First Presbyterian Church
27 N. Main Street, P.O. Box 568, Honeoye Falls, NY 14472
Order of Divine Worship
Confirmation Sunday • Sixth Sunday of Easter
Sunday, May 21, 2017 – 10:30 a.m.
You are the light of the world. You are the body of Christ.
Greeting: Assisting Elder: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.
Preparing for the Word
Musical Call to Worship “I Love to Tell the Story”
Introit “Breathe on Me, Breath of God” Hymnal 286, Verse 1
Call to Worship: Psalm 95:7
O come, let us worship and bow down,
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
For this is our God,
and we are the people of God’s pasture,
and the sheep of God’s hand.
Time with Children
*Hymn 691 “Lord, When I Came into This Life”
Prayers of Confession
If we claim that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Let us confess our sins against God and our neighbor…
God of mercy: you sent Jesus to seek and save the lost. We confess that we have lost track of your truth, and have wandered from your holy will. We have made our own way in the world. We have failed in love, forgotten to be just, and have turned away from your wisdom. Find us, God, forgive our sin, and bring us back to you, for the sake of your Son, our only Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord. Amen.
Assurance of Grace
For God so loved the world that God gave the only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. People of God, hear the good news:
In the name of Jesus Christ, we are forgiven. Thanks be to God.
*Response of Praise, No. 581
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, World without end, Amen, Amen!
Hearing the Word
Anthem “Grace Alone” arr. by Koerts
New Testament Readings: Acts 17:22-31
22Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. 23For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, 25nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. 26From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, 27so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. 28For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’ 29Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. 30While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” ]
Gospel Reading: John 14:15-21
15“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. 18“I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”
Psalm 23 (unison)
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil;
for you are with me; your rod and your staff– they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.
Musical Response “Thy Word is a Lamp Unto My Feet”
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my heart.
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my heart.
Verse: (Confirmands, congregation, choir)
When I feel afraid, and I think I’ve lost my way still you’re there right beside me.
Nothing will I fear as long as you are near. Please be near me to the end.
Refrain: (Confirmands, congregation, choir)
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my heart.
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my heart.
Sermon “Confirmation” Rev. David Ashby
I have to admit, this is one of my favorite snippets of Acts. Partly, I admit, it’s because I love the word, “Aeropagus!” Aeropagus. Areopagus. It’s fun to say. This was the main “agora” of the city, in this case, the Areopagus was Athen’s agora. It would be sort of the main market area of a Greek city or town, both the place where vendors would be selling their wares and the place where people gathered to discuss things. Literally, the agora is “the open place.” The agora was the farmers market, town square, political center. Imagine the medieval town square, or the village green in New England, or Harry Allen Park. Usually there was a place for someone to stand up and make speeches, and it if caught someone’s attention, folks would stop and listen and maybe debate. Could be about politics, religion, complaints about the city administration, celebrating that something good happened, or just a person’s opinion. The agora was the commercial and political and religious center. In addition to being a fun word to say, the Areopagus scales well into our current context. Our modern equivalent would be the mall, perhaps the center court, where you might have a community group, a fashion show, a children’s dance recital, surrounded by the food court and a bunch of stores. Maybe it is also a bit like social media crossed with the mall or the farmers market. So I’d like to suggest that although it was a long time ago, this is amazingly current in our context, and is actually really surprisingly on point for a Sunday when we hear some people confirm their faith. Paul really is speaking over the head of a bunch of Athenians to a bunch of Honeoye Falls-ians.
What is super relevant right now is Paul’s invitation to a really wide variety of people in the town square using that wonderful image of a little shrine, “To an unknown god.” The Athenians were thirsting for truth, even very open to new ideas, and they hedged their bets so they wouldn’t leave out any potential divinity. The “unknown god” demonstrated a willingness to learn. They were our “spiritual but not religious” neighbors. We have lots of secular, seeking, questioning, interested souls in our society, many of whom are wondering about the unknown of faith, the God, we would say, they don’t know. Yet. We believe as the church into which these five enter actually does know who the unknown God is: the God of heaven and earth made known to us in Jesus of Nazareth, our savior and Christ. And I believe that, increasingly, it is the renewed calling of the Church to tell the marketplace of ideas filled with a variety of seekers around us about how God in Jesus Christ makes known the mysteries of life and helps us live better, more healthy, more holy, more giving and forgiven lives every day of our weeks. We have the spirit of truth in us, and there is a world out there thirsting yet for that knowledge and comfort.
Sometime between twelve and thirteen years ago, around this baptismal font or one like it somewhere else, these five people were, as infants, baptized into the faith of their parents and their families. Being infants, of course, they did not answer the questions of faith and membership; their parents did. And today in a couple of minutes, they will stand here around this font and answer those baptismal questions for themselves, signifying their own faith. They will, technically, be confirming their parents’ answers, their parents’ faith, as their own. That’s why we call this “confirmation!”
As part of those services once upon a time— making the natural assumption that Pastor Val or whoever presided used the Presbyterian Book of Worship— the congregation was asked this question as well: “Do you, as members of the church of Jesus Christ, promise to guide and nurture [child’s name] by word and deed, with love and prayer, encouraging them to know and follow Christ and to be faithful members of his church?” (or something very much like it.) Well, today is the payoff!
The Presbyterian, Reformed, tradition does not specifically do much with the concept of “god parents” such as you might find in a Roman Catholic baptism, although we do often invite close friends to stand with the family as a sort of symbolic support near the font as an infant is baptized. Rather, we broaden the idea out to say that the whole worshipping congregation functions as the godparents that day, all of us promising to undertake the love and nurture of the child, supporting the child and family as the child grows up in the faith. It is this promise of long-term Christian nurture which is the basis for spiritual formation and faith development through Christian Education and Sunday School. It really is not so much the “education” part or the “school” part which is key here. Sure, there is some element of that, a certain amount of transferring the “data of the faith” as one of my professors liked to call it: the stories of Jesus in the Gospels, the childhood of the church in the Acts of the Apostles, the mighty acts of God in the Hebrew Scriptures, the reminders of God’s will through the Prophets, the explications of how the life of a crucified rabbi ended up being the salvation of God through the resurrected Christ from the apostle Paul and his letters, the hope of the end of suffering and death in God’s great realm of peace and grace beyond all time. So yes, part of what you have been doing is giving them the building blocks of Christianity. But the greater part of “the Christian nurture of these children” has been in the relationships developed binding them into the family of faith. All through the time I’ve gotten to know this particular batch of young Christians, it has been most clear that they really, really, really feel enfolded into the great big family of this church. Go look at their faith statements and images in their booklet. They get it! They get that they are part of the church family, and that it is as much a part of their lives as their own “family” family. They have honestly felt taken care of by this extended set of First Presbyterian godparents. You took care of them in the nursery, you taught them the songs of Jesus in Sunday School, you fed them cookies at a zillion fellowship hours and wiped their hands and faces at hundreds of church dinners. You must have been pretty good and pretty patient those Sundays when they were a bit wiggly or out of sorts or loud, whether they were cute or cranky, because they are here. So, in a way, I’m going to thank you on their behalf for being there for them. Well done, good and faithful servants! As you did it for the littlest ones, you fulfilled Mark 10:13-16, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” You did it! Yay, First Presbyterian Church, Honeoye Falls! You passed your final exam with these five souls! Way to go, good and faithful godparents!” (And keep nurturing the next waves of young Christians!)
Now, you five: you are going out in to the modern Areopagus, the marketplace of ideas, the center court of community, the open places of society, the modern agora. What you have going for you is that you actually do know the name and the nature of the God many of your peers don’t really know: Jesus Christ. You can tell the people you bump into in school now, when you go to high school soon, go on later to jobs, military, higher education, find significant others to share life with, maybe form families of different sorts, and transit adulthood that what they think is unknown about God you can share with them. Whenever you meet someone with a little blank spot in their lives, their unknowns, you can steal Paul’s words that the Church is a place where they can discover it. Well, put the Gospel in your own words, or more to the point, show it with your own caring and behavior, with your gestures of compassion and mission. Because, honestly, you already know that arguments are not nearly as good as what you do that make people feel loved and valued. After all, that’s what has connected you to this congregation. You can talk about that. You can be a friend. You can help others join a church that will love them. You are going out into the modern Areopagus, going out into the big wide world; take Jesus out there with you!
The confirmation class chose “I, the Lord of Sea and Sky (Here I Am, Lord)” as the last hymn, showing they are ready to take their place in Christ’s beloved community, the Church. As we close with that hymn, take a moment to listen specifically for Mia’s, Adam’s, Jack’s, Molly’s, Abby’s voices singing along with us, maybe with a bit new maturity, certainly with a bit more vigor. Sing it like you mean it, godparents. Here we are, Lord!
*Hymn (insert) “I Come to the Garden Alone”
Responding to the Word
Confirmation of Baptismal Vows from Glory to God, p. 20-25
The Confirmation Class of 2017 (and Faith Partners)
Commitment to the Confirmands “Here To Watch You Grow”
Words: Jean Goodson Tunnell (Denton, Texas); Tune: Auld Lang Syne
It seems that only yesterday you toddled down the aisle,
Or showed us something made of clay; these memories make us smile.
We saw how special you would be and hoped someday you’d know
How proud we’d be to say that we were here to watch you grow.
We rejoice that you now desire to declare your faith and to share with us in our common ministry.
In Baptism you were joined to Christ and made members of his church.
In the community of the people of God you have learned of God’s purpose for you and for all creation. You have been nurtured at the table of our Lord and called to witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
You are citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.
Questions to the Confirmands
Trusting in the gracious mercy of God, do you turn from the ways of sin and renounce evil and its power in the world? Do you? I do.
Do you believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? Do you? I do.
Will you be Christ’s faithful disciple, obeying his word and showing his love? Will you? I will, with God’s help.
As Acts 2:42 puts it, will you devote yourself to the church’s teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers? Will you? I will.
Profession of Faith The Apostles Creed, p. 35
“Here To Watch You Grow” 2.
Today we see you practicing the growing gifts you share.
In listening, serving, questioning, you learn to show your care.
And we, who’ve worked and played with you, would like for you to know
What fun it is this moment to be here to watch you grow.
Around the baptismal font, with Faith Partners
Gracious God, by water and the Spirit you claimed us as your own, cleansing us from sin and giving us new life.
You made us members of your body, the church, calling us to be your servants in the world.
Renew in Jack, Abigail, Molly, Adam, and Amelia the covenant you made in their Baptism. Continue the good work you have begun in them. Send them forth in the power of your Spirit to love and serve you with joy, and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
O Lord, uphold Jack, Abby, Molly, Adam, and Mia by your Holy Spirit. Daily increase in them your gifts of grace: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord, the spirit of joy in your presence, both now and forever. Amen.
Ever-living God, guard these your servants with your protecting hand, and let your Holy Spirit be with them forever. Lead them to know and obey your Word, that they may serve you in this life and dwell with you forever in the life to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
“Here To Watch You Grow” 3.
The future holds a plan for you that only God can see.
Keep asking what you’re here to do and let God’s love flow free.
We cherish you, we honor you, and think you ought to know
We’ll keep a loving eye on you, and be here to watch you grow.
You have expressed your intention to continue in the covenant God made with you in your Baptism. We welcome you as you join with us in the worship and mission of the church. Amen. Alleluia!
Prayers for Others and for Ourselves
O gracious Lord Jesus, savior, friend, and hope of the world, we come to you with gratitude brimming over from our hearts, our souls singing your praise, our spirits joyful in your presence. We thank you for the goodness of creation, easy when we have bright sunny days, yet always overwhelming to contemplate the wideness of your creative love. We thank you for all the people who are close to us with whom we share our lives. For family, neighbors, churches, friends, we thank you. Beyond all else, we rejoice that you came to us in Christ Jesus offering us salvation for eternity and a closer walk with you during our lifetimes. We can barely comprehend such love, and we thank you for it.
O God our help in ages past and this day, we pause to pray for others, for those many problems and situations which trouble us and people we think about. We pray again this week for the ill and injured, the grieving and the dying, the victims of all kinds of violence, the heartbroken and the heartsick, for the victims of oppression and injustice, for the lonely and the hard-to-love. We meditate now on those we have mentioned: ________________________. We pray for places in turmoil, recent and long ago. We pray for places of famine and natural disasters, for places we in this country neglect even to think about or pray for; bring to our minds all your children in need, not just those easy for us to pray for.
O God of the Ages, your almighty hand has been with us. We pray for ourselves, O Jesus who is and was and ever will be. We pray for this congregation, for those who serve on its committees, Session, Deacons, the Pastor Nominating Committee, for our newly confirmed members their families and friends, for those who help in many ways, and for those who belong and participate near or far. Each heart harbors worries, hopes, fears, questions. Each of us here has prayers, prayers we have been asking for a long time, prayers which we can’t even really put into words. We bundle up those formed and unformed prayers and let them rise heavenward to you… Hear all our prayers, spoken or unspoken, carefully constructed in a sanctuary or whispered throughout the week, for we pray with the faithful in every time and place, come Lord Jesus, saying together
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 debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever. Amen.
Presentation of Our Gifts and Offerings
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow; Praise him, all creatures here below;
Praise him above, ye heavenly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
*Prayer of Dedication
Loving God, in whom we live and move and have our being, help us to choose life in you, that we may keep the commands of Jesus, follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and witness to the hope that is within us, sharing Christ’s love in the world. Amen.
*Hymn 69 “I, the Lord of Sea and Sky (Here I Am, Lord)”
*Charge and Benediction New Members 2017
Go forth now into the world secure in the knowledge of your acceptance before the Lord. Graciously accept life as it is given to you. Have the courage freely to decide as you must decide, and remember your obligation to every living thing. Love and serve the Lord, rejoicing always.
The grace of our Savior Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
*Choral Response “Breathe on Me, Breath of God” Hymnal 286, Verse 3