Worship June 21, 2020
Focus: “Dads are most ordinary men turned by love into heroes, adventurers, storytellers and singers of song.” — Unknown
Call to Worship: (based on Psalm 103)
L: Come, bless the Lord with me.
All: For the Lord is like a father to his children compassionate
and merciful, filled with endless love.
L: Who forgives us, and heals us;
All: Who surrounds us with love and mercy
and fills our lives with good things.
Let’s worship God together.
Gathering Music: Dance With Me Father (by Luther Vandros/Richard Marx) — Michelle Currie
Invocation: Father’s Day
Ground of all being,
Great Nurturing Spirit,
This morning especially, we give thanks
For beautiful days right in between spring and summer,
For flowers and green trees and freshly cut grass and lazy lakeside afternoons,
For the sound and sight and heart-swell of being together in this place made holy by our presence, For church years gone well,
For ice cream and all manner of frozen treats on warm summer days,
And for all who father.
For all who have warm and loving relationships with their fathers and children, we give thanks. For those who for whatever reason did not know their fathers, we will try to remember that this can be an uncomfortable day for you and others. And for those whose relationships with their fathers or children is painful or complicated, we support you. This Father’s Day, we lift up our gratitude for all kinds of fathers, and for the amazing ways fatherly love transcends blood lines and legal categories. And this morning especially,
We pray for peace. Peace in far-away lands and peace at home,
Peace in our community, peace in every heart.
For these and for all the hopes and aches and prayers of our own hearts we pray for love’s sake. Amen. (by Kristin Grassel Schmidt)
Opening Hymn: Great Is Thy Faithfulness
Great is thy gaithfulness, O God my Father
There is no shadow of turning with thee.
Thou changest not, thy compassions they fail not.
As thou has been thou forever will be.
Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy Faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed thy hand hath provided.
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!
Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.
Readings: Psalm 145: 1-10; MT 6: 7-13; Luke 11: 1-4
Sermon: Our Father — Rev. Dr. Nancy Parent Bancroft
Sermon Response: Papa Can You Hear Me (by Michele Legrand) -Michelle Currie
Prayers of the People: Hush Now in Quiet Peace
Closing Hymn: Faith of Our Fathers
Faith of our Fathers! Living still
In spite of dungeon, fire and sword:
Oh, how our hearts beat high with joy
Whene’er we hear that glorious word!
Faith of our fathers, holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death.
Faith of our fathers! we will love
Both friend and foe in all our strife;
And preach thee, too, as love knows how
By kindly words and virtuous life.
Benediction: As we conclude our Worship this morning, remember this:
God’s love is from everlasting to everlasting, from generation to generation.
Just as a father has compassion on his children so God has compassion
on all of us. May you find peace in the knowledge
that the everlasting love of God goes with you. Amen.
Our Readings This Week
Readings: Psalm 145:1-10
1 I will extol you, my God and King,
and bless your name forever and ever.
2 Every day I will bless you,
and praise your name forever and ever.
3 Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
his greatness is unsearchable.
4 One generation shall laud your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts.
5 On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
6 The might of your awesome deeds shall be proclaimed,
and I will declare your greatness.
7 They shall celebrate the fame of your abundant goodness,
and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.
8 The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 The Lord is good to all,
and his compassion is over all that he has made.
10 All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,
and all your faithful shall bless you.
Matthew 6:5-15 Concerning Prayer
5 “And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 6 But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.[a]
7 “When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
9 “Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.
14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; 15 but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Luke 11: 1-4 The Lord’s Prayer
11 He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2 He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.”
A Prayer on Father’s Day By Carol Allman-Morton
On Father’s Day we honor those people who have been teachers, confidants,
and friends. We acknowledge that it is not biology that makes a parent,
But love and attention. For those of us that have lost a father, or a child,
we hold their memories in our hearts.
For all of us who are fathers, we ask for continued help in
discerning how best to care for our children,
Whether they are 5 or 50 years old.
May the strands of relationship between ourselves and
all of creation grow ever stronger.
May all of us, no matter what our place in the cycle of life,
experience nurture and love,
And may we pass on that love to those we encounter
on our own paths. So may it be. Amen.
Today is Father’s Day and it seems appropriate that we spend some time reflecting on the beautiful prayer Jesus taught his friends about his father and ours.
This morning you heard the two versions of this prayer recorded in the gospels: a longer form in the Gospel of Matthew, spoken by Jesus early in his ministry in Galilee, as part of the Sermon on the Mount and a shorter version in the Gospel of Luke very likely given one year later, in Judea.
We’ve all heard the cute little stories about children mis-hearing words in the Lord’s prayer and saying such things as “Harold be thy name,” or “Give us this steak and daily bread,” and the boy who thought he was praying to get his sister in trouble with the words, “Lead a snot into temptation.”
Scripture scholars have poured over the two Greek texts for centuries, disagreeing about the precise meaning of this word or that. But in his introduction to this beautiful prayer, Jesus advises to not focus so much on the words themselves. In Matthew Jesus says, “When you pray, don’t babble on and on like some people do, by repeating their words again and again. It’s not about the words. In Luke’s gospel the disciples ask, ‘Teach us how to pray,” not, “teach us a good prayer. The followers of Jesus are asking a question we may have wondered about ourselves, “How do we interact with God?” And Jesus responds to them saying “Pray like this,” not, “say these words.” He is presenting a way of being in relationship with the Divine. And the prayer itself summarizes several of the key teachings of Jesus.
If we read each Gospel beginning to end we discover that Jesus didn’t really teach a lot of lessons. He taught a few important ones over and over again mostly through parables and by his actions. And in the Lord’s Prayer he reiterates some key teachings highlighting the attitudes of a human-Divine liaison, the elements of a good rapport, and how to remain connected with God. And he begins,
Our – In Luke’s gospel even though the disciples find Jesus alone and ask him, “Teach us how to pray. . .” he begins not with the word “My” but with “Our” He is addressing the creator of all people, all races, all religions, all animals, all plants and minerals, all energy. We are one and Jesus it seems wants us to remember that. The use of the word “our” captures Jesus’ constant pattern of inclusion. All are invited. All are welcome. We are one. And at this time in the history of our country it seems particularly important to remember, honor and promote that teaching. We are one. Gay and straight, we are one. Demonstrators and police, we are one.
Father – Today we remember our fathers and father figures and recognize that being a father is more that engendering life. A good father is a supporter, a sustainer, a provider, an educator, and an inspirer. And Jesus reminds his friends before he begins the prayer, “your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him.” The attitude Jesus teaches his disciples and us to have is one of trust in a God who knows us and our needs intimately.
In heaven – Heaven is where God is. It’s not just a place in the distance and in the future. Jesus wants us to recognize the existence of Heaven here and now – in and all around us. And at this time in our lives with the pandemic still raging around the world, with civil unrest raging, and with divisions dramatized that’s very hard to do.
When our children were young we went hiking from time to time and we often went with our friends Lynne and Roger who have come to Union Church several times and whom some of you have met. One time Roger took us and his family to an area not far from where he grew up in Chisholm Maine and we not only hiked, we panned for gold in a river. Roger even provided us with pans used for that purpose. What he taught us to do was to scrape some of the sand from the bottom of the river and to move the pan in a circular motion allowing the water to escape. In time we began to see glimmering specks in the sand and we could pick them out and place them in a container. At first when we did this all we saw was dull sand, but in time our eyes trained themselves to recognize the gold. Perhaps you have had a similar experience looking for four-leave clovers, or little black shark teeth on a South Carolina beach. We can train our eyes to recognize some treasure that we are seeking. So it is with recognizing heaven here and now. Dutch historian and author Rutger Bregman wrote an article in Time Magazine last month in which he said, “It may be hard to believe . . . when you turn on the television and hear about people stealing toilet paper, or armed men protesting. In moments like these, it’s tempting to conclude that most people are selfish and egotistical. But we have to remember that the media often focus on the negative, and we need to take a look at the bigger picture. Then we’ll see that while the crisis deepened, solidarity actually bloomed. There’s been an explosion of altruism and cooperation; people singing from balconies; neighbors collecting food; volunteers sewing masks; doctors, nurses and cleaners risking their lives on the front lines.”
We’ve seen all of this. It’s so important right now that we sharpen our vision to recognize glimpses of heaven here and even now. Maybe it’s in the beauty of a sunset or ocean waves, maybe it’s in the generosity and courage of frontline workers, maybe it’s in the kindness of someone checking up on us. Heaven is all around us and when Jesus teaches us to pray he’s asking us to address this imminent God, this tender father who is here with us. Present in the midst of our difficulties. Heaven exists here and now if we let ourselves see.
That completes part one of the Lord’s Prayer – the address. Part two, the rest of the prayer, has seven petitions. The first three address God; the other four are related to human needs and concerns.
Again, Jesus is repeating what he has taught his disciples and what he is teaching us. In Luke 11:9 he says, “Whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you.” In Mark 11:24 Jesus says, “And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Jesus isn’t saying that we will necessarily get what we ask for. Again he’s describing the relationship we are to have with God. Think about the people you ask for gifts or favors. They are people with whom you are comfortable. They are people who are approachable and who you know like you and will help if they can. John got it and in his first letter, (1 John 5:14) he tells his followers, “Therefore I tell you. . . this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.”
How blessed we are to have a welcoming, available father who is always with us and open to our needs.
Hallowed be your name – In this section of the prayer we state that God’s name is to be exalted or seen as worthy of complete devotion. Here Jesus is teaching his friends and us to remember that God is God and we’re not. And particularly in difficult times that is very reassuring to remember. God can accomplish what we, even together cannot do for ourselves. Jesus is asking us to trust in God, always and especially when situations seem dire and hopeless. In Psalm 145 that we heard this morning David sings, “Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.”
Just when we think that the worse has come, more bad things happen. It’s natural to feel discouraged, demoralized, depressed – helpless and hopeless. But the prayer, the way of being in relationship with God that Jesus teaches us is to trust in an almighty God whose power and goodness can overcome every evil.
Your kingdom come. Now as you know, each of the gospels was written for a particular audience and for a slightly different purpose. And that’s why they differ from one another. The authors don’t’ all tell of the same events. For example, not all of the gospels include the birth of Jesus. When all four gospels present something, that’s a sign that “the something” is very important. For example, all four gospels include the Last Supper. And all of the gospels talk about the kingdom. And they all have Jesus talking about that kingdom being both here and now and yet not fully here. And in the references to the kingdom Jesus nudges his disciples to help bring it about. As when they tell Jesus that the crowds are hungry and he replies, well give them something to eat. It’s not about us simply praying for better days, for more justice, for less discrepancy between the haves and have nots or for peace. It’s praying for generosity of spirit and courage so that we can do our part in bringing about the fullness of the reign of God.
Rutger Bregman, in the same article I quoted earlier writes, “Historians have long known that a crisis can be a turning point for societies. . .the age of excessive individualism and competition could come to an end, and we could inaugurate a new age of solidarity and connection.” Let’s let that hope propel us to action – to use our time and our gifts to help bring about the fullness of the reign of God.
Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Alcoholics trying to live sober one day at a time through the twelve steps do this in large part by living step eleven which states, “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”
There have been times in my life when I worked on this particularly intently. There were the years when I was trying to decide whether to make final vows or leave my life as a nun. There was the time I prayed about whether to put my hat in the ring for interim pastor at Union Church. I feared that people here would think me an upstart and people in my Catholic past would see my actions as betrayal. And now, as I learn to live a life without my life partner I wonder how I should live with the time now available to me. What is God’s will for me? All of us are living a new lifestyle right now – socially isolated and yet surrounded by people in great need. What is God’s will for us? How do we bring about the fulness of compassion, love, justice?
In the rest of the prayer Jesus addresses our own needs. There’s too much to unpack for one sermon, so I’ll stop here, but reiterate Jesus’ words that our loving God knows what we need and will care for us always even in these difficult times.
Times are very hard but God’s love and goodness will prevail. Times are very hard and feel harder because of our isolation from one another. Let’s use this time to reflect on the Lord’s Prayer and our relationship with a Father who is here, who is strong, who is loving and who is approachable – a God who not only can sustain us in these difficult times, but can also give us the grace to help make these times better. Amen