Kuhn Memorial Presbyterian Church 955 Main St. (P.O. Box 222) Barboursville, West Virginia 25504 October 17, 2021.
Welcome and Announcements
Call to Worship
Praise the Lord! O give thanks to the Lord, for God is good;
For the Lord’s steadfast love endures forever.
Who can utter the mighty doings of the Lord,
or declare all God’s praise?
Happy are those who observe justice,
who do righteousness at all times.
Hymn 307 God of Grace and God of Glory
Affirmation of Faith A Declaration of Faith, PCUSA, 1985
We are certain that Jesus lives.
He lives as God with us,
touching all of human life with the presence of God.
He lives as one of us with God.
Because he shares our humanity,
He has bound us to himself in love.
We declare that Jesus is Lord.
We have an advocate in
the innermost life of God.
His resurrection is a decisive victory
over the powers that deform and destroy human life.
His lordship is hidden.
The world appears to be
dominated by people and systems that do not acknowledge his rule.
But his Lordship is real.
It demands our loyalty and sets us free from all the lesser lords who threaten us.
We maintain that ultimate sovereignty
now belongs to Jesus Christ.
In every sphere of life,
Jesus is Lord.
He has been from the beginning.
He will be Lord at the end.
Even now he is Lord.
Prayer of Confession
Lord, you see how stubborn we are, how quickly we turn from you toward idols of our own making. We forget your providential care, the countless ways you provide, your gracious response to our cries for help.
We give attention to our own needs and sometimes neglect the needs of others.
We cannot justify our behavior, we can only confess it, repent, and ask again for your mercy. Forgive us, Lord, that we may bear faithful witness, in word and deed, to your love and grace.
Hymn 698 Take, O Take Me As I Am
Take, O take me as I am; summon out what I shall be.
Set your seal upon my heart and live in me. Repeat.
Assurance of Pardon
God pours out mercy and grace. God never gives up on us, but frees us to live lives worthy of our calling.
Friends, believe the good news of the gospel. Know you are forgiven and be at peace.
Old Testament Reading Isaiah 25:1-9O Lord, you are my God;
I will exalt you, I will praise your name;
for you have done wonderful things,
plans formed of old, faithful and sure.
For you have made the city a heap,
the fortified city a ruin;
the palace of aliens is a city no more,
it will never be rebuilt.
Therefore strong peoples will glorify you;
cities of ruthless nations will fear you.
For you have been a refuge to the poor,
a refuge to the needy in their distress,
a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat.
When the blast of the ruthless was like a winter rainstorm,
the noise of aliens like heat in a dry place,
you subdued the heat with the shade of clouds;
the song of the ruthless was stilled.
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-matured wines,
of rich food filled with marrow, of well-matured wines strained clear.
And he will destroy on this mountain
the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
the sheet that is spread over all nations;
he will swallow up death for ever.
Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.
This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.
New Testament Lesson Philippians 4:1-9Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.
I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
Sermon A Reflection of God’s Glory…a Human Being Fully Alive
Of all the skills needed to be effective in ministry there is one that does not come easily or naturally to me. A pastor should be a “non-anxious presence.” We can certainly understand why this is important: church folks and even entire congregations can be consumed by anxiety. For good reason. Our lives have been altered in so many ways during this pandemic. But they have been altered before and the world has continued to turn. Still, we worry.
A fellow pastor says it was during one of those times of extreme worry, he took his family on a hike. He described it as a brisk, early spring morning, the scent of sweet blooms in the air. Beautiful. Perfect. This was during a time that he was convinced he had a terrible disease lurking in his body and the thought was paralyzing for him and exasperating for his wife and family.
As they climbed the trail, he had a “eureka” moment and he blurted out to his wife, “You know, right now, at this very moment, I feel as though I am healthy. I do not think I am dying of anything. I feel certain of it!”
His wife didn’t think he could see, but he did see her roll her eyes, as I am also inclined to do. Then she said that was exactly what she had been telling him for weeks, and since it was settled, could they just enjoy the day?
Believe it or not, that was a novel thought- Having enough room in his head to enjoy the moment he was in.
Later his wife sent him an NPR story that explored the relationship between spending time outside and mental health. The story described something the Japanese call “sinrin-yoku,” or “forest bathing.”
The theory goes that when we are obsessing about something, we have a tendency to draw into ourselves and retreat to our familiar spaces- a room or an office. Being confined to a physical space can trap our thoughts and we dwell on them. However, going outside-to the mountains or the beach or even our yards, allows our thoughts to escape into that atmosphere like billowing smoke from a fire.
Sounds good, but, will this really work? Well, it’s helpful, but good intentions and wide-open spaces are not the cure-all for pervasive anxiety. Sometimes professional help is necessary and we should be aware of that.
Scripture can help. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul writes, “Do not worry about anything, rejoice in the Lord always.”
According to the Anxiety and Depression Society of America, anxiety affects 40 million adults a year. And that was before Covid 19.
My friend, the hiker, says, this Philippians passage spoke to him that day hiking with his family. Especially verse 8:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.”
Think about this: Paul wrote these words while in prison-a closed space where he could ruminate for long days about his fate. But, as dreadful as it might be, Paul saw himself as a prisoner for Christ, a high calling, writing to the members of a persecuted church, re-directing their thoughts.
What did Paul know about psychology? We don’t know, but we do know that he was on the right track when he encouraged those early Christians to train their minds on the things that give life meaning and purpose.
Thoughts have power. Sometimes when I am about to step up to the pulpit, I feel my pulse race and it’s hard to catch my breath. It’s an awesome thing to proclaim God’s Word to people, even people I know like family. I’ve been doing this a long time now, about thirty years. I still get stage fright.
So, I do a breathing exercise my doctor taught me: take a deep breath, hold it for ten seconds, exhale for ten seconds. I do this three times and I can feel much more at ease. My pulse slows down. My anxiety is reduced. I can breathe.
My friend, Susan, practices centering prayer. Other friends practice meditation or yoga to reduce their anxiety and raise their awareness and appreciation for life.
If you are not inclined to try any of those practices, then, take a walk. Read the newspaper outside. Drive to work or to Grandma’s by a different route. You will notice something new. This creates new pathways in our brains. We feel hopeful, inspired, optimistic.
Irenaeus was a theologian of the fourth century. His words hold wisdom for today:
“The glory of God is a human being fully alive.”
A friend of mine was undergoing treatment for breast cancer. She was young, with a young family to raise. She had a lot to live for. Even on the hard days, she had a lot to live for. I visited her one day and she took me around her house. She would pull out a drawer and there would be a slip of paper with these words of Paul: “The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but, in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” And, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, right, pure, lovely…think on these things.”
She had these verses, like little treasures, all over her house. She had a potentially deadly disease, and it took a lot of strength to cope with it and follow all the medical protocols. Cancer is a six-letter word that strikes terror in all our hearts. But, she was training her mind to think about joy, delight, beauty, and grace, because those things are life-giving, not life-taking.
I offer these thoughts to you in hopes that, in this time of great upheaval, that your senses will perk up, that you may notice what is admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.
So that you may be a reflection of God’s glory…you…fully alive.
Pastoral Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer
May the God of endurance and encouragement, grant you to live in such harmony with one another that with one voice we may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Kuhn Memorial Presbyterian Church 955 Main St. (P.O. Box 222) Barboursville, West Virginia 25504 October 10, 2021.
Welcome and Announcements
*Call to Worship
God says,” I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts;
And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
*Hymn 2 Come, Thou Almighty King
Prayer of the Day
in Jesus Christ you do not call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.
Draw us away from the easy road that leads to destruction,
and guide us into paths that lead to life abundant,
that in seeking your truth, and obeying your will,
we may know the joy of being a disciple of Jesus Christ our Savior,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
First Reading Hebrews 4: 12-16
Time With Our Young Disciples
Second Reading Mark 10:17-31
You reach into your mailbox and pull out a stack of paper and envelopes. You find an ad for the local grocery store, a power bill, a magazine you will never read, and something different. In a stiff, thick envelope, with your name in an embellished script, is an invitation. How intriguing. What could it be?
When that happens at our house, I open everything else before I open the mysterious envelope. I let the suspense build. Maybe it’s a wedding invitation…or a graduation announcement…or an invitation to a party for a famous person coming to town.
Imagine how you would feel to receive a personal invitation to join Jesus in his life and work, to be a disciple, walking alongside him daily. Sit with that a moment. How would you answer?
In our text, the man we have always called “the rich, young ruler” kneels in sincere deference before Jesus and asks the central question of the faith: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
This man is apparently a Jew and Jesus reminds him that he knows the Law, the Ten Commandments, he has been raised in the tradition of the Torah. And the young man says, “I get that, Jesus. I have kept them faithfully my whole life long.”
What the text says next is perhaps one of the most revealing moments in all the gospels: we get a glimpse into the heart of Jesus. Jesus, looking at him, loved him. The text doesn’t say he looks at him with pity. It doesn’t say Jesus looks at him with disapproval. No. Jesus looked at him the same way he looks at us: Jesus loved him.
Jesus extends an invitation to come and follow him. But not before he points out that the young man lacks one thing. Jesus says, “Go sell your stuff, and come back ready to travel, ready to bring people into the fold so they, too, can have eternal life.”
How would you respond? Run back to your house and put a for sale sign in the yard? Call Goodwill or Habitat and ask them to send a truck?
I’d like to think that’s what I would do. I’ll let you in on a secret. Ed and I have talked about moving for years. You know, find a house that’s all on one floor. All it takes is one look into the garage and we’re over that notion. Like the man in our story, we have much stuff.
What does this young man do? After hearing how much it costs to become a disciple, the man slumps his shoulders and sadly walks away.
Many others have been called to follow Jesus by this time. And, according to scripture, they have left kith and kin, their jobs, their comforts, their possessions, and have become disciples. This may be the only example of someone refusing the call to discipleship in all of scripture.
This man rejected Jesus. Because to follow Jesus meant he would pay too high a price. He would have to give up his wealth. And that is no small thing.
And I can really identify with the problem. Perhaps this man had a family. What would happen to them? We know he had a prominent position in the community. He would have to give that up. He probably enjoyed more creature comforts than the common folk. He always had tickets on the 50 yard line of the arena.
And Jesus tells him to unburden himself of all these distractions if he wants to find true treasure: life that never ends.
The gospel, the New Testament scriptures, is our witness to just how risky it can be to be met by Jesus. I think, instead of criticizing this poor fellow, we might give him credit for being honest.
I read a story recently, a first-hand account of a man who had converted to Catholicism from the Evangelical branch of the Christian faith. He spoke about how much it had changed him. He intended to live out his faith by applying those things he had been taught in his Confirmation classes. He said it was not easy. In fact, at times, he knew he was making different choices than he did before he converted. He lost some friends. He lost some business contacts. His faith did cost something. But, it was worth the cost for the peace he felt in his heart. Jesus gave his life for him. He would gratefully give up something for Jesus.
Clarence Jordan, the renowned preacher of the social gospel, is said to have once visited a large integrated church in the deep south in the 1960’s. Well, you can imagine how unusual that would have been.
Jordan is said to have asked the old country preacher how he had accomplished this. “How did you get the church this way?”
“What way?” the preacher asked.
Jordan went on to explain his surprise at finding a church so thoroughly integrated, not only with blacks and whites, but rich folk and poor folk all in one warm, hospitable fellowship.
The preacher said, “Well, when our preacher left our small church, I went to the deacons and said, “I’ll be the preacher. The first Sunday as preacher, I opened the book and read, “As many of you as has been baptized into Jesus has put on Jesus and there is no longer any Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, males or females, because all of you is one in Jesus.’
Then I closed the book and I said, “If you are one with Jesus you are one with all kind of folks. And if you ain’t, well, you ain’t.”
Jordan asked what happened next.
“Well,” the preacher said, “the deacons took me into the back room and told me they didn’t want to hear that kind of preaching no more.”
Jordan asked what he did then, “I fired them deacons,” the preacher roared.
“Then what happened?” asked Jordan.
“Well,” said the old preacher, “I preached that church down to four. Not long after that, it started growing. And it grew. And I found out that revival sometimes don’t mean bringin’ people in, but getting’ people out that don’t dare to love Jesus.”
Friends, I think that is the issue before us today, the question the text is asking of us:
Do we dare to love Jesus with our whole heart, and soul, and mind, and strength? Or do we need to let go of something, lose something, in order to deepen our relationship with Jesus?
Listen to the wisdom of Saint Francis of Assisi:
Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there is hatred let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand.
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is pardoning that we are pardoned,
it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
May it be so for all of us. Amen.
*Hymn 468 In My Life
*Affirmation of Faith The Apostles’ Creed
*Hymn 581 Gloria Patri
Sharing Our Joys and Concerns
Pastoral Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer
Presenting Our Tithes and Offerings
Prayer of Dedication
we thank you for your many gifts. We are all too aware of how we might fit through the needle’s eye. And so, in gratitude, we return a portion of our wealth to you that our offerings may build and sustain the ministry of this congregation and bring hope to our neighbors in need. Amen.
*Hymn 442 Just As I Am
Go now, and may God be glorified in your life, in your song,
in Christ’s church, and in God’s world. Amen.
Kuhn Memorial Presbyterian Church 955 Main St. (P.O. Box 222) Barboursville, West Virginia 25504 October 3, 2021.
Welcome and Announcements
*Call to Worship
To those who are hungry, Jesus says:
“Come and eat! There’s more than enough for all!”
To those who are thirsty, he says:
“Come and drink! It’s free for the taking!”
Stop wasting your money on food that doesn’t satisfy.
Come to me and you will find everything you need!”
*Hymn 318 In Christ There Is No East or West
Prayer of Confession
we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done and what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart and mind and strength.
We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
In your mercy, forgive what we have been,
help us amend what we are,
and direct what we shall be,
that we may walk in your ways,
to the glory of your holy name. Amen.
Assurance of Forgiveness
The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting.
I declare to you, in the name of Jesus Christ,
our sins are forgiven. Be at peace with God and one another. Amen.
First Reading Isaiah 65: 17-25
Time With Our Young Disciples
New Testament Reading John 21:15-17
Today Christians around the globe are celebrating World Communion Sunday, a day when we are urged to embrace the Biblical vision of unity and peace. Not as a far-off dream, but as Christ’s calling to us.
World Communion Sunday is a gift of the Presbyterian Church to the larger ecumenical body of Christ. The first observance was at the Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, in 1933. The Rev. Dr. Hugh Thompson Kerr was the pastor. It was from his vision that the day was set apart for the purpose of promoting peace and global witness. Years later, his son, the Rev. Dr. Donald Kerr, reflected on his father’s vision.
“The concept spread very slowly at the start. People did not give it a whole lot of thought. It was during the Second World War that the spirit caught hold, because we were trying to hold the world together. World wide Communion symbolized the effort to hold things together, in a spiritual sense. It emphasized that we are one in the Spirit and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
It seems to me, we are trying to hold the world together in the 21st century. Wild weather, a pandemic, inflated prices on everything, civic unrest, job insecurity, food insecurity. And more.
Noted theologian, Karl Barth, is remembered for saying this about preaching: “Hold the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.”
Rev. Christine Chakoian of Los Angeles says the first time she heard the gospel preached that way wasn’t at her church, but in her parents’ family room. It wasn’t from a pulpit, but a record player. It was Simon and Garfunkel’s “7 O’Clock News/Silent Night.”
Silent Night is one of our most beloved Christmas carols, a lullaby that the Christ Child and the world he came to save, would “sleep in heavenly peace.”
But, in this particular recording, over that carol, another sound intrudes, growing louder and louder. The voice of a reporter announces that demonstrators have been forcibly evicted from the US House of Representatives. And then the grim announcement that unless there is asubstantial increase in the effort in Viet Nam, the US should look forward to five more years of war.
And then the reporter signed off, “That’s the 7 o’clock news. Good night.”
Christine Chakoian says she has been thinking about that Simon and Garfunkel song a lot lately, and Barth’s words of preaching advice. There is a taught tension between the Bible’s vision for the world and the world’s news. Let’s consider just a few.
The Bible says: “No more shall there be the sound of weeping, or the cry of distress.”
The New York Times says: “An incalculable Loss: America has reached a grim milestone in the Coronavirus outbreak.”
The Bible says: “They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.”
The newspaper says: Political Battle Erupts Over Homeless Encampment on Venice Boardwalk.”
The Bible says: “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox.”
The newspaper says: Collateral Damage of COVID-19: Rising rates of domestic and social violence.
We find these competing truths in our own town. What are we supposed to do? God promises peace, but violence exists, poverty exists, disease and death exist.
One way we can respond is to just look the other way. Don’t concern ourselves with social ills. Ignore the Bible. It’s irrelevant today. It certainly doesn’t compel many people to action. Judging by the inactivity in my own neighborhood on Sunday mornings, I’d say this is the prevalent attitude.
But, Christians don’t get off the hook here. We have to do better than that.
We could take the eschatological approach and lean into the time to come when Christ returns to make all things new and establish the peaceable kingdom. God will take care of this in God’s good time. No worries. This approach reminds me of a high school friend of mine who decided not to apply for college admission because he believed Christ’s return was imminent.
We could concentrate on our personal salvation. It is important. Jesus saves. But, Jesus saves us for what purpose? What is the work or mission for which Jesus has called us?
Christine Chakoian says we could set all those approaches aside and try another way- the prophetic way. “A way that lifts up God’s end game vision and at the same time, opens our hearts to let Christ make a difference now.
That’s the prophetic way, the Gospel way-where God’s reign can be real, even now. Where peace is not a pipedream, where God assures that none of his beloved sheep goes hungry.”
Is that too naïve, too idealistic? Or is there a way to embrace that vision for the world God created and loves?
Seminary Professor Fred Craddock shares this story of how the reconciliation of faith and current events came together in his classroom.
At the beginning of many seminary classes, a student leads the class in prayer or shares a brief devotion. Maybe the student brings along a guitar and invites everyone to sing a hymn or chorus. This was a part of seminary education that I loved. Every lecture, every assignment, was wrapped in the Word read and proclaimed, and sealed with prayer.
On this particular day the student leading devotions stepped up to the front of the class with her yellow legal pad. It had a lot of writing on it. Fred thought this could take a long time.
The student spoke sofly, first in one foreign language, then another-one sentence repeated over fifty times in different languages. Fred said it was only when she spoke in German, Spanish and French, that he began to understand what she was saying. She ended in English with these words: “Mommy, I’m hungry.” And then she sat down.
Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me? Feed my sheep.”
Jesus asks all of us here, “Do you love me? Feed my sheep.”
Christine Chakoian offers these thoughts to us who are even now praying about the world’s great problems and waiting in hope for the coming kingdom:
“Cynicism is the fate of realists who clearly see the present, but see nothing of God’s vision for the way the world could really be. That vision is before us now: where wolves and lambs can feed together; where all of God’s hungry children are fed at the table of grace.”
It takes some imagination and not a little courage to live into God’s vision. But, that is the call of Christ on our lives: to feed his sheep, so that every single one of the children of earth is fed- fed with security, fed with love, fed and bread.
*Affirmation of Faith Apostles’ Creed
*Hymn 581 Gloria Patri
Celebrating the Sacrament of Communion With Our Global Family
Prayer After Communion
we have been strengthened at this table, by loaf and cup,
and will live in gratitude for the dying and rising of Jesus Christ, our Savior and friend.
And we will become bread for a hungering world.
And we will become drink for those who thirst.
And the blessed will become the blessing,
and everywhere will be the feast. Amen.
*Hymn 761 Called As Partners In Christ’s Service
This is a vision of the way it can be, the way it should be:
Shouts of welcome, a joyful procession,
a community celebrating Christ’s transforming power in unity.
As we go out, may we hold fast to his vision of goodness,
giving ourselves to God’s love,
pouring it out into the world in God’s name. Amen.