July 2, 2023 - Home Worship service

For the week of July 2-8 – 5th Sunday after Pentecost

Morning Prayer Lord, just as You have welcomed us when we were strangers with no home, just as You have taken us in when others said, “No,” we ourselves seek to welcome those who have come to worship and praise Your holy name. We welcome You this morning in this place to sit down and be present with us. Let us worship God! Amen. (Discipleship Ministries)

Hymn #697 America (My Country Tis of Thee)

  1. My country,' tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing;
    land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrims' pride,
    from every mountainside let freedom ring!
  2. My native country, thee, land of the noble free, thy name I love;
    I love thy rocks and rills, thy woods and templed hills;
    my heart with rapture thrills, like that above.
  3. Let music swell the breeze, and ring from all the trees sweet freedom's song;
    let mortal tongues awake; let all that breathe partake;
    let rocks their silence break, the sound prolong.
  4. Our fathers' God, to Thee, author of liberty, to Thee we sing;
    long may our land be bright with freedom's holy light;
    protect us by Thy might, great God, our King.

Psalm 89:1-4

I will sing of Your steadfast love, O Lord, forever; with my mouth I will proclaim Your faithfulness to all generations.

I declare that Your steadfast love is established forever; Your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.

You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to my servant David:

‘I will establish your descendants forever, and build your throne for all generations.’” Selah

Children’s Message Romans 5:7-8

Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves His love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

Children’s Message

I don't know about you, but when I see a heart, the first thing I think of is love. We think and talk a lot about love, don't we? We often say things such as, "I love ice cream" or "I love to play baseball." We also say to our parents or special friends, "I love you."

A group of professionals asked some children from age four to eight, "What does love mean?" Here are some of the answers the children gave.

"Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other." -Kari, age 5

"Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs." -Chrissy, age 6

"Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it every day." -Noelle, age 7

"Love is when mommy gives daddy the best piece of chicken." -Elaine, age 5

"Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day." -Mary Ann, age 4

"Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK." Danny - age 7

If I were to ask you to tell me what love is, what would your answer be? (Give time for responses from the children if time permits.) I think if we really want to know what love is, the best place to find the answer is in the Bible. God not only told us what love is, He showed us.

The Bible says, "God showed how much He loved us by sending Jesus to die for us, even though we were sinful." Wow! That's real love! God loved us so much that He sent His Son to die for us even though we did not deserve it.

You know that list of answers that children gave to the question, "What is love?" Well, here is one more.

"God could have said magic words to make the nails fall off the cross, but He didn't. That's love." I think that really says it all, don't you? (www.sermons4kids)

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: As you offer your tithe this morning and pray over the offerings of this church, be grateful for the opportunities to freely worship and communicate your faith.  We are blessed to live and worship in the United States.  May we use this freedom to build the kingdom of Christ with His disciples. 

Offering prayer: Mighty God, You have poured down on us all manner of gifts and blessings; the ledger of our lives is so overwhelmed with Your goodness that we struggle with how small our offerings to You seem in comparison. The gospel reminds us that not even the smallest act of mercy and compassion – a cup of cold water – will go unnoticed by You. Give us the eyes to see those in need, the ears to hear those who cry for justice, and the hearts to comfort those hurting and grieving. If we all were to offer a cup of cold water, the world would be flooded with compassion. We ask this in Christ, our Rock, and our Redeemer. Amen. (Discipleship Ministries)

Hymn: #430 O Master, Let Me Walk with Thee

  1. O Master, let me walk with Thee in lowly paths of service free;

Tell me Thy secret; help me bear the strain of toil, the fret of care.

  1. Help me the slow of heart to move by some clear, winning word of love;

Teach me the wayward feet to stay, and guide them in the homeward way.

  1. Teach me Thy patience, still with Thee in closer, dearer company,

In work that keeps faith sweet and strong, in trust that triumphs over wrong;

  1. In hope that sends a shining ray far down the future’s broadening way,

In peace that only Thou canst give, with Thee, O Master, let me live.

Scripture:  Matthew 10:40-42

“Whoever welcomes you welcomes Me, and whoever welcomes Me welcomes the one who sent Me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

Message:              Pastor Becky

Our Gospel text is short and sweet, straightforward and to the point. Except that we’ve got to take another look and figure out just what is going on here. But you knew that, right? You knew it couldn’t be as easy as it looked on the surface and this week the preaching notes from UM Discipleship Ministries heavily shapes this message, so a big thank you to Rev. Dr. Derek Webber. His thoughts on this passage mirror mine, yet he does a more eloquent job of putting those thoughts together.

Let’s take a look at what is in here. First, we need to remember the context. It follows on the Gospel reading from last Sunday when we read the previous verses about shouting and whispering, about peace and swords, about sparrows and the number of hairs on our heads. Remember all that? Well, this is the conclusion of that speech.

Jesus is preparing His disciples to go out and tell the good news. It is their first mission trip. But instead of driving nails and cleaning up disaster areas, they are to knock on doors and ask if it would be all right to talk about Jesus. The particular instructions on how to conduct themselves on this mission are scanty at best. I guess they had to figure out that part on their own. Instead, Jesus wants to set the context, to give them the framework within which the mission is to take place. The “how to’s” are left up to us.

But He concludes with these words about welcoming. Now they read as though they are the responsibility of the others. “Whoever welcomes you, welcomes Me” (10:40). It is up to them to get that. This is, it appears, an escape clause for the disciples. If it doesn’t work then, that is their problem. No one can force anyone to listen and all of that. It is up to the recipient to get the response right. It is up to the convert or the potential convert to figure out how to respond. And if they miss it, too bad for them. We’ll just move on. They don’t want what we’re selling, well, tough luck.

It is true that we can’t force positive responses to Christ. In the end, free will means the freedom to say no as well as the freedom to say yes. And individuals have to bear the ultimate responsibility for their own souls. But there is too much in what Jesus says and does to allow us to get away with the “take it or leave it” approach to evangelism. There are too many examples of the responsibility of the community to care for one another; too many times when Jesus points out that our salvation is wrapped up in the salvation of our neighbor.

We need to read the passage again to see what Jesus is really telling the disciples (and us) about this sharing of the faith thing, this spreading of the gospel challenge that is before us. “Whoever welcomes you, welcomes Me and whoever welcomes Me welcomes the One who sent Me” (10:40). What if the burden is not really on the one who responds (the one who “welcomes you”) but on the one who seeks to present Christ to the world? What if Jesus is not giving the disciples a free pass on this hospitality thing, but is, in fact, significantly raising the bar? Your task, He says, is not just to go out and mumble some sort of invitation – like “You don’t really want to come to church with me, do you? Didn’t think so. I’m leaving now.” But instead, your task is to be Christ, to represent God as you meet and greet and engage in conversations with all and sundry.

“Well,” we think, “that isn’t my job; it is the job of the professional Christians – the pastors and evangelists. They are the ones charged with representing Christ. Isn’t that right?” Nope. That is why Jesus goes on to itemize in this passage: whoever welcomes a prophet...whoever welcomes a righteous one... whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones... Scholars have debated the differentiation in this passage, some concluding one thing and others another. But it seems to me that Jesus is trying to get us to forget this idea that there are those who are charged with being Christ all the time and the rest of us only have to worry about it for an hour or so once a week! Prophets could be the called-out ones, the pastors and teachers set aside by the community for a task. For Paul, the prophet was a traveling preacher who didn’t settle in an area but came through to stir things up and then move on. Righteous ones could be the leaders in the life of the church, the ones whose lives were examples of the faith and whose wisdom was sought out before any decision was made.

But the little ones? That was everyone else. Everyone. New Christians and lifelong saints. Young people and elders. We are to be the means by which those outside come to know who Christ is. We are to be the face of Christ to the stranger, to our neighbor, to our family.

Now there are two different responses to this passage, it seems to me. One is to become bearers of cold water. Because Jesus raises hospitality to eternal significance, we now take the task of hospitality more seriously. We re-examine our structures at church and ask how we are doing; we enlist more and more people in the task of welcoming until the church understands that it is everyone’s responsibility. We take hospitality as seriously as Jesus did.

The other response is to receive hospitality as Jesus tells us to do. The scripture literally is about receiving hospitality. So, how do we accept the cups of cold water that are given to us? Can Christ be seen in our gratitude as well as our generosity? “Whoever welcomes you welcomes Me,” says Jesus. In these words are the permission we need to accept the hospitality extended to us.

We have a habit of thinking we can take care of ourselves. We are good; we got this. It is an artificial strength that doesn’t last. If we are to be the face of Jesus to others, we have to admit we are also in need of what it is Jesus is offering us in the good news; we aren’t above it or it isn’t any use to us. It is showing our weakness and brokenness and how Jesus has filled us, walked with us, empowered us – healed us, so that there is truth in the good news.

Our encounter with Jesus, the one that changed our lives, may be in some far off past, but it is still bearing fruit in you today. You need the good news today just as much or possibly more than in that moment. There is gratitude in the faithfulness of Jesus which should inform and transform our lives. That is part of this hospitality we need to extend and receive. Our witness may be what leads another to Jesus and that is the reward.

Hymn #431 Let There Be Peace on Earth

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me;

Let there be peace on earth the peace that was meant to be.

With God our creator, children all are we.  Let us walk with each other in perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me let this be the moment now. 

With every step I take let this be my solemn vow:

To take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally.

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

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