Sunday Worship July 19 at 10:45



Unfortunately, the video to Sunday worship was accidentally (and permanently) deleted. Oh no! But the notes for the service are included below...

Weeds & Wheat                                                         \Mt 13 24-30
19 July 2020, Christ Mountain Top, Online, during COVID-19
Praying the Scripture, Psalm 139.1-12, 23-24
Kids, Genesis 28.10-19 (Jacob’s stairway to heaven)
Message, Matthew 13.24-30, 36-43

Welcome

This week’s theme:
Alexander the Great is conquering the ancient world. As he moves into Asia, he encounters a knot in the city of Phrygia, a knot tied by Gordias or his son Midas. According to an oracle, the man who untied the knot would become ruler of all Asia Minor. There are several versions of the story, but the most common is that this impossibly complex knot, this thoroughly entangled mess, was solved by Alexander when he took out his sword and cut it apart with one stroke. Alexander went on to conquer that region and well beyond.
       The story is typically told as a metaphor for difficult problems we face today. Look for a unique solution. Alexander wasn’t given any rules about how the knot had to be untied. Instead of hours of fruitless struggle, he solved the problem in a moment. Certainly, creative problem solving is a wonderful gift.
       But some problems don’t have such solutions. Some problems remind us that some things are so thoroughly entangled that undoing them only damages everyone involved. Such problems require perseverance and a different kind of creativity. Such problems invite us to remember the calling of God’s people to be a blessing to all people. Such problems invite us to self-reflection.

Prelude
Prayer
Music by Joan
Light the lantern

Called to Worship
       Hymn, I love to tell the story, 156 (Joan)
       Psalm – recorded by Joe & Sherri Hersh

The Peace – chat online!
       Music by Joan
Children’s Time
       Video from Chris Swallick

Anthem
       How great is our god

Scripture
       Matthew 13.24-30, 36-43
       Read text – recorded by Edythe Weller & Judy Gallucci

Message
This remarkable story of the weeds among the wheat reminds us that some things are so thoroughly entangled that undoing them only damages everyone involved. Such problems require perseverance and a different kind of creativity. Such problems invite us to remember the calling of God’s people to be a blessing to all people. Such problems invite us to self-reflection.

The story includes judgment language, and we need to recognize it up front. There is good and evil in the world, children of the kingdom and children of the evil one, the enemy, the devil. At the end of the age, there is a final reckoning for both the good seed and the bad seed that – if not removed – will poison or ruin the crop. The field hands are so upset that they want to go out and remove the weeds immediately. But, no, the roots are so entangled that removing the weeds will also destroy the harvest. So we are called to endure hardship, to wait for reckoning.
       It is important, whenever we read judgment texts in Scripture, to remember that in most cases the judgment language is directed at the people of God, the religious. For example, whenever Jesus talked about hell, his audience was almost always the religious leaders. It is also important, whenever we read judgment texts, not to overlook the fact that the final word is not judgment but mercy. Unlike most ancient rulers whose throne was known as a “judgment seat,” the throne of Yahweh is almost always called a “mercy seat” or “atonement cover.” Paul writes, “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8.1). James writes, “Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2.13).
       There is a part of me that says, “I don’t want anyone to burn. I don’t like this ‘thrown into the fire where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth’ language.” Within the history of the church, there are some who advocate for an idea that, in the end, mercy wins out, that God finds a way to save everyone. Yet, to be honest, there are a few folks I’d like to see burn. I am sure you have experienced this conflict yourself. I am grateful that mercy has the last word, that God more gracious than I could ever be, and that there is a time when evil will be utterly destroyed by the judgment and justice of God.
       However you work out the biblical language of final judgment and the triumph of mercy, let us remember that eternal destiny matters, and that this life matters.

Back to our main focus: the weeds and the wheat so thoroughly entangled. Since the story involves good and bad, a couple ethical conundrums for us.
       Years ago, my late father-in-law Jesse Grimm, who was protesting the Vietnam War in which my father served … my father-in-law was a pastor and was invited to speak at one of the historic “peace” churches in the area. The peace churches, such as the Mennonites, take Jesus pretty seriously when he says that we are to “turn the other cheek.” They are conscientious objectors when it comes to armed military service. Dad told them that they were compromising their conviction by working at the local Harley Davidson plant where bombs were made alongside motorcycles. He pointed out how they were thoroughly entangled in a war that, officially, they did not support. Dad was never invited back.
       Just this week, I saw a clip of a comedy-satire-news show my Jesse was watching. The interviewed guest was offering a solution to children being out of school during a pandemic. Now, please remember, this is comedy-satire and it is truly awful, but not serious. His solution to the problem is to put children to work in meat-processing plants. Why? Because children are less at risk to the coronavirus. And, overturning our laws against child labor will bring those child labor jobs back to our country. Ouch. We don’t approve of child labor, but we still profit from it in many ways.

This remarkable story of the weeds among the wheat reminds us that some things are so thoroughly entangled that undoing them only damages everyone involved. Such problems require perseverance and a different kind of creativity. Such problems invite us to remember the calling of God’s people to be a blessing to all people. Such problems invite us to self-reflection.

Remember the calling of God’s people to be a blessing to all people. Our welfare and that of the weeds are intertwined. Jacob’s call in that trippy dream of the “stairway to heaven” was to be a blessing to all families of earth, to bring people to the gate of heaven, to the house of God. When Abraham negotiated with God for the salvation of Sodom, we learned that just ten righteous people can save a whole city. When Judah was taken into exile by pagan Babylon, a nation that raped the women, killed the children, and destroyed the temple … Jeremiah the prophet tells them to “seek the welfare of the city to which I have deported you, pray for its welfare, for in its welfare is your welfare” (Jeremiah 29.7). What!? Even when everything goes wrong in the field of the world, even when it seems that evil has triumphed, we are called to bless.

Such problems also invite us to self-reflection. To what degree am I enmeshed in evil just because I am in the world? What am I doing about it? Whatever you name as evil in the world – we are entangled in it in unavoidable ways. And God will sort it all out in the end. This doesn’t mean that we don’t take seriously our baptismal vows to “resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.” This doesn’t mean that what we do and who we are do not matter. It does mean that this is an unfinished project and that there remains work for us to do today. Our eternal destiny begins now.
       Our self-reflection is not only about how we are entangled with evil. It is also about our own internal life. To what degree is my heart pure? Is my own life fully wheat or is it partially weeds? Today’s psalm invites this reflection, invites us allow God to do the examination:
You have searched me and known me
Before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely
Search me and know my heart
This week Jesse and I were in conversation and I was frustrated. I walked away, mumbling something under my breath. Jesse called after me, “What did you say about me?” Sometimes I’m the weed in my own garden.
       And it is my responsibility to do something about that, not in my own super-human effort but by submitting to the grace of God. The final word is not judgment but mercy. And it is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance (Romans 2.4), not the wrath of God. It is time for us to cast ourselves on the kindness and mercy of our Lord.

Song, beautiful scandalous night (JP, guitar)

Announcements
Harvest – be the answer to your own prayers!

       Grouping

       Reopening plan
·       More changes to our planning
·       Will still be online!
·       While we will be rigorous at limiting risk, many of you still should stay home. But we will all stay in touch!

·       What are the “knottiest” problems you face right now? Is this a moment for an unexpected creative and simple solution? Or is it time for endurance?
·       How do you process the Bible’s language around judgment and mercy? How can judgment be good news? How is it that mercy is more effective at drawing you to God?
·       Consider your calling to be a blessing in the world. Where is that most difficult for you right now?
·       How are you the weed in your own garden? In what ways do you need to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?

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       Thank you – you have been generous in a fearful time
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              Doxology – Traditional
              Prayer by Terri Butoi

Prayers
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       Joy pics:
·       Mission Week
·       Open House
       Prayers

Hymn, sois la semilla, 583 vv 1, 3 (Joan)


Blessing

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