Message for July 4, 2021

Mora/Ogilvie UMC

July 4, 2021

Patriotic Hymn Sing

The Battle Hymn of the republic UMC #717                     (verses 1 & 2)

Julia Ward Howe wrote verses 1 -4 in 1861 at the beginning of the Civil War and added verse 5 was added later.

She was paid an honorarium if $5.00 from the Atlantic Monthly magazine.

Her purpose for writing this music was to provide some wholesome lyrics for the tune of “John Brown’ Body Lies A-moldering in the Grave”.

This song identifies the truth that nations may rise and fall, but God’s truth remains forever.

America (My Country, Tis of Thee) #697                          (verses 1,3,4)

Samuel Francis Smith wrote the lyrics to “America” in 1831 while a student at the Andover Theological Seminary in Andover, Massachusetts.

The same melody as the British royal anthem was used and words added to make a statement about American democracy.

America the Beautiful #696                                                (All verses)

“America the Beautiful” was written by Katharine Lee Bates as she watched the beautiful countryside on a train trip between Massachusetts and Colorado Springs.

The music was composed by church organist and choirmaster Samuel A. Ward at Grace Episcopal Church in Newark, New Jersey.

The words were originally written as a poem entitled “Pikes Peak”.

It was first published in the Fourth of July 1895. edition of the church periodical titled the Congregationalist.

The words and music came together in 1910 and is today one of the most popular of US patriotic songs.

Star Spangled Banner

“The Star-Spangled Banner” is the national anthem of the United States.

By the time the song officially became the country’s anthem in 1931, it had been one of America’s most popular patriotic tunes for more than a century.

The anthem’s history began the morning of September 14, 1814, when an attorney and amateur poet named Francis Scott Key watched U.S. soldiers—who were under bombardment from British naval forces during the War of 1812—raise a large American flag over Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland.

After a local printer issued the song, originally called “Defense of Fort M’Henry,” two Baltimore newspapers printed it, and it spread quickly to various cities along the East Coast.

By November 1812, Key’s composition had appeared in print for the first time under the name “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

O say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro’ the perilous fight
O’re the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?

And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air
Gave proof thro’ the night that our flag was still there
O say, does that star spangled banner yet wave
O’re the land of the free and the home of the brave?

O say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro’ the perilous fight
O’re the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air
Gave proof thro’ the night that our flag was still there
O say, does that star spangled banner yet wave
O’re the land of the free and the home of the brave?


Words from John Cooper


*Call to Worship

Leader: Come, let us celebrate the forgiving, reconciling love of God.

People: For once we were lost and felt so far away; now we have been found and welcomed home.

Leader: Know that God’s love is lavished upon you forever.

People: We rejoice at the news of forgiveness and hope!

Leader: Come, let us celebrate and praise the God of Love.

People: AMEN!

Ministry Matters, Abingdon Press, 6 March 2016,

*Opening Prayer

Gracious God, we come today to knowledge that there are times when we too have wandered from your love.

We come to celebrate that you always hold open the door for us to return home. Remind us to do the same for others. Amen.

*Hymn       UMH # 378         Amazing Grace (V.1,2,5,6)

Scripture  Luke 15:11-32     The Parable of the Prodigal and His Brother

Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons.

The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them.

A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living.

When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need.

So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs.

He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything.

But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger!

I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”

So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.

Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.

And get the fatted calf and kill it and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Meditation                    Headed Home

Sometimes we leave home with great expectations and hopes. But somewhere along the road we get off track, and the best decision is to head home.

Early in our marriage Rod and I ventured into South Dakota for a little vacation. We saw all the key sites in the Western part of the state.

  • We visited Wall Drug. Because what’s a trip into SD without stopping at Wall Drug.
  • We messed around in the badlands for some time.
  • We drove through Bear Country in Rapid City.
  • We went to Deadwood.
  • We took a goldmine tour.
  • And we camped in Custer and drove the wildlife loop road.

One day we decided to just roam around. We got in the car and just drove and drove and drove. Well after a while it was clear that we were lost. Now know that this trip was pre-GPS days, and I don’t recall having a South Dakota map with us. And we drove and drove and drove.

We went past several locations’ multiple times. There were very few places to stop and ask for direction and those that were there were ignored by Rod. Yes, Rod was a bit adverse to asking for directions!

After a couple hours and having driven past two people on horseback, more than once Rod finally reluctantly agreed to stop and ask for directions.  To this day one of my prized possessions is this petrified wood that the wonderful older gentleman gave me as we stood on this bluff and talked.  For me this was a highlight of the trip – probably not for Rod!

Getting lost may mean directionally like Rod and I did in South Dakota, and it may also mean getting lost in a journey of the heart.

Before I met Rod, I was sure I had found my one true love. This guy and I met when I was 19 or so and I thought I was madly in love. He was tall, blond, athletic, silly, serious, and wrote beautiful poetry just for me– kind of the whole package I thought.

After a couple years we became engaged, and I was over the top in love. When things deteriorated it happened fast. I don’t remember how it started to fall apart but I remember he once shoved me when he had been drinking and I “gave him a knee” if you know what I mean. After this incident I discovered he was hanging out with another Deb (couldn’t even be original enough to find a new name) and then I found out all that beautiful poetry was written when he was high – I had no idea he smoked dope. This journey of the heart ended quickly.

After a journey ends, sometimes long after, we can joke about the experience. Likely, we all have had the experience of getting lost in a journey, a journey in the car or even a journey of the heart.

It is said that the journey of 1000 miles begins with the first step and the first step is the hardest. When we are lost turning around is the hardest part. (Or in Rod’s case asking for directions) and in my case admitting that I had fallen for the wrong guy.

Jokes are written about journeys  –

A local priest and pastor were fishing on the side of the road.

They thoughtfully made a sign saying, “The End is Near! Turn yourself around now before it’s too late!” and showed it to each passing car.

One driver that drove by didn’t appreciate the sign and shouted at them: “Leave us alone you religious nuts!”

All of a sudden they heard a big splash, looked at each other, and the priest said to the pastor …..

“You think we should just put up a sign that says ‘bridge out’ instead?”

Our scripture today is about a journey, this is a favorite passage of many messages from God. Sometimes we are easily lost; I have experienced this.

For the prodigal it was easy to get lost due to money and popularity. Good turns bad and he ends up off course.

Time passes, and he realizes his state of being lost “when he comes to himself.”

He determines being a hired servant is better than his current condition and he heads home for a life no longer as a son but as a servant.

Why is this so hard? Fear? Ego, pride? Despite the difficulties he could no longer live being lost.

The colorful characters, dramatic action, and a cliffhanger of an ending make it an intriguing and easily remembered story. Perhaps, that is why Jesus, a Master storyteller, used this tale to teach his audience a valuable lesson.

I too learned this story as a child but my understanding of the parable of the Prodigal Son has deepened over the years.

A quick glance of the story would and once might assume the main character is the Prodigal Son.

The story begins by introducing the audience to a father with two sons. After the introduction, Jesus takes us on the journey of the younger son, his return to the father, and the response of the older brother.

If you just follow the action, you can assume the main character is the younger son but if you study further you see that the father is central character, in fact the father is the hero of the story.

Jesus wants us to focus on the response of the father rather than the actions of the sons.

When the youngest son demands his inheritance, the father complies. He divides the property between the brothers.

The son then leaves his father, only to waste his share. He reaches his breaking point when he is starving and has to take work feeding pigs, an animal Jewish people regarded as unclean under dietary laws.

A deeper look into this story clearly shows me that Jesus want me to be like Like the Father.

When the youngest son returns home, the father warmly welcomes him. He then prepares a feast in celebration of his sons return.

When the older brother complains about the situation, the father takes him to task. He reminds his eldest of his place in the family and that per Jewish law he had received a larger share of the inheritance. The father then invites the eldest son to join him in the celebration.

Jesus is showing us that we are to treat others as the father treated his younger son.

The theme is not about the inheritance or what the sons did. The theme of this parable is grace toward the prodigal.

Grace shown when the father gives the son his inheritance even while the father is still alive.

Asking for an inheritance while the father was still alive was the ultimate act of dishonor and yet the father gives a gift that hinders his own livelihood.

When the son returns to the father, the father sees him from a distance, runs to him, and embraces him. He does not even allow the son to finish his confession, he just welcomes the son into his arms.

Before the son goes to the father, he expects to be treated as a hired servant at best. Yet, he is given back his full status as a son. The father holds nothing back, he receives and celebrates his child.

Both Sons Fall Short of Grace

The older brother characterizes the antithesis of grace through his judgment and refusal to celebrate the homecoming of his brother.

In his discourse with his father, the older brother declares his faithfulness in his works and discloses the improprieties of his brother.

He clings to what he deserves from the father rather than understanding that all that the father has is already his.

Yet, the father generously invites him to enter the celebration. Unfortunately, I sometimes find his characterization all too familiar.

I now see myself as a Prodigal daughter to God and I see this parable with eyes focused on grace and not on forgiveness as I had previously.

As my understanding changed from forgiveness my approach to Jesus changed as well. I no longer see myself as the poor child who must come to the Father broken and repentant for Him to embrace me. Rather, I see myself as a daughter of a good and generous God who is ready to accept me the way I am.

The Prodigal Son parable is a call to reconcile and rejoice.

It is easy to get caught up in the drama of the Parable of the Prodigal son, that we can sometimes forget about the original audience to whom Jesus was speaking. Jesus told this parable in response to the grumbling Pharisees and scribes. These religious elite felt the Jesus had no right to associate with the moral and societal sinners he accepted.

While the audience is different today, I believe the message is still the same. Jesus came to earth for the ungodly, the sinners, you and me. He walked with those who were broken and hurting.

He loved those that society and religion rejected. Jesus loved all because he was the image of God. He was love, so He lived out love.

Unfortunately, in my own arrogance, I identify with the Pharisees more than Jesus. I grumble when I feel uncomfortable rather than allow God to use my discomfort to mold me to be more like Christ.

This story in the book of Luke tells so much about the human condition and our heavenly Father’s great love. It has challenged believers for thousands of years.

Here’s what the scripture means for your life. You may be lost. Have you allowed your pride, or fear keep you from going home?

You may be longing for someone to return. We must understand how hard it is for the prodigal son to make the first step.

How do we respond to prodigals in our lives? Henri Nouwen writes in Return of the Prodigal Son, “To become like the Father whose only authority is compassion, I have to shed countless tears…prepare my heart to receive anyone, whatever their journey has been, and forgive them from that heart.”

I am left pondering three question that I hope you will give thought to this week:

  • In what way do you need to respond to someone in the way the father responded in the story?
  • Question: How can understanding God’s grace impact your personal walk with the Lord?
  • Question: Who is God calling you to be reconciled with or rejoice with this week?

If you see yourself as the prodigal son or daughter, how are you preparing your heart for taking that first step of the journey to reconciliation?  If there is a prodigal son or daughter in your life, I encourage you to open your arms and your heart to welcome them in. God has welcomed us in time and again. Do for others what God does for you. Amen

I was influenced in my thinking and writing about the story of the prodigal Son by Cortney Whiting. She serves as a lay leader and writes for several Christian ministries.

Hymn         UMH # 393                   Spirit of the Living God                  

Pastoral Prayer and The Lord’s Prayer

Holy God Thank you for bringing us into this house of worship once again today.

Thank you for the joy we feel as we share this hour with those we love.

Thank you most of all, for the grace we feel here, the love you have extended to us, the welcome we feel simply because we are all loved by you and your grace swings the door wide open for all who enter.

We thank you that this place is a sign of the love, the grace, and the welcome that you offer us in all times and all places, that your forgiveness is a banquet of joy and love to which we are continually invited.

We confess that we have often failed to accept your invitation.  We’ve wanted to go our own way.

We’ve needed to figure things out on our own.  Either through our own misunderstanding or through the failed witness of others, we’ve often misunderstood what you are calling us to.

We’ve run from you because we’ve thought that you were a hard task master, or that you wanted to make our live boring or lifeless.

We’ve very rarely thought of the grace you’ve offered us as an opportunity to live lives of celebration and rejoicing, a banquet, a party celebrating your goodness and redemption.

So whether we’ve run away from your grace because wee wanted the life we could create for ourselves more than the life you have for us, or even if we’ve been good religious people who’ve been so stuck on following the rules and being good citizens that we’ve forgotten what it means to truly feast on your mercy, help us to enter your house with fresh love, fresh grace, fresh joy.

Let the party of your grace begin.

Be with those who suffer.  Make them know your closeness and bring them new life.  Bless our enemies.  Bless those who are far from your family.

We pray to be like Jesus and in His name we 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.

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 # 348               Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling (v. 1&4)

Communion and Prayer of Thanksgiving      

On the night in which he gave himself up for us, he took bread, gave thanks to you, broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and said:

“Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you.
Do this in remembrance of me.”

When the supper was over, he took the cup, gave thanks to you, gave it to his disciples, and said:

“Drink from this, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant, poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

And so, in remembrance of these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ, we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving as a holy and living sacrifice, in union with Christ’s offering for us, as we proclaim the mystery of faith.

Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again. 

Pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here, and on these gifts of bread and wine.

Make them be for us the body and blood of Christ, that we may be for the world the body of Christ, redeemed by his blood.

By your Spirit make us one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world, until Christ comes in final victory, and we feast at his heavenly banquet.

Through your Son Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit in your holy Church, all honor and glory are yours, almighty Father,
now and forever. Amen.

The body of Christ, given for you. Amen.      

The blood of Christ, given for you. Amen.

Prayer of Thanksgiving
Eternal God, we give you thanks for this holy mystery
in which you have given yourself to us.

Grant that we may go into the world in the strength of your Spirit, to give ourselves for others, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Our world is full of prodigals who are hungry and lonely and far from home.

Your generosity provides a space and the means for all to be welcomed home with open arms. 

*Doxology UMH # 95           Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow

*Prayer of Dedication

Forgiving God, we are grateful that you receive us as beloved children.

Like the father in Jesus’ parable of the lost son, you rejoice when we repent and return to you.

Thank you for not holding our sins against us.

Help us to welcome each person as someone you love. Use our offerings to support ministries that encourage people as they live into new life in Christ.

We pray in his precious name. Amen.

Ministries, Discipleship. “Offertory Prayers and Invitation for March 2106.” Discipleship Ministries.

*Hymn   UMH # 357             Just as I Am, Without One Plea (v. 1,

*Prayer of Dedication

Forgiving God, we are grateful that you receive us as beloved children.

Like the father in Jesus’ parable of the lost son, you rejoice when we repent and return to you.

Thank you for not holding our sins against us.

Help us to welcome each person as someone you love. Use our offerings to support ministries that encourage people as they live into new life in Christ.

We pray in his precious name. Amen.


“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you

and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

Go now to love and serve the lord.


  • July 11, we start a new worship series titled Summer of Love. Join me and discover how we are going to pray for everyone in our congregation.





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