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.