August 8, 2021
MN Annual Conference Update Phyllis Roseberry & Pastor Debra Schaffran
*Call to Worship
Leader: We gather in this act of worship, seeking you, O God.
People: Reaching out to you O Holy One, praying to find you, trusting you will find us.
Leader: Celebrating that we live, move, and exist in our Creating God.
People: Trusting that You are never far away we worship you now.
Almighty God open our hearts to receive your great story as it is proclaimed once more.
Where we have unbelief, help us to trust. Where we doubt, help us to have faith. Remind
us that your story is our story for we are your children, whom you deeply love. Direct our
hearts and lives now and always. May our worship be pleasing to you and a blessing in
our journeys. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.
*Hymn UMH # 277 Tell Me the Stories of Jesus
Scripture Acts 17:22-34
22 Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. 23 For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. 26 From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, 27 so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. 28 For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said,
‘For we too are his offspring.’
29 Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. 30 While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
32 When they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some scoffed; but others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 At that point Paul left them. 34 But some of them joined him and became believers, including Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.
Meditation The Greatest Story
From birth to about 12 I had horses. We lived in a very small town, and we even had the horses right there in town with us. I had a favorite horse, a palomino I named Prince. In my eyes Prince was the most beautify horse on the face of the earth and I loved him dearly.
If you enjoy reading you likely know what it feels like to be transported through words to another place and time. When I was a child, I remember reading with my mom a book about Midnight, a great bucking horse.
I do not remember the name of the book, or even the contents but I do remember the words on the last page.
Under this sod lies a great bucking hoss.
There never lived a cowboy he couldn’t toss.
His name was Midnight, his coat black as coal.
If there is a hoss heaven, please God, rest his soul.
In addition to remembering the poem at the end I remember crying big tears as I thought about this great horse dying.
It is said that the poem is penned by Colorado State Sen. Chris Cusack and the words are engraved on the tombstone where Midnight is buried.
Midnight was foaled sometime between 1907 and 1910 on Jim McNab’s Cottonwood Ranch in southern Alberta. Son of a thoroughbred mother and a Morgan-Percheron sire, the 16-hand, 1,300-pound Midnight dominated the circuit for 11 years, receiving top billing at rodeos as “the buckingest horse in the world.” He made his final appearance at the 1933 Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo and died on Nov. 5, 1936. At the 1937 Denver Stock Show, the crowd stood for a minute of silence in tribute to Midnight. His Oklahoma City tombstone carries an epitaph written by Colorado State Sen. Chris Cusack:
There are conflicting stories about Midnight. Some say he was never successfully ridden, and others say he had been a cow pony for a couple years but was never trustworthy. I have no idea of the facts but this story, that which I remember, has always been a favorite of mine.
From Netflix to social media, stories fill our imagination and time. The problem is we often compare our stories with others and feel unimportant. The good news is you are connected to the greatest story ever told.
The story, as far as I know it, has always been a favorite of mine. Reading with my mom and both of us crying has stuck with me all these years. The adventure of this great bucking horse with the beautiful black coat and mane is etched in my brain.
After reading this book I could picture myself on the back of Prince with him rearing high into the air and I of course sitting tall and waving to the crowd. It doesn’t matter that a palomino is not black as coal or that Prince was not a bucking horse – I had a good imagine.
Was Midnight the greatest story ever written well no but for me at that time it came close.
We can all relate to the excitement of a good story. From stories told to us by our relatives, to watching movies, stories shape our perspectives and give us a sense of importance and belonging. Often, we may not notice the impact of how those stories are shaping our own perspectives as well as others, but they can and often do have a significant impact.
As Paul approached the great city of Athens, he came not as a sightseer, but as a soul-winner. He arrived with open eyes and a broken heart. Athens was in a period of decline in the early first-century. Though still recognized as a center of culture and education, the glory of its politics and commerce had long since faded.
The Greek myths spoke of gods and goddesses that, in their own rivalries and ambitions, acted more like humans than gods; and there were plenty of idols to choose from! As was his custom, Paul spoke in the synagogue with the Jews, but he also witnessed in the marketplace to the Greeks. It didn’t take long for the philosophers to hear about this “new thing” Paul was preaching.
The Council of the Areopagus was responsible to watch over both religion and education in the city, so it was natural for them to investigate the “new doctrine” Paul was teaching. After all, life in Athens consisted of hearing and telling new things, and Paul had something new!
Paul’s message is a masterpiece in communication. He started where the people were by referring to their altar dedicated to an unknown god. Having provoked their interest, he then explained who that God is and what He is like. He concluded the message with a personal application that left each council member facing a moral decision. Using this “unknown god” as a transition point, Paul shared four basic truths about God that we still need to hear today. The first is…
- THE GREATNESS OF GOD:
Paul declared that this unknown God, “made the world and all things in it”. God is the Creator.
But Paul boldly affirmed, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth!” God made the world and everything in it, and He is Lord of everything He has made. He is not a distant God, separated from His creation; nor is He an imprisoned God, locked in creation.
The universe and all things in it were created by God–including you and me! King David, while meditating on God’s great care and concern for humanity, wrote, “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well” (Psalm 139:4). That was written three thousand years ago. Now, with all the scientific knowledge and technology of the ages at our fingertips, we are no less impressed by the intricate workings of God’s greatest masterpiece.
How much more, then, should we marvel at the greatness of our Creator and the work of His hands! But Paul not only preached the greatness of God, but he also preached the…
- THE GOODNESS OF GOD:
After introducing the Unknown God to the Athenians, Paul continues to tell them about Him: God “is [not] served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things” (25). He is our Provider. People may sometimes pride themselves in serving God, but it is really God who serves us. If God is God, then He is self-sufficient and is in need of nothing. Not only do the temples not contain God, but the service in the temples does not add anything to God! In two brief statements, Paul completely wiped out the entire religious system of Greece!
It is God who gives to us what we need. God is not dependent on man’s offerings for His being, because He is the great giver. When Paul says, “He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things,” our lives must be viewed as a gift from above, and every breath we breathe is courtesy of God. If these are not awesome enough in their own right, every gift that is given and needed by the human race comes from the goodness of God. Everything we need and receive is a divine gift. The Bible says, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…” (James 1:17).
The time we have on Earth is a gift from God. The energy or mobility we have is a gift from God. The ability worship together is a gift from God. Our purpose in life is a gift from God! What would life be without a purpose? Our families, parents and grandparents, a good husband or wife, and lovely children are all God’s gifts.
When we count our blessings, we should not neglect the spiritual ones, either. Salvation, the greatest of all gifts, if from God. The Bible says, “by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). God gives us life and sustains that life by His goodness. Surely, He is as good as He is great! Paul goes on, though, to talk about…
III. THE GOVERNMENT OF GOD:
Paul announced, “He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation”. He is Ruler! The gods of the Greeks were distant beings who had no concern for the problems and needs of men. But the God of Creation is also the God of history and geography, “He is Lord of heaven and earth!”
There are some things that we can know about God because He is Lord of all. For instance, God can only be Sovereign over all creation, as Paul says He is, if He is all-knowing. If there is one bit of knowledge that is unknown to God, His rule over all things breaks down at that point. Even that little bit would open the door for man to say that because one God does not know everything, there must be two or more gods at work in the world. How vital it was for Paul to affirm to the Athenians the Sovereignty or total knowledge of the Almighty God. If God is all-knowing (or omniscient), then He never knew any less nor will He ever know any more.
That God is absolutely all-knowing is an awesome thought. It is humbling and even freighting. But it is to be the cause of much joy in a person’s life, too. If God knows everything about everything, then He knows everything about me and my life. While that can be very sobering, it is also a great comfort.
But God’s infinite knowledge and power are meaningless if He is not free to exercise them according to His will. The Bible says, “But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (Psalm 115:3). But God is not a distant deity: “He is not far from each one of us.” Truly He is the Lord of creation and Lord of my life. We need never worry nor fear, for He is in control. Finally, As he brought his message to a close, Paul summarized the clear evidence of…
- THE GRACE OF GOD:
God vividly demonstrated His grace in that, for centuries, God was patient with people’s sin and ignorance. This does not mean that people were not guilty, but only that God held back divine wrath.
In due time, though, God sent a Savior, and now He commands all men to repent of their foolish ways. The grace of God was wholly established in Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross. Let’s never forget the words of Isaiah: “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
This Savior was murdered and then raised from the dead, and one day, He will return to judge the world. When God created man, male and female, He gave them the Garden of Eden as a beautiful place to live. He came and walked with them and talked with them and enjoyed their company. Then came the tragedy of sin, and man was alienated from God. That wonderful association was broken. Man was driven from the Garden and from the presence of God, who is the source of all life, and man died. Separation from God is death. But God, in His great love, would not allow thing to end that way.
God sent His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to reconcile the world to Him. The answer can only be that God is gracious toward us and has made a way of salvation. It does not mean that man is worthy or has earned it, but it is a gift to those who will accept it.
But acceptance is essential. The invitation is “whosoever will.” In acceptance of that gift we must believe that Jesus was raised from the dead, repent and turn from our sinful lifestyles, confess Jesus as Lord, and be immersed into Him. Doing so does not earn salvation; doing so is acceptance of the gift–the grace of God.
The Goodness of God: “He gives to all people life and breath and all things.”
The Government of God: “He is Lord of heaven and earth!”
The Grace of God: “having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring…that all people everywhere should repent.”
The real message of Paul’s sermon is that the Unknown God has made Himself known! And we can know Him today, through the blood of Jesus, His Son.
In summary we find Paul speaking in a similar setting to our own society today. People are generally religious or spiritual, but not necessarily in relationship with God. They may acknowledge a higher power but not necessarily God’s handiwork and particularly God at work in our everyday lives calling us to be in relationship and communion with God. Paul acknowledges that God sees us as we are, and where we are; but [God] calls us to live upright and holy, all the while reminding us this is a task that we cannot do on our own, for in God we live, move and have our being. Paul, having himself a powerful testimony of conversion and repentance, helps us see the story that invites all of us…the transforming Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel is the greatest story ever told. The story of God and humanity is filled with exciting adventures, life-changing plot twists and hopeful redemption. Most importantly, this story invites us to be part of something larger- God’s epic rescue. Our God is vast, faithful and exciting!
No matter who you are or what your story is, you are part of the greatest story ever told. God is rescuing the world, and you are worthy to be part of the great story. If you have committed to walking with God, then you have been rescued. If you haven’t made that commitment yet, then God is ready and waiting to rescue you and let your own story begin today.
Hymn UMH # 393 Spirit of the Living God
Pastoral Prayer and The Lord’s Prayer
Lord God of heaven and earth, Creator of our world, and everything in it, yet as close to us as our own breath—holy is Your name.
In You we live and move and have our being. We are Your own children, the work of Your hands.
We pray that Your Holy Spirit would move among us as we worship, opening our eyes to Your presence, opening our ears to Your Word.
Receive the worship of our hearts and minds and bodies; may it be a pleasing offering to You. We ask all this in your son’s name, who taught us to pray together
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.
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen
*Hymn UMH #558 We Are the Church (verses 1-4)
Family of God, everything on earth and in heaven belongs to God. God has blessed you so that you may be a blessing for others. As you give your tithes and offerings today, give as an act of joy and gratitude for all God has done for you.
*Doxology UMH # 95 Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow
*Prayer of Dedication
Generous God, we can never repay you, we can only thank you. You are the giver of life, breath and everything else and we are forever thankful. Receive these offerings as a sign of our gratitude and an act of our commitment to bear witness to your great story ofredemption and hope. Amen.
*Hymn UMH # 600 Wonderful Words of Life
May the love of God surround you.
May the love of God uplift you.
May the love of God stand with you through the changes ahead.
May the love of God convince you, in every situation, to love.
Go now to love others, even as Christ loves you.
- Write a little note on your prayer stick and bring it back next week. Remember to drop off your prayer stick and take a new one. Pray for the name(s) all week, make a note on the stick that you prayed for those named and return it the next week.