Service Recording: August 23, 2020
After the service, we will have Fellowship Time in a Zoom video conference. Details for joining will be shared via email and at the end of the live stream.
The Building is Closed and the Church is Open
While we have restricted access to the building, Peace Church is very much open to ministry—working to respond to our own congregation, as well as the needs of our neighbors and community. Please consider giving either to Peace Church general fund or the Gabriel Fund – which is used to meet the needs in the community.
We recognize that in this time, people’s financial situations may have changed. We ask you to prayerfully consider what you can give. If you use electronic giving, we thank you for your constancy of support. If you would like to give through our online form, we would be grateful. For all the contributions from our members and friends—whether financial, time, or prayer—we ask God’s blessings on those gifts that Peace Church may be healing balm in this time when we are living in our own Gilead.
August 23, 2020 ⁂ 10:30 am
The People of Peace Church
Betty Greene, Lay Leader
Jim Pospisil, Music Director
Doug Bowen-Bailey, ASL Interpreter
Nathan Holst, Faith Formation Minister
Rev. Tom Liddle, Guest Preacher
Prelude “We’re Singing Peace” (#17 P&W Songbook)
Announcements and the Ringing of the Peace Bells
God is Revealed as We Gather
*Responsive Call to Worship
We gather together in the name of our God,
the Maker of heaven and earth,
who calls us away from the customs and attitudes of the world around us,
and invites us instead into transforming relationships with one another.
Let’s worship God together!
Opening Hymn “I Will” (#7 P&W Songbook)
Unison Prayer of Confession written by Tom Liddle
Creator God, in the stories of our faith your transformative presence is ever before us. In the stories of our faith we find your affirmation of our lives, the truth of abundance, your passion for justice and reason for hope. And yet, we confess: we are lured by other stories. We embrace stories that are not life giving nor life affirming. We exchange abundance for scarcity, trust for fear, and joy for despair. We pray that you would free us from false narratives about ourselves and the world and liberate us for the new life you intend. In Jesus name, Amen.
Words of Assurance
Story for All Ages
God is Revealed in the Word
God’s Word in the Hebrew Scriptures: Exodus 1:8–22
Special Music “You’ve Got a Friend” by James Taylor sung by Susan Larson Kidd and Ian Connell
God’s Word in the Epistles: Romans 12:1–8
Sermon “Trusting the Right Story” Rev. Tom Liddle
Trusting the Right Story
Peace Church 08/23/2020
Rev. Tom Liddle
We live in a world of stories. We live by them and through them. We tell them, hear them share them and receive them and reject them. In fact, the stories we tell, hear and inhabit quite literally, create the world and determine our experience of it.
That’s one reason why Jesus told so many stories. It’s because stories are the way we learn, the way we understand the world. And we can really only come at the Truth of things indirectly, by hearing stories and parables rich with symbols and metaphors that open up mysteries without closing them off.
The Bible, of course, is a story of stories. And the good news of the Bible, is that it testifies to the ways that God is active in and through these stories, to bring about healing and wholeness.
In that way I like to think of the Bible as a space of divine encounter. That’s why we read, ponder, tell and retell the stories over and over. But the Bible’s also what I’d call a space of divine advocacy. What I mean by that, is that it has a position and wants us to trust a particular story. So in the readings today, we’ve got two case studies of what it looks like to trust this particular story.
The first case study is the Hebrew midwives. With this tale we’re at the beginning of the Exodus from Egypt. It’s a story about an enslaved people, a brutal Pharoah and a God who takes sides.
And if you read carefully you’ll notice right in this story, that “Pharoah” is unnamed. That’s not because Egypt didn’t have historical kings; it’s because in the Bible’s construal of reality, “Pharoah” isn’t just a historical king. “Pharoah” is also a symbol. He represents oppressive power, scarcity and fear. He’s the chair of a predatory economy that relies on slave labor. So in that way you could also say he’s not just a symbol, but a system.
But did you know that even with a serious topic, the Bible can have a sense of humer? This is a case in point. A powerful Pharoah has a big problem. The Israelite population, it seems, is mysteriously growing.
And Pharoah’s worried they might become so numerous they’d overthrow his regime. So what do you do if you’re an oppressive king in this situation? Option 1: you brutalize the population with hard labor… And the text goes out of it’s way to tell us just how bad he made it…but, surprise! It doesn’t work! As the text has it: “the more they were oppressed, the more they more multiplied.”
Option 2: you kill all the boys. That’d be effective…; but Pharoah, in his wisdom, doesn’t send a militia; he tells Israel’s own midwives to do the killing!
Pharoah of course is used to getting his way, so he assumes that it’s a done deal and that the future is safe from a peasent revolt. But what Pharoah doesn’t consider…is that that the Hebrew midwives inhabit a different story than he does. And the shorthand way to say that is: “They feared God.” So they didn’t do it!
But here’s the funny part. When Pharoah calls them in and interrogates them, they make up a tall-tale about Hebrew women being more “vigorous” than the Egyptians – in fact they’re so vigorous that by the time we get there – they’ve already given birth! It’s the first act of civil disobedience in the Bible! And they did it because they trusted the right story. We don’t know Pharoah’s name…but we do know the theirs: Shiprah and Puah, the Hebrew midwives who inaugurated the liberation of an enslaved people — by trusting the right story.
The second case study is the Apostle Paul. The key phrase is the exhortation: “don’t be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.”
By the time we get to Romans 12, Paul’s taken us through a rather profound reflection on the meaning of the death and resurrection of Jesus. And its meaning, it turns out, is connected to the Exodus story.
What Paul saw in Jesus wasn’t a new religion, but the extention and fulfillment of God’s promise to all of creation beginning with the call of Abraham to be a “blessing to the nations.”
That’s why virtually all of Paul’s arguments about what God is doing in and through Christ, are rooted in Israel’s larger story.
So Paul sees the resurrection of Jesus as a kind of “reperformance” of the Exodus story, applied to humanity and all of creation. He sees the resurrection as the event on which the world turns.
-The resurrection is the door to the future, but also the hinge on which history hangs.
-And the resurrection isn’t simply and event of the past…. It also in a sense comes at us form the the future and therefore has explosive potential to alter our perception of the present.
And because of that, it’s an event that fundamentally changes both the cosmic order and the human situation.
The shorthand way to say this is: “In Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself.”
So Paul can say things like:
“If anyone is in Christ…new Creation!!…everything old is gone; everything’s new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ…”
Notice in these verses, the emphasis is both on “the world” and “us,” as in the individual person. In the purview of the NT, the Resurrection isn’t just about the individual believer. It’s also about what God has promised for all of creation. Christ is but the first fruits — and that’s why the New Testament ends not with the destruction of the world, as some popular liturature would have us believe, but with a vision of all things made new.
In that way the Ressurection is truly a cosmic event…
But the it’s also very personal. This is the story we enter in a concrete, earthly way in the sacrament of baptism. It’s about how each of us has been made new, recreated, and restored to our truest humanity in and through the humanity of Jesus Christ.
“do you not know…,” Paul asks in Romans 6, “…that all of us who have been baptized in to Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we’ve been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead, we too might walk in newness of life.”
Newness of life…freedom… trust…abundance. Those are the themes, images, and the content of this story. The shorthand for it is simply the word “gospel.” It’s the announcement…not of something we do, but something God’s done. It’s the polar opposite of the Pharoah story, which is a narrative of death, oppression, fear and sacrcity.
But we still live in a world of competing stories. The Pharoah narrative, with it’s subtle variations is still opreative, both for society and the individual. And although it may defy our categories of understanding and control, so is the story of Resurrection.
So today we can hear our two case studies as an invitation. First, simply to become aware of the kinds of stories we inhabit and trust. “Conformity to the world,” we might say, is nothing more than inhabiting a story that’s not life-giving for ourselves or others.
And the “transformation of our minds” we can think of as an invitation to situate ourselves in a different story. A resurrection story. A story of God’s surprising capacity to bring newness and healing when we thought everything there was only death.
If we trust this story we may not find ourselves directly defying a kings’ edict like the Hebrew midwives.
And we may not find ourselves testifying before the authorities like Paul and the apostles.
But if we trust this story…; if we hear it, tell it, and hear it again…we’ll find ourselves thinking, living and experiencing life differently.
We’ll find ourselves loved and affirmed and upheld — as we are — in the messieness and joy and beauty and sorrow that makes up the story of our lives.
And finally, we’ll find ourselves drawn to be involved in the healing, restoration and renewal of the world that’s already begun in the Resurrection of Christ from the dead. Amen.
Hymn “When Israel Was in Egypt’s Land” (#572)
We Respond to God’s Presence
Sharing Our Prayer Concerns, Silent Prayer, Pastoral Prayer, the Lord’s Prayer and Choral Amen
Sharing Our Offerings
Offertory “A Living Prayer” by Alison Krauss
*The Thanksgiving “Doxology”
Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise God, all creatures here below;
Praise God for all that love has done;
Creator, Christ and Spirit, One.
*Prayer of Dedication
Closing Hymn “Lead Us from Death to Life” (#581)
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