August 20, 2023 - Home Worship

For the week of August 20-26 – 12th Sunday after Pentecost

Morning Prayer Redeeming Sustainer, visit Your people and pour out Your strength and courage upon us, that we may hurry to make You welcome not only in our concern for others, but by serving them generously and faithfully in Your name. Amen.  (Lectionary Prayers)

Hymn #57 O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing

  1. O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer's praise,
    the glories of my God and King, the triumphs of His grace!
  2. My gracious Master and my God, assist me to proclaim,
    to spread through all the earth abroad the honors of Thy name.
  3. Jesus! the name that charms our fears, that bids our sorrows cease;
    'tis music in the sinner's ears, 'tis life, and health, and peace.
  4. He breaks the power of canceled sin, He sets the prisoner free;
    His blood can make the foulest clean; His blood availed for me.
  5. He speaks, and listening to His voice, new life the dead receive;
    the mournful, broken hearts rejoice, the humble poor believe.
  6. Hear Him, ye deaf; His praise, ye dumb, your loosened tongues employ;
    ye blind, behold your Savior come, and leap, ye lame, for joy.
  7. In Christ, your head, you then shall know, shall feel your sins forgiven;
    anticipate your heaven below, and own that love is heaven.

Psalm 133

133:1 How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!

133:2 It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes.

133:3 It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion. For there the LORD ordained His blessing, life forevermore.

Children’s Time Proverbs 4:4b-9

“Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live.

5Get wisdom; get insight: do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth.

6Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you.

7The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever else you get, get insight.

8Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her.

9She will place on your head a fair garland; she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.”

Back to School Blessing

ONE: With You, every transition and new start is a reminder of Your goodness, for You are always creating fresh, amazing things in us and through us. Though we are sad about the summer ending, we are grateful for this school year. We appreciate the opportunity to learn and grow, knowing it is one of the biggest privileges we have. With thanks and love, we now offer everything we are to You, asking for Your blessing.

We pray as and for students of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds. We pray for our hearts and all they hold—excitement and nervousness, disappointment and hope. We give You all our loves and fears. We pray for steady self-esteem and deepening resilience.

ALL: Loving God, hold us and our prayers.

ONE: We pray for our minds, that they will expand in wonder and celebration, learning not just from the books studied but the people beside us. Open our minds with a willingness to be changed in unexpected ways, and settle our thought loops in peaceful places.

ALL: Loving God, hold us and our prayers.

ONE: We pray for our hands, that they will reach out to help welcome and care. Bless our hands with patience and dedication as they grip pencils and type on keyboards, swish paint brushes and clap in song, grip monkey bars and lunch box handles, spin wheelchair tires and basketballs.

ALL: Loving God, hold us and our prayers.

ONE: We pray for our mouths, that they will speak words bringing life and connection. Help us use our mouths to honor the dignity and belovedness of all. Remind us to open our mouths for deep belly breaths when we’re feeling anxious or afraid.

ALL: Loving God, hold us and our prayers.

ONE: We pray for our feet, that they will move toward those different from us and help others in safe ways. Plant our feet next to those who feel alone, and bless our steps down hallways and sidewalks. We know You are with us wherever our feet go or stay.

ALL: Loving God, hold us and our prayers.

ONE: We pray for our eyes, that they may see ourselves and others with compassion. Point our eyes toward those who are forgotten or struggling. Grow us in flexibility to see from all kinds of angles. Bless what and how we see, whether we’re looking at a screen, a whiteboard, or the beauty of a person’s face. And help us see with the most important eyes—the eyes of the Spirit within us.

ALL: Loving God, hold us and our prayers.

ONE: We pray for our ears, that they will genuinely listen to all voices, especially those that haven’t been listened to much. When things get noisy, help us listen extra carefully for Your voice. Help us hear with the most important ears—the ears of the Spirit within us.

ALL: Loving God, hold us and our prayers.

ONE: We say a special prayer for parents, as the start of a new school year is always another leap of faith. Wrap them with Your reassuring love as they entrust their children and trust in You. When questions remain unanswered, and the realm of control is finite, bless them with peace and the promise You are right there with their child, whether heading to preschool or driving to college.

ALL: Loving God, hold us and our prayers.

ONE: We also pray now for teachers, staff and administrators. Bless these faithful servants with courage and confidence, knowing You are in their classroom with a steady hand on their shoulder. Give them peace, patience, and balance in the pressures they face, and bravery to build structures and systems which justly serve all Your children. Give them delight in the young ones before them, and recognition of the sweet ways children are also teachers.

ALL: Loving God, hold us and our prayers.

ONE: We pray for health and wholeness, fun and growth, surprise and amazement, for this school year ahead, knowing You will hold us all the way through.

ALL: We thank You, God, and love You. Amen.

Prayers of Intercession:  Thank You, Lord, for hearing our prayers for those dear to our hearts.  We now pray as You have taught us: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us, not into temptation but deliver us from evil.  For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  Amen. 

Offering spotlight: Our students are beginning a new school year.  If you designate offering to Missions, some of those funds are given to those in our midst who are pursuing degrees. Our scholarships remind them of our continuing support, encouragement, and prayers.  Christians are needed in every walk of life and every field of employment.  God’s blessings to students from preschool through doctoral students; to teachers, drivers, school staff, and administrators. 

Offering prayer: Creator and architect of the universe, we want to believe that Your love for us means You will go before us on life’s path and clear the way, making it easy to travel, but our experience doesn’t always bear that out. We know You see a bigger picture than we do. As we bring You our offerings this day, we affirm Your presence with us in the pits of despair as well as in the palaces of plenty. We give with gratitude, in Christ’s holy name. Amen. (Discipleship Ministries)

Hymn #368 My Hope Is Built

  1. My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness.
    I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus' name.

Refrain: On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand;
all other ground is sinking sand.

  1. When Darkness veils His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace.
    In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil. (Refrain)
  2. His oath, His covenant, His blood supports me in the whelming flood.
    When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay. (Refrain)
  3. When He shall come with trumpet sound, O may I then in Him be found!
    Dressed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne! (Refrain)

Scripture:  Matthew 15:10-20

Then He (Jesus) called the crowd to Him and said to them, “Listen and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” Then the disciples approached and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what You said?” He answered, “Every plant that My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.” But Peter said to him, “Explain this parable to us.” Then He said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.”

Message:              Pastor Becky Cuddeback

Can we first appreciate how far the Pharisees traveled to get to Jesus and His disciples? Jesus and His disciples are in Gennesaret, which lies about 65 miles from Jerusalem? Now, the average walking speed is 3 miles per hour. This would mean it would take 21 hours and 40 minutes to travel this distance – if you did not stop. But no one is walking 21 hours straight, maybe if you were very fit and very determined, you could travel 8 hours a day, but I don’t really see the feasibility in doing that. So for sake of argument, let’s say they walked 5 hours a day to get to Jesus. It would still be a little more than 4 days of walking. I believe we can agree this is a serious effort on the religious leaders’ part, all to try to discredit Jesus.

And, all of that walking was done in the name of tradition not because of a commandment.

What could possibly have instigated such a response? Someone noticed the disciples eating without washing their hands first. The chain of events would have unfolded like this:

  1. the disciples ate without washing their hands
  2. someone was bothered enough to alert the religious leaders
  3. the religious leaders decided to send a delegation to confront Jesus
  4. the delegation leaves for Gennesaret to find Jesus

All because the disciples didn’t wash their hands. I think we can say, this was a big response for a minor infraction.

When the delegation catches up with Jesus, Jesus' response to unwashed hands was short and to the point. Unwashed hands aren’t what make you unclean; it’s what comes out of your mouth that makes you unclean. This is the end of the exchange. Jesus walks away from them. He’s done.

Now, the religious leaders aren’t done. The disciples point out to Jesus that the leaders are offended by the exchange. Who could blame them, they have just walked 65 miles and Jesus has deflated them – they felt entitled to uphold the tradition. They were standing firm in their dedication to what had been taught without question or mercy.

As Jesus goes deeper into conversation with Peter, Jesus talks about what defiles a person and where it comes from. It comes from the heart. The heart is the site in our being where we carry our emotions, memories, and beliefs. It is where we feel the deepest connection and it is where we hide our deepest, darkest secrets. The delegation revealed their heart that day and it was one of judgment. Judgment was what came out of their mouths. The viewpoint that tradition mattered more than basic human need defiled the religious leaders.

And it continues today. Tradition holds a greater weight than reaching people with the love and care of Jesus Christ. We lean toward what makes us comfortable, what serves us, speaks to us, affirms us, and keeps us believing we are superior than “those people”.

“Those people” are the people Jesus was seeing with God’s eyes. He was speaking to them, healing them, feeding them, and more; because Jesus saw their need to be recognized for their worth to God. He ministered to the least, the lonely, and the lost, those not accepted and those unserved. Jesus was going from synagogue to synagogue affirming those on the inside, offering Bible studies, or covering for rabbi’s vacations.

Jesus was moving into new spaces and reinventing old spaces to reach those who may or may not have been connected to the offer of the Kingdom of God. He was unconcerned with clean or unclean, rich or poor, or male or female. Jesus cast aside “polite society” to be where He was needed and wasn’t about to get derailed by tradition or by expectation of how someone should look or behave in order to bring them into salvation.

What do we hang on to that only truly serves us? Who hasn’t experienced the kingdom because we are so tied up in our traditions? We have to acknowledge there are traditions, expectations, and mindsets we cling to dearly which hinder children of God from fully realizing the Kingdom here and this action (or rather truthfully, inaction) makes us complicit with the religious leaders of Jesus’ earthly time. Which casts us with them, as ones to be uprooted because we are the blind leading the blind.

Hymn: #374  Standing on the Promises

  1. Standing on the promises of Christ my King, through eternal ages let His praises ring;

Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing, standing on the promises of God. 

Refrain:  Standing, standing, standing on the promises of God, my Savior;

          Standing, standing, I’m standing on the promises of God.

  1. Standing on the promises that cannot fail, when the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,

By the living Word of God I shall prevail, standing on the promises of God.  Refrain.

  1. Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord, bound to Him eternally by love’s strong cord,

Overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword, standing on the promises of God.  Refrain.

  1. Standing on the promises I cannot fall, listening every moment to the Spirit’s call,

Resting in my Savior as my all in all, standing on the promises of God.  Refrain.

Go into your week with the blessings of The Father, The Son, The Holy Spirit.