Today’s guest speaker is Rev. Don Herschell.
All of the information normally found in our bulletin is below the video. Simply click on "Read More" to load the rest of the bulletin. You can use this to follow the service, as well as to pray our unison prayers. All joys and concerns that we know, as well as our continuing prayer list is within the Joys and Concerns. Announcements can be found at the bottom of this service.
Hymn: Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing
Call to Worship
On that first day, when time began You gave birth to creation; light danced through the darkness; the waters of hope flowed free and clear. On that first day at the Jordan, when redemption began You spoke of life for all your children, as Your Child stepped into the waters of forgiveness, dancing in hope with his cousin, John. On this first day of the week, when we begin anew You call us to faithfulness, as we open our hearts to You, Your voice claiming us as Your own.
As the church reopens for in-person worship next week, we will still be having Sunday School online.
When we meet in person, we share our joys and concerns. Take some time to think over the past week. What joys and concerns do you have? We'll pray a three-part prayer together. The beginning and ending came from an email newsletter that I get with my Bible app. In the middle, pray for your own joys and concerns.
Oh God, my life is filled with trials and hardships. Sometimes, I feel overwhelmed and grieved. Nevertheless, I’m grateful that in every situation You are with me. In You, I can have peace. No matter what I face, today I chose to not let my heart be troubled or afraid. My mind is fixed on You and I trust in You. Fill me with joy and peace so that by the power of Your Holy Spirit, I may abound with hope. Guard my heart and give me the strength to live a life marked by Your peace.
[Pray for your joys and concerns]
Thank You for overcoming the world. Thank You that in all things we are more than conquerors because of You and Your love for us. Today and every day, help us to “turn away from evil and do good; to seek peace and pursue it.” Make us eager to maintain unity, and slow to become angry.
Let the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing to You. Guide our feet in the way of peace and teach us to number our days so that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Heal our lands Lord, and bless Your people with peace. Amen.
This week's scripture lesson is on Genesis 45:1-8; 10-15.
Introduction: "Luke, I am your..."
How does that sentence end? In the western world even people who haven't seen any of the Star Wars movies probably know to fill in "father." Yet Darth Vader shows Luke Skywalker no love; he shows his son no mercy. They are mortal enemies and it becomes clear that one of them must die. This fact becomes all the more tragic because Luke didn't know the truth about his parents until Episode V (the second movie of the original trilogy). Darth Vader's also being Dad did nothing to weaken the enmity with an Luke. It only complicated it, made it all the sadder because of the truth it reveals: our families are sometimes the origin of our greatest enemies.
Joseph had experienced just that. At the root of all his struggles in Egypt were those who had sent him to that place to begin with: his brothers. So like Darth Vader (in this one respect), Joseph hid his identity. Yet the revelation of Joseph's true identity had quite a different outcome from that of Darth Vader's revelation.
Lesson three covered the first trip that Joseph's brothers made to Egypt without Benjamin (Genesis 42:6-25). Though they returned with food, it inevitably ran out, and the brothers were faced with traveling to Egypt again. But they knew they could not return without Benjamin. Jacob, however, was still very reluctant to allow Benjamin to go. Finally, after Judah guaranteed Benjamin safety and offered to bear the blame should Benjamin not return, Jacob relented (Genesis 43:1-14).
When the brothers arrived in Egypt, they first spoke to Joseph's steward about the silver they had found in their sacks. He assured them all was well (Genesis 43:19-23). Later, after Joseph released Simeon (Genesis 43:23) and fed the brothers a meal (Genesis 43:31-34), he sent them back to Canaan with more supplies. But he also instructed his steward to place each man's silver in his sack, and in addition, to put Joseph's special silver cup in Benjamin's sack (Genesis 44:1-2).
Following the brothers' departure, Joseph sent his steward to catch up with the men and accuse them of taking Joseph's cup. When the cup was discovered in Benjamin's sack of grain, the brothers tore their clothing in despair and returned to Egypt to face Joseph (Genesis 44:3-13).
After Joseph told his brothers that Benjamin would have to remain in Egypt, Judah stepped forward and voiced an impassioned plea not to keep Benjamin in Egypt. Such an action would break his father Jacob's heart to the point of hastening his death. Judah offered himself in place of Benjamin (Genesis 44:17-34). This act represented a drastic departure from the way Judah had treated Joseph those many years before (Genesis 37:26-27).
During our lesson, we speak with each other about the scripture passages we study. We might ask questions or make connections with our daily life. Take some time to read through and think about each question. Reflect on your answers. If you are reading through your lesson with someone else, take some time to discuss your answers together. Sometimes these questions can be difficult and there may not be a single right answer. If you would like to share your thoughts or questions you can do so in the comments.
Article: Dealing with a Guilty Conscience
Most of us can speak from experience about the pain of a loved one's hurtful, impulsive actions or even a cruel pattern of behavior. Perhaps we are even willing to admit the times we have been the ones who hurt others.
It's important for transgressors to confess and repent of what they have done. It's also important for the repentant to realize and accept the fact that they have been forgiven. Looking ahead to Genesis 50:15 gives us a glimpse of how heavily the troubled consciences of Joseph's brothers continue to weigh on them after Joseph kind words in our text.
Yet this reconciliation story doesn't focus on the sins of Joseph's brothers or even their remorse. Instead the story highlights Joseph's response. That response suggests that God may be as interested in the conscience of the victim as he is in the conscience of the perpetrator. What's your conscience saying to you right now?
Article: A Picture is Worth ...
I have the picture taken more than 30 years ago at a family reunion. On that occasion my grandmother was celebrating her 96th birthday. That picture shows Grandma, my father, me, my daughter, and her first child. All five generations of us in one photo!
I could tell so many stories about the occasion and of each person in the picture. For those of us pictured, the photo triggers memories of the occasion that make words unnecessary. As we say, "a picture is worth a thousand words."
How much would Joseph have loved to have had a picture of his father taken just before the brothers' second journey began! And how his father would have loved to have received a picture of Joseph! But everything had to rely on the testimony of his brothers. The saying a picture is worth a thousand words therefore not applying, Joseph had to anticipate a face-to-face meeting with his father. What parallel does this have for us? (Hint: see 1 John 3:2)
Imagine yourself standing before, Jesus who has asked you to draw near, as Joseph told his brothers to draw near to him (Genesis 45:4). Jesus speaks and says, "I am Jesus whom you crucified. Your sins are the reason I gave my life as a sacrifice on the cross. But don't be angry with yourself. I want to forgive you, not condemn you." Jesus does indeed says this -- and he means it
Joseph's words about God's higher purpose being carried out can also be applied to Jesus. Men killed him because they wanted to reverse his influence, dishearten his followers, and destroy the movement he had begun. But God accomplished a great deliverance through the cross and the empty tomb. As Peter told the crowd gathered on the day of Pentecost, "[Jesus] was handed over to you by God's deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead," (Acts 2:23-24).
Salvation is truly a gift of God's grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). It must be received as such without our placing conditions on it that God himself has never placed. Don't be angry with yourself. Like Joseph's brothers, you need to accept forgiveness.
Father, thank you for revealing your loving forgiveness to us through Jesus' death and resurrection! Help us to forgive others as we have been forgiven. In Jesus' name. Amen.
This week's benediction is from The Message.
Next week's lesson will be on 1 Samuel 19:1-7.
We're so glad that you're joining us today!
A couple of people said that one of their favorite verses was 1 Peter 5:7
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
This hymn came up as one connected to that verse. The poem upon which the English words are based was written by St. Francis of Assisi.
When we meet together, we share our joys and concerns. Take a few minutes to consider your personal joys and concerns. If you have any to share, you can include them in the comments.
I enjoyed doing prayers with the Psalms earlier in the summer. I thought we could do one today! For this prayer, we will go back and forth between the text of Psalm 42, and related direction on things and people to pray for.
Yearning for God in the Midst of Distresses
42 As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So pants my soul for You, O God.
Pray to strengthen your yearning for God.
Pray for the world to know God's love.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
3 My tears have been my food day and night,
While they continually say to me,
“Where is your God?”
Pray for your own recognition of God in the world, and in your life.
4 When I remember these things,
I pour out my soul within me.
For I used to go with the multitude;
I went with them to the house of God,
With the voice of joy and praise,
With a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast.
Pray for those people who have decided they feel safe to return to worship.
Pray for those people who do not yet feel safe to return to worship.
Pray for those people who are still making their choice.
5 Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
For the help of His countenance.
Pray for God's help with your personal concerns.
Pray for God's help in unspoken concerns.
6 O my God, my soul is cast down within me;
Therefore I will remember You from the land of the Jordan,
And from the heights of Hermon,
From the Hill Mizar.
Pray for those experiencing problems to remember to hope in God.
7 Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls;
All Your waves and billows have gone over me.
Pray for those being buffeted by the waves and billows of life, during this time of turbulence.
Pray for those being effected by wildfires, floods, and natural disasters.
8 The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime,
And in the night His song shall be with me--
A prayer to the God of my life.
Pray for the world to experience the lovingkindness of God.
Pray for the world to practice love for each other.
9 I will say to God my Rock,
“Why have You forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”
Pray for those people who feel forgotten.
Pray to open your eyes and hearts to those people experiencing isolation.
10 As with a breaking of my bones,
My enemies reproach me,
While they say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
Pray for those people in physical pain.
11 Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God;
For I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God.
Pray in thanksgiving for joys and blessings.
This week's lesson is on Genesis 42:6-25.
Introduction: Surprise Encounters
What's the best surprise you ever experienced? The announcement of a forthcoming grandchild? The renewed health of a loved one? A broken relationship repaired? For some, the answer will be an unexpected family reunion. Those who have been deployed for service overseas seem very happy to surprise their loved ones with an early return after a lengthy absence. Sometimes arrangements are made for the returnee to show up unexpectedly at a ball game or other public event where the person's family is in attendance.
The looks of astonishment and then unbridled joy are very touching. Though families expect their loved ones will return eventually, their reactions reveal that the emotions of an anticipated reunion are magnified when that reunion happens without warning. Part of the joy in watching such a reunion is in seeing what happens when there hasn't been time to prepare psychologically for the reunion. And so it was with Joseph.
When the Egyptians began to feel the effects of the predicted famine (see last week's lesson), they cried out to Pharaoh for relief. Pharaoh sent them to Joseph (Genesis 41:55), whom he had appointed to prepare Egypt for the years of famine. The famine, however, affected lands other than Egypt as well. As a result, "all the world," came to Egypt to buy food (Genesis 41:57). Joseph's homeland was among those, and Jacob urged his sons to travel to Egypt and purchase food (Genesis 42:1-2). Exactly how much of the seven-year famine had occurred before the brothers went to Egypt is not clear. Later, when Joseph revealed his identity, he told them that only two of seven total years had passed (Genesis 45:6).
For the first journey to Egypt, Jacob did not permit Benjamin -- one of two sons of Jacob's beloved wife Rachel, the other son being Joseph (Genesis 35:24) -- to go. Jacob had already lost his favorite son, Joseph; Jacob did not want to risk losing his second favorite, Benjamin (Genesis 42:3-4). Thus ten brothers traveled to Egypt without him.
When we meet in person, we usually share our thoughts and ideas. We make connections to our real lives, and how we can see God at work. The questions below are from our adult Sunday School book. Take some time to think about each question. If you are working through the lesson with someone else, discuss your thoughts together. Sometimes these questions can be very hard, and there is not necessarily a right answer. If you would like to share some of your ideas, or ask questions, you can do so in the comments.
Article: Trust, but Verify
The Cold War was a worldwide concern in the 1980's. The importance of having nuclear arms agreements could not be overstated. As US President Reagan was preparing to meet with USSR General Secretary Gorbachev, an adviser informed Reagan of Russians' love of proverbs. Perhaps learning a few would help aid the negotiations.
Doveryai, no proveryai (click here for sound) -- "trust, but verify" -- caught Reagan's fancy. It expressed the tension of believing in good faith what one was told while also doing the research to corroborate statements. To Reagan, it expressed well the American attitude toward Soviet assurances.
Before Joseph could trust his brothers, he needed to verify their character. How well does Joseph's "trust, but verify" method work as a Christian principle?
Joseph had settled into life in Egypt, secure in his powerful position. He had married and started a family. He had taken over the responsibility of providing grain for those who had traveled from near and far to Egypt because of the severe famine that had ravaged many countries. It was business as usual for Joseph until he looked up and saw a group of ten men dressed like he used to be when he lived in Canaan. And then he realized -- these were his brothers! They too had come to Egypt to buy grain.
That Joseph's motives for acting as he did toward his brothers were not rooted in selfishness or vindictiveness is seen most of all in his tears. He could not control his emotions when he learned that Reuben had actually intended to spare his life. Though the brothers did not now it, the governor of Egypt was already planning how to see his father again and keep his whole family safe.
While Joseph was hiding his true identity from his brothers, his declaration that, "I fear God," was the truth. The brothers did not realize what a comfort that declaration should have been to them. Joseph's tears revealed his heart for all time.
Our Father, thank you that you use even our most desperate circumstances to serve your loving purposes. Let our fear of you guide us as Joseph's fear guided him. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.
This week's benediction comes from the Revised Standard Version.
Next week's lesson will be on Genesis 45:1-8, 10-15.
Thank you for joining with us today!
I came upon today's hymn while looking for a different one that was suggested. I was so taken with this one, that I decided to save the suggestion for next week!
Thanks to Lisa for suggesting today's prayer.
When we meet in person, we share our joys and concerns together. Take a few minutes to consider the last week. What personal joys and concerns do you have? Who do you believe needs prayer? You may also want to look at our continuing prayer list from last week's worship service. Once you have taken some time to reflect, use the following prayer (from Reinhold Niebuhr, 1892 - 1971, in The Oxford Book of Prayer) to begin.
O God, who hast bound us together in this bundle of life, give us grace to understand how our lives depend upon the courage, the industry, the honesty, and the integrity of our fellow-men; that we may be mindful of their needs, grateful for their faithfulness, and faithful in our responsibilities to them; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
We're glad you decided to join us today!
Lisa shared this morning's hymn with us. Thanks to Don Hershell for our Sunday School lesson.
When we meet together in person, we share our joys and concerns. Take a few moments to consider what is on your mind right now. Think of people who need hope and healing. Think also of ways that you would like to change, and ask God to help you in doing so. If you would like others to pray for these as well, you can add a comment at the bottom of this post.
Pray the following prayer as together we face the future, knowing that God goes with us.
It’s not always comfortable, God, but it is certainly good, that you go straight for the heart. You do not allow us to skate over the surface of life, filling our days with dry legality, and pretend righteousness; No, you come at us from the inside, challenging our thoughts and attitudes, our motives and perceptions; and shaping them into the fuel for change that gives us hearts like yours, and lives that are lived from the inside out.
We praise you, O God, for your uncomfortable grace, your transforming Spirit, and for the gift of lives lived with integrity and compassion from the inside out. Amen. (sacredise.com)
All of the information normally found in our bulletin is below the video. Simply click on "Read More" to load the rest of the bulletin. You can use this to follow the service, as well as to pray our unison prayers. Announcements can be found at the bottom of this service.
Hymn: Where He Leads Me
Call to Worship
We hear a divine melody and feel an inner pull that draws us closer to you, Oh God. We come this morning looking for the companionship that comes with being a Christian. We ask for the guidance of your Holy Spirit to lead us each new day that we are given. We come this day sharing the love and joy of life and all that it gives us each amazing day.
All of the information normally found in our bulletin is below the video. You can use this to follow the service, as well as to pray our unison prayers. Announcements can be found at the bottom of this service.
We are a small, rural Presbyterian church in southwestern Pennsylvania.