Augustine of Hippo said this about us. “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” He was speaking of our relationship to God and how that we are created for worship and for a relationship with God which nothing else can replace. Our own Book of Order describes worship as, “an awareness of God’s grace and claim upon our lives.
In his book on the great ends of the church Howard Rice says, “Public worship matters because it is the one time in the week when God’s people gather to acknowledge God’s presence in the world and in our lives, to remember our faith, to act out its meaning, to celebrate the good news in Christ, to respond to God’s claim on our lives and to receive the blessing of God. We worship because without worship we forget our identity and begin to believe the lies all around us; the false promises of advertising and the lure to accumulate more possessions. Without God, we are less than fully human. Because God created us in God’s own image, we are never more truly happy than when we are acting out our identity in praise, thanksgiving, and in acts of commitment. When we worship, we are most fully the people God intends us to be. As the church , we never act more like the church than when we worship. “
Rick Warren in his bestselling book, The Purpose Driven Life, says that we are created for worship. I think Warren is correct along with Augustine, Calvin, Wesley and many more who have observed and commented that we ignore worship to our peril and loss. Now, I am speaking of worship not merely church attendance though the two may be intertwined. To receive and develop a life in which worship is a key characteristic is to come to know God and to have ways of responding to God’s grace and mercy.
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth
Worship the Lord with gladness
Come before him with joyful songs
Know that the Lord is God
It is he who made us, and we are his
We are this people, the sheep of his pasture
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
And his courts with praise
Give thanks to him and praise his name
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever
His faithfulness continues through all generations
The record rains and flooding in Texas and several other areas have dominated our news this past week. Pictures and stories of rescues and the needs of Houston plus numerous other cities and counties have raised millions of dollars and motivated countless volunteers. There are many ways to respond and I encourage you to follow your heart in this matter.
One way is through the Presbyterian Church USA. Visit pcusa.org and you will see a donate now button. You can also scroll down on the opening page to “Compassion, Peace and Justice” and then look for Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. Or you can scroll down to “World Mission” and find links to give.
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) is our direct relief agency for such things as the Harvey Storm relief efforts. Part of the offering that we receive each Easter goes towards PDA. These same folks were part of the relief effort up here during the fires we have experienced over the last few years here in our own community and in Interior Alaska as well.
There will be Presbyterian relief efforts in the Houston area for years following this storm. Perhaps we can even take a mission team that direction. If interested please let me know. If you wish to give through our Sunday offerings, that can be done as well. Please mark your envelope or check for Harvey relief and we will send it on for you.
How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!
This is the first line of Psalm 133 which is the lectionary text for this week.
This week I have read a number of responses to last week’s violence in Charlottesville Virginia. Some have tried to convey their message through humor, some through use of video or illustration, some by use of scripture or quotes of various past leaders. The media has presented us with more information than can possibly be taken in even by the most zealous reader. I have been angered, challenged, brought to tears and laughter and made to think on and hear voices that come from a wide spectrum of our society. Different responses have focused on various and diverse aspects of the events in Charlottesville. Because of this and being coupled with some very different opinions on just what went wrong and what or who is to blame, we have a lot to think about if indeed we choose to respond.
One statement I will share with you comes from J Herbert Nelson II who is our current Stated Clerk of the PCUSA. You can find this on the pcusa.org web site as well as other materials to fight racism. You can also find some other PCUSA materials at FacingRacism.org .
J Herbert Nelson II says in part:
“White supremacy and racism stand in stark, irreconcilable contradiction to God’s intention for humanity. They reject part of the human family and are utterly contrary to God’s Word made incarnate in Jesus. They are idolatries that elevate human created hierarchies over God’s freely given grace and love. They are lies about the human family, for they seek to say that some people are less than other people. They are lies about God because they falsely claim that God favors some people over the entirety of creation.”
He goes on to say:
“By God’s grace may we remember the events in Charlottesville, repent of our acquiescence and failures; and renew our commitment to proclaim and live the good news of Jesus Christ. May that commitment lead us to stand against, speak against and work against racism and white supremacy, this day and every day. “
Alexis de Tocqueville was a French political scientist who wrote a book entitled ”Democracy in America” appearing in the 1830’s and 40’s. His observations concerning our country in its earlier years are considered insightful history and commentary.
I came across several of his quotes in my study this week on Romans 6: 12 – 23. As Alexis de Torqueville writes, “I think I see the whole destiny of America embodied in the first Puritan who landed on these shores.” In that first Puritan, de Tocqueville sees “freedom from“ popes, archbishops, and kings exercised as “freedom for” covenantal love of God and neighbor. This week in worship I will ask us to reflect upon our freedoms. I will speak about “Freedom From” and “Freedom For” in relations to the grace of God in Jesus Christ.
There are lines in the hymn “O Beautiful for Spacious Skies” that speak to this same idea that freedom is about being released from some things so that we may do other things. We have marvelous freedom in this country and we have some very real issues and problems. May we indeed let God our gold refine.
Some lines from the hymn mentioned above;
Who more than self their country loved and mercy more than life
God mend thine every flaw
Confirm thy soul in self control, thy liberty in law
May God thy gold refine
I haven't done a lot of special stuff on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day Sundays over the years seeing them as mostly secular holidays rather than religious events. However, this year I am going to be sharing from Hebrews 12 and speaking about my father, H. Earl Woodall, who passed away in early May. I believe that in so doing I can bring the Hebrews passage to some life and at the same time honor my father and let you learn a little more about him and about me too. I hope that you will come and join us this Sunday June 18 for Father’s Day. (If you missed this sermon you can find it here. Click on June 18, 2017.)
Hebrews 12: 5 – 7
“My Son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
Endure hardship as discipline, God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?
Psalm 98 ( selected verses )
Sing to the Lord a new song
For he has done marvelous things
He has remembered love
And his faithfulness to Israel
Shout for joy to the Lord , all the earth
Burst into jubilant song with music
I was able to learn a new song this week. With the help of Garth, Karen, Gary,
a few Brostes and Youtube. Wonderful tune and fantastic words became for me a devotional.
A time of remembering and resting in the love of God. I am sure we will share the song in the
coming months but for now it is held in my heart, voice and head, both gift and discipline.
I am blessed with times such as these with friends, colleagues and people of the church.
Also this week I participated in a lively discussion of scripture where the folks disagreed on some
points and agreed on several others. Passion and intellect were on full display and yet we all
walked away together, agreeing to meet again for our greater love is for Christ and his church
not mere our limited point of view. I am blessed with such times as these with friends, colleagues
and people of the church.
You are offered on a regular basis a place where tune and text, where word, passion and intellect
are important. A place where surely we have different opinions and yet find unity in our love of God, each other
and the church. Do not neglect this gift and discipline as it is a wonder when taken seriously. It is also a gift
and discipline sorely needed in our world. Certainly we must share the grace given to us.
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