Let’s pray. Gracious and loving God, your love is steadfast and eternal. May our worship please you; may it be an offering that brings you great pleasure. Open our eyes to your light, that we may be a light to your world. In Christ’s name. Amen.
Call to Worship Unnamable God
“Unnamable God, I feel you with me at every moment. You are my food, my drink, my sunlight, and the air I breathe.” Stephen Mitchell (based on Psalm 16)
With each refreshing rain, each slant of sunshine, each beam of moonlight, each whisper of wind
In every spiraling thought, every turning of heart, every spoken and written word, every action large and small
You steady, you lead, you guide, you embrace, you never let go
One with my soul, one with my life, one with me in first breath, one with me in the last
You know me now, you will know me, always and forever
I remember, I rejoice. Amen
~Joyce Rupp, Prayer Seeds, 2017
“Love Divine, All Love Excelling”
Scripture Lesson Romans 7:15-25a
Gospel Lesson Matthew 7:28-30
“Softly and Tenderly, Jesus is Calling”
Let’s pray. Gracious God, your Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Give us grace to receive your truth in faith and love today, and strength to follow on the path you set before us; through Jesus Christ, Amen.
July 4, Independence Day, was yesterday. It’s a federal holiday and has been since 1938, although it was celebrated and remembered in many parts of the country long before that. It falls right in the middle of summer, and for many it’s a day that includes picnics, camping, barbeques, fireworks and parades. So, with everything going on it’s easy to forget the reason we celebrate it in the first place.
I think that as a church, in a country that is based on religious freedom, where we are afforded the privilege of worshipping freely, it is appropriate to take a few minutes and recognize that Independence Day is the day we celebrate our freedom as citizens of the United States of America. It’s the day we commemorate the Declaration of Independence of the United States, on July 4, 1776, the day that the Continental Congress declared that the thirteen American colonies were no longer subject (and subordinate) to the monarch of Britain, King George III, and were now united, free, and independent states.
Perhaps the main thing we need to remember is that this independence and freedom did not come without a cost. Many people gave their lives for our freedom, and many more have given their lives to maintain it through the years, and many today in all branches of the armed services continue to serve for the sake of all of us.
So collectively, as a local church, I invite you into a few moments of silence. I encourage you to reflect on the great price that has been paid by so many, and to give thanks to God for those who have served and continue to serve in our armed forces, and to give thanks that because of this price that has been paid, we can worship together this morning.
Moment of silence.
Thanks be to God. May we never forget. And may we never take for granted, but instead live in way that honors the ideals our country was founded on.
As we remember the freedom we share as United States citizens, let’s also, as Christians, take a moment and remember another freedom, the freedom we have in Christ, and that freedom, too, came at a great price. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
When we believe that Jesus died on the cross, and that he rose from the dead on the third day, and we confess that we are sinners, and ask him to be Lord and master of our life, we are adopted into the family of God. Romans 8:17 tells us we are heirs with Jesus Christ.
And we are given privileges and riches that cannot be measured in earthly ways. Freedom from sin and death, reconciliation with God our Creator, the constant companionship and guidance of Jesus our Savior through his Holy Spirit. And Jesus, our Savior who now calls us friend, brother, sister. And a home in heaven, eternal security, and a future with no tears, no pain, and no sorrow.
Seriously, what more could a person ask for? When one considers all of this, how do we not live every day filled completely with joy?
How do we end up sometimes like the children of Israel in the desert (poor Moses!) crying out that we don’t have this, we don’t have that, why can’t we just go back to our own personal Egypt, whatever that may have looked like, and be subject to whatever, or whoever, our old master was?
Even the Apostle Paul struggled with this apparently. And Paul is considered by many, including myself, to be one of the greatest and most faithful servants of God to ever live. Yet even he says in Romans 7:24 (NLT), “Oh what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?”
In verse 15 he writes, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.” Then for the next few verses he says this about five different ways, which leads me to believe that here Paul speaks for all of us. We don’t do what we should do, and we do what we shouldn’t do. Often. Frequently. To the point, that if you truly are trying to have a closer relationship with God, and you want to become more Christlike, it can drive you to the point of giving up and just continuing in sin while receiving the blessings of God’s grace.
In fact, Paul addresses this in the previous chapter. Romans 6:15, “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!”
So, if giving up isn’t the answer, what is? Well, Paul answers that question, too, in our Scripture reading. Romans 7:25, “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” The New Living Translation puts it like this, “Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
The answer is Jesus Christ. The point is that we can’t do this on our own. In fact, I’m convinced more and more that we can’t do it at all. We must rely on the sanctifying grace of God. When Paul says, “What a wretched man I am” he speaks for all of us. This describes the experience of all Christians struggling against sin or trying to please God by keeping rules and laws without the help of the Holy Spirit. We must never underestimate the power of sin and attempt to fight it with our own strength. Satan is a crafty tempter. Scripture calls him a deceiver, a liar. And really, apart from Satan, we have a great ability to make excuses for our behavior anyway, don’t we?
So, instead of trying to overcome sin with our own human willpower, we must take hold of God’s provision for victory over sin, and that provision is the Holy Spirit who lives within us and gives us power. And when we fall, he lovingly reaches out to help us back up.
The answer is Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God!
Just as we often take for granted our freedoms in this country, despite the cost, so we often also take for granted the freedom we have in Christ? Let us never forget.
First and foremost, may we never forget that he willingly gave up his own life so that we may live. Jesus says of himself in Mark 10:45, “45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
May we never forget. And may we remember that we are now called to do the same. We are called to live for Christ by giving ourselves in service to others.
2 Corinthians 5:15, “Christ died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.”
Thanks be to God this Fourth of July holiday both for the freedom we have as United States citizens, and as citizens of God’s Kingdom. May we never forget. May we live accordingly.
“Canticle of Christ’s Obedience” Blue Hymnal 167
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ.
At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow.
Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God,
did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.
But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being
born in our own likeness.
And being found in human form
he humbled himself and became obedient unto death,
even death on a cross.
Therefore, God has highly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name which is above every name,
That at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow,
in heaven and on earth and under earth.
And every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Pastoral Prayer A Prayer for the Journeyers
O God, our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you.
You are beyond our busy imaginings,
far above our elevated constructions of thought.
Yet you meet us in the dust. Your footprints cross ours.
Behind us and before us you tread the path, you lead the way,
you exult, you bow low, you lift us up.
You look upon us through the face of the poor;
you bless us in the nurture of friendship;
you challenge us in the cries for justice
and the weeping for hope.
Yoked to Jesus your Son, joined in oneness with yourself,
we strain against your direction and we know ourselves irksome;
summoned to follow your way, we burden ourselves and others;
asked to stand up, we cower in our own inadequacy
and our own discrediting.
Forgive us the wrongs we have done to others, to ourselves, to you.
Forgive us our bondage to fixed patterns when they no longer serve you; our surrender to newness when newness is folly;
our failure to listen to the people of this land who are hurting
and hidden beyond our preoccupations.
Lift us from our fear that we may see your vision, know your wisdom
and find our rest in you, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Jesus said: Come to me all you who are weary
and are carrying heavy burdens
and I will give you rest.
— written by William Loader, and posted on Bill Loader’s Home Page. Visit that site for many other thoughtful worship resources.
Let’s prepare our hearts to receive communion:
“Jesus Loves Me”
Communion Scripture 1 Corinthians 11:23-29 (NIV)
23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
27 So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.
Holy God, as we prepare to receive your grace through the bread and the cup, we ask for your forgiveness and mercy as we confess silently our sins before you now.
Gracious God, pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here,
and on these gifts of bread and wine.
Make them be for us the body and blood of Christ,
that we may be for the world the body of Christ,
redeemed by his blood.
By your Spirit make us one with Christ,
one with each other,
and one in ministry to all the world,
until Christ comes in final victory
and we feast at his heavenly banquet.
Through your Son Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit in your holy Church,
all honor and glory is yours, almighty Father,
now and forever. Amen.
Receiving the Bread and the Cup
Christ’s body broken for you. Christ’s blood shed for you.
The Lord’s Prayer
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 trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
“How Firm a Foundation”
Benediction (based on Joshua 3: 7-17, I Thessalonians 2:9-13, Matthew 23: 1-12)
Go now, in the freedom of the gospel of Christ.
Encourage one another to lead lives worthy of God
and walk together in service and humility.
Let your words and your lives be one in Christ.
And may the God of lasting love open the way before you;
May Jesus the Messiah be your one instructor;
And may the Holy Spirit lead you on
into the promised land of God’s kingdom and glory.
We go in peace to love and serve the Lord,
In the name of Christ. Amen.
©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net