October 23-29, 2022

For the week of October 23-29, 2022 – 20th week after Pentecost

Morning prayer: Almighty and Everlasting God, in whom we live and move and have our being, You created us for Yourself, so that our hearts are restless until they find rest in You.  Grant to us such piety of heart and strength of purpose that no selfish passion may hinder us from knowing Your will, and no weakness from doing it.  In Your light may we see life clearly and in Your service find perfect freedom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.  (UM Book of Worship, 1965)

Hymn: #158 Come, Christians, Join to Sing

  1. Come, Christians, join to sing:  Alleluia!  Amen!

Loud praise to Christ our King:  Alleluia!  Amen!

Let all, with heart and voice, before His throne rejoice: 

Praise is His gracious choice.  Alleluia!  Amen!

  1. Come, lift your hearts on high:  Alleluia!  Amen!

Let praises fill the sky: Alleluia!  Amen!

He is our guide and friend; to us He’ll condescend;

His love shall never end: Alleluia!  Amen!

  1. Praise yet the Lord again: Alleluia!  Amen!

Life shall not end the strain: Alleluia!  Amen!

On heaven’s blissful shore His goodness we’ll adore,

Singing forevermore: Alleluia!  Amen!

Psalm 84:8-12

O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob!

Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed.

For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than live in the tents of wickedness.

For the Lord God is a sun and shield; He bestows favor and honor. No good thing does the Lord withhold from those who walk uprightly.

O Lord of hosts, happy is everyone who trusts in You.

Children’s message Psalm 84:1-7

How lovely is Your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!

My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.

Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at Your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.

Happy are those who live in Your house, ever singing Your praise. Selah

Happy are those whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.

As they go through the valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools.

They go from strength to strength; the God of gods will be seen in Zion.

Children’s Message

In the past weeks we have been talking about the Psalms and how they are a prayer book and the song book of the Church. They enable us to say and pray the feelings of our hearts, both happy and joyful thoughts and the more difficult feelings of disappointment and anger.

But there is something else the Psalms help to do and that is to imagine God. The words help us to see God’s creativity in the world around us and we are to use our imaginations to see those things through God’s eyes. This particular psalm praises God for God’s dwelling place. How do we even know what God’s dwelling place even looks like? That is where our imagination comes in, we can envision the splendor and God calls us to try and translate that splendor, not only with words, but with our abilities to create art. Now, before you say you aren’t artistic, remember – within you is the image of God and God is creative. We can see this creativity in the colors of the sunset, the details of flowers and the vastness of all of God’s people. If you believe that God is creative, you must believe you are too, because it’s true. God’s imagination created this entire world and all the universe that surrounds it and God is calling us to use the imagination God gave us to capture that creation and show others how God is in the details of it. This week put your creativity to work and take God’s word and make art to help you better see God and to better let the world see God.

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 spotlightFeel the Warmth of Jesus Winter Coat and Clothing Giveaway.  Today children in this neighborhood and the surrounding communities have new coats thanks to your offerings.  Thank you for your monetary giving, and for giving gently used clothing and household items. 

Offering prayer: All things come from You, O God, and with gratitude we return to You what is Yours.  You gave Your only Son Jesus Christ to be our Savior.  All that we are, and all that we have, is a trust from You.  And so, in gratitude for all Your gifts, we offer You ourselves, and all that we have, in union with Christ’s offering for us.  By Your Holy Spirit make us one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world; through Jesus Christ our Savior.  Amen. (Hoyt L. Hickman, UM Book of Worship)

Hymn #352 It’s Me, It’s Me, O Lord

Refrain:  It’s me (it’s me), it’s me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer. 

It’s me (it’s me), it’s me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer.

1        Not my brother, not my sister, but it’s me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer.

Not my brother, not my sister, but it’s me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer.

2        Not the preacher, not the deacon, but it’s me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer.

Not the preacher, not the deacon, but it’s me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer.

3        Not my father, not my mother, but it’s me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer.

Not my father, not my mother, but it’s me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer.

Scripture Lesson Luke 18:9-14

He (Jesus) also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Message: Two Men in the Temple                  Rev. Ron French

Photographer Wendy Ewald travels around the world teaching children to use photography to express their thoughts and feelings. Ewald says, “Take a child who is relatively powerless and give them a camera, and suddenly that child is empowered by the chance to express themselves. Ewald remembers a little Indian boy named Pratap. When she handed him a camera, Pratap began to shake all over. He explained that he was a Harijan, a member of the lowest, untouchable class in India. Harijan’s aren’t allowed to own cameras. Pratap was afraid of even touching one. But Ewald insisted that he take the camera and use it to share his ideas. A few days later, Ewald passed Pratap’s house where he was posing his family for a picture. The scared, self-conscious little boy was bursting with self-confidence. A simple camera had changed his self-perception.

Jesus was the kind of person who would give untouchable people a camera to build their self-worth. We need to remember that Jesus was constantly taking those who were on the bottom and putting them on the top. Whether they were despised Samaritans, deeply feared lepers, powerless women and children, hated tax collectors, or whoever they may be. If Jesus were walking amongst us today, He would be the champion of the underdog.

Consider our Gospel lesson for this morning. Two men are in the Temple. One man is a righteous man. And he is very proud of his righteousness. After all, as he reminds God, he doesn’t cheat, he doesn’t commit adultery, he fasts twice a week, and he gives to God a tenth of everything he earns. WOW! Wouldn’t you like to have him as a member of this congregation? How many people today can say they fast twice a week? How many people today can say that they tithe? Did you know that the average person gives less than 2% of their income to God? He was a righteous man and surely Jesus loves righteous people. And yet, none of us likes to be around someone who is self-righteous – someone who is proud of their moral superiority.

There is something about people who are pompous and self-righteous that turns us off. A well-known pastor filled with his own importance decided to visit a local nursing home. He strolled the halls announcing himself, but nobody seemed to recognize him. He went to one woman sitting in a wheelchair in the hallway and asked, “Sister, do you know who I am?” “No Sonny,” the woman replied, “but if you check with the nurse at the front desk she can tell you who you are.”

The righteous man in this parable was not only reminding God of his virtue, he was also trumpeting his goodness to the other worshipers in the Temple. He was what we would call a braggart. Still, he kept the law, as he understood it. He was a moral, upright citizen. He was probably known in the local Synagogue as a man of God. Surely Jesus was appreciative of that. Isn’t that what we learn from religion above all else? Be a good boy or girl and then you will be acceptable to God.

There was also another man in the Temple that day. He was a tax collector. Considered a traitor by his own people. He was corrupt and made his livelihood cheating others. He was a man we wouldn’t want sitting next to us in worship. There he is. Look at him. He can’t even lift his eyes to heaven. He’s beating his chest in sorrow. And he’s mumbling. What’s that he’s saying? We’ll need to get a little closer. That’s it, can you hear him now? He’s mumbling, “God, show mercy to me, a sinner.” (13) What’s to be done with such a person? Is he sincere? Sure he regrets his lifestyle, but is he going to change?

It’s like a story that Max Lucado once told. It took place in a Brazilian jail. As far as jails went, it wasn’t too bad. In this cell there was a fan on the table. The twin beds; each had a thin mattress and a pillow. There was also a toilet and a sink. No, it wasn’t too bad, unless, of course, you had to stay there. Anaibal did. He was a striking sort of man. The tattoos on his arms symbolized the character of the man.

He was cast iron. His broad chest stretched his shirt. The slightest movement of his arms bulged his biceps. His face was as leathery in texture as it was in color. His glare could blister a foe. And, yet he had a smile that was an explosion of white teeth. But there was no smile on this day. The glare was apparent.  Anaibal wasn’t on the streets where he was the boss; he was in jail where he was a prisoner. Anaibal had killed a man. A drug dealer. One night the man had used his mouth one time too many to suit Anaibal, and he decided to silence him once and for all. He left the crowded bar where he had been arguing with the man, went home, took a pistol out of the drawer, and walked back to the bar. Anaibal entered the bar and called the drug dealer’s name. When he turned, Anaibal fired one shot and he went down. Anaibal was guilty. His only hope was that the judge would think he had done society a favor by getting rid of a drug dealer.

Through a friend, Max Lucado met Anaibal. He went to visit him in prison in hope that he would see his need for God. They spent some time talking about the cross. Then they talked about guilt and forgiveness. Anaibal’s eyes seemed to soften a bit. Certainly there was a hint of hope when they talked about heaven, something not even the executioner could take away from him. But as they began to talk about conversion, Anaibal’s face began to harden. He was uneasy with words like, “I’ve been wrong,” or “forgive me.” Saying “I’m sorry” was out of character for him. In a final effort to pierce his pride, Max Lucado asked him, “Do you want to go to heaven?” “Sure,” he grunted. “Are you ready?” Lucado asked. Earlier this hardened man might have boasted yes, but now he had heard too many verses from the Bible. He knew better. He wasn’t ready. Anaibal stared at the concrete floor for a long time. For a moment it appeared that his heart was cracking. For a second it appeared as if he would admit his failures. But when his eyes were lifted, they were not tear filled, but filled with anger. “All right,” he shrugged. “I’ll become one of your Christians.” Then he added, “But don’t expect me to change the way I’ve been living.”

Could this have been the attitude of the tax collector in the Temple that day? Was he seeking forgiveness without having first repented? Some people are like that. Every night they pray, asking God for forgiveness. But it is an empty prayer because they have no intention of changing. We honestly don’t know the tax collector’s heart. All we know is the shocking end of this story. Jesus said to His listeners, “I tell you, this person went down to his home justified rather than the Pharisee. All who lift themselves up will be brought low, and those who make themselves low will be lifted up.” (14)

This is a shocking ending—for it goes against everything we’ve been taught about the Christian faith. We’ve been taught it’s all about righteousness, morality, keeping the rules. And, of course, they are important. Without these virtues we cannot have a functioning society. Without these virtues our families would be endangered and our physical, mental and spiritual wellness would be threatened.

But, sisters and brothers, you can be righteous, moral and law abiding and still miss the Gospel. You can be the most virtuous person in the community and still not know the good news. And the good news is this: Regardless of who you are and what you have done, God loves you. God gave His Son to die for you.  And even if your life is full of sin, the slate can be wiped clean. “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:8-9)

And this is the message we need to hear this morning. Maybe it’s because we are carrying around a terrible secret about something we have done in our life that we deeply regret. Maybe this terrible secret is gnawing at our soul, destroying our quality of life. Guilt is a terrible thing. It can zap the life out of your soul. In a survey on alternative methods of dealing with crime, a group of prisoners were asked what they would choose if given a choice between jail time or meeting the victim of the crime. Overwhelmingly, the prisoners chose jail time. They would rather not confront the pain they had caused.

Guilt is a terrible thing to carry around in your heart. And some here this morning may be carrying a great burden of guilt. We look around at the well-scrubbed people in this worship service, some of the best people in the community, and we think to ourselves that these are the people God prefers. But that’s not what the Gospel tells us. The Gospel tells us that Jesus is constantly searching for that one lost sheep, that one troubled teen who always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, that one business person who cannot seem to get it all together, that one elderly person who’s heart is filled with hurt and regret. Jesus says to them, “I hear your prayer: ‘God show mercy to me, a sinner.’ (13) I hear your prayer and want you to know that it was for you that I gave my life.” We need to know that Jesus hears our prayers and we are forgiven. Jesus seeks after the underdog because He knows that those who are weak can be made strong by the power of His love, His forgiveness, His grace.

Two men in the Temple. The tragedy of the righteous man was that he thought he had arrived. There was nothing more God could do with him. But the man who prayed ‘God show mercy to me, a sinner,’  was ready to be molded into something beautiful for God. What about you? Are you so self-righteous that there is nothing more God can do for you or with you? Or are you ready to be molded into something beautiful? Two men in the Temple, which are you?

Closing Hymn: #128 He Leadeth Me: O Blessed Thought

  1. He leadeth me: O blessed thought! O words with heavenly comfort fraught!
    Whate'er I do, where'er I be, still 'tis God's hand that leadeth me.

Refrain:  He leadeth me, He leadeth me, by His own hand He leadeth me;
His faithful follower I would be, for by His hand He leadeth me.

  1. Sometimes mid scenes of deepest gloom, sometimes where Eden's bowers bloom,
    by waters still, o'er troubled sea, still 'tis His hand that leadeth me.  (Refrain)
  2. Lord, I would place my hand in thine, nor ever murmur nor repine;
    content, whatever lot I see, since 'tis my God that leadeth me.  (Refrain)
  3. And when my task on earth is done, when by Thy grace the victory's won,
    e'en death's cold wave I will not flee, since God through Jordan leadeth me.  (Refrain)

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

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