Guide for Worship
September 6, 2020
Labor Day Weekend
Welcome to worship!
It is Labor Day, for some a recognition of the end of summer and at the same time a resumption of the routines and rhythms of school, work and family life. In 2020, many things about that are experienced very differently. From the usual order, we might perceive a lot more chaos.
As an example, the world of work is currently undergoing massive change; all are affected by it. Working life was chaotic, stress inducing and hard to bring into balance with personal and family needs in the best of times. And then, COVID-19 turned work life and home life on its ear. But chaos, for Christians at least, could signify not just disorder and breakdown but opportunities for new order and breakthrough. We believe in a God whose very purpose is to bring order and creation out of chaos. In this service we shall face squarely what it means to live through a period of chaos and open our hearts and minds to God, that we may discern his creative purpose and be empowered to carry it forward, even in our work life.
We’ll focus our worship today on listening to two scriptures: Genesis 1:1-10, 26-28 and Romans 8:16-23.
Centering Reflection and Preparation
We begin our time of worship by centering ourselves and reflecting on the interaction between faith and work by listening. If there is only one thing we could do to change the culture of support for Christians at work, it could be as simple as talking about work more. In short interviews, we will ask some simple questions of members about their work and how their faith affects their work. Then we will pray for them. This is one simple tool that can have a huge impact on how a church community supports its members in their work lives.
Take a moment to pray for each of the requests and people in the interviews.
Genesis 1:1-10, 26-28
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep,and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
6 And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” 7 So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the vault “sky.”And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.
9 And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.
26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
The last psalm in the Bible, Psalm 150, ends with this invitation: “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.” The text of this very old and very familiar hymn encourages us to do that. As you sing along with Anna, consider all the believers through the last 300 years with whom you can join your voice to offer your praise to God, and allow this hymn to become a time of individual praise to the God who creates, prospers and defends us.
1. Praise to the Lord, the Almighty,
the King of creation!
O my soul, praise Him,
for He is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near;
Praise Him in glad adoration!
2. Praise to the Lord, who over all things
so wondrously reigneth,
Shelters thee under His wings,
yea, so gently sustaineth!
Hast thou not seen how thy desires ever have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?
3. Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper
Thy work and defend thee;
Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee.
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do
If with His love He befriend thee.
4. Praise to the Lord,
O let all that is in me adore Him!
All that hath life and breath,
come now with praises before Him.
Let the amen sound from His people again;
Gladly for aye we adore Him!
16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.
Response Through Giving
How Great is Our God with I Sing the Mighty Power of God
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.
“Jesus Calls Us O’er the Tumult”
Watch the sermon video above, or click here to follow along.
You may remember this vivid video feed from the camera on the Coast Guard’s Frying Pan tower off the coast of Cape Fear. As Hurricane Florence moved toward the Carolina coast in September of 2018, we all saw the raw power of the storm moving across the sea and foreshadowing the devastation to come. The wind, the noise, the raging sea – it’s a picture of untamed power and raw chaos.
I remember watching the live feed from the Frying Pan Tower for a long time that day, wondering if the opening words of Genesis, the story of creation, might read differently with that image in our minds.
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
The Biblical picture of the beginning is a picture of disorganization and uncertainty, a disordered world. Everything is “formless and empty.” The Hebrew words translated here suggest confusion, emptiness, and waste. All is shrouded in darkness.
But God changes everything. Creation happens because God’s Spirit was “moving.” Translations try to capture that word in many ways. They write that the Spirit of God was moving, hovering, sweeping, brooding, studying, fluttering, examining, lingering. And when the time is right, God takes action, sets boundaries and calls forth order and purpose in the chaos.
God says, “Let there be light.” The light illumined everything, shows the difference of dark and light. God is pleased. God brings land from the raging waters, stable ground in the midst of the relentless, churning seas and this, too, is good. Day after day, God brings order out of chaos, life of all sorts of diversity – and finally, humankind. As God surveys creation, God declares it all very good.
Paul describes in his letter to the Romans that God is still at work in our lives, creating. God does not stop with us at our first breath, or when we first make our decision for Christ – or when we make our first mistake. Today, we hear how God works to bring clarity to our confusion; organization to our disorganization; certainty to our uncertainty; order to our chaos; life where we only see death. Those who are lost are given God’s plans. Emptiness is filled with purpose. And, when we choose it, our darkness is banished by walking in the light of God’s grace and love.
That’s good news for us because it often feels like life is mostly chaos. At a particularly low point in my own journey as a dad and as a husband, when I felt incapable of meeting the relentless demands upon me, that was – in fact – the counsel that I received from a friend: “Embrace the chaos,” she told me.
Think about your own life. Is “chaos” a good way to describe it?
Before I got married, I could go out with friends, go to school, try to get started in my working life and career. I didn’t have time to sleep, but that wasn’t much of a problem, because how much sleep did I really need?
But now, young people are facing a series of challenges and obstacles that I never could have imagined. They have all the information of the world relayed to the palms of their hands in their phones, but they have too little guidance in how to understand it. The path of a good education, upward career mobility and meaningful social relationships is anything but clear-cut. I truly think it’s harder now than it once was to be young.
Pick your life stage: Maybe you get married, try to work and grow together with your spouse. Maybe the family grows. You don’t have any more time or money, but there are diapers, feedings and at least one who just refuses to sleep. That sleep you neglected earlier? Now it’s unavailable. Maybe there’s homework, virtual school, everything requiring attention you never prepared for. Soon enough, the temptation is coming to return to the pre-pandemic overscheduling of swim lessons, or soccer, or piano lessons or fencing lessons (yes – fencing lessons!) and being cook, chauffeur, counselor and disciplinarian.
But middle age has it’s own chaos. Sure, maybe you can reap the fruit of some of your earlier labors, but there are lots of responsibilities to people above you and also to the people you supervise. You might hold membership in different organizations. Maybe you even have a hobby. Church often grows so functional in this time, transactional after awhile, too. Maybe you’re active in church leading a Bible study or singing in the choir. Everyone wants you to serve on a committee. But it all begins to come up emptier and emptier. All you know is that you can’t wait to retire so that you will have more time on your hands to do what you really want to do.
But when you retire you find you’re busier than ever. Everyone thinks that your retirement has left you free to help them with this or that project. Your children ask for help with home repairs or free child care. And things keep changing! Your body, your mind, your spirit all seem to be changing, degrading, growing (sometimes in the wrong directions), dying, threatened. Every step you take is filled with another measure of worry about what you don’t know and can’t control.
If you needed the reminder, there’s COVID-19, there’s a presidential election afoot and massive social changes and long-overdue questions are upon us. It’s hard to watch the news, or even casually scroll through a social media feed, without being stirred up, discouraged or despondent.
Often enough, life is chaos. Life is that untamed sea. You never outgrow it. All of Creation groans, Paul told the Romans, groans up until the present time.
Today, we remember that where there is chaos, there is God. That’s the first thing that you need to know. You are not alone in the chaos.
But that, today, is not the end of the news. Why is God there with you? God is there in your chaos for the same reason God was there at the beginning in Genesis 1 – to create space for you to thrive and fulfill the purposes for which you were called into being. Genesis is the beginning of a marvelous story that unfolds across the Scriptures that tell how we are created for relationship with God, and relationship with one another, relationship with all of creation. God spares nothing, not even his own Son, to accomplish this.
When life grows chaotic and aimless, when a thousand things call for your attention, when there is no time for you to think about what your going to do with your day much less what you will do for God – understand that God calls forth a place of peace in the midst of the chaos. It is there, while the stormy waves crash all around you, that God provides the environment in which you will abide and thrive.
“When is this going to be?” Surely you ‘re asking.
That’s the promise of the Gospel. God has already done it. Only one thing brings order from our chaos: and that’s faith in Christ Jesus. From that place of trust, we are granted peace because we have the assurance that we are never alone, that God’s Spirit is still brooding over the untamed chaos of our lives and speaking peace so we can abide in times like this. It is why David could sing in Psalm 62:2 (The Message): “[God] is a solid rock under my feet, breathing room for my soul, an impregnable castle: I’m set for life.” It is why Peter can preach in his great sermon on Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon the Church: “I saw God before me for all time. Nothing can shake me; he’s right by my side.” (Acts 2:25, The Message) It is that assurance that brings us the peace that passes understanding. The book of Hebrews describes that sort of mature faith as an anchor for our souls (Heb. 6:19) that holds us fast with a relentless hope as the people of God no matter what storminess may threaten to drive us from our God-given purpose.
If you grew up in church like I did, you might remember the old hymn that speaks to times like these:
Jesus calls us o’er the tumult
of our life’s wild, restless sea;
day by day his sweet voice soundeth,
saying “Christian, follow me.”
Jesus calls us from the worship
of the vain world’s golden store,
from each idol that would keep us,
saying “Christian, love me more.”
In our joys and in our sorrows,
days of toil and hours of ease,
still he calls, in cares and pleasures,
“Christian, love me more than these.”
Jesus calls us; by thy mercies,
Savior, may we hear thy call,
give our hearts to thine obedience,
serve and love thee best of all.
When your world is formless and empty, when you are swamped and overwhelmed, remember that God takes the chaos and calls forth order and purpose that is strengthening the relationship of love that nothing in all creation could ever sever – it is through Christ our Lord that he has done it, and will do it again. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Prayer of Confession
As we respond to God today, recognize the places where we fall short of God’s vision for our participation in the good and order that God wishes for us to help create in the world. Pray along with our deacons as they lead us.
Click here to read and pray along with the video.
Spirit of God,
you are the breath of creation,
the wind of change that blows through our lives,
opening up new dreams and new hopes,
new life in Jesus Christ.
Forgive our closed minds
which barricade themselves against new ideas,
preferring the past
to what you might want to do through us tomorrow.
Forgive our closed eyes
which fail to see the needs of your world,
blind to the opportunities of service and love.
Forgive our closed hands
which clutch our gifts and our wealth
for our use alone.
Forgive our closed hearts
which limit our affection
to ourselves and our own.
Spirit of new life,
forgive and break down the prison walls of our selfishness,
that we might be open to your love
and open for the service of your world;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Take My Life, and Let It Be Consecrated
As we respond to God through song, let Anna lead us to commit our whole selves – all of life – to God. Consider all the ways you can give your hands, voice, moments, days – everything to God.
1. Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee;
Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love,
At the impulse of Thy love.
2. Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee;
Take my voice and let me sing
Always, only, for my King,
Always, only, for my King.
3. Take my silver and my gold,
Not a mite would I withhold;
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.
4. Take my will and make it Thine,
It shall be no longer mine;
Take my heart it is Thine own,
It shall be Thy royal throne,
It shall be Thy royal throne.
Blessings to you for this day of worship!