image-title

Bells of Joy will complete this season on Sunday, May 24 at the 11:10 a.m. service with a jazzy bluegrass version of an old hymn, “No Dark Valley,” arranged by Michael J. Glasgow. Besides
the five octaves of handbells played by the bell choir, Frank Nifong will accompany us on fiddle, and students from R. J. Reynolds High School and UNCSA will play fiddle,
mandolin and double bass to share the joy in the old hymn that says, “There’ll be no dark valley when Jesus comes/ to gather His loved ones home.”

That’s the end of this season for handbells. We will return to play in September!

If you are a former handbell ringer or you just love the beautiful music of the bells and chimes and would be interested in learning how to play, please contact Donna Cartner, director, at bells@newphilly.org. Bells of Joy practice each Wednesday at 5 p.m. and play for worship each month from September to May and for special occasions.

Read More
image-title

Moravian Church of America, Southern Province 2015 Days of Prayer

Ash Wednesday February 18 ~ Home Moravian Church
The Reverend Dr Dianne Lipsett , Professor of Religion – Salem College
10:00 AM Coffee Hour 10:45 Music 11:00 Worship, Nursery Provided

Sunday February 22 ~ Christ Moravian Church
The Reverend Dr. Daniel Crews
4:00 PM Lovefeast, Nursery Provided

Wednesday February 25 ~ Trinity Moravian Church
The Reverend Peggy Haymes Author, Counselor
11:00 Worship, Nursery Provided
12:00 Noon Luncheon

Wednesday March 4 ~Ardmore Moravian Church
The Reverend Jon Boling
9:45 Coffee Hour
10:45 AM Meditation/Music
11:00 Worship

Wednesday March 11 ~ Calvary Moravian Church
The Reverend Andrew Heil
9:45 AM Coffee Hour
10:45 AM Meditation/Music
11:00 Worship, Nursery Provided

Wednesday March 18 ~ Fairview Moravian Church
The Rt. Rev. Wayne Burkette
10:45 AM Music
11:00 Worship with Communion
Luncheon

Wednesday March 25 ~ Konnoak Hills Moravian Church
The Reverend Rick Sides
11:00 AM Lovefeast

March 29, Palm Sunday

April 3, Good Friday

April 5, Easter Sunday

Read More
image-title

Join us this Sunday, December 8 at 10:05am as our Middle Highs lead us in our first Lovefeast celebrating the coming of the Christ Child!

We share a time of lovefeast especially for children, with hot chocolate and a play, in the Fellowship Hall.  Everyone is invited, we hope to see you there!

Even before Advent began, many preparations were already taking place to get us ready.  Our youth and children have been practicing music, preparing to serve lovefeast, creating a play to act out, getting ready for caroling at Salemtowne, raking leaves and creating new Chrismon ornaments for a tree in our vestibule!  All our groups have been busy…

As the picture above shows off the work of our New Phillies on their Chrismon tree, we hope the Children’s Lovefeast this Sunday will show off the enthusiasm of our Middle and Senior High Youth.

It will be a busy Sunday, as our New Phillies and their families will also be caroling for residents at Salemtowne during the afternoon.  Come out and join in the joy and expectation of the season!

Read More
image-title

36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one is taken and one is left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one is taken and one is left. 42 Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the householder had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect. Matthew 24:36-46

I discovered Charles Dickens’ novel, “Great Expectations” in the 8th grade. We read it as our class novel. Our teacher read it aloud to us, a chapter a day, and the dullest among us welcomed the daily portion, perhaps, because we had great expectations of our own. We were working class kids and we appreciated how Dickens put more value on character, and hard work, and relationships, than on money and social standing. In the 8th grade, Charles Dickens showed us that being a lady took more than fine clothes and good manners, and that some so-called gentlemen were rotten at the core, and completely self-serving. He taught us that the real gentry* were found among plain dressed women with kind hearts, and men who were more polished within than without.

At least one of the bullies in our class, so detested the bullies in “Great Expectations,” and so appreciated the real gentlemen that he changed his ways, at least he quit picking on me!

The old woman known as Miss Habersham particularly fascinated me. My classmates and I first met her through eyes of the book’s hero, Pip. When Pip met Miss Habersham she was wearing a wedding gown of faded, yellowed silk. A bridal  veil, still festooned with flowers once fresh, but now dried to dust, covered her head. She wore one shoe, and her stockings were dirty and ragged with wear. Bright jewels sparkled at her neck and hands; but this reader could not help but wonder the last time she took a bath or dressed for bed. We readers also observed that all the clocks in Miss Habersham’s house were stopped at 9:20. It was the hour and minute that her false lover left Miss Habersham standing at the altar, her great expectations forever dashed upon the hard rocks of reality.

Today, when I think of Miss Habersham I am reminded of generation after generation of devout Jews who searched the prophets, and waited for the Messiah.

The Jews of Jesus’ time expected the Messiah to be a conquering hero. They thought he would kick the Romans out of the Promised Land, worship in the temple, and set up a world government in Jerusalem, from which and into which would flow the wealth and the gratitude** of the nations. Of course, they believed in trickle-down economics and trickle-down blessings. They believed they themselves would be the most blessed, but the blessing would also fall upon the Gentile Nations who honored their Messiah-King.

Some Jews are still waiting for the Messiah, and their expectations have remained pretty much the same. Only the names of the players have changed. Today, Orthodox Jews expect the Messiah to defeat the PLO, neutralize Iran, take-out the Taliban, restore the temple in Jerusalem, and set up a world government in that city from which and into which would flow the wealth and gratitude** of the nations.

Devout Jews in every generation have taken solace in the coming of the Messiah in the way that Christians have taken solace in “going to heaven,” or in “the 2nd Advent of Jesus Christ,” which we regard as two sides of the same coin.

  • People are hungry, and the devout say, “When the Messiah comes, there will be a banquet for all.”
  • People are persecuted, and driven from their homes, and the devout say, “When the Messiah comes, all the world will welcome us, and bless us, for they will want the Messiah’s approval.”
  • People are forced to choose between what is good and what is bad, and sometimes between two bad options. In the movie “Sophie’s Choice” the Nazis force a mother to choose which of her two children will live, and which will die. The devout say, “When the Messiah comes, people will no longer choose between good and bad, but between what is good and what is better!”

Many devout Jews believe that, “When the Messiah comes,” then at last, all the wrongs of the world will be righted, and all the promises of it fulfilled. *** In that Christians and Jews agree.

And when will the Messiah come? That is the question about which Jewish scholars have long disagreed.

  • Some rabbis have said that the Messiah will come when all of Israel properly observes a single Sabbath.
  • Some rabbis have said that the Messiah will come if all of Israel repents for a single day.
  • Some rabbis have said that the Messiah will come when a generation of children arise that are totally disrespectful towards their parents and elders. Naturally, they believe the Messiah will vindicate the parents!
  • Some rabbis have said that the Messiah will come to a generation that loses all hope. At her darkest hour, Israel’s Messiah will come.

I am not a Jew, but I tremble to think that any hour could be darker for God’s Chosen People than that hour which gave birth to the Nazi Holocaust!

Not all the Jews of history spent a lifetime waiting for the Messiah. There were a great many Jews who belong to the generation that lived in the land of Judea during the high priesthood of Caiaphas, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Tiberius Caesar ruled in Rome who believed that the Messiah had come. They thought that Jesus of Nazareth was a different kind of messiah, but they did believe that he was, in the ironic words of Pilate, “the King of the Jews.” (Mark 15:26, etc.) Indeed, they believed him to be the King of kings, and the Lord of lords, but they continued to insist, as he had insisted, that his kingdom was not of this world. (John 18:36) Furthermore, they believed that Jesus came, not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45) They believed he was both the long awaited Messiah of God, and the Suffering Servant of God who “bore our sins in his body, on the tree.” (1st Peter 2:24) They believed that Jesus died for their sins (1st Corinthians 15:3) , and not for theirs only, but for the sins of the whole world. (John 1:29) Of course they did not think that the death of Jesus was the end of His story. They believed that, on the third day, God raised Jesus from death, and that Jesus showed himself alive to many (1st Corinthians 15:3-11), and that his appearances ceased only when he ascended to the Father, to send the Holy Spirit to the church, and to take his rightful place of authority at the Right Hand of the Majesty on High, from which he will come again, to judge both the living and the dead. (Acts 1:6-11)

Because this generation—and those that immediately followed, believed that Jesus was designated “the Son of God” or “Messiah,” in power through his resurrection from the dead (Romans 1:16), they treasured up his words and set them on paper. (Luke 1:1-4, etc.) The passage we read this morning is a part of that treasury. In it, Jesus tells his disciples what to expect and what not to expect about his return.

1. He tells them that they should not expect to fix the day of his coming on a calendar.

He says, “Of that day and hour, no man knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”

I don’t know about you, but I am always embarrassed when a group of Christians fix the date of Christ coming and assemble to meet him, as so many have done in the past. I am embarrassed because they make our faith appear more foolish to the world than it already is. That said, I myself am willing to be “a fool for Christ,” with regard to fact of Christ’s Second Advent. If we believe that Jesus Christ really is who we believe him to be, then he who appeared for the first time on the plane of human history in humility and hiddenness, his true identity visible only to a select few witnesses, and to the eyes of faith, must of necessity, appear a second time, in power and in glory, at the juncture of time and eternity, his true identity made known to faith and unbelief alike.

This is the commonly held faith of the church in all generations. The 2nd Advent of Jesus Christ in Glory is our “blessed hope.” (Titus 2:13)

2. Jesus tells them that he will come at a time when he is least expected.

He refers to the story of the flood, and says that when the flood came people were eating, and drinking, and marrying, and giving in marriage, until Noah entered the Ark. He said that the Son of Man will also come at an hour we do not expect. Here, we need to note two things. First, we need to note that in the gospels, Jesus’ favorite name for himself is not Son of God, as some might expect, but “Son of Man. Most people think it is a reference to Daniel 7:11-14, in which one like a Son of Man receives the kingdom from the Ancient of Days, just as Jesus expects to receive the Kingdom from his Father, and then rules forever and ever. He does not take the kingdom from God. He receives it as a gift from God. The kingdom is God’s gift to Jesus because he is worthy! When I hear the name “Son of Man,” and remember  the passage from Daniel 7, I can also hear already the accolades of Revelation, one of which describes Jesus as “the Son of Man,” who is like the sun shining in his strength! Second, we need to note that it sounds almost as if Jesus is refuting all the teaching of the many generations of rabbis. He will not necessarily come when we keep a perfect Sabbath, or go a single day without sin. He will not necessarily come when a whole generation rejects their parents, or when the world enters its darkest hour. He will come in God’s own time, and God is not bound to tell us when he will come.

3. Jesus says that when the Son of Man comes there will be a division.

Two men are in the field. One is taken, one is left. Two women are grinding at the wheel. One is taken, the other is left. I do not think that Jesus was a Universalist. How can he be? Jesus knows that God does not force us to follow God’s way in the World. God gives us free will. Some will choose to live according to God’s Way, as Jesus has. In choosing to submit to God, and to seek God’s forgiveness for our sins, and to love others as we love ourselves, and to wait upon the hope of God, we choose the way of Jesus, who said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” Others reject this way. In this passage, Jesus says God will leave them as they are. They are not taken. They are left to wonder at what has happened, and, no doubt, to feel left out. Uninvited. Rejected in the choosing. AARG. People ask me if I believe in hell. I do. Some people are already in it. Personally, I think that the worst kind of hell would be to be left on my own, without God and without hope in the world (Ephesians 2:12), with nothing to help me, but that feeble strength which I have within myself, or that which I can muster from other human beings as fallible as I. Whether in life or in death, I want something more. I want to be taken. I want to be a part of God’s harvest. Interestingly, from time to time, the church has been called the gathering, the harvest. I take solace in the fact that I am a part of a body of believers called the church. What did the hymnist say:

There Divine affection Lives,
There the Lord his blessing gives;
There they live as those above;
One in labor and in love.

4. Jesus says that we are to be watchful.

In the gospels, whenever the coming of Christ is mentioned, we are exhorted to be watchful. What does that mean? One man said, “Well, it means that we should live every day as if it would be our last.”

I think he is probably right. So, what would you do, if you knew that tomorrow would be your last? Here in my list.

First, I would want to seek the forgiveness of those I had wronged, and to make restitution to anyone to whom restitution is due. I would want to pay my bills, for I would not want to leave my family any debts. So, too, if I owed anything on my pledge, I would want to pay that. I do not want to stand at heaven’s gate, still owing debts on earth.

Second, I would want to spend time with the people I love. In the final analysis the only thing that we can take with us as we leave this world is the love that we have shared with our family and friends, which are the family that we choose. The real winners in this life are not the people who finish with the most toys, but those who leave this world with the love and respect of those who follow after.

Third, I would want to go about my work. Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to finish his work.” (John 4:34) Some years ago, I went to see an accountant who finished all the tax returns of his clients, and then, laid himself down to die. On another occasion, I carried plans for a 23rank pipe organ from the hands of a dying man, already in hospital, and put them into the hands of a half-dozen men whom he had assembled for the purpose of completing it. Even if retired, I would want to work at something the last day of my life. And, if I should die on a Sunday, I would want to preach as did the great Scottish divine, Robert McMurray M’Cheyne, “a dying man to dying men.”

Finally, if I lived to finish my work for the day, I would want to play a little. I once knew a man who was dying of cancer. For many weeks he had been in bed, in the care of Hospice, then, one day, he summoned the strength to get out of bed, and he went to his garage and cranked his motorcycle, and took it out on the backroads of Forsyth County, riding as long as he was able. Then he came home, and within days, he was dead. If I could choose, I would not want to die in bed. I would rather dielike Chip Prosser, the Wake Forrest Coach who died in his office after finishing his daily run. I hope to have a little fun, even on the day that I die. I believe that God wants us to enjoy the good things in life. Bonhoeffer says that to despise the creation, and all the joy it affords, is to despise the Creator. The Westminster Catechism declares, “The chief end of man is to love God, and to enjoy him forever.”

Certainly, on my last day, I would want to listen to a little music. I once asked Elayne what she would put on my headstone if she outlived me. She did not miss a beat, but responded, “Roll over, Beethoven!” I said, “Why that?!?” She said, “Well, because you are a little bit classical, and a little bit rock-n-roll.” I would not mind hearing, “Fanfare for a Common Man,” or “the adagio from Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto,” but I wouldn’t mind a little “Respect,” and maybe a little, “I Heard it through the Grapevine.” I would certainly want to hear the hymns from the Moravian Service of Holy Communion, as I never feel closer to God as when I serve that service.

I believe that what Jesus gives us here is the simplicity that is on the far side of complexity. Some people make the study of his 2nd Advent, and faith itself, complicated. He simplifies it. He says, “Watch—for you don’t know the day and hour.” In other words, live even today as if it was your last.

Finis

Notes:
*Writing after the industrial revolution, Dickens ignored the English nobility. His upper class characters were those who had “made their fortunes” in business and industry. “Great Expectations” would have been equally well placed in 19th century America.

**To their credit the ancient Jews expected a kinder, gentler ruler, one that all the nations would admire and respect.

*** Of course, like some Christians, some Jews have learned what we hope is a godly pragmatism. Perhaps you have seen the play “Fiddler on the Roof.” It is set in Russia in the time between the Communist Revolution, and the 2nd World War. In one scene the Jews of Russia are being driven from their homes and communities. Everyone is in a panic, running hither and yon. A young man, still full of hope, approaches his rabbi, and says, “Rabbi, we’ve been waiting for the Messiah all our lives. Wouldn’t this be a good time for him to come?” The rabbi answers, “Certainly, my son. But we’ll have to wait for him someplace else. Meanwhile, let us start packing.”

Read More
image-title

When Elayne and I first went to Fries Memorial, there were very few children there besides our own. One of them was named Mark, and he was not more than three or four years old. One Sunday I encountered him outside the nursery. He was standing in the middle of the hall, and would not let me pass, so I made a little conversation with him, in hopes that I could slip by. I said, “Say, you are a handsome young man. You should be on television.” Little Mark was so bumfuzzled by that statement that he let me pass, but that was not the end of the story. That very day, just as Mark’s mother was putting his Sunday dinner on his plate, he looked up and said, “Ma’am, ma’am, God is going to put me on TV.” Mark’s logic was impeccable. I was the only one at the front of the church. People sang hymns to me. They brought me  their money. I stood above them and spoke to them. Mark figured I was God. As gods go, I am not much; but at least I was benevolent; and I don’t think Mark was afraid of me.

God has never left God’s Self without witness. In Acts 17, St. Paul says that God made from one every race of men to cover the earth that we might “feel after him and find him.” Human beings have always felt after God, but, when we are left to our own devices, we are not very good at finding Him. Instead of finding the One True God, we inevitably end up finding and worshiping a plethora of false gods, and these false gods can be rather terrifying.

1. The most primitive stage of worship is Animism. Animists worship every rock, and tree, and animal, believing each to be a god, who is more powerful than they, a god capable of tripping them up, or crushing them, or of stealing their spirit. We sometimes think of Animism as belonging to humankind’s ancient past. That is not so. Today animists can be found in Europe, Japan, and China, India and Africa, and the Americas. Many traditional Native American religions are fundamentally Animistic. Animism holds millions upon millions of people around the globe in a grip of terror. It is one of the best reasons I know for the missionary enterprise. When we send missionaries to the Animists we are not just seeking to save their souls for eternity, we are seeking to save their lives in the here and now. The gospel frees us and makes a tremendous difference in the aspect of our lives.

Some agnostics and atheists say we should simply set Animists free from all worship of God. Penn Gillette says that to the atheists everyday is a holiday. I certainly do not believe that this is desirable. The truth is it is not even possible. Dr. Dennis Kinlaw, at one time president of Asbury College, once told me that a society had to be monotheistic for a number of generations before people became brave enough to become agnostics and atheists. Only the one true God gives people the freedom to believe in him, or to reject that belief.

2. The next stage of worship is idolatry. Animists worship rocks and trees. Idolaters chisel the rocks and carve the trees into figures of animals, and birds, and human beings and worship the work of their own hands.. In Romans 1 St. Paul writes that God has never left himself without witness, but that did not stop humankind’s fall into idolatry, and polytheism of every kind. The apostle writes:

20 Ever since the creation of the world (God’s) invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse; 21 for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles.

A major theme of the Old Testament prophets is the condemnation of idolatry. At God’s direction, the prophet Hosea took a prostitute for a wife, to illustrate the way that Israel had forsaken the one true God, and committed adultery with false gods, copulating on every high hill, and under every tree and bush. One reason God centered the Hebrew cult in Jerusalem was to avoid the temptation to idolatry and immorality.

On at least one occasion, Isaiah took a different approach to idolatry; he just poked fun at the foolishness of it. In Isaiah 44:14-17 the prophet writes:

(The man who worships an idol) cuts down (a) cedar or he chooses… an oak…he takes a part of it and warms himself, he kindles a fire and bakes bread; also he makes a god and worships it…he prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”

We too may laugh at those who worship idols, but it is hardly a laughing matter. St. Paul believed idolatry to be an expression of demonic power. In 1st Corinthians 8:4 the apostle writes, “We know that ‘an idol has no real existence,’ and that ‘there is no God but one.’” Then he goes on to point out that an idol is real to those who worship it, and exercises terrible power over them. Let me give an example. According to some ancient texts, the priests of the Ammonites demanded child sacrifices for their god, Moloch. The prophet Micah, protests this practice when he asks, “Shall I give my firstborn for my sin, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” (Micah 6:7) The response the Prophet receives from God is one of the most famous texts in the Hebrew Bible.

“He has showed you, O, man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

Today, we are much more likely to worship money, or power, or celebrity, or the thing that George Bernard Shaw called, “that bitch goddess success” than to worship an idol of wood or stone. But idolatry in all its forms still extracts a terrible toll upon people. I know of a number of instances’ where people have taken their own lives simply because they failed to meet the criteria for success that they had established for themselves. This kind of idolatry is satanic in nature. In Luke 4:5-8 we read how Jesus had a vision in which the devil took him up, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. He said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory; for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it shall all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’”

3. There are other stages of worship—including various forms of Polytheism, and Pantheism, but the last, highest, and best stage of worship is the worship of the One Triune God who reveals God’s Self on the plane of human history as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

The principal difference between the religions of the world in which humankind is seeking God and the religion of the Bible is that in the Bible God is the one who seeks us. In the parables of Jesus, God is the good shepherd who leaves behind 99 sheep and goes into the wilderness looking for the one sheep that is lost. (Luke 15:4) Or, God is the woman who loses a coin, and lights a lamp, and sweeps the whole house until she finds it. (Luke 15:8) In the Bible God is the one who calls us, and pursues us, and refuses to let us go until we accept God’s offer of grace and love.

Consider the history of God’s sacred people. Abraham does not go out looking for God. God calls Abraham to leave his country and his kindred and his father’s house, to follow him to a land he will show him. And Moses did not set out from Egypt into the desert looking for God. Moses was not a religious mystic; he was an outlaw on the run from the authorities, a shepherd charged with tending his father-in-law’s sheep. Moses found God only after God spoke to him from a bush that burned with fire and was not consumed, and sent him to Pharaoh saying, “Let my people go!” And what about the prophets of the Hebrew Bible? The prophets did not sit with folded legs, meditating upon their navels, repeating a mantra, until they had a vision of God. Rather they were engaged in the work of the world. They were vine dressers, and they tended sycamore trees, and they were shepherds and priests. And the Word of the Lord came to them, and laid hold of them, and burned like a fire in their mouths (Jeremiah 5:4), and became sour in their stomach, until they spit it out, and proclaimed it to the people of God. (Revelation 10:10—a continuation of Israel’s prophetic tradition!)

4. True worship is possible only after God has revealed himself; but in what does it consist?

Some say that true worship involves a special posture. Moses worshiped God with his face to the ground. In Psalm 95:6 the Psalmist calls his readers to worship saying, “O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!” In the book of Nehemiah, after Ezra blessed the people, they lifted up their hands; and they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground. (Nehemiah 8:6) But the psalmist communed with the Lord as he lay upon his bed (Psalm 149:5) , and I over the years I have spoken with many people who worshiped God on their drive to and from work. I use to have my best talks with God on my long, slow morning runs. Malcolm Boyd once wrote a book in which he asked, “Are you running with me, Jesus?” I would answer, “Yes, many times, by faith, I believe that he is, for he has promised and I have worshiped.”

Some people think that true worship involves a special place. When Jacob wrestled all night at the brook Jabbok with the angel, he called the place Beth-El, or house of God; but he did not confine God to that place. When Moses approached the bush that burned with fire, and was not consumed, God said, “Put off your shoes from your feet, for the place you are standing is holy ground,” but, thereafter, wherever Moses stood, he often found himself on holy ground. The psalmist said, “The whole earth is filled with the glory of the Lord.” And Rabbi Abraham Heschel once wrote that we who worship God, “Live in a holy neighborhood.” The woman at the well told Jesus that her ancestors worshiped God on Mount Gerizim (“this mountain”), but the Jews say that Jerusalem is the place of proper worship. Jesus responded, “The time is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship in spirit and in truth.” He then told the woman that he was the Messiah that was coming into the world. True worship takes place where He is worshiped. (John 4:7-29)

Protestants and Catholics agree that true worship takes place where the Word of God is faithfully proclaimed, and the sacraments rightly celebrated.

We disagree about the sacraments. Some say there are two, the Dominically instituted sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion, the rest are merely the rites of the church. Some say, there are seven, adding that confirmation and a good marriage are  as sacramental as Baptism to many. I take a middle position suggested by Karl Barth. I believe there is one sacrament, the Word of God, which is made visible when we baptize a child, or an adult, or celebrate the Holy Communion, or make a Christian Marriage. Without a Word of explanation even Baptism and Holy Communion would be meaningless to outsiders, before whom we are to bear witness.

Worship certainly takes place where the Word of God is faithfully proclaimed, and that word will always include the Word about Jesus, which we call “the gospel.” In this autobiography, the late E. Stanley Jones, wrote when he went to India as a Missionary, and he very nearly exhausted himself. He wrote:

I found myself defending a long line that stretched from Genesis to Revelation, to the history of the Christian Church, to the history of Western Civilization, and I was constantly moving up and down behind the line defending this and defending that, and I felt that the main thing was being left out. There are many points of question about our faith—about the Bible, or the history of the church, or the history of Western Civilization, and when we decide what we believe about this or that, we don’t make a real decision, because God decided these things long ago, but when we decide what we believe about Jesus Christ, we make a real decision, a personal decision, a decision that will affect us in life and in death. I decided to shorten the line and make my stand at Jesus Christ, and that made all the difference.

Spoken like a Moravian!

5. Given proper worship, there is always a proper response to worship.

In Romans 12:1-2 St. Paul asks us to make the same sacrifice that Abraham made. He does not ask us to take a life, he ask us to consecrate a life, and that life is our own. He writes:

1 I appeal to you therefore (Note 1), brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your “spiritual worship” (RSV) or “reasonable service” (KJV). 2 Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

True worship is not a sacrifice of the mind, for Paul says that true worship is perfectly reasonable. Likewise, true worship is not a sacrifice of the Spirit, for God does not ask us to sacrifice our spirit, but to surrender it, in order that he might join his Spirit with our own. In Romans 8 the apostle writes, “The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God, and if children then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Jesus Christ.” Worship is not a sacrifice of the mind or the spirit, it is act in which we sacrifice our will to the will of God, and we sacrifice our “body,” or our “life” to the service of God.

In the New Testament worship takes two forms: the first is “proskuneo,” which means to bow before God, to prostrate ourselves before him as a citizen might prostrate himself before his king. The second is “latero” which means simply to serve, as one might serve anyone. In true worship, we both “prostrate ourselves before God,” or “submit our will to God’s will,” and then go forth into the world in God’s service as Christ’s body, becoming his hands and his feet, his eyes, and his ears, and mouth. None of us need be all things—we simply employ the gift that God has given each of us, that as a whole we might be Christ’s body in the world, for the only Christ the world will see is the Christ it sees in you and me.

Final Hymn:

Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands, and let them move at the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet, and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice, and let me sing always, only, for my King.
Take my lips, and let them be filled with messages from Thee.
Take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect, and use every power as Thou shalt choose.

Take my will, and make it Thine; it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own; it shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love, my Lord, I pour at Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for Thee.

Finis

Worth Green, Th.M., D.Min.

Read More
image-title

Palm Sunday
Sunday, March 24, 9 AM & 11:10 AM

Holy Week Readings
Monday, March 25, 7 PM Band prelude @ 6:30 PM
Tuesday, March 26, 7 PM Band prelude @ 6:45 PM

Maundy Thursday Communion & Readings
Thursday, March 28, 7 PM Band prelude @ 6:30 PM

Good Friday Communion
Friday, March 29, 3 PM

Good Friday Lovefeast
Friday, March 29, 7 PM Band prelude @ 6:30 PM

Easter Worship
Sunday, March 31, 10:30 AM 
(no Sunday School)
Parents are asked to gather their children from the nursery prior to the Easter Liturgy so we may all worship together as a complete congregation.

Easter Morning Liturgy
Sunday, March 31, 11:30 AM
(Begins at the front of the church and processes to God’s Acre.)
Remember to bring fresh flowers and greenery on Easter morning. A large wooden cross, wrapped in wire, will be in the sanctuary. Come early and arrange your natural spring bouquet on the cross before worship.

Read More