Posts Tagged ‘Psalm 26’

Preparation for Worship (same as last week)

  • Something green. Christian worship has different seasons throughout the year. We are in the season after Pentecost. The color green represents this time communicating growth and discipleship. Add some green to your worship area with cloth, paper, or plants.
  • Two candles. Our worship begins with the light of two candles: one represents Christ’s humanity and the other represents Christ’s divinity.
  • Something to eat and drink to celebrate communion. The type of food and drink does not matter for they are merely symbols which help us celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

The Worship of God

Light two candles in recognition of Christ’s presence.  In our practice, one candle represents Jesus’ divinity and the other Jesus’ humanity.

Gathering for Worship

Passing the Peace
Say to one another, “May the Peace of Christ be with you.”
Respond by saying, “And also with you.”

Call to Worship
Psalm 105:1-6a

Listen to a church member read the Psalm and/or read below.

Give thanks to the Lord;
call upon his name;
make his deeds known to all people!
Sing to God;
sing praises to the Lord;
dwell on all his wondrous works!
Give praise to God’s holy name!
Let the hearts rejoice of all those seeking the Lord!
Pursue the Lord and his strength;
seek his face always!
Remember the wondrous works he has done,
all his marvelous works, and the justice he declared—

Opening Prayer
Awesome and great God, whose holiness is beyond our capacity even to imagine – we worship you. God of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Rachel, we glorify you as our God also. Your care for your people of old is evident through the stories of your involvement and constant covenant with them. Your care for us is evident through your grace and mercy which we experience in Jesus Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit. You love us so lavishly, and empower us so mightily, that we come to see the world as a place charged with blessing – your blessing. We stand on holy ground whenever we are in your presence O God, which is always and forever when we praise you as we ought. We offer our praise and adoration and this time of worship as our response to your extravagant initiative of entering our lives in the person of Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.

Song of Praise
Sing to God with Joy

Sing to God, with joy and gladness
hymns and psalms of gratitude;
with the voice of praise discover
that to worship God is good.

  1. God unites his scatter’d people,
    gathers those who wonder’d far,
    heals the hurt and broken spirits,
    tending ev’ry wound and scar.
  2. Such is God’s great pow’r and wisdom
    none can calculate or tell;
    keen is God to ground the wicked
    and humble folk to dwell.
  3. God, with clouds, the sky has curtain’d,
    thus ensuring rain shall fall;
    earth, responding, grows to order
    food for creatures great and small.
  4. God’s discernment never favors
    strength or speed to lift or move;
    God delights in those who fear him,
    trusting in his steadfast love

Psalm Reading and Prayer for Others

Psalm 26:1-8

Listen to the Psalm and/or read below.

Establish justice for me, Lord,
because I have walked with integrity.
I’ve trusted the Lord without wavering.
Examine me, Lord; put me to the test!
Purify my mind and my heart.
Because your faithful love is right in front of me—
I walk in your truth!
I don’t spend time with people up to no good;
I don’t keep company with liars.
I detest the company of evildoers,
and I don’t sit with wicked people.
I wash my hands—they are innocent!
I walk all around your altar, Lord,
proclaiming out loud my thanks,
declaring all your wonderful deeds!
I love the beauty of your house, Lord;
I love the place where your glory resides.

Prayer for Others
Pause after each paragraph to give voice to prayers as prompted. [Additionally, if you would like our church family to pray for someone or something in particular this week, email the request to]

Merciful God, who shelters us and guides us,
we give you thanks for….

God who comforts,
receive those who are fearful and lonely….

God whose love is steadfast,
be refuge for the ill, the dying, and those who care about them.…

God of righteousness,
we ask for your wisdom and ways of justice
to prevail in our community, this nation, your world….

God who seeks our trust, grow us and guide us in your ways that are life-giving in your world. Amen.

Song of Faith
World Peace Prayer

Listen to the choir sing and join in on the refrain.

Lead us from death to life,
from false-hood to truth,
from despair to hope,
from fear to trust.
Lead us from hate to love,
from war to peace;
let peace fill our hearts,
let peace fill our world,
let peace fill our universe.

Still all the angry cries, still all the angry guns,
still now your people die, earth’s sons and daughters.
Let justice roll, let mercy pour down,
Come and teach us your way of compassion.

So many lonely hearts, so many broken lives,
longing for love to break into their darkness
Come teach us love, come, teach us peace
come and teach us your way of compassion.

Let justice ever roll, let mercy fill the earth,
let us begin to grow into your people.
We can be love, we can be peace,
we can be your way of compassion.

Celebrating Communion

Communion celebrates our unity–our unity with God and with one another. At Cullowhee Baptist Church we practice an open communion which means that anyone who seeks to live the Way of Jesus Christ is invited to share in communion with us. Although we are not able to meet together, our bond still remains with one another and God through Jesus Christ.

Imagine Jesus setting a table for us, a place where we may come together and share a meal. Before we “come to the table,” let us set our hearts aright and seek the Lord’s forgiveness for our shortcomings.

Prayer of Confession
Merciful God, you call us to live out our faith in everyday actions beginning with loving one another with a love that is completely sincere – love with no thought of gain for self, but love totally at the service of others. We are to hate evil and to hold fast to what is good. We are to care for and honor one another. Our faith is to be visible through our joy and our hope – our patience – even in suffering, and through our persevering in prayer and we are to share what we have with those in need, and to extend hospitality not just to those we know and like – but to strangers. We know we fall short of living out our faith in these ways. So we ask you to renew us, strengthen us, and empower us with your Spirit. Amen.

Assurance of Forgiveness
2 Corinthians 5:17-18a
If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, to whom we have been reconciled through Christ.

Now let us come to the “table.”

The table has been prepared as Jesus requested,
and we have been invited to the meal.
We come to the table
like Peter, with more enthusiasm than resolve;
like James and John, dismayed by Jesus’s vision of a kingdom.

We come to the table
like Martha, hosting and leading with confidence;
like Mary eager to learn, and full of grief and love.
We come to the table
like Judas, disillusioned and rebellious;
like Mary, faithful to the end.

Jesus offers us the bread and the cup.
We come to the table of Christ.

Share what you have to eat.
Before eating, have someone say,
“This food represents the body of Christ.
As we eat, we remember Jesus.”

Share what you have to drink.
Before drinking, have someone say,
“This drink represents the covenant Christ made with us
that our sins will be forgiven.
As we drink, we remember Jesus.”

Prayer of Thanksgiving
Dear God, thank you for your abounding compassionate love. Thank you for guiding and leading us through these difficult times. Thank you for always being with us. Amen.

Song of Faith
Amazing Grace (NEW BRITAIN)

Amazing grace how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I am found,
was blind but now I see.

The Gospel Reading

A Reading from the Gospels
Matthew 16:21-28

Listen to the gospel being read and/or read below.

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he had to go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and legal experts, and that he had to be killed and raised on the third day. Then Peter took hold of Jesus and, scolding him, began to correct him: “God forbid, Lord! This won’t happen to you.” But he turned to Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan. You are a stone that could make me stumble, for you are not thinking God’s thoughts but human thoughts.”

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will find them. Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives? What will people give in exchange for their lives? For the Human One is about to come with the majesty of his Father with his angels. And then he will repay each one for what that person has done. I assure you that some standing here won’t die before they see the Human One coming in his kingdom.”

Reflection on the Gospel from Jeffrey

Listen to the reflection and/or read below.

What are you saving? We are taught to save money. We sometimes try to save time – without success of course as the clock stops for no one. The phrase, “I’m saving it for a rainy day” can  apply to food, to-do list tasks, travel dreams, or home-owner crises. And of course, people save lives of others, sometimes literally like in a hurricane, or an ER, or on a mission trip to Arkansas, and at other times figuratively, like when you befriend the lonely, or call the elderly, or help someone out of a crisis.

Losing on the other hand, is something we try to avoid. My favorite pocket knife might easily be lost. We can lose money in the stock market. People lose both money and track of time at the casino – that’s the reality of gambling. Teams lose in sports. When we talk about losing someone it means they have died and are, thus, “lost” to us. In a broken relationship we lose a friend or a partner.

We are accustomed, then, to the idea of “saving” being positive and “losing” being negative. It can come as a surprise, then, that Jesus turns saving and losing on their heads when he says, “All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will find them.” In the space of such a short phrase, saving becomes the liability and losing the gain. Jesus is not being obscure for the sake of sounding wise. He is, however, asking us to re-focus our life and envision a new way to approach the world.

I think it matters that Jesus gives us this teaching about saving and losing our life in the long shadow of John’s unjust murder at the orders of the authorities. The death of someone you know, a family relative of Jesus in this case, for no other reason but the capricious choice of one person in power is unsettling even for Jesus. It is still on his mind (I’m convinced) and also confirmation that his own impending death is now a certainty. He will continue to do God’s work in God’s way among the people despite the successful efforts of the powerful to take his life. As he tells his friends what he’s thinking, that the men in power are going to kill him also, he gives them a hope that must have sounded empty on this day, but that became their lifeline of hope when the women gave witness on Easter morning – that he would be raised on the third day. 

Famous for his faux pas, Peter had other plans for Jesus, but Jesus was blunt enough to call him out for it. To Peter, suggesting that Jesus should now stop what he’s doing and work instead to save his own life makes sense, and sounds good, and might be justifiable until Jesus calls out this plan as from Satan rather than from God. Yes, it turns out that not following God sometimes looks good and sounds right and receives approval from our friends. Sometimes letting the temptation to preserve myself at all costs, or not get involved because it might be messy, or passing off responsibility to someone else is “satanic” — not in the sense that some personified devil is sitting on my shoulder whispering in my ear convincing me to get into trouble. That’s an imagined scenario from fantasy fiction rather than biblical teaching. No, here I mean “satanic” in the sense that it serves as a good-looking temptation to refrain from following God for the sake of something that helps me personally. This idea comes from the fact that Jesus used the Hebrew title “Satan” here rather than the Greek word “devil.” He is recorded as using either term in the Gospels, but from Jesus’ own Jewish background, he has an understanding that “the Satan” is a referent to “the Tempter” and not an anti-god with a pitchfork.

For some reason, every time I read this story I think of the choices Dietrich Bonhoeffer made in life. Bonhoeffer is a much-celebrated German Christian and pastor. His book entitled “The Cost of Discipleship” is certainly one of the most important books for Christians to come out of the 20th century. Bonhoeffer was horrified when the church leaders in Germany convened the Brown Synod and concluded that all Christian pastors of non-Aryan ancestry and any clergy who did not give unqualified support to the Nazi party should be dismissed or forced into retirement. With this news, Bonhoeffer’s active but non-violent resistance to Nazism begins. Among other things, he moves to London for two years to gather support and encourage other German pastors who join the resistance. He returns to Germany in 1935 and opens an illegal seminary where he trains more than 150 pastors in justice and non-violence and open resistance by becoming conscientious objectors to the impending war. Bonhoeffer told his students, “It is an evil time when the world lets injustice happen silently, when the oppression of the poor and the wretched cries out to heaven . . . when the persecuted church calls to God for help in the hour of dire distress and exhorts people to do justice, and yet no mouth on earth is opening to bring justice.” Eventually, Bonhoeffer flees for refuge in America. Mahatma Gandhi offers him the opportunity to live and train with him in India. Yet Bonhoeffer sees his life of faith taking a different path. After struggling with the decision to remain in the safety of New York City or return to Germany he writes, “I must live through this difficult period of our national history with the Christian people of Germany. I will have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people . . .” “I know which of these two alternatives I must choose; but I cannot make that choice in security.” Bonhoeffer’s story ends with his choice to be faithful to God’s work despite the danger to his life. It ended with his obedience to the Gospel unquestioned, but his life taken far too soon. While helping to resist the German government and encouraging those Germans who objected to the war, Bonhoeffer was arrested and imprisoned in the concentration camp at Flossenbürg where he was executed at the age of 39 only days before the American forces liberated it and WWII would end. Bonhoeffer’s last words were, “This is the end – for me, the beginning of life.” 

I read the Gospels and try to really understand the human struggle of Jesus in his grief and facing the violence of his death. I consider the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and wonder about my own allegiances and where they would have been cast had I been a pastor in Germany, told by my church to support the government, expected by my country to take up arms in war, and convinced by the rhetoric of deceiving politicians that they were solving the Jewish “problem” as a protection of my German way of life. Would I be willing to lose my patriotism to save my life with God?

To add a different context, what sermons would I be preaching if I pastored Cullowhee Baptist Church in May 1830 when the Indian Removal Act was signed, or in May 1861 when NC seceded from the country and joined in the impending war against the United States for the sake of defending slavery? Christian teachings and Gospel truths are insistently against the injustice imposed on the Cherokee, and the defense of slavery by the Confederacy. Would I have criticized the US president for stealing Cherokee land and killing thousands on their forced march to Oklahoma? Would I have resisted the call to fight against the US Army and kill fellow Americans for the sake of an economy built on the enslavement of human beings? These seem clear points in history where choosing to follow God is not going to end with congratulatory success, but will save our life with God.

How much clearer can it be, then, that the willingness to follow God first, even if it comes at the cost of preserving our own self, is a cost we are asked to carry even today? If we secure our success or aid our comfort in life as our first priority, and then add on following Jesus as a secondary appendage to our life and hope, then we will let human will rather than God’s will determine the definition of our “life” and what it means and how we live it.  The temptation will happen in the everyday places of work and school and family first. We can make more money and provide for our family by choosing to be devoted to our job first rather than following God first. Jesus can be paraphrased as saying, “everyone who wants to save their family will lose it, and those who lose their family for my sake will find it.” Or we could substitute “work” for “family.” Or “lifestyle” or “success.” Or “heritage” or “society.”

When Jesus says (in v. 25), “All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will find them,” he is clearly talking about life and death for himself, and at times for us. Yet Jesus is also considering that losing our “life” may include a re-calibration our identity in the world around us. After all, he follows that statement with two questions: “Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives? What will people give in exchange for their lives?” So let me be blunt for a moment.

It is not more important for me to be Baptist than it is for me to follow Jesus’ teachings. Even more, to say that by definition a Baptist will always be like Jesus is to make the mistake of thinking that Baptists can’t fall into temptation to follow something or someone else than the Gospel of God. Like Bonhoeffer’s push back against the German churches, I have chosen at times to lose being Baptist in order to remain faithful to God first. I grew up with my “self” identifying as Southern Baptist, and then they tied themselves to one political party, they claimed the Bible forbids women from pastoral leadership, they narrowed into a fundamentalism that no longer recognizes the wideness of God’s mercy. And so I “lost” being Southern Baptist and saved my life before God. Gratefully, the Alliance of Baptists is my “Baptist home” and reflects the Gospel faithfully.

In the same way it is not more important for me to be a White American of privilege than it is for me to follow Jesus’ teachings. And so I will support, even from this virtual pulpit, the efforts of the Black Lives Matter Movement in the struggle against the injustice of systemic, societal racism that is allowed by the government in power whether it is local, state, or federal.  I do so not because of my political party affiliation or my family values or my education, but by the Gospel affirmation that violence and death and fear and cover-up and misuse of authority are in no way Christian. Were Jesus faced with these things today, he would call out our current president and any politician or citizen or agency who blindly supports the current political climate of fear and dishonesty and injustice as being satanic. 

I am convinced that we are faced with this kind of losing and choosing often. That is, we must constantly be choosing God rather than self; we must choose Gospel rather than culture; we must choose love rather than hate; we must choose embrace rather than abuse. One function of society is to try and impose a definition of what is acceptable, and successful, and approved for citizens in that culture. Being able to discern what is the society’s definition of life and self is important in determining if that contradicts with the Gospel identity of our life and self with God. To be American is to embrace greed, but it’s not a Gospel virtue. To be American is to be aggressive and boastful, but the Gospel calls us to meekness and humility. To be American is to never run from a fight, but the Sermon on the Mount calls for turning the other cheek. To be American is be take revenge, but the Golden Rule does NOT say “do to others what they did to you.” If I have to choose these ways of being American, then I will willingly lose that part of myself for the sake of the Gospel. I have committed my life to being a follower of Jesus rather than an American.

Peter had to follow Jesus enough to watch Jesus die for the sake of living for God. And Peter failed at first to make the same choice for himself. When Peter denied Jesus, he must have felt like he lost his life for the sake of his security. He followed the Tempter instead of the Savior. But that was not Peter’s last chance or final choice. More opportunities came his way and later, he chose better.  What about us? Have we gained a way of life but lost our life with God? Our latest choice is not our last one. Thanks be to God for this indescribable gift.   

Questions for Reflection
1. What makes you you? Or asked differently, of what part of your “self” are you most aware?

2. The New Testament uses many images intended to remind us that we belong to God. When do you feel most like you belong to God?

3. The pandemic has limited our excess activities and experiences. How has a forced pause in life shown you things that you can live without?

Prayer of Thanksgiving. Thank you God for constant love. Please help our church family grow deeper and deeper in your love. Amen.

Song of Faith
The Summons

Will you come and follow me
If I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know
And never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown,
Will you let my name be known,
Will you let my life be grown
In you and you in me?

Will you leave yourself behind
If I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind
And never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare
Should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer prayer
In you and you in me?

Will you let the blinded see
If I but call your name?
Will you set the prisoners free
And never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean,
And do such as this unseen,
And admit to what I mean
In you and you in me?

Will you love the ‘you’ you hide
If I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside
And never be the same?
Will you use the faith you’ve found
To reshape the world around,
Through my sight and touch and sound
In you and you in me?

Lord, your summons echoes true
When you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you
And never be the same.
In your company I’ll go
Where your love and footsteps show.
Thus I’ll move and live and grow
In you and you in me.

Sending Out
May the blessing and peace of God uphold you,
May the compassion and love of Christ enfold you,
and the vitality and power of the Holy Spirit embolden you
today and always. Amen.

Closing Song.  In our tradition, we close worship by singing the first verse of Blest Be the Tie.  Mindy starts us each week, and so she does today as well.

Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love.
The fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above. Amen.

Credits: The soccer image was taken by Torsten Bolton and posted at [retrieved August 27, 2020]. Psalm 105 was read by Gail. The Opening Prayer and Prayer of Confession were written by Moira Laidlaw. Sing to God with Joy was written by John L. Bell and set to the tune GLENDON (JLB). It is based on Psalm 147. World Peace Prayer was composed by Marty Haugen. The refrain was written by Satish Kumar (dates unknown), a Jain monk, who based the poem on passages from the Hindu scriptures known as the Upanishads. The verses were written by Haugen. The song is sung by Ally, Elizabeth, Laura, Mindy, and Tonya. The communion litany was written by the Mennonite Worship and Song Committee, 2018. Amazing Grace is set to the tune NEW BRITAIN from the Virginia Harmony, 1831. The words were written by John Newton (1807). The song was played by Aidan. The Summons was written by John L. Bell and set to the tune KELVINGROVE, a traditional Scottish melody. Blest be the Tie is set to the tune DENNIS which was composed by Johann G. Nageli (1836) and arranged by Lowell Mason (1872). The words were written by John Fawcett (1782). Scripture readings are from the Common English Bible translation. Hymns were sung by Mindy. Permission to podcast / stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #A-724755. All rights reserved.  All writings have been used by permission from the posting sites or authors.  

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