Worship May 9, 2021
We are gathered this day to praise God and give thanks for all the wonderful things God have done for us. As we worship together, we long to be faithful disciples in all that we think, all that we do and all that we say, that God’s great love may be revealed and offer healing to all people. AMEN.
Quieten our minds
Still our hearts
For your living ways are all we seek
Strengthen our lives
Inspire our spirits
In your living waters flow endless grace
Hymn A Charge to Keep I Have
Scripture Mark 12:28-31 (NRSV)
The First Commandment
28 One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Romans 15: 5-12
5 May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, 6 so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
7 Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
Meditation The Greatest Commandment in Summary
God creates, knows, loves, and sees all of us in our full humanity. He created us and knows us even to the point of knowing our inner most thoughts. God loves each of us as His beloved child and He will never leave us. He loves us so much that he created a place in eternity for us to live with Him forever, after our earthly lives have ended.
God knows each person as unique and individual humans. And He loves each person equally no matter our differences, no matter what.
But as people, we can fall into the habit of assuming everyone is the same or everyone is like us. While we share a common humanity, these assumptions can be harmful and prevent us from truly seeing other people and listening to their perspectives. This sermon series was designed to assist us in looking deeply at how we see others.
It is said that a man was driving his car, when he saw an old lady, stranded on the side of the road. He saw that she needed help. So he stopped his Pontiac near her Mercedes and got out.
He smiled, while he was approaching her, still she was worried, as nobody had stopped for hours. Moreover, he did not look safe, as his appearance was so poor and shabby. He could see, how frightened she was, so he tried to calm her: “I‘m here to help you, don‘t worry. My name is Bryan Anderson“.
The tire was flat, so he had to crawl under the car. While changing the tire, he got dirty, and his hands were hurt.
When the job was done, she asked how much she owed him for his help. Bryan smiled. He said: “If you really want to pay me back, the next time you see someone, who needs help, give that person the needed assistance. And think of me“.
On the same evening, the lady stopped by a small cafe. That place looked dingy. Then she saw a waitress, nearly eight months pregnant, wiping her wet hair with a towel. The waitress had a sweet friendly smile, although she had spent the whole day on her feet.
The lady wondered how someone, who has so little, can be so kind and giving to a stranger. Then she remembered Bryan.
The lady had finished her meal and paid with a hundred-dollar bill. The waitress went to get change and when she came back, the lady was gone. She left a note on the napkin: “You do not owe me anything. Somebody once helped me, just like now I am helping you. If you really want to pay me back, do not let this chain of love end with you“. The waitress found four more one-hundred-dollar bills under the napkin.
That night the waitress came home earlier than usual. She was thinking about the lady and the money she left. She was wondering, how the lady could possibly know how much she and her husband needed it, especially now, when the baby would be arriving soon. She knew that her husband worried about that, so she was glad to tell him good news. Then she kissed him and whispered “Now everything will be all right. I love you, Bryan Anderson“.
This story reminds me of story told to me by a church friend named George. If memory serves me correctly George was a pilot for an airline based out of Minneapolis. George and a group of friends went on an annual motorcycle trip. The group included men and women from all walks of life, many like George were professionals and in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. George talked about the way the group was looked at with suspicion as they entered restaurants for a meal. He said they walked in the door of any number of eating establishments and as they came in heads turned toward them and conversations ceased.
What a sight it must have been! Eight, Ten maybe Twelve men and women all dressed in riding gear – leather boots, leather pants or chaps, leather jackets, some with patches of various kinds affixed to their jackets, bandana’s around their necks, and skull caps on their heads. The riders come in, sit down, place their order and then bow their heads in prayer.
Not everyone is like us and most everyone forms opinions quickly. Imagine the stories told about this group entering a restaurant!
The past four weeks we used stories from the Bible to assist us in learning how to listen to, respect, affirm, and act for and with others.
Week one we heard about a blind beggar named Bartimaeus as we discussed hearing the voices on the edges. Jesus was among a crowd of people and this blind beggar calls out from the edge of the road “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me”! Even with some of the crowd trying to hush Bartimaeus Jesus heard him call out and having heard him Jesus had him brought to him. Jesus asked what he needed and responded by healing this man of blindness.
Listening is the first step to loving others.
The second week we read a piece of scripture from the book of Numbers. This story is about making right a wrong as it pertained to inheritance. A man dies and according to the laws of the times his assets were to go to his brother because he has only daughters, no son’s. The daughters speak-up bringing this wrong to the leaders which included Moses. Moses took a message to God asking for this law to be changed and it was. Moses listened and then took action to correct something that was wrong.
Taking appropriate action is the second step to take correct injustices, to correct that which is wrong.
The third week we read scripture from the book of Deuteronomy. This scripture focused on loving the stranger. The Israelites were strangers in Egypt. We all are strangers to others and others to us but that does not negate our need to love the stranger. God shows no partiality, has no favorites. Every person is equal in the eyes of God. We are called to include the stranger and to love the stranger.
17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe,
18 who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing.
19 You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Last week we brought it all together in a vision seen by the Apostle John and recorded in the book of Revelation. In this vision was a great multitude of people so large they could not be counted, and they were all gathered around the throne. The people gathered were from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, all standing before the throne of God. These are the people that join God in everlasting eternity. This vision demonstrates that all people are God’s chosen. Chosen people that are believers and followers, people that love God and loves others. People that followed and lived out the Great Commandment given to us by Jesus.
Our message today is based on the scripture from the book of Mark. In this piece of scripture we hear what Jesus called the greatest Commandment –
30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
The Bible is clear: as people made in God’s image, we are to treat the foreigner, the immigrant, the stranger with empathy, compassion, justice, and inclusion.
This sermon series both illustrates the foundation of God’s law and nature – unconditional love and justice- and also models specific ways to treat the foreigner: with dignity, with empathy, without prejudice, and by advocating on their behalf.
I will leave you with one last story.
Rebecca Manley Pippert concludes her book, Out of the Salt Shaker & into the World with this story.
When she first went to Portland, Oregon, to work with a campus ministry, she met a student named Bill. He was always disheveled in his appearance and he never wore shoes. Rain, sleet, or snow, Bill was always barefoot.
Bill became a Christian, but his appearance didn’t change. Near the campus was a church made up of mostly well-dressed, middle-class people. One Sunday, Bill decided to worship there. He walked into church with his messy hair, blue jeans, tee shirt, and barefoot. People looked a bit uncomfortable, but no one said anything. Bill began walking down the aisle, looking for a seat. But the church was quite crowded that day, so he got all the way down front without finding a seat. So he just plopped on the carpet, which was fine for a college Bible study, but a bit unnerving for this rather formal church. You could feel the tension in the air.
Suddenly, an elderly man began walking down the aisle toward Bill. Was he going to scold him about how you’re supposed to look when you come to church? People thought, “You can’t blame him for what he’s going to do. His world is far removed from that boy’s world for him to understand.”
As the man kept walking slowly down the aisle, all eyes were on him. You could hear a pin drop. When the man reached Bill, with some difficulty he lowered himself and sat down next to Bill on the carpet. He and Bill worshiped together on the carpet that day. There was not a dry eye in that church.
Prayer: Dear God, help us to see in the people all around us your beloved children, our beloved brothers and sisters. And let us love them as you have loved us and in this way return your love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Pastoral Prayer and The Lord’s Prayer
Lord, we have a tendency to wander in wildernesses of our own creating. When opportunities to serve you and to make commitments to your service are given, we consult our calendars to see if there is anything else we have to do. We place our needs and our schedules before our service to you. Help us to reorder our priorities. Help us to look again at the wonderful opportunities you give us to be of service to you by working with others; reaching out to heal and help. Bring us to the light of your love once again. Heal our wounded souls. Let us love you truly with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. Give us courage and persistence as disciples that your great love and glory may shine through our deeds of lovingkindness. In Jesus’ Name, we pray. AMEN.
And together in the name of Christ, 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 Help Us Accept Each Other
The first words of the Bible are about God’s own generosity. God gave us the gifts of a beautiful creation, our home, the good green earth and the animals that live here with us. On this spring morning, we come together to thank God and to offer our gifts so that the ministry of this church will continue to grow and be a blessing to the world. Let us gather our gifts together and offer them to God in gratitude and praise.
Prayer of Dedication
Lord, our Rock and Redeemer, thank you that you are infinitely, consistently, and perfectly wise. You have said that whatever we give is acceptable if we give it eagerly. You have said that we should give according to what we have. Help us to bring our offerings with an eager heart, not as a comparison with others but as an act of worship to you. May we find the comfort we desire in you and the strength we need in your name. May your presence be with us every hour of the day. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Hymn They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love
Benediction The pathway is open before you this day. It is a path of peace and hope, brought to others by God’s mighty love and wondrous blessings. Go in peace, bringing hope to all that you meet. Go, blessed ones, to serve God all your days. AMEN.