Guide for Worship
June 28, 2020

Welcome to worship!

We will focus our worship on two scriptures this week, Psalm 13 and Romans 6:11-23.

This week’s worship theme highlights our choices and challenges our attention. The passages we will focus on describe 2 strands, two visions for living. On the one hand there is the life of lament, paired with the life of sin that leads to death. The psalm (Psalm 13) begins with a rhythmic chorus of recounting all that is bad in the life of the writer. It is indeed easy to allow our focus to be on the negative, especially for these days to lament all that we do not (or feel like we cannot) have. Paul also explores the metaphor of being slaves to sin as almost involuntary. It is easy, as if by default, not to notice a path that Christ has laid out for us, and to choose a self-centered path instead. The implication is that we are easily trapped in that pattern. As the Message version of the Romans passage (Romans 6:11-23) reflects: “Offer yourselves to sin, for instance, and it’s your last free act. But offer yourselves to the ways of God and the freedom never quits.”

In contrast, the psalm ends with recounting all the faithfulness of God (indeed, most psalms of lament do.) Paul suggests as well that choosing Christ enables us to discover the true fullness and freedom of life. In not noticing the path of Christ or the path of praise, we close off to ourselves the path of hope, opportunity and even love. Living a life of praise and freedom in Christ must be our intentional choice, a choice we must make over and over.

 

Centering Reflection and Preparation

We begin our time of worship by centering ourselves and focusing our vision. Our method for that this week is to use a type of visio divina, or “sacred seeing.” This is a simple form of prayer using an image and some focusing questions to awaken our spirits to the presence and message of God before us. For this prayer, an image will be displayed below. Follow the prompts here to guide your prayer for the next few minutes.

  1. Look at the image and let your eyes stay with the very first thing that you see. Keep your attention on that one part of the image that first catches your eye. Try to keep your eyes from wandering to other parts of the picture. Breathe deeply and let yourself gaze at that part of the image for a minute or so.
  2. Next, let your eyes gaze at the whole image. Take your time and look at every part of the painting. See it all. Consider how the part of the painting that first caught your eye fits into the whole image. Reflect on the whole image for a minute or so.
  3. Consider the following questions:
    • What emotions does this image evoke in you?
    • What does the image stir up in you, bring forth in you?
    • Does this image lead you into an attitude of prayer? If so, let these prayers take form in you. Write them down if you desire.
  4. Finally, offer your prayers to God in a time of silence.
When you are ready, click here to open the image.

Vincent van Gogh, Farmhouse in Provence, 1888.

Take notice of the pairing and contrasting of colors (the red and green of the plants, the blue and pink in the wall and sky.) Also note the prominence of the color yellow. Yellow was van Gogh’s favorite color, and to him its use represented the love and presence of God. So, for example, the harvester in the painting here, despite being away from the security of the farmhouse, is surrounded by God’s love in the field for his work. Think through how the details you’ve noticed affect you and your view of the painting, and, perhaps, your view of who you are before God. 

 

At the conclusion of this prayer exercise, share your reflections. If you are worshiping on your own, write or journal about what you’ve discovered. Talk about it with a friend over the phone or with a family member. Or, share your thoughts today on a social media page.

Psalm 13

Jane and Deklan Williams read our psalm of the day. The psalmist asks God how long all the bad stuff he feels and experiences will last, then asks God to help, and finally remembers that God does help us when there is trouble.

Click here to read along with the text.

How long will you forget me, Lord? Forever?

How long will you hide yourself from me?

How long must I endure trouble?

How long will sorrow fill my heart day and night?

How long will my enemies triumph over me?

Look at me, O Lord my God, and answer me.
Restore my strength; don’t let me die.
Don’t let my enemies say, “We have defeated him.”
Don’t let them gloat over my downfall.

I rely on your constant love;
I will be glad, because you will rescue me.
I will sing to you, O Lord, because you have been good to me.

Based on Today’s English Version.

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Originally known as “The Heavenly Vision,” this hymn reminds us of God’s promise for help in our times of trouble. Sing along with Anna Moxley and Mackenzie and Caleb Smith as they lead our musical worship.

Sing along with this hymn! Find the lyrics here.

Oh soul are you weary and troubled?

No light in the darkness you see?

There’s light for a look at the Savior

And life more abundant and free

Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full in His wonderful face

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace

 

Through death into life everlasting

He passed and we follow Him there

O’er us sin no more hath dominion

For more than conquerors we are

Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full in His wonderful face

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace

 

His word shall not fail you, He promised

Believe Him and all will be well

Then go to a world that is dying

His perfect salvation to tell

Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full in His wonderful face

Oh, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace

Response Through Giving

I Lift My Eyes Up – Nyssa Collins

 

We encourage you to give your offerings online through Pushpay here, through the Yates app, or by mail (2819 Chapel Hill Road, Durham, NC, 27707). We are growing into new ways to be the church together and your giving allows us to keep being the church, even in the absence of our physical presence.

Watch the sermon video above, or click here to read along.

 

We begin our reflection today with lyrics of a poem sung by the Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan. Could you make them out? “You gotta serve somebody. You gotta serve somebody. It may be the devil, or it may be the Lord, but you gotta serve somebody.”

These words come from his album “Slow Train Coming.” Slow Train was the first album Dylan released after becoming a Christian and getting baptized. Many of the songs deal with Dylan’s new faith and Christian teachings. This alienated some of Dylan’s longtime fans. In fact, John Lennon said the song was “embarrassing” and he wrote another song, titled “Serve Yourself,” to respond to it. Lennon’s song rebukes Dylan’s and says instead: “You gotta serve yourself. Ain’t nobody gonna do it for you.”

Lennon speaks for a lot of us, I think. We like to believe that our freedom means autonomy and self-determination. But experience has taught me that we are often our own worst masters!

I can imagine the Apostle Paul sitting in the audience while Dylan sings, though.  I can hear him shouting his own enthusiastic “Amen!” by the end. If we can condense today’s reading from Romans into a digestible thought, I think it goes something like this: everybody has a master. Somebody owns us.

What do I mean? Well, it helps to remember that our reading today builds off the good news that Paul has just shared in the first eleven verses of chapter 6. There we read how, by God’s grace, Christians mysteriously participate in the death of Christ. Our baptism shows how we are dead to sin and “alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (v. 11)

Our lives are lived in light of that that. When we trust Christ, we trust that we have already been freed from sin.  But does that mean that there’s nothing more for us to do as Christians?  Does that grace mean we’re already perfected? No, not yet, say verses 12-23. Today, we’re reminded that that the power of sin is still active in the world, even in the world of believers. Christians are relentlessly confronted by the risk of falling back into submission to sin, sin that leads to a believer following the more basic human instincts instead of God’s will and God’s leadership.

Paul proudly identifies as a slave of Christ Jesus (1:1). He says that’s our identity, too. That’s strong and dramatic language, to be sure. But it’s also an image that was recognizable by those who first read and heard these words. We’re all slaves, Paul says, and there are two kinds of slavery: either slavery to sin or slavery to righteousness. You gotta serve somebody.

The picture is similar to the way professional sports used to run, before free agency. Athletes were bound to the team that first signed them. They were the property of that team. Players were not free to move to another team or shop themselves around to the highest bidder. Owners offered contracts, they withheld contracts, they traded players. Players didn’t have many options. They could sign a contract and play, or they could leave the game. If athletes wanted to play, they had to be owned by one team or another.

Paul celebrates how, in Christ, believers have been released from their former slavery to sin and they’ve now “come to obey from [their] heart.” (v. 17), obey the message of Jesus.  The result comes not with total freedom, though. Just the opposite. The result is that believers now “become slaves to righteousness.” (v. 19) You gotta serve somebody. And in Jesus, your release from the bondage to sin binds you to righteousness.

Paul reminds the Romans of a time when they weren’t bound to righteousness. But were they really free? What “benefit did you reap…from the things you’re now ashamed of?” he asks (literally – what fruit did you have). (v. 21) What fruit, indeed?

It’s a good question. Even in a land of liberty, this close to the Fourth of July, might we also be able to recognize the shackles on our lives, large ones and small ones?

  • Some people are slaves to their jobs. They don’t like their jobs, but the company is paying them too much to quit. Their chains are made of platinum, but they still hold you tight.
  • Some are slaves to greed. They answer only to the bottom line.
  • I have a good friend who is a slave to pain medicine. If he doesn’t have some moving through his system, his mind & body drive him crazy. He was in the hospital recently getting some heart issues addressed, undoubtedly connected to his addiction. We hope it’s a wake–up call, but that stuff is a powerful master.
  • Some people are slaves to feeling full. Some are slaves to acquisition. Some are slaves to the past, or to an ideology, or tp their own stubborn self-centeredness

Paul says he is a slave of Jesus. He struggles with his own urges, just like anybody else. But he knows in his spirit that no good can come from listening to his own desires. He belongs to Jesus Christ. That gives him purpose – and the promise of a future.

He says this because he knows if the only thing he does is what he wants to do, if the only opinion he listens to is his opinion or his friends’ opinions, if the only purpose for his life is to survive and advance, then he is in a whole world of trouble.

The power of sin is so pervasive that it can take and twist even our best impulses into something foul. There are so many kinds of sin that work on us, that bind us. It’s hard to be free of all of it.

But it is possible, when we as the church gathers around this word from God and commits to live it out. It is possible, together, we learn what it means to be “a slave to God,” reaping holiness and eternal life.

There are things in church that bind us. When we worship and pray for forgiveness, we’re assured that we’re forgiven. Then we remember somebody we’d rather not ever spend any more time with, maybe someone even in church!  “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” That’s how we are taught to pray. Then we think, “I’m not going to forgive him or her. I don’t even know how” But we’ve said those prayers. We’ve pointed our hearts and lives to it, and we are bound to those words.

Sharing life in church can feel like a burden. We get to know one another. We get to know another person, we find that they are hurting, and we don’t know how to help. It would be a lot easier to look the other way and ignore them. But we can’t, because we are bound together in Christ. Even when we’d rather go our own way, we are bound…together.

There are some times when the church decides it has to do something. A new family comes to the neighborhood. They speak with an accent, they have nothing to go on. The church doesn’t know what supporting them will cost, and what more might be required. But it’s the right thing to do, and the whole church is tied to the work of justice and new beginnings.

There are a lot of times when it would be easier to do our own thing, to play it safe, to back away, to retreat to comfort. Then – as the church – we remember that we are bound to Christ. And, more importantly, that he has bound himself to us.

We are never free from him. And the good news is that kind of bondage, there is great freedom.

Prayer of Confession and Dedication

We close our worship today with a prayer that call our attention again to the ways that we have not seen the path that God lays before and calls us to, and asks God to move in us and reshape our desires to be more in line with God’s own will. Pray along with several of our fellow church members…

Blessings to you for this day of worship!

 

 

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