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Mountains, Top and Bottom

Children's sermon
For February 23, 2020:
  • Mountains, Top and Bottom by Mary Austin — Presidential candidates go home changed, even if the Presidency eludes them. We can imagine that the same is true for James, John and Peter.
  • Second Thoughts: Crossing Thresholds by Chris Keating — Before ascending the mountain of God, Moses tells the elders to remain and wait — placing them in a season of transition and change.
  • Sermon illustrations by Dean Feldmeyer and Ron Love.
  • Worship resources by George Reed that focus on waiting for God’s vision; leaving the mountaintop to be in mission and ministry.
  • Children’s sermon: The Breath of the Holy Spirit by Tom Willadsen — People need to recognize that we depend on God for the energy and direction we need to be part of the Body of Christ, to be the church of Jesus Christ.

Mary AustinMountains, Top and Bottom
by Mary Austin
Matthew 17:1-9

In this campaign season, it’s hard to determine who the front runner for the Democratic nomination is. The candidates have been running for the nomination for a year now, and primaries have just started. Once prominent candidates have withdrawn from the race, and polls show first Senator Warren at the top, then Senator Sanders. Wait, Mayor Pete Buttigieg is coming from behind. No, Senator Klobuchar has surprising strength, and could win it all. Rankings shift seemingly weekly, and no candidate is ever on top for very long.

If the candidates ever have time to think a thought, they may find this rollercoaster dizzying. Any moments of hope disappear quickly into yet more town hall meetings, phone calls to seek funds, calculations about getting on the debate stage and trying to add one more event to the schedule. The physical fatigue is daunting, and the emotional swings must require even more strength. We wonder how they remain hopeful, engaged and kind to the people who work with them.

Their experiences of being up, then down, parallel the disciples’ journey to the top of the mountain with Jesus. Peter, James and John get the rare of experience of seeing the richness of the divine presence within the man they know so well. It’s startling enough that words fail them, and they stumble when they try to hold onto it.

Everyone who runs for President says that the experience itself is an education. Meeting thousands of different people, traveling across the country, hearing people’s stories is an education like nothing else. Candidates go home changed, even if the Presidency eludes them. We can imagine that the same is true for James, John and Peter. They go down from the mountain changed, even if they don’t understand what they’ve seen.

In the News
Adding to the dizzying ups and downs of this election season is the feeling that this time is different. An analysis piece says, “Halfway through the early state primaries and caucuses, Democrats are no closer to clarifying their nominating contest than they were at the turn of the new year. In the coming two contests — Nevada’s caucuses next Saturday and South Carolina’s primary on Feb. 29 — the “winners” from Iowa and New Hampshire have almost as much at stake as the losers.” Being at the top of the polls — which is almost like being at the top of the mountain — is no guarantee this time. With the brutal pace of primaries, and the need to advertise everywhere, all the time, no one stays on top for long.

The writer adds, “Iowa and New Hampshire saw two candidates perform consistently. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg emerged ahead of all the other Democrats. Neither, however, came through as a dominant front-runner. Former vice-president Joe Biden, who claimed front-runner status until he couldn’t, ran a weak fourth in Iowa and a weaker fifth in New Hampshire. He didn’t even break into double digits last Tuesday. By all rights, after that kind of start, he would be considered out of the race. But this is not a normal year.” Meanwhile, billionaire Michael Bloomberg is hovering over the race, putting millions of dollars into advertising, without the need to take any risks on the debate stage or in primaries.

So far, the early voting has happened in states that are primarily white, and the candidates will be tested again when they get to South Carolina, with a large African-American population, and Nevada, with a large number of Latinx voters. The top of the mountain may yet become the bottom, and vice versa.

Everyone who runs for the Democratic nomination, except one person, will be disappointed in the end. Somehow they find the energy to keep campaigning each day. Everyone who runs for President will find a version of failure at the end, except one person. Somehow, all of the candidates find the motivation to keep working at what they feel is a call on behalf of the American people. The highs and the lows mix together, sometimes even on the same day, in this unique quest.

In the Scriptures
The story of Jesus and the disciples at the top of the mountain is inseparable from the things that happen next at the bottom of the mountain, where they find the other disciples frustrated by their inability to heal the boy who is ill. Glory meets up with everyday frustration. In fact, the mountaintop is bracketed by the awareness of death. A look back before the trip to the mountain reminds us that Jesus has been talking to his friends about his approaching death. The setting for the revelation of glory is Jesus saying, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” (16:24-25)

The presence of Moses and Elijah, the lawgiver and the prophet, also hint at failure. They add the aura of Israel’s great figures to Jesus, and yet both of them had excruciating moments of failure in their own lives. In Moses’s work for God, he experiences the rebellion of the people, and seeing them make an idol while he was in the very presence of God. He ends his life looking at the promised land, and not entering it. Elijah spends time on the run, in fear for his life, and knows moments of deep despair when he feels he’s done with God’s work.

When Jesus comes back down the mountain, evoking Moses descending from God’s presence, a crowd is waiting. The story even tells us that it’s “the crowd,” perhaps the people who have been following along with Jesus. The left-behind disciples have had a very public failure to heal a boy who is sick, and the father begs for Jesus to help. Prayer is the answer, Jesus reminds them. Their faith is too small.

This is curious, since they had enough faith to believe they could heal the boy, even without Jesus standing right there. We wonder if they attempted the healing to make themselves feel better about being left behind, or to prove that they were just as worthy as James, John and Peter. Was there a “we’ll show them” spirit in their attempted miracle? If so, their experience recalls us all back to our best intentions in serving God.

In the Sermon
Our communications grow constantly shorter and quicker. People who used to write letters now send email, and people who grew up on email use tweets and texts. All of that is fleeting. The moment on the mountain, in the presence of Jesus, Moses and Elijah, is just as quick, but it has a lasting impact. None of the three disciples who were there would ever forget it. The sermon could explore the moments of impact in our lives. What are our quick moments which leave a life-long impact? Conversations with God? Revelations from other people? New understandings about ourselves, prompted by the Spirit?

The exciting moment at the mountaintop and the bottom-of-the-mountain failure are a familiar mix in church life. We start a program with fanfare, and then feel like failures when the numbers aren’t what we expected. The two experiences travel together in the life of faith, and we don’t stay too long in one place or the other. Wherever we are, God keeps calling us out into the other place. The sermon might look at how this story teaches us not to have too much attachment to the top of the mountain. Like Peter, we want to stay there as long as we can. Instead, like the disciples, we keep hearing about letting go, taking up the cross, and embracing failure as a place where God is at work.

The mountain top offers a moment when we see things from God’s perspective. We get the same view as at Jesus’s baptism, and hear God’s voice again. We are so immersed in our own view of things that we rarely get to see as God sees. The sermon could examine how we can cultivate moments of seeing the divine, our discipleship and our connection with Jesus the way God sees them. How can we recapture that perspective in our faith, even for a few moments at a time? 

This story, just at the edge of Lent, is endlessly fascinating. The mix of glory and disappointment are a perfect mirror for the life of faith, as we follow Jesus into Lent and beyond.

Crossing Thresholds
Chris Keating
Exodus 24:12-18

Registering your car and paying for license plates is not normally a religious experience. It’s a relatively mundane process, generally more maddening than transforming. Yet on my recent trip to tag my daughter’s new car, the air was thick with religious-sounding words. A longer-than normal wait time was prompting the frequent invoking of God’s name.

The screen said, “Now serving 27.” Tugging a ticket from the deli-style number machine, I saw I was 48. “Oh, to be 28!” I thought.

After I sat down, another customer wandered straight past the number machine. His eyes surveyed the room. “I signed up online,” he said, conveying a mixture of arrogance and privilege. “Yep. Got up early and signed up by 7 a.m.” I kept my eyes down.

The woman next to him slapped her knee and laughed. “Jokes on you, mister. They stopped using the online system last month but haven’t taken down the website yet.”

Something like a devouring fire enveloped the waiting area. A thick cloud covered us as the next customer reached up and grabbed number 49. The online guy stomped out of the place.

Waiting is never fun. When our adult children planned our Disneyworld vacation last year, they consulted websites and created spreadsheets to maximize our down time between rides. They pre-booked FastPasses and mapped out strategies. It was both amusing and somewhat annoying — but it was also effective.

It is one thing to wait at Disneyworld, or to wait at the license office. It’s quite another to wait for the results of a biopsy, or to hold vigil as a loved one nears death. Waiting for a table at a crowded restaurant can be trying; waiting in an ICU unit can be terrifying. Waiting is most difficult in those moments of life when we shift from the known to the unknown.

I imagine there were not any theme park designed queues at the base of Sinai. Nor did Moses have the elders call ahead to reserve a place in line. Instead, the crowd following Moses toward the Mountain of God are taken so far and then told to wait. Moses instructs the crowd to stick around. Aaron and Hur are commissioned as monitors to mediate any disputes which may arise. Clearly, Moses believes this is going to take some time.

As we will see, waiting patiently is not one of the people’s strong suits.

Moses continues his ascent and disappears into the thick cloud. The people remain behind, and enter a season of liminality filled with confusion and disorder. “Liminality” was first coined by anthropologist Arnold Van Gennep in his 1909 study of rites of passage. Van Gennep held that coming of age rituals existed in all societies and tended to follow a threefold sequence which he called “preliminal,” “liminal” and “post-liminal.”

Transitional periods are moments of liminality, and times when smoky clouds may make envisioning the next steps impossible. The word is rooted in the Latin word for threshold. As we enter liminal periods or seasons of life, one phase ends even though what is to come is unclear. Liminal times are times of transition, and unknowing. We are, says Richard Rohr, located in a “betwixt and between” space. The old world has gone, but what is to come remains unclear.

Liminality is crucial to transformation, as evidenced by these Transfiguration Sunday stories. For the elders of Israel, the transition from an enslaved people to Yahweh’s people has led them from the realities of oppression into the wilderness of uncertainty. Similarly, as the disciples watch God’s light and sound show during Jesus’ transfiguration, they are both enthralled and afraid. The Transfiguration is the threshold they must cross.

Like the elders of Israel before them, the disciples discover that crossing thresholds are times when their ability to wait for God is strained. Embracing the new, unforeseen future of the resurrection will involve waiting through the agony of crucifixion. It is a disorienting time, a moment when we discover that old answers no longer suffice, and new answers remain unknown. Liminality involves deepening our ability to wait — even if we do not know for what we are waiting.

Susan Beaumont, a church consultant, has written a helpful book on leadership in a time of liminality. “How to Lead When You Don’t Know Where You Are Going” (Rowan & Littlefield, 2019) is a helpful resource for ministry leaders as they walk through this liminal space of change. “We are engaged in a transformation,” she writes “the outcome of which is presently unknowable. The basic models and processes that define Church are being deconstructed. They are crumbling around us. Some new ways are emerging, but we do not yet know…what forms of institutional church, if any will remain.” (p. 8).

If that sounds familiar, then it may be because nearly every congregation around us is involved in navigating these liminal spaces of transition. “We are all transitional pastors,” a colleague mused recently, whether or not we are engaged in intentional interim ministry. In this time of crossing the threshold, listening to transforming narratives of Transfiguration is essential.

And so we wait. Beaumont notes that when too many aspects of our lives become mired in liminality, we “lose our ability to cope.” Severe disorientation may appear, anxieties increase, structure gives way to anti-structure. Old identities are relinquished as adaptive learning takes place. For the elders in Exodus, all this takes place in that space where Moses tells them to wait.

Mollie Taylor, who describes herself as a contemplative outdoor adventurer and poet, talks about the disorienting frustration of waiting. She writes of being immersed in a season of discernment and change, a time of hard work, “full of challenge, full of promise, and most definitely full of frustration.” A few conversations lead to a transforming moment of light that offers her some solace, providing validation of the importance of waiting:

“And by waiting I do not mean sitting idly by as I am already adept at doing; I mean active participation in the process of change. I mean listening — and deeply — to the life that is stirring within and without. I mean choosing to take those steps I’ve resisted for a hundred and one reasons. I mean choosing, also, to wait until that life in me has had the time and nourishment it needs before becoming visible in the world. Waiting is hard.”

As Transfiguration Sunday looms ahead of us, we see its rugged peaks and mysterious clouds inviting us to cross new threshold of faith. It is not clear how we are going to get where God is leading us, but in our faithful waiting God shall appear.

John Muir once said, “The mountains are calling, and I must go.” I am certain that Muir never experienced the joy and terror of crossing the mountains in a minivan packed with toddlers prone to motion sickness. But his sense of commitment to the vocation of crossing liminal spaces has much to offer. Get going — but be prepared to wait.


Dean FeldmeyerFrom team member Dean Feldmeyer:

Exodus 24:12-18
While Waiting (Waiting with God)

When I lived in a large city time spent in the lines at the DMV seemed interminable. If you needed to go there you had to plan on waiting in line for 1½ to 2 hours, at least. At first, I was always angry and resentful at being forced to endure such indignity and spent the time commiserating with my fellow line standers. But, then, my wife suggested that I use the time constructively by reading whatever book I was reading at the time. “You always complain that you never have enough time for reading. Now you do.”

And I did. I would take my book and read as I stood in line and, while the line was still long and seemed to move glacially slow, I didn’t mind so much.

Then, a few years ago, we moved to a small town. When I got a new car, I had to go to the DMV to get new license plates and was shocked to see only three people in line in front of me. I took a number, sat down, opened my book and had barely gotten started on a new chapter when I heard my number called.

I was in and out of the DMV in less than fifteen minutes and I actually caught myself wishing the line had been a little bit longer.

* * *

Matthew 17:1-9
Five Times In Your Life (Mountaintop Experience)
Rob Cizek, Executive Pastor at the Northshore Christian Church in Seattle, offers this story about a mountaintop experience: “My son’s marching band had just performed its last show of the season. They were in serious finals competition with the best bands from the Pacific Northwest. The magic moment came just after the performance. One-hundred twenty-five teary, giddy and exhausted high school kids had surrounded the band director. It looked like the victory scene from every football movie ever made. The director was giving a heartfelt speech. It was his appreciation for a team that had just given its finest performance ever. Then the band director said something remarkable, ‘You will only feel this way five times in your life. Tonight’s one of those five.’ There was lots of hugging, more tears and the overwhelming bitter-sweetness that only comes with life’s most memorable moments. It was a mountaintop experience.”

* * *

Matthew 17:1-9
How Leaders Can Enable A Mountaintop Experience
You can’t make a mountaintop experience happen. You can’t force it. It happens or it doesn’t happen. But you can set the stage for one. You can, as a leader, create a context, an atmosphere, an environment that enables them to happen.

Here are some elements of such an atmosphere.

1. People — Mountaintop experiences happen when there is a community of people with a sense of belonging.
2. Interruption of routine — When people get outside of their normal routine, they see things they normally miss.
3. Interruption of place — Unfamiliar surroundings are fertile ground for exploration, comparisons and introspection.
4. Introduction of new ideas — Learning new things together as a group, in an unfamiliar setting, draws people together.
5. Overcoming a common challenge — Magic happens when a team works hard and succeeds at solving a shared problem.
6. Joy — Energy, playfulness and high-spiritedness affect how we experience an occasion and each other.
7. Sense of occasion — Use the setting, the food, the music and your own attitude signal that this is a special place and time.
8. Stories — Mountaintop experiences become stories that shape the future of the group. They are part of the institutional lore or mythology that tell us who we are. Make sure you tell and retell those stories enthusiastically and often.

* * *

Matthew 17:1-9
Too Long On The Mountaintop (Mountaintop Experience)
We are meant to visit the mountaintop but not to live there. This was demonstrated to me in a literal way some years ago.

I was attending a conference at a retreat center near Estes Park, Colorado. On one of the days of the conference we were given the afternoon off and encouraged to go into the Rocky Mountain National Park to explore and experience the beauty of the mountains.

My friend and I had rented a car, so that’s what we did. We drove up into the park where we discovered the Trail Ridge Road, the highest paved through-road in the country, with a peak elevation of 12,183 feet, more than twice as high as the city of Denver. Sounded like a cool experience, so we took it and followed it up the mountain.

The vistas were amazing. The skies were a kind of blue I had never seen, the mountain peaks were better in person than anything I’d seen in pictures. We pulled off the road at several overlooks and took pictures and praised God for God’s handiwork.

And then, after about two hours I began to get a headache. Then I began to feel nauseated. Then I started getting dizzy and short of breath. I told my friend what I was feeling and we got in the car and headed back down the mountain.

As we approached Estes Park my symptoms began to abate. We stopped at a little sidewalk café where I had a cup of tea to help settle my stomach and we got into a conversation with an elderly couple at another table, sharing with them what had happened to me.

They nodded their heads, knowingly. “Mountain sickness,” said the man. “Happens to some folks. If you’re prone to it, it’s best not to spend too much time on the mountaintop. Just go slow for short visits but don’t pitch your camp up there.”

* * *

Matthew 17:1-9
Down From The Mountaintop (Mountaintop Experience)
It is almost a cliché to preach on the story of the Transfiguration without paying at least a little lip service to verses which follow that story, those that describe Jesus and the disciples coming down from the mountaintop and back into the real world.

What a letdown it must have been.

I know that experience.

I consider that two of the most profound mountaintop experiences I have had were the births of my children. I was there to coach my wife through labor and I was there to welcome them into the world and to hold them when they were but moments old. And, for me, in those moments, the rest of the world simply vanished.

It was so far outside of my consciousness that I might as well have been on a different planet. There was my wife, our child, and me and nothing else existed. I was in a Utopian world that I never knew existed. My life had just taken a radical turn and would never be the same again.

And, as my world had just changed, something inside my brain just kind of assumed (admittedly, irrationally) that it would be so with the rest of the world.

But, alas, it was very much not so.

The sun came up just as it did the day before. There was no mention of the changed world in the daily newspaper. The coffee tasted pretty much the same as it did the morning before. My car was still dirty on the outside and messy on the inside. The laundry was still waiting in the laundry room.

I wanted nothing more than to get back to that hospital, my mountaintop from the day before, and into that cocoon of love and joy.

But even there, before I could hold my new baby, there were forms to be filled out and signed, and an urging to get out and make room for the next new parents.

I was down from the mountaintop, in spades.

* * *

Matthew 17:1-9
The Valley Is Temporary, Too (Mountaintop Experience)
The usual way to approach this text is to preach about the fleeting joy of the mountaintop experience and how we must all, regrettably, eventually, return to the valley. Mountaintop experiences are rare and fleeting, we say. Life, real life, is lived in the valleys.

But one wonders if that is actually the case. Is life really plane, occasionally interrupted by peaks and valleys? Or is life, more accurately, a series of peaks and valleys, ups and downs, highs and lows. If we observe life carefully, we discover that the valleys are just as rare and fleeting as the peaks.

One of the great gifts of God is that we tend to forget pain.

If it was not so, no woman would have more than one child. Every soldier would run away after the first battle. We would all avoid funerals and eschew memorial services.

The Kansas City Chiefs had been disappointed year after year for 50 years but, this year, their long sojourn in the valley ended as they climbed to the mountaintop of the Super Bowl and brought home the win. And, on that day, fifty years of valleys were forgotten.

* * *

Matthew 17:1-9
The Transforming Light Of Grace (Transfiguration)
Grace, said Paul Tillich, changes nothing but transforms everything.

I liken this to turning on a light when we enter a room. If I try to walk through the room without turning on the light, I know from experience that there is a good possibility that I will be injured. I will step on a Lego, trip over the coffee table, or stub my toe on the leg of the chair.

If I turn on the light nothing about the room changes. That Lego is still lying there on the carpet in the middle of the traffic pattern. The coffee table is till pushed out three inches too far from the sofa. The leg of the chair is still waiting there, ready to leap out an bash my big toe. Nothing about the room has changed.

Yet, it is all transformed. That is, I see it differently, clearly, plainly.

I see it not as I imagine it to be, but as it really is.

Grace transforms everything by letting us see it as it really is.

* * *

Matthew 17:1-9
After The Mountaintop (Mountaintop Experience)
Having a mountaintop experience is sometimes not as important as what we do with it after it’s over. In this story from CNN reporters Scottie Andrew and Francisco Guzman, we learn how Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle, Derrick Nnadi used his mountaintop experience to help those who can’t help themselves:

Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi vowed to pay the adoption fees for more than 100 dogs if his team won the Super Bowl.

The Chiefs won. And Nnadi made good on his promise.

Now, thanks to his generosity, every kennel at one of KC Pet Project's animal shelters is empty.

"Because of Derrick Nnadi's generous sponsorship, our Petco Adoption Center has no more dogs to adopt," the non-profit wrote on Facebook on Thursday with a photo of dogless kennels. "Yay for so many lives saved!"

Nnadi partnered with the Missouri animal rescue organization this season: For every Chiefs win, he'd pay a dog's adoption fee. The Chiefs won 15 games total, including the postseason.

And when the Chiefs made the Super Bowl, Nnadi decided he would pay for every dog's adoption fee, if his team won. That ended up being 109 dogs at an average adoption fee of $150.

CNN — Saturday, February 8, 2020

* * *

Exodus 24:12-18
Survival By Delegation
Moses, though a great prophet and leader, still couldn’t be in two places at once so, when God called him to the top of Mt. Sinai to receive the Law, Moses delegated the work he had been doing to Aaron and Hur.

I am the oldest of five children, four boys and a girl, and people have often asked how it is that my brothers and I are such good cooks and homemakers. We all are able to cook, sew, clean, do laundry, and all those things that, when we were growing up, were traditionally considered feminine skills.

The answer to that question: There were five children and, usually, another relative living on our household and our mother rightly understood that she couldn’t do everything for everyone herself. So, she taught us, the three older kids, to help with household chores. Primarily, she taught us to cook, do laundry, and clean house. As new babies were added to our number, she taught us to change diapers, sterilize baby bottles, wash diapers, and prepare baby food. I even learned how to curl and prepare my sister’s hair for Sunday school.

Put simply, she learned and taught us the art of delegation.

And not only did this delegation help her maintain order on the home front, it helped prepare us to be parents when we grew up.

* * * * * *

Ron LoveFrom team member Ron Love:

Exodus 24:12
The LORD said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there; and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.”
After the congressional Democrats impeachment attempt failed to find President Donald Trump guilty in the Senate, they realized that attacks on his malevolent words will only strengthen his base, and possibly persuade swing voters to vote for him in the November 2020 election. This is why in February 2020, the head of the Congressional Democratic Party, Nancy Pelosi, has decided to change tactics for the upcoming election. The Democrats are going to return to their “For the People” agenda — creating jobs, cleaning up corruption in Washington and, above all, bringing down the high cost of health care — that won Democrats the majority in 2018. In her statemen she said the Democrats will now focus on, “Health care, health care, health care.” The Democrats have to be single-minded on getting re-elected, with Pelosi saying, “When you make a decision to win, then you have to make every decision in favor of winning.”

* * *

Exodus 24:12
The LORD said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there; and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.”
Barbara A. Buono served for twenty years as a New Jersey legislator, both in the House and in the Senate, from 2002 to 2012. In 2013 she ran unsuccessfully for governor, losing against incumbent Chris Christie. She served from 2010 to 2012 as the Majority Leader in the Senate. She wrote an article that was titled, As A Female Politician, I Spent 20 Years Keeping Quiet About Sexism. Now I’m Speaking Out. In the lengthy first-person account, she shared the sexual harassment she endured as a female in Congress. Upon her arrival to the capital, as she recounts, “I quickly learned, Trenton remained an all-boys club. It was the kind of place where a male colleague felt free to tell me to bend further over the desk where I was standing one day in our caucus room. New to the legislature and alone with him, I was mortified. His lewd comments haunt me to this day.” This was just one of many incidents that she recounted in her article. Buono remined quiet until after her retirement from politics; but, she then came to the understanding that she must speak out. With these words Barbara Buono stated why she will no longer be silent: “But the political climate has shifted dramatically where more and more women no longer feel the need to tolerate or even excuse behavior ranging from sexual assault and harassment to casual misogyny. Ultimately, I decided to write about my own experience, because refusal to do so would render me complicit in a system rooted in and perpetuated by misogyny. Remaining silent would be acceptance of a set of unspoken rules designed to keep women in their place resulting in systemic discrimination where overwhelmingly white men monopolize the most important, powerful positions. And they want to keep it that way. Why wouldn’t they?”

* * *

2 Peter 1:19
So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

On January 16, 2020, Prince Harry of Britain made one of several official announcements that he and his wife, Meghan Markle, were backing away from their official duties as a part of the Royal family. They instead want to live independent and private lives in Canada, Meghan’s home country. In so doing, the couple and their child Archie, would no longer be subsidized by the state, instead they would have to earn their own income. Prince Harry said his family had “no other option,” as the media scrutiny he and his wife were experiencing was overbearing, and in most cases unfair. Harry said that now, deciding to live on their own was “a leap of faith.”

* * *

2 Peter 1:19
So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
In an interview that was published in January 2020, actor Rob Lowe, 55, shared why he volunteers for the Horatio Alger Association. He participates with this organization because they provide scholarships for disadvantaged youth. From personal experience Lowe knows how important this is. He said, “I remember being an 8-year-old kid from Ohio from a divorced family and wanting to be an actor. Over the years I realized you can make a name for yourself in this country. It’s still possible, and I am so happy to be able to give back to kids trying to do just that.”

* * *

Exodus 24:12
The LORD said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there; and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.”
Transactional analysis (TA) is an integrative approach to the theory of psychology and psychotherapy. TA was first developed by psychiatrist Eric Berne in the late 1950s. It came to the forefront of the public with the 1964 publication of his book titled Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships. It remained in vogue for a decade. TA reports that we respond in social situations as a Parent — Child — Adult. The healthiest response is that of an adult who uses reason. As a parent we scold and think we know best. The least appropriate response is that of a child who is demanding and can certainly be angry. As individuals of a mature age, we can display anyone of the three.

* * * * * *

George ReedWORSHIP
by George Reed

Call to Worship:
Leader: Our God is king; let the peoples tremble!
People: God sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!
Leader: Extol our God; worship at God’s footstool. Holy is our God!
People: God spoke in the pillar of cloud.
Leader: O God our God, you are a forgiving God.
People: Extol our God, and worship at God’s holy mountain.


Leader: Come, let us join together with our God.
People: We are here to meet with Jesus and learn of him.
Leader: Let us wait for a word from our God this day.
People: We long to hear God’s word for us today.
Leader: We listen so that we may hear and obey.
People: We will follow Jesus as God directs us.    

Hymns and Songs:
Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise
UMH: 103
H82: 423
PH: 263
NCH: 1
CH: 66
LBW: 526
ELW: 834
W&P: 48
AMEC: 71
STLT: 273
Renew: 46

Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies
UMH: 173
H82: 6/7
PH: 462/463
LBW: 265
ELW: 553
W&P: 91

O Worship the King
UMH: 73
H82: 388
PH: 476
NCH: 26
CH: 17
LBW: 548
ELW: 842
W&P: 2
AMEC: 12   

Be Thou My Vision
UMH: 451
H82: 488
PH: 339
NCH: 451
CH: 595          
ELW: 793
W&P: 502
AMEC: 281
STLT: 20
Renew      151

Majesty, Worship His Majesty
UMH: 176
AAHH: 171
NNBH: 34
W&P: 43
CCB: 37
Renew: 63

Open My Eyes, That I May See
UMH: 454
PH: 324
NNBH: 218
CH: 586
W&P: 480
AMEC: 285

My Faith Looks Up to Thee
UMH: 452
H82: 691
PH: 383
AAHH: 456
NNBH: 273
CH: 576
LBW: 479
ELW: 759
W&P: 419
AMEC: 415 

Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life
UMH: 427
H82: 609
PH: 408
NCH: 543
CH: 665
LBW: 429
ELW: 719
W&P: 591
AMEC: 561 

I Am Thine, O Lord
UMH: 419
AAHH: 387
NNBH: 202
NCH: 455
CH: 601
W&P: 408
AMEC: 283 

Breathe on Me, Breath of God
UMH: 420
H82: 508
PH: 316
AAHH: 317
NNBH: 126
NCH: 292
CH: 254
LBW: 488
W&P: 461
AMEC: 192 

Holy Ground
CCB: 5

Open Our Eyes, Lord
CCB: 77
Renew: 91

Shine, Jesus, Shine
CCB: 81
Renew: 247

Music Resources Key:
UMH: United Methodist Hymnal
H82: The Hymnal 1982
PH: Presbyterian Hymnal
AAHH: African American Heritage Hymnal
NNBH: The New National Baptist Hymnal
NCH: The New Century Hymnal
CH: Chalice Hymnal
LBW: Lutheran Book of Worship
ELW: Evangelical Lutheran Worship
W&P: Worship & Praise
AMEC: African Methodist Episcopal Church Hymnal
STLT: Singing the Living Tradition
CCB: Cokesbury Chorus Book
Renew: Renew! Songs & Hymns for Blended Worship

Prayer for the Day/Collect
O God who sees the truth in all that is:
Grant us the wisdom to wait with you
so that our vision may be restored;
through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.


We praise you, O God, because you are the one who sees and knows what is true. You invite us to come to you and learn what truth really is. Give us patience to wait for you for the revelation that clears our sight. Amen.

Prayer of Confession
Leader: Let us confess to God and before one another our sins and especially our lack of patience that causes us to rush to judgement instead of waiting on your wisdom.

People: We confess to you, O God, and before one another that we have sinned. You have offered us your wisdom and we have chosen our own ignorance. You have offered us your vision and we have willed to remain blind. You call us to you to equip us for mission and we want only comfort from you. Cleanse us with the power of your Spirit that we may truly seek you and your vision. Amen.

Leader: God loves us and desires us to be made whole. God grants us the divine vision that we may be healed. Receive God’s grace and open your hearts to share it with others.

Prayers of the People
All glory and honor are yours, O God, because you are the one who created all and who knows all. You are the fount of all true wisdom.

(The following paragraph may be used if a separate prayer of confession has not been used.)

We confess to you, O God, and before one another that we have sinned. You have offered us your wisdom and we have chosen our own ignorance. You have offered us your vision and we have willed to remain blind. You call us to you to equip us for mission and we want only comfort from you. Cleanse us with the power of your Spirit that we may truly seek you and your vision.

We thank you for the ways in which you share your vision and your wisdom with your children. You invite us into your presence and clothe us in your light. You have given us saints and seers and prophets; psalmists and musicians and artists; you have given us scientists and philosophers and helpers.

(Other thanksgivings may be offered.)

We pray for all your children everywhere. We pray for those who are seeking to find their way and have not yet found a source of wisdom to guide them. We pray for those give themselves so that others can find their way.

(Other intercessions may be offered.)

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

Our Father....Amen.

(Or if the Our Father is not used at this point in the service)

All this we ask in the Name of the Blessed and Holy Trinity. Amen.

Children’s Sermon Starter
Talk about some times you were up high and could see a long way. Moses was up on a mountain with God and some disciples were up on a mountain with Jesus. We don’t have to go up on a mountain but we do need to spend some time with God/Jesus to get a clear view of how things should be. When we come to church/Sunday school or when we read our Bible and pray, we are spending time with God/Jesus so we can learn how we can do what is right.

The Breath of the Holy Spirit
by Tom Willadsen
2 Peter 1:16-21

Props: a kite, a kazoo, a sail boat, a balloon, some soap bubbles, a pin wheel…any other toy that needs air to make it work. You might want to have a fan with streamers attached to it.

This verse at the end of the epistle reading is the focus of this message: “no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”

This one’s pretty obvious, but it’s fun and creates a lot of good visuals. Ask the kids if they know how to make each of the toys go. Let them play the kazoo, blow up the balloon, blow soap bubbles. Put them all on the floor and look at them. They don’t move. What makes them move? Our breath is one way we understand how the Holy Spirit works, and moves. The wind is another good way to imagine the Holy Spirit, though your properties committee would howl if you open the door to let the wind blow in the sanctuary on a cold day in February! So stick with the toys. Conclude by pointing out that the Holy Spirit is like the wind; we don’t control it; we don’t know when, where or how strongly it will blow.

In the same way people need to recognize that we depend on God for the energy and direction we need to be part of the body of Christ, to be the church of Jesus Christ.

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

The Immediate Word, February 23, 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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Order For Confession And Forgiveness
P: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit.
C: Amen.

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Silence for reflection and confession

P: Gracious and holy God,

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