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.
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)
We're so glad you decided to join us for Sunday School today!
This week's hymn was a suggestion I received last week. If you have hymn requests please let me know.
Thanks to Don Hershell for the prayer and Sunday School lesson this week!
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. There is a lot of uncertainty with what lies ahead — especially with fall coming, the economy on less-than-ideal footing, and schools opening up in different ways. 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.
O God of wisdom, as our children are headed back to school and college to learn anew, help us pass on to them the wisdom that has been given down to us from the generations before us. Help our children as they learn their daily lessons to listen and learn. Help their teachers have the patience and knowledge to teach well. Help them as they learn life’s lessons of dealing with other people around them. Help us as we guide them through those lessons.
We ask for your wisdom to discern your ways and path for our own lives. We ask for your wisdom to discern how to deal with others we meet, live with, work with, shop with, drive our roads with, wait in line with, eat with and be with daily. We ask for your wisdom in the difficult situations we may have to deal with as we go through life.
We ask for your wisdom when voting in the upcoming elections. We ask for your wisdom in dealing with injustices in our world. We ask for wisdom for our leaders in our world, our countries, our states, and our communities. We ask for wisdom for our church leaders, worldwide and local.
We ask for wisdom for our Pastors as they preach your word, inspire, lead and grow us as disciples. We ask for your wisdom as we reach out to those in need in our communities and in our world. We ask for wisdom as we minister to those who are homebound and in nursing homes. We ask for your wisdom as we minister to those in hospitals, in recovery and rehab.
We ask for your wisdom that not only enlightens us but transforms us and guides us in our daily walk with you. Amen
(written by Rev Abi, and posted on Rev Abi’s Long and Winding Road. http://vicarofwadley.blogspot.ca/)
Good morning! Welcome!
We're so glad you decided to join us today!
Every week, we use Psalm 19:14 as our benediction. This hymn came up as referencing that scripture.
When we meet together in person, we share our joys and concerns. Take a few moments to consider your past week, and the joys and worries it brought you. If you would like others to pray for these as well, you can add a comment at the bottom of this post.
This week's prayer is actually going to be two prayers put together. One is called A Prayer for Inner Strength, and the other is a morning prayer. We will start with a prayer together. Then, we will include our personal prayers. Finally, we will pray together again.
We're so glad you decided to join us!
If you have any hymn requests, or ideas for our morning prayer, please let me know! I've also found an online tool to find hymns to go with scripture. If you have a favorite scripture, I can look up a hymn to go with that, too! You can either email the church (firstname.lastname@example.org), or you can call or text.
This week, our hymn references a suggestion for Philippians 4:13:
I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
When we meet together in person, we share our joys and concerns together. Take some time to think about your past week. What made you happy, thankful, or joyful? What made you feel worried or sad?
This week, we will use the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. We will pray the first part together. Then, in the middle, pray for your own joys and concerns. You may also want to pray for those people on our continuing prayer list. Then, we will pray the end of the Prayer together.
We're so glad that you've decided to join us for Sunday School!
When we meet on Sunday mornings, we always share joys and concerns from our lives. Take some time now to think back on your week, and consider what joys and concerns you have. These could be personal, for someone you know, or even for the world.
We have been doing guided prayers. If you see a guided prayer that we could use for Sunday School, something that could be adapted to a guided prayer for Sunday School, or if you would like to write the guided prayer for Sunday School, please let me know! I would love to get some suggestions! You can email the church: email@example.com, or give me a call.
Last week, we followed a suggestion in this article to pray the Psalms like a Christmas tree, by taking a psalm, and adding in our own prayer requests within the psalm... decorating it. I really enjoyed doing that, and thought we could do it again.
Would you believe that it has been twenty weeks since we have met in person?
On Sunday mornings, we take time to consider what blessings we may have had during the week, as well as our worries. Take some time to think about these joys and concerns. You may share your personal joys and concerns in a comment below, if you feel comfortable doing so. You may also want to look at the prayer list in last week's worship service for a list of people to pray for.
I have always liked the Psalms, and was reading this article (which is super short, and worth reading) about how to "Pray the Psalms." I particularly liked the option to, "pray the Psalm like an apple tree or a Christmas tree." For this week's guided prayer, I have picked a Psalm at random for us to pray like a Christmas tree. Guidance will be in a different color.
We haven't listened to Alan in a while. Today is the day!
When we gathered in person, we usually shared our joys and concerns with each other. Think over your past week. What brought you joy? What made you feel thankful? What made you feel worried? Who do you feel the urge to pray for? If you have something you feel comfortable sharing publicly, and that you would like us all to pray for, you can add it as a comment to this post.
The guided prayer below is adapted from this prayer from individual.
We are so glad that you've chosen to join us today!
When we meet in person, we share joys and concerns. Take some time to reflect on your past week, and think about who or what you may want to pray for. If you have prayer requests you would like to share, you can add them in the comments below so we can all pray for them. You may also want to refer to the prayer list from last week's worship service. The prayer below is slightly edited from the one that we used for our Maundy Thursday service. Each small paragraph is directed at a different group of people. After each section, pray individually for those who may fit within that group.
We are a small, rural Presbyterian church in southwestern Pennsylvania.