July 12, 2020 - Home Worship Service

Worship for July 12, 2020

 

Welcome & Announcements: Good morning church! We continue to gather for our in-person worship at 9am in the Lighthouse. Remember for all church activities, please bring your own chair, and wear a mask. (This includes Bible study, crafters, meetings, and worship). Also remember we cannot sing with the masks on but are welcome to hum.

 

But we will continue to email and mail the services, too. And if you are not comfortable with the guidelines, please join us for Facebook Live worship that can be found through our church website: www.lightstreetumc.org

Click on our Facebook link OR go save this address for all future live events through the church (including Bible studies and worship services).  You do not have to have a Facebook account to watch the videos.

https://www.facebook.com/LightstreetUnitedMethodistChurch/live/

 

Worship:

I invite you to light a candle to welcome the Light of the World in your presence and prepare your heart for worship this day:

 

Call to Worship                    

 

L:        The kingdom of God is at hand.

P:        We want to enter this kingdom.

L:        The mercy of God is made known.

P:        We want to receive this mercy.

L:        The grace of God is abundant for all.

P:        We praise you, O God, for Your compassion and Your love.

            Accept our grateful praise as we come to worship You today.

 

HYMN           For the Beauty of the Earth  

https://youtu.be/q73Jrz1uDVI

 

  1. For the beauty of the earth, for the beauty of the skies,

For the love which from our birth over and around us lies,

Lord of all, to Thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.

 

  1. For the beauty of each hour of the day and of the night,

Hill and vale, and tree and flower, sun and moon, and stars of light,

Lord of all, to Thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.

 

  1. For the joy of human love, brother, sister, parent, child,

Friends on earth, and friends above, for all gentle thoughts and mild,

Lord of all, to Thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.

 

Prayer of the Day: (shared by the Pastor)

 

Lord, we look for You in the wrong places. We put our trust in material things.
We worry about things we cannot change. We wonder if You are even there at all.
For all the times we have doubted You, Lord, Forgive us.
For all the ways we have neglected Your word and ignored Your people, forgive us.
Do not be far from us, Lord. There is no one else we can turn to for help.
Renew our fickle hearts and help us put our trust in You. Amen.

 

Children’s time:

It's our children's time and I want to start with a question I ask you each and every week: Who are you? Children Respond: Special Gifts of God!

 

PJ: That's right, you are special gifts of God each and every day and I'm so lucky to spend time with you!

I have been thinking about the fact that we cannot sing when we are gathered together. Studies show it’s not safe because when we sing, we tend to spread germs a little further than when we speak.

 

That’s when I remembered when I was in seminary, I was blessed to witness a sign language choir. They didn’t sing with their mouths; they sang with their hands.

 

I thought I would share with you one of those songs: He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands. (see the video below).

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQJRs5w9h4U

 

Prayer: Thank You God, that we can sing with our hands, not just our voices, to praise You. Amen.

 

Sharing of Joys & Concerns

Prayer & Lord’s Prayer

 

Lord, You know us so well. We thank You for Your presence in our lives, even when we do not always recognize it. This day we have gathered, coming from a week of unexpected happenings and events which may have surprised us. And yet, You know all the things that are on our hearts, so we ask Your healing mercies for those who struggle with illness of every kind, for those who feel lost, and those who mourn.

 

Continue to pour Your love on us because we really hunger and thirst for it. Forgive us when we allow all the negativity to drown out Your word and presence. Instead, make us ready to become stronger witnesses for Your love as we find our spirits and lives healed through Your grace.

 

Lord, nourish our lives with goodness, courage, hope, and love that we may grow in Your way through Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray, 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 trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass 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 invitation: For the blessings the Lord brings, we give our tithes, gifts, and offerings to share Christ’s generosity with others, we thank you for your sharing.

 

Offering prayer : With open hands and thankful hearts, we offer to You all that is already Yours, O Lord.
You so freely give us what we need, and You promise even greater treasures in heaven.
Take what we offer and use it for Your kingdom. Help us share generously with others.

Amen.

 

Sermon: What’s Next: God’s Dream of the Story of Rebuilding Jerusalem: The Joy of the Lord

 

We’ve been working through the stories of the book of Ezra, how a Persian king overcame the Babylonians and sent the Hebrew people back to Jerusalem to rebuild their city and their Temple. Today we meet a new leader of this task. His name is Nehemiah. While Ezra’s focus was on rebuilding the Temple, Nehemiah lead the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem.

 

He was a cup bearer for the King of Persia, that meant tasting each drink to be sure it contained no poison. Nehemiah was prepared to die for the king and yet recognized God as sovereign. In chapter 1 we learn how Nehemiah was troubled because God had laid it upon his own heart that the walls of Jerusalem were burnt and ruined. And so, Nehemiah believed he was being called by God to help rebuild the city. Therefore, Nehemiah asks the king for permission to go inspect the walls and see what can be done.

 

The king appoints Nehemiah as governor of Jerusalem, and when Nehemiah arrives at the city, he sees the ruins, and he also interacts with the Ammorites and Ashodites, who were living near by and wanted the walls to remain down so they would still have some control of the land. In chapter 4 of the book of Nehemiah, we find Nehemiah stationing people to not only build the wall, but others to protect the wall against invasion from those other groups. God blesses this, according to Nehemiah, and in chapter 6 we read, 15 So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. 16And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem; for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God. Once the wall was complete, the exiles were welcomed home. According to Nehemiah 7, that number was 42,360 Hebrews who were brought back to Jerusalem, brought back to the land God established for them.

 

And in Nehemiah 8, the wall was dedicated. Receive our Scripture lesson taken from Nehemiah 8:1-12

 

Ezra Summons the People to Obey the Law

When the seventh month came—the people of Israel being settled in their towns— 1all the people gathered together into the square before the Water Gate. They told the scribe Ezra to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had given to Israel. 2Accordingly, the priest Ezra brought the law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding. This was on the first day of the seventh month. 3He read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the law. 4The scribe Ezra stood on a wooden platform that had been made for the purpose; and beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand; and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hash-baddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam on his left hand. 5And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. 6Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen’, lifting up their hands. Then they bowed their heads and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground. 7Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the law, while the people remained in their places. 8So they read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.

 

9 And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, ‘This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.’ For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law. 10Then he said to them, ‘Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’ 11So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, ‘Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.’ 12And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.

 

This is the Word of our Lord.

Thanks be to God.

 

The name Nehemiah means Yahweh has comforted. And through Nehemiah, we certainly sense God’s comfort for the Hebrews, because Nehemiah was not only concerned with the wall, he was concerned for the people. Throughout the book we read how he made sure the people were safe, they were fed, they were organized to help one another, and they kept the faith traditions established by their ancestors with God. And when there was something to celebrate, they would celebrate.

 

Now I know that typical celebrations haven’t been one of our occurrences lately. Birthdays are filled with cards and calls but not the traditional gathering. Achievements may not be recognized at all, due to social distancing. It is hard to celebrate in the middle of a pandemic, just as it was hard to celebrate the midst of a ruined city. Yet Nehemiah has them gather and he calls upon Ezra to read Scripture to the people. Ezra works with the Levites the text says so that verse 8, they read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.

 

At this point in history, what you and I know as the Pentateuch, the first 5 books of our Old Testament, was written so that the people could hear their history. The story of how God saved the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, and brought them to the land that they, the generations since, are now back in. To honor God for their salvation, the Israelites had received the law that told them how to live righteously.

 

This past week at Pastor Ron’s Bible study on Moses, we went over those commandments. Any of you recall those laws?

 

  1. You shall have no other gods before Me.
  2. You shall make no idols.
  3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
  4. Keep the Sabbath day holy.
  5. Honor your father and your mother.
  6. You shall not murder.
  7. You shall not commit adultery.
  8. You shall not steal.
  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  10. You shall not covet.

 

And Pastor Ron pointed out that when broken down, these laws are about our relationship with God and each other. The first four focus on God, and the last six focus on each other. So, it seems appropriate that Nehemiah has Ezra and the Levites, pastors of the law, share these with the people as they reestablish Jerusalem. Just as God led Moses and Joshua and the Israelites from enslavement in Egypt to this land, God has done the same again for them, from Babylon.

 

And while there were some tears of regret, Nehemiah declares, ‘This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.’ For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law. 10Then he said to them, ‘Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’ Nehemiah claims that the joy for these people was to recognize God’s faithfulness, God’s commitment to them, to build them, and make them strong, yet again. Nehemiah wanted the people to find the joy of God in God’s love for them.

 

When I read this text, and I look at it from the context of where we are today, I know we all could use some joy that could strengthen us. The world is not exactly a safe or sane place. Violence is rising, as are COVID numbers, and yet I believe this text calls us to do what Nehemiah did, to remind ourselves of the joy God brought to others through their dire circumstances. We certainly can read our Bibles and be reminded time and time again of how God’s joy, God’s love, was revealed. From the story of the creation of Adam and Eve, to the calling of Moses in a stunning burning bush, to the amazing salvation of Daniel in the lion’s den, we learn of God’s joy for us. We learn even more when we follow Jesus and he teaches us what that joy looks like, like a woman who lost a coin and celebrates when she finds it. Or a prodigal son who comes home after losing everything and is not chastised but openly welcomed and celebrated with his return. And that joy is made complete when we see how Jesus fulfilled the laws God hopes of us by loving God and loving others.

 

So, is it possible to find God’s joy in the midst of a pandemic? To celebrate God’s love for us?

 

I’ve been reading John Barry’s The Great Influenza that tells the story of the 1918 pandemic. It’s not exactly light reading, as it tells the development of science and medicine and how it used to be the doctors in our country barely graduated from high school, until the late 1800’s when there were stricter guidelines developed.

But we read the story of various places and the struggles they faced with the pandemic. And it did include shutdowns. No schools, no churches, no factories were open. And the longer the places did that, the healthier the community was. They also required masks. But what I wanted to find out was, how did they survive it? And is it possible they could find any hope or even joy during the pandemic?

 

That book did not exactly share that type of information, but I did come across an article that did, titled, “My 1918 Pandemic Blessing” by Denise Purcell. In the article Denise writes about her grandmother, Rosa Thomas, who grew up in the hills of Kentucky, and contracted the 1918 flu. She survived but it left some lasting effects. She could barely walk or do household chores, yet she took care of her family by loving them and reading Scripture to them every night. By the time the author was born in 1965, Rosa was paralyzed and even though Rosa could not move and only a few could understand her speech, she carried out her work for God with a loving and joyful heart. She was never bitter nor complained, instead, she chose the joy she took from the lives of those around her and from her faith in God. For example, the author said one of her jobs was to feed her grandmother dinner. And when she would, her grandmother, who had sat all day unable to move, would want to know which neighborhood activity her granddaughter would return to after the feeding. If it were basketball, which Denise dearly loved, she remembered that her grandmother would eat extra fast to allow her to get back out onto the court. And there was another time when the author was older and married. She wrote, “I remember when my family (husband and young kids) were staying with my grandma at my parents’ house while they were away. I went to get my grandma up one morning, and she somehow got away from me and slid to the floor between my legs. My grandma laughed like I’d never seen her laugh. Try as I might, I simply could not get her up from the floor and called my husband from work to come help. When we got her safely settled in her living room recliner, I asked if she was hurt. She said yes, her side hurt from laughing so much. She could have complained, but she chose laughter.” The author then wrote, “Although her speech was affected, her few words each day were kind and encouraging. She made sure that we knew that the Lord was the source of her strength and joy.”

 

The challenge the Scriptures point us to this week is, where is the joy of the Lord revealed to you? Where is it strengthening you? Helping you to rebuild through these difficult times? And if we can’t find it, then maybe we need to learn to open our hearts a little bit more, and draw closer by reading His Word and the accounts of how the joy of the Lord strengthened others, to be able to see those same accounts in the lives of those around us today.

 

Going back to the article, Rosa Thomas died in 2000 at the age of 94.  And her granddaughter ended the article celebrating Rosa’s life with this, “The pandemic has caused me to think even more about my grandma. These days, I’m not reflecting on her difficulties and limitations, instead I find myself remembering her laughter and the delight I saw in her eyes when one of the neighborhood kids jumped in her lap during a water balloon fight when I was growing up. He said he knew he was safe there.”[1]

 

Friends, we are rebuilding. We are rebuilding our church, we are rebuilding our communities, our families, and it is still going to take time and precautions. Yet in the midst, could it be that we could find our strength in the joy of the Lord? The joy of knowing God’s faithfulness, the joy of knowing God’s on-going presence to help us through difficulties that can bring not only comfort, but inspiration? The joy of knowing we are safe in His loving hands.

 

Closing Song: He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands

He's got the whole world in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands

 

He's got the wind and the rain in His hands
He's got the wind and the rain in His hands
He's got the wind and the rain in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands

 

He's got the itty-bitty baby in His hands
He's got the itty-bitty baby in His hands
He's got the itty-bitty baby in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands

 

He's got a-you and me brother in His hands
He's got a-you and me brother in His hands
He's got a-you and me brother in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands

 

He's got a-you and me sister in His hands
He's got a-you and me sister in His hands
He's got a-you and me sister in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands

 

He's got the whole world in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands

 

 

Benediction: 1 Peter 5:6-7, 10-11

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you ... And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast. To Him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

 
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