Call To Worship:
Leader: God is ruler of the earth!
People: God, the giver of life!
Leader: The mountains tremble and the oceans roar!
People: But God is more powerful than all the earth!
Leader: Come now into God’s abiding presence!
People: Show us your Glory, O God, our rock!
God of Abraham, God of Moses, God of the early church, like all who came before, we come now, to worship, to pray, to spend time with you. Speak to us this morning, open our hearts to the world around us and to each other. Show us how to love as you love, how to be your people, so that your kingdom will be made visible to all the world through us and draw others to you. We ask in the name of the only one who is worthy, Your son, our savior, Jesus Christ.
Prayer for illumination
May our hearts rejoice as we recall God’s deeds in the reading of God’s Holy Word. Amen
Old Testament Reading
Moses said to the LORD, “See, you have said to me, ‘Bring up this people’; but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ Now if I have found favor in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” He said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” And he said to him, “If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.” The LORD said to Moses, “I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” Moses said, “Show me your glory, I pray.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, ‘The LORD’; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live.” And the LORD continued, “See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.”
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it. For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead–Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.
Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.
Leader: This is the word of God, for the people of God.
People: Thanks be to God
Our first scripture reading from the old testament begins with Moses talking to God. To give us some context, Exodus is all about Redemption. God heard the cries of His people and rescued them. It’s about Covenant. God makes a binding agreement with His people. It’s about God’s presence. In the beginning of the book, God hears the cries of the people. In the middle, he is on the mountaintop, closer than He has ever been but still a ways off. By the end, God is dwelling in the camp with the Israelites. Moses believes that God’s presence is what sets the nation of Israel apart from every other nation. Moses is traditionally said to be the author of the first five books of the bible. The only person mentioned more than Moses is David. We get to read about Moses from his birth to his death and during that time he plays a lot of roles. In our reading this morning, he has just been through some crazy stuff. He was up on the mountain spending time with God and down in the valley the folks had talked his brother Aaron into melting down all their jewelry and making a god they could see and touch because they had been left alone for a while and their faith wavered. I don’t want to sound too harsh even though it was a very big deal. We are not so different from the stiff-necked people of Exodus. How often do we waver in our faith when it seems like the world is attacking us and God seems distant. We try to fill our lives with things that are temporary, and sometimes they work, for a moment. This crowd had just come out of slavery in Egypt, saw Egypt punished with plagues, seen the red sea parted and so far they have not starved while they are camping in the desert. After all that, they broke the covenant they had with God. We humans forget the good God does pretty quick.
There is a quote and I don’t know the author. but it says “It’s ironic, how we often forget the things worth remembering, but remember the things worth forgetting.”
Moses came down from the mountain carrying the law on tablets and was so mad when he saw what they had done that he smashed the law. Then a very odd thing happened. He burned their golden idol down to ashes and mixed it with water and made them drink it. I don’t know the significance of that little incident but it hit me that what they worshipped even for a short amount of time, became part of them. What we worship, even for a short time, can become part of us.
When Moses confronted Aaron, Aaron gave what must be the weakest excuse in history since Adam blamed Eve after he bit the apple.
“I just threw the gold in the fire and out came this calf” I can picture Moses rolling his eyes…
Moses looked around and something besides just the mysterious appearance of a metal chunk of beef was going on. The bible says that “Moses saw that the people were running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control and so become a laughingstock to their enemies.”
Moses was shepherding what tradition estimates as two to three million people. This is to be the nation of Israel who God brought out of slavery in Egypt and made His own. If we assume that two to three million people have gotten out of hand, Moses has to pull something major out of his hat to get them back on track. A good sermon was not going to get their attention. He drew a sort of line in the sand and called the believers to him and told them to move through the people killing those who did not choose to show up. The story tells us that about three thousand people were killed. This seems extreme and it is one of those bible bits that I personally have trouble with but if nothing else – it tells us that it highlights the magnitude of the problem . The future of the Israelites as a nation was at stake.
So we have an idea of where we have been and we maybe see ourselves in different parts of this Exodus story.
Maybe you have worshiped something besides God or at least put something worldly above God, and now some remnants are sticking to you and you need some cleaning up.
Maybe you have forgotten some of the good things God has done and are wondering where is He? Is He even listening??
Maybe you did something and you know it was wrong, but instead of owning up and making a change, you made a lame excuse.
Now we come to the part of Exodus in our reading today and there is one little word that I want to focus on.
Moses said to the LORD, “See, you have said to me, ‘Bring up this people’; but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’
Yet is a beautiful word. I hated it as a child because it was usually preceded by the word not. I even dislike it as an adult sometimes when I pray and the answer is not yet.
One of my favorite poems by Emily Dickinson is Hope.
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
The bible is full of “Yets”.
“The thought of my suffering and homelessness
is bitter beyond words.
I will never forget this awful time,
as I grieve over my loss.
Yet I still dare to hope
when I remember this:
The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my inheritance;
therefore, I will hope in him!’
The Lord is good to those who depend on him,
to those who search for him.
So it is good to wait quietly
for salvation from the Lord.”
“Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.”
“This is what the Lord Almighty says:
‘The people of Israel are oppressed,
and the people of Judah as well.
All their captors hold them fast,
refusing to let them go.
Yet their Redeemer is strong;
the Lord Almighty is his name.
He will vigorously defend their cause
so that he may bring rest to their land…’”
Moses was nearly killed at birth, a murderer, slow of speech and yet his obedience to God saved the people of Israel.
Aaron made lame excuses and was unable to stand up to people, and yet, he helped Moses lead and eventually became the high priest of the nation of Israel.
God’s people forgot all the things God had done for them and they turned to other things, yet when they repented God was with them.
We are stuck at home, some of us alone, yet, we are still here and we have safe places to stay, food to eat, family and friends that love us.
We are not all able to come to church on Sunday and we miss singing and worshiping and eating together, yet, we have a pastor who has kept us connected and our church still works to bring the kingdom of God alive in our community. We may not be able to sing in church, but the birds are still singing outside.
There is a bad virus floating around and a lot of political turmoil, yet, here we are, on a beautiful Sunday morning, worshiping. The sun is shining, the seasons are still changing, and we are still here. Worshiping with friends, whether they are physically present or with us via the internet.
All the world fell short and sinned, and deserved death, and yet, God sent His Son to suffer and die so that we would be restored to God and as His redeemed people, we live in a world that is completely contradictory to what we are told in the Word, yet, we offer grace and love and a better way to ALL!
Life comes with problems and pain, yet there is joy and healing.
Life comes with wildfires and hurricanes and floods, yet, there are opportunities in all those disasters, for God’s people to show His love to those who are hurting and in need.
Life comes with questions and doubts and grief, yet we have a God that we can draw close to for comfort and shelter and grace and hope.
“A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home.
You my closest friends on earth will leave me [Jesus] all alone.
Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.”
Jesus knew we would have need of a yet
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed;
blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
It is interesting that we fast forward to the book of Matthew and Jesus is in the temple. A gold object figures prominently in the scene. The Pharisees and Herodians are united only by the fact that they both do not like this troublemaker Jesus. So the question is tricky. If Jesus says the taxes are lawful, he offends the Pharisees. If he disagrees with the tax, the Herodians who are loyal to Rome are going to pass on what Jesus says and the Romans will handle the problem. Instead of giving a direct answer, Jesus asks them to show Him the coin. They brought Him the coin. Who’s face is on this coin? Some people point to this passage to say that politics and religion should be separate. Some people say that Jesus was saying that it is our Christian duty to support the government.
Often, when I read parables, the meaning seems pretty clear. Neat and tidy. But when we look deeper, there is always more to think about. So why is the physical properties of this item important? If we keep in mind our old testament reading and remember that God gave the Israelites the law and one of those laws was that you shall not make any graven images. This exchange between Jesus and the Pharisees points out that they actually possess and are displaying that very thing, in the temple! This raises the stakes a bit. Where is their loyalty? To money or to God? It also reminds us of the very beginning or our creation, when God said let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.
The same question that the ancient Israelites had to answer, the same question that the Pharisees had to answer, and the same question that we have to answer today, is Whose image do you bear? Whatever we render unto Caesar, or to the retirement fund, or even to the offering at church, we can never afford to forget that we belong entirely to God. We were redeemed with the blood of Jesus. We belong to the God of “Yets”.
And yet is not the only special little word in the bible. The phrase “but God”, like the word yet, changes the dynamics. The world did this, yet I will worship God. The world broke my heart, but God redeemed me.
If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands, and last night he rebuked you.
We mess up. We worship wrong things. We forget Who we belong to, But God. Joseph knew about that. Joseph could say that his brothers “intended to harm him, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
If a couple of little three letter words can change something broken into something beautiful, imagine what the many words we choose to use with others can do.
May we always remember to look for the “yets” that God provides and if someone needs one and can’t find it – may we be the yet that they need!
Prayers and concerns
Father this world can be hard, yet there is so much beauty and we thank you for all that you have provided for us. There is pain in the world, but God, you never leave us alone, leave us the same, leave us hopeless. We lift up all that we have mentioned and the things that are deep in our hearts. You know us, inside and out and we ask that you give us grace, give us peace, give us strength, and give us a deeper relationship with you. Even if you are silent, yet, we will worship you because you are the God to yesterday, today, and all of our tomorrows.
The Lord’s Prayer
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.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
Leader: Go, showering the world with acts of faith!
People: We go forth to serve as a labor of love!
Leader: Be steadfast in hope and love!
People: We depart with joy, trusting God’s guidance each day!
“May the LORD keep watch between you and me when we are apart from one another.”