Above all, we must be reminded anew that God is at work in his universe. He is not outside the world looking on with a sort of cold indifference. He is here on all the roads of life striving in our striving. Like an ever loving Father, he is working through history for the salvation of his children. So as we struggle to defeat the forces of evil, we do not struggle alone; we have cosmic companionship. The God of the universe struggles with us. In the final analysis evil dies on the seashore not merely because of man's endless struggle against it, but because of God's power to defeat it.
-Martin Luther King Jr His sermon “The Death of Evil Upon The Seashore” 1962
This Sunday, November 8th, I am preaching at PCPC in the sanctuary services, Rev. Nicole Abdnour will be the liturgist in both the Connection and Traditional Services leading the prayers and reading the scriptures, and Rev. Ken Hubbell will be preaching in the Connection. The services will be both in person and online. Felix and Grace Ayub will bring their baby boy to be baptized this weekend.
In the sanctuary I am lifting up 3 themes from scriptures: from Matthew’s Gospel Jesus tells a parable that calls for us to share generously and stay awake, keep engaged! From I Thessalonians a passage where the Apostle says to the church “When you grieve, grieve as those whose still have hope. Your hope comes from the truth that God raised Jesus from the dead.” And from Joshua this exhortation to God’s people, “As for you, choose this day whom you will serve.” These lectionary scriptures are being shared by millions of Christians in countries around the world, in Haiti, Uganda, in China, in Mexico, some in Egypt, some in Europe, many in the United States. Stay engaged, grieve as those with hope, choose whom you will serve. Rev. Will Wellman is leading a class on the God of Life, a theology of Liberation, Scott Stichter is leading a class on Resurrection, Rev. Michael Peacock leads a class seeking to discern and address racism amongst us.
We will be collecting groceries for the Beth-El Food Pantry for farmworkers here in Hillsborough County. We are trying to fill this food source for the working poor for two months. And it’s stewardship season, and we are seeking friends who will stand with the church by financially supporting its mission and ministry in 2021. In this pandemic your generosity has equipped the Witness and Service Committee to send checks of support to our partner clinics in Haiti, Honduras, and Uganda. The Food Pantry in PCPC’s parking lot is restocked with donated food for the hungry close by, and the The Kindness Matters team will be delivering energy bars and food cards to homeless folks along Bayshore early Saturday morning. And our 4th to 5th Grade Justice Seekers will be gathering Sunday to learn more about “Seeking justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with our God.”
In the Vespers Service at 6:00 PM we will be praying for the sick, the grieving, the oppressed, as those requests are shared with us through the Intercessory Prayer Ministry. We will be praying for the community, the state, the nation, for wisdom, character, and compassion for those who lead and serve, and for peace and justice for this world God loved so much he gave us Jesus Christ.
I hope you can join us in worship online or in person Sunday. In this pandremic we support those who are socially distancing for health by having the services online, and we will be wearing masks in the sanctuary. In the Traditional services we will hear the hymn “How Firm A Foundation,” and reflecting on the lyrics, drawn from scripture and meant to encourage the faithful, and they go like this:
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, Is laid for your faith in His excellent word! What more can He say than to you He hath said, To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?
“Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed, For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid; I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.”
“When through the deep waters I call thee to go, The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow; For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless, And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.” “When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie, My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply; The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.”
Under your law we live, great God, and by your will we govern ourselves. Help us as good citizens to respect neighbors whose views differ from ours, so that without partisan anger, we may work out issues that divide us, and elect candidates to serve the common welfare; through Jesus Christ the Lord. Amen.
God of ages, in your sight nations rise and fall, and pass through times of peril. Now when our land is troubled, be near to judge and save. May leaders be led by your wisdom; may they search your will and see it clearly. If we have turned from your way, help us to reverse our ways and repent. Give us your light and your truth to guide us; through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of this world, and our Savior. Amen.
High God, holy God: you rule the ways of peoples, and govern every earthly government. Work with those who work for peace. Make every person in authority an agent of your reconciliation, and every diplomat an ambassador of hope. Bring peace and goodwill among all people, fulfilling among us the promise made in Jesus Christ, who was born to save the world. Amen Lord, keep this nation under your care. Bless the leaders of our land, that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to other nations of the earth. Help us elect trustworthy leaders, contribute to wise decisions for the general welfare, and thus serve you faithfully in our generation, to the honor of your holy name; through Jesus Christ the Lord. Amen.
Almighty God, as people go to the polls this day we pray first and foremost for peace. May the sense of community and connection be greater than any division or difference, no matter how entrenched. Knowing we will vote in schools, churches, synagogues, and other communal gathering places, may our commitment to care for one another grow as we stand in lines, talk to our neighbors and recognize we have more in common than we often realize. May we show one another kindness and respect, today and in the days to come.
We thank you for the freedom to vote our conscience, of which you alone are Lord. After this election, we are keenly aware that even if the political rhetoric fades the acrimony it highlighted will remain. Grant us the courage to step into the breaches and not shrink back into our enclaves of homogeneity. Send your Spirit to drive us to the places where you are already working to bring reconciliation. Remind us relentlessly that you are greater than every category we devise, more powerful than any estrangement we have created, eternal, ever present and always calling forth justice, peace and abundant life. Show us today and everyday how to live in the love of Jesus Christ, the perfect love that casts out fear. Amen.
Holy God, We come to you today in prayer, full of emotions. Election seasons always seem to bring that out in us—Worry and hope, fear and frustration. The list could go on. So today we bow our heads and ask for guidance. Open our ears to hear the groans of creation. Open our eyes to see the needs of others. Open our hearts to make room for empathy. Give us the wisdom to navigate challenging conversations. Give us the patience to disagree with grace. Give us the compassion to make decisions for the greater good. And when all else fails, bring us back to love. Bring our hearts and our hands, Our dreams and our hopes, Our anger and our frustration, Our hurt and our fear, All back to love. With hope we pray, With hope we are sustained. Amen.
Loving God, Hear us as we lift up prayers for children today, for their nurture, protection, and joy. We pray for children who live in the midst of real terror or violence or oppression. We pray for children who neglected, trafficked, abandoned or abused. We pray for children who are hungry, or sick, or grieving. We pray for the children of our hearts- those whose images we carry in our wallets and whose very being is as close to us as breathing. Their faces are etched on our souls: We know their going in and their coming out; their feelings and their foibles; What makes them laugh and what engenders tears. There is nothing we would not do to make them safe and happy. Make room in our hearts, we pray, for all those children of the world whose images are etched on the very heart of God. You know, O God, what they need. There is nothing you would not do to make them safe and happy. Grant us your heart for all these children, all these whom you love. Stir us to action so that there is nothing we would not do in your name to make them safe, happy, and aware of love. We pray remembering how Jesus said "let the children come to me." Amen.