Order, Words, & Voices

Order
Sunday, June 20, 2021 

#1 ONE Video #1 (4:28)

  • Call to Worship

    No Longer Slaves (Jonathan David Helser, Joel Case, rian Mark Johnson
    & Melissa Helser)

Live/OnLine

  • Prayer                    Rick (In Person) (Slides)
  • Music                     Rick (In Person) (Slides)
    • This Is My Father’s World (Purdy, Sheppard , Riddle , Babcock)
    • Because He Lives (Gloria Gaither, William J. Gaither)
    • There Is A Redeemer (Melody Green)
  • That Story = My Story            Peyton, Renee, Billy (No Slides)
  • Music                    Rick (Slides)
    • Father I Adore Thee (Terrye Coelho)
  • Message    ‘Me, My, Mine’         Rick (slides)

#2 TWO Video (5:41)

  • Song – The Truth (Lauren Strahm & Andrew Holt)

    Community – Next Sunday – Captive to Purpose (Acts 20)
            Vaccination Month & Story

Live

  • Benediction (inperson/online)  Peyton, Billy, Renee (Spotlight) (no slides)
  • Sharing the Peace           Rick

# 3 Three Audio (5:52)
Song -Heart of a Father (Ryan Ellis)

Voices & Words

#1 ONE Video #1

  • Call to Worship

    No Longer Slaves (Jonathan David Helser, Joel Case, Mark Johnson
    & Melissa Helser)

But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God
John 1:12

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Galatians 5:1

For you have delivered my soul from death, and my feet from falling, so that I may walk before God in the light of life.
Psalm 56:13

For you were called to freedom; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.
Galatians 5:13

As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil.
I Peter 2:16

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
II Corinthians 3:17

and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.
John 8:21

But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God
John 1:12

Live/OnLine

  • Prayer

God, we pray today for a passionate curiosity to know you

Put us on the path of constant pursuit of understanding you

May we never just settle for what we have been told

May we never stop our journey because we caught a glimpse of you
May we never cease to look even in those times when you seem absent

God may we stand on your promise that you want to be found

May we be confident in our ability to seek and search

May we be determined to find, and then to find more

God, in our seeking, searching, and finding may we discern lies

May we discern deceit
May we discern truth

May we never settle for anything less than truth

May we never be satisfied unless that truth is evident in love

God, remind us of all that is to be found

God, renew our curiosity, refresh our hope, remind us that you are God.  Amen.

  • Music

This Is My Father’s World
CCLI Song # 6167640
Aaron Purdy | Franklin Lawrence Sheppard | Jennie Lee Riddle | Maltbie Davenport Babcock

This is my Father’s world
And to my list’ning ears
All nature sings and ’round me rings
Music of the spheres

This is my Father’s world
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees of skies and seas
His hand the wonders wrought

This is my Father’s world
O let me ne’er forget
And though the wrong seems oft so strong
God is the Ruler yet

This is my Father’s world
Why should my heart be sad
The Lord is King let the heavens ring
God reigns let the earth be glad

This is my Father’s world
He shines in all that’s fair
In the rust’ling grass I hear Him pass
He speaks to me ev’rywhere

This is my Father’s world
O let me ne’er forget
And though the wrong seems oft so strong
God is the Ruler yet

Because He Lives
CCLI Song # 16880
Gloria Gaither | William J. Gaither

God sent His Son they called Him Jesus
He came to love heal and forgive
He bled and died to buy my pardon
An empty grave is there to prove
My Savior lives

Because He lives I can face tomorrow
Because He lives all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living
Just because He lives

There Is A Redeemer
CCLI Song # 11483
Melody Green

There is a Redeemer Jesus God’s own Son
Precious Lamb of God Messiah Holy One

Thank You O my Father
For giving us Your Son
And leaving Your Spirit
Till the work on earth is done

Jesus my Redeemer name above all names
Precious Lamb of God Messiah
O for sinners slain

Thank You O my Father
For giving us Your Son
And leaving Your Spirit
Till the work on earth is done

And then one day I’ll cross that river
I’ll fight life’s final war with pain
And then as death gives way to vict’ry
I’ll see the lights of glory
And I’ll know He reigns

Because He lives I can face tomorrow
Because He lives all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living
Just because He lives

Thank You O my Father
For giving us Your Son
And leaving Your Spirit
Till the work on earth is done

When I stand in glory I will see His face
There I’ll serve my King forever
In that holy place

  • That Story = My Story  Billy, Renee, Peyton (Live/On Line) (no slides except title slide)

Change is a challenge; we eagerly embrace it or we don’t even try…. Often it is a life long struggle.

Have you ever contemplated changing your hair, your route to work, or sitting at a different lunch table?

What about walking into the grocery store only to find that they have moved the cereal aisle?!

Or, at episode five on Netflix you discover that the bad guy is actually the good guy. You already hate the wrong bad guy! You can’t change who you hate at episode 5!

Change has always been a problem.

The prophet Isaiah told the Israelites that change was coming. They didn’t like change either, they saw no need, so they didn’t really pay attention.

It was still a long time away so they figured someone else could deal with it.

Yeah, let the next generation deal with that.

Isaiah told the people that the change was already happening, still they didn’t care.  They didn’t listen, they didn’t even look.

It was just a matter of turning back to God but change sometimes comes with a risk. They were settled in. No one wants to be unsettled.
If you think about it there was also lot of change in the way Jesus lived and taught. He went to the home of a Gentile politician.

Which was Outrageous.

He listened to the reasoning of a Gentile woman.

Which was Dangerous.

He drank from the cup that had been used by a Samaritan.
Unsanitary, Unhygienic, and just Wrong.
Jesus’ actions were radical, probably labeled ‘liberal’.  He also ate with sinners and actually went to the home of a tax collector.

That was true almost since his birth. Gentile magicians in his house before he was two, an unclean chronically ill woman pushing through a crowd to touch him, and saving the life of an adulteress.

They never knew, we never know, what’s next on God’s path.

God told the Apostle Peter to go to the house of a Gentile. God empowered the Apostle Paul to enter the marketplace crowded with Gentiles.

Today, we see the dangerous power of three small words – ‘Me, My, and Mine.’

Paul is in Ephesus where ‘The word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.’
For three months Paul continually went into the synagogue and spoke about the kingdom of God. Some flat out refused to believe and started spreading lies about Christians.

So, instead of going to the synagogue, for the next two years, Paul returned to the marketplace and the public square. Soon, all the Jews, and Greeks, had heard about the resurrected Jesus and that statues are not really God.

Extraordinary things were happening.  New believers turned to God and changed their evil practices – even though it would doom their incomes. Those who practiced magic burned about one million dollars worth of books. They believed about Jesus enough to risk their livelihood.

When Paul was about to leave Ephesus a disturbance arose regarding Christianity. A silversmith named Demetrius, who made idols of the god Artemis, recognized the threat to his business. He gathered all the idol makers together.

Demetrius explained that their income was at risk because Paul was saying ‘gods made with hands are not gods’.
Demetirus sought to take the selfish ‘Me, My, & Mine’ aspect out of his argument, he added religiosity. Demetirus said, ’The temple of the great goddess Artemis will be scorned, and she will be deprived of her majesty.”

Demetrius’ plan worked- he made his selfishness sound holy. ‘Me, My, and Mine’ is always more acceptable when it sounds holy.

Demetrius manipulated the crowd masterfully. Soon, the workers were enraged and shouted, “Great is Artemis!”

Soon, the entire city was filled with the confusion; the crowd dragged Paul’s travel companions out. 

Paul’s disciples and even the city leaders begged Paul not to go into the crowd.

Next we see the unpredictable consequences of ‘Me, My, and Mine.”  Actually we still see this happening in in our day, and we still have to deal with the unexpected consequences.

As the crowd grew, most of them didn’t even know why they were so angry, but nevertheless, they grabbed ahold of the rage.

When a Jewish leader tried to calm the crowd the Gentiles got mad – it turned into a Jews against Gentiles uprising. 

Eventually, the town clerk, was able to calm the crowd. He corrected the false conspiracies that had gone viral in the crowd and the crowd went home.

’Me, My, and Mine’ is very human but also a dangerously powerful tool.

[Acts 19]

  • Music

Father I Adore You
CCLI Song # 26557
Terrye Coelho

Father I adore You
Lay my life before You
How I love You

Jesus I adore You
Lay my life before You
How I love You

Spirit I adore You
Lay my life before You
How I love You

  • Message        Me, My, & Mine

All public schools in the state of Oklahoma are required to conduct a minimum of ten safety drills.  At least four of the drills must be ‘threat’ security types of actions.  This includes and active shooter situation or other scenarios.  Two of the drills must be tornado drills and two must fire drills.  The remaining two drills are for local school administrations to determine based on their greatest perceived need. There is no question that these drills are essential, however, they can be rather traumatic, especially for younger children who do not understand.  And, while teachers and school staffs totally agree with the need, they also recognize that often the reality of scheduling along with all the other procedural requirements can sometimes create an administrative nightmare.  A frequent result of those nightmares is that principals will find that they are up against a deadline for the required drills.

This was the case one day when Andrea was a middle school teacher. She arrived to find that a new student had been assigned to her classroom. The family of the 12 year old boy had just moved to Norman from a different country, and, he spoke absolutely no English.  The actually happens frequently, and it is usually maneuvered with Google Translate or assigning another student who speaks the language. Andrea did all of this but as the day proceeded she found that none of those were going to fully help this situation. This just happened to be one of those drills deadline days where the school had to do a fire drill, a tornado drill, and an active shooter drill.  The boy managed to follow the crowd for the tornado and fire drill, mirroring the actions of the other students and teachers who attempted to explain.  He made if successfully through these first two, but the ‘Active Shooter’ drill was more challenging. Once he discovered the purpose of the drill this one was a bit more terrifying. He found Andrea and began frantically asking her something. She could not find any other students to help translate so she pulled out her phone and finally realized that he was asking, ‘Is this real?’ She used the international language of ‘no’ by shaking her head and a offering a reassuring look.  He was then fine

Following others is an automatic act of self preservation.  This little guy could not communicate, he had no way of analyzing the situation and making his own decision, he was stuck with no choice but to follow others.  Until….even in his situations, he recognized he could no long just blindly follow…so he deliberately found the one person who he trusted.

Marketing experts, politicians, and religious leaders all understand this aspect of our humanity. Knowing how to use, and abuse, following makes those who know how to use this reality very rich.

In Siox City Iowa, on January 23, 2016, our former president shared his understanding of humans and following as he talked about his followers, “I have the most loyal people, did you ever see that? I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot people and I wouldn’t lose voters,”
Donald Trump
Kamisar, Ben. “Trump: I could shoot people in streets and not lose support.” The Hill. 01.23.16

I use this as an example, not to slam Mr. Trump, truth is, I am somewhat impressed that, days away from the first presidential political test, the Iowa causes, he already knew his followers well enough to say something this risky.

Truth is, following is not always a bad thing, nor is it always good. Jesus chose to compare his followers to sheep for that very reason, the act of faithfully following. The issue of following, however, is not the aspect of following, it is actually about the who of following, the leader. Jesus knew this and pointed it out as he called his followers sheep. He provided the credibility of Jesus as the leader, as the sheppherd.

“My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”
John 10:27-30

This brings us to our story for today, the apostle Paul in Ephesus. Paul had been rejected by the Jewish religious leaders so he returned to the Marketplace. It was there that he found interest, people began to listen to what he was saying.  He quickly listened to their questions, they were free to debate and argue, some accepted and followed, some didn’t. At the end of each day they all went home, then, the next morning they returned to the marketplace and resumed the dialogue. This carried on for two years.

It was all rather civil, until a local businessman named Demitrius began to notice the intricacies of Paul’s message. Demitrius was not concerned about the religious aspect of Paul’s message, it was something else that concerned him. See, Demitrius did not care if people listened to Paul and became Christians.  The faith choices of the people was really not of concern to him.  It wasn’t until Demitrius figured out that there was a conflict between Paul’s message and and his own need for self preservation.  Demitrius was a artisan that made idol statues, this was his income, this made him wealthy.  Demitrius didn’t really care what statues he bought, as long as they would sell he was totally supportive. However, Paul was saying something that was problematic. Paul was saying, that the statues that adorned the city of Ephesus, statues of all their gods, as well as of the gods they did not know, that these statues were not really gods – they were just statues.

When the leader that we follow is ‘Me, My, & Mine’ we are looking for a human leader who is going to secure the things that we hold most valuable, most precious. For Demitrius it was his income, he was also aware that for others it may be their religion. So we became a shepherd, he called out to others who also had a ‘Me, My’ & Mine’ god. Then Demitrius knew he had to increase his base so he suddenly became religious. Eventually he threw in some cultural economics, nationalism, and politics and he had a crowd that quickly adopted his rage and as a result outrage erupted.  Most in the crowd quickly followed without any investigation or questions.  Soon the crowd was an avanlanche that had no idea of why they had joined the others. Demitrius was now their shepherd, accepted because he met their ‘Me, My, & Mine’ god.

The rioting did not quit until a very wise city leader recognized that the indignities expressed by the mob was multifold, he stopped forward and calmed their religious, their political, their income, their city, and everything else the people assumed they were mad about. The crowd dissipated.

This event brings us to many comparisons.

  1. If we go back to the beginning to God’s promise to the Hebrews, it all began with a man named Abraham. A man who came from the profession of idol making. A man who was called to give up everything, his income, extended family, nationality, his politics, to, instead, follow God. A man who had to release his ‘Me, My, & Mine.’
  2. Remember also the Jewish leaders at the times Peter, and then Paul, came before them to talk about God’s inclusion of the gentiles. Instead of creating a mob to protect their ‘Me, My, & Mine’, they became silent. They recognized the surrender of their religion the they were now called to release and they let go.
  3. Or even the story that happens just before the mob story in Ephesus. Those who made their income in darkness, the magicians. They let go of everything in order to grab ahold of Jesus.

Our truth for today is not a caution of regarding our leaders, it is a warning regarding the gods we allow to lead us to those leaders. The gods of Me, the gods of My, the gods of Mine. Our call from this story is to look at what we follow and ask ourselves, ‘Does this line up with the message of our true God, or are we too, following god statues.

Jesus said to those who had made the decision to follow him, Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in the truth I have taught you through my life and through my words, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
John 8:31-32

Who is leading you?

Let’s pray.

#2 TWO Video Post Message

  • The Truth (Lauren Strahm & Andrew Holt)
  • Community – Next Sunday – Captive to Purpose (Acts 20),

        Vaccination Month, & Story

Live & Online

BenedictionToday, we go out from here as a people. A people who are children of God. A people who share the experience of the same Father.

Today, we go out from here as a microcosm of the universe. We go out from here as children of God into the marketplace filled with the descendants of God.

Today, we, children of God and descendants of God, go out amongst the offspring, the created, of God the Father.

We go not to yell ‘This is who WE are!’

We go not to scream ‘Move aside, WE are coming through!’

We go out to be.

We go out to love.

We go out to care.

We go out to be a humble light.

We go out to reveal the Father who calls all his descendants to be his children.

We go out to let God’s offspring know that everyday is the cosmic Father’s day.

So, as we go out today, we go out in gratitude for the grace of the path sacrificially paved by the Father.

We go out allowing the love of the Father to overflow from our lives.

We go out, into the Marketplace, to love like God.

  • Closing Peace

As we go, we leave recognizing the truth of humanity – the truth that we go out into a world of lies, conspiracies, half truths, manipulative truths, selfish truths, and hateful hurtful truths.  We go out into a world where even truth can used to manipulate and deceive. A world where truth is often a tool not to free us but to control and enslave us.

We also go from here gifted by God.  We have been given the ability to differentiate what is truth in its complete context – full truth in purpose and in details. Not only have we, along with all descendants of God, been gifted to discern, we have also been given a mandate – a calling to look for truth constantly and consistently. To seek and search with a goal of finding.

Truth brings us to a life lived in love. So, as you go out from here, may the love of the Father go with you

And also with you.

Go out into the marketplace as loved descendants of God and loved children of God. Go with the power of discernment to live in and to live out the love of the Father, the Love of God.

#3 THREE – Post Worship Music
Song – Heart of a Father (Ryan Ellis)

Order, Words, & Voices

Order

Sunday, June 13, 2021

#1 ONE Video #1 (2:13)

  • Call to Worship

Child of God (Phil Wickham)

Live/OnLine

  • Prayer                    Rick (In Person) (Slides)
  • Music                     Abbie (In Person) (Slides)

    Tell Me The Story Of (Fanny Crosby and John Sweney)

    Blessed Assurance (Fanny Crosby, Phoebe Knapp)

    I Love To Tell The Story (Arabella Hankey, William Fischer)

  • That Story = My Story Intro        Rick (Slide)
  • That Story = My Story            Sherri, Beth, Linda (No Slides)
  • Music                    Abbie (Slides)

    Blessed Assurance (Fanny Crosby, Phoebe Knapp)

  • Message    ‘Descendants in the Marketplace’         Rick (slides)

#2 TWO Video (4:39)

  • Song – Belong to You (Dustin Smith, Jaye Thomas & Stephen Mcwhirter)

    Community – Next Sunday – The Power of Me, My, & Mine (Acts 19:21-41)

Live

  • Benediction (inperson/online)  Sherri, Beth, Linda (Spotlight) (no slides)
  • Sharing the Peace           Rick

# 3 Three Audio (3:32)

Song – Love Anyway (Drew & Elli Holcomb)

Voices & Words

Call to Worship

‘We too are his offspring.’ Acts 17:28b

See what great love the Father has lavished upon us that we should be called the children of God. I John 3:1

for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. Galatians 3:26

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. I John 3:1a

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. I John 5:2

Prayer

God, you are my creator and my sustainer

You are our ruler and our savior

You are the father and the king

You alone are the judge of this world

You alone are my redeemer

God, it is in you that I live

It is in you that I move

It is in you that I have my being

God, I am your offspring

We are your offspring

We walk in the midst of your offspring

We exist among your offspring

We live with your offspring

God, I know that you are always present

I have glimpses of you in Christ

I feel close to you in holy moments

I know you are light even in the darkness

I know that there is hope even in desolation

I desire to see you even when you are unseen

I search to constantly know you more

God, may we see you

Not in gold or silver or stone

Not in objects made by our devising

Nor in the false perceptions that come from our human minds

God, may we witness you in your gifts

In your grace

In your promise

In your sacrifice

In your mercy

In your compassion

In your love

Amen

Music

Tell Me The Story Of (Fanny Jane Crosby & John Robson Sweney)

Jesus CCLI Song # 33399

Tell me the story of Jesus
Write on my heart every word
Tell me the story most precious
Sweetest that ever was heard
Tell how the angels in chorus
Sang as they welcomed His birth
Glory to God in the highest
Peace and good tidings to earth

Blessed Assurance (Fanny Jane Crosby, Phoebe Palmer Knapp)

CCLI Song # 22324

Blessed assurance Jesus is mine
O what a foretaste of glory divine
Heir of salvation purchase of God
Born of His Spirit washed in His blood

This is my story this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long
This is my story this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long

Perfect submission perfect delight
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight
Angels descending bring from above
Echoes of mercy whispers of love

This is my story this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long
This is my story this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long

Tell Me The Story Of Jesus (Fanny Jane Crosby | John Robson Sweney)

CCLI Song # 33399

Fasting alone in the desert
Tell of the days that are past
How for our sins He was tempted
Yet was triumphant at last
Tell of the years of His labour
Tell of the sorrow He bore
He was despised and afflicted
Homeless rejected and poor

Tell of the cross where they nailed Him
Writhing in anguish and pain
Tell of the grave where they laid Him
Tell how He liveth again
Love in that story so tender
Clearer than ever I see
Stay let me weep while you whisper
Love paid the ransom for me

I Love To Tell The Story (Arabella Catherine Hankey William Gustavus Fischer)

CCLI Song # 29413

I love to tell the story
Of unseen things above
Of Jesus and His glory
Of Jesus and His love

I love to tell the story
‘Twill be my theme in glory
To tell the old old story
Of Jesus and His love

I love to tell the story
More wonderful it seems
Than all the golden fancies
Of all our golden dreams

I love to tell the story
‘Twill be my theme in glory
To tell the old old story
Of Jesus and His love

Blessed Assurance (Fanny Jane Crosby, Phoebe Palmer Knapp)

CCLI Song # 22324

Perfect submission all is at rest
I in my Savior am happy and blest
Watching and waiting looking above
Filled with His goodness lost in His love

Filled with His goodness lost in His love

That Story = My Story

We have seen so much as we as we have traveled alongside the new testament church.

We have seen so much because they have seen so much. We seen people become A People.

It must have felt similar to what the Israelites experienced coming out of slavery in Egypt and also becoming A People.

We have primarily seen it through the work of the Apostle Peter, it has been a mighty work.

Accepting previously unacceptable people.

Letting go of obligatory expectations.

It had to be a lot to take in, sometimes it must have seemed overwhelmingly impossible to take in, process, and apply.

As we continue today, we will be seeing these next phases of the journey through the Apostle Paul.

Talk about accepting previously unacceptable people and letting go of obligatory expectations. As we meet begin to follow Paul we see a man who has had a distinctly unique path to Jesus.

God placed amazing co-laborers along Paul’s path who have provided sacrificial support and assistance.

Co-laborers with names such as Silas, Timothy, Lydia, Jason, Aquila and Priscilla,

Dionysius, Damaris, Titius, Crispus, Apollos,

Amphipolis, Apollonia, Thessalonica, Beroea, and in Acts 17 we find Paul waiting for Silas and Timothy in Athens.

In Athens, Paul was extremely bothered that the city was full of idols. He argued with the Jews and the devout persons in the synagogue then he argued with everyone in the marketplace.

They  brought Paul to the Areopagus and asked him, “What this new teaching is that you are presenting? It sounds rather strange to us, so we would like to know what it means.” 

Remember, these are the philosophers who spent their time in endless discussions.

I’ve been in some of those

Me too

So, Paul excitedly said, “I see how extremely religious you are in every way. I walked through your city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship I even found an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’

This God you worship but do not know – this is the God who I am about. This is the God who made the world and everything in it, the God who is Lord of heaven and earth.”

Paul also said, “From one ancestor God made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and God allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search, seek, and even find God.

Here’s the truth, God is not far from each ant of us. For ‘In God we live and move and have our being’; even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are God’s offspring.’

God has overlooked our times of human ignorance, but now, God commands all people everywhere to repent. God has fixed a day on which the the world judged in righteousness by a man whom God has appointed, and of this, God has given assurance to us all by raising that man from the dead.”

When they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some scoffed; but others said, “We will hear you again about this.”

Music

Blessed Assurance (Fanny Jane Crosby, Phoebe Palmer Knapp)

CCLI Song # 22324

This is my story this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long
This is my story this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long

Blessed assurance Jesus is mine
O what a foretaste of glory divine
Heir of salvation purchase of God
Born of His Spirit washed in His blood

This is my story this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long
This is my story this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long

Praising my Savior all the day long

Message        Descendants in the Marketplace

Standing on stage awaiting the entry of my bride was the opposite of the emotional stories I often hear. In the moments leading up to our wedding ceremony my anxiety increased with every second and I worried that sweat would forfeit my tux deposit.  Then my bride, Andrea, entered the auditorium on the arm of her father.  My response was not gooey emotion but frustration and outrage.  Here, in this most significant moment  Andrea entered cool and calm as was humanly possible.  She walked down the aisle greeting the guests like she was calmly working the room at a fundraiser.  I was incensed that she was having such a different moment than me.

With this in mind, it was surprising this week as I witnessed her visibly nervous on our way to a book signing with one of her favorite contemporary authors. It was a bit annoying that this woman who could gracefully and calmly navigate our marriage ceremony was now anxious about a 1 minute signature and selfie.

There are major moments in life, moments like marriage, the birth of a child, the death of a loved one, a new job, a new home, and apparently a selfie – moments that are a pivotal point in our path. Eventually these moments land us at a new normal, but in the midst of the moment, it is enthralling, intimidating, joyful, and terrifying.

Today’s passage brings us to a pivotal moment for the apostle Paul and the church.  A moment greater than addressing a U.S. subcommittee, an appearance before the Supreme Court, a pressured visit to the Oval Office, a joint interview on Fox CNN & MSNBC, and a note to go see the principal – all at the same time. It was Christianity’s first real validation from the Gentile world. It was huge for all Christians – a moment when Christians crossed over from ‘just a radical fringe wing of Judaism’ to a people of interest with a message of significance.

This moment began as the Apostle Paul waited for Silas and Timothy in Athens. While waiting, he ventured into the marketplace, into the public square, places where everyday life naturally brought people together.  There, among largely Gentile crowds, Paul shared, discussed, argued, debated, and even explained to those he encountered.  Among these crowds were the intelligent, respected, and undoubtedly annoying, Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. While this group loved to discuss and debate, they seldom found any topic or information interesting enough to go beyond endless debate. But these moments listening and debating with Paul were different.  Eventually these scholars ‘took Paul and brought him to the Areopagus’ (Acts 7:19).

These words ‘Took’ and ‘Brought’ are probably better interpreted as ‘enthusiastically seized’, and ‘excitedly escorted Paul as a mob’. Not an angry mob – they excitedly wanted everyone to hear what Paul had to say, everyone including the governing authorities. In their enthusiastic state, they gave Paul no choice but to go with them to the Areopagus.

The Areopagus in Athens is a geographical location, a people, and structure that, in the minds of the Greeks, stood as a testimony to the superiority of Geek intelligence and accomplishments.

New Testament scholar, Matt Skinner, describes the significance of this place and this moment:

‘When the local intellectuals made it possible for Paul to present his teachings to the Areopagus, the council of the city’s governing authorities, Paul give them a speech tailored made for people familiar with certain Greek philosophical traditions. His audience is probably entirely Gentile, so he does not discuss Jewish scriptures. Rather, he speaks about humanity’s search for the Divine and about shared conviction that deities are not contained within temples, statues, or altars. The God Paul proclaims is close by. Nothing Paul says in his speech would have been terribly controversial to his Greek peers until he gets to the end and declares that this nearby God has made a statement to the world by raising a man from the dead. That claim about Jesus’ resurrection is too much for some in the audience; they ridicule him. Others want to hear more, and still others embrace the good news.” Skinner continues, “I don’t think anyone can prove that Jesus was raised from the dead, That piece of Christian faith depends … on the witness of the entire church. That testimony began in the experiences of people like Mary Magdalene, Peter, and Paul, and it is affirmed in our own encounters with the resurrected Christ through sacraments, personal experiences, serving others, and the word of God that we encounter in congregational life and out in the [marketplace]….Yet, [the Resurrection] is Paul’s message for the Athenians. As we know all too well, death is very good at its job. A huge leap of faith is required for a person to declare that death is not the end…Paul insists that by resurrecting Jesus, God has done more than merely reverse death.  God has opened up a whole new future. God has promised to change us. God has vowed to judge the world so the result will be righteousness, which is a restored relationship between humanity and God – the Divine Being that humanity expends so much effort to find.  According to Paul, God has said through Jesus, ‘I’M HERE!’”

Matt Skinner, ACTS Catching Up With the Spirit

The most significant aspect of this moment was how and where it all started – in the Marketplace. For is was there that Paul walked among, rubbed elbows with, and engaged with his fellow descendants. He didn’t see them as labels, they were not ‘greeks’ ‘gentiles’ ‘unclean’ or ‘unacceptable’ – they were the created offspring, the co-descendants of God. They were those that Jesus called to be Children of God. There, in the marketplace Paul found a people, much like himself, who were seeking and searching for God. Paul could identify with this, he had spent his life seeking and searching, ultimately finding that he had to step aside from the institution of his own faith in order to see the God that very institution had proclaimed. Paul did not enter the Marketplace as a judge but instead as a fellow descendant, he did not walk among the Gentiles to condemn but to point to the God they searched for, he did not engage to belittle but to point them forward, he did not stand before their leaders to commandeer power but to serve. He did not enter the marketplace with an agenda but but he entered propelled by God’s love.

In March of this year, Gallup Polling reported on the continuing eight decade decline of Americans’ affiliation with houses of worship.  Not only has the decline continued but this year it reached an all time high since records began being tracked in 1937. Now, less than half of American citizens attend a house of worship. In less than 22 years, since 1999,  religious participation has sunk from over 70% to under 50%.

Rev. Kelli Taylor and Dr. Stacye Bount have been considering the drop in young adult participations in houses of worship in the Fayetteville, Ark area.  They identify that the generations are moving toward spirituality rather than religiosity.

Rev. Taylor, chaplain and vice president of religious life and community at Methodist University, says, “The move is from being religious to being spiritual, when religion is defined as adhering to a specific set of organized beliefs and practices, while spirituality suggests a more individual approach to faith and practice.”

Stacye Blount, associate professor of sociology at Fayetteville State University, identifies the difference between religiosity and spirituality. 

“When we talk about religiosity, or what may also be termed religiousness, we are talking about how the measurement of one’s religiousness or religiosity connects to beliefs, practices, rituals in which people participate. With spirituality, people are searching for the sacred to try to find meaning in life and they are trusting in some higher power.” 

Both of these, and the Gallup findings, bring us back to the Marketplace where Paul ventured. There he also found a people searching for a higher, divine power.  A search that had been stalled in the religious practices of their society and culture – a search that led them on a search of the God they did not know. Interestingly, Paul had been on this same search, an endeavor to find the next step of faith that had stalled at the judgement and condemnation in his own faith institutions. Paul, was bringing the next season of God’s leading to a people, like him, who had been searching for God’s Presence.

Again we hear the words of the prophet Isaiah,

I’m going to do a brand-new thing. See, I have already begun! Don’t you see it?

Isaiah 43:19a (TLB)

We who have the answer, we who know of God’s new thing, are now tasked, not with convincing a people, but with showing a people.

God called the Apostle Paul to the Marketplace and then took him to the Areopagus to be a living eye witness of his story – what is your Marketplace? What is your Areopagus? What is your living eye witness story?

Let’s pray.

Benediction

As you go, you go as descendants. Brothers and Sisters.  You go as God’s offspring.

As we go out together we go as family.

As we go to together we enter the marketplace, the public square, apart, separate.

However, as we go separately, apart, we do not go without family.

For in the Marketplace, and in the Public Square, there we also join with descendants. Brothers and Sisters.  There we continue to mingle and engage with God’s offspring.

As we leave here we leave the offspring joined as the faith community recall the Church.

As we enter the marketplace and public square we enter into the others that God has created, the others that Jesus sacrificially loved, the others that are the offspring of God.

So we leave here only momentarily, we will return to each other for renewal and refreshment.

We will return to seek, to search, to find, to support, and to embrace.

But now we go.  We go to be the church.  In the Marketplace, in the Public square.

We go to embrace those created by God.

We go to love as God loves.

Closing Peace

As we leave this place, may you go remembering that we first came together in the reality that we are descendants of The God. Now, as we leave, we leave knowing that an even tighter bond holds us together, the bond of being Children of God.

As we go out into the world, the public square, the marketplace, we go as Children of God through Jesus’ sacrifice walking among, rubbing elbows with, fellow descendants by our physical creation.

As we go, may you go in the love that first made us descendants of God and the love that now makes us children of God. As you go may that Love go with you.

And also with you.

Go as Children of God into the marketplace where you live with your fellow descendants. May God’s Love  be ever evident in your presence

Order, Words, & Voices

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Order

#1 ONE Video #1 (5:28)

  • Song – Good God Almighty (Crowder)
  • Call to Worship

Live/OnLine

  • Prayer                Rick (In Person)
  • Music                 Rick (In Person)

    Heaven Came Down (Andy Harsant)
    Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah (Johathan Hughes)
    Nothing But The Blood (Plainfield)

  • Reading                Hannah, Andrew, Dave, Nikki (In Person/On Line)
  • Message    ‘The Unseen’         Rick

#2 TWO Video (3:12)

  • Song – It’s Always Been You (Phil Wickham)
  • Community – Next Sunday – Descendants in the Marketplace (Acts 17)

Live

  • Benediction (inperson/online)   Hannah, Andrew, Dave, Nikki (Spotlight) (slides)
  • Sharing the Peace           Rick

# 3 Three Audio (3:08)
Song – Good God Almighty (Crowder)

Words & Voices

Call to Worship
By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him—we have it all together with God because of Jesus.

And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us.

We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.

And it is not finished: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next.

And even more amazing, even though our expectations are now very high, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!

Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready.

He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway.

In our minds we might understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can maybe understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were far far from worthy.

Now that we are set right with God by means of Jesus sacrificial death, the consummate sacrifice, there is no longer a question of being at odds with God in any way.

If, when we were at our worst, we were made right with God by the sacrificial death of his Son, now that we’re at Jesus’ best, just think of how our lives will expand and deepen by means of his resurrection life!

Now that we have actually received this amazing relationship with God, we are no longer content to simply say it in plodding through fancy words. Now, we sing and shout our praises to God through Jesus, the Messiah!

Romans 5:1-11

Prayer

Lord of all, In Jesus you have made us all sisters and brothers in Christ.
There is no distinction between Gentile and Jew.  There is no separation that can remove any from fellowship in Christ’s community.  Blind us to our differences so that in unity we may proclaim your truth to all,  for the sake of Jesus Christ in whom there is harmony and peace.
Amen.

Songs

Heaven Came Down (Andy Harsant)
CCLI Song # 19605

O what a wonderful wonderful day
Day I will never forget
After I’d wandered in darkness away
Jesus my Savior I met

O what a tender compassionate friend
He met the need of my heart
Shadows dispelling with joy I am telling
He made all the darkness depart

Heaven came down and glory filled my soul
When at the cross the Savior made me whole
My sins were washed away
And my night was turned to day
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul

Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah (Johathan Hughes)
CCLI Song # 1448

Guide me O Thou great Jehovah
Pilgrim through this barren land
I am weak but Thou art mighty
Hold me with Thy pow’rful hand
Bread of heaven Bread of heaven
Feed me now and ever more
Feed me now and ever more

Open now the crystal fountain
Whence the healing stream doth flow
Let the fiery cloudy pillar
Lead me all my journey through
Strong Deliverer strong Deliverer
Be Thou still my strength and shield
Be Thou still my strength and shield

Nothing But The Blood (Plainfield)
CCLI Song # 21332

O precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow
No other fount I know
Nothing but the blood of Jesus

What can wash away my sin
Nothing but the blood of Jesus
What can make me whole again
Nothing but the blood of Jesus

For my pardon this I see
Nothing but the blood of Jesus
For my cleansing this my plea
Nothing but the blood of Jesus

O precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow
No other fount I know
Nothing but the blood of Jesus

Nothing can for sin atone
Nothing but the blood of Jesus
Naught of good that I have done
Nothing but the blood of Jesus

O precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow
No other fount I know
Nothing but the blood of Jesus
This is all my hope and peace
Nothing but the blood of Jesus
This is all my righteousness
Nothing but the blood of Jesus

Heaven came down and glory filled my soul
When at the cross the Savior made me whole
My sins were washed away
And my night was turned to day
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul

Now I’ve a hope that will surely endure
After the passing of time
I have a future in heaven for sure
There in those mansions sublime
And it’s because of that wonderful day
When at the cross I believed
Riches eternal and blessings supernal
From His precious hand I received

Heaven came down and glory filled my soul
When at the cross the Savior made me whole
My sins were washed away
And my night was turned to day
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul

Songs of praises songs of praises
I will ever give to Thee
I will ever give to Thee

Reading

Then certain individuals came down from Judea and were teaching the men that they had to be circumcised to be saved. Paul and Barnabas had a lengthy debate with them.
Eventually, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to discuss this question with the apostles and the elders. 

Ironically, on their way, they reported the conversion of more Gentiles which brought great joy to all the believers. They were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders when they arrived at Jerusalem, and, especially as they reported all that God had done on their way. 

There were some believers though who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees that insisted, “It is necessary for gentile to be circumcised and ordered to keep the law of Moses.”

The apostles and the elders met together to consider the matter, and after  much debate, Peter stood up and said, “My brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice that I should be the one through whom the Gentiles would hear the message of the good news and become believers. 

And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us. 

Now therefore why are you questioning God by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that none of us have been able to bear? On the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

The whole assembly became silent.
Then, they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they told of all the signs and wonders that God had done through them among the Gentiles.  

After they finished speaking, James replied, “My brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first looked favorably on the Gentiles, to take from among them a people for his name. This agrees with the prophet Amos,

“After this I will return, and I will rebuild the dwelling of David, which has fallen; from its ruins I will rebuild it, and I will set it up, so that all other peoples may seek the Lord—even all the Gentiles over whom my name has been called.’ Thus says the Lord, who has been making these things known from long ago.’”

James finished by saying, “Therefore I have reached the decision that we should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God, but we should instruct them to abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from whatever has been strangled and from blood.

Acts 15:1-20 (Message)

  • Message        The Unseen

This past week there was news that a piece of space junk, or space debris, hit and tore a 3/16 inch hole on one of the arms of the International Space Station.  Last year, the station had to redirect three times to avoid debris. NASA now says that the low-earth orbit is basically a junk yard filled with all the discarded items, significant size satellites to small pieces of other items from space journeys.  Currently, above our heads, there are 23,000 objects floating around in space that are of a large enough size that they have to be monitored constantly to keep further damage happening to the space station and crew.  Imagine, above our head, unseen, but things that create a significant dangerous hazard.

Last Sunday morning, before I headed over to the Fellowship Center, I sat on my back patio and watched the birds and squirrels while I drank my coffee.  As I sat there, a cardinal walked up surprisingly close and began pecking at the grass for food.  Soon, I saw, in the mouth of the cardinal a worm – now I’ve seen birds find worms but I have never watched a bird attempt to pull a worm out of the ground while the worm attempts to resist.  Actually, I have seen this scenario in cartoons but never in real life. In watching this, however, I learned that I have been lied to by the animators all my life.  In cartoons the worm wins, however, last Sunday I learned that the worm doesn’t always win….I suspect that possibly that the worm seldom actually wins.

We live in a creation, in a world, where things are constantly happening that go unseen to us.  Some we will never know, some that we may be blessed, or cursed, when we get to see.  Often times, however, when we finally do witness something that has been, up to this point unseen, we find out that they do not match up with our expectations. Sometimes we find out that space is as messy as our house and that most of the time, the bird does get the worm regardless of the time of day.

And, sometimes that epiphany forces us to accept a new perspective, adapt our held perspective, or to try to force this reality back into the little box that holds our thoughts and beliefs. This is often very difficult, sometimes it can seem impossible. In faith terms, it can present a dilemma   that threatens our obedience to ‘To your neighbor.’

This collision of seeing reality and held faith beliefs is the core of the story of Charles Darwin. A man, who saw the brutality evident in nature leading to his struggle with the religious picturesque teachings of God’s creation. As he experienced the death of his father and then his ten year old daughter death from tuberculous, on top of the misery, oppression, hatred, and death that is a part of the reality of living on earth, he found he could not reconcile that with religious teachings about God and love. Most historians claim that Darwin never quit believing in God, only that he found no way to fit the realities he saw on earth with the religious teachings he held.

The story of the reality of God and the reality of Humans, and the juncture where the two meet, is a story of seeing unseen realities and how we humans deal, or don’t deal with them.  Think about a few examples:

Adam and Eve found the understanding of one simple restriction, to not eat of one particular tree, was no match against the human need to grab what is not ours to grab.

Noah found that the reality of dry land that had never been flooded presented an impossible hurdle to a people were given a chance to be saved from an oncoming flood.
Abraham and Sarah knew the impossibility of bearing a child so God’s promise of a child was a faith challenge beyond imagination.

Moses was told to deliver God’s people but his reality was a Pharaoh who was not about to let go of the slaves.  Joseph received a promise from God that his brothers would bow down to him then they threw him in a well and sold him into slavery. Jesus told his followers that he came to give them life abundantly then they witnessed his death on a cross.  Mary saw Jesus’ lifeless body put in a tomb and a stone rolled in front of the opening, then, he stood in front of her and said, ‘Do not fear, it is me.’

When God told the apostle Peter to go to a gentile’s house, he faced the dilemma –  his reality was that his religious teaching that he could do no such thing, but God said to Go.  Peter entered Cornelius house and ate and shared with gentiles – religious teaching said that against God’s law, God said, ‘not true.’ As Peter shared God’s truth with the gentiles, he shared with a people who were unclean, unacceptable, unredeemable, but, Peter witnessed just the opposite. The leaders in Jerusalem where shocked and appalled when they were confronted with this conflicting reality but, as Peter explained, they were forced to take a second look at truth and their interpretations – they were forced to be silent and think, consider, adapt, reconsider, and accept the Fresh Wind and Refreshing Work that they had not seen up to this moment.

This reconsideration and this adaption was not, and is not, an immediate and automatic process, it takes a while.  Even though we may accept the truth that we have now seen the unseen, our reality takes a bit longer to adjust.  As our human perspectives present themself we have to apply the truth of this which was have seen, and we are forced to consider how truth, this truth, fits into our faith, or if our faith needs refinement.

When Peter spoke to the Christian leaders, he pointed out the discrepancy in their faith practice and their faith truth.

“I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” When the leaders heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”
Acts 11:16-18

Three significant steps took place, three steps that still apply today.

  • Peter saw a previously unseen reality and shared this with the leaders – Jesus died for the gentiles in the same way he died for the Jews.
  • The leaders quit talking and listened and considered, just as Peter had done during his experience with the Gentiles. Then, the leaders adapted their perspective.
  • The leaders began their journey of application with this new perspective allowing it to immerse their faith completely.

This was not a once and for all perspective change, this was just the foundation, it would soon be further revealed and understood in very concrete reality ways.  Possibly their first challenge came when the question was asked, ‘Do Gentiles have to be circumcised?’ Circumcision had been a religious practice all the way to Abraham when this identifier was established by God. This was actually a belief that the Gentiles were under the law in the same was the Jews had been – it was actually a continued misunderstanding of Grace. The leaders had accepted the truth that the cross was not just for the Jews, but how was this new perspective going to be applied to this question?  Peter said,

“God, who knows the human heart, testified to the Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us. Now therefore why are you putting God to the test [why are you doubting truth and faith] by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? On the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
Acts 15:8-11

The leadership responds to this in the same way they responded to the original news from Peter regarding the Gentile.

‘The whole assembly kept silence, and listened’
Acts 15:12a

Then one of the leaders, James (not the executed apostle, another James) said,

“My brothers, listen to me. Peter has related how God first looked favorably on the Gentiles, to take from among them a people for his name. This agrees with the words of the prophets, as it is written, ‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the dwelling of David, which has fallen; from its ruins I will rebuild it, and I will set it up, so that all other peoples may seek the Lord—even all the Gentiles over whom my name has been called. Thus says the Lord, who has been making these things known from long ago.’ Therefore I have reached the decision that we should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God,
Acts 15:13b-19

James and the leaders reconsidered and adapted their religious perspective.  This was not the end of the story, there was still refinement and revision of their understanding to come, in fact, after James said this, and in doing so he swayed the leadership – then he added on some Jewish Levitical restrictions on the Gentiles.
God calls us to consider, to be silent, to be open, to allow the Spirit to refine, and sometimes, change our perspective.  We are challenged to consider what is truly truth of our faith. We are called to a genuine faith that does not conflict with the truth of God’s love and his call to us to love.
How open are your eyes, how available is your perspective?
Let’s pray.

Benediction

Paul closed his final letter to the believers in Corinth by  saying,
“That about it Friends, my dear brothers and  sisters
This is my farewell, be cheerful and be happy
Put things in order and keep them in good repair
Keep your spirits up as you strive to grow in Jesus

Remember what I have taught you, never cease to think on it
Think in harmony, live in harmony
Be agreeable, live with each other in peace
Remember that sometimes silence is your most powerful tool
Do all that, and the God of love and peace will be with you
Greet each other warmly, with a holy embrace, or holy elbows
May we go into our week apart while together.

Closing Peace

As we leave today, our closing peace comes from the final words of Paul to the believers in Corinth.

As you go, go in the amazing grace of the Master, Jesus Christ, and may the extravagant love of God, the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit, be with all of you.

And also with you.

May you go in Peace and may you permit the Love of the Lord to Go With You.

Go And May Love Be Consistently Seen In Your Presence.

Order, Words, & Voices

Order

Sunday, May 30, 2021

#1 ONE Video #1 (11:47)

  • Song – Bridge Over Troubled Waters (Paul Simon, Steven Stanley)
  • Call to Worship – Joyful (Dante Bowe)
  • Song – I Will Trust (Keathly, Miller, Red Rocks Worship)

Live/OnLine

  • Reading Randy (Live/On Line)
  • Prayer Rick (In Person)
  • Music Abbie (In Person)

He Walks With Me

In The Garden

Victory In Jesus

  • Message ‘Intense’                      Rick

#2 TWO Video (5:30)

  • Song – Praise You In The Storm (Natalie Grant)
  • Community – Next Sunday – The Unseen

Live

  • Benediction (inperson/online)   Randy, Dona & Steve (Spotlight) (slides)
  • Sharing the Peace   Rick

# 3 Three Audio (2:22)

Song – Joyful (Dante Bowe)Words and Voices

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Call to Worship

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts.

Psalm 139:23

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Psalm 119:105

“You will call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me,” says the Lord

Jeremiah 29:12-14a

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.

Psalm 40:1-2

Reading

King Herod saw how much it raised his popularity ratings with the Jews when he persecuted the Christians so he arrested Peter—all this during Passover Week. Peter was put in prison with four squads of four soldiers each to guard him. Herod was planning a public execution of Peter after Passover.

All the time that Peter was under heavy guard in the jailhouse, the church prayed for him most strenuously.

The night before Peter was to be executed, he was shackled between two soldiers, and there were guards at the door keeping watch. Herod was taking no chances!

Suddenly there was an angel at Peter’s side and light flooded the room. 

An angel shook Peter and got him up: “Hurry!” The angel said. The handcuffs fell off Peter’s wrists. “Get dressed. Put on your shoes.” Peter did as the angel instructed. Then the angel said, “Grab your coat and let’s get out of here.” 

Peter followed the angel, thinking that he was dreaming. Peter and the angel went past the first guard and then the second, they came to the iron gate and it swung open before them. They ran out on the street freed. 

Peter realized it was no dream when the angel left him. “I can’t believe this really happened! God rescued me.”

Still shaking his head, amazed at what had taken place, Peter went to Mary’s house, the Mary who was John Mark’s mother. The house was packed with praying believers. 

Peter knocked on the door to the courtyard, a young woman named Rhoda came to see who it was. But when she recognized Peter’s voice she was so excited and eager to tell everyone that she forgot to open the door and left Peter standing in the street.

No one believed her. “You’re crazy,” they said. She stuck by her story, insisting. All this time Peter was standing out in the street, knocking away.

When the believers finally looked for themselves they went wild! Peter put his hands up and calmed them down. He described how God had gotten him out of jail, then he said, “Tell James and the brothers what’s happened.” Then Peter left and went to another place.

Acts 12:1-17 (Message)

  • Prayer

Dear God,

You call us to not be taken captive 

Captive through philosophy and empty deceit, 

Captive to human tradition 

Captive to the elemental spirits of the universe

Captive to anything that is not Christ.

You call us to seek you

For you, God, are truth

We have seen the truth through Jesus

In the actions and words, your words, of the Messiah

God, give us a willingness to listen for truth

An eagerness to discern what is truth

To follow you, the God who is truth.

Amen.

Music

He Walks With Me

Though now we have trials, we wait for salvation
Though tested by fire, we suffer with joy
By his great mercy, our hope has been born again
Faithful as the morning, we are raised up with Christ


And I cannot see him, but oh how I love him
I cannot see him, but I believe I know he walks with me
I believe, that he walks with me

Raised up with the priesthood, to witness his wondrous works
Called out from the darkness to shimmering light

And I cannot see him, but oh how I love him
I cannot see him, but I believe, I know he walks with me
I believe, that he walks with me
I believe, I know he walks with me
I believe, that he walks with me
I believe, that he walks with me

In The Garden

I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses

And He walks with me and He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known

He speaks and the sound of His voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing
And the melody that He gave to me, within my heart is ringing

And He walks with me and He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known

I’d stay in the garden with Him, tho’ the night around me be falling
But He bids me go thro’ the voice of woe, His voice to me is calling

And He walks with me and He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known

Victory In Jesus

I heard an old old story how a Savior came from glory
How He gave His life on Calvary to save a wretch like me
I heard about His groaning of His precious blood’s atoning
Then I repented of my sins and won the victory

O victory in Jesus my Savior forever
He sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood
He loved me ere I knew Him and all my love is due Him
He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood

I heard about His healing, of His cleansing pow’r revealing
How He made the lame to walk again and caused the blind to see
And then I cried dear Jesus, come and heal my broken spirit
And somehow Jesus came and brought to me the victory

O victory in Jesus my Savior forever
He sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood
He loved me ere I knew Him and all my love is due Him
He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood

I heard about a mansion He has built for me in glory
And I heard about the streets of gold beyond the crystal sea
About the angels singing and the old redemption story
And some sweet day I’ll sing up there the song of victory

O victory in Jesus my Savior forever
He sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood
He loved me ere I knew Him and all my love is due Him
He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood

  • Message Intense

Five stories, four of individuals and one of a group. Stories with a common thread.  Intertwined and interdependent. Stories that give us a glimpse of the early believers and the early church.  Stories that teach us about ourselves.

The stories take place about 15 years after the arrival of the Holy Spirit. Four years after Cornelius and the gentiles accepted Jesus and a couple of years since believers were sarcastically given the name ‘Christian’.

Our stories today take place as the backdrop of persecution of Christians was rapidly intensifying.

Four Individuals

A King

A Slave

A Slave Owner

A Prisoner Awaiting Execution

Let’s start with A King.

A King named Herod, specifically, Herod Agrippa I. His grandfather was the Herod that killed all the newborn males at the birth of Jesus.  Fear induced brutality was in the DNA of this family. Whenever they were angry, mad, paranoid, or just wanting to flex their muscles – they would kill someone, or someones. Only seen in chapter 12, Agrippa recognizes that his polling numbers go up considerably when he executes Christians.  James was killed and now the apostle Peter is next.

Next we look at A Slave

A slave named Rhoda. Rhoda was probably a younger teen taken as a slave following a battle or possibly sold as a slave by her own family.  Rhoda did not own her own life, her own path, her own decisions, or her own destiny. She was not free, equality was not even a consideration or aspiration, this would forever be her story.

Our third individual is A Slave Owner

This particular Mary is new to us, she is the mother of a young man named John Mark, who will become a significant person in the church, – mentored by the apostle Paul then rejected by Paul, accepted by the Barnabas, and eventually re-embraced by Paul. Mary, is one of the followers of Christ and a member of the church in Jerusalem which she hospitably welcomes into her home.  She is also a slave owner. Her story is our story, a story of imperfection.

Our fourth individual is A Prisoner Awaiting Execution

Peter, a former disciple of Jesus, now an apostle.  Peter was an eye witness to the teachings and life of Jesus and his leadership of the church was critical and essential.  Peter’s story is seemingly hopeless, he is in prison, chained and guarded in a fashion that makes escape impossible. Much like his fellow apostle James, Peter’s life was a lost cause. The next day, Peter would die.

And, finally, a Group

This is the story of a group of people new to Christianity.  A group of people following a person who had been executed, a person who had been the target of the religious institution brutally executed by the politicians.  These believers knew theirs could be the next death after Peter.  This was a group, that was a fledgling who had just recently prayed for their leader James only to see him killed. Now they were aimlessly at it again, praying for their leader Peter. Their prayers had no expectations, only desperation. As they knelt in Mary’s living room there was no hope, only fear.  They didn’t know or understand the purpose of this moment, of this prayer, they didn’t have a teacher guiding them through this crisis –  their teacher, Peter, was currently in an impenetrable dungeon and about to be executed. On their knees, shaking with fear, they could only do one thing, they could only cry out to God, and so, in their fear, in their hopelessness, they prayed. No expectations, no plan, no promises, only timid voices calling out to the mighty God.

This was an imperfect group made up of imperfect individuals all of who had just the needed measure of faith to trust the perfect deliverer.  

As this group prayed, Peter, in his miry pit, laid down to sleep, chained and expecting death to come in hours. He had watched this same scenario play out for his friend James, a scenario that ended in death. In Peter’s mind, and for the group at Mary’s house, death was inevitable.

In Acts 12 we have the intersection of these five stories. An antagonist who is not only powerful and paranoid, but also willing to throw anyone under the bus in order to save himself. A group of scared and confused followers of Jesus, praying cluelessly, a prisoner laying on the stone ground awaiting his death, a Christian yet to be aware of her own glaring sin, and a slave girl whose, ironically, very limitations allow her to witness God’s answer to hopeless prayers.

There are countless revelations at the intersection of these stories.  Revelations of our boundless God, revelations of our own failed humanity, revelations of problems in the seen and the glory of the unseen, the unavoidable human imperfections ingrained in our faith, and the revelation of our never ending need for God.  

Acts 12 boils down to a lesson about an imperfect people called to live like Jesus. A people who are far from knowing everything, who have yet to connect all the dots of what they did know, it is a group on a lifetime journey…..it  is group of believers who think all they have in common is this room. It is a picture of an imperfect group following a perfect God – people who were becoming the church, learning, growing, falling, failing, hoping, grieving, rejoicing, fearing, and now, praying, together.

Their desperation and confusion gave them many things to focus on. They may have storming the jail attempting the impossible by their own force, maybe they were considering packing their bags and running in the opposite direction knowing that they could be the next victim, the thought may have crossed their mind to out their friends to provide security for themselves, their attention probably even landed, just for a moment, on the fact that this Christianity thing had caused them nothing but grief and heartache and maybe it was best to quit it all, they could have sat and complained, whined, cried, speculate, conspire, their attention could have been on many things, but instead they focused on what they knew and who they trusted  – they got on their knees, expecting nothing.

This was surely not their first moment in desperate prayers for one of their own.  Chapter 12 begins with the execution of the apostle James, they had prayed and still he died, a truth that had to be on their minds as they prayed.

This is where the story of Rhoda and the story of this group collide.  As the group hopelessly prayed, there was a knock at the door.  For the group, it was not their job to answer the door, it was the slave girl’s job.  They continued to pray, they chose to direct their attention to the practice of prayer. Rhoda heard the knock, she always heard the knock, it was her job.  It was the reason she was there, to serve the host and the guests.  Rhoda did what she was trained to do, she had been trained to pay attention to the door, she opened the door as she always did. As she recognized Peter at the door her excitement overwhelmed her, she slammed the door in Peter’s face and ran to proclaim the answer to their prayers.  In the living room, the attention of the group was diverted, in prayer they could not be bothered with the gibberish of a slave girl, they firmly did not allow this slave girl to divert their attention.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, doctor, philosopher, and psychologist William James said, “My experience is what I agree to attend to.” Later, in a variation of this he said, “Ultimately we will be remembered for what we pay attention to.” Doctor James noticed how what we focus on, becomes, in the end, what we see and even what we are. If I spend my life attentive primarily to my worries, then that is what identifies me, if cannot move my attention for my own hurts and pain, that will be my identifier.  You probably know someone who was so hurt by someone else that all they can think about is that hurt, that pain.  They miss everything else in life, they miss the knock at the door  The praying group was focused on their hopelessness, Rhoda, was attentive to the door, the slave girl noticed the knock at the door.  Even after Rhoda proclaimed that Peter was at the door, the group continued to keep their attention to the impossibilities that kept Peter from the door instead of the God who can unlock chains, open gates, and even knock on a door.  For that moment, only one person saw God’s response to their prayers, a slave girl whose attention led her to open the door.

We all have much to distract our attention, the past year and a half have increased our distractions multifold. In our faith walk, we much like that group praying in Mary’s living room, have many things that distract us in our faith, in our pursuit of knowing God. Even misinterpretations of God’s word and forgotten teachings from Jesus’ life keep us from hearing the knock at our door.  We hesitate to pray because we are distracted by God’s disappointing response from our last prayers, disappointments that we cannot understand, we are unable to process.  We even let our frustration with truth keep us from following, keep us from accepting.  Today is the day, the day to refocus our attention, to seek truth and to hear the knock at the door.

Benediction

Dona: As we go, we go into an intense world.

Steve: Intense disease.

Randy: Intense division.

Dona: Intense wars.

Steve: Intense hatred.

Randy: We also go into a world led by the God our Healing.

Dona: God our Unity.

Steve: God our Peace.

Randy: God our Love.

Dona: We also go into a world where we have a choice.

Steve: A choice to respond with healing.

Randy: A choice to respond with unity.

Dona: A choice to respond with peace.

Steve: A choice to respond with love.

Randy: May we always choose to go with healing, unity, peace, and love.

Closing Peace

May the Peace, the Grace, the Joy, and the Love of the Lord Go With You.

And Also With You.

Go And Live Out The Name Christian.

Order, Words, and Voices

Order

Sunday, May 23, 2021

#1 ONE Video #1 (9:25)

  • Song – At The Cross (Watts, McPherson)
  • Call to Worship
  • Song – I Speak Jesus (Here Be Lions)

Live/OnLine

  • Reading Kristen Y (Live/On Line)
  • Prayer Rick (In Person)
  • Music Abbie (In Person)

Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing

How Deep The Father’s Love For Us

  • Message ‘Named’                      Rick

#2 TWO Video (5:31)

  • Song – You Know My Name (Terrain)
  • Community – Next Sunday – ‘Intense’

Live

  • Benediction (inperson/online)   Paul, Martha & Kristen Y
  • Sharing the Peace   Rick

# 3 Three Audio (3:24)

Song –  Look What You’ve Done (Tasha Layton)

Words and Voices

Call to Worship

The Lord who created you, says: Don’t be afraid, for I have ransomed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up—the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, your Savior, the Holy One of Israel 

Isaiah 43:1-3

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. I will gather you from east and west, from north and south. I will bring my sons and daughters back to from the farthest corners of the earth. All who claim me as their God will come, for I have made them for my glory; I created them. Bring them back to me—blind as they are and deaf when I call (although they see and hear!).

Isaiah 43:5-8

You are my witnesses and my servants, chosen to know and to believe me and to understand that I alone am God. There is no other God; there never was and never will be. I am the Lord, and there is no other Savior. Whenever you have thrown away your idols, I have shown you my power. With one word I have saved you. You have seen me do it; you are my witnesses that it is true. From eternity to eternity I am God. No one can oppose what I do.

Isaiah 43:10-13

Reading

Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that took place over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, and they spoke the word to no one except Jews. 

But among them were some men of Cyprus and Cyrene who, on coming to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists also, proclaiming the Lord Jesus. The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number became believers and turned to the Lord. 

News of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion; for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were brought to the Lord. 

Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for an entire year they met with the church and taught a great many people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called “Christians.”

At that time prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine over all the world; and this took place during the reign of Claudius. 

The disciples determined that according to their ability, each would send relief to the believers living in Judea; this they did, sending it to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.

Acts 11:19-30

  • Prayer

Dear God,

We live in a world of division but you call us to unity.

We live in a world of hatred but you call us to love.

We live in a world of chaos but you call us to peace.

We live in a world of hostility but you call us to mercy.

We live in a world centered on self but you call us to compassion.

We live in a world of bondage but you have given us deliverance.

We live in a world of fear but you have given us hope.

We live in a world of barriers but you have shown us the way.

We live in a world of darkness but you have shown us the light.

We live in this world, the world you created, the world we have messed up, the world you love regardless.

Amen.

Music

Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing

Come Thou fount of ev’ry blessing tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount I’m fixed upon it mount of Thy redeeming love

Here I raise mine Ebenezer hither by Thy help I’m come
And I hope by Thy good pleasure safely to arrive at home
Jesus sought me when a stranger wand’ring from the fold of God
He to rescue me from danger interposed His precious blood

O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be
Let Thy grace Lord like a fetter bind my wand’ring heart to Thee
Prone to wander Lord I feel it prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart Lord take and seal it seal it for Thy courts above

How Deep The Father’s Love For Us

How deep the Father’s love for us how vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son to make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss the Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross my sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held Him there until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything no gifts no pow’r no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ His death and resurrection
Why should I gain from His reward I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart His wounds have paid my ransom

  • Message Named

Singer Johnny Cash made famous, the words of Shel Silverstein,

“Well, my daddy left home when I was three and he didn’t leave very much to my ma and me except this ole guitar and an empty bottle of booze. Now I don’t blame him ’cause he run and hid but the meanest thing that my daddy ever did was before he left he went and named me Sue.”

Names are an interesting beast, they can be inspirational or they can be a burden. We can let a name doom us or use it can be the power that successfully propels us onto our path.

Marion Robert Morrison, is, among other things, famous for quotes such as, “Courage is being scared to death… and saddling up anyway. All battles are fought by scared men who’d rather be some place else.” Nicknamed ‘Duke’ as a child by a local fireman who never saw the boy without his dog ‘Duke’. Marion was grateful that the name stuck  His first credited movie role, listed him as ‘Duke Morrison’ and then the studio  changed the name to ‘John Wayne.’  While this new name was a good fit, the name ‘The Duke’ nickname stuck with Wayne throughout his life.

Frank and Gail Zappa named their four offspring Moon Unit, Dweezil, Ahmet and Diva. Gwyneth Paltrow and musician Chris Marten named their child Apple.  Names such as Rocket, Busy, Cricket, Racer, Gravity, and Rumor, leave most of us scratching our heads. As personalities form, names can be redefined by the named.  Nick names are frequently assigned when the name never adequately fits a persona.And, often, names are given out of hatefulness. 

When my dad got his first job he had to go to the local Social Security office.  When he told the clerk his name was Bobby Gene Anthony, she sternly corrected him saying, ‘You mean Robert!’.  To which he said, ‘Okay’.

Groups of people are given names as well, these unofficial names are usually formed from some identifying mark of this group – and, these names are often offensive and hateful. Sometimes, these unflattering or mocking names, meant to be and insult, become a badge of honor to the recipients This was the story in the city of Antioch where the believers were given the condescending name ‘Christian.’

A little history – The Greek Emperor on the throne 300 years before Jesus was named Seleucus I.  Selecus built 15 cities and named them all after his dad – ‘Antioch.’ The city of Antioch in Acts 11 was designated the ‘Syrian Antioch,’ and it was located about 300 miles north of Jerusalem.  It was here, in this Antioch, that the name Antioch, became synonymous with successful business ventures but carrying a strong taint of immorality.  

A couple of weeks ago we looked at the Holy Spirit descending upon a gentile leader named Cornelius, as well as his gentile community. This was a man, and community, who had been diligently seeking God. There was an intense desire in their pursuit of God. However, when the Spirit came to the gentiles in Antioch it was descending on a truly Pagan, immoral, and evil city.

This group of new believers in Antioch began to grow and the pagan community began to notice. There is a familiar thread between the community of believers in in the Holy city of Jerusalem and this new community of faith in Antioch, a city in which even the actual religious practices to worship the false gods was immersed in the identical immorality found elsewhere in the city. In both places believers were not considered ‘acceptable’ so thy kept a low profile, working not to bring attention to themselves individually or as a group.  Secondly, in both faith communities there was an underlying love for each other that consistently presented in acts of personal sacrifice and through their attention to the needs present within their faith community. There was also, in both churches, a fervent personal drive to know, understand, and apply truth to their lives, their opinions, and their beliefs.

The differences between the two groups is significant as well.  The believers in Jerusalem had a religious foundation that was instrumental in bringing them to an acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah. They had absorbed the historical teachings about God from the books of Moses, and, they had the historical and prophetic words from the prophets about the coming Jesus.  Basically, they possessed the understanding of the road map that brought them from Creation to Promise to Deliverance to Hope to Redemption to Life. The gentiles, however, had been brought up with the ever changing and constantly evolving worship of false gods, rulers who saw themselves as divine, and religious practices which ranged from fleshly lasciviousness to fearful sacrifices to egotistical mandates to brutal practices. While their religious foundations were very different, both groups had to sort through past traditions, ungodly beliefs, and ingrained institutional manipulation and political agendas in order to find truth.

There was one major difference however that must be said.  The gentiles knew the names of all their gods and would learn the names of the new gods as soon as needed.  The Jewish believers had no real name for God, there were many references to God usually based on attributes, there were names that were not fully spoken out of reverence, but, when God was asked, ‘What is your name?’ God could only say ‘I Am.’ He was, he is, he has always been, he will forever be – GOD.

Up to this moment in Antioch there had been the Jews and there had been the Gentiles. Now there was the third group, a people who had no name.  The religious institution gave them the name ‘annoying and dangerous’, the gentiles saw them as a conundrum. Those that joined the group called them family, the gentile leaders called them suspicious.

Eventually, in Antioch, this pagan city known best for its immorality, the followers of Jesus were given the name Christian.  It was a name meant to be derogatory and shameful but to these newly named Christians it was perfect.

In latin, the ‘ian’ ending means ‘the party of…’, adding ‘Ian’ to ‘Christ’ you end up at the word meaning ‘the party of Christ.’  This was meant to be a name intended to be condescending and hateful, but to believers it was the opposite.  To have this city – Antioch, recognize this group in reference to Jesus, their Savior, was not only not taken as a slight or insult, but ironically it was seen by the followers as a badge of honor. This title of ‘Jesus People’ was not only accepted by the newly names Christians, it became a self identifier, ‘we are Christians – the party of Christ, Jesus people.’ It was the defining moment, in the defining place, where this people first became a ‘people.’

This people, these followers of the God who had no name because no name could define or fit, this people, now had a perfectly fitting name – ‘Christian.’

A name that…

· Fit the words of the prophets.

· Set the bar for their goals and aspirations.

· Rested on the perfection of their deliverer even in their imperfect state.

· Laid out the nature and character of God.

· Constantly placed mercy, compassion, peace, and hope within their reach.

· Voiced the expectations of a world toward a people immersed in grace.

· It affirmed the work of the Spirit in their lives.

So, what became of this group of people named Christians in a city most in need of the man named Christ? They sought out the former persecutor of Christians and trusted God’s transformation change to work in him.  These believers, in this pagan city, heard of a coming famine for the Holy City Jerusalem, and began strategizing how they could help. In the midst of ridicule and dismissal they pursued peace, love, mercy, grace, and hope. This people who were incorrectly defined by this name ‘Antioch’ were correctly labeled – ‘Christian.’ A name that set the bar for their lives in their world, the way they interacted with all, the way they walked the way that responded, the way they cared.  A name that defined their mercy, compassion, their hope, their peace, their Savior.

The famous early church historian Eusebius, described a believer named Sanctus from Lyons, France, who was tortured for Jesus. As they tortured him cruelly, they hoped to get him to say something evil or blasphemous. They asked his name, and he only replied, “I am a Christian.” “What nation do you belong to?” He answered, “I am a Christian.” “What city do you live in?” “I am a Christian.” His questioners began to get angry: “Are you a slave or a free man?” “I am a Christian” was his only reply. No matter what they asked about him, he only answered, “I am a Christian.” This made his torturers all the more determined to break him, but they could not, and he died with the words “I am a Christian” on his lips.

Eusebius

Those that were the first to receive the label ‘Christian’ probably embraced the name with a certain honor, humility, fear, and concern.  To be labeled is to be identified which was still dangerous.  To officially be recognized also usually led to the creation of an institution, the adoption of symbols and icons, and ultimately the corruption of the leaders and people. They were not wrong.  Within less than half a century the name of Christianity was used to attack enemies, to manipulate and control minds, and even to force interpretations of God’s word on believers. 

But, for that moment in Antioch, this unnamed and unbranded group, was named by those who had watched the ways the members of this group lived.  Their single minded focus on the crucified man named Jesus could not be ignored.  Their peace in the midst of fear, their unity in the midst of chaos, their mercy in the midst of subjugation, their compassion in the midst of attack, their love in the midst of hatred all revealed their God, the God of grace, the God of love, the God who does not have a name because no name can define or fully describe.

We however have a name, a name given not chosen, a name that carries a huge weight, a weight that Jesus says, in the end, is light and not heavy.

How are you living out your name ‘Christian’?

Benediction

Paul: As we leave today we go with a name.

Martha: We leave with the name Jesus people.

Kristen: We go with the name Christian.

Paul: It is a name meant to mock.

Martha: It is a name we wear with honor.

Kristen: It is a name we ascribe to.

Paul: It is a name we are given.

Martha: It is a name we have chosen.

Kristen: It is a name that proclaims that we are loved.

Paul: It is a name that proclaims that we love.

Marta: It is a name that binds us together.

Kristen: Peace.

Paul: Grace.

Martha: Joy.

Kristen: Love.

Closing Peace

May the Peace, the Grace, the Joy, and the Love of the Lord Go With You.

And Also With You.

Go And Live Out The Name Christian.

Worship Order, Words, & Voices 05.16.21

Order

Sunday, May 16, 2021

#1 ONE Video #1 (7:24)

  • Song – Loves Changes Everything (Jake Espy)
  • Call to Worship
  • Song – Thank You Again (Billy McPherson & Dane Tate)

Live/OnLine

  • Reading                        Peyton (Live/On Line)
  • Prayer                        Rick (In Person)
  • Music                         Abbie (In Person)

    Just As I Am
    At the cross

  • Message    ‘Silenced’                              Rick

#2 TWO Video (4:58)

  • Song – Holiness Is What I Long For (Donnie McClurkin)
  • Community – Next Sunday – Named

Live

  • Benediction (inperson/online)   Isaiah & Peyton
  • Sharing the Peace           Rick

# 3 Three Audio (4:43)
Song – God of the Impossible (Lincoln Brewster)

Words and Voices
Call to Worship

‘As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.  This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.’ 
John 15:9-12

We are called to Love – To love as the Father loves Jesus and as Jesus loves us.

We Are called to Abide – To Abide in Loves as Jesus Abides in the Father’s Love

We are called to Keep – To Keep Jesus’ Commandment to Abide in His Love.

We are called to Joy – to Have Jesus’ Joy, Joy that is Complete.

We are to Love – To Love One Another as Jesus Loved Us.

Reading

Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, saying, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” 

Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying,  “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. 

As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ But I replied, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ 

But a second time the voice answered from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’ This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. 

At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were. The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. 

The Man, Cornelius, told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.’ 

And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 

If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” 

When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”

Acts 11:1-18

PrayerDear God,
We thank you again, and again, that you are Love.

May we not selfishly hoard that love for ourselves, but instead, may we give it freely, may we experience it fully, may we reveal it continuously, may we permit it to shine consistently from our lives.

May we seek to permit your love to permeate every corner and crevice of our being.

May your love temper our outrage, comfort our concerns, sooth our lack of understanding, and confront the realities of our human nature.

May your love be the fuel for our paths.

Amen.

Music

Just As I Am
Just as I am, without one plea but that Thy blood was shed for me
And that Thou bid’st me come to thee, O Lamb of God, I come, I come

Just as I am, though tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt
Fightings and fears within without, O Lamb of God, I come, I come

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind – sight, riches, healing of the mind
Yea, all I need, in Thee to find, O Lamb of God, I come, I come

Just as I am, Thou wilt receive, wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve
Because Thy promise I believe, O Lamb of God, I come, I come

Jesus Paid It All
I hear the Savior say thy strength indeed is small
Child of weakness watch and pray, find in Me thine all in all

Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain, he washed it white as snow

Lord now indeed I find thy pow’r and thine alone
Can change the leper’s spots and melt the heart of stone

Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain, he washed it white as snow

And when before the throne I stand in Him complete
Jesus died my soul to save, my lips shall still repeat

Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain, he washed it white as snow

Message        Silenced

‘We change the world not by what we say or do, but as a consequence of what we have become.’
Dr. David Hawkins

Acts is the story of the apostles, and followers of Jesus, attempting to catch up with the work of the Spirit.  It is a whirlwind of new experiences, mysterious instructions from God, forbidden places, unexpected interactions, and the constant question of boundaries.  Acts is a story of Becoming, the apostles becoming the credible first hand witnesses of the life/death/life message of Christ, the Church becoming the avenue of God, the Spirit becoming the power of God, and consistently throughout, God remains the same while revealing his multi-dimensional nature, a nature that is manifest Love. Their story is a journey, not so much about a group of humans weathered and ready to save the world from itself, it is the real life documentation of humans ‘Becoming’ in order to be the hands and feet of God.

A journey that no one in their right mind would have signed up for.  An experience that would have been overwhelming if they had known the itinerary before accepting. An endeavor that required moment to moment focus with open eyes and ears as well as willing hearts and minds. A journey which required those involved to plant their feet firmly and commit to this life for the rest of their lives. It was a journey that never ceased to challenge how they perceived the world, how they recognized God, how they interpreted truth – a call to constantly reexamine their most deeply held convictions, opinions, beliefs, and even faith.

It is a journey that is worthy of time, for their journey of Becoming is our journey of Becoming.

In recent weeks we have seen the apostles engaging with people from the remotest ends of the earth.  People known only by their labels. Labels that identified skin color, country of origin, gender identification, practices, sin, and religion. Humans from these remote locations filled with untouchable people collided with the ingrained hatred and fear embedded in the minds and hearts of the followers of Christ.

Our Acts passage today is one such collision moment, a moment that changed everything.

Three statements from this passage are essential to our understanding.

“Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?”
Acts 11:3

‘When they heard this, they were silenced.’
Acts 11:18a

“God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”
Acts 11:18b

It all began with…
“Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?”
Acts 11:3

After the experience with Cornelius and the other gentiles Peter and his companions traveled back to Jerusalem where they were confronted by the Jewish, the circumcised, believers.  Their first question was not a faith issue, they actually did not seem to have an issue with the gentiles believing in Jesus and receiving the Spirit.  Their first and most powerful concern and outrage was that Peter had gone into the home of a gentle and eaten a meal with him and other gentiles.

As we saw last week, it was against the law for Jews to step foot into the homes of gentiles, nor were they to share a meal.  This, for the Jewish believers, was a major offense, a horrific violation of their faith.  However, this was not a faith issue, it was actually not even a religious issue, it was a manmade issue.  No where in God’s Law was there a restriction against such interaction between Jews and Gentiles. Somewhere along the line it had become a thing, and, without really thinking about it, it continued to be a thing even for these who walked with Jesus. This bigotry and prejudice had been instilled within them which they probably did not even recognize. It was actually the opposite of Jesus’ words. This fervent dismissal of an entire people group who were a majority of the world population, had been intertwined with their faith and now the two had become inseparable.  It was the first thing that came to their mind when they heard the news of the Holy Spirit and the Gentiles. The unnoticed contradiction with Jesus words, had not yet been confronted.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
John 3:16

When something that is not a true faith issue is permitted to become a key issue of our faith, there must be a moment of Holy confrontation – without the moment of seeing truth our Becoming is stunted and stuck. These hateful attitudes regarding others who are also ‘so loved by God’ can often be instilled from birth, falsely affirmed in our faith, and then perpetuated from our faith contemporaries usually remains as an unnoticed and unchallenged reality of our life witness. Sometimes a traumatic event can create these unholy feelings. Here we see our first truth.

Faith is Seldom the True Core of our Offense.

This confusion of non-faith and non-faith, our failure to fully recognize those things that are cultural more than spiritual, is not a thing of the past, it is alive and strong even our time.  Painful divisions exist, they are even instilled in our faith communities, faith communities built on the truth of God’s boundless love.  If anything, we see them emboldened in our present reality.

In Matthew 7 we find a very uncomfortable story of a gentle woman and Jesus. The woman comes to Jesus begging that he heal her daughter. Jesus’ response is quite shocking. Ppreachers and commentators have spent a great deal of effort in covering up the offensive response of Jesus….

“Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”
Mark 7:27

It is a very uncomfortable story of Jesus referring to a gentile woman, and all gentile, as a small dog.  Of the many explanations given by commentators, preachers, and experts, it remains offensive. However, we see Christ respond to the woman’s confrontation not with a theological treats or condensation, instead he is silent, he listens, he considers, and he responds to the request of the woman.

What if racism itself is a human reality and not a sin, however, it becomes sin when we are confronted with our bigotry but refuse to be silent and listen?

The Jewish believers had been indoctrinated in the belief that they were truly superior and that all others were inferior.  It was a wall of isolation between the Jews and anyone, and everyone, who was no Jewish.

Our second statement is

‘When they heard this, they were silenced.’
Acts 11:18a

After the believers in Jerusalem heard the words of Peter they are silent. Now, let me assure you that for the room full of religious men, who have just been confronted with the own offense, silence is a momentous work of the Spirit.  Nothing was said, no defense given, their mouths were shut.

Silence may the be the biggest challenge in Becoming.

It is very human for us to defend oneself.  When our human nature reacts with words, voices, excuses, and denials – God calls us to respond with silence. A year ago the Spirit confronted us with our own prejudices as we watched the Black Lives Matter protests and riots going on around our country. We were given an opportunity to be silent, to consider, to attempt to understand the pain of these who were using their usually muted voices, we had a chance to accept their struggle and their pain.  Instead, we responded with statements like ‘If they just wouldn’t protest,’, ‘Well, I’m not racist, I don’t see color,’ and, ‘The racism they are claiming doesn’t really exist.’ State lawmakers have reacted with laws prohibiting such protests and even denying the pervasive reality of supremacy and racism.

We were given an opportunity to be silent.  As we watched these protests in American streets, as we saw the hoards of immigrants at our borders, as we heard the stories of harassment from women, the cries from the LGBTQ communities.  We have been given opportunity after opportunity to see our own deep seated, and often invisible even to us, prejudice and instead of being silent we usually come to our own defense.  God calls us to be silent, to recognize and consider that these are loved by God also, to accept, to ask the ‘why’ instead of verbalizing the ‘they shouldn’t.’ We may not ever understand, but we are never promised understanding here on earth.  I’m sure that many of those believers in Jerusalem were still scratching their heads in confusion at the time of their death – but still they were silent.

This brings us to our third dynamic.

‘Peter began to explain it to them, step by step’
Acts 11:4

Peter everything with the Jewish Jesus believers.  He detailed for them how God led him to recognize that their prejudice towards others was not God’s law, how God led him to go to Cornelius and how Cornelius affirmed this through his own experience before God, and then how the Spirit moved among the gentiles the same as it had in him.

The response of the Jewish believers is very interesting, they praised God for this movement of the Spirit at the same time they express surprise.

“Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”
Acts 11:18b

Your Bible may use the word ‘also’ instead of ‘even’, and there are other interpretation choices.  The actual wording is a very tepid response to a new reality they were not expecting.  They do not doubt the story of Peter, nor do they refute the experience of the Gentiles receiving the Spirit – however, it is still uncomfortable and they still do not fully understand it.  This does not hinder their acceptance, they still are committing this change in their mindset and will be altering their reality going forward.

Understanding Others is not a first step to Accepting Others. We do not have to understand to accept. The idea that we first have to understand is a damaging misconception on our part. Our first act of acceptance and embrace is the choice to love as Jesus loved us.

God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8

This miracle in Jerusalem may have been a mighty work of the spirit comparable only to Pentecost.  For this group of followers of Christ, entrenched in the religious practices and prejudices of their heritage to recognize the Spirit’s involvement.  We too, must be aware and ready to see the Spirit’s work in our own lives and willing to be silent and allow the Spirit to do the transforming work of Becoming.

Let us pray

Benediction    

We now go into a world that needs love and not scorn.
We go into a world that need silence instead of denials.
We go into a world that needs consideration, not rejection.
We go into a world that needs Jesus.
We go into a world accepted and embraced in God’s Love.
We go into a world desperate for release and deliverance.
So, now we go.
Now we go in Grace.
Now, now we go in Peace.
Now, now we go in Love.

Closing Peace

May the Grace and Peace of the Lord Go With You.
And Also With You
Go In Grace And Peace Living Out Love

just a moment 04.20.21

Our passages for today are Psalm 23 & I John 3:16-24

Today we look at a Psalm and an epistle together to see and compare a very similar message.  Both of these messages portray a promise of peace and love.  In the old testament this message is told with a very internalized, almost emotions, manner.  We feel good reading this famous Psalm. If we read the message of Love and Peace in the New Testament, especially from I John we see it more as responsibility and commandment.  The Psalm conveys God’s love for us, the epistle reminds of the Love that is to flow from our actions to others.  Both are about love but communicated with a very different tone.

By the end of both readings the message is the same, promises that:

  1. God is with us.
  2. We embody the love of God through our lives in community.
  3. The destination of our faith Journey is dwelling with God.

Enjoy these two similar messages that come from very different perspectives and very different situations.

Have a great day, see you Thursday.

just a minute 04.13.21

Our passage for today is I John 3:1-13

I John was written 70-90 years after the ascension of Jesus.  This means that few of the readers of this letter were adults in the time Jesus walked the earth.  They probably came to know through 3rd or 4th party voices – those who originally heard about the resurrection from the apostle or even from those who heard from the apostles.  Their perspective is from time of persecution not just towards the Christians but also the Jews – the second temple has been destroyed….it is a difficult for any person of faith.

This passage is a reminder to the readers that they are on a never ending journey. Much like the life of Abraham and Sarah who were seeking all the way to, and through, death.  However, this passage also guarantees that there will be a day when they see God clearly.  Contemplate verse 2 today asking ‘what does this promise mean to me?’

Have a great day, see you tomorrow.

just a minute 04.12.21

Our passage for today is Acts 3

You may remember that for these weeks prior to Pentecost Sunday we will using Acts as our Monday passage rather than an old testament passage.  This week we see Peter’s first major sermon.  He is on the east side of the temple speaking particularly to a group of people who have come to him after Peter and John healed a crippled man.  Immediately, as Peter speaks we are able to see a running theme throughout Acts “This is all about Jesus so Trust in him.”

Acts never really tells us why Jesus had to die only that he did and then he was resurrected.  Although there are assuredly many in the crowd who saw Jesus crucified and die – there are few there that saw Jesus after he was resurrected.  This is the calling of the apostles, it is the calling of us – a calling to live out and share our story.

‘Acts tells believers that they are part of an ongoing quest to discover, steward, and share the good news that through Jesus Christ God has changed the world and made a pledge about the future. The quest begins in trust. Theology is what you discover as a result.’

Matt Skinner

Have a great day, see you tomorrow.

just a minute 04.08.21

Thursdays we look at our gospel reading, which for today is John 20:19-31

This week we focus in on the disciples who are in hiding but once they were ready Jesus appears to them.

Being ready is a big element of seeing and believing in Jesus.  Our choice is our choice long before we are ever given the opportunity. As the disciples were justifiably hiding, not knowing their own fate with the outside world, Jesus appears among them. His first words to them are ‘Peace’. At this appearance they are convinced of what Mary has said, ‘Jesus is alive!’ However, one disciple, Thomas, is not with the group at that time and does not believe when they tell him about the appearance.  He needs proof. Later, when Thomas is with the group, Jesus appears to them again and again says ‘Peace’. 

As you read verses 25-31, try to change your filter of interpretation. Instead of looking at this exchange between Jesus and Thomas as a reprimand, look at it as a gentle moment which Jesus uses for Thomas’ preparation for what future followers will have to journey through. 

Have a great day, see you tomorrow.

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