Hurricane Irma has encouraged us to worship differently this Sunday. Instead of gathering in one place, please use technology (phone or Skype) to connect with a friend.
Call to Worship Based on Psalm 148
Praise the LORD.
Sing to the LORD a new song in the assembly of the saints.
Let Israel rejoice in their Maker;
Let the people of Zion be glad in their King.
Let them praise God’s name with dancing and make music to the Lord with tambourine and harp.
For the LORD takes delight in the people; God crowns the humble with salvation.
Let the saints rejoice in this honor and sing for joy.
May the praise of God be in their mouths and a double-edged sword in their hands, to carry out God’s sentence.
This is the glory of all God’s saints.
Praise the LORD.
Hymn “O God Our Help in Ages Past”
1 Our God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come,
our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home:
2 Under the shadow of your throne your saints have dwelt secure;
sufficient is your arm alone, and our defense is sure.
3 Before the hills in order stood or earth received its frame,
from everlasting you are God, to endless years the same.
4 A thousand ages in your sight are like an evening gone,
short as the watch that ends the night before the rising sun.
5 Time, like an ever-rolling stream, soon bears us all away;
we fly forgotten, as a dream dies at the opening day.
6 Our God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come,
still be our guard while troubles last, and our eternal home!
Prayer of Confession 1
Merciful God, deliver us from hurtful disagreements and irreconcilable differences. Turn us away from the death sin inflicts and lead us into the abundant life that Christ brings.
Forgive us, we pray, and teach us to forgive, through Jesus Christ. Amen.
Moment of silent reflection …
Assurance of Pardon
Hear this good news! Who is in a position to condemn us? Only Christ; and Christ died for us, Christ rose for us, Christ reigns in power for us, Christ prays for us.
Anyone who is in Christ is a new creation. The old life has gone; a new life has begun.
In Jesus Christ we are forgiven and raised to new life.
Thanks be to God. Alleluia, Amen!
First Scripture Reading: Matthew 18:15-20 (CEV)
Second Scripture Reading: Romans 13:8-14 (NRSV)
Love one another today!
A store owner once asked me: “When will Christ come again? When would this current age would end?”
“To get to your store and when I leave to continue home,” I replied, “I must cross that highway in front of your store. There is a traffic light, but if the brakes on one of those coal trucks should fail as they come down that hill, they are not going to stop regardless of the color of the traffic light. Should I be crossing at that moment, then at least for me, this age would end.”
The store owner laughed at my answer.
Life is surprisingly fragile. That we can get through dozens of days without a scratch makes us unaware of the risks that each day presents. What if the driver of a car should choose to answer a text message or phone call rather than watch you make a turn? What if a manufacturing defect should leave a deadly bacterium in your dinner?
When the Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Romans disciples interpreted his urgent appeals that Christ would come soon, perhaps within Paul’s life.
And understanding the time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.
— Romans 13:11
If you knew that Christ would come soon how might you live your life differently?
Love is NOT a transaction
Paul’s solution is simple:
Owe no one anything,
except to love one another,
for the one who loves the other has fulfilled the law.
— Romans 13:8
The Christian love advocated by Paul is not adoration, as in: “I love ice cream.” Christian love is not does not yield a debt of gratitude. For example if I buy your child’s Girl Scout cookies, you might feel obliged to buy my child’s Cub Scout popcorn. That is not love. That is a business transaction. Christian love is far more difficult. It is closer to ‘charity.’ Christian love allows for connecting with someone you don’t even like, perhaps even a foe. Christian love flows from a transformation “by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect” (c.f. Romans 12:2).
Love honors God.
Christian love cannot be repaid, only shared, and in sharing love is multiplied.
Christian love honors God.
For the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. — Romans 13:8
A missionary from the Philippines taught me their custom of bowing toward each other as a sign of honoring the image of God that each person bears. One congregation adopted this practice as a means of passing the peace when virus germs made shaking hands risky.
If we truly recognize God in one another the Ten Commandments become easy.
Love, don’t merely like
Love does no wrong to another, therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.
— Romans 13:10
Paul regularly uses the Greek word for love that might also be translated as ‘charity.’ Thus one may ‘love’ one’s neighbor without feeling anything positive toward him or her.
Nikka, a six year old, phrased it this way: “If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate.”
Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day,
— Romans 13:12
Light, even lasers, provides no physical protection. Paul called Christ’s followers to love radically; even risking one’s life for an enemy.
Billy, age four, puts it this way: “When someone loves you, the way they say your name is safe in their mouth.”
Thus my question for this week: Would an enemy know that you love Christ by how you say his or her name?
Prayers of the People 1
We thank you, Christ, for calling us to live honorably with one another and pray for your grace as we try to do all that you require of us. Increase in us, we pray, the capacity to love you and our neighbors without reserve and to love even those who harm us.
We remember before you those who are at odds with one another in families, in neighborhoods or offices, and even in the church. Help us to speak the truth and to listen with understanding when perspectives are far apart. Lord in your mercy, Hear our prayer.
We pray for nations in the midst of internal or external struggles and conflict. Teach us, O God, to seek nonviolent ways toward resolution. We pray for love to bring peace into every troubled heart and place.
We remember our neighbors who opened their homes, houses of worship, and hearts to give shelter in wind and rain ravaged communities. We remember First Responders and volunteers who embody your love in a hurting world. Lift all of these heavy burdens with your light and peace, we pray.
We remember before you those who have physical needs today. People who are hungry and thirsty; people who are exhausted by the demands of work or care-giving; people who are sick, or undergoing surgery; and people who live with chronic pain. Bring relief and rest, we pray.
We remember before you not only our cares, but also our joys—a birthday celebrated, an anniversary enjoyed; new beginnings—a baby born, a roof over our heads, a new job, a new relationship. We thank you, O God, for the gift of laughter, for enduring friendships, and for cherished memories.
We give thanks that with you there is always a new beginning, always a hope beyond hope, and always life beyond death.
And now let us pray as Jesus us taught us, saying: Our Father …
“My God, my rock in whom I take refuge.” Psalm 18:2
As the floodwaters in Texas only begin to recede, new devastation has arrived in the Caribbean, with Hurricane Irma closing in on Florida and additional storms developing in the Atlantic.
Members of PDA’s National Response Team are currently in Texas and the Gulf region, assessing damage, providing aid, and offering spiritual and emotional care for those impacted by the devastating winds and floods of Harvey. Even in the midst of that aftermath, PDA is working with its partners to provide relief to those in the wake of Hurricane Irma, and reaching out to networks in its path. This category 5 hurricane carries sustained winds of 180 mph, and is expected to remain a category 4 or 5 storm as it proceeds through the Caribbean, toward the United States. As people in Barbuda, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Florida and other areas nearby begin digging out from the storm or bracing for this storm’s impact, PDA is already engaged.
In this season of devastating storms — the likes of which are rarely seen — will you help us expand our witness to the compassionate Christ by standing in the GAP?
Support Presbyterian Disaster Assistance’s emergency response and long-term recovery work in the areas affected. Gifts can be designated in two ways: Hurricane Harvey (DR000169-Harvey) and Atlantic Regional Hurricanes (DR000194). You can also give with a credit card by visiting presbyterianmission.org/GIVE-Harvey or by phone at 800-872-3283.
Put together Gift of the Heart kits for survivors in the affected areas — hygiene kits and cleanup buckets are especially needed. For more information, go to pda.pcusa.org/page/kits/.
Contact the PDA Call Center to be notified of volunteer opportunities. Call 866-732-6121 or email email@example.com.
Learn how your congregation can help families who have lost everything in the devastation. Stay informed and like us on Facebook or visit pda.pcusa.org. Be sure to share updates with your congregation.
Please also remember this congregation. Our bills continue to come in even when violent storms might keep you from coming to our door.
Hymn: O God, We’ve Prayed in Wind and Rain 2
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O God, we’ve prayed in wind and rain and now we pray once more
For those who felt the hurricane and heard the waters roar.
We pray for those who watched the storm destroy the life they knew,
Who wait in shelters, tired and worn, and wonder what to do.
We thank you, God, for acts of love not bound by race or creed,
For hands that reach across the flood to all who are in need.
We pray for others far away who’ve seen destruction, too;
We look beyond ourselves, for they are also loved by you.
We pray that leaders of our land will heed creation’s cry,
And bravely care and take a stand for earth and sea and sky.
Where rains flood cities, homes and towns may we go out to be
A witness that your love abounds in each community.
God of our salvation, we know what time it is
— time to wake from sleep and turn from selfishness.
Connect us with your love with neighbors near and far
so we might show hope in the Lord Jesus Christ
through this storm and all the storms of life.
1 – Permission is granted to churches to reprint individual prayers and liturgical texts for worship provided that the following notice is included: Reprinted by permission of Westminster John Knox Press from Feasting on the Word® Worship Companion. Copyright 2014. With adaptations.
Alternative Tune: ST. ANNE CM Attr. William Croft, 1708 (“Our God, Our Help in Ages Past”).
Text: Copyright © 2017 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.carolynshymns.com
Permission is given for free use in local churches to support the relief efforts.“O God, We’ve Prayed in Wind and Rain” was written in response to severe storms — Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana and even more devastating flooding in Nepal, India, and Bangladesh (1,200 deaths and 41 million people impacted in the Asian storms). We pray for those who are suffering, give thanks to the many who have responded, and pray for continuing efforts to help in comforting and rebuilding.