ORDER OF WORSHIP
* The Order of Worship is changing for the Afterfaith series. We appreciate your indulgence of this change to the routine.
- Greeting & Announcements – Rev. Val
- Call to Worship, and Opening Prayer – Rev. Val & Congregation
- Gloria Patri (UMH 70)
- Holy Troublemaker Biography
- Hymn: Holy Spirit, Come, Confirm Us (UMH 331)
- Pastoral Prayer – Rev. Val
- Scripture Readings – Rev. Val
- Hymn: We Met You, O Christ (UMH 257)
- Message: Identity – Rev. Val
- Hymn: We Pray For Peace (Songsheet)
- Offertory Prayer – Rev. Val
- Doxology (UMH 95)
- Benediction – Rev. Val
WELCOME, CALL TO WORSHIP, & OPENING PRAYER
The business meeting previously scheduled for after worship this morning will be moved to next Sunday. Sue is not feeling well, and I would ask that you keep her in your prayers. I do ask that you plan on staying for just a few moments after service this morning as there is an activity decision that we need to make.
Ash Wednesday is this week. I will be here at the church from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. to provide imposition of the ashes. You can arrive any time during that period to receive the ashes. I’ll be doing this out in front of the Sanctuary. It is not weather dependent, but it is, for lack of a better description, drive-through style, so you will not need to get out of your vehicles. For those who would like to come inside and pray on Wednesday, the Sanctuary will be open during those same hours.
Lent also begins on Wednesday. Lent is a time of reflection, lasts 40 days, ending on Palm Sunday, and traditionally includes fasting and prayer. I realize we are not Catholic, however, Pope Francis has called for the followers of Christ to fast and pray for peace in Ukraine on Ash Wednesday and I encourage you to do so, not with a “chocolate free” kind of fast, but with serious fasting from sunset Tuesday until sunset Wednesday.
Watch both your email and the Facebook page for updated information on activities during Lent and Holy Week. I hope to have them out by the end of the week.
I also want to take a moment to thank Robert Cohen of Maryville who donated a copier and two cases of copy paper to us over the weekend!
Call to Worship
L: Beyond our busyness, above the cold winter floor there is a glory rising born of heaven and reaching out to each one of us;
P: a light that shines through the clouds, an invitation seeking all of who we are that transfigures the world;
L: that transforms darkness into hope, that brings life from a cross where old life ends, and new life is born.
P: In glory Jesus meets us here, raising us from depths of valley to the height of the mountain, carrying the weight of our humanity to the heights of heaven’s glory.
L: Let us worship from the mountain and hear again, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” Let us worship the God who gathers us as we pray together:
God of all Creation here and in the heavens above, as your Son was transfigured on the mountain top, lead us to be transformed, Christ in us, to be his hands and feet and to live into the calling you have made upon us through the guidance and help of the Spirit you have sent us.
Holy Troublemaker – Jesus of Nazareth (0-33 AD)
Teacher, Rabbi, Son of God, Messiah, Lord
By age two or three, he caused the sages and magi of far eastern empires to drop to their knees and offer him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. His very existence would ultimately cause an empirical ruler to order the execution of all male children under two years of age, forcing his parents to seek refuge in a distant land to protect him.
By age twelve, he was deliberating Torah with religious leaders in the Temple.
At approximately age thirty he began what would become a world changing ministry. For three years, he defied social and religious norms by living, teaching, and ministering to the poor, the unclean, the outcast. When he chose those he would teach and work the most closely with, he looked past their birthright, position, and problems to the potential he knew they had and built upon their potential.
His care and concern for others was never limited by origin, race, religion, gender, or socio-economic status.
He fearlessly faced religious leaders who constantly challenged his teachings, actions, and authority, not by telling them they were wrong but by countering their questions with his own in a way that revealed to them their own inaccuracies and misinterpretations.
The Way he taught us is one of non-violence and of what we now call social justice – to treat others as we want to be treated, to love one another as we have been loved, to love our enemies and those who persecute us, to serve one another, especially the least among us, to always love God with our whole heart, our whole mind, and all our strength, and to focus on building God’s kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.
And even though we have repeatedly failed at the tasks he gave us, he willingly gave his life for us and for all, even those who would never know him. Jesus of Nazareth, Teacher, Son of Man and Son of God, Messiah, God With Us, the Risen Christ, the Prince of Peace, the most Holy Troublemaker.
Holy and loving God – whose nature and ways are far beyond our understanding, we thank you for the gift of your Son Jesus – who lets us see your face in his, who shows us your love in his actions, your grace in his manner of being. In him too, O God, we see ourselves as you would have us be and as your power is able to make us. Make us more like him now, we pray…
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer……
Lord – we often find ourselves weary, tired out by a load of care, a heap of responsibility and concern. We hunger and thirst, and often fail to stop to eat and drink at the table you have prepared for us. Lord, we are here now – and we ask you – grant us a glimpse of your glory – fill us with your spirit – refresh us and make us new …
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer……
Loving God, we pray that your glory may fill your church and give to your people everywhere the energy to shine wherever there is darkness, disunity, persecution, or despair…
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer……
Father, we pray for those we named in our sharing time and for all those whose names are upon our hearts. Grant to them health and wholeness, peace and joy, strength and hope… We remember before you:
(intercessions and petitions as shared in sharing time)
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer……
Dearest Lord, whatever else You see that we need—whatever is for the good of our neighbor and redounds to Your glory—we pray that You would grant to us, Your children. We ask it Jesus’ name who taught us to 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. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever.
Open the eyes of our understanding and prepare our hearts by the power of Your Spirit, that we may receive Your scriptures with much joy and rejoicing and may leave today having a deeper understanding of who You are and who You would have us to be.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
(All passages are from the New Revised Standard Version)
2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2 – Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside.
But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside.
Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.
Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.
We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.
Luke 9:28-36, (37-43a) – Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white.
Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.
Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.
Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” — not knowing what he said.
While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud.
Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”
When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.
On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him.
Just then a man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him.
I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.”
Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.”
While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.
And all were astounded at the greatness of God.
Micah 6:8 – He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
The scriptures of God for the People of God.
Thanks be to God.
MESSAGE – Identity
Citations are included in the transcript.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. Amen.
As We Breathe The Breath of Heaven
There is an unknowing, an unlearning
Our preconceptions are unraveled, unwoven, untied, and frayed in your Presence
We are undone
Our very molecules, naked, on the verge of being unmade
Nothing we have or are avails us
But for your love
Drawing and welcoming us into our unmaking, our unknowing
our rebirth in you
Your breath recreates us in your welcoming
Our acceptance, our belonging, in your eternal embrace of love,
So we pause time
and enter in
to be woven with the threads of eternal life
the eternal character
of God moving through our heart, soul, and sinew
transforming the very earth we walk upon
We bear your Presence O Lord.
~ Bob Holmes #comeintothequiet
Of today’s passage from the Gospel of Luke, Mary C. Earle of Upper Room Disciplines wrote, “Peter, John, and James have accompanied their friend and teacher up the mountain for time apart. Jesus wants to pray—to be with the One who has sent him. He also senses the need to bring these companions. No doubt we have this story of what happens on that mountain because of those three. At some point, they told of the wonder they had beheld.
In the depths of prayer, the uncreated light of life shines forth from Jesus. That light has been there all along. But now, in this moment on the mountain, the three disciples receive the stunning gift of seeing the truth of their friend’s being. They see his glory. Their eyes are filled with divine radiance. Their skin is warmed by this phenomenal light.
They are invited to receive this gift of revelation, and they are transfigured by wonder. The events on the mountain shift their perceptions. Yes, this is Jesus their teacher. Yes, this is Jesus their friend. Yes, this is the companion who has told them stories over dinner. And Jesus is also the Anointed One. He is also the One for whom the whole world longs, for whom we are created.
The change in Jesus’ face, a face that is loving and compassionate, will remain in the disciples’ memory. As they remember and feed on the memory, they will also be changed. Each one, in his own way, will be led to serve in love. Each one, in his own way, will shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory. And so will we.”
This is the transforming power of Christ … that, when we make the conscious choice of dying to ourselves and instead letting Christ live in us, we too will be changed.
We’ve spent several weeks now looking at all the things that can cause us to question our beliefs and those of whatever faith tradition we’ve been following. We’ve looked at the history of mass deconstruction movements within the larger church, and we’ve looked at what can trigger deconstruction both personally and as a body of believers.
We’ve set some guidelines and goals for how to sort through the rubble of our beliefs and decide what we need to keep, what we need to take a closer look at, and what we need to dispose of because it violates another of our passages this morning … the passage from Micah. And, if you think about it, we’ve been focused on all those things that can help guide us for well over a year, long before we started meeting in-person since the majority of our worship each week has focused on the life and teachings of Christ.
What happens now for each of you is up to each of you. In other words, you choose what you build with the bricks you’ve elected to keep. It is my prayer that you will choose to build a new and more pure Afterfaith in Christ.
It will not be easy. It is a life of service and sacrifice, of prayer and penitence, and of taunting and temptation. The world will constantly try to suck you back into its grip. You will constantly struggle with natural reactions like “fight or flight,” constantly struggle to tame your tongue and search for words that calm rather than incite. You will be called to stand up to and speak truth to power when you know that power is acting in a way that brings harm, delivers injustice, or denies God’s true will for his children.
You will begin to understand many of the scriptures through your own lived experience. There will be friends and family who don’t believe at all, who believe in a vastly different way, who will ridicule you for the way you believe, and even some who will denounce your beliefs and God altogether, and when they do it will both hurt and anger you.
You will find yourself called to serve and minister to people you never in your wildest dreams expected to interact with and, while it will be difficult at first, you will grow to love them more than yourself.
You will continue to stumble and fall, to struggle and fail, and to wrestle with those deep questions. You will continue to have time when no matter how hard you try, you can’t hear God and fear He has abandoned you, but you will also find you hear him more easily and more clearly than ever before.
You’ll find more and more often that certain words and phrases associated with your beliefs make you cringe because they’ve been co-opted and convoluted by insincere and disingenuous actors on the world’s stage; words like “Christianity” … especially with regard to American Christianity … and Evangelical even though Methodists are evangelical … and sometimes even Christian … especially when it is used as a description of something that, if I’ve done my job well in teaching you, you will know is nothing even remotely resembling anything Christ-like.
And you will continue to doubt yourself, your own choices, and your own motives even while you’re doubting those bad actors.
Stephen Mattson, author and activist, writes about the before, during and after of deconstruction, and has some advice for you: “1) Christ is perfect but “Christianity” is not. Don’t mistake Christian Culture as God, they aren’t the same thing. Churches, pastors, theologians, and other believers will inevitably fail you, but Jesus never will.
2) It’s OK to change your beliefs. You’ll never have Christianity fully figured out. You won’t have an answer for everything. Theology is a journey, a Pilgrim’s Progress. Life, relationships, and experiences form, shape, and change the way you see, experience, and understand God. The disciples didn’t understand God much of the time, and you probably won’t either.
3) Christianity Isn’t Easy. It doesn’t magically fix things, make you more popular, wealthy, or healthier. In reality, it’s not a form of escapism but a lifelong process of dedication, service, sacrifice, and humbly loving others. It’s very, very, very hard, and not for the faint of heart.
4) Christianity Is Complex. Nobody believes the same thing. There are hundreds of denominations. Doctrines, practices, and traditions are as varied as the people that represent them. This diversity of faith should be appreciated and celebrated. The goal of Christianity isn’t conformity, but an honest and intimate relationship with God.
5) Christianity is ultimately about loving God and loving others. It should never be co-opted by a political movement, a religious institution, gaining power, obtaining control, spreading influence, enforcing laws, or becoming rich and famous. It’s about a loving relationship with God, and loving all humanity created in God’s divine image—never let anything supersede this. …
Christians should regularly ask themselves, “Is my faith more a reflection of my political, cultural, and socio-economic values and actions, or a reflection of the values and actions of Christ?” … When you claim to be a Christian, you are claiming to reflect the very person of Jesus, publicly declaring that his Spirit abides within you. So when someone claims to be a Christian but commits acts of hate, violence, or oppression using their faith as a rationale, they are taking God’s name in vain by committing the worst type of sacrilege: facilitating evil in the name of God.”
But … ultimately … through steady and prayerful determination, dedication, and devotion, through a willingness to become wet clay in the Potter’s hands, you will be molded and shaped into a new creation, and you will know joy and a peace that passes all understanding. You will change, be transformed just as Christ was transfigured on that mountain top, to such a degree that even when you come down off the mountain and back into the dark valley below, the radiance of Christ in you will more than light your way and the way for those around you. And that is the goal. Not only is it the goal, it is our greatest hope.
In the passage from 2 Corinthians, Paul tells us that with that kind of hope to excite us, nothing holds us back. Unlike Moses, we have nothing to hide. Everything is out in the open with us. Moses wore a veil so the children of Israel wouldn’t notice that the glory was fading away—and the children of Israel didn’t notice. They didn’t notice it then and they don’t notice it now, don’t notice that there’s nothing left behind that veil. Even today when the proclamations of that old, bankrupt government are read out, they can’t see through it. Only Christ can get rid of the veil so they can see for themselves that there’s nothing there.
Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are—face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.
And that, friends, is good news … the best news. So, to sum up this series, choose your bricks wisely and rebuild your beliefs carefully, thoughtfully, and sturdily and in such a way that your Afterfaith is filled with Christ in you.
O God, the Ruler of all the universe, we approach your throne with awe as we consider your majesty. You, the mighty sovereign of all the world, have established justice and righteousness. We worship at your footstool and praise your great and awesome Name.
You are the Holy One of Israel; your greatness is beyond our ability to understand. Your righteousness is so pure that we dare not look upon your face. But our minds are hardened to you, and a veil covers our minds. Our self-reliance leads us astray and we deserve your wrath for our sin. But you have shown yourself to be a forgiving God. Forgive us now, that we may approach your mountain once more.
As your Spirit enabled our forebears to see your glory and then be transformed, so may the Holy Spirit fill us once more. Empower us to come down from the mountaintop to complete the work you have given us to do.
It is hard to walk in the valley once we have been to the mountain, yet here is where most of our lives are lived. We encounter those who have been wounded by illness that destroys the body, disturbs the mind and upsets the soul. Make them and us whole in this life or in the next.
Many before have cried to you, and you answered them. So now answer us as we call in the name of Jesus Christ your Son and our Lord who reigns forever. [i]
Hear our prayers for all those who will die today because of war in Ukraine and other war-torn countries all over this world. Grant them an end to the suffering of this world and eternal peace that is only found in You.
We pray for the people of Ukraine, Russia, and all nations — that war and bloodshed can be avoided and a new, just peace can be forged out of this crisis. We ask God grant wisdom to the leaders of nations, calling them to end provocation on all sides and invest instead in “the things that make for peace” as called for in all our faith traditions (Luke 19:41-2).
We pray for an end to the deep insecurity and mistrust on all sides, and call on leaders to build trust, based not on military might or alliances, but on the basis of our shared future and common humanity. Now is a time in which past harm should be acknowledged and addressed, and new partnerships can be envisioned.
We pray for and call on our leaders to have the courage to take small, verifiable, and independent steps toward peace, inviting others to reciprocate. Now is time to invest in conflict resolution, diplomacy and international cooperation — not more weapons which only escalate tension in the region.
Be with those suffering in ways that we cannot.
Protect them from devastation in ways those positioned in authority will not. Shield and comfort them as they confront the terror of violence that surrounds them. Hold them close to your heart and stay the hand of the enemies against them. Give us the courage and the strength to cry aloud against wickedness in high places that dare to harm others made in your image.
Comfort the children and heed their cries to be saved from harm in this world.
Make us a people who love our children, all of our children, more than we love greed, power, and control. Overturn governments of tyranny wherever they are found. Disrupt the intentions of evil and give us power to stand against demonic forces of greed and control. Grant that peace and justice come to warring nations by the hands of those courageous enough to stand and study war no more. Let Thy kin-dom come on earth as it is in heaven, we pray.
In Jesus’ name, Amen. [ii]
Now if you will please turn in your bulletins to page 5 and for those of you worshipping online, click the link to the Hymn, “We Pray for Peace,” the text of this hymn was written especially as a prayer for the Ukraine conflict by Carol Winfrey Gillette. Ms. Gillette wrote it to the tune of Finlandia. You may know that tune from the Hymn, “This Is My Song,” another beautiful peace hymn. Today, as we sing this, please keep the Ukraine Conflict in your heart and hold the people of the Ukraine, the anti-war protesters in Russia, and the soldiers on both sides that are serving at the pleasure of their respective leaders in your prayers. Let’s sing.
[i] (Timothy J. Crouch, OSL, Nancy B. Parks, OSL, Chris E. Visminas, Mark R. Babb, OSL, And Also With You: Worship Resources Based on the Revised Common Lectionary Year C, (OSL Publications, 1994), 41.)
[ii] (A Prayer for Ukraine and the World, from the National Officers of the United Church of Christ)
Please join me in a prayer for our gifts this morning:
Transforming God, we come to your altar this morning, knowing that in our giving and in our living, we have often put “just enough” into living our faith so as not to impact our lifestyle or cause too much discomfort. We have been reluctant to let go of our affinity for the things of this world; and in our attachments, we have often missed the opportunity for the transformed lives you desire for us. May our offering this morning be an invitation to living a life radically transformed by your power, love, and grace. We pray this in the mighty love of Jesus.
Adapted from Pope John Paul II’s “Prayer for Peace”
Now hear this benediction:
May Jesus Christ, who is the Prince of Peace, who is our peace and reconciliation, and who so often said, “Peace be with you,” grant us peace.
May God the Father, God the Son, and Got the Holy Spirit make you witnesses of truth, justice, and brotherly love, and banish from your hearts whatever might endanger peace.
May our rulers be enlightened by God in such a way that they guarantee and defend the great gift of peace.
May all peoples on the earth become as brothers and sisters.
May longed for peace blossom forth and reign always over us all.
Go forth in peace to love and serve the Lord.
- All works cited within the text above.
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