August 15, 2021
*Call to Worship
Leader: We come to hear the stories of our generous and compassionate God.
People: We come to share the stories of God’s love and mercy in our own lives.
Leader: Teach us to embody your grace and be a witness to Your love in the world, O God.
People: May we, like God, be generous and merciful with our lives and show compassion as we serve others.
All: May our lives give honor and glory to our Mighty God, forever and ever. Amen.
Redeeming God, we come before you to admit our shortcomings and our mistakes. We are your beautifully flawed people who have let you down, yet we come with hope into your presence. We humble ourselves before the one who can perfect us that we might live out our faith and witness to our own redemption. May our lives tell the story of your goodness and mercy. May we be your hands and feet to serve you by serving our neighbors. May our witness of your
unfailing love and forgiveness offer hope to others. All this we pray in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
*Hymn UMH #156 I Love to Tell the Story (verses 1-3)
Scripture 1 Timothy 1:12-17
The Lord’s Grace to Paul
12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. 13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Meditation Understanding Grace
“Amazing Grace,” is a song that often stirs deep emotions within me. It is God’s grace that carries me day to day, day in and day out. I do not know why God brought me into ministry, but I do know that He loves me, and He looks beyond my human faults and sees my human needs and loves me anyway.
We can all relate to falling short. Perhaps you were not completely honest on your tax forms, and as a result worry about an audit by the IRS. Or maybe you have hurt someone you love and long for forgiveness and a new start. Whether it be a poor choice or an action that led to great pain, failing is part of everyone’s story.
I desire to forever lift my eyes to Calvary. To view the cross where Jesus died for me.
What is Grace? We talk about it. We sing about it. We say it’s amazing! We even name our churches and our children for it.
In 2018 the name Grace, ranked the 24th Most Popular Girls Name in the United States.
Its highest popularity ranking of #13 was reached for the first time in 1883 and as recently as 2004.
Grace is also a popular name for Churches. We even have a church in Mora names Grace.
But what is it? What is this thing called Grace?
Once there was this little boy and the preacher was visiting his mother. The mother knew the preacher was coming and had made some cookies for them to eat while he was there.
Of course that made the little boy very happy, and he was eating away at those cookies while the grown-ups talked. Then he came to the last cookie but as he was getting ready to put it in his mouth, he dropped it. Well he was not going to let a perfectly good cookie go to waste, so he picked it up and was going to eat it, but his mother stopped him and said, “Don’t eat that it has germs on it.” And the little boy in frustration stomped his feet and said, “Germs and Jesus, Germs and Jesus, that’s all I ever hear and I ain’t never seen a one of them.”
If we are going to talk about it then we need a good working definition – we should know what it looks like. The dictionary definition of grace is “unmerited Divine assistance given for justification, regeneration or sanctification.” That says a lot. It is free gift that is not earned or purchased. It is a free gift from God. And it enables us to be saved and to grow in faith.
That definition is fine a good, but what does that look like in real life?
In 1 Timothy 1:12-17, Paul’s story of conversion from persecutor of the church to its chief proponent gives an example of conversion and transformation. It shows a life that has been redeemed by the unlimited love and grace of God.
Paul writes this letter to his protégé to encourage him in ministry and a life of faith. As a part of his instruction, Paul narrates his calling, including his shaky and contentious beginning as a persecutor and chief adversary of the church. He shares his testimony that though he spoke against Christ, attacked his people, and was proud of his behavior, Christ’s love and faithfulness poured out over him.
Paul does not gloss over or diminish the depths of his wickedness and insists that it is for sinners like him that Christ came into the world to save. He and we are examples for all those who are going to believe in Christ for eternal life, that no one is beyond redemption.
Paul is a living example of Grace. Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles, the writer of half the New Testament, was not always a servant of Jesus. Instead he became a servant.
The first time we meet Paul in the Bible he is participating in the stoning of a man named Stephen. Stephen is described, in Who’s Who in The Bible, as a man of faith, grace, and spiritual power who did great wonders and signs among the people.
Stephen’s crime was that he openly declared that Jesus was the Messiah. He was the first Christian martyr. Later Paul gets permission to imprison any believers in Jesus that he can find.
One day Paul was on his way to the city of Damascus to arrest the Christians there. Then suddenly Jesus appeared to him on the road. In a blinding light from heaven Jesus said, “Why do you persecute me.” At this Paul was struck blind but after a few days God sent a Christian to Paul to open his eyes and to tell him the Good news of Jesus Christ. It was only after this life changing experience that Paul became the champion of the Gospel that we know him as today.
God could have given up on Paul. Jesus had every right to take Paul’s life just as Stephen’s life had been taken. Jesus could have left Paul imprisoned by his blindness just as Paul had imprisoned Christians. But graciously Paul was allowed to live and to see. In fact God’s grace went even farther. Paul was called to be the one to take the Good News of Jesus Christ beyond Israel and to the nations of the world. He was empowered by the Spirit to lead thousands of Christians to start churches and to write letters that still inspire Christians today.
That’s what Paul is talking about in our lesson today. He says, “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 1:13-14)
Paul is a living example of Grace. By Grace he was saved from the life of hatred he previously lived. He was set free to love. He was given more than a second chance. Paul was given an opportunity to make up for all the persecuting he had done. A second chance to make up for all the hatred he had spread. A second chance to make up for all the lives he negatively impacted.
The Rev. Alex Stevenson tells the following, When I was a teenager, we had an old car. It was a 1970 falcon. My sister and I shared it. My junior year of high school I would drive it to school and back home. One day I was driving home from band practice, and I was giving a friend a ride home. It was drizzling a little I was going a little “too fast for conditions” and I lost control of the car and ended up hitting a telephone pole.
The car was totaled and thankfully no one was hurt. The car was old, so the need of a new bumper and radiator was enough to total the car. No one was hurt and the car was fixable, but I was devastated.
Friday rolled around and I needed to get to the stadium for the football game. I put on my uniform and got my horn and went out to the living room. My sister was sitting on the couch reading a book, my father was in his chair watching the news and my mother was in the kitchen cleaning up from dinner. I announced, “It’s time to go to the game. Who’s going to drive me?” There was a moment of silence and then my dad said, “I’m not going anywhere. You can take my car.”
That’s what grace is like. God gave us this life. But we go and wreck it. God could have said, “I give you life and you go and use it to do selfish things. You go and wreck it! Well I am just going to take it back. You don’t deserve to have a life anymore.”
God gave each of us a soul that was beautiful. But we go and make a mess of it. God could have said, “You made your mess now live with it. You messed up what I gave you by sinning. You don’t deserve to have a righteous soul.”
But instead God said, “Here is a new life.” Instead of denying us the righteousness we need, Jesus said, “Here is my righteousness, you can have it.” Then he died on a cross for our sins. We didn’t deserve it. We had made a mess of what God had given us before. But God gives us new life!
John Newton is a living example of grace. John Newton was the captain of a slave ship. A lot of people are not aware of the horrors of the slave trade. The crossing from Africa was perhaps the deadliest part of the slave trade. The newly enslaved Africans were treated like cargo. They were packed in as closely as possible. Many died and their bodies were unceremoniously thrown overboard. The shipping company considered them acceptable losses. When John Newton, the captain of a slave ship, realized his sin, he saw himself as he really was. He was a man with the blood of thousands on his hands. And he lived in an age when many had these same blood stains on their hands.
But God forgave him. By the blood of Christ he was washed clean. He didn’t deserve it, but God gave him that forgiveness by grace. In praise to God he wrote a song, perhaps you have heard it?
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
was blind, but now I see.
God’s grace is amazing. It took a wretch like John Newton and used him to write a song to inspire many, me included.
God’s plan for redemption includes you! There is nothing too shameful or painful in your past or your present that God’s love and grace can’t reach. Sharing your whole story is a vital practice of your faith. It may be used by God to inspire and encourage all those who hear and assure them of the inexhaustible grace that resides in our God.
We are called to tell the painful, as well as triumphant, stories that are interspersed in our faith. Christ calls to tell this story not that it may be used as a place of shame of self-criticism, but that it may draw another imperfect soul into communion with a perfect God.
God took a murderer like Paul and used him to lead a world of sinners to salvation. And it has taken us, sinners, and wretches that we are, and given us new life. That is Alex Stevenson’s definition of “grace!” What’s yours?
Portions of this message are written or influenced by Alex Stevenson. Copyright 2008 Alex Stevenson. Used by permission.
Hymn UMH # 393 Spirit of the Living God
Pastoral Prayer and The Lord’s Prayer
Thank You loving God for loving us enough to visit Your creation in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ – for loving us enough to die for us on the cross so that we might live with You into eternity – You truly are our glorious King of the ages and are deserving of all our love and praise through time and into eternity – praise Your glorious name, forever.
Lord we come to you as broken people and we long for your healing grace. We know your love is sufficient and with you we long to be…
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 # 378 Amazing Grace (verses 1,2,3,)
God has been so good to us; blessing us by working in us, through us and in spite of us. Let us remember that all that we have belongs to God. Let our giving be generous and our gratitude for our blessings be overflowing. May we have the confidence to know that God can transform our gifts, and our lives, for the good of the Kingdom of God here on earth.
*Doxology UMH # 95 Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow
*Prayer of Dedication
Life-giving God, nothing could compare to what we have received through your son, Jesus. Yet we come before you to offer our whole lives to you, not only our tithes and offerings, but our hearts, our gifts and our service. Pour out your favor upon us, and all that we bring before you, that through them, the world around us may find hope in the Good News that is Jesus Christ.
*Hymn UMH # 170 O How I Love Jesus
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.
- Death of Kate Larison
- Renewal Leave