September 18, 2016

A note: I switched around the lectionary Psalm for Oct. 2 to today because I felt it fit my theme better.

Links of Interest/Bibliography:

A couple of different renditions of “By The Rivers of Babylon”

Working Preacher:

A Plain Account
Blooming Cactus
Old Testament Lectionary (from from the Uniting Church in Australia)
Mental Health Care & The Church (from the North Carolina Council of Churches)

Wikipedia:

The Babylonian Shitstem (by the good folks at The Hardest Question)
Who’s Who in the Bible?
Feasting on the Word
Jerome Bible Commentary (my version is A LOT older! lol it was a gift from a special minister, who happened to have inherited it from his mentor)

Worship Outline (which we rearranged mid-worship, we had two baptisms!)

St. Luke’s United Church

September 18th, 2016

Hymn                     All Things Bright and Beautiful                          VU 291     Words of Welcome and Announcements
Centering & Lighting the Christ Candle
Hymn                     Like a Healing Stream                                         MV 144
Call to Worship
One: Worship is often a time to celebrate all that is good and right in the world. Worship is also a time to ignite our Holy Anger.  Sometimes worship is a time of lament or confession.
All: In worship, we acknowledge our feelings and seek grace and compassion from each other when needed or joy and inspirational passion to energize us.
One: Worship is a time of personal transformation and community building.
All:  By willingly listening to each other and sharing honestly, the Holy Spirit fills this space.
One: And so we worship.
All: Let us worship.

Opening Prayer
May this time of worship be filled with both joy and lament.  May we be filled with tender moments of the Sacred and renewed with the excitement of what can be when we trust in the Spirit. Amen.             

Baptism
(Adapted from A Song of Faith and Celebrate God’s Presence)
In grateful response to God’s abundant love,
we bear in mind our integral connection
to the earth and one another;
we participate in God’s work of healing and mending creation.

To point to the presence of the holy in the world,
the church receives, consecrates, and shares
visible signs of the grace of God.

In company with the churches
of the Reformed and Methodist traditions,
we celebrate two sacraments as gifts of Christ:
baptism and holy communion.

In these sacraments the ordinary things of life
—water, bread, wine—
point beyond themselves to God and God’s love,
teaching us to be alert
to the sacred in the midst of life.

Before conscious thought or action on our part,
we are born into the brokenness of this world.
Before conscious thought or action on our part,
we are surrounded by God’s redeeming love.

Baptism by water in the name of the Holy Trinity
is the means by which we are received, at any age,
into the covenanted community of the church.

It is the ritual that signifies our rebirth in faith
and cleansing by the power of God.

Baptism signifies the nurturing, sustaining,
and transforming power of God’s love
and our grateful response to that grace.

Presentation of Candidates
On behalf of the congregation of St. Luke’s United Church,
I present the following persons
for initiation into the body of Christ through baptism:
Oliver Samuel Houghton
Evan Conrad

Do you believe in God, Source of love;
in Jesus Christ, love incarnate;
and in the Holy Spirit, love’s power.
I do, by the grace of God.

Will you follow in the way of Jesus Christ,
resisting oppression and evil, seeking justice,
and witnessing to God’s love for all creation?
I will, God being my helper.

Will you join
with your brothers and sisters in this community of faith
to celebrate God’s presence, live with respect in creation,
and love and serve others?
I will, God being my helper.

Will you share your faith with Oliver/Evan
growing with him in faith, hope, and love?
I will, God being my helper.

Each of us knows the need for support and care
as we share in a journey of faith.

As this family gathers around this font and this water,
symbols of belonging and community,
let us pledge our care for them.
All: We stand as witnesses to the commitment this family has made this day.
And we pledge ourselves to their support and care
as they discover the ways that the Spirit
unfolds for them
. (G Vosper)

Affirmation of Faith (taken from A Song of Faith)
Divine creation does not cease
   until all things have found wholeness, union, and integration
   with the common ground of all being.

As children of the Timeless One,
   our time-bound lives will find completion
   in the all-embracing Creator.

In the meantime, we embrace the present,
   embodying hope, loving our enemies,
   caring for the earth,
choosing life.

Grateful for God’s loving action,
   we cannot keep from singing.

Creating and seeking relationship,
   in awe and trust,
we witness to Holy Mystery who is Wholly Love.
Amen.

Pouring & Blessing the Water
Gracious and Holy God,
we bless you for the gift of life,
and, within it, the gift of water.
Over its unshaped promise your Spirit hovered at creation.
By water, comes the growth of the earth.
Through water, you led the children of Israel to freedom.
In the waters of the Jordan your Child Jesus was baptized.
Now may your Spirit be upon us and what we do,
that this water may be a sign for all of new life in Christ,
in whose name we pray.
Amen.

Oliver Samuel Houghton/Evan Conrad, I baptize you
in the name of the Father, Mother, the Source of Love
and of the Son, the Christ, the Beloved One
and of the Holy Spirit, Wisdom, the Power of Love
Amen.

May the blessing of Love
be with you today and always.
Amen.

Oliver/Evan, I mark you with the cross,
a sign of Love Incarnate.
Amen.

Laying On of Hands
Oliver/Evan, may the Holy Spirit, Love’s power,
guide you, inspire you, and work within you,
all the days of your life.
Amen.

Presentation of Candle and Scarf

Congregational Welcome
All: By one Spirit, we are all baptized into one body.
We are children of the one God,
Mother and Father of us all.
We welcome you into the community of faith.

Blessing:    May God’s Sheltering Wings                             MV 214

Biblical Polysporin

Readings: Jeremiah 8:18-9:1
Music Ministry: By the Rivers of Babylon (Psalm 137)

Band-Aid Solutions

Intro Paragraph: Why I like Jeremiah

I can’t help myself.  I like Jeremiah.  Some of his words, not all of them, but some of them, speak to me. The story itself, in the grand scheme of things is a story of resilience.  And I do love a good underdog story.

Jeremiah backstory

Prophet

So who was this “Jeremiah”?  Jeremiah was a young prophet between 627 to 597 before common era.  As a prophet Jeremiah was compelled to speak God’s truth to the people around him.  Unfortunately for Jeremiah, this meant telling the people – his friends – his family – that they were misbehaving.  Obviously, this did not make him very popular.  To make matters worse, Jeremiah was a visual person.  He loved to use metaphors or visual aids to drive home his point.  Sometimes when people come to sudden realizations, they become angry as a way to save face.  They were angry at Jeremiah a lot.

History up until this point in the book

Speeches for the people

Jeremiah has reluctantly understood his.  He is to go out and explain to the people that they have been going about worshipping God all wrong.  Some of this first section of the book is Jeremiah’s internal dialogue, or at least where he’s raging to himself or maybe it’s a frustrated conversational prayer and some of it is the words he says to the people, the message he delivers for God.

Jeremiah started out walking around town, shouting his message.  But people ignored him, made fun of him or reported him to the authorities.  His message just wasn’t making the impact he wanted.  So he moves to the temple gate, to shout from there.  And that’s where we find him: standing on the front steps of “the church” saying “you’re doing it wrong, you’re doing it wrong!!” and then crying to himself because the people still won’t listen.

The message he was implying

In what seems to be a manic state, Jeremiah who is filled with internal torment over if he should or if he shouldn’t deliver the unpopular message that if they don’t change their ways, the Temple itself will fall down around them.

Relying on the institution of worship Instead of the action of God

The people felt that because the Temple was in their town, and because they went to it, they would be safe.  Jeremiah was telling them that they needed to pay more attention to the laws which Moses had given them: Love God and Love People.  Jeremiah went to far as to point out which laws specifically they were ignoring – they weren’t being fair or honest with each other, they were taking advantage of the Come From Aways, they were killing innocent people, and placing importance over things rather than the acts of God.

Lament for the people who are relying on the temple instead of God

The particular section of Jeremiah that we just heard is one of lament.  Jeremiah is heart-broken that the people have not heard his message.  They are continuously being held captive and they have been so focused on God “rescuing” them from this awful war and asking God to do that, that they haven’t even seen the evidence of God around them.  They are so focused on what they think God looks like, that they cannot even fathom this simple solution that Jeremiah offers them. I guess they were expecting a man with a cape and an eye mask rather than a manic man shouting instructions and warnings from the temple gate.  Luckily Jeremiah did learn a different way to communicate his wisdom to the people, but they never really did understand him until much later.

The context for the people

This was quite an uncertain time for the Hebrew people.  They were caught between two waring kings, and many found themselves scooped up and exiled to Babylon as a way of enforcing loyalty.  Jeremiah couldn’t understand why they thought that simply going to the temple or have particular idols or offerings would save them from being exiled.  As an aside, I’d like to point out that there is absolutely nothing new about Middle Eastern conflict surrounding the occupation of Israel.

Balm of Gilead

All of this brings us to Jeremiah’s rhetorical question. “If medicine and doctors may be found in Gilead, why aren’t my people healed?”  No balm – polysporin or that of Gilead can heal an emotional wound.  Jeremiah feels like he might never stop crying.

Psalm 137 connection

The time frame connection: Babylonian Exile

Psalm 137, which we will hear an interpretation of later, is attributed to Jeremiah.  Despite what the popular Boney M would have you think, it’s not an uplifting song.  It’s a song of struggle.  It’s a song by the bullied.  It’s a song of revenge.  The last few verses censored in many churches.  I’ll let you look it up on your own. I chose to include it today because it is also about lament.  With both passages I can picture Jeremiah, with tears streaming down his face, filled with compassion for his sisters and brothers.

Healing tears

Feeling sorry for yourself

I’ll admit, I’m a crier.  I cry when I’m sad, angry, frustrated or happy and always when I’m feeling compassionate.  Basically, whenever words can’t express what I’m feeling.  Sometimes nothing feels better than a good cry.

Will tears fix anything?

Crying though doesn’t fix anything, other than to let the person I happen to be with that I’m at a loss for words.  In most of those situations though, words can’t fix anything either.  But if the tears can get me to a place where I can take a next step, then they are a necessary part of the process.  The same is true about lamentation in general.  It is a necessary part of the grief process, but dwelling there too long is not going to change anything.

Idols & band aid solutions

What was the real problem here?

Crying or lamenting is what’s called a “Band-Aid solution”. A solution that stops the bleeding but does not heal the wound, a quick fix, a superficial action, or something that draws attention away from the real problem.

What are idols?

The idols that Jeremiah was complaining about were a band-aid solution, as was the temple itself.  When the Hebrew people were looking for protection from being exiled, they convinced themselves that going to Temple would keep them safe, when they hadn’t done any of the work of building relationships with other – new – people.  When it became obvious that the temple wasn’t keeping them safe, they stuck idols in there.  I’m not sure what they were, but they were probably pleasing to the eye.  They offered sacrifices to the idols to make them happy.  Now surely they’d be safe!  Even Jeremiah fell victim to the Band-Aid solution with the Psalm.  Revenge wasn’t going to change what happened.  Making the captors feel what he felt wouldn’t change the fact that the Hebrew people had been exiled.  It didn’t even keep people from being exiled in the future.

The real solution

What is resilience?

The real solution for the Hebrew people and so it would seem in many situations is resilience.  The ability to get up, and start again, no matter how many times you get knocked down.  Not necessarily starting again on the exact same path – that would be insanity, but with the ultimate goal in sight.

Hope’s Role

There are many theories on how to grow resilience.  I don’t know how many of them are valid.  What I do know, is that hope plays a large role.  If I can still see that goal, if it seems even the tiniest bit closer, even if I can see that there might be another path that could potentially lead to the goal, I’ll get up and give it another try.

Where are you in this story?

Where are you in this whole story?  What are you lamenting? Are you being held captive, unable to see the God opportunities in front of you?  Are you waiting for any super heros? Can you see even the faintest glimmer of hope?

Hymn                     There Is a Balm in Gilead                                    VU 612

Minute for Mission
Offering Invitation
We give from a place deep within our hearts.  A gift from the heart is always a most welcome gift.
Offering
Offertory  Called by Earth and Sky                   MV 135 (refrain, v2, refrain)
Offering Prayer
May these gifts and those given through PAR inspire movement of the Spirit or become a balm for someone in need.  Amen.

Prayer Music:       Take, O Take Me as I Am                                    MV 85
Prayers of the People & Prayer of Jesus
During the Prayer of Jesus, you are invited to use the translation and language of your choice.  A variety of translations and expressions of the Prayer of Jesus (also known as The Lord’s Prayer) can be found in Voices United pages 921-927.

Commissioning and Benediction

Musical Blessing  Spirit God, Be Our Breath                                  MV 150  v2

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