharisees.
And there are a few hard-working souls here at St. Andrew who have been at the arduous task of strategically defining “who we are” as a church, thinking of where we should go in our Pastoral search and what our future serving and worshiping together should look like.
We have had to re-center ourselves there often to ensure we are not focused inward on ourselves and our past, not doing a lot of navel gazing where we are not only the subjectof what we think but the object as well. We could easily find ourselves wearing broad Phylacteries of our own choosing, or long fringes to impress those around us.
We could, for example, fail to follow our shepherd completely but still focus on the Great Commandment Bob discussed last week. We could try and be the church that feels very called to love our neighbor but fail to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind.
Taking that further yet, we could then take this partial truth of Jesus and teach others the same way, becoming Pharisees in our own right.
Teaching rightly can be hard. Jesus’ brother James warns us this and says: “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. (James 3:1)
Like the teachers of the law, the church is held to account for being a true witness of the whole Word, of the whole Gospel.
Learning rightly can also be hard because we humans are easily satisfied with the words in our Bible – words that impress us and make us quickly contented with what we’ve learned, allowing the little we know to make itself the be-all and end-all of the Gospel.
The Apostle Paul talks about these tendencies when he tells mature believers not to hold their knowledge over the heads of weaker, newer believers who are not strong in their faith. He tells us not to make big issues out of little problems and become judges of others just because we are more mature in our understanding, thus putting stumbling blocks in the way of those seeking God, or even worse, leading them to sin by wrong teaching. (1 Cor 7:8-9, Rom 4:13)
Jesus didn’t mince words either on these issues when he told his disciples; those he was training to teach the world the gospel: “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. So, watch yourselves. (Luke 17:1)
So, we too as a church have to watch ourselves; to view God’s book for what it is and what it means – and to use it in our lives to glorify God and not ourselves or our personal interests.
Because it’s easy to look at this book (the Bible) as a rulebook; a list of rules for how to separate the good from the bad, the sheep from the goats, the honorable from the despicable. It’s easy to focus on the rule and miss the big picture plastered on the wall that really does say: Love.
We can use this book to wound and to kill and this concept in the “church”; using scripture as a tool of judgment in just this way, has been practiced for umpteen generations for things like:
Justification of hatred – placing belief A over belief B, religion C over denomination D
Justification of exclusion – putting the haves above and beyond the have-nots
And even Justification of slavery – using words here that acknowledge and rationalize the norms of society as normalizing society for all times
But this is why I choose Paul’s book to the Romans because his writing is like the instruction manual for living our lives as Christians.
Where Jesus tells us what to do and not to do in bold strokes; like the great commandment and the great commission, Paul and the other NT book writers tell us how to live those things in our lives, almost like a “Christian living for Dummies” manual.
Did you know, there are 673 of those Dummies books on just as many topics. From the 33 books on Computers to one actually called “Training your Brain for Dummies”. Just think about that title…
We used to have a couple of these books around our house but I think they have all made it to the annual St. Andrew Tag Sale. Here’s one that’s available on-line though (show picture of “Christianity for Dummies” cover), but I suggest you stick with this book (Bible) for a truer truth.
So when Paul says “be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” He means that God’s word and God’s intent in the word can’t contradict God’s own word. You can’t hate and exclude and justify slavery and still love your neighbor. It doesn’t pass God’s own test.
It occurred to me that if we fail to be transformed by God so that we can know the Lord’s will and use it, we fail to be what we were made to be and do what we were made to do.
Again, Paul is helpful when he says “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Cor 13:16)
That’s important, because we are the body of Christ inside these walls and out in that world. We are God’s house, the Lord’s temple, all of us.
And Jesus has a special relationship with the Lord’s temple. Do you remember in the Gospel when Jesus entered the temple courts? “He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those selling doves. 13And He declared to them, “It is written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer.’ But you are making it ‘a den of robbers.” (Mat 21:13)
So, if we as God’s temple fail to be transformed and to know and do the Lord’s will, if we become wrongful teachers or stumbling blocks for those seeking truth, won’t our dear shepherd see us too as a den of robbers?
It’s important that we know who we follow and what we believe because we are God’s handiwork and His hands, on earth. We are representatives of the Lord to all around us, whether we are actively evangelizing or simply living out our lives, we do it as God’s people.
It matters that we don’t follow false teachers, that we know what is right
It matters that we look to this book (the Bible) to be transformed and to use it love firstand exclude last,
that we follow the One who drew us to the foot of the cross, not just so we could look up and wonder, but so that we could look up and believe and be healed and then invite others to be healed as well.
Thanks be to God.
GOD HAS SPOKEN, AND WE RESPOND. WE AFFIRM OUR FAITH, PRAY FOR THE WORLD, RE-COMMIT OURSELVES TO MISSION,
PRESENT OUR TITHES & GIFTS, AND OFFER THANKS THAT GOD CONTINUES TO SPEAK TODAY.*AFFIRMATION OF FAITH The 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.
* HYMN 438 “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy” IN BABILONE
There’s a wideness in God’s mercy Like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in God’s justice Which is more than liberty.
There is no place where earth’s sorrows are more felt than up in heaven.
There is no place where earth’s failings have such kindly judgment given.
For the love of God is broader Than the measures of the mind;
And the heart of the Eternal Is most wonderfully kind.
If our love were but more faithful, We should rest upon God’s word;
And our lives would be thanksgiving For the goodness of our Lord.
These stanzas, excerpted from quite a few more, offer a reminder that the model for our dealings with others should be God’s generosity rather than limited human tolerance. The text is effectively set to a broad and study Dutch folk melody, probably from the 17th century
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!)
PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING & DEDICATION
God of creation, we thank you for the gifts of life and love and faith, and for the material things of the world that you have made.
Accept back from us a small portion of the gifts you have freely given to us, so that the needs of your people may be provided for.
Amplify these gifts to the use and support of your kingdom here on earth.
In the name of the Father – our Creator, the Son – our Savior, and the Holy Spirit – our sustainer. Amen.
SHARING OUR JOYS & CONCERNS
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE & THE LORD’S PRAYER
LORD’S SUPPER REV. SHANNAN VANCE-OCAMPO
INVITATION TO THE LORD’S TABLE
COMMUNION OF THE PEOPLE
PRAYER AFTER COMMUNION
SENDING WE HEAR THE CHARGE, RECEIVE THE BENEDICTION, AND ARE SENT TO CARRY GOD’S WORD INTO THE WORLD.
CHARGE & BENEDICTION
POSTLUDE “ Trumpet Tune in D Major” Henry Purcell
*Please rise in body or in spirit.