Posts Tagged ‘Sarah’

God says in Isaiah 58:6-7

Isn’t this the fast I choose:
releasing wicked restraints,
untying the ropes of a yoke,
setting free the mistreated,
& breaking every yoke?
Isn’t it sharing your bread with the hungry
& bringing the homeless poor into your house,
covering the naked when you see them,
and not hiding from your own family?

The purpose of Lent is to be a season of fasting, self-denial, Christian growth, penitence, conversion, and simplicity. Lent, which comes from the Teutonic (Germanic) word for springtime, can be viewed as a spiritual spring cleaning: a time for taking spiritual inventory and then cleaning out those things which hinder our corporate and personal relationships with Jesus Christ and our service to him. (John Birch)

May these 40 days before Easter be a time of spiritual spring cleaning, of removing what hinders and renewing what facilitates our relationships with God, the world, and one another.

The Worship of God for Second Sunday in Lent

Passing the Peace 
Say to one another, “May the peace of Christ be with you.”
And reply, “And, also with you.”

Invitation to Worship
based on Psalm 22

Listen to the invitation and/or read below.

Let us glorify God who created all things,
yet who hears and responds to the cries of the weak and the needy.

We declare the glory of God – ruler over all nations,
whose greatness is revealed in gracious and loving acts.
Let us worship and witness so faithfully
that future generations will believe
and glorify God in their hearts and with their lives.

Let us worship and praise God with thanksgiving in our hearts.

Song of Praise
We Will Walk With God
Words: Eswatini Traditional (trans. J.L. Bell)
Tune: SIZOHAMBA (Eswatini Traditional)

Come and walk with me, my brothers.
We will walk with God.
Come and walk with me, my sisters.
We will walk with God.

We will go rejoicing,
til the kingdom has come. (Repeat)

See-zoh-hahm-bah nah-yay,
woh woh woh,
see-zoh-hahm-bah nah-yay. (Repeat)

Goom-shlah wen-jah-boo-lah,
see-zoh-hahm-bah nah-yay. (Repeat)

Come and walk with me, my brothers.
We will walk with God.
Come and walk with me, my sisters.
We will walk with God.

We will go rejoicing,
til the kingdom has come. (Repeat)

Opening Prayer
Let us pray:

Listen and/or read below and pray along.

We pray, O God, that today will be the time when we hear you and that our hearts will not be hard or cold. We pray rather, that our hearts will be warmed, and our lives energized by your Spirit so that we can worship you with our whole being. Amaze us anew with the faithfulness of Sarah and Abraham and their belief in your staggering promises of a fruitful future. Confront us afresh with wonder at your desire to relate to humanity through a covenant established by you. We worship you, O God, with awe, knowing that you care so much for us – knowledge deepened and confirmed through the bringing into being of a new covenant through the suffering and death of Jesus. Accept, we pray, this worship which comes from thankful hearts, for we offer it in Jesus’ name. Amen

Psalm 22:23-31
Common English Bible

Listen to and/or read the Psalm.

All of you who revere the Lord—praise him!
All of you who are Jacob’s descendants—honor him!
All of you who are all Israel’s offspring—
stand in awe of him!
24 Because he didn’t despise or detest
the suffering of the one who suffered—
he didn’t hide his face from me.
No, he listened when I cried out to him for help.

25 I offer praise in the great congregation
because of you;
I will fulfill my promises
in the presence of those who honor God.
26 Let all those who are suffering eat and be full!
Let all who seek the Lord praise him!
I pray your hearts live forever!
27 Every part of the earth
will remember and come back to the Lord;
every family among all the nations will worship you.
28 Because the right to rule belongs to the Lord,
he rules all nations.
29 Indeed, all the earth’s powerful
will worship him;
all who are descending to the dust
will kneel before him;
my being also lives for him.
30 Future descendants will serve him;
generations to come will be told about my Lord.
31 They will proclaim God’s righteousness
to those not yet born,
telling them what God has done.

Song of Praise
The Living God Be Praised!
Author: Daniel ben Judah
Tune: LEONI

The living God be praised!
Give honor to God’s name,
who was, and is, and is to be,
for-e’re the same;
the one eternal God
before all now appears,
the first, the last, beyond all thought
God’s timeless years!

2 God’s Spirit still flows free,
high surging where it will;
in prophet’s word God spoke of old
and God speaks still.
Established is God’s law
and changeless it shall stand,
inscribed upon the human heart
on sea and land.

3 Eternal life has God
implanted in the soul;
God’s love will be our strength and stay
while ages roll.
The living One be praised!
Give honor to God’s name,
who was, and is, and is to be,
for’e’er the same.

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
New Revised Standard Version

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

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. 2And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.” 3Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, 4“As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. 5No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. 6I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. 7I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.”

15God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”

Lenten Prayer
Let us pray,

Listen and/or read the prayer as we pray.

Gracious God, you reached into Abraham and Sarah’s lives
and asked them to dream the impossible dream –
that you would transform what appears to have been
a barren and lifeless situation into one overflowing with promise and hope –
and, through faith in you, they believed your promises.

Forgive us, O God, if we never get beyond thinking of your call on our lives
as an impossible dream or even as an unwelcome interruption.

Forgive us, O God, when we find it hard even to hear your promises
above commercial assurances of transformation—
tempting us to trust the newest and trendiest product to realize our dreams.

Forgive us, O God, when we allow the power of evil to flourish
because we are afraid of what the cost might be to truly follow and walk with you.

Silent reflection on these words

Gracious and loving God, forgive our lack of trust in you;
Have mercy on us and forgive us.
Help us when we hesitate, and strengthen us when we are weak
Breathe your Spirit afresh into our hearts and minds – our lives -so that we have the courage to follow Jesus wherever he takes us. Amen

Words of Assurance and Hope
God loves us; we do not need to be afraid.
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.”
“Stand up and do not be afraid.”
“You are my friends. I am always with you.”
Amen.

Anthem
Be Still, and Know that I am God
Composer: Carol McClure

Be still, and know that I am God;
Be still, and know that I am God.

Long before you were formed,
Long before you were born,
I knew your face and called you by name;
My love for you is always the same.

Be still, and know that I am God;
Be still, and know that I am God.

You are made in the image of God;
You are redeemed by my love.
You are made in the image of God;
You are redeemed by my love.

Be still, and know that I am God;
Be still, and know that I am God.

Reflection on the Old Testament
Rev. Tonya Vickery

Listen to the reflection and/or read below.

“Faith includes faithfulness, strength of waiting, the acceptance of [God’s] concealment, defiance of history.”

We all have felt the frustrating paradox of on the one hand knowing God’s constant presence and on the other hand, experiencing God’s silence, or rather our inability to hear, see, or feel God.  Sometimes life feels like we are attending a celebration or victory dinner. Like the Israelites, we have been freed from our “Egyptians” and we join Moses in song.
“The LORD is my strength and my might;    
the LORD has become my salvation.
This is my God
  whom I will praise and exalt!” (Exodus 15:2).
But then there are those days when heavy hearts, confused and lost, feeling defeated we sit down with Job and say,
“Look, God passes right by me,
    but I do not see God;
God moves on,
    but I do not perceive.” (Job 9:11)

God is not indifferent to our struggle of knowing God.  As we look for God around us, as we hope to hear God’s voice, as we long to feel God’s holy presence, God is mindful of our quest to find God in our days and in our world. Without a doubt, we need God. But surprisingly God, the Almighty God, needs us too. The story of Abraham and Sarah following on the heels of the story of Noah highlights God’s need for us.

God created this amazing world and God is good. So therefore everything is good because God created it. But the world has fallen short of the glory of God out of which it was created. It’s like paths of darkness have made their way through the world and across our lives. Paths of misery, callousness, and defiance.

These pockets of shadows and darkness where the light of God does not shine, these are not places where God is at home. The Iranian regime made the news Friday. Our nation striking back at them for killing an American contractor who was working for the US government. But take a deeper look into what life is like for Iranians living under this dishonest, fear mongering leaders. It doesn’t take long to run across pictures or stories of Iranian children rummaging through the garbage. They sell the garbage for less than a dollar a day just so their family can buy a loaf of bread for the day. What a miserable life for a child. Misery is not the kind of home which God has created for us.

God isn’t at home with callous attitudes either. We have read about callousness in the hearts of Americans who before the Civil War forcefully separated children from their mothers to sell them as slaves.  What a horrible scene, callous to the cries of the children and their mothers. Such brutal behavior is not the kind of life for which God created us.  But unfortunately we Americans still commit such ironhearted acts. Callous hearts of Americans who forcefully separated children from mothers who were seeking asylum. Who could possibly do such a thing? and receive wages for such soulless actions?  Callous, hard hearts towards others speaks nothing of the way of God. This is not the type of life for which God created us.

And then there’s defiance, defiance by 10% of the world’s population. Ten percent of us make over $38,000 a year and we are the ones heating up the planet. Our refusal or reluctance to make changes or adjustments to our daily living as to cool things down shows how stubborn and self-serving we truly are. Our current lifestyle is set to increase the temperature of the planet at least 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit). It doesn’t sound like a lot. You change the temperature in your house by 5 or 6 degrees, and it’s really no big deal. But when you change the temperature of the planet by 5 degrees Fahrenheit, we won’t be living like we did a couple of years ago.  If you think a pandemic is an interruption to life, what do you think will happen when the earth heats up 5 degrees? Those before us were not aware of the impact of burning fossil fuels like coal and oil, but we are aware. Do you recall the first thing God told humanity to do?  Take care of the earth. We have more understanding and knowledge of how to do that, and how we have harmed the earth. But we are still being pigheaded about making uncomfortable money costing changes. A defiant life is not the way of God.

Last week we read in Genesis that the earth had become a place God didn’t like. Corruption and violence filled the earth. It was not how God envisioned life to be, not for God, not for the earth, and not for people. However, God sees his friend Noah living honorably and righteously among this misery, callousness, and defiance. Genesis says Noah is blameless. So God says to Noah, “Come, walk with me.” And while they are walking together (actually riding safe inside a very large enclosed boat), God brings a flood that destroys everything but Noah and Noah’s family and those animals safe inside the boat.  It was like a tactical rescue mission. Get the good people out and destroy the rest.

That’s how we want to see it done sometimes. God would you just wipe out all corrupt leaders from the world, especially in Iran where children are having to dig through the garbage? Where their lives are hopeless and robbed of the joys of being a child. And while you are at it, just take care of people with callous hearts and defiant self-serving minds however you see fit. Did you notice that we don’t tend to pray that God would wipe out those of us with callous hearts toward caring for others and defiant attitudes towards care for the earth? What do you think God would say to such prayers? Can’t do that Peach. I made a promise a long time ago to never do that again. And it is an everlasting covenant. We remember the promise of God by the bending of light–a rainbow.

But God, the earth, and humanity needed more than just a promise from God that erasure or destruction would not be used against the darkness. God offers more. God invites a family to go out from their country into a new land, to set up house there, and fully live the way of God. It sounds like an escape plan. You know those times when life gets rough and you are like, “I just need to get out of here and move to Norway.”  But this new idea was definitely not an escape. Look at Genesis 17:1. God says to Abram, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless.”  Ah, we have already heard that word blameless. Noah was blameless. He lived an honorable and righteous life. We have also already heard that word walk. The change between the two invitations is in the word that come before walk  –  a preposition in the case of Noah becomes an adverb in the life of Abram. The invitation from God to Noah was “Walk with me.” The invitation from God to Abram is “Walk before me.” There is a shift here. There is a purpose to Abram’s walk that goes beyond himself and his family being rescued, saved from the darkness. At first it sounds like God is asking Abram to lead the way for God, as if God didn’t know which way to go. But that’s not what’s intended here. Remove the ideas of competition and ranking. This isn’t about pecking orders or the first one in the line is the best.  Abram coming before God means Abram is to be like a shining light. Abram’s life is to illuminate the presence of God to the world, making more room for God and less room for those dark paths of misery, callousness, and defiance.

The dark paths running across the globe today are not much different from those in the days of Noah. And we know without a shadow of a doubt, that God does not  like such things. Misery, callousness, and defiance are not the ways of God. However, God will not provide an escape route, nor will God wipe out everything that is wrong.  Instead, God asks us to bring the presence of God into the world and into our lives and into the lives of others. The misery, the callousness, and the defiance fade away over time when God is brought into these places. Like Abraham, we are illuminate God’s presence along these paths so the world can know the goodness and love and grace of God.

But, here we are again. Sometimes we see God clearly and we sing at the top of our lungs with Moses. Yes, we can illuminate the presence of God in the world. But there are times when we cannot see God, and we sit alongside Job, wondering. How can we illuminate a presence which we cannot perceive. But even when we cannot see, hear, or feel God, we can still illuminate the presence of God to the world, but it will require us to be faithful to our faith in God. When God seems gone, we must remember that there is nothing closer to us than God. There is nothing closer to you than Almighty God. One bridge to get us over the emptiness is being in awe of God, living every day in awe of God.

We all adore something or someone. I have the pleasure of seeing Millie each Tuesday night on Zoom for Bible study with the young adults. I adore little Millie.  We are all awe struck by something. We watched a documentary on the Grand Canyon Friday night. I can only imagine that if I stood in that deep canyon, I would be awe of such massive colorful walls of rock. So who or what in your life are you in awe of? But turn this question and refine it. What are you in awe of that is worthy of your supreme worship? Now, you can stand outside on a clear night and gaze at the stars above and stand in awe. Nature is full of awestriking things. But we don’t worship nature. We can see those chubby Millie cheeks and we star struck, but we don’t worship Millie. Instead infants, nature, and the vastness of the universe create an awe within  us which illuminates for us the works of the Creator God and our hearts are pointed to God.  These things nurture within us the awe of God Almighty!

If you want to increase your awe of God, start by asking yourself this question: what is God’s relationship with humanity?  The biblical stories of Noah and Abraham and Sarah reveal this relationship more and more. What is God’s relationship with you?  Your presence in this world is not a mistake or a chance happening. Always remember that God is unwilling to be alone, and God has chosen, not just Noah, not just Sarah and Abraham, but God has chosen to share life with us, with you. Faith in God is our response to God choosing us.  Faith in God may begin with a decision or a desire. But when we nurture our faith in the living God with awe, that faith grows.

As we work to diminish and eradicate misery, callousness, and defiance in the world, deepen your sense of the mystery of God. Realize that faith is not just a belief, but faith is an act. Faith in the living God is the core of who you are, what you do, how you think about things, what you love. Faith is not an achievement, but it is a way of life. And it is something that has to be worked at, nurtured, tended to. Faith requires faithfulness, what Abraham Heschel called “strength of waiting.” Our active living faith in the living active God reveals God’s presence to the world. So like Abraham, walk before God don’t promise escape routes or destruction of evil or easy answers, but walk before God, illuminating God by your life to everyone that God is here with us always.

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
Put All Your Trust in God
Author: Paul Gerhardt; trans. John Wesley; ad. by Tonya Vickery
Tune: ST THOMAS (Williams)

1 Put all your trust in God,
in duty’s path go on;
walk in God’s strength with faith and hope,
so will your work be done.

2 Commit your ways to God,
your works into God’s hands,
and rest on God’s unchanging word,
who heaven and earth commands.

3 Though years on years roll on,
God’s covenant endures;
though clouds and darkness hide God’s path,
the promised grace is sure.

4 Give to the wind your fears;
hope, and be undismayed:
God sees your heart and feels your pain;
and hears the words you’ve prayed.

5 Through waves and clouds and storms
our God will clear the way:
expect to see the darkest night
become the brightest day.

Sending Out

Listen to and/or read the sending out.

Know that the ever-present mystery we name God
is in your past forgiving you,
in your present loving you,
and in your future meeting you.

And may the blessing of the Source of life, love and hope,
the Word of life, compassion and wisdom
and Breath of life, grace and truth
surround, sustain and surprise you,
this day and all your days. Amen

Blest Be the Tie 
by John Fawcett 

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

When we are called to part, it gives us inward pain; 
but we shall still be joined in heart, and hope to meet again. 

This glorious hope revives our courage by the way; 
while each in expectation lives and waits to see the day.  

Acknowledgements:

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