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Tell the Truth (it sets you free...)

Children's sermon
For June 3, 2018:
  • Tell the Truth (it sets you free...) by Tom Willadsen -- Tell the truth -- the truth that sets you free -- the truth that shows you trust the depth of God’s love for you -- and for all people.
  • Second Thoughts by Mary Austin -- We have choices to make. Are we on the side of the poor, the hungry, the ill and the lost, where Jesus is? Will we choose to extend ourselves in the way he does, or choose the familiar way of tradition, policy and habit?
  • Sermon illustrations by Ron Love, Dean Feldmeyer and Bethany Peerbolte.
  • Worship resources by George Reed that focus making choices and peaking the truth to those in power even when we feel weak.
  • Hearing God’s Calling Voice -- Children's sermon by Bethany Peerbolte -- Help children learn to listen to God’s call. Even though we may not hear a voice like Samuel did God still speaks to us.

Tell the Truth (it sets you free...)
by Tom Willadsen
Mark 2:23-3:6, 1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20), 2 Corinthians 4:5-12, Deuteronomy 5:12-15, Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18

Samuel is given the task of sharing bad news to his boss. Jesus is confronted by the Pharisees about his lax oversight of his followers. They miss that Sabbath is a gift from God. God gave us lots of gifts. In fact, people -- fearfully and wonderfully made, knitted together in our mothers’ wombs -- are treasures in “clay jars,” (NRSV) or “sacks of skin.” (Book of Tom)

In the News
Truth has become elusive, malleable even. Our President admits that he seeks to discredit stories about him that are unflattering. This week’s targets are the FBI, Justice Department and CIA, whose integrity has become a subject of suspicion if not outright disdain. Speaking truth to power has a cost, not just in 21st century US culture. It has always been risky, costly, sometimes deadly, to stand up and tell the truth that is unpleasant or unwanted by the powerful. Samuel’s courage could be likened to the leaders of student movements to address gun violence.

It’s difficult to know whom to trust, or whether anyone, any news source, can be trusted. While it is seen as wise to listen to a wide variety of perspectives, Facebook data breach by Cambridge Analytica, and the subsequent revelations that foreign operatives planted lies that were repeated at the speed of light through social media, with the intent of influencing the 2016 presidential election, trust in any source has become dubious.

The off again (May 24) talks between the United States and North Korea are another situation where truth is desperately needed. The jockeying and power dynamics between the world’s only super power and a threatened, but dangerous, country are foundering because both sides are more concerned with winning the agreement than achieving lasting peace. Lasting peace requires a level of trust that has never existed between the United States and North Korea. Where is the voice that can speak truth to both powers? Where is the desire to see the one on the other side of the border as a “treasure” in human form? Do the negotiators marvel that diplomats on both sides of the table were fearfully and wonderfully knit together in their mother’s wombs?

In the Scriptures
1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20)
The Lord of the psalm knows when we lie down and get up. Samuel is doing a lot of lying down and getting up in the Old Testament reading. This is a wonderful story to act out in worship, with minimal set. Have a man with a deep resonate voice out of sight and a teen age boy lying down near the pulpit. Just the dialogue between these two, in different voices, makes the conversation more tangible. Samuel has been dedicated to the Lord’s service by his formerly barren mother. He’s been a kind of intern in the house of the Lord since Hannah left him with Eli after he was weaned. (See “Special Bonus Story,” below.) The word of the Lord was rare in those days. When he heard it, he didn’t recognize it. And it took his mentor/boss a while to recognize it too. Eli’s sons were scoundrels, exploiting worshipers and misbehaving publicly. Eli couldn’t control them. Samuel is called to speak judgment and doom on Eli’s family, news “that will make both ears of everyone who hears of it tingle.”

Eli knew Samuel had heard from the Lord, and asked him to “give it to me straight” first thing the next morning. Samuel “told him everything and hid nothing from him.” It could not have been easy to speak of the destruction of Eli’s family. Samuel grew and gained a reputation for being trustworthy. And the word of the Lord wasn’t so rare after that.

Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
The psalm reminds us that we are hemmed in on all sides by the Living God. The knowledge of the Lord is too wonderful for humans to grasp completely.

There is a fascinating, and sermonically rich, juxtaposition of verses 13 and 14.

For it was you who formed my inward parts.
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

This verse is seized on by opponents of legal abortion, because its point is that people are precious and God-made before birth.

I praise you, for I am fearfully
and wonderfully made.

This verse is seized on by people who have been marginalized both because of their sexual preference and their non-binary identification with standard gender roles.

Generally, these two camps oppose one another on other divisive social issues. Here they draw comfort and support from verses that are side by side in the Bible.

(I think my coffee was unusually strong today; I’m feeling very silly. So here’s a line you can use the next time someone shows you a sonogram of a pregnancy: “Oh, a womb with a view!” Now back to In the Scriptures...)

God’s thoughts are vast. God’s love is deep and eternal. The universe cannot contain the God Almighty. And our creator gave time and attention to making the miracle of you, and you, and you, and everyone.

Deuteronomy 5:12-15
The alternate Hebrew reading in the lectionary is Deuteronomy 5:12-15. The commandment to observe the Sabbath. The rationale for Sabbath observance is the most significant difference between Exodus’s version of the Ten Commandments and Deuteronomy’s. In Exodus, the Sabbath observance is enjoined because the Lord created the universe in six days and rested on the seventh.

In Deuteronomy Sabbath is enjoined because no one should be a slave to work as the Israelites had been slaves in Egypt. And it gets better, everyone, everyone, everyone, even the slaves and foreigners residing in Israel, even your livestock, get a day of rest. This is to help you remember the bitterness of slavery, and the power and mercy of the Lord.

Mark 2:23--3:6
So what are Jesus’ inner circle doing in the reading from Mark’s gospel? They are picking grain for breakfast. The Pharisees catch them and ask Jesus why they are violating the Sabbath.

The first scene in the gospel lesson is the fourth of five encounters Jesus has with the Pharisees from Mark 2:15 -- 3:6. Jesus’ response is that even David broke the law when he and his soldiers were hungry. “There are exceptions to rules, Pharisees.” Mark, however, names the wrong high priest in Jesus’ example. It was Ahimelech, not Abiathar, who was high priest when David and his troops raided the temple refrigerator.

This dialog aside, the more significant point Jesus makes is that the Law is God’s gift and it gives life. We are not to be slaves to the law, rather we are to be set free from slavery to work by the Law. People are more important than rules.

The fifth encounter is an early turning point in Mark’s gospel. Jesus was in the temple and there was a man with a withered hand. Under watchful eyes, Jesus asked whether it was lawful to do good on the Sabbath. They looked at their sandals. Jesus was angry and “grieved at their hardness of heart.” Jesus did not touch the man or his hand, thus not violating the Sabbath, when he said, “Stretch out your hand.” The hand was restored. The Pharisees immediately began conspiring with the Herodians to destroy Jesus. Way back in the third chapter of Mark they started to stalk him.

2 Corinthians 4:5-12
Paul claims the status of a slave, for Christ’s sake as he gives the Corinthian church a pep talk. Yes, yes, they are afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, struck down. They carry Christ’s death with them all the time. But the knowledge of the glory of God is stronger, more tenacious, more resilient than all their pain and suffering. (Paul gives the Romans a very similar word in the eighth chapter of that epistle.) The Christians in Corinth have received an extraordinary treasure, and this treasure is one they carry in their very bodies. The grace, the light, the love of Christ is all the more extraordinary because it has been placed in our bodies. This ought to grab everyone’s attention. Who parks a Mercedes on the street? Who has so many jewels that he can store them in paper bags from Piggly Wiggly? Who’s got so much grace that he can put it into fragile, delicate, ephemeral containers? The One whose glory radiates from the face of Christ.

SPECIAL BONUS STORY, THIS WEEK ONLY! (Because Samuel is the focus of the OT Lesson and Hannah is his mother.)

I was sitting in Jimmy’s Woodlawn Tap on 55th Street in Chicago when someone said, “Too bad beer isn’t in the Bible.” 

I replied, “I can find beer in the Bible.”


“Yeah-huh.  Wanna bet?  I’ll bet you a beer I can find “beer” in the Bible!”

“Okay, but it has to be the beverage; ‘Beer-Sheba’ doesn’t count.”

“You’re on!”

Someone found a New International Version.  1 Samuel 1:15 reads, “Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord.”

The surprise is not that I found “beer” in the Bible.  The surprise is someone found a Bible in Jimmy’s Woodlawn Tap.

I don’t remember what brand of beer I won, but not remembering is kind of the point of going to Jimmy’s.

In the Sermon
You can handle the truth. We can handle the truth. Eli is brave enough to accept the Lord’s judgment and condemnation for his family’s sins. The Pharisees are defending the “truth” of their lawful adherence to their view of the Law of the Lord, but Jesus points them to a different, deeper, more humane truth. A truth rooted in God’s love. God Almighty knew not to command those made in her/his image to work, we are already really good at that! The Lord commanded us to stop working, so that we could relax into a faith that is strong enough to hear and feel the truth of God’s infinite and tender love for everyone. Even livestock are included in the trust/rest of the Sabbath.

God’s love surrounds us. It encircles the universe, and it includes people when they are their tiniest and most vulnerable. God’s love is precious; God regards each of us as precious. That’s the truth that can ground us, and embolden us to speak the truth to the powerful.

When one is grounded, rooted, fully trusting of God’s deep, personal, intimate love, one has the confidence to speak truth in a new, challenging and liberating way.

Here’s how author Rachel Held Evans envisions a preacher so grounded.
Dear Pastors, Tell us the truth. Tell us the truth when you don’t know the answers to our questions, and your humility will set the example as we seek them out together.

Tell us the truth about your doubts, and we will feel safe sharing our own. Tell us the truth when you get tired, when the yoke grows too heavy and the hill too steep to climb, and we will learn to carry one another’s burdens because we started with yours.

Tell us the truth when you are sad, and we too will stop pretending.

Tell us the truth when your studies lead you to new ideas that might stretch our faith and make us uncomfortable, and those of us who stick around will never forget that you trusted us with a challenge.

Tell us the truth when your position is controversial, and we will grow braver along with you.

Tell us the truth when you need to spend time on your marriage, and we will remember to prioritize ours.

Tell us the truth when you fail, and we will stop expecting perfection.

Tell us the truth when you think that our old ways of doing things need to change, and though we may push back, the conversation will force us to examine why we do what we do and perhaps inspire something even greater.

Tell us the truth when you fall short, and we will drop our measuring sticks. Tell us the truth when all that’s left is hope, and we will start digging for it. Tell us the truth when the world requires radical grace, and we will generate it.

Tell us the truth even if it’s surprising, disappointing, painful, joyous, unexpected, unplanned, and unresolved, and we will learn that this is what it means to be people of faith.

Tell us the truth and you won’t be the only one set free. Love, The Congregation (From Rachel Held Evans)

by Mary Austin
Mark 2:23--3:6

Once upon a time, my phone rang in the quiet of the afternoon, and I heard the voice of a woman from a now-former church, sharing her concern about all the flyers for church activities posted around the building. Instead of seeing a church with a lot to offer, she saw clutter. She proposed that we develop a “flyer policy,” and kindly suggested that I review everything before it was posted to make sure every flyer complied with the policy.

I could imagine, vividly, the number of mind-numbing meetings it would take to develop the flyer policy, and the number of hours I could spend reviewing every flyer. Her idea made sense, and she was probably right about the level of visual clutter, but she was missing the real point, as we church folk often do.

The religious leaders around Jesus understand the rule part of things. They get the importance of having a good policy that frees you to think about God. But Jesus is not a policy kind of guy. He reminds them of the purpose behind the Sabbath -- to turn people’s attention toward God. The Sabbath is God’s gift to humankind, not the other way around. The man in front of Jesus has a withered hand, and Jesus is ready to restore his physical being. As he does so, he’s pointing out a systemic illness in the people who can see the Sabbath, and not the man. They see the day on the calendar, and not the compassion of the one who created the day.

Before his death in 1968, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King started the Poor People’s Campaign. That campaign has been revived by the Rev. William Barber II and others, who are reminding us, like Jesus does, that the focus of our faith is serving people in need. Jesus reminds the religious authorities that God is on the side of life, and Rev. Barber is traveling the country making the same claim. Barber sees our nation's sickness in the same way Jesus saw the man with the withered hand -- a place where healing is urgently needed. Barber writes, “Four diseases, all connected, now threaten the nation’s social and moral health: racism, poverty, environmental devastation, and the war economy -- sanctified by the heresy of Christian nationalism. Since the 2016 presidential election, when white rage propelled a candidate endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan into the White House, racism has been more prominent in public life.”

Barber says we have a moral illness, one that may also be a mortal illness. “While a thorough analysis of America’s moral malady may tempt us to despair, it also brings us face-to-face with the ethical challenge that inspired the first Poor People’s Campaign…To King, the Poor People’s Campaign was about America’s need for another Reconstruction -- for an acknowledgment that a system of race-based slavery had created the inequality that had been passed down to the present day.”

And he proposes a cure: “This confluence of troubles may seem overwhelming. It suggests, however, that the only way out is for people directly harmed by the economic and political system to fight as one against the few who benefit from it.”

Barber first came to national attention with his Moral Mondays campaign in North Carolina, where he serves as a pastor. His organizing work is complicated by, and informed by, his chronic illness. “His work has been made more difficult by the fact that he suffers from ankylosing spondylitis, an arthritic condition that causes him chronic pain, and forces him to lean forward when he stands, as if he were poring over a book, or speaking to a child.” As with Dr. King, Barber’s choice of calling creates suffering for his family. “Barber is hesitant to talk about his family, because death threats are still an occupational hazard for civil-rights leaders. “I believe he is doing what the Church as a whole, all of us, are called to do,” Rebecca Barber told me. “And that is do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.” That sense of abiding purpose, she said, has allowed her not to dwell on the threats, which, in recent years, have grown in number.”

The systemic illness of predatory behavior has been revealed in every human institution in recent months, from entertainment to education. Al Mohler, the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, says the moral illness in evangelical churches has also been revealed. “The #MeToo moment has come to American evangelicals. This moment has come to some of my friends and brothers in Christ. This moment has come to me, and I am called to deal with it as a Christian, as a minister of the gospel, as a seminary and college president, and as a public leader…This is just a foretaste of the wrath of God poured out. This moment requires the very best of us. The Southern Baptist Convention is on trial, and our public credibility is at stake.”

Mohler, however, still defends the system of beliefs which lead to abuse, saying, “Among the issues of hottest theological debate was the role of women in the home and in the church. The SBC has affirmed complementarianism -- the belief that the Bible reveals that men and women are equally made in God’s image, but that men and women were also created to be complements to each other, men and women bearing distinct and different roles. This means obeying the Bible’s very clear teachings on male leadership in the home and in the church.” The man with the withered hand, meeting up with Jesus, is ahead of many of us -- he knows what’s wrong with him, where we often miss the depth of our own illness.

Of course, the conversation between Jesus and the religious leaders isn’t as simple as it seems. The Jewish Annotated New Testament points out that Jesus is arguing as a Jewish rabbi, speaking from the Jewish tradition. “The argument form, familiar in both Greek philosophical and rabbinic legal material, is from the lesser to the greater: if David could supersede law to meet human needs (1 Sam 21.1 -- 6), so could Jesus’ disciples (vv 25 -- 26; see also 7.6 -- 13; 10.3 -- 8; 12.26 -- 27) … In rabbinic law, Sabbath restrictions could be set aside if a life was in danger. Jesus advocates a similar Sabbath exception” for the disciples’ hunger. Meeting the man in need of healing, Jesus responds with another Sabbath exception, also found in rabbinic tradition: “Any danger to life overrides the prohibitions of the Sabbath.”

The Pharisees could make the very same choice on the side of health that Jesus does. They have it within their tradition to see the way he sees.

We have choices to make, too. Are we on the side of the poor, the hungry, the ill and the lost, where Jesus is? Will we choose to extend ourselves in the way he does, or choose the familiar way of tradition, policy and habit? Jesus asks the man to stretch out his hand, and it’s healed. As we follow Jesus, people are stretching out their hands to us, too. He ends the meeting angry at the religious folks, “grieved at their hardness of heart.” Their illness, so much less visible than the man’s withered hand, remains.


From team member Ron Love:

In Billy Graham’s daily devotional, he was asked what is more important to God, our actions or the motives for our actions. The renowned evangelist answered with these words, “Sometimes I compare questions like this to the old question about which wing of an airplane is more important. The answer of course, is that one wing is just as important as the other, because both are necessary for the plane to fly. The same is true about our actions and our motives.”

Application: Samuel realized that both meditation and action are required.

* * *

During the assassination attempt on Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford in Tucson, on January 8, 2011, six other individuals were killed, one of whom was nine-year-old Christina Green. Her death took on added significance for she was born on September 11, 2001, the day America was attacked. From this incident, she was one of the 50 children portrayed in the book Faces of Hope. The Westboro Baptist Church, which views America as evil and picket’s military funerals, shortly after the Tucson shooting published a poster. Part of the poster read, “The 9-year-old girl was born 9/11/01! ‘Hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it,’ Micah 6:9. God mercifully gave this nation a fair warning on 9/11 -- but you despise his mercies, so you get no mercy -- man, woman or child. That’s how God the Avenger rolls!”

Application: Eli was clearly a prophet. We need discernment when determining the authenticity of a prophet.

* * *

Sarah Palin placed on her web site a map indicating the districts where liberal congressman must be removed from office. There is a debate if the targeted districts were marked with the cross hairs of a rifle scope or a bull’s-eye. In either case, it was hardly a passive gesture; but, it was one that demanded aggressive action. One of the districts that was targeted was Tucson, where Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford served. Gifford interpreted the markings as a gun-sight. Gifford expressed her concern with such a malicious action when she said upon its posting, “The way that she has it depicted the cross hairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they have got to realize there are consequences to that action.” Shortly after that, on January 8, 2011, there was an assassination attempt on Gifford, with Jared Lee Loughner firing a single shot through her skull. We cannot say that Palin’s gun sight map inspired Loughner; but we can say it promoted a culture of violence. In so doing, there was a consequence to Palin’s actions.

Application: If we choose to be a prophet, we must carefully choose our accompanying message.

* * *

David Livingston was placed gently on his bed. Ill, few believed he could live until morning. A young boy was told to sit on the steps of the good physician’s hut. If anything should be needed for the care and comfort of the man beloved by all, the youth should run and get the elders of the village. Hours into the night the lad heard a stirring from within. As instructed, he immediately went for help. When the elders arrived at the hut they found Livingston dead, kneeling in prayer beside his bed. This missionary devoted his life to the African people and had gained their esteem and respect. They knew his body should be returned to his London home, where it would be entombed in Westminster Abbey. But his heart they removed and buried in the African soil, for it was with them that Livingston had shared his life.

Application: Samuel, under the direction of Eli, grew up to become a great prophet. This one incident tells it all: God said to Samuel, “for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” The people of Africa saw the heart of Livingston, and they knew it was righteous and pure. The Lord looked upon the heart of Samuel, and he knew it was faithful and holy. When the Lord looks upon our hearts, what will he see?

* * *

In January of 2011, when Dan Uggla signed a free agent contract to be the coach of the Atlanta Braves, he did so because he knew he was signing onto a winning team. In the press conference that followed the signing, Uggla said, “This team is ready to win right now. The core group is going to be here a long time. We have the pieces in place to win for a long time.” The core group, to which Uggla referred, had previously known only disappointment. But, having endured those trials on the field, Uggla realized they were ready to win then. From the team’s past failures, they learned to go forward.

Application: Samuel understood his calling and was ready to go forward.

* * *

When Judas had to be replaced by a new apostle, the Christian community was scrutinized for the two best leaders. Then with the casting of lots, an exercise that is to be guided by the Holy Spirit, Matthias was selected. In selecting church leadership today, are we as selective? An example would be the 22 Roman Catholic cardinals that were appointed on January 6, 2012. The biographies that were distributed to the press were cut and pasted from Wikipedia, a notoriously unreliable source of information, but is popular for its ease of accessibility. The Vatican library has more than 1.6 million books and 50 miles of shelves containing documents. It is considered one of the most important research centers in the world. Yet, instead of using this treasure house of information, the Vatican turned to the Internet. Why? Vatican spokesperson Father Federico Lombardi said they were driven by “haste.”

Application: Eli was not driven by haste in his selection of Samuel.

* * *

Jorge Posada retired in 2012 from the New York Yankees. He spent his entire career with a single team as their catcher. But age and injury finally forced him onto the disable list and retirement. Posada was inspired to play baseball by a former Yankee catcher Thurman Munson whom he idolized. And as a seven-year old he was grieved when Munson died in a plane crash in 1979. Early in Posada’s career he was lifting in the weight room at Fenway Park when he saw on the wall a photograph of Munson with a written comment about catching. It read, “Look, I like hitting fourth and I like the good batting average. But what I do every day behind the plate is a lot more important because it touches so many more people and so many more aspects of the game.” Posada asked for a copy of the picture and the quote, and he tapped it to the inside of his locker.

Application: We are to remember the importance of keeping certain things sacred and holy.

* * *

It was a spirited Wednesday night for the 55,528 fans gathered in Network Associates Coliseum in Oakland. They assembled to witness their home team, the Oakland Athletics achieve the longest consecutive winning streak in 67 years. This game, to be the 20th win, is all that the A’s needed. The 20th win seemed inevitable with the A’s leading 11-0 against Kansas City in the third inning. Then Kansas City came back with five runs in the fourth and five more in the eighth, then in the ninth one more run. With two outs the Oakland A’s pinch-hitter Scott Hatteberg put one over the fence, and history was made on September 5, 2002.

Kansas City coach Tony Pena did not look upon the game as a history making loss, for he admired the resilience of his team. Pena said, “Sometimes when you lose, you actually win out there, and this was one of those situations.”

Application: We need to understand the meaning of sacredness. Coach Pena did when he realized that even in the loss, his team played with one heart and one soul.

* * *

Sid Cook, 59, is a fourth generation Wisconsin cheesemaker, and is presently a master cheesemaker. Carr Valley Cheese Company has its line of staple products that assure a proper cash flow and profit. Yet, Cook knows, to keep the company alive and invigorated and to continue to foster consumer interest, he needs to be continually introducing a new brand of cheese. He always needs a cheese with a new flavor and a new name that will keep people coming back to his stores. Cook develops the recipe for a new cheese in his head. He says he is able to do this by “putting my mind in neutral.” This is accomplished at the end of the work day when he plays the piano for an hour, and he plays only classical music.

Application: To be a prophet requires a time of quire meditation.

* * *

In the comedy film The Money Pit, Tom hanks and Shelly Long play a young couple in New York City who are unable to afford housing. So, they seek a home in the country, far from the city. They come upon a big old beautiful house which they purchase to be their home. But soon they discover the house that was so pretty from the curb had many defects within. The roof leaked. The plumbing clogs. The wiring burns up. The young couple discovers their beautiful home needs massive renovations.

Application: We need to be sure that the message we hear from a prophet is true and authentic.

From team member Dean Feldmeyer:

1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20)
Bad News
On April 14th of 1851, Dora Dickens, the ninth child of Charles Dickens and his wife, Catherine, died unexpectedly after suffering convulsions. She was just 8-months-old. The next morning, Charles wrote the following letter to Catherine -- miles away from home recuperating from an illness, oblivious to the situation -- and, in an effort to break the news gently, delicately informed her that their daughter was gravely ill and to expect the worst.
Tuesday Morning
Fifteenth April 1851

My dearest Kate.

Now observe. You must read this letter, very slowly and carefully. If you have hurried on thus far without quite understanding (apprehending some bad news), I rely on your turning back, and reading again.

Little Dora, without being in the least pain, is suddenly stricken ill. She awoke out of a sleep, and was seen, in one moment, to be very ill. Mind! I will not deceive you. I think her very ill.

There is nothing in her appearance but perfect rest. You would suppose her quietly asleep. But I am sure she is very ill, and I cannot encourage myself with much hope of her recovery. I do not -- and why should I say I do, to you my dear! -- I do not think her recovery at all likely.

I do not like to leave home. I can do nothing here, but I think it right to stay here. You will not like to be away, I know, and I cannot reconcile it to myself to keep you away. Forster with his usual affection for us comes down to bring you this letter and to bring you home. But I cannot close it without putting the strongest entreaty and injunction upon you to come with perfect composure -- to remember what I have often told you, that we never can expect to be exempt, as to our many children, from the afflictions of other parents -- and that if -- if -- when you come, I should even have to say to you "Our little baby is dead", you are to do your duty to the rest, and to shew yourself worthy of the great trust you hold in them.

If you will only read this, steadily, I have a perfect confidence in your doing what is right.

Ever affectionately,
Charles Dickens

Catherine returned home the next day.

(Source: The Letters of Charles Dickens, 1850-1852; Image: Charles Dickens, aged 49, courtesy of The Telegraph.) Presented on lettersofnote.com.

* * *

1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20)
More Bad News
The Forbes Leadership Forum offers these “10 Commandments for Delivering Bad News.”

The Tenth Commandment: Thou shalt never surprise. Bad news should never come as a surprise.

The Ninth Commandment: Thou shalt never delay. Delivering bad news with due speed, or without unreasonable delay, is critically important.

The Eighth Commandment: Withholding information can cause a wrong diagnosis of the actual problem or an underestimation of the extent of the cause of the bad news.  

The Seventh Commandment: Thou shalt always put it in writing. In most organizations, it has become mandatory to keep detailed records of any meetings and warnings associated with bad news.

The Sixth Commandment: Thou shalt always justify. People receiving bad news deserve to know why it is being delivered. Justification should include specific and concrete reasons for the bad news.

The Fifth Commandment: Thou shalt always look for the silver lining. Find positives associated with the bad news.

The Fourth Commandment: Thou shalt always bring solutions. When delivering bad news, present solutions or an action plan to solve the problems that led to the bad news.

The Third Commandment: Thou shalt always remember your multiple audiences. Remember when delivering bad news that the news never reaches just one; it reaches many. Others will be listening and watching, and even more will be interested.

The Second Commandment: Thou shalt always follow up and follow through. After the bad news is delivered and solutions are identified, track any progress made in solving the problems that led to the bad news.

The First Commandment: Thou shalt always treat people with respect and dignity.

* * *

1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20)
Speaking The Truth
The late Dr. A. T. Pierson told the following story of General Robert E. Lee. Hearing General Lee speak in the highest terms to President Davis about a certain officer, another officer, greatly astonished, said to him. `General, do you not know that the man of whom you spoke so highly to the President is one of your bitterest enemies, and misses no opportunity to malign you?' Yes,' replied General Lee, 'but the President asked my opinion of him, and I gave him a true answer, he did not ask his opinion of me.'

* * *

1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20)
Speaking Truth To Power
From: “The Cost of Speaking Truth to Power” by Amy Butler (April 3, 2018)

The documentary film King in the Wilderness is a must-see film, because it depicts so beautifully what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. put into words in his 1967 address, “Beyond Vietnam, Breaking the Silence” -- “The calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak.” In the film we meet a deeply conflicted King, the young leader who was pulled in so many different directions, who struggled with despair and depression and the desertion of his friends, who staggered under the weight of a message his conscience would not allow him to ignore. The film pulls no punches when it shows the many human failures King also grappled with: he was afraid, he was depressed, he resented what he’d had to give up, he was unfaithful, he was a loner, he struggled under the weight of his vocation of agony.

Recent decades of public awareness of King have focused on the early years of his public career, those years when he was an admired civil rights leader canvassing the South and demanding an end to segregation. This is the Martin Luther King Jr. who had a dream, whose strident demands are softened now through the rose-colored glasses of a chagrined, if not penitent, society. Of course, segregation was wrong; what were we thinking to defend something so indefensible?

But what the film shows is not a leader tied to one issue and one issue alone, but rather someone whose conscience would not allow him to remain silent whenever he saw injustice. The reason King in the Wilderness is so compelling is that the film focuses on the last 18 months of King’s life, a time in which the focus of King’s work shifted from civil rights to poverty in America and the immorality of the war in Vietnam. For using his voice to speak out against these injustices, King’s regular detractors became more strident and his friends largely abandoned him.

* * *

1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20)
Speaking Truth To Power
The commonly acknowledged flashpoint for the spread of the phrase "speak truth to power" is the 1955 essay, “Speak Truth to Power: A Quaker Search for an Alternative to Violence,” published in book form by the American Friends Service Committee. As noted in “Hot Pacifism and Cold War,” this book received significant media attention during the first year of its publication.

The foreword to “Speak Truth to Power” states that the phrase is from an old Quaker saying from the 18th century, but according to Paul Lacey, the Committee was not able to identify a specific source. Instead, one of the Committee members, a journalist named Milton Mayer, is said to have simply had the phrase come to mind spontaneously, and the Committee agreed that it sounded authentic to the Quaker tradition.

In “I Must Resist,” a posthumous 2012 collection of African-American civil rights leader Bayard Rustin's personal correspondence, Rustin states in a 1942 letter that the role of a religious group is to "speak the truth to power," a phrase he attributes to a speech by future ACLU president Patrick Malin. However, these words are not in the text of Malin's speech, suggesting that Rustin himself coined the phrase. As the Committee notes in a 2012 appendix to “Speak Truth to Power,” Rustin was actually a co-author of the 1955 book, but his contribution was redacted after he was arrested on charges of committing a homosexual act in 1953. In 2013, U.S. President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Rustin the Medal of Freedom.

* * *

1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20)
The Cost of Telling the Truth
A policeman’s first obligation is to be responsible to the needs of the community he serves…The problem is that the atmosphere does not yet exist in which an honest police officer can act without fear of ridicule or reprisal from fellow officers. We create an atmosphere in which the honest officer fears the dishonest officer, and not the other way around.
--  Frank Serpico to the Knapp Commission

On September 11, 1959, Frank Serpico joined the New York City Police Department (NYPD) as a probationary patrolman and became a full patrolman on March 5, 1960. He was assigned to the 81st precinct, then worked for the Bureau of Criminal Identification (BCI) for two years. In 1962 he was assigned to work plainclothes, where he began to uncover widespread police corruption.

In 1967, while working as a plainclothes officer in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Manhattan to expose vice racketeering, he reported credible evidence of widespread systematic police corruption but nothing happened until he met another police officer, David Durk, who helped him. Serpico believed his partners knew about his secret meetings with police investigators. Finally, he contributed to an April 25, 1970, New York Times front-page story on widespread corruption in the NYPD which drew national attention to the problem. Mayor John V. Lindsay appointed a five-member panel to investigate accusations of police corruption. The panel became the Knapp Commission, named after its chairman, Whitman Knapp.

In February 1971 Frank Serpico was shot in the face by the suspect in a drug bust when his three partners refused to come to his aid. The the bullet struck just below his eye lodging at the top of his jaw. His police colleagues refused to make a "10-13" dispatch to police headquarters indicating that an officer had been shot but an elderly man who lived in the next apartment called the emergency services reporting that a man had been shot and stayed with Serpico until a police car arrived and took him to the hospital.

In December of that year, he testified before the Knapp Commission.

Serpico retired on June 15, 1972, one month after receiving the New York City Police Department's highest honor, the Medal of Honor. There was no ceremony; according to Serpico, it was simply handed to him over the desk "like a pack of cigarettes" He went to Switzerland to recuperate and spent almost a decade living there and on a farm in the Netherlands, as well as traveling and studying.

Today, Frank Serpico lives in the United States where he writes, travels and speaks frequently on the topic of police corruption, police abuses, and civil rights.

* * *

Mark 2:23-3:6
How We Decide
In psychology, “bias” refers to behavioral tendencies that affect how we reach conclusions and ultimately make choices. Here are four biases that unconsciously affect how we make decisions.

1) Anchoring bias
We tend to “anchor” our decisions based around the first piece of information we receive. For example, if you’re used to paying $10 for shampoo and see it on sale for $8, this reduced price will feel like a deal. However, your friend’s local store sells the same shampoo for $12, so she will view the $10 bottle as the deal.

2) Framing effect bias
The manner in which choices are presented to us also affects how we view them. A study had participants watch a traffic accident and asked: “About how fast were the cars going when they contacted each other?” The researchers then replaced the verb “contacted” with “hit,” “bumped,” “collided,” and “smashed” for different groups of participants. As the intensity of the action verb increased, so did the participants’ speed estimates. They guessed that the cars were going 31, 34, 38, 39, and 41 miles per hour, respectively.

3) Ingroup bias
Also known as the bandwagon effect, ingroup bias occurs when a person in a group acts in a similar way to other members of that group. Interestingly, the bias exists across arbitrarily created groups (such as through a coin toss) in addition to groups based around religion or sports, among other affiliations.

4) Loss aversion bias
People don’t like to lose or miss out on things. Loss aversion causes us to feel more strongly about avoiding a loss than receiving a gain, and explains the endowment effect, our tendency to prefer things we already own over things we don’t. In a study conducted by Daniel Kahneman, participants were given mugs, chocolate, or nothing, and given the option to either trade their wares, or choose one of the two items if they had started with nothing. About half the participants who started with no items chose mugs, but 86% of those given mugs to begin with stuck with that item.

From team member Bethany Peerbolte:

1 Samuel 3:1-20
Theory of Seven
It takes Eli some time to realize Samuel is being called by God. Even though Eli did not receive more information the third time than he had from the first disrupted sleep, it suddenly dawns on Eli what is happening. Psychology has long held a theory of seven. This theory says that someone must “hear” a message seven times before they will act on the information. Psychologists and business insiders have noticed a few reasons the theory of seven is necessary. Consumers have to deal with a lot of “noise;” competing messages that can drown out other messages. The message may not come at a good time at first and the person is not ready to hear or need what is being sold. People may worry about the price of the product or service. People also may not know, like, or trust you. These four reasons make using the theory of seven a must in marketing campaigns, but they also give some insight into Samuel’s experience.

There was plenty of noise preventing Samuel from hearing God’s call. Samuel was used to hearing Eli call him, so the first two times he makes assumptions based on the noise he is most accustom. He runs to Eli as he has done before, but this time it is not Eli calling. In addition, Samuel was still young and was not yet listening or hoping God would call him. It takes someone older to coach Samuel with the right response and essentially tell him to start really listening. Samuel may have thought God was calling but was worried about the price this call would ask of him. He surely saw Eli’s life and work and knew some of the sacrifices and trials he would face. Possibly Samuel did not know God well enough to hear the voice and recognize it as God’s. It also have been a problem of trust.

Samuel struggled to hear God’s call, but thankfully God did not give up. If Eli had not advised Samuel to listen differently God may have had to ask seven times before Samuel was ready to act on the message.

* * *

1 Samuel 3:1-20
Criticism Ratio
It has long been touted that the best way to give criticism is to make a genuine positive remark, then the criticism, followed by another positive comment. This has shaped the way bosses, teachers, parents, and others help their charges become better. Harvard Business Review has found otherwise. Their research shows that when seven pieces of positive feedback are given to every one piece of criticism performance is at it’s peak for improvement. These do not need to come all in a row, just over time as a general ratio. Researchers found that for a negative piece of advice to have the biggest impact, the person delivering it should have given seven positive pieces of advice in the past. The positive comments establish a relationship of trust and respect. This allows the person receiving the negative comment to perceive it as being in their best interest to digest it fully.

Samuel was listened to because he had proven himself trustworthy and full of good knowledge. He probably did not get this good reputation running around telling everyone what they were doing wrong. There had to be times where Samuel encouraged the community and supported the area they were getting things right. Then he had to space and respect to adjust behavior in areas they were wrong.

* * *

1 Samuel 3:1-10
Call or Summons
The modern idea of a call includes a sense of fulfillment and joy in the work. This is not how “call” has always been perceived, and some scholars wish translations would us the term “summons” instead. This slight change in translation shines a new light on why Samuel may have misheard who was calling him. The path Samuel, and other prophets, were set on after saying “here I am” was not always one of joyful fulfillment.

Not everything in life is fulfilling, there are still chores to be done. The Center for Parenting Education endorses giving kids mundane chores. The research alone gives great reasons why parents should subject children to boring undesirable task. “Research indicates that those children who do have a set of chores have higher self-esteem, are more responsible, and are better able to deal with frustration and delay gratification, all of which contribute to greater success in school.” Even the terrible tasks contribute positively to a person’s development. When we speak of “call” or vocation in the church we should be intentional to talk about the tasks that feel more like a summons too.

* * *

Mark 2:23--3:6
Breaking Religious Rules
Jesus’s disciples are caught breaking an important rule, keeping the Sabbath. This rule is one Jesus supports and encourages his followers to keep Sabbath. When the pharisees call them out there is little reason to think Jesus will disagree. Unless you know Jesus often disagrees with the pharisees, which makes the word pharisee a general spoiler alert. The question then is which rules can be broken. Reverend Fisk describes seven "Christian" rules that every christian ought to break as often as possible in his book Broken. The seven rules are mysticism, moralism, rationalism, prosperity, churchology, freedom, and counterfeit Christianity. These seven correspond with the worship of emotion, works, thoughts, wealth, spirituality, lawlessness, and self. One review of the book says “this is a book that needs to get into the hands of Christians who are emergent, burnt out, disillusioned, lapsed, millennial, cynical, and the pastors who minister to them.”

No matter how long something has been a rule there needs to be a time when the community asks if it is still necessary. Jesus points out in Mark that the laws of Sabbath had become outdated and unfair to certain people in the community. Not everyone was able to set aside an entire day to rest. Those in need were still in need on the Sabbath. The religious law had become oppressive then which means there must be some around today that are similarly unjust.

* * *

Mark 2:23--3:6
Sacred Things as Resources
Many churches are the center of their communities. They house AA meetings, preschools, and are a place for resources to funnel through to help those in need. It is no wonder then that Joel Osteen received harsh criticism when his mega church in Houston did not open to shelter those in need. Hurricane Harvey devastated the Houston area in 2017. With thousands of people needing shelter the church stadium that can hold 16,000 was empty. Reports from the church said flooding had made the building unsafe, but twitter soon got wind that the building seemed to be fine. The building did eventually open, but Osteen was forced to defend the earlier decision to remain closed. The mega church, Lakewood, has been a hub for support. Providing shelter, food, clothes, and more to the community. The backlash over the delayed opening shows that communities still expect their churches to be centers of hope. People expect the church to look out for them in body, mind, and spirit. Churches should not abandon this mission and continue to use their building and a resource for the community. In this way churches give back to God the blessings they have received.

* * *

Mark 2:23--3:6
The Fourth Wise Man
In 1985 Martin Sheen stared in a film called “The Fourth Wise Man.” In it, Artaban is a young Wise Man who desires to follow the star to the birthplace of the coming King. Carrying three precious jewels to give to the baby Messiah, Artaban sets off to join the caravan of the three other wise men. They never meet up, but Artaban continues the search for his King. Artaban spends much of his remaining wealth and all of his energy helping the poor and unfortunate people he meets, until at the end of his life he finally finds Jesus. When he laments not having anything to give, Jesus responds by telling him he has already given him the gifts. Artaban listens as Jesus explains that by giving these things to those in need he has given them to Jesus. William Barclay recounts the origin story this movie is based on in his commentary on Mark.

This story demonstrates the importance of caring for those that God puts in our path. Artaban could have caught up with the other three wise men easily, all he had to do was leave someone in need behind. By not turning his back on others for his own gain or personal goals, Artaban does achieve his goal of meeting the Lord and gifting him with something extravagant.

by George Reed

Call to Worship:
Leader: O God, you have searched us and known us.
People: You discern our thoughts from far away.
Leader: Such knowledge is too wonderful for us.
People: It is so high that we cannot attain it.
Leader: How weighty to us are your thoughts, O God!
People: How vast is the sum of them!


Leader: Come and hear the word of truth from our God.
People: We are here to attend to God’s word for us.
Leader: Hear God’s word and choose who you will serve.
People: We listen to our God and serve only God.
Leader: God needs you to speak truth to others, even the powerful.
People: We will be courageous and speak for our God.

Hymns and Songs:
If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee
UMH: 142
H82: 635
PH: 282
NCH: 410
LBW: 453
ELA: 769
W&P: 429

Come, My Way, My Truth, My Life
UMH: 164
H82: 487
NCH: 331
LBW: 513
ELA: 816
W&P: 403
STLT: 89

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

Holy Spirit, Come Confirm Us
UMH: 331
NCH: 264                  

Tú Has Venido a la Orilla (Lord, You Have Come to the Lakeshore)
UMH: 344
PH: 377
CH: 342
W&P 347

Jesus Calls Us
UMH: 398
H82: 549/550
NNBH: 183
NCH: 171/172
CH: 337
LBW: 494
ELA: 696
W&P: 345
AMEC: 238

Open My Eyes, That I May See
UMH: 454
PH: 324
NNBH: 218
CH: 586
W&P: 480
AMEC: 285
Lord, Speak to Me
UMH: 463
PH: 426
NCH: 531
ELA: 676
W&P: 593

I Will Call upon the Lord
CCB: 9
Renew: 15

Lord, I Lift Your Name on High
CCB: 36
Renew: 4

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 calls the high and the lowly to account:
Grant us the courage to speak you word of truth
to all, regardless of their power and status;
through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.


We praise you, O God, because you call all to account for their deeds. As we worship you this day, give us the courage to speak in your name to all, regardless of the status or power. Amen.

Prayer of Confession
Leader: Let us confess to God and before one another our sins and especially our failure to speak up to those who are in power above us.

People: We confess to you, O God, and before one another that we have sinned. We have heard your word and we have claimed to be your people and yet we are timid to speak for you to those in power. We fear reprisal from the powerful or rebuke from our friends and neighbors more than we fear you. Forgive us and give us courage. Help us to speak for those who have no effective voice. Amen.

Leader: God honors those who dare to speak the word of truth in God’s name. Receive God’s grace and forgiveness and go boldly to speak God’s truth.

Prayers of the People
We praise you and adore you, O God, for you speak the truth to all. Your truth is the word of life for all creation.

(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 your word and we have claimed to be your people and yet we are timid to speak for you to those in power. We fear reprisal from the powerful or rebuke from our friends and neighbors more than we fear you. Forgive us and give us courage. Help us to speak for those who have no effective voice.

We give you thanks that you have spoken to us your truth. You have given us the words of life that we may escape that hollow existence that is but a facade for death. We thank you that you have called us to speak in your name to bring life to others.

(Other thanksgivings may be offered.)

We pray for all who are in need this day. We pray for those whose voices have been silenced. We pray for the conversion of those who have taken power to bring subjective and death to others instead of freedom and life.

(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
Offer the children different things to choose from. (Candy, toys, etc.) Talk about how we know what to choose. Sometimes like this it is because of what we like. Sometimes we have to choose based on what is right. We choose to obey our parents and teachers. We choose to be kind to others. We choose to not take what is not ours. Every choice we make is a chance to choose to be Jesus’ disciples.

Hearing God’s Calling Voice
by Bethany Peerbolte
1 Samuel 3:1-10

Help children learn to listen to God’s call. Even though we may not hear a voice like Samuel did God still speaks to us. God speaks to us through the Bible, through the Holy Spirit, through other people. It is important to listen, so we have a better idea what God is asking us to do, and to hear how God wants to help us.

Say something like:
How many of you have had someone yell out your name? at home, or on recess. There is something about our name that can really get our attention.

In our Bible story today, Samuel hears someone saying his name and trying to get his attention, but Samuel doesn’t know who it is. He goes to see Eli because he thinks it is Eli saying his name. Three times the voice says “Samuel, Samuel” and each time Samuel goes to Eli asking, “What do you need.” Finally, Eli realizes it is God talking and helps Samuel respond and listen to God’s voice.

Has anyone here heard God say something, with an actual voice? (Encourage the kids who will answer yes but then say...) Some of us have not heard a voice from God and most of us never will. That doesn’t mean God isn’t still speaking. God talks to us through the Bible, through the Holy Spirit, and through other people.

The Bible is God’s word. People call it a living word because even though it was written a long time ago we can still read it today and hear God talking. I like to read the Bible when…(Enter you favorite reason for reading the Bible.)

God also talks through the Holy Spirit. Have you ever gotten a weird feeling in your stomach that something wasn’t right? That is the Holy Spirit helping you make a choice. Or maybe you can’t stop thinking about a friend all day and you don’t know why. That might be the Holy Spirit reminding you to check in and tell them how much you love them.

God can also talk to us through other people. Of course not everything other people say is from God but if we hear the same kind of message from different people we might want to stop and see if God is trying to tell us something. If you have a problem you can ask a coupe people how they would handle it and see if one option feels more like what God wants.

We can check in with God when we think we are hearing God’s voice by praying. Let’s say a prayer now:

Loving God, You are still speaking today. Help us hear you. Help us be able to tell when your voice is calling our names. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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

The Immediate Word, June 3, 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.
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