Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
He Leadeth Me: O Blessed Thought
by Norton Hall Band
CALL TO WORSHIP
The gift of a new day.
Unlived, untried, ready to be opened.
A new day with surprising miracles.
With love to be given and kindness to be shared.
The gift of a new day, God’s gift to us.
Let us receive it with joy and worship with expectation.
PRAYER OF INVOCATION
Gracious God, we thank you for your promise to be with us and among us as we worship in a spirit of humility and holiness. We invite you to be our “true mirror.” Show us how to be our true selves. As we worship you now – may we be empowered to live in the world, announcing your way of justice, reconciliation, and peace. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Divine Spirit, forgive us for failing to understand and accept the great demands placed upon us by your love. We join in your causes but find ourselves losing interest. We promise to be courageous but find ourselves afraid. We want to be sensitive but find ourselves hard and callous. Forgive us; take our limitations and turn them into possibilities for service. Have mercy on us and grant us your peace. Amen.
WORDS OF ASSURANCE
Hear now these words of assurance:
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, to forgive you in your follies and foibles, to accept you as you are, to set you free from evil’s power, and make you what you were meant to be. Thanks be to God.
Glory be to the Father, and to the son, and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
All readings are from the English Standard Version bible.
PSALTER LESSON ………………………………………………….. Psalm 16
Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.”
As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
in whom is all my delight.
The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
or take their names on my lips.
The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
I bless the LORD who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
I have set the LORD always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
NEW TESTAMENT LESSON ………………………………………………….. Colossians 1: 1-14
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father. We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing — as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
GOSPEL LESSON ………………………………………………………… Luke 10: 38-42
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
SERMON ……………………… A “More Than” Faith …………………………Rev. Mike Daly
We all have a run-away from home story. Perhaps you were little and had enough of a younger sister or couldn’t stand the lack of attention. I remember one time I headed for the door mad about something. I didn’t get very far, though. What stopped me? I had too much stuff I wanted to take with me.
One of our readings for today comes from Paul, who always seems to be especially good at finding ways to complement and celebrate the new Christian churches popping up around the Roman Empire. Even when he has some words of correction or advice to give, he can still be positive and affirming. He is an excellent example of the “sandwich” criticism: compliment, critique, compliment.
We know Paul was a masterful theologian but also an exceptional communicator and the single best organizer of the early church. In Paul’s early days, he was a child of privilege. His father was a Roman citizen. So, through his birth, Paul is automatically a Roman citizen. That means Paul had all rights and privileges of Roman citizenship under the law. Political and legal status was not for the many. It was only for a select few. These are privileges the apostles did not share.
Paul’s mother was Jewish, so he was born into Judaism. Remember, his Jewish name is Saul, but his Latin name is Paul. Paul is clearly born with inherent talents and born into an environment of educational opportunity and support. His upbringing allows him to become a great scholar.
Paul studies with famous rabbis of the day and is highly educated in the Jewish faith. Earlier in his life, Paul was a Pharisee and ardent servant of the law. His devotion and piety were undeniable. But perhaps he is most infamously known for persecuting the followers of Jesus.
His story doesn’t end there. In fact, that is only the prequel to what is going to come. Paul’s world turns upside-down when he encounters the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus. This encounter radically changes his whole life and outlook. He surrenders his loyalty to both his Roman and his orthodox Jewish heritage. He is reborn into a life of faith in Christ.
It doesn’t take long for this man of great passion and intellect to be instructed in the new faith of the apostles. He quickly becomes the church’s greatest missionary. Now he travels from city to city throughout the Roman Empire, preaching the good news and planting churches as he goes. He travels light and relies on the kindness of others.
Along the way, Paul meets Timothy, a young man who had been a Christian since he was a child. Paul and Timothy travel together and minister together. Timothy is the first one to whom Paul gives authority over a church. So, we might say Paul is the church’s founder in Ephesus, but Timothy is the first called minister.
By the time of this letter to the Colossians, however, Paul was under house arrest in Rome. People would bring him news or questions from the churches, and he or his companions would respond to them. In this letter, he mentions some of the people who are with him in Rome. He mentions Timothy, of course. And he mentions Epaphras.
Epaphras tells Paul that this church in Colossae has heard the good news of Jesus and is bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit in the world. They have followed Jesus’ teachings, and they are growing. He even shares that his group has begun to pattern their lives on the wisdom of Christ.
But what is typical of those early followers is that the church community becomes distracted over the proper place of some of the old rituals and laws of Judaism in the new faith. Other times followers become sidetracked by the Greek gods they knew and worshipped before. They are, in essence, practicing too much and with too many faiths.
It is a theological situation that Paul has encountered throughout his ministry: the difficulty of finding a place for Christ among the habits of thought and action that have formed our lives. How do old ways fit in? Where does Christ fit in? In other words, as Michael Mills says in Finding Spiritual Balance, “They have Jesus, but they have other things too. Is that ok?”
Paul is always a good example of a great teacher. He doesn’t see anything particularly good or bad inherent in a ritual or idol. However, the problem for Paul is when other things divide our attention. For example, in First Corinthians, Paul writes, “We know that no idol is anything in the world, and know that there is only One God.” Divided minds and hearts will keep us off balance and lead us astray.
We know what that is like, don’t we? We know what it is like to be surrounded by glittery images or fantastical messages that call to us, demanding our attention, promising a better life which, in the end, they cannot deliver. We know that Jesus needs a place in our lives, but if we look back at our calendars or thumb through our checkbooks, we see the many other places we put our trust and our time. Sometimes when we stop and look back, we might find that we are more divided, more out of balance, than we thought.
Paul isn’t heavy-handed with the church in Colossae about all their mistakes and lies. It is more like they find themselves choosing between too many good things. They are trying to have it all amid other demands on time and attention. It’s kinda like running away but wanting to take too much stuff. And Paul reminds us we don’t need to heap on too much “spiritual stuff.”
So maybe, like Paul’s experience in Taurus, we need to turn our thinking on this matter upside-down. Recently a minister colleague reflected on his church’s construction of a new brick building for a new worship space. During the long summer of construction, he would watch the workers as they threw a brick straight up from a pile on the ground to the waiting hand of a mason, high above on a scaffold. The mason would trowel on a little bit of mortar and lay the brick while holding his hand out for the next brick already in the air.
The new walls were forty feet high, and everything was perfectly straight and balanced. Not by luck; it took practice, experience, some practical wisdom, and a developed skill set. And, it wasn’t done by aligning the bricks with each other or even watching how the joints lined up. The mason kept the bricks straight with a simple piece of string with a lead weight at the bottom that gravity always pulls directly straight and perfectly accurate. And because that line is straight, everything else can be put in order. They call that a “plumb line.”
Paul conveys to the Colossians and to us that Jesus, the word of God made flesh for us, is the plumb line, and the one thing we need to keep practicing on each other is the undying love of Christ.
Writer Mike Miller says, “The problem for the Colossians was that when they looked at Jesus, they saw many bricks that make up the wall. The problem for us too is that when we see Jesus or faith or church as one of the many elements that give our life meaning and purpose, and not as the plumb line, we will never be in balance.”
The promise of a gospel, abundant in love, is NOT a promise about “having more” but rather a promise that our faith is about “having more than.” The promise is about having more than wisdom, having more than spiritual help, having more than the good deeds.
The gospel’s promise is about a new kingdom and a new king, a powerful force of love in your life that is more than you and your ability to grasp or even hold on to. But the good news is, you don’t have to. This gospel will hold onto you.
THE LORD’S PRAYER
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 debts as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
Leaning on the Everlasting Arms
by Norton Hall Band
Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him all creatures here below;
Praise Him above you heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen
May the Lord watch between me and thee, while we are apart one from the other, Amen.
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