8-30-20 Worship

Guest Speakers – Elders Ken Nickel and Denise Nickel

Musician – Sarah Berta

Prelude: Here I Am Lord -arr. John Carter

Introduction to the Worship Service

Call to Worship:

One-We come to this place to see what God has done.

All – We are here for burning bushes and holy ground.

One-Here in worship, we will find God on special days of celebration and ordinary days.

All – We seek the God of our ancestors knowing we may be called to new places.

One-Listen now for God’s call and know you do not go alone.

All – We are ready to worship and see God in this place. 

Opening Hymn:  Morning Has Broken  (Blue 469)

Morning has broken like the first morning,

Blackbird has spoken like the first bird.

Praise for the singing!  Praise for the morning!

Praise for them, springing fresh from the Word!

Sweet the rain’s new fall sunlit from heaven,

Like the first dewfall on the first grass.

Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden,

Sprung in completeness where God’s feet pass.

Opening Prayer:

Lord, we have gathered here today to hear your word for us. We marvel at the witness of Moses who received your call to liberate your enslaved people. We long for Your call to set us free from our bondage of mind and spirit.  We seek to be released from our fears and struggles. Be with us this day, guiding our spirits and opening our hearts to hear your forgiveness and call to us. In Jesus’ Name, we pray. AMEN.

Call for Confession:

God calls us, but we don’t listen. God recruits us into service but we say we are not worthy.  God asks us to serve and love others but we often turn our backs.  We deceive no one but ourselves.  Let us confess our shortcomings and ask God for forgiveness and guidance. 

Prayer of Confession:

Lord, perhaps your voice issuing forth from a burning bush is what we need to shake us from our complacency. We have a hard time comprehending your call to us because we feel so inadequate to respond in faithful service. So we look to others to do the work. We are happy to support their efforts with our funds and our limited interest. Now, Lord, we need to take the next step into actual service to you. Forgive our slowness of action and heart, O Lord. Quicken our spirits to accept the call you have for us. Give us courage and strength to do your will and help others in need. We ask these things in the name of Jesus our Lord. AMEN.

Assurance of Grace:

In the power of the burning bush, in the quiet stillness, in the everyday noises of living, God is calling to each one of us, telling us to trust in the gifts with which God has bestowed on us. You are beloved and blessed by God to be a blessing to others. Rejoice!

Message for the Children and the Young at Heart

Moses and the Burning Bush

Invocation: (Sung in Unison)

Open my ears that I may hear voices of truth thou sendest clear; and while the wave notes fall on my ear, everything false will disappear. Silently now I wait for thee, ready my God Thy will to see. Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit Divine. 

Old Testament Reading– Exodus 3:1-12 (Contemporary English Version)

One day, Moses was taking care of the sheep and goats of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian, and Moses decided to lead them across the desert to Sinai, the holy mountain. There an angel of the Lord appeared to him from a burning bush. Moses saw that the bush was on fire, but it was not burning up. “This is strange!” he said to himself. “I’ll go over and see why the bush isn’t burning up.”

When the Lord saw Moses coming near the bush, he called him by name, and Moses answered, “Here I am.”

God replied, “Don’t come any closer. Take off your sandals—the ground where you are standing is holy. I am the God who was worshiped by your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”  Moses was afraid to look at God, and so he hid his face.

The Lord said:  I have seen how my people are suffering as slaves in Egypt, and I have heard them beg for my help because of the way they are being mistreated. I feel sorry for them, and I have come down to rescue them from the Egyptians.

I will bring my people out of Egypt into a country where there is good land, rich with milk and honey. I will give them the land where the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites now live. My people have begged for my help, and I have seen how cruel the Egyptians are to them. 10 Now go to the king! I am sending you to lead my people out of his country.

11 But Moses said, “Who am I to go to the king and lead your people out of Egypt?”

12 God replied, “I will be with you. And you will know that I am the one who sent you, when you worship me on this mountain after you have led my people out of Egypt.”

Sermon – Doesn’t He Care? – Guest Preacher – Ken Nickel

If you caught my service a few weeks ago, I took you on a trip back two thousand years ago to the Sea of Galilee when the faith of the twelve disciples was tested by the storm.  “Don’t you care that we’re about to die?” they asked of Jesus.  And he responded, “Have you still no faith?” Today we’re not going back quite as far.  I’ll invite you to go back to your very first day of school; maybe last year, or twenty-five years ago or maybe, like me, much longer than that.  Remember sitting at your desk with your hands clasped in front of you.  Your teacher stands in the front of the classroom with a clipboard or computer printout or laptop.  On it are the names of all of the students in class in alphabetical order.  Before the first lesson is taught, before the first student falls asleep in class, the teacher embarks on that time-honored ritual of taking attendance – reading all the names so that every student, upon hearing their name, can answer back with the one-word response:  Here.  It was your way of saying you were in the room, you were present, and you were ready to learn.

Well it strikes me, as I read today’s passage, that Moses does much the same thing.  It’s just the he’s a class of one, about to be schooled by none other than God himself.  But this was certainly not an ordinary day nor an ordinary time.  Moses had been minding his own business, caring for his sheep to keep them safe, when he saw the burning bush; burning, but not burning.  I’m sure Moses had no intentions of ever returning to Egypt, let alone to Pharaoh.  In order to do what God would request of him, Moses would have to go back to the place from which he had fled, a place where he was raised to rule over the Israelites and then he later found out that he actually was an Israelite, the place where he then killed an Egyptian, and the place where he chose to give up his royal status and flee into obscurity.

Yet here he is.  Like us in school on that first day; it’s not like Moses needed to tell God where he was, God of course already knew that, since God was the one who came to him.  Yet God spoke his name “Moses, Moses”…

And Moses says…”Here I am”.  

I believe that connecting with God is something that lies at the very heart of what it means to be human; to be in touch with that which is outside our own selves, that which is bigger than we ever will be.  Do you think Moses could’ve ever have imagined the God who came to him on that mountain?  The God who took on the form of a burning bush that did not burn up? The God who called Moses to call Pharaoh out?  The God who, when asked for a name, offered up, “I Am Who I Am?” or maybe more correctly “I will be who I will be.” This God with the name too holy to even be spoken; this God that movies of the Charlton Heston variety, depict with a deep, booming, resonating voice; this God who tells Moses to remove his sandals, for the place where he is standing is holy ground?  

And yet we wonder, how do you possibly connect with a God like that?  As a child, I waited patiently for God to finally speak to me, like some spirit parent. After all, he spoke to Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham and a slew of others in the bible.  Yet it’s been said that “God lives wherever we imagine.” Remember the reality Moses was living in long before he went up that mountain – a reality where he was a Hebrew raised in Pharaoh’s palace, where his own people had rejected him, where in many ways he was a man without a home.  And yet here on this mountain, he is invited by the Almighty to take off his sandals.  Moses, the man without a home, finds himself in the presence of God – who, in asking him to remove sandals, more or less is saying to him, Moses, make yourself at home. Take a load off your feet. 

When you look at it that way, do you think that this is a God we can connect with?  Not the booming voice from classic movies, but a God who calls us by name, who makes us feel at home, who creates intimacy in the midst of our vulnerability; a God who shares with us God’s very name – an act of vulnerability in and of itself.  

A God who cares; 

A God of promise; 

A God who is less interested in looking back and more interested in what’s to come; 

A God not just on the mountain but longing to be in relationship off of the mountain, down with us, in all that life in the valley can bring.

Do you see?  God is inviting us into something more than a one-time event, more than a mountaintop experience.  God wants to connect with each and every one of us in an intimate and lasting way that compels us to want to do the same, long after the mountaintop.  As one commentator put it: “Faith is a participation sport,” she says.  “You have to get up off the couch and get in the game, take a risk, reach for something you thought unachievable, step out onto the winding road the end of which you cannot see from your doorstep.” She says, “To know God, you have to go with God.”  

Many People don’t seem to understand the fullness of faith. Some people would even say it’s overrated. But in Hebrews 11, God tells us that faith is a crucial part of our relationship with Him.  See without faith, there is no trust because trust and faith go hand in hand. Faith is believing in the things not seen, faith is the hinge that holds the Christian to a personal relationship with God. In John, we hear Jesus say to a formerly skeptical Thomas ““Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” God is there and God cares. No matter where you are, no matter what you are facing, God sees your affliction. He knows what you are going through! 

Moses finally agrees to accept his new role, of course.  Not without a little pushback, not without some attempts at bargaining and negotiating.  Eight attempts, to be exact.  Eight times, Moses tries to talk God out of it.  But God would have none of that.  I’ve invited you in, God seems to say.  I’ve made you feel at home.  Your bare feet have mingled with my sacred soil.  You and me, we are bound to one another.  You will go down the mountain.  And I will go with you.

And the real beauty of it all, the true joy of this, is that we get to do the same.  We, too, get to connect with a God who meets us where we are, who surprises us in wonder and awe, who calls us by name, and who says to us, in the midst of our crazy, hectic, worry-filled world, this: How about you take off your shoes and take a load off your feet.  For the place where you are standing is not just holy ground: It is home.

In the name of God our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, thanks be to God – and may all of God’s people say, AMEN!

Affirmation of Faith– Here I am Lord Vs.1 (Sung in Unison)

I, the Lord of sea and sky,
I have heard My people cry.
All who dwell in dark and sin,
My hand will save.

I who made the stars of night,
I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear My light to them
Whom shall I send

Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord
I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if You lead me.
I will hold Your people in my heart.

Morning Prayers

Lord, we love the drama of the burning bush. Here is the quaking Moses, telling God that God has made a mistake. Moses does not believe that he can perform the task to which God has called him. But God knows better. God will provide the support structure for this awesome task. In our times of greatest distress, we are just like Moses. We tell God that God has made a mistake; we are not able or worthy to undertake the task of hope, healing and peace for this world. We mumble about responsibilities and commitments, but God chides us to be in service by helping others. God will give us the strength, the tools, the support that we need. What do we need to fear? We feel powerless to bring the healing words of hope, and so we offer these situations to God for God’s compassionate mercy. Our trust in God is rightly placed. For God hears our prayers and will respond. We can count on God to be present with us and with all those in need. Now it is our turn to respond to God’s call with a fervent yes, trusting in God’s presence and guidance. Let us go forth to serve joyfully and confidently in God’s world. 

And now, let us boldly pray the prayer that Jesus taught to his disciples: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our sins, as we forgive our sinners.  And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. AMEN.

Our Offerings to God

Closing Hymn:  We Will Glorify (Sung in Unison)

We will glorify the King of kings; we will glorify the Lamb;

We will glorify the Lord of lords, who is the great I Am.

God Almighty reigns in majesty, we will bow before the throne;

We will worship God in righteousness, we will worship God alone.

Hallelujah to the King of kings, hallelujah to the Lamb;

Hallelujah to the Lord of lords, who is the great I Am.

Charge and Benediction

God promised to be with Moses, and we are here to witness to the fulfillment of that promise. From generation to generation, the God of Israel is also the God of (your community’s name). The God of the burning bush is waiting even now to encounter you, call you, challenge you, and change you. Go out to be sustained and surprised by the love of God. Amen.

Postlude:  He Has Made Me Glad   -arr. Fred Bock

Weekly Words of Wisdom 7-29-20

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mt 11:28-30)

I was rereading this scripture the other day and it caused me to wonder just how do we find rest for our souls?    Since the early days of the pandemic, increasing stress and anxiety have gradually worn some of us away as we experienced extended solitude, isolation, and loneliness. This has been true especially for those who live alone.  Work and social routines have been interrupted, have become virtual or remote, and physical connections limited to what can happen sitting or standing six feet apart.  Masks, hand sanitizers, and disinfecting wipes are the new necessities, at the top of every shopping list.  

How do we experience solitude, isolation and loneliness?  For some it is a ‘me’ time, a time to recharge our batteries, of renewing our inner being.  Not so for some for whom it increases fear and anxiety, a sense of helplessness and struggle.  For all of us it can be a time of grace and challenge.  I think solitude differs from loneliness.  When we are lonely, we become acutely aware of our own separation from others. But solitude can be one of the most precious things in the human spirit.  Trappist monk and theologian Thomas Merton discovered for himself that “when solitude was a problem, I had no solitude. When it ceased to be a problem I found I already possessed it and could have possessed it all along.  In its deep peace we find God.”

Yes some would see solitude as an encounter with the divine, a place within where there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which we can retreat at any time.  We cannot always seek outside ourselves for that which we can only find within and there are some gifts which we can only give to ourselves. Perhaps God has circled a place on a map for us and it is where we are right now. Finding rest for our souls is to recognize that we are where we’re supposed to be and it’s holy ground.

Rev. Lorrie Skinner

Weekly Words of Wisdom 7-22-20

As we continue to live through this Covid-19 pandemic, with its ups and downs, its spurts of early openings and increased infections and deaths, its opening things up and closing things down again, it’s uncertainties about school in the fall and the economic climate and even when we will get back to church, I find myself returning from time to time to a poem I read early on, written by minister and poet Lynn Unger, entitled “Pandemic.” Maybe some of you have seen it. It was written in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, before most of us were asked to stay at home.  Even then, in those first moments, Lynn Unger envisioned a way of responding to the crisis with love, not fear.  The wisdom of this poem goes far beyond the circumstances of the pandemic.  I believe it can speak to us, as well, about some of the other issues we are facing right now, in our nation and our world.

Rev. Sherm Skinner

Pandemic

What if you thought of it

as the Jews consider the Sabbath—

the most sacred of times?

Cease from travel.

Cease from buying and selling.

Give up, just for now,

on trying to make the world

different than it is.

Sing. Pray. Touch only those

to whom you commit your life.

Center down.

And when your body has become still,

reach out with your heart.

Know that we are connected

in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.

(You could hardly deny it now.)

Know that our lives

are in one another’s hands.

(Surely, that has come clear.)

Do not reach out your hands.

Reach out your heart.

Reach out your words.

Reach out all the tendrils

of compassion that move, invisibly,

where we cannot touch.

Promise this world your love—

for better or for worse,

in sickness and in health,

so long as we all shall live.

–Lynn Unger 3/11/20

Weekly Words of Wisdom 7-15-20

Earlier this year, the whole world changed. Called out of a world we knew, we landed in time out of ordinary time. Everything was radically different; yet we didn’t even have a name for this universally shared human experience.  Without an explicit, shared tradition of stepping away from ordinary time, many people feel lost. We are people who like to know what is going to happen. We are not fond of uncertainty. As a culture we have no name, no tradition, no practices, tools, or rituals for living outside the familiar comforts of what we know.  We are participating in an evolutionary time unlike any we have known before. 

Spiritual Director Susan Beaumont calls this “liminal time”, a season where something has ended but a new thing has not yet begun. “Liminal seasons are challenging, disorienting, and unsettling.  We strive to move forward with purpose and certainty.  Instead we feel as though we are trudging through mud, moving away from something comfortable and known, toward something that can’t yet be known.”  We are on a threshold, not quite knowing how we got here and very uncertain about where we are going.  Someone has said that thresholds are God’s waiting room.  

Scripture points our way to a timeless understanding that each day, each moment, is an unearned gift from a gracious God, rather than a commodity to be traded or spent for something else.  Always and forever we are to stand in awe before God, from whose mighty acts nothing can be added or taken away.  God is the creator of time.  God sets the rhythm of reality.

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.

So we do not lose heart. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure,because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.” 

(2 Corinthians 4:8-10; 14-16)

Rev. Lorrie Skinner

Weekly Words of Wisdom 7-8-20

Prayer of Releasing

Holy, holy, holy God, we place ourselves in your presence; we rest in the promise of your grace.
Our minds and our spirits are cluttered with many thoughts and feelings that threaten to pull our attention away from you.  Let us unclench our fists and release these things: We release all that we have done today–whether for good or for ill.

We release all that we feel like we should have done today, but did not do.

We release all that we need to do tomorrow.

We release our fear. We release our anxiety. We release our impatience. We release our pride.

All of the thoughts, all of the feelings that pull us away from you, O God, we release. 

Fill us now with the joy and the peace of your deep, abiding presence.

We offer all of ourselves to you, our One God, Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer. Amen

Weekly Words of Wisdom 7-1-20

The playwright Eugene Ionesco once wrote, “ideologies separate us. Dreams and anguish bring us together.”  In reflecting on the overwhelming sense of division in our country, I am deeply aware of how politics, race, religion, and nationalism, often divide us from one another.  How often have we heard that you can’t discuss politics or religion at the dinner table?  We find ourselves in our respective corners, ready to come out fighting, convinced we are right!

But then, we are suddenly reminded of our common humanity: a child is born and our hopes for that child soar; a loved one dies, or a serious diagnosis is received, and our agendas are pushed aside; a flood, or a fire like the one that ravaged two Boonton homes last week, intrude on our daily lives, and a community responds, together, in solidarity.  This is why the church, and what we stand for, what we believe, and what happens among us, is so important: to touch what is deepest in ourselves, what is already in our hearts, and to realize again that in those hopes and dreams, and in our suffering and anguish, we are all alike. We are all children of the one God, and sisters and brothers of one another. Is that Pollyannaish, ridiculously naïve?  Maybe so, but I believe in the essential goodness of people and in our potential to be better than we are. So let’s not be defined by our “isms”, political or religious, but let’s be willing to reach across what seems right now to be a vast chasm, to touch the world with love and hope–never needed more than at this moment! As Jen said in her sermon on Sunday, “God commits to the things that we can only dream of,” and that includes the dream of reaching across chasms of hate and anguish and disagreement,to bring a new, richer culture of love, understanding, graciousness, and peace.

Rev. Sherm Skinner

Weekly Words of Wisdom 6-24-20

Weekly Words of Wisdom    

June 24, 2020

This pandemic has turned some of the ways we look at work, whether our own or that of others, upside down.  In conversations with family members and friends I’ve become aware of the challenges facing us, in a variety of ways.  Some  have told me they are working harder than ever.  Looking for a change of pace, some are trying to figure out how and when to get away.  But some are not working at all and some are living on less because of pay cuts. For some, work has sped up and for others it has ground to a halt.  For many, work has suffered a rupture that is desperately in need of repair.  Working from home might provide flexibility but is often disrupted and interrupted, causing loss of focus and concentration, and mounting stress.  For some, a feeling of repetition and monotony hangs over each day.  There is no minimizing the hardships that arise beyond our control, especially when we have others to care for.  

Perhaps this time of change and turmoil is offering us a chance for renewal, perhaps  an opportunity to rethink our sense of vocation and what it means.  To be sure, our economic employment is one facet of our vocations as our work has helped to define who we are.  But at a deeper level we can understand and appreciate the concept of vocation as more than just about how we make our living.  It’s about how God works through human beings to care for God’s creation.   It’s about loving and serving our neighbors in our multiple stations of life.  It’s about human flourishing.  So if we think of work as vocation, a word that comes from the Latin word for calling, work should be something that calls to us as something we want to do, something that gives voice to who we are and what we want to say to the world.  

Yes, vocation is about our spiritual yearning to be connected to something larger and truer than our own egos.  It is relational.  To do this we can ask ourselves what it is we like best about our work and how these practices/activities are expressions of our soul. In this deeper sense, vocation is not a goal to be achieved but a gift to be received.

I love this gift of blessing from poet, author, and former priest John O’Donohue:

“May the light of your soul bless your work with love and warmth of heart.  May you see in what you do the beauty of your soul.”

Rev. Lorrie Skinner

Weekly Words of Wisdom 6-17-20

Weekly Words of Wisdom    

June 17, 2020

We face many mysteries in this world over the course of a lifetime. Many are left unsolved or unresolved in our hearts and minds. COVID-19 is one such mystery.

Parenting in this mysterious time can be challenging.  Being a parent means many things, but one aspect or topic that a parenting book does not prepare you for is explaining what has been going on currently in the world and in our local communities with social distancing post the onset of the coronavirus.  It has become necessary to teach science lessons about germs and the difference between good and bad germs, explain why we cannot be at daycare or church among our friends, and emphasize the increased necessity of frequent hand-washing.  It has become a new part of daily dressing to learn how and why to properly put on and wear a protective mask. 

I realize not only three-year-olds but all of us have questions or present with inquisitive minds as our sense of security and normalcy is stretched and tested.  However, it may be helpful to take a moment to reflect on the positive experiences happening in our lives: perhaps your knowledge and use of technology are expanding; perhaps you are enjoying increased quality time spent in your homes with those you love; perhaps you have been able to enjoy taking a nature walk you did not have time for three months ago; perhaps you have been able to enjoy the fulfillment of making new or uncovering old recipes; maybe you have dusted off and enjoyed board and card games; maybe you have even organized a closet or two.

This time away from our previous routines has reinforced the fact that we all can still learn to make changes at any stage of our lives, learn from the heavenly Father and believe in His master plan for each and every one of us. As stated in one of my most cherished anthems, “God of the Deep” by Dan Forrest, “When simple explanations lie too deep for me to find, I rest in God who holds the whole creation in His mind.  I hope in Him whose skill and wisdom far exceed my own.  The secrets of the hidden depths belong to God alone.” 

May you find peace, comfort, solace, and hope in the coming days and weeks ahead.

Musically yours in Christ,

Sarah Berta

“God of the Deep”  -arr. Dan Forrest

Each time I stand and wonder at the vastness of the sea,
I know that there are mysteries too great and deep for me.
The wide expanse of water reaches far beyond my sight,
And yet I know the One to whom its depths are full of light.

The mighty waves roll in to shore and break upon the sand,
Compelled by unseen forces that I cannot understand.
The currents run beneath the waves in perfect, charted paths;
A skillful hand directs their courses, as it ever has.

The ocean teems with living things who never see the sun,
And yet there is an eye who sees and knows them, every one;
And that same eye has fathomed all the myst’ries of my days;
When tears have dimmed my sight, a heart of Love still charts my ways.

When simple explanations lie too deep for me to find,
I rest in God who holds the whole creation in His mind.
I hope in Him whose skill and wisdom far exceed my own.
The secrets of the hidden depths belong to God alone.

-Eileen Berry

Weekly Words of Wisdom 6-10-20

Are you as disheartened as I am, after two weeks of chaos, violence and death?  My head is spinning as I have moved from an awareness of how connected we all are (“we’re in this together”) because of the coronavirus which is affecting the whole world, to how disconnected we all are from one another because of the racism, anger and rage we have seen.  The layers of pain which have been exposed, the language of “domination,” “thugs,” and “battle space” which we have heard, and the violence we have witnessed all too clearly, have stunned, enraged, and frightened us.

Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer distinguished between “cheap grace” and “costly grace,” the difference between preaching “love” (cheap) and living love (costly).  More is demanded of God’s people than living a comfortable life and being a good person, and I find myself wondering how much of our passive acceptance of  the status quo regarding race has contributed to where we are now. What happened to us?  Have we become satisfied with cheap grace, knowing the high price of costly grace?

So much is just plain wrong.  Racism in all its manifestations is wrong.  Violence, in ourselves and in others, is wrong.  Domination– of protestors, of different races or religions, of women, of the earth and all of life–is wrong. And we need to speak out and condemn these dark stains on our corporate life.

But more than that—we need to do something—like taking a look at our own racism and all the assumptions we hold on to as people of privilege, like sitting down with our black and brown brothers and sisters as equals to hear their stories, their frustrations, their hopes and dreams—their reality. And maybe we need to begin by having in depth conversations with one another, here in the church, about our fears, our hesitancies, our personal anxieties—all those inner feelings about race that we find so hard to talk about, or to face in ourselves.

We are hoping to create opportunities for just that kind of dialogue in the near future.  Stay tuned.  And meanwhile, may the disturbing spirit of God, who has unsettled so many of us in the last couple of weeks, help us to embrace what is costly.

Rev. Sherm Skinner

Weekly Words of Wisdom 6-3-20

We are in a time of turmoil and it’s sending some of us to our knees ( at least those of us who can get up again):  the death toll now over 100,000 , unemployment reaching staggering numbers, a death resulting from police brutality and protests in our streets. 

What to pray? How to pray?  Where is God in all this? 

 During Lent we focused on God’s promise in Jeremiah: …”when you call upon me and come and pray to me I will hear you.” And now we’ve arrived at Pentecost, unable to gather together in our sanctuary and pray together.  Assembled in our sanctuary we prayed first the Prayer of Connection, a prayer to open our worship experience praising God. Then a Prayer Seeking God’s Grace, admitting to God whatever it is that separates us from God.  The Prayer for Illumination helped to focus our listening as scripture is read and explained.  Then we prayed together our Lord’s Prayer following the Prayers of Thanksgiving, Intercession and Petition.

Oh but there’s more prayer in our service, right?  Yes, much more.  These are just the ones we pray in unison, together in one voice.  And that’s what we’re missing.  Praying together is sharing our common experience, our common longing and desires, expressing our relationship with one another and with God.  That’s what it means to be a praying community of faith.  

So, now we’re on our own and need to turn to scripture and the Holy Spirit to lead us and guide us in the way of prayer, perhaps following the advice of Paul to the Thessalonians:  “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances (I Thess.5:16-18). While we are away from one another, “If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter.  God’s Spirit does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.” (Romans 8:26 , The Message)

While we are separated from one another, how do we experience God?  How do we allow ourselves to be led into the loving, healing presence of God?  I am finding, in this time of crisis, that an old familiar prayer keeps me grounded.  Known as the Serenity prayer it is attributed to theologian Reinhold Niebuhr during another time of American exigency, the Great Depression and World War II:

         God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;

         The courage to change the things I can;

         And the wisdom to know the difference. Amen

Rev. Lorrie Skinner