First Presbyterian Church
27 N. Main Street, P.O. Box 568, Honeoye Falls, NY 14472
Order of Divine Worship
Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost • Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time • Proper 16
Sunday, August 27, 2017 – 9:30 a.m.

You are the light of the world. You are the body of Christ.

Gathering Music

Greeting: Assisting Elder: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.

Announcements Assisting Elder:

Preparing for the Word

Musical Call to Worship “Sea Mist”

Call to Worship:
Give thanks to the Lord, for God is good.
God’s steadfast love endures forever.
Present your bodies as a living sacrifice.
This is our spiritual worship.

Time with Children

*Hymn 69 “I, the Lord of Sea and Sky (Here I Am, Lord)”

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 “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”

Old Testament Readings: Exodus 1:8-2:10
2Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. 10Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” 11Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. 12But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. 13The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, 14and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them. 15The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, 16“When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.” 17But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live. 18So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?” 19The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” 20So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. 21And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. 22Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.”

2:1Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. 2The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him three months. 3When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. 4His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.

5The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. 6When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him, “This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,” she said. 7Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” 8Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Yes.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. 9Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed it. 10When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, “because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”

Epistle Reading: Romans 12:1-8
1I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. 3For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

4For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, 5so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. 6We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; 7ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; 8the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

Gospel Reading: Matthew 16:13-20
18 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Sermon “Who Do You Follow?” Rev. David Ashby
You can win a game of Bible Jeopardy with them: “Who were Puah and Shiphrah?” They have one of the tiniest walk-on parts in the entire Old Testament. In fact, they are such minor characters that I suspect that most of you have already forgotten who Puah and Shiphrah were since the Old Testament Lesson all of six minutes ago!

Puah and Shiphrah are the two Hebrew midwives. True, they seem to have only the most modest of lines, but I’d argue that they are actually incredibly important in the grand scheme of things. After all, if they had not said and done what they said and did, the whole story of Israel would have ended before the second chapter of the second book of the Bible! I’d like to suggest that the story of Puah and Shiphrah is every bit as important, and carries very much the same point as the far more familiar account of Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ on the road to Caesarea Phillipi.

You see, in the trade, Puah and Shiphrah are considered a lovely, subtle example of the storyteller’s art and the theologian’s handiwork. Why should these two women stand out? First of all (and this is pretty subtle!): they are mentioned by name. Sure, that may seem obvious, but in the course of the history books, dozens of people cross the stage, deliver some lines, and walk off to live the rest of their lives in obscurity. Messengers bring news of tragic defeats, sages and counselors offer history-changing advice, and none of their names are recorded. Puah and Shiphrah are named, so obviously the very earliest oral traditions of Exodus felt they were above ordinary honor. That they are named as women in a patriarchal culture reinforces the esteem afforded them. That they are named when the king of Egypt is not, when the mother of Moses is not, when the daughter of Pharaoh who rescued and reared Moses is not, makes this even more remarkable. The story itself reinforces the importance of these two Hebrew midwives.

The location of the story also is a clue to how important these seeming walk-on women are. It occurs right at the hinge of two central cycles of the ancient story of Israel. We have just wrapped up the genealogies and record-keeping of the priestly writer concluding the massive Joseph cycle. In addition to describing the up-and-down life of that patriarch and the threat to Yahweh God’s covenant promises to Abraham and Sarah, the Joseph story’s theme is Joseph’s words in Genesis 50:20 to his thunderstruck, conscience-stricken brothers: “What you meant for evil, God meant for good.” With the opening of Exodus, we are about to launch into the Moses story. Again, it opens with a threat to the promise of land and descendants made in Genesis. A Pharaoh arises who did not know of the valuable service to Egypt provided by Joseph and who feels threatened by this increasingly powerful society of resident aliens within Egypt’s borders. A royal decree goes out to enslave and oppress the Hebrews. Not enough… so the royal decree goes out to kill newborn male Hebrews. This is what sets the stage for Moses being hidden and then launched into the bullrushes bordering the Nile in his famous basket. And here, when the very parents of Moses and the daughter of Pharaoh are nameless plot devices, we meet Puah and Shiphrah. And for these reasons, we know that who they are is important.

And, I make the case to you, what Puah and Shiphrah do is equally important. They, in short, live out in their words and actions the familiar last poetic line of Psalm 124: “Our help is in the name of the Lord!” The prose of Exodus puts it this way: “But the midwives feared God; they did not do what the king of Egypt commanded but let the boys live.” They even snowed Pharaoh with their malarky about how the rugged outdoor-sy Hebrew women dropped their children in the fields and were back to work before the midwives could get there. (You have to admit that these two were pretty cool under pressure!) Exodus pronounces one of its most favorable benedictions on Puah and Shiphrah: “So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. And because the midwives feared God, God gave them families.”

Puah and Shiphrah embodied trust that their help would come from following God alone. They not only ignored but flouted unjust human authority. They knew that their safety lay not in appeasing Pharaoh but in doing what was right by God. And they seem to have gone about their business (illegal as it was) of delivering Hebrew babies with serene confidence that God would protect them. God not only protected but blessed these two servants of faith. No matter what might betide them, these two followed God, knowing that, somehow— though they could never figure out what would end up happening— God would deliver God’s people from bondage. All they had to do was to remain faithful to their calling— small, modest, and ordinary as it might seem. They lived out humble reliance on their God, which is really all “fearing God” (which is the old-fashioned way of referring to an awed reverence for God) really is. And, because they just “did their job,” trusting that God would help in the long run, the next important cycle of holy history could begin.

It is their rather ordinary faith that sets Puah and Shiphrah apart in my mind. Here, squeezed between famous Joseph and super-famous Moses, the liberator of God’s people, are two regular folks, just doing their faith-thing. Absolutely straight down the middle of the road, nothing fancy, nothing requiring amazing grace, just plodding along in their ruts, yet advancing the grand scheme of salvation through every baby boy they delivered safely, for one of those baby boys would end up being the man who would deliver all the tribes of Israel from bondage, Moses. Puah and Shiphrah represent the glue which holds the whole structure together— the good and faithful souls, the grandmothers and grandfathers, cousins, solid, faithful believers who kept the faith of our fathers and mothers going through earthquake, fire, and flood, through persecution, famine, ignorance, dark ages, pilgrimage to a new world, depression, and indifference to keep it alive for Honeoye Falls, NY in 2017. I suspect each one of us can name the relatives or Sunday School teachers or the “little old lady who sat in the back pew” who “kept the faith” so we could be here today, the Puahs and Shiphrahs and Mollys and Rogers and Janes and Helens and whoevers who worked for the church, knowing that their “help was in the name of the Lord.” Personally, I find it reassuring that I will never have to attain Moses-dom in my life; I can just go about my job preaching on Sundays, being the rented interim pastor, holding the door open for people, being nice in Market Place, not putting up with demeaning jokes, putting our little white envelopes in offering plates, doing my little bit for justice, righteousness, and walking humbly with God, and, in general, following God in Jesus Christ.

Maybe Puah and Shiphrah didn’t have the glory of Peter’s confession on the Caesarea Philippi road, but it is such an ordinary, such a wonderfully ordinary faith which undergirds those shining moments. Peter, for his part, is saying much the same thing with his confession, only he moves it yet another step farther along in holy history, for he says, our help is in the name of Jesus, when he says to his teacher, “You are the Messiah, the son of the living God.” With those stammered words, Peter completes the circle: the holy God of heaven and earth— the Word breathing creation, the Redeemer from sins, the Savior from tribulation and trouble, the rod and staff of the shepherd-psalmist, the maker of dry land through the sea, the hope of Puah and Shiphrah— has walked among us, and his name was Jesus of Nazareth. That is the Messiah, the savior, the monarch of the universe, the bread of heaven, the light of light, the blessed and merciful one in whose name we gather today… Jesus, the Christ. Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth… who was crucified, dead, and buried, who rose again to triumph over all that threatens to undo us. That is who Peter confessed. That is who Puah and Shiphrah would ultimately deliver some six thousand years after Moses. That is who we worship and trust today. Jesus is messiah… Peter’s messiah… our messiah! And so we step out boldly in faith, following the one who is our help and our hope and our savior… the Lord Jesus Christ. To whom be honor, glory, and praise, now and forever!

*Hymn 729 “Lord, I Want to Be a Christian”

Responding to the Word

Prayers for Others and for Ourselves
Hallelujah… and hooray, Jesus! Our souls cannot contain the delight bubbling from our joy of having you in our lives. Our spirits want to sing and dance with your Holy Spirit, and to catch everyone else up in the excitement of your grace.

O teacher who walked in Galilee, healing and helping those who called on you, we pray for those beaten down by struggles and difficulties and natural catastrophes. We find ourselves praying fro both those parched by drought and those overwhelmed by flood waters. Grant respite from all bad weather, from wildfire, from withering heat. The evening news continues to spill horror and hardship into our living rooms— wails of grief, shrieks of fear, and the sad, silent eyes of children confront us. We see confronting us other, more familiar troubles— people we know who are sick, injured, or simply deteriorating, people we know who are economically distressed, addicted to drugs or alcohol, trapped in cycles of abuse, lost in unhealthy patterns of behavior. Truly, Lord, with the mess this world is in , sometimes it seems that only prayers will save it. And so we pray. _______________________ Be with all, O Compassionate Christ, who are in our prayers.

Lord, with Peter, with that familiar old hymn, Lord we want to be Christians, deep in our hearts, want to follow you wherever you lead, but sometimes our faith is so weak. Even when we get it right, like Peter did, we will probably fall away, like Peter did later. Strengthen our resolve, firm up our faith, help us hold our heads up straight and bravely. Although we will probably not face oppression or persecution, we know we will be tested, perhaps in small ways, like whether we are truthful in word and spirit, whether we return a few cents too much change, whether we look away when someone is in trouble, whether tolerate an unkind joke or comment, whether we will share our abundance with others, whether we offer a helping hand. Help us to pass these small tests of faith, and give us courage for the greater tests that may come.

We pray for ourselves. O Master, O Messiah, let us walk with you, closer each day, more faithful and hopeful, more ready to make our confession of your leadership over our lives. We feel strange asking for things for ourselves, but there are deep concerns, painful issues, long-standing concerns that burden our hearts. Take those burdens, Jesus, and hear our personal prayers and pleas…. be with this congregation, with our leaders, our search committee, all our members and friends. Be with the smallest of gathered congregations here and around the world. Bless and extend every good work undertaken in your name, dear Jesus, our savior, guide, and friend.

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 372 “O for a World”

*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.

*Postlude