July 5, 2020 - Home Worship Service

Worship for July 5, 2020

 

Welcome & Announcements: Good morning church! We will gather July 5th 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 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.

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:  For God so loved the world…

P:  that God created it, and us!

L:  For God so loved the world…

P:  that God gave us Jesus, the Christ.

L:  For God so loved the world…

P:  that God does not condemn, but heals; does not destroy, but saves.

L:  For God so loved the world…

P:  For God so LOVES the world. Now and always. Let us worship our God.

 

Opening Song: Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory (The Battle Hymn of the Republic)

 

1. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.

 

Refrain:
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

2. I have seen Him in the watchfires of a hundred circling camps,
they have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps;
His day is marching on.
(Refrain)

3. He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;
O be swift, my soul, to answer Him; be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.
(Refrain)

4. In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
with a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me;
as He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
while God is marching on.
(Refrain)

Opening Prayer: (said by the pastor)

God, sometimes we wander into far countries of the soul without ever thinking where we are going. We take Your love for granted; we presume that we can always find our way back to You when we really need You, when we’re not so busy, when it’s more convenient. And then, we find ourselves in places where we do not want to be, and we wonder how we got there. Lonely and afraid, we do not know where to turn. Speak to us, God, of mercy and forgiveness. Stir up within us a longing to be with You again. Help us find the way to the place where we have always belonged. We pray in the name of Jesus in whom You come out to meet us. 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!

 

Did you ever play the game, red light, green light? It’s where you stand usually in a line with others, and before you is a person who says, “Green light!” which means you can walk towards them. Or “Red light!” which means you must freeze, but if you get caught still moving forward, you must go back to where you began from. The goal is to get close to the person calling out, so you can become the next person to call out.

 

I used to love that game, because I would try to take big steps or walk really fast, to get to be the person who calls out to people. It also is a game that reminds us how important it is to follow and listen to directions.

 

In our Scripture lesson today, we hear how the Hebrews are not following God’s directions, God’s laws, and it makes us consider how good are we at following God’s directions, God’s laws. Jesus taught us the best way to know if you are obeying what God wants of us is to love God and love others. When we follow those directions, we may know we are doing what God wants us of us, we are getting God’s green light.

 

Let us pray: Dear God, helps us to listen to Your directions to enjoy fun games and fun times with others. In Jesus Name, Amen.

 

Sharing of Joys & Concerns

Prayer & Lord’s Prayer

Lord, we are in the middle of the summer months. We looked forward to rest and recreation, but time is moving rapidly on and we still find ourselves stressed and weary. We load ourselves up with activities and duties and then wonder how we will stay safe and strong.

As You have found us before, Lord, find us again. Wrap Your arms of compassion around us. Help us to savor the times that we have with each other.  Make us keenly aware of the magnificence of this world. Draw us to the times of peace and rest with You.

As we have brought names of loved ones to You for Your healing mercies, remind us that we, too, stand in need of Your healing love. Give us strength, courage and joy, that we might become disciples who are worthy of Your kingdom, for we offer this prayer in the name of Jesus, 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 comfort the Lord brings to our hearts and souls, we give our tithes, gifts, and offerings to share that comfort with others, in Jesus name.

 

Offering prayer: We ask Your blessing, God, on all who are gathered here and upon these gifts: for ourselves, for our brothers, sisters, and siblings, and for the world so that all may be transformed and the world may be made new again, through us. In Jesus’ name, we ask it. Amen.

 

Scripture Lesson: Ezra 9:1-10; 10:1

9After these things had been done, the officials approached me and said, ‘The people of Israel, the priests, and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations, from the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. 2For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and for their sons. Thus the holy seed has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands, and in this faithlessness the officials and leaders have led the way.’

3When I heard this, I tore my garment and my mantle, and pulled hair from my head and beard, and sat appalled. 4Then all who trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the faithlessness of the returned exiles, gathered around me while I sat appalled until the evening sacrifice.

Ezra’s Prayer

5 At the evening sacrifice I got up from my fasting, with my garments and my mantle torn, and fell on my knees, spread out my hands to the Lord my God, 6and said,

‘O my God, I am too ashamed and embarrassed to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens. 7From the days of our ancestors to this day we have been deep in guilt, and for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been handed over to the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plundering, and to utter shame, as is now the case. 8But now for a brief moment favour has been shown by the Lord our God, who has left us a remnant, and given us a stake in his holy place, in order that he may brighten our eyes and grant us a little sustenance in our slavery. 9For we are slaves; yet our God has not forsaken us in our slavery, but has extended to us his steadfast love before the kings of Persia, to give us new life to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins, and to give us a wall in Judea and Jerusalem.

10 ‘And now, our God, what shall we say after this? For we have forsaken your commandments,

The People’s Response

10While Ezra prayed and made confession, weeping and throwing himself down before the house of God, a very great assembly of men, women, and children gathered to him out of Israel; the people also wept bitterly.

 

Sermon: What’s Next: God’s Dream of the Story of Rebuilding Jerusalem: Communal Confession

 

We are working through the book of Ezra to learn the story of the return of the Hebrews to Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile. Last time we looked at this Scriptural book two weeks ago, we learned of the celebration regarding the laying of the foundation of the Temple and how there were tears of joy and tears of sorrows past. Today we learn what the people have been doing since. It’s one of those passages that make us question what have we been doing through the pandemic as a nation, and it’s a question for us to consider, what do we do the other days we are not worshipping? So, let’s look at the passage.

As you heard, it was made known to Ezra that the Hebrews were marrying those outside of their faith. This is particularly concerning because this includes the priests and Levites, the church leaders of the day. Now I want to make clear, this takes place before the ministry of Jesus that helps us understand God’s love for all. So for the Hebrew people at this time, their understanding of the Law, the Torah, was they were to be a people who kept to their own in order that other religions would not interfere with the faith God had called them to. Remember, they were chosen as God’s people, so Ezra is concerned that if a priest marries a person of another faith, that could be trouble for the Hebrews. Basically, to marry outside of the Jewish faith, was considered an act of faithlessness.

Therefore we read Ezra’s reaction to this news: 3When I heard this, I tore my garment and my mantle, and pulled hair from my head and beard, and sat appalled. 4Then all who trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the faithlessness of the returned exiles, gathered around me while I sat appalled until the evening sacrifice.

The text then states that a few gathered around Ezra, and in the evening, Ezra got up and offered a word of prayer. But not just any word, a confession of communal sin. ‘O my God, I am too ashamed and embarrassed to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens. 7From the days of our ancestors to this day we have been deep in guilt, and for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been handed over to the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plundering, and to utter shame, as is now the case.

Ezra reminds the people that it is acts that went against God’s Law, the Torah, that drove them into times of despair and exile before. So then he adds, 8But now for a brief moment favour has been shown by the Lord our God, who has left us a remnant, and given us a stake in his holy place, in order that he may brighten our eyes and grant us a little sustenance in our slavery. 9For we are slaves; yet our God has not forsaken us in our slavery, but has extended to us his steadfast love before the kings of Persia, to give us new life to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins, and to give us a wall in Judea and Jerusalem.

Ezra points out the graciousness of God to offer the Hebrews another opportunity as God’s people enslaved to the Persians. They are not yet their own people, they were sent by the King of Persia to re-establish the land, but whose land is it still? The Persians. So, Ezra ends the prayer asking the community what their response should be. 10 ‘And now, our God, what shall we say after this? For we have forsaken your commandments,

And then we jump to chapter 10 to get their response: 10While Ezra prayed and made confession, weeping and throwing himself down before the house of God, a very great assembly of men, women, and children gathered to him out of Israel; the people also wept bitterly. The people confess they have abandoned the commandments given by God with their tears.

I look at this passage, and while we as Christians do not have a problem with people marrying  people of various races or even other faiths, I believe the powerful lesson of this text is, there are times, when we, as the Church give into communal sins and when that happens, we each need to take some responsibility for it. Because the true gift of God’s grace is to confess our sins to bring about change, change for the better, change for the whole.

I want to take you and I back, to a time when the Methodist Church was split over various understandings of what was wrong or not. If you recall your Methodist history, we formed in 1784 in Baltimore as a separate denomination from the Episcopal church. We were committed to the country of America, separate from England. But we were not committed to each other. While John Wesley was adamantly against slavery and separation of race in a congregation, here, we were not. In 1787 because African American Methodists were not allowed to sit with the white Methodists in Philadelphia, Richard Allen, an African Methodist pastor, led the African Americans to form their own church known as the Free African Society, that eventually became known as the African Methodist Episcopal church. (AME).

In 1796, a group of African Americans who were segregated in a church in New York City, also decided to form their own Methodist society and so became the African Methodist Episcopal Zion church (AMEZ).

To further separate us, in 1844 the Methodist General Conference adopted a plan by which the southern churches organized themselves into their own Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church South (MES) that ruled that Methodist members could hold slaves, while the Methodist Episcopal church members held to the belief that Methodist members could not and should not hold slaves, because they were against slavery. In 1870 because of the MES and following the Civil War, the African American members of the MES formed their own church, the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church (CME).

            What I want you to recognize is the sin of racism divided the Methodist church. A church founded on Wesley’s definition of grace, that is open and given to all.  And so today, what I want to suggest is that we must see in Ezra’s story, our story. We have sinned and let’s be honest, we continue to sin, when we divide ourselves and our people by breaking God’s law of grace with each other and with those around us. And it seems to me that the day after we celebrate the independence of our nation, we should celebrate the independence we have all received from God, through Christ, the freedom of sin, that we as his followers, offer to all people. As Paul writes in his letter to Galatia, 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Thankfully, there was a change in the Methodist church that held to that text. In 1939 when the Methodist Episcopal and Methodist Episcopal South chose to reunite, it was stated that all members were against racism, and that unified decision led their strength to form the Methodist church. Together they formed our Social Creed that we still hold. And today I want to close this message with a litany that shares what our beliefs are:

 

A Companion Litany to Our Social Creed

God in the Spirit revealed in Jesus Christ, calls us by grace
to be renewed in the image of our Creator, that we may be one in divine love for the world.

Today is the day God cares for the integrity of creation, wills the healing and wholeness of all life,
weeps at the plunder of earth’s goodness.
And so shall we.

Today is the day God embraces all hues of humanity, delights in diversity and difference, favors solidarity transforming strangers into friends.
And so shall we.

Today is the day God cries with the masses of starving people, despises growing disparity between rich and poor, demands justice for workers in the marketplace.
And so shall we.

Today is the day God deplores violence in our homes and streets, rebukes the world’s warring madness,
humbles the powerful and lifts up the lowly.
And so shall we.
Today is the day God calls for nations and peoples to live in peace, celebrates where justice and mercy embrace,
exults when the wolf grazes with the lamb.
And so shall we.

Today is the day God brings good news to the poor, proclaims release to the captives, gives sight to the blind, and sets the oppressed free. And so, shall we.

And all God’s people say, Amen!

 

Sending Forth Song: 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, family 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.

 

Benediction:  Jude 24-25: 24 Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, 25 To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.

 
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