First Presbyterian Church
27 N. Main Street, P.O. Box 568, Honeoye Falls, NY 14472
Order of Divine Worship
Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost • Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time • Proper 15
Sunday, August 20, 2017 – 9:30 a.m.
You are the light of the world. You are the body of Christ.
Please allow your conversations with one another, your prayer and meditation,
and the music to help you make the transition from getting here to being here.
Greeting: Assisting Elder: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.
Preparing for the Word
Musical Call to Worship “Morning has Broken”
Call to Worship:
Give thanks to the Lord, for God is good.
God’s steadfast love endures forever.
Maintain justice, and do what is right.
God our Savior is coming soon.
Time with Children
*Hymn 327 “From All That Dwell Below the Skies”
Prayers of Confession (Mt 11:28-30)
Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Let us ask God to forgive us.
Almighty God, our Heavenly Parent, we have sinned against you and against one another, in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. In your mercy forgive what we have been, help us correct what we are, and direct what we shall be; through Jesus Christ our 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
Special Music “You Lift Me Up”
Old Testament Readings: Genesis 45:1-15
1 Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, “Send everyone away from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. 2And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. 3Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence. 4Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. 5And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. 7God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. 9Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. 10You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. 11I will provide for you there— since there are five more years of famine to come— so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.’ 12And now your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my own mouth that speaks to you. 13You must tell my father how greatly I am honored in Egypt, and all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” 14Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, while Benjamin wept upon his neck. 15And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.
Epistle Reading: Romans 11:1-2, 29-32
1I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel?
29for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, 31so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. 32For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.
Gospel Reading: Matthew 15:10-28
10Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand: 11it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” 12Then the disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?” 13He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. 14Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.” 15But Peter said to him, “Explain this parable to us.” 16Then he said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? 18But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. 19For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. 20These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.”
21Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” 23But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” 24He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 27She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
Sermon “Declaration” Rev. David Ashby
On April 9, 1945, 39-year-old Lutheran pastor, theologian, author, and founding member of the Confessing Church Dietrich Bonhoeffer, was hanged in Flossenbürg concentration camp just weeks before the Nazi Germany surrendered on May 7. His Letters and Papers from Prison and his major book, The Cost of Discipleship, are modern classics and are well read to this day. His rejection of Hitler’s interference in the main German Protestant denomination, the Landeskirche, his outspoken writings, speeches, and sermons against Nazism and Hitler, helping to found the Confessing Church in opposition to the state-controlled church, and being associated with a plot to assassinate Hitler led to his trial and execution. He was a leading voice declaring National Socialism idolatry, leading to the Bethel and then Barmen Declaration in 1934 and the formation of the Confessing Church in opposition to Hitler, with a third of German pastors signing on almost immediately. The Theological Declaration of Barmen is one in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Book of Confessions, along with the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Westminster Confession, The Belhar Confession, and others. In short, the Barmen Declaration was that Christ alone is Lord, not Hitler.
A Friday night ago, as my Facebook and Twitter feeds popped up with posts by people inside the sanctuary where the prayer vigil was happening in Charlottesville, and they were being surrounded by chanting crowds holding torches, and they were fearing for their safety as police came to their aid outside the church, the PC(USA) banner for the Barmen declaration started popping up as peoples’ cover picture all over the country. That banner depicts a swastika crossed out by an X and the cross of Jesus Christ, rising from the flames. It is by far the most jarring images in Presbyterian circles, and I flinch every time I see it. And until last weekend, the Barmen Declaration was to me a powerful historical reminder not to elevate state or ideology over discipleship and faith in God alone. It is, for me, no longer, historical. It is deadly serious again.
Having attended seminary in Richmond and having the maternal side of my family from Florida, I’m pretty used to the echoes— sometimes faint, sometimes louder— of racism, white supremacy, the Klan, Jim Crow, the casual, residual segregationism of the south, and from growing up outside Albany the equally corrosive systemic racism of the north. So the coercive use of the Confederate battle flag doesn’t surprise me. But the image of the white supremacy flag and the Confederate flag side-by-side with the Nazi flag was this time too much, even before a white supremacist drove a car into a crowd of not just counter-demonstrators but uninvolved people. My limit was exceeded by that image, and the Barmen banner became very, very important.
I have said the last benediction graveside for too many World War Two veterans to accept the Nazi flag in U.S. streets. Nor to let the shouts of hate and intimidation be unanswered. The Barmen Declaration and the Gospel of Jesus Christ say faith is due God alone who redeems and reconciles all persons in love and grace and diversity and inclusion into the realm of peace and hope. The last declaration is Jesus: Love one another. I must also remind myself that Jesus also said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” But forgiveness is not a free pass for bad behavior.
Since most churchgoers, even elders and deacons and most ministers who promise during ordination questions to be guided by the confessions of the church, don’t regularly refer to the Declaration of Barmen (or even refer to the copy of the Book of Confessions in the church library), here is a quick summary. We forget that people confessed their faith in these words in a very hostile environment; we forget they died for their faith. I will leave it up to your conscience to determine how it informs your thoughts and actions in these days.
After a prologue about why they wrote the Declaration and warning readers should not be misled by propaganda, for they are trying to protect and reform the true nature of the church, here are the main points, each set off by scripture, followed by a statement of faith, followed by a rejection of the false.
In view of the errors of the “German Christians” of the present Reich Church government which are devastating the Church and are also thereby breaking up the unity of the German Evangelical Church, we confess the following evangelical truths:
1. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one comes to the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6). “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. … I am the door; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved.” (John 10:1, 9.)
Jesus Christ, as he is attested for us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and in death.
We reject the false doctrine, as though the church could and would have to acknowledge as a source of its proclamation, apart from and besides this one Word of God, still other events and powers, figures and truths, as God’s revelation.
2. “Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” (I Cor. 1:30.)
As Jesus Christ is God’s assurance of the forgiveness of all our sins, so in the same way and with the same seriousness is he also God’s mighty claim upon our whole life. Through him befalls us a joyful deliverance from the godless fetters of this world for a free, grateful service to his creatures.
We reject the false doctrine, as though there were areas of our life in which we would not belong to Jesus Christ, but to other lords—areas in which we would not need justification and sanctification through him.
3. “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body [is] joined and knit together.” (Eph. 4:15, 16.)
The Christian Church is the congregation of the brethren in which Jesus Christ acts presently as the Lord in Word and Sacrament through the Holy Spirit. As the Church of pardoned sinners, it has to testify in the midst of a sinful world, with its faith as with its obedience, with its message as with its order, that it is solely his property, and that it lives and wants to live solely from his comfort and from his direction in the expectation of his appearance.
We reject the false doctrine, as though the church were permitted to abandon the form of its message and order to its own pleasure or to changes in prevailing ideological and political convictions.
4. “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant.” (Matt. 20:25, 26.)
The various offices in the church do not establish a dominion of some over the others; on the contrary, they are for the exercise of the ministry entrusted to and enjoined upon the whole congregation.
We reject the false doctrine, as though the church, apart from this ministry, could and were permitted to give to itself, or allow to be given to it, special leaders vested with ruling powers.
5. “Fear God. Honor the emperor.” (I Peter 2:17.)
Scripture tells us that, in the as yet unredeemed world in which the Church also exists, the State has by divine appointment the task of providing for justice and peace. [It fulfills this task] by means of the threat and exercise of force, according to the measure of human judgment and human ability. The church acknowledges the benefit of this divine appointment in gratitude and reverence before him. It calls to mind the Kingdom of God, God’s commandment and righteousness, and thereby the responsibility both of rulers and of the ruled. It trusts and obeys the power of the Word by which God upholds all things.
We reject the false doctrine, as though the State, over and beyond its special commission, should and could become the single and totalitarian order of human life, thus fulfilling the church’s vocation as well.
We reject the false doctrine, as though the church, over and beyond its special commission, should and could appropriate the characteristics, the tasks, and the dignity of the State, thus itself becoming an organ of the State.
6. “Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matt. 28:20.) “The word of God is not fettered.” (II Tim. 2:9.)
The church’s commission, upon which its freedom is founded, consists in delivering the message of the free grace of God to all people in Christ’s stead, and therefore in the ministry of his own Word and work through sermon and Sacrament.
We reject the false doctrine, as though the church in human arrogance could place the Word and work of the Lord in the service of any arbitrarily chosen desires, purposes, and plans.
The Confessional Synod of the German Evangelical Church declares that it sees in the acknowledgment of these truths and in the rejection of these errors the indispensable theological basis of the German Evangelical Church as a federation of Confessional churches. It invites all who are able to accept its declaration to be mindful of these theological principles in their decisions in church politics. It entreats all whom it concerns to return to the unity of faith, love, and hope.
This is powerful stuff, particularly because we know what happened afterward as the majority of German Christians sold their souls to the Nazi party, much to their own harm within a decade. But beyond that particular point in time, the Presbyterian Church over the years adopted this as a confession of the church both as a doctrinal confession offering structure to the debate over the relationship of church and state and as a confession of our human tendency to blur that line and make the political and social more important than the Gospel community, the Church. It adds a 20th century perspective to our 18th century separation of church and state, enunciated by a citizen of Charlottesville VA.
So let’s see where our confessions (both senses of the word) take us concerning the inhabitant of Honeoye Falls who has confirmed and explained his participation in the “Unite the Right” protest in Charlottesville which ended in injuries and three fatalities. Since that began with a torchlight procession intentionally reminiscent of the 1930s Nazi parades, I think we can find Barmen suitable. General point: Barmen starts with scriptures, affirms how scriptures inform the present times, and concludes with a rejection of a falsehood. So, however it goes in the next days and months, we should begin always with scripture, be able to articulate our positive point, then be bold in rejecting the negative. That last point seems to get lost among people who are reared to be polite; sometimes we must speak clearly against a faulty proposition. So I’ll start. Because I believe Jesus was unequivocal and clear and really meant, “love your neighbor,” I affirm that all humans are equal and worthy of care and love and justice and protection and a good and wholesome life; therefore I reject as false doctrine hate and injustice, in particular racially based oppression, injustice, intimidation, and violence. And I reject as false doctrine any effort in 2017 to revive the false and pernicious doctrines of Nazi Germany rejected by the Barmen signers in 1934. We know how that turned out. This goes down into the heart; as Jesus says in today’s lessons, “18But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. 19For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. 20These are what defile a person.” There is too much that defiles going around.
The Presbyterian Church is kind of in the middle of the religious spectrum these days. On one end you have what I would call our contemporary Reichskirche, the so-called conservative “evangelicals,” many televangelists and leaders of religious schools and publishing organizations, and other “court evangelicals,” who have accommodated themselves to the prevailing political powers, the modern Sadducees; on the other end are those who have placed themselves over and against that like the signers of the Barmen Declaration, individuals, denominations like the UUA and the UCC, and quite a few secular organizations. We span the spectrum as individuals and congregations. That’s why it’s worth checking how our confessions can inform our thoughts and actions, particularly when pretty much without warning, a riptide from Charlottesville washes through our little town of Honeoye Falls. The Barmen Declaration gives us a long historical view and a Biblical and theological framework. It sets up rejection of false and pernicious doctrine, yet does it in a way that does not further additional hatred. And I suspect that most Presbyterians don’t know that our historic creeds providentially provide help at exactly this moment in our national and town lives. That is not to minimize just how hard those conversations are going to be, nor how uncomfortable it will be to contemplate our own deep-seated reactions or unexamined assumptions. There is a lot of discomfort built into these discussions.
But I’m glad that Barmen gives us a beacon to sail toward in this storm. After Charlottesville we are facing Neo-Nazis. The signers of Barmen were confronting the virulence of full, demonic, Nazism. Karl Barth was expelled, Martin Niemoller (of “First they came for the socialists, but I said nothing…. when they came for me there was no one left to speak for me” fame) spent years in a concentration camp until it was liberated, and, of course Bonhoeffer was executed. We are comparatively safe, but this is a time to speak up. Several people from my Union Presbyterian Seminary were in Charlottesville, Jill Duffield, an editor for the Presbyterian Outlook lives there and wrote a powerful piece, and one of the co-moderators of the PC(U.S.A.) was inside the prayer service texting when they were surrounded by the torchlight procession chanting anti-Semitic Nazi slogans. But there are people who have been speaking out, some with some personal cost. I got to know Gary Chorpenning when he was pastor at North Presbyterian in Elmira. He was dismayed about some aspects of the PC(U.S.A.) and encouraged the church to withdraw. It didn’t, and he moved to a pastorate in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. He is truly and articulately conservative and evangelical. Yet in recent months he has been posting about how so many Evangelicals have capitulated to political expediency and been drawn to political power. I’ve been impressed by how firmly he has challenged his colleagues in the spirit of Barmen, boldly affirming that Christ alone is Lord and that we must not be seduced by lesser loyalties. He uses his Bible and his theology well, and his words after Charlottesville make me feel mumbly. The kids who drew life-giving words and pictures on the sidewalks also make me feel kinda lame, but at least I can talk theology for a few minutes.
It’s always true that events place before us— as Deuteronomy puts it— the choice between blessing and curse, life and death, so choose life. It’s just kind of a surprise when that choice shows up here like it did. The Declaration’s last line calls us to “return to the unity of faith, love, and hope.” Two worlds clash; Barmen calls on us to choose the realm of life.
*Hymn 30 “O God, in a Mysterious Way”
Responding to the Word
Prayers for Others and for Ourselves
O Holy One who takes what might be bad, what might be for evil, what might seem a problem and turns it for good, O God who redeems our lives even in hardship and woe, we come to you in prayer, in petitions about what concerns us, in praise and celebration for what gladdens us. Be with us and help us as we need it, not merely that our minds will be eased but that we will be better, more committed disciples able to serve our neighbors with joy and vigor.
We celebrate the Good News of your everlasting love in the ministry and words of Jesus of Nazareth, our Christ, our Messiah, and pray for ways to better share that experience of living in your grace. Guide this congregation in the right paths, perhaps in new paths, of service and worship. Grant us, as well, a lively, renewed Spirit and sense of calling. Continue to bless and support our Pastor Search Committee and those working with it. Perhaps as we become more intentional about what we understand our mission and ministry here to be, we will recognize more easily the minister who will help us follow your upward way.
Our prayers rise for ourselves; we place before you the varied and sundry worries, thoughts, hopes, celebrations, concerns… prayers of our hearts… listen to our prayers in the silence…. and teach us to listen for your replies, as well. Our prayers rise for others, for we constantly hear of things besetting folks we know and love. We pray for the ill and injured, those who have had surgery or are about to… for those trapped in circumstances, for those in prison or imprisoned by problems. Charlottesville has brought up violence and racism and injustice and hard conversations about hard topics, things that are not really all that far from our front lawns either. We pray for those burdened by declines in body and mind, especially deterioration in those they love. We pray for everyone who has been abused, physically, emotionally, sexually, for their families and friends, and for those who minister to these issues. We pray for those injured in Barcelona and the families of those killed. We pray for people who have suffered psychic trauma of whatever kind, for those with war wounds, for those in war zones like Syria, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, for those with post traumatic stress disorder, with nightmares, with anger, with helplessness, for those with fresh trauma, for those with years-long scars; be with those who hurt so deeply and, perhaps, so invisibly. ……………………………. We pray for people beginning new seasons in their lives, going to new places, new jobs, new families, new things. We pray for everyone about to start a new school year, those going off to college, the military, jobs far from home, and for their families remaining home. Give everyone a good last few weeks of summer for recreation and restoration, ride with all who are or will be travelling, and always open new doors to us, for we pray in the name and sake of Jesus our Christ…
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.
*Hymn 756 “O God of Every Nation”
*Charge and Benediction
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; be affectionately devoted to one another; outdo one another in showing honor. Never flag in zeal, be aglow in the Spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality.
The grace of our Savior Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.