Stories Told, Stories Forgotten
Stories Told, Stories Forgotten
by Dean Feldmeyer
Genesis 9:8-17, Mark 1:9-15
In the 1988 PBS documentary Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth, storyteller and mythologist Joseph Campbell sat down with journalist and ordained minister Bill Moyers to talk about the power of mythology.
In six, one-hour episodes, Campbell explained that myths are stories that are based on tradition. Some may have factual origins, while others are completely fictional. But myths are more than mere stories and they serve a more profound purpose in ancient and modern cultures. Myths are sacred tales that explain the world and our experience in it. We can never dismiss stories as “just a myth” or “a mere myth.” They are too important. They remind us who we are and why we are. They are as relevant to us today as they were to the ancients.
“Children of Eden,” “Jesus Christ, Superstar,” “Godspell,” “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” “Noah,” “One Night with the King,” “The Ten Commandments,” and this month, another “Samson” -- hundreds of modern movies, plays, musicals, and novels all attest to our fascination with and love of those biblical stories.
But what happens when we stop telling our stories? What happens when we forget the myths upon which our religious faith and our culture are built?
This week we re-examine two such stories -- the story of Noah and the story of the baptism of Jesus -- and the impact they have on our spiritual and cultural lives, and what happens when we forget to tell them and hear them.
In the News
In 1939, at the very beginning of World War II, Poland was attacked and occupied by Nazi Germany. Millions of its citizens were killed, including three million Polish Jews in the Holocaust. (Six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust overall.) More Poles have been honored by Israel for saving the lives of Jews during the war than any other nation.
However, historians say others were complicit.
Some Poles informed on Jews in hiding for rewards; others participated in Nazi-instigated massacres including in Jedwabne where hundreds of Jews were murdered by their neighbors.1
As of Tuesday, February 3, however, the sentence above is illegal to write or print in Poland. That was the day the president Andrzej Duda signed the law making it illegal to accuse Poland of complicity in Nazi crimes committed under occupation.
Specifically, the law says that "whoever accuses, publicly and against the facts, the Polish nation, or the Polish state, of being responsible or complicit in the Nazi crimes committed by the Third German Reich… shall be subject to a fine or a penalty of imprisonment of up to three years." It adds the caveat that a person "is not committing a crime if he or she commits such an act as part of artistic or scientific activities."
Historians and those in other European countries who suffered under the Nazis fear, however, that this law, which was intended to “safeguard Poland's image abroad,” or others like it, will prevent the story of the Holocaust from being told. There are also fears that Holocaust survivors could face criminal charges for giving testimony that incriminates Poles. Even if convictions are unlikely, the fear of arrest and trial may be enough to keep people from telling the story of the Holocaust as it happened in Poland.
Meanwhile, in the United States, Arthur Jones, a proud Holocaust denier and white supremacist is probably going to be the Republican candidate for Illinois’s 3rd Congressional District. All seven of the Republican members of congress from Illinois issued a statement which “strongly and unequivocally condemns the racist views and candidacy of Arthur Jones.” But there may be nothing they can do about it as Jones is running unopposed.2
The 3rd district is an historically Democratic one so the chances of Jones actually being elected to congress are practically zero. Still, historians and educators fear that the candidacy of Jones and others like him gives a patina of legitimacy to his revisionist views and may give young people the idea that Jones’s denial of the Holocaust is just one opinion among many, all of which are deserving of equal consideration.
Also in the news, President Trump has decided that he wants a military parade in Washington and has ordered the Pentagon to produce one. And why not? Russian President Vladimir Putin has one every May Day. French President Emmanuel Macron gets to have one every Bastille Day. And North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has one, well, whenever he wants one, which seems to be whenever the wind changes.
So, not to be outdone, President Trump wants one, too, and because we are Americans, he wants his to be bigger than those of other countries.
Troops marching. Caissons rolling. Flags flying. Bands playing. But why? And why now? The last time we had such a parade was in June of 1991, when 8,800 U.S. troops and the weapons that helped the United States win the Persian Gulf War against Saddam Hussein were celebrated in Washington.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, responded that, the reason he wants a parade is that “President Trump is incredibly supportive of America’s great service members who risk their lives every day to keep our country safe,” so “he has asked the Department of Defense to explore a celebration at which all Americans can show their appreciation.” Apparently, the celebrations of Independence Day, Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day are not getting the job done sufficiently.
European leaders are not so sure that the motivation behind such a parade is as simple as Huckabee Sanders wants them to believe. They worry that it is more likely to be perceived as a political message from a single individual to the nation and, indeed, to the world, along the lines of: Look at how strong we (and I) are.
Nicholas Dungan, a France-based senior fellow with the Atlantic Council worries: “People are going to compare it more with Kim Jong Un than with the Champs-Elysees.”
Great shows of military strength are not typical of the United States and never have been. We have, traditionally, tended to follow Teddy Roosevelt’s admonition to “walk softly and carry a big stick.” Military parades, when they happened, have almost always celebrated the end of hostilities. Critics fear that this one could mark the beginning and may be a sign that we, Americans, have forgotten the stories of war that were told after World War II.
In the Bible
The story of Noah is a veritable cornucopia of sermons.
And it is so easy because the story is so familiar. Indeed, Bill Cosby built his early career as a comedian on telling and retelling this one story. Evan Almighty, a modern-day retelling of the story was a box office hit due, in no small part, to the presence of Steve Carrell in the title part of a familiar tail.
The same year, Russell Crowe and a host of big name stars (Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson) appeared in Noah, a dark and brooding take on the story which garnered more than a little criticism form audiences and critics alike.
This week’s lection is taken from the end of the story, where God establishes a new covenant with humankind through Noah and his family. God then sets a bow in the sky as a reminder of the covenant and God’s promise never again to destroy the earth and all living things with water. Interestingly, the bow is not meant to be a reminder to Noah but to God. “I will see it and remember,” says the Lord.
God does not expect things to go smoothly from here on. In fact, God seems to expect that there will come a time when God is strongly tempted to repeat this story but, then, God will see the ark in the sky and remember the promise that was made on this day.
If God wants to teach humankind a lesson, God will have to come up with a different plan because the flood idea has already been used.
Is it possible that this passage represents a kind of repentance on God’s part? Is God looking out on all that mud and rotting corpses of humans and animals and thinking, “This was not a good idea.” And, “I will never, no matter how angry I get, do this again.”
Is God experiencing the pangs of guilt that are experienced by every parent who has, in a moment of anger, spanked a child too hard or said something to a spouse that, regrettably, can’t be unsaid?
If so, what does this say of YHWH and God’s understanding of the creation?
We include Mark’s version of the baptism of Jesus because his telling of the story is so markedly different form that of Matthew and Luke.
It is a truncated version of the story, told at a running pace, as are most stories in Mark’s gospel.
Jesus come down from Nazareth and is baptized by John in the Jordan. No frills or adornments, just the facts.
As he comes up out of the water he has a vision in which the heavens are torn apart and the Spirit of God (note capitalization) descends gently upon him, like a dove. Nothing holy-roller, here. No dancing in the Spirit. No speaking in tongues. Just a gentle descent like that of a dove.
He then hears a voice come out of heaven and speaks directly to Jesus, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” It may be worth noting that in this first gospel the voice of God speaks directly to Jesus and that tradition is upheld in Luke’s gospel. Mark changes the story, however. In his version the voice speaks not to Jesus alone but to the gathered crowd: “This is my Son…”
Mark takes that wonderful story of Jesus’ forty day fasting sojourn in the wilderness and the temptations that occur there and reduces it to a single paragraph, a summary. Why does he do this?
Does he consider the story already so well known that he need not repeat it? Or does he not know the details? Or does he know the entire story but considers it unimportant?
Or is it possible that Mark understands the “wilderness” as a symbol for any dangerous place where we are “with wild beasts,” “tempted by Satan,” and can survive only with the ministrations of angels?
Finally, the story ends with the proclamation of the gospel: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news.” This is the gospel, the good news in all of its fullness. Everything after this will just be commentary.
In the Sermon
I love to tell the story, for those who know it best
Seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest.
These two lines begin the fourth stanza of Kate Hankey’s hymn, “I Love to Tell the Story.”
Kate Hankey was a disciple of statesman and humanitarian, William Wilberforce, who is especially remembered for his work to abolish the slave trade. She never married and spent her entire life in religious activities: teaching Bible classes for working women, supporting foreign missions, and visiting the sick. In 1866 she became seriously ill, and during a long period of convalescence she wrote a poem of 50 stanzas in 2 parts, based on the life of Christ. The hymn, “I Love to Tell the Story,” which includes the lines above, comes from the second part of the poem. The lines were extracted from the poem and put to music (and first published) in 1875 whereupon it became an instant favorite.
The hymn, first written in 1866, still speaks to nearly universal truth that lives within the Christian church: The importance of myth.
Many preachers are timid about using the word “myth” but I encourage you to eschew such timidity. It is a perfectly good word, much better than mere “story” because it speaks to the power and purpose of the stories we tell and the stories which last and are retold down through the generations.
As I noted in the introduction to this article, myths are stories that are based on tradition. Some may have factual origins, while others are completely fictional. But myths are more than mere stories and they serve a more profound purpose in ancient and modern cultures. Myths are sacred tales that explain the world and our experience in it. Therefore, we can never dismiss a story as “just a myth” or “a mere myth.” They are too important. They remind us who we are and why we are. They are as relevant to us today as they were to the ancients.
Myths answer timeless questions and serve as a compass to each generation. The myths of lost paradise, for example, give people hope that by living a virtuous life, they can earn a better life in the hereafter. The myths of a golden age give people hope that there are great leaders who will improve their lives. The hero's quest is a model for young men and women to follow, as they accept adult responsibilities. Some myths simply reassure, such as myths that explain natural phenomena as the actions of gods, rather than arbitrary events of nature.2
The stories under consideration, today, are more than just stories. They are part of the wonderful mythos of our faith.
The Diluvial Myth of Noah and the Ark tells us of a creator who feels anger and disappointment with the creation and, in a fit of pique, decides to destroy it all, save a handful of blameless people who will provide the seed for the next, new creation.
And it tells us of a God who, when the destruction is over, feels remorse and repents of the destructive act by promising never to do it again.
The myth tells of our earliest understandings of the Creator God and sets us upon a road of discovery to broaden our knowledge of the Creator even as we deepen our relationship with that God.
The Markan baptismal narrative reminds us that even the identified Son of God is subject to temptation and needs the ministrations of angels to survive the wildernesses of life. And it tells us that the (indicative) gospel message has not changed but continues to declare that the time is, indeed, fulfilled and the Kingdom of God has drawn near and it calls us to (imperative) change our lives and believe in this very good news.
These are the stories that remind us who we are and where and how we fit into God’s creation. They are the stories that establish us as people of faith. It is hard to imagine how we would be such with them. So, we guard and protect them, we set them aside as “holy,” and we tell them over and over to our children and to each other.
There are other myths, however, cultural myths that are constantly in danger of being forgotten or purloined by those who would re-write them for personal or political purposes.
I have been to Washington several times since the Holocaust museum was built but I confess that I have never quite gotten up the courage or the emotional energy to subject myself to it. It is an ugly and painful story to hear. The images are an assault on decency. The voices of the dead, their names written on seemingly endless lists haunt our sleep.
But the painfulness of the story is why it must be told over and over again. Why we must never allow it to be forgotten regardless of how embarrassing it is or what deniers claim to be the case. As much as we hate to admit it, it is part of our mythos. It is a commentary on who and what we are.
According to The National WWII Museum, as of 2014, there are a little over one million World War II veterans still alive. WWII veterans are dying at a rate of 555 per day, with most of them being over 90 years old. When they die, will the stories of real war die with them? Will we forget the horror of it because no one is still around to tell the story?
There are about 500,000 Korean war veterans and just over a million Vietnam war veterans alive in America today. Are we listening to their stories? Are we learning anything?
The number of veterans from our various wars in the Middle East are still being tallied. What are their stories? Do we listen to them or do we flee to the safety of our romantic notions of valor and victory?
During a speech on June 19, 1879, William Tecumseh Sherman, a general in the Union Army during the U.S. Civil War, uttered the famous phrase "War Is Hell." But how do we keep that simple yet profound and horrible truth before us?
One cannot help but wonder if military parades are meant to encourage the telling of true war stories or to gloss them over with a shimmering coat of romance and patriotic zeal.
Philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist George Santayana once said that, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." And how else do we remember the past than through our myths, the stories we tell about it?
The Sheer Silence of Suffering
by Chris Keating
1 Peter 3:18-22
For years, Rachel Denhollander carried a secret. As a teenager, the former gymnast had been abused by Larry Nassar, then a doctor for USA Gymnastics. She knew what she was experiencing, but told herself she must have been wrong. She kept her suffering a secret.
Like many of Nassar’s victims, Denhollander suffered his abuse in silence. She convinced herself what he was doing was somehow acceptable. In a recent interview with NPR, Denhollander explained her thinking.
As I lay on that exam table, it was very clear to me that this was something Larry did regularly. I knew if it was something Larry did regularly -- that he was seeing girls every day, including our elite gymnasts -- that there was no way someone had not described before what Larry was doing.
And so the only conclusion that I could come to was that it had to be a legitimate medical treatment, because surely the adults that heard the description of what he was doing would have done something if it wasn't, and he would have never been near me. And that thought process caused me to lay still.
But in 2004, when a young gymnast whom Denhollander was coaching was about to be referred to Nassar for treatment, she knew it was time to speak out. She became the first of more than 100 women who accused Nassar of sexual abuse. “I was coaching gymnastics at that point,” Denhollander said, “and one of the young gymnasts that I coached was going to be sent to him for treatment for hip pain. She was only 7 or 8, and I thought I couldn't let that happen.”
It is never easy to speak out about suffering -- especially when you have been told to remain silent, or when you’re abuser is viewed as a hero.
Denhollander was one of nearly 200 women who testified at Nassar’s trial. Other victims gathered to hug her, offering their appreciation for her willingness to testify against Nassar. Many, like Larissa Boyce, had tried to speak out earlier, but had been warned to keep silent, or otherwise convinced that nothing inappropriate had happened. "It took so long to get here because people don't want to believe little girls," said Boyce.
When suffering remains secret, victims are ignored. Even worse, sometimes they are shamed, their suffering unacknowledged. It’s hardly a new problem, of course. Both the epistle and psalm readings for the first week in Lent give voice to the often silent cries of those who suffer.
This week’s epistle reading addresses the suffering of some in the early church. While not much is known about who wrote 1 Peter, it is clear that those reading the letter had undergone suffering for their faith. Their suffering was the result of their religious beliefs and profession of faith in Christ -- a profession at odds with the prevailing culture. No doubt many had told these Christians things would go better if they would just keep quiet.
That seems to be true for many who are innocently abused. At times, in fact, the faith community has twisted these words to perpetuate suffering -- urging victims to patiently endure beatings or tantrums as some sort of signet of being faithful to Christ. I wept as a victim of clergy sexual abuse told me it was a sin to speak out against the priest who had molested him. Likewise, when a woman shared with me that a pastor had told her it was her duty to remain with her abusive husband, I shook my head in disbelief and lament.
Just keep it quiet, they had been told. Yet the witness of 1 Peter is not one of keeping quiet, but of finding hope, strength, and courage through sharing in the witness of faith.
Probing these texts with sensitivity reveals the deep hope of faith. Peter does not flinch in the face of suffering, but neither does he sign off on it as acceptable. Instead, he offers a robust image of a God who is a companion with humanity. That is the promise of Lent, and that is the witness of our faith: Jesus Christ enters into our existence and shares our suffering. It is a promise of strength arising from weakness. Our baptisms are signs of the grace offered through suffering.
Tragically, faith communities often seem unsure of how to understand the stories of victims. Not long ago, a pastor in Memphis, Tennessee, admitted that he had assaulted a teenager years ago. After making an impassioned explanation regarding the “sexual incident” to his congregation during a sermon, Memphis mega church pastor Andy Savage received a 20-second standing ovation. It’s an example of shifting blame back to those who are suffering.
“Victim-blaming,” writes Susan Broyles, “happens when we encounter human beings who are suffering and their suffering challenges cherished illusions about our world. One such illusion is the belief in a just world, a comforting fiction that reassures us that if we do the right things, we will be safe from misfortune and victimization.”
Victims of domestic abuse, however, know that often they have done the right things but have still been blamed as lacking strength. Colbie Holderness, the first wife of former White House Staff member Rob Porter, said she is dismayed by statements that seem to imply victims of domestic abuse are weak. Holderness and Jennifer Willoughby, another of Porter’s ex-wives -- have been firm in their accounts of his violent outbursts. Holderness takes exception to implications that women in abusive relationships lack courage. Instead, she describes victims as witnesses whose stories are forged in crucibles of suffering:
Recognizing and surviving in an abusive relationship takes strength. The abuse can be terrifying, life-threatening and almost constant. Or it can ebb and flow, with no violence for long periods. It’s often the subtler forms of abuse that inflict serious, persistent damage while making it hard for the victim to see the situation clearly.
Telling others about the abuse takes strength. Talking to family, friends, clergy, counselors and, later, the FBI, I would often find myself struggling to find the words to convey an adequate picture of the situation. When Rob’s now ex-girlfriend reached out to both (Jennifer) Willoughby and me, she described her relationship in terms we each found familiar, immediately following up her description with “Am I crazy?” Boy, I could identify with that question.
Sadly, both Holderness and Willoughby took their concerns to clergy persons who did not understand, and were unable to address their suffering. Their pleas became like the cries of the Psalmist in Psalm 25: “do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me.” Peter understood that sort of suffering. He envisioned the suffering church much like Noah’s ark, buffeted by waves and tormented by wind. His hope came not from remaining silent, but in recalling that because of Christ’s passion, God’s people are surrounded by a hope which does not disappoint.
From team member Ron Love:
The posted illustrations are based on the major themes in this week’s lectionary readings.
Elon Musk is the owner of the independent space business called SpaceX, and the electric car maker Tesla. He recently launched a rocket called Falcon Heavy into space. The Heavy was developed to launch massive satellites into space. The Heavy is the most powerful rocket in use today, by a factor of two. This was the first test flight for the Falcon Heavy, the name coming from the three Falcon 9 booster rockets that are attached to the Heavy, giving it more than 5 million pounds of liftoff thrust. The payload for a test firing is usually concrete or steel blocks in place of a true cargo. Considering this false cargo, Musk said, “That seemed extremely boring.” So instead he lifted into space a cherry-red Tesla Roadster. As the sports car is to fly to Mars, Musk said, “Red car for a red planet.” The car will orbit Mars and the Earth for billions of years.
Application: The orbiting red car will be a constant reminder to us of the vastness of God’s creation and the ingenuity of men and women.
Elon Musk is the owner of the independent space business called SpaceX, and the electric car maker Tesla. He recently launched a rocket called Falcon Heavy into space. The Heavy was developed to launch massive satellites into space. The Heavy is the most powerful rocket in use today, by a factor of two. The payload for a test firing is usually concrete or steel blocks in place of a true cargo. Considering this false cargo, Musk said, “That seemed extremely boring.” So instead he lifted into space a cherry-red Tesla Roadster. In the convertible’s driver’s seat of the Tesla is a mannequin dressed in a SpaceX spacesuit. Musk dubbed the driver “Starman.” Starman is named after a David Bowie song. The song is about a man relaxing, and with the radio off, hearing a song from the heavens. The chorus reads: “There's a starman waiting in the sky; He'd like to come and meet us; But he thinks he'd blow our minds; There's a starman waiting in the sky; He's told us not to blow it; 'Cause he knows it's all worthwhile; He told me: Let the children lose it, Let the children use it, Let all the children boogie.” A sign on the dashboard in front of the drive reads: “Don’t panic!” The car will orbit Mars and the Earth for billions of years.
Application: The orbiting red car will be a constant reminder for us not to panic. This is the same message as the rainbow in in sky.
Jennifer Lopez put on a concert the Saturday night before the Super Bowl LII. The purpose was to raise money for the Puerto Rico victims of Hurricane Maria. The concert was also to celebrate her one-year anniversary of dating Alex Rodriguez. But, it came into question if the show was more about Alex than Maria. In the two-hour concert she changed outfits seven times. One outfit was a loose jersey that read “J LO” and the number 13, which was a nod to Rodriguez jersey number. She used a baseball bat as a prop for her song “Jenny from the Block.” In another scene the male dancers were wearing New York Yankees baseball caps.
Application: We should be as enthusiastic about telling people the story of the rainbow as Lopez is about promoting her relationship with Rodriguez.
In the newspaper comic strip Born Loser, we have Brutus Thornapple as the star character. Brutus is known as the born loser because he never seems to get a break in life. At home, at work, with is co-workers and with his boss Brutus always seems to be disrespected and humiliated. In this episode Brutus is sound asleep in bed, when he suddenly wakes up. He is startled and frustrated, exclaiming “Whoa!” Brutus then says, “Happiness is waking up to find it was only a bad dream.”
Application: The covenant protects us from those bad dreams.
For the first time in 30 years the United States Marine Corps advertised on the Super Bowl. The 30-second spot was action packed showing Marines deploying in many and various combat scenarios. The tag line was: “It’s not just the ships, the armor or the aircraft. It’s something more. It’s the will to fight and determination to win found inside each and every Marine that answers the nation’s call.” But, the advertisement was only seen by those who were watching the game through an online streaming service. Major General Paul Kennedy, who is responsible for recruiting, said of the goal of advertising only on online streaming was, “I’m not trying to enlist fathers or mothers. I’m trying to enlist 18-to-24-year-olds. And they tend to be cord-cutters. They take in entertainment differently and they tend to do it on a device rather than a television.”
Application: Paul discusses the need to convince individuals that they should be baptized.
In the newspaper comic Ziggy, we have this non-descript character with a big nose, no pants, who someone represents everyone and everybody who struggles with the daily adversities of life. Recently in the newspaper Ziggy is standing while intently looking at his check book. He then says, “Boy…Talk about a book with a tragic ending.”
Application: The covenant is God’s promise to us against tragic endings.
The winning team of Super Bowl LII, the Philadelphia Eagles, is a team that has a strong and vibrant Christian fellowship group. It would be wrong to say that their Christian devotion awarded them victory, but as the nation’s front-and-center team we can learn from the team’s devotional practices. Carson Wentz, the team’s quarterback and because of an injury could not play in this year’s Super Bowl, is considered the spiritual leader. Wentz has been criticized, especially on social media, regarding his openness about being a Christian, to which he replies, “Jesus was persecuted everywhere he went. So if Jesus, who is our ultimate example, endured that, then I can endure a couple tweets. I can endure a little riff-raff here and there.” The night before a game the players get together for prayer and devotions. On Mondays they hold a Bible study for couples, and on Thursdays they hold a Bible study for players. During the week the players text one another to encourage each player to live a life that exemplifies Jesus.
Application: All of Noah’s family and all the known animals went aboard the Ark in a covenant relationship. We are to continue to live in that covenant relationship.
In his memoir An Hour Before Daylight, Jimmy Carter recounted the number of tramps that frequented their home in depression era Georgia. He admired his mother who never turned one away, always providing food and water for the unexpected guests. Equally admirable, in the eyes of the future president, was that most of these men were polite, honest and educated, sincerely on a quest to find gainful employment. Jimmy’s mother, Lillian Carter, was confused by the unusual number of visitors she received. So Mrs. Carter inquired with the matron of the neighboring farm as to the number who frequented her residence. “None,” replied the neighbor. The next time a vagrant visited, Mrs. Carter asked why they came to her home and not others along the dirt road. The gentleman replied that they place a symbol on the mail posts of households that will not mistreat them. After his visit mother and son went to the post and discovered some unobtrusive scratches, and “Mama told us not to change them.” The Carter household would always be one of hospitality.
Application: The covenant is a message of hospitality.
Dwight L. Moody is recognized as one of the greatest evangelist in the history of the church. He is credited with bringing more than a half a million people to Christ. When he was 17, he moved from his home in Northfield, Massachusetts to Boston, so he could work in his uncle’s shoe store. It was there that his Sunday school teacher, Edward Kimball, talked to him about how much God loved him. From that conversation Dwight became a Christian. From this incident Moody launched a career as a pastor, evangelist and author. In 1900, the year after his death, a devotional was published titled The D. L. Moody Year Book: A Living Daily Message from the Words of D. L. Moody. The daily selections were made by Emma Moody Fitt, his daughter. The devotion for October 7 reads, “We all have some weak point in our character. When we would go forward, it draws us back…” But, Moody believed that God will not allow us to remain going back into sin. Moody believed that God would not allow us to go back to “Egypt to be under the old taskmaster.” Instead, Moody wrote, “I believe God brings us out of Egypt into the promised land.”
Application: God’s covenant promised that we will never have to return to Egypt, but that we shall always live in the Promised Land.
I spent my early years growing up in Lorain, Ohio. The city sits on the shores of Lake Erie. It was a city known for heavy industry from steel, to ship building, to automobile production. Through the industrial section of the city flows the Black River into the lake. There was a small park where the river flowed into the lake. Leading into the park there was a very steep hill covered with gravel. At the foot of the hill there was a very short distance of flatland before one plunged into the river. As this was the 50s, there was no guardrail for protection between land and river. A game we would play as boys, was to go down the hill as fast as possible, and then stop before plunging into the river. One summer day I tried this task on my own. The result was not very pleasant. As I realized the water was my destination, I ditched my bike on the gravel with the cinders cutting my left knee open. I still wear the scars today. Beside the park there was a United States Coast Guard station. With blood running down my leg and into my tennis shoe, I approached the gate. There I read a sign: “No One Allowed In Without a Parent.” So, I stood at the gate, afraid to enter a military establishment without a parent. Bleeding, I still remember how my fear froze me from opening that gate, walking up that sidewalk to the station. I remember seeing that big white building as my refuge, but the fear of that sign kept me at the gate. Eventually I was spotted, and several sailors came and took me inside. From there it was to the hospital.
Application: The covenant promises us that there is no gate to keep us from the helping hands of others.
by George Reed
Call to Worship:
Leader: Lead us in your truth, and teach us,
People: for you are the God of our salvation.
Leader: Be mindful of your mercy, O God.
People: Be mindful of your steadfast love.
Leader: Do not remember the sins of our youth.
People: Our God leads the humble in what is right.
Leader: Come and hear the stories of our faith.
People: We open our lives to their transforming power.
Leader: We will learn about God and God’s wondrous deeds.
People: We will learn about ourselves, our gifts and our faults.
Leader: We will celebrate God’s love and grace.
People: We will share God’s love with others.
Hymns and Songs:
“God of the Sparrow God of the Whale”
“Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above”
“I Love to Tell the Story”
“Tell Me the Stories of Jesus”
“What Wondrous Love Is This”
“In the Cross of Christ I Glory”
“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”
“Take Time to Be Holy”
“As the Deer”
“Make me a Servant”
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
ELA: 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 comes to us in story and in myth:
Grant us the grace to open our lives to you
and to allow our stories to transform us;
through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
We bless you, O God, for you come to us in myriad ways. In the stories and myths of the Bible and in the stories of faith we share in our congregations. Open us to your presence in these words so that we may be made anew in your likeness. Amen.
Prayer of Confession
Leader: Let us confess to God and before one another our sins and especially our sin of forgetfulness.
People: We confess to you, O God, and before one another that we have sinned. We have heard the stories of our faith but we have pushed them aside. We do not look to them to inform our faith but rather we relegate them to the children. Even then we don’t exercise enough care to teach them. We have forgotten the power of our own stories. We do not share the stories of our own faith journeys. Call us back to the rich depths of the stories of faith in scripture and in our lives. Help us to tap the power of story to change us and make us new. Amen.
Leader: God is always seeking us in story and myth. God comes to renew us and save us. Receive God’s love and grace and tell the wondrous stories.
Prayers of the People
We offer our worship and adoration to you, O God, for you seek us in so many wonderful ways. In the stories and myths of our faith, we find out about you and about ourselves.
(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. We have heard the stories of our faith but we have pushed them aside. We do not look to them to inform our faith but rather we relegate them to the children. Even then we don’t exercise enough care to teach them. We have forgotten the power of our own stories. We do not share the stories of our own faith journeys. Call us back to the rich depths of the stories of faith in scripture and in our lives. Help us to tap the power of story to change us and make us new.
We give you thanks for those who have shared the sacred stories with us, both those in scripture and those in the lives of our sisters and brothers in the faith. We thank you for the power that story has to open our eyes and hearts to you and to each other.
(Other thanksgivings may be offered.)
We pray for you children who are in need. Help us to hear their stories and to reach out in love and care to them.
(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:
(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
Tell the children a story about when you were born or some other event in your life. Maybe a story of when one of your children were born. Tell them why that story is special and ask if they have stories they were told about. Stories are important. They help us understand who we are and they help us understand the other people in the story. The stories of the Bible tell us about God but they also tell us about who we are as human beings. The story of Noah tells us about how God loves us and promises to never destroy us.
by Mary Austin
You will need: a notepad and a pen, or a stack of Post-Its®, and a picture of a rainbow.
As the kids come up, start scribbling busily on your pad. Throw sheets of paper or Post-Its on the floor as you write furiously. Look up, and tell the kids you’re writing down things that you want to remember.
Ask them about some of the things they have to remember. What do they need to remember in the morning? Backpack. Homework. Boots. Things for after-school activities.
What do they have to remember in the evening? To finish their homework. Clean out the dishwasher. Feed the pet.
How about the weekend? Soccer. Dinner at grandma’s. A friend’s party.
Then ask how they remember. A lot of them will say their parents remind them. Myabe they have a chart on the wall, or a calendar.
Then talk about the rainbow. We remember the story of Noah, and his ark full of animals, and how Noah saves the animals from the flood, as God tells him to. At the end of the huge flood, God places the rainbow in the sky at the end of the flood as a reminder. It reminds God how much God loves humankind, and how God will never send a huge flood to destroy everything again.
We write things down to remember, or other people help us remember. Even God needs a reminder sometimes, and the rainbow reminds God of God’s promise.
The rainbow is a reminder to us, too. When we see it in the sky, we can remember every time how much God loves us.
God, we begin and end every day knowing that you love us. No matter what happens, when we’re happy, or sad, or worried, or having fun, you are with us. We give you thanks for the rainbow. Help us to remember, whenever we see it, that it’s a sign of your love for us all. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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The Immediate Word, February 18, 2018, issue.
Copyright 2018 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.