January 21, 2024 - Home Worship

For the week of January 21 – 3rd Sunday after the Epiphany

Morning prayer: Holy One, what a blessing and privilege we share here in this sacred space and among this loving community. But, like Jonah, we sometimes are reluctant to share, although we know that others are longing and thirsting for what we know and experience. Forgive us our reluctance to open our doors, open our hearts. We repent of our hesitations and unwillingness to witness to those we have considered strangers and even enemies for fear they just might become friends. Amen. (Discipleship Ministries)

Hymn #358 Dear Lord and Father of Mankind

  1. Dear Lord and Father of mankind, forgive our foolish ways;
    reclothe us in our rightful mind, in purer lives Thy service find, in deeper reverence, praise.
  2. In simple trust like theirs who heard, beside the Syrian sea,
    the gracious calling of the Lord, let us, like them, without a word, rise up and follow Thee.
  3. O sabbath rest by Galilee, O calm of hills above,
    where Jesus knelt to share with thee the silence of eternity, interpreted by love!
  4. Drop Thy still dews of quietness, till all our strivings cease;
    take from our souls the strain and stress, and let our ordered lives confess
    the beauty of Thy peace.
  5. Breathe through the heats of our desire Thy coolness and Thy balm;
    let sense be dumb, let flesh retire; speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
    O still, small voice of calm.

Psalm 62:6-9, 11-12

6 Only God is my rock and my salvation— my stronghold!—I will not be shaken.

7 My deliverance and glory depend on God. God is my strong rock. My refuge is in God.

8 All you people: Trust in Him at all times! Pour out your hearts before Him! God is our refuge! Selah

9 Human beings are nothing but a breath. Human beings are nothing but lies.
They don’t even register on a scale; taken all together they are lighter than a breath!

11 God has spoken one thing— make it two things— that I myself have heard:
that strength belongs to God,

12 and faithful love comes from You, my Lord— and that You will repay everyone according to their deeds.

Children’s Time Jonah 3:1-5, 10

The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, 2“Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” 3So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. 4Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

5And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.

10When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed His mind about the calamity that He had said He would bring upon them; and He did not do it.

Children’s Message

If you woke up in the middle of the night and looked out your window and saw your neighbor’s house on fire what would you do? Would you go back to bed and hope that someone else would call the fire department to rescue your neighbors from the fire? What if these neighbors were not your favorite people? Maybe they have caused a lot of trouble in the neighborhood and no one really likes them. What would you do about their house being on fire?

The only right answer to the question is to call the fire department and get some help to make sure the neighbors are awake so they can get out of the house before they are destroyed in the flames.

In the Old Testament and the New Testament God’s ambassadors have pointed others to Him. In the Old Testament the prophets were God’s ambassadors taking His message to the people. Many times the prophets’ message from God to the people was to turn from sin and return to God (be reconciled to God) or face the consequences of God’s punishment.

God is a God of second chances. When a person sins God doesn’t cast them away never to be used for His Kingdom again. Sin hinders a person’s service for God but when that person repents of his/her sin and returns to God, He forgives them and enables them to continue to serve in some way for His Kingdom.

Jonah had obeyed God and gave the people of Nineveh His message and now the results were up to God. The people of Nineveh heard God’s message and believed His Word. The people were distressed by the news they received from God’s prophet Jonah. They did not want to be destroyed by God and called everyone to stop eating which is called a fast. Everyone put on sack-cloth to show their grief over the news that God was going to destroy Nineveh.

The King of Nineveh acknowledged that his people were wicked and violent…something God already knew and told Jonah (“Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before Me.” Jonah 1:2). The king knew the only hope he and his people had to be delivered from destruction was to call on God to have mercy. God saw what the king of Nineveh and all the people did and how they turned from their wicked ways. He had compassion upon the people and did not bring the destruction upon the city that He had planned to send.

Thank You, God, that You are the God of second chances.

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: Your Loving Choices is a pregnancy center in Bloomsburg that provides medical information and emotional support to women and girls in a very vulnerable situation.  The staff is not judgmental in any way and offers hope and help with factual information.   On this Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, we praise God for the children He has put into our care. 

Offering prayer: Generous God, we ask You to bless the gifts we give this morning. We trust You to lead us so that we might follow without looking back and we might leave behind more of our old lives to experience more deeply new life in You. Help us to leave those things that seemed essential before we heard the call, so that we might travel the road You have put before us. In the name of Christ who goes before us and beside us, we pray. Amen. (Discipleship Ministries)

Hymn of preparation: #398 Jesus Calls Us

  1. Jesus calls us o'er the tumult of our life's wild, restless sea;
    day by day His sweet voice soundeth, saying, "Christian, follow me!"
  2. As of old the apostles heard it by the Galilean lake,
    turned from home and toil and kindred, leaving all for Jesus' sake.
  3. Jesus calls us from the worship of the vain world's golden store,
    from each idol that would keep us, saying, "Christian, love Me more!"
  4. In our joys and in our sorrows, days of toil and hours of ease,
    still He calls, in cares and pleasures, "Christian, love Me more than these!"
  5. Jesus calls us! By Thy mercies, Savior, may we hear Thy call,
    give our hearts to Thine obedience, serve and love Thee best of all.

Message Scripture:  Mark 1:14-20

14 After John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee announcing God’s good news, 15 saying, “Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!”

16 As Jesus passed alongside the Galilee Sea, He saw two brothers, Simon and Andrew, throwing fishing nets into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow Me,” He said, “and I’ll show you how to fish for people.” 18 Right away, they left their nets and followed Him. 19 After going a little farther, He saw James and John, Zebedee’s sons, in their boat repairing the fishing nets. 20 At that very moment He called them. They followed Him, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired workers.

Message:  Cherish the Moment                      Pastor Ron

Let me start this morning by asking you a question: If you could be granted a peek into your future, would you take it? Let’s say you were granted the opportunity to just take a quick peek at your life five or ten or twenty years from now. Would you do it? Would you really want to know?

I thought about this question when I read about some coffee houses in Shanghai, China, called “Mo Mi Cafes”. In some ways the Mo Mi Cafes are like any Dunkin or Starbucks. You can buy specialty coffee or tea at the Mo Mi Café. You can hang out at the café and read books. Or…you can purchase a postcard and send it to your future self. That is right, I said send it to your future self. Each café has a post office for traditional mail delivery. But the cafes also have post office boxes for mail that is intended to be delivered to you over the next 5-10 years. So, if you want to send a message to your future self, you can purchase a post card, write out your message, and place it in the appropriate post office box. Assuming the café is still in business 5-10 years from now, employees will fish out your postcard and put it in the mail to be delivered to you.

If I were to hand you a postcard right now, what message would you send to your future self? That is a tough question. Thanks to movies like “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Back to the Future,” we can imagine the changes we would make if our future self would send a message today. But what message would you send to your future self that would make a difference? In my mind, any message that the “present me” could send to the “future me” would be represented by three words: “Cherish the moment.”

Actor Denzel Washington shares a story from motivational speaker Les Brown about the power of taking action when the opportunity arises. Brown says to picture yourself on your deathbed. You are surrounded by ghosts of wasted potential. Gifts and talents and opportunities that you never acted on. And these ghosts surrounding your bed are angry. They are disappointed because their presence has been wasted on you. All that potential – wasted! And they glare down at you and say, “We came to you because you could have brought us to life.”

And now we go to the grave together. And Denzel Washington, at this University of Pennsylvania commencement, asked the graduates, “How many ghosts are going to be around your bed when your time comes?”

And that question, brothers, and sisters, brings us to our Gospel lesson for today. As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow Me,” He said, “and I’ll show you how to fish for people.” Right away, they left their nets and followed Him. (17-18)

If that’s not an opportunity, I don’t know what is. “Come follow me,” said Jesus, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” If the disciples had ever had the opportunity to write a postcard to their future self, they would have written: Cherish this moment. Cherish this moment when the Messiah, the Savior of the world, offered you the greatest opportunity on earth: “Come follow Me, and I will send you out to fish for people.” I want you to pay attention to this opportunity because Christ is offering you the same opportunity today.

Cherish the moment when you were chosen to become ambassadors of hope.

That is what fishing for people is all about. Listen to Jesus’ words in verse 15: “Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives and trust this good news!” Sisters and brothers, we are representatives of the kingdom of God. No matter what world events or political realities or economic pressures we face, we are called to be ambassadors of hope. And not just to share the good news of the kingdom of God, but to put the values and priorities of the kingdom of God into action here and now.

For at least the past three years the country of Finland has ranked #1 in the United Nations’ World Happiness report. And guess what they did? Finland’s leaders took advantage of this prestigious title by creating an ambassador program of sorts to share the secrets to happiness with the rest of the world.

That’s what you do when you are on to something good. The ambassador program, called “Rent-A-Finn,” encourages people to visit Finland under the guidance of a local Finnish tour guide. Included in the tour is training on the culture and food and health practices that contribute the most to the happiness of Finnish citizens. In 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the “Rent-A-Finn” program moved online, with live-steamed classes on the art of happiness from Finish experts.

So the Finish may be recognized as the happiest people on earth, but followers of Jesus Christ are, hands down, the most hopeful people on earth. We are the recipients of abundant life – in this world and in the world to come. And Jesus wanted to make sure that as many people as possible shared in that hope. That’s why He called those disciples to follow Him. That’s why He called them to be fishers of people. Spread the hope! Spread the joy! We cannot keep the good news of God’s love to ourselves.

I believe we would all like to be as happy as the Finns. And the message of eternal life through the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ positively increases our level of happiness and hope so much that we would be selfish if we kept it to ourselves. That is why the message of Jesus Christ has been shared billions of times over on social media, in books, movies, magazines, sermons, and personal encounters. The methods and opportunities for sharing Jesus’ message are endless. No matter what job we do, no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, we are called to be ambassadors of hope.

The second thing I think we might write on our postcard is: Cherish the moment when your life changed from being goal-oriented to being purpose driven. Most of us have a to-do list or if you are truly success oriented, you might have a list of goals. Hike the Appalachian Trail. Get a promotion. Finish that degree. And then lots of to-do lists that help you reach those big goals. But goals are external measures of achievement. They center on our success or comfort.

Purpose, however, is an internal motivating force that comes from our values, our principles, our unique skills, and passions. Why does it matter whether you are goal-oriented verse purpose-driven?

Achieving your goals may lead to success but living with purpose leads to fulfillment and inner peace. Living with purpose means focusing your energies on matters that are more meaningful and significant than your own happiness or comfort. Living with purpose means looking for ways you can make the world a better place. But before you can live with purpose, you must recognize that you were made to contribute something special to this world. You have a responsibility to live for something beyond your own desires. You can be part of healing the world and bringing the kingdom of God on earth.

Remember Les Brown’s story about angry ghosts of our wasted potential standing around your bed someday? Living with purpose is the best way to ensure there will be no angry ghosts hanging around at the end of your life. You will not bypass meaningful opportunities or waste your God-given gifts because your work will be motivated by God’s love.

Don Butcher’s wife died on Thanksgiving Day 1992. Don, a farmer, had asked neighboring farmers to store his wheat harvest that year so he could care for his ailing wife. After Helen’s death, Don was reading a passage from the 58th chapter of the book of Isaiah: “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing of finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” (9b-10) This passage just burned itself into Don’s heart. He determined right then and there that he would use his stored wheat to feed hungry people in the former Soviet Union as a memorial to his wife. He even got other farmers to contribute some of their stored grain to the project. With the help of a federal food distribution program, Don sent tons of wheat and dried beans to charities throughout the former Soviet Union, Belarus, and Moldova. With each sack of wheat or beans, he included the address of an American family who had contributed food. As he said, “I want this grain to go to a family from a family. I want to say it’s not bread alone but sharing God’s love that can make a world of difference.”

God’s love created this world. God’s love saved this world. God’s love is recreating this world. And yes, sharing God’s love can make a world of difference. Brothers and sisters, that is what Jesus came to show us. That’s what He called His disciples to do. And that is what He calls us to do. If you accept that call, you will be able to look back on this day and say, “Cherish this moment. Cherish this moment when I became an ambassador of hope. Cherish this moment when my life changed from being goal-oriented to being purpose-driven. And cherish this moment when I had the opportunity to share the good news of the kingdom of God.” And I guarantee you that you will cherish this moment with great joy.

Closing Hymn: #261 Lord of the Dance

  1. I danced in the morning when the world was begun,

And I danced in the moon and the stars and the sun,

And I came down from heaven and I danced on the earth.

At Bethlehem I had my birth.

Refrain:  Dance, then, wherever you may be; I am the Lord of the Dance, said He.

And I’ll lead you all wherever you may be, and I’ll lead you all in the dance, said He.

  1. I danced for the scribe and the Pharisee,

but they would not dance and they would not follow me;

I danced for the fishermen, for James and John;

they came to Me and the dance went on.

  1. I danced on the Sabbath when I cured the lame, the holy people said it was a shame;

They whipped and they stripped and they hung me high;

and they left Me there on a cross to die.

  1. I danced on a Friday and the sky turned black;

it’s hard to dance with the devil on your back;

They buried My body and they thought I’d gone, but I am the dance and I still go on.

  1. They cut Me down and I leapt up high, I am the life that’ll never, never die;

I’ll live in you if you’ll live in Me; I am the Lord of the Dance, said He.

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