The church remains closed this week. For this week's service, we are combining Sunday School with worship. Please follow along through today's service, reading the text and watching the videos.
We are so glad that you've decided to join us today!
Today is the first Sunday in Advent.
Long ago the prophet Isaiah spoke these words of promise about Jesus to God's people.
Long before Jesus was born, God promised it would be so. People joyfully celebrate Christmas because God gave the world His own Son, the very first Christmas gift. We make room for him in our hearts.
Today we light the Promise Candle.
Let us pray:
Dear heavenly Father, as we begin the Advent season, teach us the true meaning of Christmas. Each time we light the candle of promise, help us to think about Your promise to send Jesus Your Son. Amen.
For the fall quarter, our Sunday school lessons have revolved around the topic of love. Today's topic is Impartial Love. Today's scripture lesson is James 2:1-13.
Joys and Concerns
Nov. 29th Jim Gregg, Connor Diesel
30th Susan Paul
Dec. 1st Marilyn Hickman, Kathy Bell
2nd Andrew Lozano
SYMPATHY: The Family of Beverly Mounts
The Family of Esther Krajacic
The Family of Dale Taggart (Missionary/Flagstaff)
The Family of Dave Burt
This year, the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary is posting an online Advent devotional. It will be available daily on our website as well. Just follow this link.
This is a year unlike any other. We won't be able to have our traditional Sunday School Christmas Program. However, we are looking at doing something virtually. At the bottom of today's service, there is a quick survey so we can see what everyone might be interested in doing.
We were able to remove Beverly Selvaggi and Megan Isley from our on going prayer list as they are both doing well. Pastor Gary remains on two weeks quarantine. Dana Wilson will not hear the results of the biopsy until Monday. He is in Jefferson Memorial Hospital due to an infection, please pray for healing. Betty Matthew’s cousin Carolyn Grimes is in the Washington Hospital and needs our prayers.
Continued prayers for Roma Grose, Ruth Hampe, Susan Schively, Jimmy Davis, Judy Donaldson, Margo Johnson, Melissa Pedigo, Aaron Blake, Lisa Phillips, Mickey Gubitti, Chip Rogers, Dixie Avoila, Virginia Coffield, Dennis McWreath, Chuck Warlow, Chuck Dicks, Randy Moore, Margaret Knabenshue, Janet Schively, Mary Ann Durila, Patty Nagey, Dr. Craig Fox, Karen Eisiminger, Kelley Gump, Mary Ann McFeeley, Ron Westfall, Ed Horne, DonnaWest, June and Keith McGill, Dianna Donaldson, Jessica Duke, Chuck Montecello, April Hincy, 3 yr. old Hayden Dijean, Glenn Miles, Dave Cummings, Ken Jackson, Doug Ward, Mark Knabenshue, Rick McFeeley, Dick McFeeley, Ricky Amos, Alex Kelley, Deron Wood, Susan Alberti, Bryan Dunn, Pastor Gary and John O’Hara.
We're so glad that you decided to join us today. If you need anything during this time, please contact a session member. If you have requests for our prayer list, please contact Linda Miller. If you need food from our food pantry, please contact Becky Phillips.
Sunday School: Responsive Love
We're glad you decided to join us virtually this morning!
When we meet in person, we share our joys and concerns. Take time to think about the people you know who need help and comfort right now. You can share these in the comments if you would like. The prayer below is from lectionary resource website of Vanderbilt University.
As you pray, you may offer your own specific joys and concerns in the silent space provided.
Holy God, you have called us to follow in the way of your risen Son, and to care for those who are our companions, not only with words of comfort, but with acts of love. Seeking to be true friends of all, we offer our prayers on behalf of the church and the world.
(Silent space for personal joys and concerns)
Guide us in the path of discipleship, so that, as you have blessed us, we may be a blessing for others, bringing the promise of the kingdom near by our words and deeds. Amen.
Sunday School: Confident Love
We're so happy you decided to join us today!
When we meet together, we share our joys and concerns from the week. Take some time to consider the joys and concerns you have had over the past week. If you would like, you can share these in the comments. When you are ready, pray the prayer below (from here):
Sunday School: Abiding Love
We're so happy you decided to join us today!
This morning's hymn was chosen to go along with our Sunday School lesson.
When we meet on Sunday mornings, we share our joys and concerns. Take some time to consider these for yourself in the past week. As we head towards Thanksgiving, also take some time to think about what you have been thankful for in the past week. This week has been rough, and divisive. When you are ready, take some time on the prayer below (from the Bible app).
Sunday School: Serving Love
We're so glad that you've decided to join us today.
When we meet in person, we share our joys and concerns. Take some time to think about your past week, and what joys and concerns you have. You can share these in the comments if you would like. The prayer below is on our denomination website. As you pray, think of the specific people and needs from your past week and maybe how you might show you love for those in need by serving them as Jesus served his disciples.
Holy God, source and sovereign,
you put all power and authority into the hands of Christ--
Christ, who washes our feet in humble service.
Teach us to love one another as Christ has loved us,
so that everyone will know that we are his disciples;
through Jesus Christ our Lord we pray.
(from the Presbyterian Church USA website. https://www.pcusa.org/)
Sunday School: Love Never Fails
We're delighted that you decided to join us today!
When we met in person, we talked about our joys and concerns. Think over your past week, and what joys and concerns you have. When you are ready, work through the prayer below. It should allow you to include your prayers woven through a Psalm. (It is a little long!)
Sunday School: Love for Neighbors
Or good afternoon!
We're so glad that you've decided to join us.
When we meet together on Sunday mornings, we share our joys and concerns. Think back over your past week to your own joys and concerns. If you would like, you can share them in the comment section below. The prayer below comes from this website. When you are ready, pray the prayer below, including your own prayer requests.
Sunday School: Love for Enemies
We're so happy you decided to join us today!
As we seem to be in this for the long haul, all of the adult Sunday School teachers will be rotating doing the weekly lesson.
When we meet in person, we share our joys and concerns. Take some time to reflect on your week, and the person prayers you have. If you have any you would like to share, you can do that in the comments at the bottom. When you are ready, pray the prayer below.
We are so happy that you are continuing to join us in online Sunday School.
When we meet in person, we share our joys and concerns. Take some time to think about your past week, and what joys and concerns you have. You can share these in the comments if you would like. When you are ready, the prayer below is based around Psalm 84. As in previous weeks, suggestions for prayers are written between the verses of the Psalm.
Sunday School: Revealed Love
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 are a small, rural Presbyterian church in southwestern Pennsylvania.