July 23, 2023 - Home Worship

For the week of July 23-29 – 8th Sunday after Pentecost

Morning Prayer Faithful God, You care for us with compassion and firmness, urging us to grow in love for You. Through Christ, may we hear more deeply Your call to be rooted in Your way. Amen. (Lectionary prayers)

Hymn #328 Surely the Presence of the Lord

Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.  I can feel His mighty power and His grace.

I can hear the brush of angels’ wings.  I see glory on each face.

Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.

Psalm 139:104, 7-10

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.

You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You discern my thoughts from far away.

You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.

Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, You know it completely.

Where can I go from Your spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?

If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, You are there.

If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,

even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me fast.

Children’s Time Genesis 28:10-19a

Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the Lord stood beside him and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called that place Bethel;

Children’s Message

A stone for a pillow? That doesn’t sound comfortable at all. Yet, this stone turns out to be the first memorial stone in the Bible. It was placed by Jacob to signify God’s presence in that place with him.

The stone being left there as a marker was to spark a memory for those who passed it, for them to remember God’s presence there. It continued to tell the story of God and to share the story of God. The marker would allow for the question of what happened here to be asked.

Jacob was the first to leave a remembrance stone, but he wasn’t the last. Joshua and the Hebrews left stones to signify God’s presence with them when they crossed into the Promised Land and Samuel left a stone to mark the place of Israel’s victory over the Philistines.

God also left a stone to point to God – God sent Jesus and He is referred to as the Living Stone. Jesus is to point people to God. Peter tells us that because we are followers of Jesus, we are to be living stones as well. Our lives are to point people to Jesus, because Jesus has been with us and will continue to be with us.

Let’s try this week to be living stones and witness to God’s presence and faithfulness to us.

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: Carla and her team are preparing to help children and families “Feel the Warmth of Jesus” with warm winter coats and clothing.  If you donate your clothing now, Carla can plan how many coats to buy and can take advantage of the back-to-school sales to stock our racks with the plan that each child will receive a new coat.  The coat and clothing giveaway will be October 21. 

Perhaps this isn’t good weather to be sorting winter clothing, so please go through any household items and children’s toys, looking for new or like-new items that the families can pick up for themselves or to make Christmas morning very special for their children. 

Offering prayer: Holy God, we are living in days of division and polarization, and we regretfully confess that Your church is not exempt from that statement. Regardless of where we stand, it is far too easy to look at those who see things differently and see them as weeds, stunting the good fruit we could bear. As we bring our offerings to You, the temptation to focus on our own agenda is strong. Help us to give generously without judging. Give us the faith to put them to Your use, and the humility to know that only You can see clearly what is wheat and what is weed. We pray in the name of Christ who knows all hearts. Amen. (Discipleship Ministries)

Hymn #428 For the Healing of the Nations

  1. For the healing of the nations, Lord, we pray with one accord;

For a just and equal sharing of the things that earth affords;

To a life of love in action help us rise and pledge our word, Help us rise and pledge our word.

  1. Lead us forward into freedom; from despair Your world release,

That, redeemed from war and hatred, all may come and go in peace.

Show us how through care and goodness fear will die and hope increase,

Fear will die and hope increase.

  1. All that kills abundant living, let it from the earth be banned;
    pride of status, race, or schooling, dogmas that obscure Your plan.

In our common quest for justice may we hallow life’s brief span,

May we hallow life’s brief span.

  1. You, Creator God, have written Your great name on humankind;

For our growing in Your likeness bring the life of Christ to mind,

That by our response and service earth its destiny may find, Earth its destiny may find.

Scripture:  Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples approached Him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send His angels, and they will collect out of His kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!

Message:              Pastor Becky Cuddeback

Do you enjoy gardening? Sometimes the most tiresome part of gardening is weeding. It seems that the more you pull weeds, the more weeds that grow. Then there are times you have to stop and really try to distinguish weeds from what you actually planted.

Morning glory vines can look a lot like lima bean vines. They have similar leaf definition, they have the same vining tendencies, and their color is almost exactly the same. It isn’t until either of them begin to flower do you realize they are tangled together. But, by then, it is too late. There is too much damage to be done by trying to separate them, so you are stuck with a beautiful mess.

Now, the farmer in today’s account out of Matthew is dealing with wheat and darnel. Darnel is a noxious weed, it has characteristics of wheat very early on, but it is definitely not wheat. By the time you can distinguish between the two, it is too late. They have intertwined their root systems and you can’t pull out the darnel without sacrificing the wheat. You must wait for the harvest.

When it comes to harvesting time, the darnel must be destroyed, completely destroyed, usually by way of fire. There is no setting it off to the side and putting it on the compost pile. It has to be eliminated. You can not risk any of the seed getting into the wheat. In small doses darnel will make you sick and in large doses it will kill you if ingested.

Now that I have set that scene for you, how do we handle Jesus’ explanation of the parable? He doesn’t seem all that concerned to nip things in the bud, so to speak. I mean, given the analogy of the weeds being something that can kill us, why would any of us want to wait? My instinct is to take care of it now, like right now!

The problem with taking care of it right now is, we aren’t talking about weeds. We are talking about people – real, living, breathing people – and the decision to uproot them from the fellowship would be done under my judgment, not God’s. I would be relying on what makes me most comfortable, aligns with my thinking. How I love, how I give, what I prioritize. By substituting my judgment, I am creating a god of my own reflection, not living into the Kingdom of God.

Our biggest problem is that we don’t have the capacity to know which is wheat and which is weed. We might think we do, but we don’t. Judgment is a sin, yet by declaring an ability to condemn or save, we sin. John reminds us in 1 John 1:8 “ If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” And… I am often wrong, I may not like to admit that, but I am. Those that I deem to be weeds, could very well be some aspect of God I haven’t seen before. I lean heavily on Isaiah and his teaching in the 6th chapter of scripture accredited to him. The seraphs cry out Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory – their cry has gone out from the origins of time and will continue until all eternity, each time they pass around God they see something they have never seen before. They have had unlimited time and still haven’t seen it all. Who am I in my limited experience to question God’s judgment?

The bottom line is this: If we uproot someone prematurely, we deny redemption and the redemptive work of Jesus. When it comes to our fellow human beings, we need to return to our origin designation found in the 1st chapter of Genesis, to be gardeners. We are to tend, care for, nurture, and cultivate each other, not destroy each other. God will care for the sorting and judging. Because in our lives, there were or could still be times we could be seen as children of the evil one and we are relying on God, not each other, to judge us. Amen.

Hymn: #593 Here I Am, Lord

  1. I, the Lord of sea and sky, I have heard My people cry.

All who dwell in dark and sin My hand will save.

I, who made the stars of night, I will make their darkness bright.

Who will bear my light to them? Whom shall I send?

Refrain: Here I am, Lord.  Is it I Lord? I have heard You calling in the night.

I will go, Lord, if You lead me. I will hold Your people in my heart.

  1. I, the Lord of snow and rain, I have borne my people’s pain.

I have wept for love of them.  They turn away.

I will break their hearts of stone, give them hearts for love alone.

I will speak My word to them.  Whom shall I send?  Refrain:

  1. I, the Lord of wind and flame, I will tend the poor and lame,

I will set a feast for them.  My hand will save.

Finest bread I will provide till their hearts be satisfied. 

I will give My life to them.  Whom shall I send?  Refrain:

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