Sunday, January 24, 2016

Devotions for a Snowy 
Sunday Morning
January 24, 2016
We invite you to take advantage of today’s “time out” to spend a few moments with God. Read slowly and prayerfully as you listen for the Word of the Lord.
God built the heavens, the earth, and everything in them.
     God calls us to be builders as well.
God calls us to build our lives:
     to restore broken places and continue to grow.
God calls us to build our community:
     to build bridges of understanding and systems of justice.
God calls us to receive and share the Good News of God’s kingdom.
     Let us prepare the way of the Lord!
Hymn:                           How Great Thou Art                   Hymnal #77
O Lord my God!  When I in awesome wonder
consider all the worlds Thy hands have made,
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee;
how great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee;
how great Thou art, how great Thou art!
(Words and Music by Stuart K. Hine, 1953.  Copyright renewed 1981 by Manna Music, Inc.)
Prayer of Confession: 
In contrast to God’s clear word, our faults and failings may remain hidden from others and even from ourselves.  Confession before God can clear our eyes and cleanse our hearts, for God’s mercy is as wide as the firmament of heaven.  Let us confess the deepest secrets of our hearts before God.
Creating and Restoring God:  When we come home to You, we realize how far we have strayed and how much we have forgotten Your law and Your love. We have not loved You with our whole hearts or loved our neighbors as ourselves.  Forgive us, heal us, and restore us to our relationship with You through Jesus Christ, in whom we trust.  Amen.
(Please continue in prayer during a moment of silence.)
Words of Assurance:
God’s Word does not come to condemn us, but to restore us, reviving our souls and making us whole.  God has set us free to live in God’s kingdom, on earth as well as in heaven.  Let us give thanks to the Lord, our God.  Thanks be to God!  Amen!
Gospel Lesson:                                                           Luke 4:14-21
  14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through the whole countryside.
  15 He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.
  16 He went to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day He went into the synagogue, as was His custom.  And He stood up to read.
  17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him.  Unrolling it, He found the place where it is written: 
  18 “The Spirit of the Lord is one Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed,
  19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
  20 Then He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down.  The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on Him,
  21 and He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
The Word of God for the People of God.
Thanks be to God!

 Meditation:                      “Anointed”                           Pastor Tom
A couple weeks ago, our son, David, preached his first official sermon (David is a seminary student at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond).  I say official, because he preached eloquently at the age of three to his sister when they were playing “church.”  David entitled his first official sermon “First Words.”  I must say, (although, admittedly, as a very biased observer) that David’s first words as a preacher were great! 
David’s sermon brought back memories of my own first sermon.  The pulpit from which I preached was elevated, and it took some very long steps to get there.  I remember walking up those steps and wondering what in the world ever possessed me to think I belonged up there.
Our Gospel Lesson for today presents the story of Jesus’ first recorded sermon.  Quoting the Prophet Isaiah, Jesus reads these words:
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Using today’s terminology, Jesus was announcing His mission statement.  This was the work that God had called Him to do.  I wonder sometimes whether Jesus was fully aware at that early point in His ministry that the road He was taking would lead to a cross.  Of course, He was the Word made flesh; but He also was human as we are human.  Could it be that Jesus had to wait for the Father to reveal His will to Him one step at a time?
Jesus does make it clear that He had been called by God to preach a specific message of good news: a message of freedom, vision, and relief from oppression.  He was called to preach a message of jubilee!  
This first sermon launched a brief but powerful ministry unlike anything the world has seen—before or since.  It was a ministry that had its moments of spiritual mountaintops; it also was a ministry that had its spiritual low points, as well, culminating in a dramatic moment in which Jesus prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me” (Luke 22:42a).  Even in this darkest moment, however, Jesus remained true to His mission.  He continued in His prayer to say, “yet, not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42b).  The same Spirit that anointed Him at His baptism (Luke 3:22) and at His first sermon that we read today also sustained Him until His last breath, when He prayed, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46).
That same Spirit that anointed Jesus and called Him to ministry also calls us today.  Our “vocations” or stations of life may be different, but the One we serve is the same.  Our training for our mission may not require years of apprenticeship in a carpenter’s shop; but it may require years of formal education or years of practical street experience.  We may not all experience the dramatic moments that Jesus did; but the same Spirit is at work in us—inviting us, anointing us and empowering us for service.
In these moments when the snowstorm has given us some extra time for reflection, I invite you to reflect on these questions:
·      In what ways has the Spirit of the Lord come upon you and anointed you?  Are you even comfortable using those words?
·      What is the work that God has called you to do? 
·      What do you need to do to prepare yourself for the work God has called you to do?
·      How will you respond to God’s call?
Prayers of the People
In peace, we pray to you, Lord God.
For all people in their daily life and work;
     For our families, friends and neighbors, and for those who are alone.
For this community, the nation, and the world:
     For all who work for justice, freedom, and peace.
For the just and proper use of your creation;
     For the victims of hunger, fear, injustice, and oppression.
For all who are in danger, sorrow, or any kind of trouble;
     For those who minister to the sick, the friendless, and the needy.
For the peace and unity of the Church of God;
     For all who proclaim the Gospel, and all who seek the Truth.
For Young Jin Cho, our Bishop; for Danny Kesner, our District Superintendent,
     and for all who proclaim the Word of the Lord, and all who serve God in his Church.
For the special needs and concerns of this congregation.
     [Pause for a moment to add your own petitions.]
Hear us, Lord;
     For your mercy is great.
We thank you, Lord, for all the blessings of this life.
     [Pause for a moment to add your personal prayers of thanksgiving.]
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
     As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.  Amen.
 [The Prayers of the People were adapted from The Book of Common Prayer (New York:  Church Publishing Incorporated, 1986), 392.]

The Blessing

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit bless and keep us, now and forever.  Amen.