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The Influence Of Her Religion

Children's sermon
For October 4, 2020:
  • The Influence Of Her Religion by Dean Feldmeyer — What if Amy Coney Barret’s devout brand of Catholicism affects the way she approaches the task of interpreting the Constitution? Well, I’m a liberal and I hope it does.
  • Second Thoughts: The Landowner is Coming by Bethany Peerbolte — When we coerce someone to hide or deny their identity God does not get a cut of the harvest.
  • Sermon illustrations by Tom Willadsen, Dean Feldmeyer, Mary Austin.
  • Worship resources by Chris Keating that focus on God’s gift of the law, paying attention to what God asks.
  • Children’s sermon: These Words by Chris Keating — On World Communion Sunday, the gift of the Ten Commandments reminds us of our connection to each other and to God.

Dean FeldmeyerThe Influence Of Her Religion
by Dean Feldmeyer
Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20

Supreme Court Nominee Amy Coney Barrett and her husband, Jesse, are “devout” Roman Catholics and members of the not uncontroversial religious community called “People of Praise.” Apparently, People of Praise are not “being fed” by the worship services they experience in their home parishes, so they meet on Sunday afternoons for a more demonstrative form of worship that includes physical movement that includes dancing, spontaneous vocalization, speaking in tongues, and other behaviors that most charismatics refer to as evidence of the “anointing of the Holy Spirit.”

Some who support her nomination have indicated that any questions about People of Praise, any investigation into its tenets and practices, any expressed concern about the influence it wields over its members is out of bounds and tantamount to religious intolerance and anti-Catholic bigotry.

That is, of course, absurd on its face. There are lots of wacky religions out there and wacky forms of Christianity and we have every right to know if hers is one of them.

Professor Barrett is a candidate for one of the highest and most powerful positions in our country’s government and we have the right to ask about her religion, her particular brand of Christianity, and how we can expect it to affect the decisions she will be making. And for her to demur that it won’t is ridiculous.

I hope it does. I hope her religious faith, if not, necessarily her “handmaiden” over at the People of Faith, will have a profound effect on her deliberations.

Let me explain…

In the News
When you declare that someone is devout, you have to set up a standard that defines what devout means and standards generally tend be barriers that divide one group from another, the devout from the nominal, say. How devout must one be, we might ask, to meet the devout criteria?

Historically, we have defined devout as having or showing deep religious feeling or commitment. Notice that there is no mention of orthodoxy in that definition. A person could have any number of opinions or ideas about religion and they were considered devout as long as those ideas and opinions were deeply held and the person holding them had a deep commitment to them.

Lately, however, we have heard people insist that a person can be devout only so long as they adhere to and agree with certain orthodoxies, doctrines and dogmas, many of which are wholly synthetic. Former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz, for instance, recently declared himself the official arbiter of Roman Catholic devoutness when he said that Vice President Joe Biden was a “Catholic in name only” because of his stand on women’s reproductive rights. (The University was quick to distance itself from Holtz’s statement.)

So, declaring someone devout (or not devout) is dangerous territory but one that the news media has not been loath to enter where Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett is concerned. She is, by all accounts, a devout Catholic. And, using the historic definition of the word, those accounts are probably correct — except that the measure of her devoutness seems to be wholly based on two things: 1.) Her vocal opposition to abortion, and 2.) her membership in a Christian organization known as People of Praise.

The first we can dismiss quickly. Opposition to abortion does not make a person devout. Atheists, non-theists, and religious agnostics are just as likely to oppose abortion and desire to make it illegal as religious people both nominal and devout.

Threatening women and physicians with prison if they submit to or perform an abortion does not define a person’s devotion to any particular religious dogma. It is impossible to know the religious bent of someone screaming “murderer” and “baby killer” and erecting billboards with pictures of darling babies or miscarried fetuses.  

So, let’s put that one to rest. A person’s opposition to abortion under any circumstances may be sincere and well-meaning or it may be brutal and violent but, either way, it is not necessarily an indicator of someone’s religious devotion.

That leaves People of Praise.

People of Praise is, by all accounts, definitely not a cult. They do not have a single charismatic leader who sets the rules and boundaries for everyone else. They do not penalize or threaten those who leave the fellowship. They don’t brainwash their members or practice mind control.

According to the Washington Post, any Christian is welcome in the group, but it is largely composed of Catholics and it has not been determined if anyone except Catholics are welcome to participate in the eucharist. It emerged in the late 1960s in South Bend, Indiana, the home of Notre Dame, where Barrett was a law professor before her judicial appointment in 2017.

People of Praise appeared after the Second Vatican Council, when in an effort to accommodate diversity and globalization, the church for the first time encouraged lay-led groups that had different styles of prayer. Generally, what the groups shared was a desire for a more intense, more experiential worship experience.

Many of these groups are charismatic, meaning they pray in a demonstrative way more typical of Protestant Pentecostal groups. Members are assigned spiritual guides with whom they are encouraged to explore their faith experience, share their doubts and troubles, and confer before making important decisions.

Christians on the charismatic/Pentecostal end of the theological spectrum tend to be conservative, even fundamentalist. They interpret most of scripture, especially certain well-chosen and definitive passages, literally. The virgin birth of Jesus, the physical resurrection, substitutional blood atonement, are all givens. But their conservativism also tends to run beyond the merely theological. The idea of dark forces at work in the world is very real, not metaphoric. The 6,000-year-old universe is a scientific certainty. Augustine’s just war doctrine is accepted without question. Wives are expected to be subservient to their husbands. Corporal and capital punishment are biblically sanctioned.

Those who support Judge Barrett and her nomination hold that these theological issues are not important. They insist that People of Praise is simply a group of Christians who do not feel that they are being spiritually fed by the worship services at their home churches and, therefore, meet together, mostly on Sunday afternoons, to have a good old, rip roaring, dancing in the aisles, shouting amen, speaking in tongues, Holy Ghost anointed, charismatic, Pentecostal, holy roller, worship experience.

Nothing inherently wrong with that, they insist. We may or may not agree with their theology but unless they’re handling snakes, which they ARE NOT doing, they aren’t hurting anyone.

However, to suggest that a person’s theology is unimportant and is not going to affect their decision making is to deny the whole point of Christian theology. We cannot separate what we believe from who we are and we cannot separate who we are from how we decide and what we do.

That’s why Americans, especially Christian Americans, have not just a right but a duty to ask what kind of Christianity, what brand of Catholicism it is, to which Professor Berrett adheres.

In the Scriptures
The Decalogue or Ten Commandments, which are part of this Sunday’s lectionary offering, are a good case in point. We tend to think of them as simple, easy, concrete rules that God wants us to apply to our lives. Laws that are in no need of interpretation, right?


Almost from the moment Moses plodded down Mt. Saini with those tablets, we have been interpreting the Decalogue, making it applicable for every moment in every generation. Hence the books of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, the final three books of the Torah or “Law.”

For instance, verse 3: “You shall have no other gods before me.”

Wait, what? You mean there are other gods? How many? What are their names? Is it okay if we acknowledge them as long as we don’t put them before or in front of or first over YHWH? See, all those questions have to be answered and answering them is called interpretation.

Or take verse 4. The one about idols. Some people have interpreted that to be about those other gods in verse 3. Others say it’s about making things that purport to show what God supposedly looks like. Still others say that it refers to anything that we treat as though it’s a god, something to which we devote ourselves so it will give our life purpose and meaning — like a car, or a football team, or a spouse.

Interpreter’s, please.

Or, take verse 7, the one about taking the Lord’s name in vain. I used to think that was about cussing. And not just me. Everyone I knew, including my parents, thought that was what the third commandment was about. Then the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible comes out and it says, “You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God.” Okay, first of all, we don’t know the name of God so how could we misuse it, right? And, admittedly, the wrongful use thing could be about cussing but it’s probably about more than that. Like swearing “to God” or “before God” and then lying. Or making sure we’re being honest any time we say, “so help me God.”

Remembering the sabbath day is a complete wash. We long ago interpreted that one out of existence. No one does that anymore and no one feels guilty about not doing it.

And when we honor our mothers and fathers does that mean we have to obey every word that comes out of their mouth no matter how crazy it might be?  And what about abusive parents?

And on and on it goes. Every single one of the Ten Commandments demands interpretation and did so almost immediately. In fact, in verses 18-20 that was one of the first things the people asked for after hearing them read. They told Moses, you talk to God and tell us what he says. That will be good enough for us.

If the laws that came directly from the finger of God needed to be interpreted, how much more so the laws that come from the minds of human beings? The Hebrew people, adrift in the wilderness, chose Moses as their chief interpreter. Now we, adrift in the year 2020, must choose one of our nine supreme interpreters and hope that the criteria she uses to do that interpreting is not just conservative but also sound and wise and filled with goodness and compassion.

In the Sermon
Judge Barrett has been described as a devout Catholic and I hope that is the case. I hope that her personal theology that will guide her in her application of the constitution is built upon the wisdom, righteousness, and goodness of those great Catholics who go with and have gone before her and the scripture that shaped their lives and ministries. I hope she will take them with her as she enters her chambers to contemplate the law and her interpretation of it.

I hope she will enter those chambers wearing not just her judicial robes but also the same cloak of humility of St. Francis of Assisi who said: “Here is one of the best means to acquire humility; fix well in mind this maxim: One is as much as he is in the sight of God, and no more.”

I hope she will take with her the passion of St. Joan of Arc so that her passion for the “helpless pre-born” will be matched by a passion for the hopeless post born, the poor, the dispossessed, the oppressed, the downtrodden, the homeless, the sick, and the imprisoned.

I hope she will take with her the compassion of Mother Theresa and fix in her mind the words of that great lady: “At the end of life, we are going to be judged on the basis of our love for one another.” And I hope that she will take heed of that kind and gentle woman’s reminder that when we must account to God for our lives “God won’t ask us for the number of degrees we had, the balance of our bank accounts, or the highest position we attained in our careers but how did we live out the love that we’ve been blessed with?”

I pray that she will enter her deliberations with what Cardinal Joseph Bernadin called a “consistent ethic of life,” one that knows that “Those who defend the right to life of the weakest among us must be equally visible in support of the quality of life of the powerless among us: the old and the young, the hungry and the homeless, the undocumented immigrant and the unemployed worker.”

I sincerely wish that she will remember the words of St. John of the Cross that, “In the twilight of life, God will not judge us on our earthly possessions and human success, but rather on how much we have loved.”

May she at least consider the words of that great Catholic layman, G.K. Chesterton that, “To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.”

And may her search for guidance in her decision making send her not just to her law books and her spiritual guide but to scripture as well.

To Micah 6:8 “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

To Deuteronomy 27:19, which warns us that "cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan, and the widow of justice."

To Jeremiah 21:12 that warns us to, “Execute justice in the morning, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor anyone who has been robbed, or else my wrath will go forth like fire, and burn, with no one to quench it…”

And to Amos 5:15, which admonishes judges to “Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts.”  

I earnestly pray that she will, like all truly devout Catholics, take seriously the words of her Pope, Francis, perhaps the modern king of the papal theological and ethical axiom: "A little bit of mercy makes the world less cold and more just." "Right now, we don't have a very good relation with creation." "You cannot be in a position of power and destroy the life of another person." "We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity." “It seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to our future generation.”

I hope she’ll give at least a moment’s thought to his words about prayer: “You pray for the hungry. Then you feed them. That's how prayer works.” His words about governance: “You can't govern without loving the people and without humility!” His words about the environment “Isn't humanity committing suicide with this indiscriminate and tyrannical use of nature?”

And, finally, I hope, as a good and devout Catholic, she will write on her heart the Pope’s words about governance: “Every man, every woman who has to take up the service of government, must ask themselves two questions: ‘Do I love my people in order to serve them better? Am I humble and do I listen to everybody, to diverse opinions in order to choose the best path?’ If you don’t ask those questions, your governance will not be good.”

Then I would pray that she is, indeed, as devout a Catholic as she has been described as being.

Bethany PeerbolteSECOND THOUGHTS
The Landowner is Coming
by Bethany Peerbolte
Matthew 21:33-46

This parable tells of a landowner who has a vineyard. The landowner puts in lots of work to make this a fully functioning vineyard. He puts up a wall to protect it from thieves and mark his property as his own. He digs the winepress and puts up a watch tower. Everything that is needed to make the vineyard successful is built by the landowner and prime for profit. After the landowner sets this vineyard up for success, he decides he will hire tenants to tend to the plants. We do not specifically know why he does not do this work himself. Perhaps he is tired and wants to rest, or maybe he wants to share the success with others and offer good jobs to those in his community. Whatever the reason a group of tenants are hired to care for the crop.

After some time, the landowner sends servants to collect his portion of the harvest. The servants are killed by the tenants. The landowner tries again and sends more servants and they too are killed by the tenants. Then the landowner sends his son, thinking the tenants will respect his son. They do not, and instead kill the son for his inheritance.

Then Jesus asks those listening to the parable how they think the landowner should respond. They quickly agree that the landowner should destroy the wicked tenants and hire new tenants, giving their share of the fruit to the new ones. Jesus affirms this is how it will be. The kingdom of God will be taken away from those who are wicked, and the fruit given to those who produce its fruit.

We hear, as the original listeners did, about the tenants killing the servants and we instinctively know they are in trouble. The landowner did everything for them. He set them up with a really nice gig, just watch the plants and harvest the fruit. The landowner already made the wall, the press and the tower. The tenants get hired into the easiest part of the season. Instead of gratefully handing over a portion of the minimal work they have done they get greedy and kill the servants to keep it all.

We hear, as the original listeners did, the landowner sending more servants and we question the logic. We know he will get the same result. Greedy tenants and dead servants. Then, when the landowner sends his son we all throw our arms up in disgust. Clearly he is being sent into a warzone and there is no reason these tenants should get another chance. They stick to their scarcity mindset and agree that if they kill the son somehow, they will also get his inheritance. This might make sense if they think the landowner has been too kind and a pushover so he will shower them with the inheritance if he does not have a son to give it to. Their group-think logic maybe thought the landowner would be afraid and give up. Leaving them alone on the flourishing vineyard and making them the sole owners for the full profit.

Their thinking is clouded by greed and self-inflation. They think the work they have done deserves all the profit. They ignore all the work the landowner did before they even got there. They ignore that the landowner has taken on all the responsibility and if the vineyard failed they could just walk away. Their greed makes them think they need the whole harvest. Their fear tells them that if they give any away they will be left with less, and possibly not enough.

However, there is no indication that the landowner is gouging them. The tenants do not cry out “it is too much.” If anything, the landowner is exceedingly patient with them and shrugs off the loss of his servants twice to offer another chance to do what is right. Even Jesus’ conclusion says the landowner will “destroy them” which does not necessarily mean he is going to kill them. Jesus’ explanation suggests what will happen is that they will be tossed out without any of the fruit and so causing them to have nothing but their lives — which is still a destructive result.

As we hold this parable up to our world there is one word I feel is key to understanding. When Jesus talks about what the servants go to the tenants to collect he uses the Greek word “karpos.” In most translations (NIV, ESV, NKJV, CSB) they use the English word “fruit.” This section in other translations read “share of the ‘crop’” (NIV), “produce” (NASB), “grapes” (CEB), “share of ‘harvest’” (GNT), and even “send some of the ‘fruit’ of the vineyard to him” (Aramaic Bible in Plain English). In other parts of scripture when this word is used it is used to mean “deed” “action” and “result.” Galatians 5:22 uses the same Greek word to talk about the fruits of the Spirit, which are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

With “karpos” as our crop to be produced we can see this parable unfold. God is the landowner who has prepared a world ripe for producing good fruits. Humanity is the tenants placed into the prosperous vineyard with the task of caring for and harvesting fruit. When harvest came God sent prophets, the servants, to collect God’s share. Humanity beats, kills, and stones them multiple times. God tries again by sending his son. Surely, we will respect him…we do not. Additionally, we assume that if the son is gone we can keep all the fruit for ourselves and God will finally be mad enough to leave us alone.  Jesus tells us that is not how it will turn out. God will then come to take the fruit that belongs to him and give the vineyard to new tenants who will produce good fruits.

If we narrow humanity for a moment to just the Church we begin to see what we need to repent of. The Church should be the section of humanity that consistently produces good fruit. We have been set up with a vineyard so ripe for production with the teachings and example of Jesus it should be easy work. However, we know areas of the Church that are not producing fruits of the Spirit. We cling to manmade theologies that do not reap joy, patience, gentleness, or kindness. Theologies that encourage people to hide fruit away and keep God’s portion.

One example is how the church has failed to recognize the difference between a person’s identity and a person’s behaviors. Christians calmly declare we need to “love the sinner but hate the sin.” This egregious reworking of scripture no longer resembles anything found in the Bible. It has been twisted and warped into a little ditty Christians can repeat to justify homophobia. Even after years of research has proven homosexuality is not a behavior one chooses but an identity born with us. Science has not proven that our sexuality is something as integral to our identity as our height, and as much of a choice as our fingerprints.

With this knowledge of how God creates us the phrase “love the sinner, hate the sin” is not possible. It would be like someone saying to me I love you but I hate people who are shorter than six feet tall. There is no way you can love me when you hate a huge part of my identity. I am a person of average height. If you hate those people you hate me. No way around it. You cannot love me and hate a part of my God given identity. The theology that any sexuality can be a sin simply does not produce the fruits God has asked us to tend.

If we knew nothing else about scripture other than this parable and what the fruits of the Spirit are, we could easily see where the Spirit of God is on the issue of homosexuality. People who are forced to hide their sexual identity have a much harder time producing the fruits of the Spirit. Stories of families rejecting children and suicides at conversion camps paint a clear picture. When we coerce someone to hide or deny their sexuality God does not get a cut of the harvest.

On the other hand, when people finally find a community where they can be who they were created to be the fruits overwhelm their lives. Go to a Pride parade and you will see joyful and loving people everywhere. When gay couples were able to be together publicly, we saw the hook-up culture plummet and self-control rise. Openly queer people are kind, gentle, and patient as they help others reach a better understanding of the image of God they possess. They rally around peaceful protests. Most importantly, the ones who find their way to an affirming church are fiercely faithful because they have had to spend time with scripture and God to defend their faith against Christians who spew verses like weapons.

If all we had to go on was finding where the fruits of Spirit were being produced, we would easily see the tenants God will get the most fruit from are the ones who are free to be themselves. Sexuality is part of our identity, it is not a behavior we choose, and so it cannot be sinful. It is God’s image in us that is being expressed — not a sinful act to be hated. When the landowner comes for the cut of the fruit we need to be ready to hand over their portion and not suppress or hide the bounty.


Tom WilladsenFrom team member Tom Willadsen:

Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20
I think you’re missing something
This reading is a stripped down version of the Ten Commandments. The bits that are missing are the verses that explain the reasons behind the commandments. It’s a sort of “Joe Friday, just the rules, ma’am” approach. You may want to include the verses excluded. Occasionally parishioners wonder why things are omitted; there’s really no good reason for these omissions, in my opinion.

* * *

Exodus 20:1-20
The Ten Commandments, yes, but which Ten Commandments

For decades there has been discussion and dispute about whether the Ten Commandments can be displayed in public buildings in the United States. Some contend that they belong in courthouses because the Bible is the foundation of all law. Others respond that using tax money to display them is an unconstitutional establishment of religion, which is forbidden by the First Amendment to the Constitution. 

If you want to have a little fun, concede in this debate that displaying the Ten Commandments in a public building is a case of “ceremonial deism.” Ceremonial deism is a legal term that some appearances of religion are mere ritual and can be considered non-religious because of long, customary use. So if the two sides agree that the Ten Commandments can be displayed in courthouses, have a debate on which version of the Ten Commandments to display. Exodus or Deuteronomy? King James or New Revised Standard Version? Jewish numbering or Roman Catholic numbering?

* * *

Exodus 20:1-20
I the Lord

The word at the start of verse 2 in Hebrew אנכי is a more formal version of the more frequently used אני . While the terms are both faithfully rendered in English as “I,” the former is used in stories of the Lord’s revelation, especially Abraham, (Genesis 15:1) Isaac, (Genesis 26:24) Jacob, (Genesis 31:13) and Moses (Exodus 3:6). It can also be rendered “I am the Lord.”

* * *

Exodus 20:1-20
I the Lord am an impassioned God

The Hebrew קנא is usually rendered “jealous,” but that term misses some of the nuance and emotion implied in the Hebrew. The Hebrew term is derived from the verb that means “to be red.” To bring this into English it is as though the Lord is saying, “I, the Lord, see red, when I look on Israel.” “Impassioned” is a concise way to bring the emotion and determined loyalty of the Lord to the ear of the hearer.

* * * * * *

Dean FeldmeyerFrom team member Dean Feldmeyer:

The Law & Women
When she entered Harvard Law School in 1956, Ruth Bader Ginsberg was one of only nine women in a class of more than 500.

Women were not permitted to live in law school dormitories or to dine in the faculty club. The Law Review banquet welcomed members’ fathers but not their wives or mothers. Early in the school year, Dean Ervin Griswold invited the nine women to his house for dinner, at which he asked them why they wanted to be at Harvard, occupying the space of a man who presumably could have put his legal education to better use. Unprepared for the question, Ginsburg said something to the effect that it was important for a woman to be informed about her husband's profession. (Her spouse, Marty Ginsburg, was a year ahead of her at the law school.)

In 1956, nobody, not even RBG could have confidently predicted that a woman would ever serve on the Supreme Court.

* * *

Top Ten Wild And Crazy Laws That Actually Exist
10. In Connecticut a pickle can’t be defined as a pickle unless it bounces.
9. In Colorado, it is illegal for car dealers to show cars on Sundays.
8. Also, in Colorado, it’s illegal to collect rain water.
7. In Burlingame, California, spitting is legal but only on baseball diamonds.
6. In Little Rock, Arkansas, dogs are not to bark after 6 p.m.
5. It is illegal to deny someone a glass of water in Arizona.
4. Flamingoes are not allowed in barber shops in Juneau, Alaska.
3. It is illegal to throw confetti or spray silly string in Mobile, Alabama.
2. Dominoes may not be played on Sunday in Alabama.
1. And, also in Alabama, it is prohibited to open an umbrella on a street.

* * *

How Many Federal Laws Are There?
According to the Library of Congress web site, in 1982 the Justice Department tried to determine the total number of criminal laws. In a project that lasted two years, the Department compiled a list of approximately 3,000 criminal offenses. This effort, headed by Ronald Gainer, a Justice Department official, is considered the most exhaustive attempt to count the number of federal criminal laws.

In a Wall Street Journal article about this project, “this effort came as part of a long and ultimately failed campaign to persuade Congress to revise the criminal code, which by the 1980s was scattered among 50 titles and 23,000 pages of federal law.” Or as Mr. Gainer characterized this fruitless project: “[y]ou will have died and [been] resurrected three times,” and still not have an answer to this question.

* * *

Okay, But Really, How Many Laws Are There
No one knows how many laws there are in the United States. Apparently, no one can count that high.

They’ve been accumulating, of course, for more than 200 years. When federal laws were first codified in 1927, they fit into a single volume. By the 1980s, there were 50 volumes of more than 23,000 pages.

And today? Online sources say that no one knows. The Internal Revenue Code alone, first codified in 1874, contains more than 3.4 million words and, if printed 60 lines to the page, is more than 7,500 pages long. There are about 20,000 laws just governing the use and ownership of guns.

New laws mean new crimes. From the start of 2000 through 2007, Congress had created at least 452 new crimes, so at that time the total number of Federal crimes exceeded 4,450.

It is impossible for anyone to know all of the laws that affect them and it is, therefore, impossible to not break any laws. How many of the 4,450 crimes have you broken?

In a typical year, Congress passes at least 125 new laws.

* * *

Who Is Robert And What Are His Rules?
In 1863, U.S. Army officer, Henry Martyn Robert, was asked to preside over a church meeting. The members of the organization all had different ideas and it didn’t take long for the whole thing to descend into chaos. He decided that a set of rules to guide the procedure was in order.

He went home, did some research and discovered the rules of order of the House of Representatives of the United States. He spent the next thirteen years adapting them for smaller and more common organizations and published a small volume in 1876 under the title Pocket Manual of Rules of Order for Deliberative Assemblies. The title on the cover was simply, Robert’s Rules of Order.

As he grew older and more involved with other organizations, Major Roberts realized there was a need for rules of order that could be used in different parts of the country and in different organizations. He began adapting his rules of order to meet a broader and more general need. Although Major Roberts was in the military, the rules in his book were not based on military rules.

Generally, Robert's Rules of Order is a guide for conducting meetings and making decisions as a group. The purpose of the book is "to enable assemblies of any size, with due regard for every member's opinion, to arrive at the general will on the maximum number of questions of varying complexity in a minimum amount of time and under all kinds of internal climate ranging from total harmony to hardened or impassioned division of opinion."

The book is designed for use in ordinary societies rather than legislative assemblies, and it is the most commonly adopted parliamentary authority among societies in the United States. It is also recognized as "the most widely used reference for meeting procedure and business rules in the English-speaking world."

The Robert Family Trust continues to control publication of revised and later editions of Robert’s Rules. The authorship team of the current Twelfth Edition, published in 2020, consists of a grandson of General Robert, an attorney, a lobbyist and legislative analyst, a mathematics professor, and a copy editor, all of them being experienced parliamentarians.

More than six million copies have been printed (which is a total of all editions).

Henry Robert retired from the Army in 1901 with the rank of Brigadier General. He died at the age of 86, on May 11, 1923 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

* * * * * *

Mary AustinFrom team member Mary Austin:

Matthew 21:33-46
The Fruits of the Kingdom
In this parable, Jesus promises that God’s realm will be given to those who “produce the fruits of the kingdom.” Our work in the world is important to God. With that in mind, Holly Leibowitz Rossi recalls a day she learned how to call God's fruits into the world. “Many years ago, at the convocation that began my time in divinity school, I heard a sermon that I’ve never forgotten. The preacher shared the story of a woman who was walking along the beach on a cloudy day, lost in thought and enjoying the solitude. Her reverie was interrupted by the sound of someone shouting just up the beach from where she stood. It was a man, just visible through the mist. His arms wide, he shouted, “Come, blessings!” He turned toward the water, then away from the woman, again shouting, “Come, blessings, come!” The woman stopped in her tracks, taking in the scene. Her pensive mood deepening, she thought about the pure, direct spiritual appeal she was witnessing. Here was a man, she thought, who had made his way to the quiet, enduring presence of nature to call blessings into his life, to literally shout into the wind for the blessings he yearned for.

“She started walking again, hoping to speak to the man and thank him for the much-needed inspiration she had gleaned from his spiritual practice. As she walked, the wind continued to carry his voice. “Come, blessings! Come, blessings, come!” She started to speak the simple, powerful words along with him, feeling buoyed and increasingly freed each time. Then, just as suddenly as when she first heard him, the man stopped shouting. And just as suddenly as when she first noticed him, the woman stopped walking. A big, floppy-eared dog bounded joyfully toward the man, seeming to have emerged mystically from the mist. The woman was close enough to the man to hear him, as he tousled the dog’s fur, exclaim, “Blessings! There you are! I thought I had lost you!” At first the woman felt silly, having confused a dog named Blessings for a profound moment of communion with the divine. But as she continued on her walk, she smiled contentedly. The message she had received, the inspiration to ask clearly and plainly for the goodness, hope, peace and other blessings she yearned for, was real, even if the bearer of the message had four legs and a tail. Perhaps, she thought, it was not a coincidence that the man had named his dog Blessings. And perhaps the dog had not been lost at all.”

The realm of God comes, in part, when we do the work to call it into the world.

* * *

World Communion Sunday
Communion Around the World
As we ponder, on this World Communion Sunday, our siblings in Christ having communion around the world, we know that not everyone will be celebrating with Welch’s grape juice. In the Congo, Mission Co-worker Paul Turner says, “In most parts of Equator Province, preparation for communion does not involve wine or grape juice because it’s not always available, and it is difficult to store given the climate. A widely available soft drink called Vitalo is commonly used as the emblem for Christ’s blood because of its red color. The emphasis is placed more on the red color resembling blood than a drink originating from grapes, or “the fruit of the vine,” which is not commonly cultivated in Equator Province. Vitalo is not always available in remote areas, so the local churches there must improvise. They sometimes use crushed spinach seeds mixed into water to turn it red. A little sugar is then added to sweeten the taste. Bread is used as the emblem for Christ’s body, but also biscuits or sugar cookies are a substitute when bread is unavailable.”

Turner adds that churches in the Congo “celebrate communion with solemn reverence. The church doors are closed and candles are lit. Instruments and drums are silent during communion. The only sounds are raised voices singing familiar communion hymns. World Communion Sunday is an acknowledgement that the whole of Christianity practices communion in some form or fashion. While the emblems, look of the tables and certain customs may vary around the world, we all come to share in this meal as an important tenet of our faith. World Communion Sunday is an opportunity, and a reminder, to bring what we love about sharing the Lord’s meal to the world, that sense of unity, presence, peace and community. May we always seek to bring these elements to the world in remembrance of Jesus.”

In France, communion is as elegant as the French are. “Each person at the table shares a slice of bread and a glass of wine after the celebrant has read the liturgy and then the celebrant reads the thanksgiving.” In the Middle East, Mission Co-worker Ariel Royer shares that, in the Anglican church in Jordan, “While the priest was a very relaxed individual, I always felt a certain amount of anxiety when it came to communion. Kneeling at the banister, we were served pieces of bread and offered to drink from the communal silver chalice. I often wondered how to behave: should I submit even though this method made me nervous (not least because I always worried about drips!) or was I allowed to override the system by saving my bread and dipping it in the chalice? Should I conform to the tradition in which I was participating or stay true to the ritual which brought the most meaning and nourishment to my spirit? In more historical traditions, I was spared this anxiety: the non-reformed Orthodox and Catholic churches I attended had strict rules concerning who was afforded access to communion and I never fulfilled the requirements. In the Greek Orthodox tradition of Jordan, the communion meal must be the first meal of the day; some individuals even fast from Friday night until Sunday morning to ensure thorough preparation for the sacred ritual.”

* * *

Isaiah 5:1-7
Acting for the Environment
The prophet Isaiah, speaking in God’s voice, laments that his vineyard is not fruitful, and certainly not in the way he expects. In this season, our questions about the climate may echo the prophet’s lament. Beset by destructive hurricanes and wildfires, we might ask the same question Isaiah asks:

And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem
   and people of Judah,
judge between me
   and my vineyard.
What more was there to do for my vineyard
   that I have not done in it?
When I expected it to yield grapes,
   why did it yield wild grapes?

We are having our own “wild grapes” in the form of flooding, burning, loss of homes and loss of life. Our young neighbors are hearing Isaiah’s question of “what more was there to do?” and answering it in their own way. Impatient with the slowness of change, they are founding their own organizations to advocate for change on climate issues. Jansikwe Medina-Tayac has said, “This [climate change] is not just an environmental issue. This is a race issue, this is an immigration issue, this is a feminist issue.” She is a co-founder of the group Zero Hour, “a woman-of-color-led climate justice organization with fellow student activist Khadija Khokhar in February. “To me, the people who are fighting against climate change and who are most affected are people of color,” Medina-Tayac said. “And yet we don’t see them reflected often.” This is what she hopes Zero Hour will do.”

Medina-Tayac is a member of the Piscataway Nation, a Native American tribe historically based around the Chesapeake Bay, and Khokhar is a Muslim and a first-generation immigrant. They see that young voters “will be forced to bear the full effects of climate change… this is especially true for frontline communities in areas with higher pollution or fewer green spaces or on coastlines being eaten away by rising oceans.”

Is there more that can be done for the earth — the vineyard we all share? Our neighbors say yes, and they’re working on doing it.

* * * * * *

Chris KeatingWORSHIP
by Chris Keating

Call to Worship:
Leader: Listen as the heavens declare God’s glory!
People: The expansive firmament shouts praise.
Leader: The stars have no voice, and do not speak words.
People: Yet their witness is heard across the earth!
Leader: The commandment of the Lord is clear, and enlightens our eyes!
People: May the words of our mouths, and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our rock and redeemer. Let us worship God.


Leader: Restore us, O God, so that we may be saved:
People: Remind us of all you have spoken, and teach us once more The law you have given.
Leader: Beloved, press on toward the goal! Keep reaching for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ.
People: May we be found in Christ, having achieved the righteousness which comes by faith.

Hymns and Songs:
“All Beautiful the March of Days”
“All Things Bright and Beautiful”
“Jesus Shall Reign Where’er the Sun”
“How Firm A Foundation”
“O God, Who Gives Us Life”
“Your Law, O Lord, is Perfect” (Ps. 19)
“Acceptable to You,”  (E. Wilson, Jr.)
“Let the Whole Creation Cry”
“What does the Lord Require of You?”
“Thy Word is a Lamp Unto My Feet”
“Be Thou My Vision”

Hymns appropriate for World Communion:
“This is My Song”
“Dona Nobis Pacem”
“We Are Marching In the Light of God”
“One Bread, One Body”
“In Christ There is No East or West”

Prayer for the Day/Collect
Gracious God, giver of law and mercy,
Give us willing and obedient ears
so that we might hear the words you speak
as we strive forward to claim the mercies you offer.
In Jesus’  name, Amen.


Praise be to you, O God, for giving us your commandments and teaching us your law. Your Son came proclaiming your promises and offering salvation in your name. Help us to receive those promises and to abide with you always.  Amen.

Prayer of Confession
Leader: God’s law revives our spirits, forgiving us of our sin, and keeping us in true righteousness. Let us confess to God and to each other our sin:

People: Gracious God, forgive our sin. You have sent us prophets and teachers who proclaimed your law and spoke your truth. Yet we ignored their teaching and continued to trust in our own ways. You sent us Jesus, your beloved Son, yet we crucified him, and disrespected all that he taught. We have offended you, but still you reach toward us. Clear away our hidden faults, and remove our sins from us. Amen.

Leader: Beloved of God: hear the promise of Paul: “This one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call in Christ Jesus.”  Believe the promise of the Gospel: in Jesus Christ, we are forgiven, Amen.

Prayers of the People
Loving God, your face shines upon us this morning. We praise you for the gifts of our salvation. Your love has shaped our lives and removed our transgressions. Your law reveals the heart of your grace, and teaches us all that we need to know to live in gracious community with you and our neighbors.

We thank you for these many graces, and especially for the mercy you give to us each day. We thank you for the love which enables us to cross over the rugged paths of life, and for friends and family whose support is vital to all we do. We thank you especially for the gifts of our communion with you in Jesus Christ, and for the marvelous, sweet communion of those who have gone before us.

(You may add thanksgivings specific to your context.)

We pray for your world, O God, torn by division, anger, injustice and pain. We pray for those who are oppressed, and ask that you might be especially near to children who are anxious and afraid. Comfort those who are grieving, and be with all who are sick and lonely. We ask that you be with those separated from their families and whose struggles are known only to you. Give us the courage to speak truth and compassion, and guide us with your words.

(Add other intercessions.)

All these things we ask in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ who taught us to pray together saying:

Our Father....Amen.

Children’s Sermon Starter
Bring in pictures of galaxies, stars, and planets. Ask the children if they have ever looked out at the stars at night. Imagine with them what it would be like to see stars or the Milky Way up close…how awesome that would be, and how brilliant their lights would be! Share with them the words of Psalm 19, and wonder aloud how something so beautiful can seem to be “shouting” or “singing” to us without words, language, or even voices. We see glimpses of God’s glory in those ancient stars! They inspire us, reviving our soul.

* * * * * *

These Words
by Chris Keating
World Communion Sunday

Gather ahead: Some symbol of the world: a world map, a globe, or even a collection of world flags. A basket of breads representing differing types of cultures and places (European dark rye, naan, flat breads, tortillas, Japanese milk bread, crunchy baguettes, and so forth).

For decades, many Protestant churches have celebrated World Communion Sunday on the first Sunday of October. On this Sunday, we can imagine Christians from different countries sharing in communion. Using one of the symbols of the world, invite the children to think about how families in those countries might be gathering for worship today. Some Christians will gather in large cathedrals, some will gather outdoors (maybe even your church!), some will be gathered online, and some will be gathered in homes. In Paris, Christians will gather at the famous Notre Dame Cathedral, which is still being rebuilt following its disastrous fire. In Saudi Arabia, Christians are forbidden to worship in public. In that country, they must worship inside their homes. Invite the children to name places where they may have travelled or share a story from your own travels.

On this day, we remember that we are one church scattered across the world.

But even in our differences, we still share the same story. Remind them that wherever Christians gather, and in whatever language they speak, we all share the same story of Jesus, and how he broke bread and lifted up a cup. Show the basket of breads. This is a great time to teach children the words and actions associated with communion in your church. Have them practice saying, “This is my body, broken for you,” and “do this in remembrance of me.”

The Ten Commandments are another example of how we are connected to each other. We are many different people, but the commandments were given to us by God as rules for living together. The words of the commandments are rules, of course, because they help us know how to honor God and how to respect each other. If you have time, share a kid-friendly version of the Ten Commandments — either one that you make, or one that comes from a children’s Bible. Help the kids understand how the first five commandments are about our relationship to God, while the second five speak to the ways we treat others. This, too, is a way of remaining connected to each other.

As you close, read or sing a line of a hymn like “In Christ there is No East or West,” or “One Bread, One Body,” as a prayer. Give thanks for the many ways Christians share communion, and for the gift of God’s love that helps us become one in Jesus Christ.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Immediate Word, October 4, 2020 issue.

Copyright 2020 by CSS Publishing Company, Inc., Lima, Ohio.

All rights reserved. Subscribers to The Immediate Word service may print and use this material as it was intended in sermons and in worship and classroom settings only. No additional permission is required from the publisher for such use by subscribers only. Inquiries should be addressed to or to Permissions, CSS Publishing Company, Inc., 5450 N. Dixie Highway, Lima, Ohio 45807.
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John Jamison
They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.  Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.  As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. (vv. 16-18)
John Jamison
When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them.  While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.  Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God. (vv. 50-53)

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Acts 1:15-17, 21-26
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The resurrection of Jesus takes center stage, rightfully so, in the church calendar. By contrast, Ascension Day often falls by the wayside, unless it happens to fall on a Sunday. It’s something Jesus did, but it’s not necessarily a significant event in the lives of many churches. These three texts, however, illustrate the central importance of this event, which is the capstone of the ministry of Jesus.
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There is still a lot to be in despair about in America. Racism is not gone, as the families who lost loved ones to wanton police shootings continue to mourn. Those who lost jobs, incomes, and businesses in the pandemic continue to suffer and remain in despair. It is all so tragic, as the German-born philosopher Theodor Adono once wrote: “But he who dies in despair has lived his life in vain.” Martin Luther saw this text and its account of the ascension as a time to preach on faith and the comfort from despair that that Word brings:

The Village Shepherd

Janice B. Scott
Many years ago I met a churchwarden who had grown up within a Jewish background but who had converted to Christianity quite late in life. She had had an amazing conversion experience which had affected her deeply and as a result had become an ardent Christian. She was particularly zealous about Christian mission to the Jews, wanting to convert all Jews to Christianity. When I asked whether she thought Jesus was the only way to God, she looked astonished and said yes, of course!


Constance Berg
Brian could feel the heat of anger rising in his neck. His left hand curled into a fist and he hit the palm of his right hand. He felt dizzy as he looked around.

Clothes, towels, and sheets were scattered all over the living room. A glass of orange juice was empty, the contents still dribbling down the side of the coffee table. A towel landed at his feet. His one-year-old looked up at him and giggled, making Brian even more angry.
E. Carver Mcgriff
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How many of you know what BASE jumping is? BASE jumping is the very scary sport of jumping off Buildings, Antennae, Spans, and Earth objects. If you want to do it more than once, you jump with a parachute or perhaps a hang glider. Some of you may have seen examples of this daring sport on television.

An example:
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Ascension Day is a good time for the Christian community to assess where it has been and where it is going. We need to ask ourselves why we are here and exactly what is it we are supposed to be doing. Our lesson for this day provides us with much needed information on what we should be doing and what our final destination as we travel this road in ministry with Jesus is.
Erskine White
When people are confused or afraid, when they feel that things are out of control, or when they feel helpless to overcome the problems which confront them, they often resort to "pie in the sky" religion. They look for Jesus to come and fix what they can't fix for themselves. They figure that one day, as if by magic, Jesus will make everything right for them in the "sweet bye and bye."


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Not the Hour or the Day
by Peter Andrew Smith
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