First Presbyterian Church
27 N. Main Street, P.O. Box 568, Honeoye Falls, NY 14472
Order of Divine Worship
Sixth Sunday after Pentecost • Thirteenth Ordinary • Proper 8
Music Appreciation Sunday
Sunday, June 26, 2016 – 10:30 a.m.
You are the light of the world. You are the body of Christ.
Greeting: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.
Preparing for the Word
Musical Call to Worship “Morning Has Broken” arr. Tammy Waldrop
Introit “A Rose Touched by the Sun’s Warm Rays”
Call to Worship: Ps. 16
You alone are our God.
We have nothing good besides you.
You hold our future,
a beautiful inheritance.
We praise the Lord,
and will not be shaken.
Time with Children
*Hymn 641 “When in Our Music God Is Glorified”
Prayers of Confession
The proof of God’s amazing love is this: while we were sinners Christ died for us. Because we have faith in him, we dare to approach God with confidence. Let us confess our sins against God and our neighbor,
God of grace, love, and communion, we confess that we have failed to love you with all our heart, soul, and mind; and to love our neighbor as ourselves. We ignore your commandments, stray from your way, and follow other gods. Have mercy on us. Forgive our sin and raise us to new life that we may serve you faithfully and give honor to your holy name. Amen.
[Time for silent prayer]
Assurance of Grace
Believe the Good News! If we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 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 (If you are able, please stand)
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 “You Raise Me Up” arr. Fettke
Old Testament Reading: 2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14
1Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.
6Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. 7Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. 8Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground. 9When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” 10He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” 11As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. 12Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces. 13He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 14He took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” When he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.
Gospel Reading: Luke 9:51-62
51When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” 55But he turned and rebuked them. 56Then they went on to another village. 57As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Sermon “Passing the Mantle” Rev. David Ashby
After several weeks of reading about Elijah, we come to the end of his story. Literarily and literally. This is the “famous final scene.” His heir apparent as the major true prophet of Yahweh, the Lord, the God of Israel, Elisha, sets out with him, heading to the northeast, into the badlands on the other side of the Jordan. It’s poignant yet slightly comical. Elijah says, stop here in Gilgal; Elisha says, nope, I’m not leaving you. In Gilgal, Elijah says, stop here. Nope, says Elisha, not gonna leave you. So, with fifty of the prophetic band accompanying them, they keep going. The prophets sidle up to Elisha and warn him, “You know he’s not coming back, right?” “I know,” says Elisha, undeterred. They get to the Jordan. Elijah rolls up his cloak, and reminiscent of Moses parting the waters, whacks the Jordan River, and they walk across. So as they keep going (and probably knowing from the start that Elisha wasn’t going to give up), Elijah asks what Elisha wants. A double share of your prophetic spirit. Hmmm, tough one. Well OK, if you see me taken up in the whirlwind, you can have it. They are separated by a chariot and horses of fire, but Elisha does see his teacher taken up into heaven in a whirlwind. Picks up Elijah’s mantle, goes back to the Jordan, asks heaven if God is with him, whacks the water with the rolled up cloak, and lo and behold, the waters roll back and he crosses back into Israel. Elijah has passed the mantle of the prophet onto Elisha, and now Elisha becomes the main character of the book.
The overall story stays on track: the interaction between the people of Israel, God, the often straying, apostate, selfish, and wanton monarchs, the “official” prophets who are beholden to the monarchs and want to keep their jobs, and the unofficial, “real” prophets called by God who challenge the fallen human powers that be and call the people back to faith in God. But now we have a new protagonist for God’s side, Elisha. New chapter, same story. Same mantle, new wearer.
There are some parallels that an intentional interim sees with the transition from one pastor to another. Anyone surprised? There is trepidation on the part of the people around who have devoted themselves to the prophet or pastor’s message. There is a sense of loss although neither Art Guild nor Ann Clifton nor Val Fowler nor Elijah dies; they are just taken away out of sight. But it feels like a profound loss. There are questions of what happens next. There are questions about who is next. Who will pick up the mantle? Elijah’s cloak falls to the ground. Who will be the Elisha to pick it up… and when the next pastor picks it up, will God give the next person the power to part the waters so this church can cross into the promised land? Right now, the mantle is lying on the ground, and one of the company of the prophets (me) is brushing the dust off and getting ready to hand it to a “pastor to be named later.”
So let’s use this story as a jumping off place for some thoughts on transitions of leadership. Before I traipse around kinds of pastoral leadership, I want to talk a bit about church size. There is an interesting dynamic discovered by such people as Lyle Schaller and Arlen Rothage in their studies of different sized congregations. Some of you have heard this, but stick with me!
Schaller (a favored author, almost a church-growth publishing institution in his own right) likes to point out how different churches really are different things and need different sorts of leadership with his folksy images. The smallest churches, worshipping under thirty or twenty, he says, are either dogs or cats. Dogs, like my first congregation, like lots of attention and stroking and interaction. Cats, like my second-and-a-half congregation, can pretty much take care of themselves, and don’t really need a pastor to run things, just set out food and water and clean the litterbox. They are quite self-sufficient, thank you. At this size, a congregation is pretty much a single cell organism, and everyone has direct contact with everyone, and most people are related to only a few families. Because the real relationships are not with the pastors who come and go in about five years, the enduring connection comes from the congregation’s matriarch or patriarch. Around 50 to 100 in worship Schaller likens to a garden, with rows of different vegetables, like the choir, the Sunday School, the Bible Study Group, the Softball team, the Deacons, PW, and most people relate primarily to one particular group in the congregation, although are still in contact with most members. The pastor’s role, says Schaller, is to tend the plants, hoeing, watering, weeding, and feeding, and has pretty much direct contact with everyone in the church. If you diagrammed it out another way, the pastor would be in the center of the church with the members around the outside and a line between pretty much each of them and the pastor. It’s not for nothing that this is called the “Pastoral Congregation.” It is very effective in maintaining personal ties and relationships and a tight relationship with the pastor. It is, not surprisingly, tough on the pastor in the middle of all the daisy petals, and church growth is limited to the individual’s ability to keep everyone in his or her heart and mind. It is the model most people think of when they think “Church.” Schaller calls the next size, from 100-250ish a diesel engine (He picked colorful but totally different images because the dynamics are so different!). Churches this size have all sorts of moving parts, cranks, pistons, choir, choir director, Session, Christian Education department, Deacons, Trustees, investment committees, building committees, adult study groups, two or three outside-oriented mission programs, and all sorts of other little whirly bits, lots of components interacting and needing to mesh together smoothly without a lot of friction and heat build up. If a small church is primarily relational and personal, in this size congregation people relate to functions, what they “do” for the church. It’s usually called the “Program Church” because the primary connection is to what programs you participate in. And the roles are institutionalized: you have the trustees for the inside of the building and the trustees for the grounds outside; you have the Sunday School Coordinator. You have the alto section and the soprano section and the tenors and the basses. The job description is what matters; a particular individual fulfils the role: this year Edward is the head of Trustees. In a smaller church, it is the person who comes first. Remember the relational church? “Oh, the furnace didn’t come on… call Ed, he’ll take care of it.” And has for decades, no matter whether he is actually on Trustees or not this year. Cathy and Donna sing the soprano part, and if Sally and Ruth are around, they sing alto, and for Christmas a couple of men will sing, too, but just for a couple of weeks since it’s hard to get to practice. It gets much more functional in the larger congregation. So in program church, a minister has certain maintenance and supervisory functions. The pastor doesn’t generate the power at the wheels, but helps keep the machinery going, keeping interpersonal relationships oiled, parts working in concert, making sure that stuff runs well and the gospel gets lived out. Sure, the pastor has a specific set of skills and tasks (like preaching and care and such) so he or she is, I guess, a part of the machinery, too. But we’re talking functional. Finally, there is what everyone calls the corporate size congregation, with three hundred or more in worship, one where there are large, established, almost departments with multiple staff and multiple pastors. Rather uncommon around here. The building is in use almost every day and evening of the week (except maybe during the summer!). They usually have complicated finances and substantial endowments. Typically the primary focus is on an excellent, elevating worship services, and the head pastor devotes most of his or her time to sermons and worship preparation, leaving much of the functioning of the church to staff. There is often a coordinator of volunteers position. The head pastor is a symbol of unity and stability and prestige. It’s a different beast altogether, and a different specialty altogether. So let’s go back to how leadership— and especially pastoral leadership— functions in the three common sizes.
As you may have noticed, the skill set for a pastor in each of those different character churches doesn’t overlap well. A middle-sized church may need a good organizer and manager more than the pastoral touch of a smaller church. So matching the pastoral skills and dispositions to the dynamics of the church system is quite important, whether it is as a lover, a tender, a mechanic, or an executive.
Chances are that you are thinking of churches, including this one, which have characteristics of more than one. This is also worth understanding, because some churches, frankly, don’t act their size. Some may be in transition between sizes. A common and surprisingly tricky transition is around 100-125 in worship, when people have been functioning with a pastoral model but need to shift to a more program model. Often churches plateau here because they are limited by what one person can do, not yet developing the diverse processes and roles needed to share the leadership of the church. Well-meaning pastors can put the brakes on growth by not realizing that they are the limiting factor and are maxed out caring for that size flock. The other, very common one is like Lake Street, where they had been a big downtown church with lots of programs… until the ’72 flood washed downtown Elmira away. They still had the structure appropriate for a 600 to 300 member church but were worshipping under a hundred. So they needed to streamline and downsize so their committee structure fit them better. Downtown churches like in Elmira or Rochester can drop from being a corporate church through a program church down to a pastor-sized church, sometimes during the tenure of a single pastor. But almost all churches have lost membership in the last 25 years. It’s a fact of life. A significant task in the interim between installed pastors is to look first at the congregation and its character and its size and understand the dynamics which are natural to it. Only then dare you consider the role and characteristics of a pastor.
I hadn’t intended to get into this stuff about leadership, but since Elijah and Elisha tromped through here in today’s lessons, I’ll take the Holy Spirit’s hint! Elijah was moody, brilliant, capable of coming through in the clutch but prone to feeling sorry for himself and a bit depressed between his moments of glory. He could preach at and stare down monarchs like nobody’s business, particularly powerful in thundering God’s judgment against sinning monarchs like King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. His big moment was a showdown with the prophets of Baal, the idol. It was a classic. Two altars, one for Baal and one for Yahweh God, each with a sacrifice. The prophets of Baal shuffled around their altar all day. Nothing. Elijah tells his companions to throw some water on the altar to rub it in. Elijah prays, fire comes down from heaven, and the whole sacrifice is burned up. Score one for God. Then there is the story of the widow and her son and the meal and oil that didn’t run out, then the wind, fire, and earthquake followed by the still voice of God’s silence. Elijah is a miracle worker, a signs and wonders sort of prophet, inspired, inspiring. Elisha will turn out more organized, less flashy, more managerial, a consolidator of the message that Elijah was so fiery in declaring. Elisha is still quite adversarial, mind you, but he is more refined, less dramatic. He parallels consolidator Joshua succeeding Moses, Moses the big, powerful, worker of signs and wonders, the mouthpiece of God. As the needs of the people changed, God provided the right kind of next person to spread the good news of God’s care. Just what is happening now here. God will raise up the right next person for you. But we need to do our work too, to keep learning about ourselves, to keep hearing where God is calling us to be individually and congregationally, to pick up the mantle, brush it off, and get it… and get ourselves… ready to drape the mantle of pastoral leadership over the next person’s shoulders, and get ready to listen for and to the word of God passed along to us in this building.
So what do with Elijah and Elisha have to tell us? Leadership changes. Elisha will not be Elijah. Leadership gifts change. Leadership roles change. But remember, with the transition of leadership, the helping of God’s Spirit doesn’t fail. There is always enough. God— not us, not Elijah or Elisha or the company of the prophets or bystanders or the church— is in charge of continuity, our continuity, continuity of mission and message. Yeah, you could get nervous about the transition. But relax, God made sure the prophet’s mantle was passed that day out past Gilgal. Why worry about the pastoral mantle being passed here at the front of First Presbyterian Church, Honeoye Falls? God is on the job. So let’s get ready to whack the river with a rolled up coat and see what happens!
*Hymn 825 “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”
Sharing The Word
Prayers for Others and for Ourselves
O God our Creator, Spirit who gives us a double helping of grace, O Jesus, what a friend we have. Our gratitude soars heavenward with our songs and our prayers, our worship and our love. We thank you for calling us into being, into this congregation, into this place, into this place where your gospel dwells, into this place where your gospel gives us hope and life.
Even in this place so much of the world’s needs seeps in. We begin with prayers for people and circumstances known to us and pressing upon our hearts and the lives of people close to us…. …… But we know also that the things about which we pray for people close to us are the same as for others, so we broaden our prayers out to others who are battered by storms literal and figurative, psychological and physical, small and big. We pray for those beset by medical conditions, by financial burdens, family issues, the weight of difficult jobs, who are weary right down to their bones, right down to their souls. We keep praying again this week for places of war and violence, from crime-ridden neighborhoods, to war zones, Israel and the occupied territories which include Gilgal and Bethel, Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Libya, Egypt, and such unsafe places. We pray for the people in Orlando and in West Virginia and China after the weather. We remember everyone traveling, graduating, moving, getting married, and undergoing all those transitions of life.
We pray for ourselves. Sometimes we feel a bit bashful about praying for ourselves, especially in church. Sure, maybe we will say a prayer for help when things overwhelm us, or we are scared, or through clenched teeth when we are aggravated, when we are down about our faith, or confused, or we or in an unguarded moment when our prayers blurt out. But it can seem impolite to trouble you over our problems, so we don’t pray for ourselves as often as we might, and certainly not as often as you invite us to share our souls with you. And we are out of practice praying for this church, a bit shy about praying for your guidance and direction and help, and kinda embarrassed to pray for our congregational well-being, spiritually and financially and collectively and spiritually. So, against our normal reluctance to put ourselves first, we’ll venture to pray for ourselves…. We place our church in your care, place our search for the next pastor, place our discovery of our calling, mission, and ministry in your hands. Raise up for us the right Elijah or Elisha, or whoever upon whom you will place your mantle. Bless the work we will do preparing for the search, for it will not be any easier than the trek from Gilgal to Bethel to Jordan, but we know that it will be blessed with your double helping of Holy Spirit. Add your Spirit to the leaders and members of this congregation, the Session and caring and outreach and financial committees and Christian Education and workers, our musicians and singers, and just plain sitting in the pews pray-ers who give life and breath to this congregation. Support and direct us all in the ways which best serve your purpose. Where they accord with your will, grant our prayers. Where our prayers are selfish or shortsighted, teach us better prayers, for they are all lifted in Jesus’ name, saying…
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.
Recognition of our Music Ministry
Presentation of Our Gifts and Offerings
Offertory “They’ll Know We are Christians By Our Love” arr. Susan E. Geschke
*Doxology (If you are able, please stand.)
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
Holy and gracious God, you call us to ventures that cannot be foretold, to paths we do not know. Be our guide, through your word, and feed us with your assurance that your way is truly the path of love, joy, and peace. Amen.
*Hymn 821 “My Life Flows On”
*Charge and Benediction Philippians 4:8-9 (ed.)
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in Christ, do; and the God of peace will be with you.
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 “Blest Be the Tie that Binds”
*Postlude “Hungarian Dance No. 5” Johannes Brahms, arr Susan Berry