Sunday, October 4, 2020: Proper 22A
St. Paul’s Congregational Church, UCC – mail
World Communion Sunday
Prelude: In Christ There is no East or West B - 395
Welcome and announcements
Call to worship
The whole world is in God’s hands – everything that lives and breathes, everything that simply is. From the farthest spaces to the inmost places! God is with us and we are with God. As people of Christ, gathered at table, with our sisters and brothers around the world, with all that we have and all that we are, we worship the God of all being. Bless this day. Bless this time. Bless this gathering. Bless this world with your overflowing love!
Opening prayer and the Lord’s Prayer (in unison)
God of brilliant sunsets and shining rainbows, God of golden daffodils and glowing autumn leaves, God of all the blues of sunlit seas, God of all the shades of green in bush and field, in rivers and oceans and lakes, in rough stones on a beach and polished jewels in a showcase, God of people, brown and amber, pink and ebony, artistic and athletic, practical and visionary, compassionate and laughter-bringing, God who colors us a world of variety, We thank you that you have made each of us unique, that you call us to contribute our special colors to the life around us. We come to you in thanksgiving and worship. We ask that you hear us now as we pray together as Jesus has taught us:
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 trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen
Prayer response Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring Becky Caporaso
Scripture: Exodus 20: 1-4, 7-9, 12-20
20 Then God spoke all these words:
2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 3 you shall have no other gods before[a] me.
4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
7 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
8 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work.
12 Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
13 You shall not murder.[a]
14 You shall not commit adultery.
15 You shall not steal.
16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
17 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
18 When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid[b] and trembled and stood at a distance, 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin.”
The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament[a] proclaims his handiwork. 2 Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. 3 There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; 4 yet their voice[b] goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.
In the heavens[c] he has set a tent for the sun, 5 which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy, and like a strong man runs its course with joy. 6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them; and nothing is hid from its heat.
7 The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of the Lord are sure, making wise the simple; 8 the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eyes; 9 the fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. 12 But who can detect their errors? Clear me from hidden faults. 13 Keep back your servant also from the insolent;[d] do not let them have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
St. Paul’s Congregational Church, October 4, 2020
Proper 22A, World Communion Sunday
That We May All be One
Psalm 19; Exodus 20: 1-4, 7-9, 12-20
We continue our parallel journey with Moses and his people through the wilderness to the Promised Land – and our own time of wilderness in the world on our way to creating Beloved Community – what a week it’s been! Again! Our nation is reeling – so very divided – so very concerned about the continuing pandemic that’s now reached the White House – rhetoric that continues about the questions of white supremacy, ongoing economic woes, the wearing of masks, not only for our protection but also for the protection of others with whom we come in contact – I’m not sure I’ve ever heard so many people cry out, “We’ve lost our minds as a country! What can we do!”
We are in a wilderness – of exhaustion, worry, fear, loss of control, yearning for a return to “normal”, wanting to know the truth, wanting to be able to trust again, and especially for those dealing with serious illness in the family, a sense of loss, of dread about the future. It seems to keep piling on, doesn’t it.
So, today, for a few moments, let’s take a breath; let’s get back to basics; let’s remember that we have been called to be God’s beloved community, let’s take some time to reflect on the ways of love and respect, the rules of community, or relationship, set before us in the Ten Commandments – let’s remember God has given us what we need: those commandments that free us from the tyranny of selfishness and set us on the road to loving community, enabling us to live together with respect, harmony, and wholeness – today in our own situations and together with our brothers and sisters around the world. Today on World Communion Sunday we share in that sacrament which will feed us, nurture us, and strengthen us to walk together in respecting our differences and rejoicing in our diversity.
So back to basics: we begin with the promise: God tells the Israelites, tells us: I am the Lord your God. They didn’t deserve it – neither do we - but God poured out presence, protection, and love for them, and continues to pour out all this for us too. Wrap yourself in those promises! Receive the strength, the power of the promise.
The words of the Commandments are so simple, so direct. Our lives today as were those of the Israelites are so chaotic, confused – that’s a testimonial I think of our need for some direct, simple, straightforward talk about the way things are today.
The Ten Commandments are a gift: continuing proof of God’s grace. They aren’t limitations of the good life – they are steps that lead to the good life: boundaries of how to live in community. God shows us the way to bring life in all its abundance and joy.
We learn that we must love God first. What acts as a god in your life? Money? Security? Possessions? Job? Our children? For Israel, for us – nothing must be more important than God. This is a tough one for sure – but an instruction to us to keep God at the center. A life-long process indeed.
Remember the Sabbath – another hard one. It was at Sinai that the Israelites came to realize the danger of losing perspective. They realized the very human tendency to become immersed in and obsessed with the “things”, the distractions of this world. And so do we. Maybe our “things” have to do with calendars, scheduling, possessions, the news - all those activities that fill our days that manage to get in the way of our devotional life. These days it can be hard for us to center and slow down enough to worship. But we are commanded to keep a time of Holy Sabbath. And friends, the Bible doesn’t say remember Sunday and keep it holy. It tells us to take Sabbath time in order to regain our perspective, to rest, to re-create so that we can return to the ordinary, challenging affairs of life with a new energy, a fresh viewpoint. We need time away from the routine and take time for nurturing our relationship with God and with each other. How do you take Sabbath time? Hiking? Kayaking? Reading? Cooking? Gardening? What centers you? What brings you into God’s presence? Where is that place where you can be open yet closed off from the routine we’re all ensnared in? Find that place – wherever it is – and go there and let God find you. Let God move in and through your very core. That’s taking the time to reflect with joy about receiving God’s love that never ends – that’s living in to God’s promises.
And another that has to do with living in community: honor your father and mother. It’s not only about children respecting and obeying their parents - this is about the people of Israel, us, being called to realize that all human life is sacred, including the lives of the aged and anyone else who is considered “other”. The society that cannot honor those who are different – in age, color, ethnicity, abilities, viewpoint, religion, in any number of ways – will be a short lived society indeed. If we live into God’s promises, that means we honor each other, warts and all. We don’t have to agree with each other to honor each other either – not easy for sure, but that’s what we’re commanded to do, even and especially these days.
There are also the commandments that deal with the don’ts that are so terribly destructive of human relationships: You shall not commit murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not give false evidence against your neighbor. You shall not covet. These may seem so obvious – but we all make thoughtless comments or unhelpful decisions that break relationship with others through our words, not only our actions.
The overriding message of the Bible is this: God wants to be in relationship with us. God has given us the tools, including the Ten Commandments, to help us build these relationships with God and each other. Being in relationship with others is what keeps us going. Being in relationship with God gives us strength, courage, even joy, but most of all, hope.
And we know that God will go to extraordinary lengths to make that happen – we have to be willing to turn and accept that relationship. We have to slow down. Sometimes it takes a serious illness, a pandemic. Sometimes it takes a hurricane. Sometimes it takes the chaos of a presidential election. Sometimes it takes violence in the streets – but we have to slow down and remember God is with us through it all. God is limitlessly loving and always faithful. All we have to do is stretch out our hand.
Don’t we all sometimes find ourselves feeling lost, feeling vulnerable. Maybe there’s sickness in your family. Maybe your job is no longer there. Maybe you’re mourning the loss of someone dear. Maybe you’re at a crossroad in your life – trying to make a decision. Maybe you’re feeling overwhelmed by schedules. Maybe you’re overwhelmed by not having enough to do, by the fact that you find yourself limited by physical abilities. Maybe it’s when you’re worried about the breakdown of civility in our country, disappointed in the behavior of our leaders, a stunning lack of compassion for each other. Maybe it’s at these times that we hear a still small voice reaching out to us, seeing a hand outstretched, and we take a deep breath and put our arms out too.
Today we gather with Christians all over the world on this worldwide communion Sunday to celebrate Jesus and what he did for us, in every corner of the world. We celebrate what Jesus did, and what by the power of the Holy Spirit, he still does. We celebrate the Jesus who considered family unity to be important – not just in what we think of as the nuclear family, but in the family of faith – the church. We celebrate the Jesus who took the time to bless everyone – no matter who they were and no matter what others thought of them. We celebrate the Jesus who was radical – radical in his love for us – all of us – men, women, and children – rich and poor, no matter our ethnic background, friend or enemy. We celebrate Jesus who shows us the way God wants for us to live.
Today we come together to be strengthened, nourished, fed, together with our brothers and sisters all around the world, that we might do the work Jesus calls us to do – to make disciples of all nations – not to make us all alike, but to make us God’s family, rich in its diversity. To love each other as God has loved each of us.
So often we talk about how we need to believe in this God of love; but what we celebrate today reminds us of a different fact: the fact that even when we don’t believe in God, God believes in us. What greater proof is there than that God sent His own Son to show us the way, that we might believe!
God believes in us. God believes that we are not ever beyond help. God loves us, and God in Christ, has come and still comes today, to forgive us, to scrape us back together again, and mold us into something, someone, even better than that which we were before.
It is this coming to us that we celebrate today, and it is the fact that we can be what God wants us to be, that we give thanks for. God has made us God’s family, God’s community. A family, a community, that stretches into Nutley and surrounding towns. A family that is called to love as we have been loved, to forgive as we have been forgiven, to give as we have been given.
As we share today in our family meal, may we each give thanks to God that we are not alone; that we both have each other and the Spirit of Christ among us, the Spirit of him who was, who is, and who shall ever be one with us, and one over us, one under us, one who truly loves us.
Thanks be to God – for this church, for this community, for the love of God in Christ that will always bring us hope and that will always bind us together. Amen.
Musical Meditation I Come With Joy B - 349
Joys and Concerns
Lord, as we gather around this wonderful yet simple meal everywhere and in every place, bless us, all your children. As we eat this bread and drink this cup linking arms around the world, pour your grace into us all.
Grace us with your presence as we pray to you: may we see in each other your light, your love, and you. May it matter not our differences, our names, our languages, our looks, our way of doing things. May what matters today and everyday be that we are one in you.
As we pray, we call to mind our brothers and sisters who are unable to be with us today, whether in body or spirit. May you bring comfort to those who are grieving, lonely, heartbroken, ill, or broken of spirit.
We ask that you strengthen those whose lives feel shattered – don’t make sense, in crisis, experiencing loss. Be with people continuing their suffering, their life threatening conditions in areas ravaged by floods, hurricanes, fires – and be with those first responders who risk their lives to save others. And we pray for our country as we continue in difficult and turbulent times: for those affected by COVID, for those who mourn loss of friends and families, for those struggling to feed and house their families, those trying to maintain businesses, their livelihoods.
And we pray for our leadership – may they show wisdom, compassion, a willingness to listen to each other, to work together for the common good.
Help each of us to be part of the solution, part of the healing process: help us to be peacemakers in your name. Open our hearts, our awareness, our advocacy, our sharing that restoration may come to our neighbors.
May you say the healing word to those who need it. May you bring the human touch of love to those who have not been touched. May you love the unloved through us: our touch, our prayers, our compassion.
May your light shine into those whose world is covered in darkness. May you use us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give a cup of water to those who are thirsty, shelter the homeless, visit the sick and those in prison. Lord God, make us instruments of your peace. Awaken our lives to you, Lord, to your love and to your realm whose door is always open to all. We pray all this in the name of your Son, our Brother, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Prayer Response – Hear Our Prayer, O God B - 769
Offering invitation and prayer
We are called to share – to share of our time, treasure, and talents that the good news of Christ’s love for us may be shared throughout the world. At this time, we dedicate our offerings for the ministry of this church at home and around the world: let us pray:
We thank you, God, for all your blessings, most especially the blessing of your caring presence. We offer to you now our gifts and the intentions of our hearts. We pray that you will use them and us in your ministry. Grant that all we say and do may serve to bring your healing, your peace, and your love to others. We ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.
The Sacrament of Communion
Invitation to Communion
Leader: We rejoice in the God of life, who gives us bread: the fruit of the earth worked with human hands and who makes it into the bread of life. People: We rejoice in the God of life who gives us wine: the fruit of the vine tended with daily care, and puts the flavor of the new
world into it. Leader: As the wheat and grapes are joined on this table in bread and wine – into a visual symbol for us – People: May our church join together into a visual symbol for the entire world.
Reconciliation (in unison)
I commit, God, to searching for: The healing of my relationship with you. The healing of my relationship with myself. The healing of my relationship with others. The healing of my relationship with all your creation. SHALOM!
Assurance of Grace
Leader: Forgiveness is forgetting bad things, remembering good things. Forgiveness is accepting God’s love. Shalom!
Words of Remembering
Remember, the Lord, the friend of sinners, who were the oppressed, the estranged, the weak, the sick, widow, orphans. Remember, the Lord, the one disliking of the common structure and power. Remember, the Lord, the one sharing of daily food in life. Remember, the Lord, the one liberating from a dictator. We remember thy suffering, O Lord, at thy Last Supper. (Korea)
Prayer of Consecration
Leader: You emptied yourself completely keeping nothing for yourself. Now, naked, utterly stripped, you give yourself to us as bread that sustains us and as wine that consoles us. You are Light and Truth. You are the Way and the Hope. You are Love. Grow in us. (Guatemala)
Sharing of the Elements
The ears of wheat are broken and scattered on the hillside to grow. Gathered, they are broken again and scattered throughout the city to make bread. The bread is scattered to each home and broken to make nourishment. Broken and scattered, broken and scattered, And some becomes Christ’s body broken for us as we are the people of God scattered through the city and, perhaps, broken to give nourishment to others. (South Africa)
People: We receive this bread, broken, scattered and made whole. Leader: Take and eat, Jesus’ pouring out his love and his life for us.
People: We receive this cup, thirsty, longing, willing to be poured. Leader: Take and drink, receive the cup of the new covenant, Jesus’ love for you.
Prayer of Thanksgiving (In unison)
We give you thanks O Lord, for all food that has arrived at our table from your generosity. Bless the people who have made it possible, from the cultivation of the earth until it arrived to us. Give bread to those who are hungry, and to those who have bread give us hunger for you. Amen (Mexico, grace contributed from an orphanage in Colima, may not be the original source)
May the God of Life, be your guide on the road every day, be your refuge in times of uncertainty and be your rest in times of fatigue. May the God of Life, strengthen you when you feel weak, comfort you when you feel sad and hug you when you feel alone. May the God of Life, who loves you and knows you, cover you with the tenderness of a Mother. Forever. Amen. (Argentina)
PostludeThere’s a Spirit in the Air B - 294