Saturday, December 28, 2013

A New Devotion on Cove's Prayer Line - We Serve the Lord

You can also find a podcast of this devotion at http://covepresbyterian.podbean.com/ or iTunes (Cove Presbyterian Church).


Luke 24:13-32 

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.

And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.”

Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on.
But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”


A Devotion by Jim M. Quint (Kansas, USA)

For many years as a family, my wife and I did not pray at meals. But as we have grown older, our faith has grown deeper. So when we had grandchildren, we decided that the best thing we could give them and their parents is a good example. So now we give not only food and fellowship at the table; we give glory to God for all God gives us. As Joshua said to the people of Israel, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Jesus was recognized for who he was as he shared a meal with two of his followers he had met on the road to Emmaus. When Jesus broke the bread and gave thanks, their eyes were opened; they knew who Jesus was. At our table I also want to reflect who I am in my faith and give thanks to the Lord. Now, when the table is set, as we serve the food we also serve the Lord.

From The Upper Room.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Prayer Requests, to be shared during Sunday’s worship service

On Sunday, December 29, Cove Presbyterian Church will lift to God the following needs.

Adults
Annette Goff
Audrey Vincent
Barbara Maze
Bill Phillips
Brett Hannah
Bruce Oiler
Carol Mowl
Charles Saffle
Cindi Livingston
Conrad Criss
Dee Campbell
Diane Szymanek
Doug Haller
Elisa Archer
Emery Edwards
Ethlyn Dellaria
Evan Pulice
Gen Meyer
George Bownlee
Hattie Black Marcum
Jack Hatala
James Woolfolk
Jamie Edwards
Jean Jeffrey
Jeanne Buffington Rowland
Jen's Mom
Joan Gallagher
Jodi Kraina
John Schlotter
Jonathan Serafine
Justin Vogel
Kelly Stephens
Manuel Fraga
Maria Drennan
Marjie Dinges
Mary Ellen Grove
Marybeth Lewis
Matthew Kirtley
Megan Dughton
Mike Churchman
Mike Terri
Patricia Mitchell
Paul Walch
Pauline Oiler
Randy Willson
Robb Starck
Robert Hans
Robert Krupp
Ronnie Buffington
Rose Bell
Rose Sanders
Roxanne Baker
Sally Marple
Sam Bosnic
Sharon Johnson
Shirley Everhart Kirtley
Stacy Jo Vogel
Stanley Smoleski
Steve Zubay
Susan Ponville
Susie Kurcina
The Ingram Family
Tim Bradley
Wink Harner

Children
Aksel Ace
Audri King
Daniel Marchione
Devon Bragg
Eliza Mazezka
Jeffrey Konovich
Jonathan Marte
Justin McKinney
Kade Haines
Kya Schwertfeger
Lily Ghrist
Michael Liptak
Robbie Lucas
Shelby Kamarec

Military
Isaac Stephens
Jason Kerr
Jonathan Criss
Lisa Burk
Michael Criss

Hospital
Paul & Virginia Welch – Weirton Medical Center
Richard Spencer – Lifeline Hospital

Church Families
Fred & Sue Marsh
Kevin Marker
Bess McCaffery

Local Church
St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church

Special Friend
Betty Morgan – Woodland Hills, 608 N10th Street, Weirton, WV  26062

Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery Congregations
Allen Grove Presbyterian Church, Sherrard, West Virginia – Rev. Dr. Larry Kline
First Presbyterian Church, Sistersville, West Virginia – Rev. Colleen Griffith

Also Remember in Your Prayers
Alice & Kenny Orr – Weirton Geriatric Center, 2525 Pennsylvania Ave., Weirton, WV 26062
Betty Morgan – Woodland Hills, 608 N 10th Street, Weirton, WV  26062
Bob Morgan – Weirton Geriatric Center, 2525 Pennsylvania Ave., Weirton, WV 26062
Charles Saffle – 100 Wyngate Dr., Wyngate, Weirton, WV 26062
Conrad Criss – 100 Wyngate Dr., Wyngate, Weirton, WV 26062
Dolores Edwards – 100 Wyngate Dr., Wyngate, Weirton, WV 26062
Eleanor Dueley – Brightwood Center, 840 Lee Ridge Rd., Follansbee, WV 26037

Cove's Bulletin for Sunday, December 29, 2013

Below is a copy of our Sunday bulletin. During the service, we’ll focus on some of the important things we can remember as we move past Christmas.






What's Happening at Cove Presbyterian Church?

Below are the announcements as they appear in Sunday’s bulletin.

DON'T FORGET SUNDAY SCHOOL  . . .
we meet every Sunday morning at 9:45 a.m.  Think about trying out one of our  classes.

OUR NURSERY FOR CHILDREN . . .
(infant thru five years) is open during Sunday School and the Worship Service. We still need some volunteer help.  We thank those of you in advance who help to care for the future members of our Cove Family.

CHANCEL CHOIR . . .
will be practicing on Sunday mornings at 10:00 a.m. in the choir room for the next few weeks.  Choir practice will resume on Wednesday, January 8 at 6:45 p.m. in the sanctuary.

THE CHURCH AND OFFICE WILL BE CLOSED . . .
Wednesday, January 1st.   Happy New Year!

NEW BOARD MAILBOXES . . .
will be set-up the beginning of January.  Please check the name under the mailbox as placement may change.  We ask that you empty your mailbox periodically as there are minutes and other items of importance placed in them.

DEACONS MEETING . . .
the first meeting of 2014 will be held on Monday, January 6 at 6:30 p.m. in the boardroom. Members are urged to attend as we discuss our agenda for the coming year.

SESSION MEETING . . .
the first meeting of the new year will be held on Monday, January 13 at 6:30 p.m. in the church library.

BOARD OF TRUSTEES MEETING . . .
will be held on Monday, January 13 at 6:30 p.m. in the church parlor.

ANNUAL CONGREGATIONAL MEETING . . .
is scheduled for Sunday, January 26. Please remember all committee year-end reports must be turned in by Friday, January 17 to be included in the 2013 Year-end Report Booklet.

WINTER SCHEDULE . . .
please be advised that we follow Hancock County Schools' schedule, if school is closed due to the weather the church will be closed that evening. Please contact the church office to reschedule your meeting or activity.

WINTER BREAK . . .
Thursday's Brown Bag Bible Study is taking a short break. The study will resume in March.

2014 OFFERING ENVELOPES . . .
are available in the narthex. Please pick up your box and any neighbor's or friend's that you can deliver.

FOOD PANTRY . . .
is bare.  Thirty food baskets were distributed to area individuals to aide them with Christmas.  We are asking that you help us to replenish the pantry, if you
 can donate an item or two it would be greatly appreciated. We are in need of all types of noodles, macaroni and cheese, noodle or rice side dishes and spaghetti sauce.

DOORS . . .
with the change in the weather we ask that you please check to be sure the door s are closed when you enter or leave the building.  Hopefully this will help with the heating costs.

A SPIRITUAL MESSAGE . . .
can be found by calling 304-748-7900 Cove's Prayer Line. You can call at anytime to hear a message by Rev. Rudiger. The messages are changed every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.  You can also hear the devotion at covepresbyterian.podbean.com and iTunes (search Cove Presbyterian). You can also read the devotion at www.thecovecommunity.blogspot.com.

WE WILL BE UPDATING OUR PRAYER CHAIN . . .
regularly. If you wish to add someone to the prayer chain contact the church office.

DO YOU HAVE A NEW ADDRESS. . .
new phone number or new e-mail? Please contact the church office so we can update our records. We like to keep everyone informed of our events.  If you don't receive mailings,  we may not have your current and/or correct information.

GREETERS NEEDED . . .
if you would like to serve as a greeter before a Sunday morning worship service, please contact Bonnie Nichols at 304-723-5134.

OUR SERMONS ARE NOW AVAILABLE ON . . .
covepresbyterian.podbean.com and iTunes (search Cove Presbyterian).

WE ARE BLOGGING!
We now have five blogs that you can check out for information and on which you can leave comments. They're listed below:
The Cove Community (www.thecovecommunity.blogspot.com) - This is for the whole church. I'll post sermons and announcements. I also Invite y'all to send in material that you'd like to share with other members of the congregation. And please feel free to comment on anything you might read.
Cove Kids (www.covekids.blogspot.com) - This is tailored for the preteen young people in our church. Again I'll post announcements. You're also invited to send in any writings, photographs and art work you'd like to post. And they don't have to all deal with the church. We also post artwork from Jesus Time.
Bible Talk (www.cove-bibletalk.blogspot.com) - We've established this blog to give pastors and lay people the chance to discuss Scripture. The weekly passages are from the Common Lectionary, and we're posting the pastor's translation of the  Greek text. We want you to read any or all of the passages and to leave any comment or ask any question that you feel is appropriate. Please include any research you've done. As we share our ideas and insights, we hope that we'll all come to a better and deeper understanding of the Bible. Each passage is linked to a website that offers some informative information.
Let's Talk About It (www.cove-talk.blogspot.com) - Through this site, we hope to encourage a conversation on a variety of topics. Since this blog is sponsored by a church, we expect most of the issues to involve the Christian faith. Still we don't want to limit ourselves or you. If you have a topic that you'd like us to discuss, include it as a comment to a previous issue. Please phrase it as a question and offer a summary of at least two positions. We'll add a new item to discuss every three weeks. We hope this challenges you to apply your faith to issues that are important to you.
The Bible in a Year (www.cove-bibleinayear.blogspot.com) - Each day, we'll post passages so that you can read the Bible in one year.

IN THE HOSPITAL? HOMEBOUND? RECENT ILLNESS?
if you are unable to attend services and would like to arrange for a visit from Rev. Ed Rudiger please contact the church office. Also if you would like to receive copies of the Sunday Bulletin contact the church office.

LOOSE CHANGE OFFERING . . .
Session approved the Deacons collecting a "Loose Change Offering" that will be used to assist the Deacons with their utility assistance outreach program for Weirton residents or Cove Church members. We hope church members can help with the assistance program by donating some of their spare change. A container is  in the Narthex for your contribution. The Deacons thank you for your support of their projects.

IF YOU DON'T PLAN TO TAKE YOUR BULLETIN HOME . . .
feel free to drop it in the purple container at the back door so that it can be recycled.

VASES OF FLOWERS. . .
can be purchased for a service. The cost is  $16.00 a vase.  You may also purchase silk flowers or live plants, the choice is yours. The  flower calendar is located on the far wall in the church narthex or you can telephone the church office to place your order. After the service, the flowers will be placed in a plastic vase for you to take with you.

ONGOING MISSION PROJECTS . . .
Campbell's Labels are being collected by the Presbyterian Women for the Weirton Christian Center.  The labels including the bar code or just the bar code can be dropped off in the container located in the main  hallway downstairs.
Greeting Cards are being collected. Please drop off your Greeting Cards or just the front of the card in the box located in the main hallway downstairs. The cards are being sent to St. Jude's  Ranch to be remade into cards to be sold in their gift shop.  FYI . .. .Hallmark, Disney or American Greeting Cards can not be accepted as they are trade marked.
Can Tabs are being collected for the Ronald McDonald House in Morgantown, West Virginia. Deposit your tabs in the container locate in the main hallway downstairs.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Sunday's Minute for Mission - Columbia Theological Seminary

Columbia Theological Seminary students, faculty, and staff helped stop hunger during Lent. Photo by Katie Archibald-WoodwardI  wonder if the wise men got hungry as they journeyed home along another road, bypassing Herod and his henchmen. Perhaps Mary and Joseph experienced hunger as they fled Bethlehem for Egypt and later traveled into Galilee. Imagine what it was like for them, protecting their infant son as they sought shelter and safety. The risks they took fulfilled the promises of Scripture. What an amazing story!
In these days of holiday excess and indulgence, it may be hard for us to imagine hunger. But as Jesus-followers, we are encouraged to care for the sick and feed the hungry. At Columbia Theological Seminary, where we seek to educate imaginative, resilient leaders for God’s changing world, we take this call seriously. During Lent 2012, the Student Coordinating Council and the Outreach Committee engaged students, faculty, and staff in a service project focused on alleviating hunger. We prayed, worked in food banks, and pledged to donate a dollar a day to Stop Hunger Now, an international aid group. Working during community coffee hour on Thursdays, we made more than 330 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the people served by Central Outreach and Advocacy Center here in Atlanta. We give thanks for being able to be part of God’s ongoing story.
—Sarah F. Erickson, M.Div. (2003), D.Ed.Min. (2010), Columbia Theological Seminary

A New Devotion on Cove's Prayer - The Women of Christmas

You can also find a podcast of this sermon at http://covepresbyterian.podbean.com/ or iTunes (Cove Presbyterian Church).

Luke 1:39-56 

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord." 

And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever." And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.


A Devotion by Linda Jeffrey (Kentucky, USA)

As a widow, I struggle after the holidays. The family has been together, and I have stayed up too late and entertained too much. Now I have to go back to work, and the aura of festivity is overtaken by Kentucky’s gray skies. Yet when I read through the Christmas stories again, I find my spirit renewed. In particular, I am struck by the bravery and joy of the women of the Christmas narrative. Upright and devout, Elizabeth had spent a lifetime longing for a child, perhaps wondering if God had forgotten her. Mary, a young girl full of the excitement of new birth and the dedication of her firstborn son, was taken aback by Simeon’s declaration that a sword would pierce her heart. Anna the prophetess, whose marriage ended in her husband’s death after only seven years, had spent the rest of her life serving God in the temple at Jerusalem. And one day, when she was very old, she saw Jesus. These women were the first to really know — firsthand — about the birth of a Savior. These women declared God’s goodness and authority though each had endured the agony of unfulfilled dreams. What examples they are for us in this season! They overcame personal sorrows and received the best gift of all. 

From The Upper Room.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Sermon for Christmas Eve - Reading the Christmas Story Again for the First Time

You can also find a podcast of this sermon at http://covepresbyterian.podbean.com/ or iTunes (Cove Presbyterian Church).

Luke 2:1-20

About that time Emperor Augustus gave orders for the names of all the people to be listed in record books. These first records were made when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to go to their own hometown to be listed. So Joseph had to leave Nazareth in Galilee and go to Bethlehem in Judea. Long ago Bethlehem had been King David’s hometown, and Joseph went there because he was from David’s family.

Mary was engaged to Joseph and traveled with him to Bethlehem. She was soon going to have a baby, and while they were there, she gave birth to her first-born son. She dressed him in baby clothes and laid him on a bed of hay, because there was no room for them in the inn.

That night in the fields near Bethlehem some shepherds were guarding their sheep. All at once an angel came down to them from the Lord, and the brightness of the Lord’s glory flashed around them. The shepherds were frightened. But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid! I have good news for you, which will make everyone happy. This very day in King David’s hometown a Savior was born for you. He is Christ the Lord. You will know who he is, because you will find him dressed in baby clothes and lying on a bed of hay.” Suddenly many other angels came down from heaven and joined in praising God. They said:
“Praise God in heaven!
Peace on earth to everyone who pleases God.”

After the angels had left and gone back to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see what the Lord has told us about.” They hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and they saw the baby lying on a bed of hay.

When the shepherds saw Jesus, they told his parents what the angel had said about him. Everyone listened and was surprised. But Mary kept thinking about all this and wondering what it meant. As the shepherds returned to their sheep, they were praising God and saying wonderful things about him. Everything they had seen and heard was just as the angel had said.


Reading the Christmas Story Again for the First Time

Of course, this is Christmas Eve, and so naturally the passage for tonight is the Christmas story from Luke. Now, I think we all know it pretty well. I mean, even if we haven’t cracked our Bibles for years, we still know all about it. As a matter of fact, it’s hard to miss. Good night, even though there’s supposed to be a war on Christmas, the birth of Jesus is all over the place. For example, every morning since before Thanksgiving, I’ve driven by a Nativity scene in front of the Millsop Community Center, right beside the giant Santa Claus. And I’ve got to tell, on those days when we’ve had snow on the ground, I’ve kind of felt sorry for baby Jesus. And with all the Christmas cards we’ve received and number of times I’ve seen “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, well, let’s just say the story has been imprinted on my brain.

But you know, I did something this morning that I’m not sure I’ve done in a long time. I think you could say that I read the story again, for the first time. And when I did, two things just kind of jumped out at me, and it’s those impressions that I want to share with y’all this evening, because, I’ll tell you, I think they both say a lot about how we can celebrate Christmas and what we can choose do the after the holiday.

You see, first, I was struck by the simplicity of the birth. I mean, it’s hard to see anything spectacular in what happened in Bethlehem. We’ve got a man and woman doing what all kinds of folks have been doing for centuries; they were obeying a law from the Roman I.R.S. But instead of filing their 1040s, they were heading to the ancestral home of Joseph to be listed. Of course, the woman is pregnant, but instead of settling into the local Holiday Inn or Trinity West, they had to sleep with the animals, in a barn. And it was there, amid the mows and bleats that Mary had her baby. And she did the best she could to wrap him up. And then she laid him in a feeding troth. Now that’s what happen, and even though we’ve been kind of conditioned to see something dramatic in that scene, you know, like talking animals and light shooting from the trough, I’m guessing that in first century Judea, a backwater client kingdom of the Roman Empire, the only thing really remarkable was that the child was born alive. It was simple with a capital “S”.

And you know, as we remember this birth, maybe this simplicity can be a part of our celebration and our lives. Now I know, Christmas 2013 is pretty much set, and I’m not going to suggest that y’all need to go home and change everything you’ve planned to do. Not only would that be wrong but really a waste of time. But you know, after the gifts are opened and the meal eaten, and once the decorations are down and the bills come due, maybe we can integrate some of this simplicity into our lives. I mean, do we really need all the stuff we bought for ourselves last year, you know, stuff we’re still paying for? And do we really need to compete for the best and the brightest of everything? And if we’re called before God, do we really have a good excuse for why we haven’t done more to feed the hungry and provide drink for the thirsty? I’ve got to tell you, I don’t think I do. You see, remembering Christ’s birth, maybe we can live more simply. That’s one thing that struck me.

And the second, well, while the birth itself was simple, the announcement was anything but. I mean, we’ve got angels and choirs. We’ve got a heavenly host singing and humble shepherds praising. Man, this is a big deal, majestic, something that would make a great 3D movie.The announcement was something to behold.

And I’ll tell you, that’s something else we can work into who we are. You see, even though our lives may reflect simplicity, our praise for God can be extreme to the max. And instead of being real quiet when it comes to sharing what we believe, we communicate the love and mercy of God with energy and enthusiasm and joy. In other words, we can convey to others, particularly to those who know almost nothing about who God is and what he’s done for us, well, we can let them know that we’re actually happy to be Christians and we want them to be happy, too. And that’s the second thing that hit me as I read this passage again.

And you know something, I’m really glad I did that this morning. I mean, I’m glad that I opened up Luke 2 again and read this old, old story, because in it, the Spirit enabled me to appreciate the simplicity and the majesty of what happened. And I’ll tell you, that wouldn’t have occurred if I hadn’t read the Christmas story again for the first time.

A New Devotion on Cove's Prayer Line - Christmas Eve

You can also find a podcast of this devotion at http://covepresbyterian.podbean.com/ or iTunes (Cove Presbyterian Church).


Isaiah 61:1-4 

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion – to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, to display his glory. They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. 


A Devotion by Melanie Gordon (Tennessee, USA)

I remember my mother’s last Christmas Eve. I spent the day with her in her hospital room; and after the worship service at night, friends accompanied me to the hospital. One person pulled out his guitar, and we sang “Silent Night, Holy Night.” My mother, who had not spoken in days, began to sing softly and clearly, “all is calm, all is bright.” Stunned and overwhelmed, we continued, singing “Joy to the World.” I remember the peace on my mother’s face as we gathered around her hospital bed and sang songs about the coming of our Lord and God. Christmas joy is not a given for those who mourn the loss of a parent, child, sibling, or good friend. Looking at an empty place at the table brings unimaginable pain, pain that is deep and not always fleeting. Such pain rooted in suffering will come, as it should; but so will joy. Joy came to us in the birth of God’s love — love so divine that I now find joy in Christ’s presence with me even as I look at the space on the couch where my mother sat every Christmas day. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Sunday's Sermon - What’s in a Name?

You can also find a podcast of this devotion at http://covepresbyterian.podbean.com/ or iTunes (Cove Presbyterian Church).

Isaiah 7:10-16

And again the Lord spoke to Ahaz saying: “Ask for a sign from the Lord your God, ask from the deep or above the heights.” And Ahaz said, “I will not ask and will not test the Lord.” And he said, “Hear, then, House of David, is it a small thing for you to tire mortals that you also tire my God? Therefore, my lord will give to you a sign, behold, a young woman will conceive and give birth to a son and she will name him “With Us Is God.” Curds and honey he will eat. He will know to reject evil and choose good, because before the youth knows how to reject evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you feel loathing will be forsaken.”

What’s in a Name?

Now, I think almost everybody knows something about the story of Romeo and Juliet, you know, about how they fell in love even though, deep down, we know that they were doomed from the start because they were members of two warring families, the Montagues and the Capulets. Well, to show that she loves the man and not his name or family, Juliet says to Romeo, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Of course, right here, in that one line, Shakespeare encapsulates the central struggle and ultimately the tragedy of the play. And even though, I think without any question, this is one of his most famous lines, I’m not sure it’s entirely true. I mean, even though a rose would always smell nice, I’m not sure it would smell as sweet if it were called “stink bush” or “puss weed.” You see what I mean? Although names may not say it all, I think it’s hard to get around the fact that they’re still pretty important.

For example, take some of the stuff that surrounds Christmas. Suppose that instead of being named Santa Claus, the big guy in the red suit had the same name as that punk rocker, Sid Vicious. And suppose his reindeers weren’t named Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen but instead, like Bob Dylan put at the end of his version of “Must Be Santa”: “Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon... Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton”. And suppose, the guys that Santa hangs with weren’t called “elves” but rather suffers of an “autosomal dominant genetic disorder.” You kind of lose some of those warm and fuzzy feelings, don’t you? You see, names are important.

And that even applies to the personal names we all carry around. In fact, that’s really what they were intended to do, to tell other folks something about us. For example, in the day, if you met a person named “Taylor” or “Smith” or “Weaver,” you already knew how the family probably earned a living. Or if their name was “Hill” or “Bush” or “Stone,” it might tell you a little about the kind place they lived. Good night, a name like “Brown” or “Whitehead”, “Young” or “Longfellow” might tell you about the kind of people from whom they might have come. And these are the family names. Just think about the given names. My gosh, if you name a little girl “Faith” or “Prudence” or “Charity,” you’re really expressing a hope, aren’t you? Of course, it can also point to a coming reality, in which case instead of James, which means “supplanter” or “thief” (thanks mom and dad), and Edward, which means “wealthy protector”; my parents probably should have named me Calvin, which means “hair challenged”,or  “bald”. You see, that’s what names represent. 

And I’ll tell you, they can also shape what you do in the future. I mean, I’m guessing that the daughter of a former governor of Texas was destined to have had some weight issues; her name was Imma Hogg. And Dr. Ulysses William Croak will probably have a hard time getting patients, and Mr. Ernie Coli should probably not open a restaurant. You see, names can tell us a lot about who a person is and what he might end up doing.

And I mention all that because of the scripture we’ve got in front us of us today. Now, before I say anything else, I need to mention two things about this passage from Isaiah. First, when he wrote, “...behold, a young woman will conceive and give birth to a son and she will name him ‘With Us Is God’”, I don’t know if the prophet had baby Jesus in mind. Given the rest of the passage, it seems likely that he was, at the very least, also writing about a situation facing Judah when he lived. And second, that show on the History Channel is right, in Hebrew, the word does mean “young woman” or “maiden”. When Greek-speaking Jews translated it over two thousand years ago, they used a word that means “virgin”. Now, having said that, I don’t think either of these things makes any difference at all, because whether Isaiah intended it or not, Christians relate what he wrote here to the Virgin Mary’s son. I mean, that’s certainly what’s happening in Matthew, when the evangelist wrote, “‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,’ which means, ‘God is with us.’” 

And because we believe in this connection, in other words, because we believe that this child really is Emmanuel or as Isaiah wrote, “With Us Is God”, this name does for him what our names used to do for us. You see, Emmanuel tells us precisely who Jesus was and exactly what he came to do. He brought in our time and space the very presence, the very reality of God. And he did it by doing what Paul described in his letter to the Philippians; he wrote about Jesus saying that “...he was in the form of God, [but] did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.” The evangelist John ended up saying the same thing, but in a different way, when he wrote, “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.” You see, in that way, Jesus is Emmanuel.

And I’ll tell you, that’s exactly what he continues to do and to be. He continues to bring the presence of God, and I’m talking about the love and the grace and the mercy of God, right into our lives. Why? Because he’s still Emmanuel. It’s like Jesus said right before his arrest and crucifixion, “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” You see, it’s the Holy Spirit that brings into our lives, man, our very being the reality of Jesus Christ, uniting us in his life, death and resurrection. And through that unity, we know that God is always with us. You see, that’s what he came to do. And for that reason, I don’t think there’s any accident that, according to Matthew, in his last conversation with his disciples, Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” I’m telling you, Jesus was and is Emmanuel, that’s who he was and what he continues to be.

And brothers and sisters, because of that we, as believers, can do something that’s almost impossible for the rest of the world. Man, we can actually feel peace in the present and hope as we move into the future. Now tell me that’s not different. I mean, we’re suppose to be afraid, aren’t we? Good night, that’s what people on television tell us all the time. We’re suppose to be afraid of either big government or big business, depending on the network from which we get our impartial news. We’re suppose to assume that the kids who we just passed on the street are playing “The Knock Out Game”, or that the distracted guy who’s walking toward us is actually angry at the entire world and is carrying a semiautomatic gun. Good night nurse, we’re damned whether we say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” because we’re either callously disregarding the feelings of people who don’t share our faith or joining with the humanists and directly attacking Christmas. And I haven’t even mentioned expressing an opinion about Phil Robertson, who’s now either a martyr or a bigot. Somebody is out to get us. Man, we’re told to be afraid, very afraid. But you know, that’s mighty hard to feel, if we believe that Jesus is really Emmanuel and that God is still with us. I mean, how can we give into fear, when we believe that there are always two sets of foot prints in the sand, and that the last time I looked, neither Bill O’Reilly nor Chris Matthews is more powerful than God almighty. My gosh, we’re talking about the same one who walked on water and cast out demons. Somehow I don’t think he’s going to be thrown by Obamacare or the Second Amendment. We have no reason to be afraid. 

And because of that, we have every reason to work together to make this world a better place. Now, I’m not stupid; I recognize that we may all have different ideas about what that would look like and about how we might get there. But I’ll tell you, I think all our visions have more points of contact than we might think. In other words, like Jesus said, I think we all want the hungry fed and the thirsty given something to drink. I think we all want the stranger to be welcomed and the naked clothed. And I think we all want to the sick cared for and the prisoner visited. Now, if we’re working alone, you know, on our own, we’ll get some of that done. But just think about it, if we’re working together, I’m telling you, the sky’s the limit. And we can do it, because Jesus is Emmanuel.

Although they probably don’t have all the meaning they had in the past, names are still important to us. I know, we named our daughter Margaret Elaine for my great-grandmother and for Debbie’s mother. You see, it was important to honor both our families. And if she’d been a boy, his name would have been Clay Shadiow for the exact same reason, because for us, the name was important. And I’ll tell you, I think you can say the same thing for the name offered by both Isaiah and Matthew, a name that we apply to Jesus. You see, that’s why he came and what he does. He really is “God With Us.” And because of that, we can live in the present without fear and work together to make the future even better. You see, when you’re talking about Emmanuel, well, that’s exactly what’s in that name. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A New Devotion on Cove's Prayer Line - Don’t Miss This Banquet!

You can also find a podcast of this devotion at http://covepresbyterian.podbean.com/ or iTunes (Cove Presbyterian Church).

John 6:35-40 

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.”

A Devotion by Donna H. Eliason (Washington, USA)

Every spring the farmer who owns the field next to our home spends several days planting seeds. When he leaves, hundreds of honking geese fly in and start eating. I imagine them saying, “Tell all the geese to come. This banquet is too good to miss. Here’s our opportunity to stuff ourselves.” We love to watch them crowd together and then eat and eat. It’s amazing that any seeds survive, but the farmer still has a good harvest in the fall. Jesus also calls people everywhere to come to his banquet. He doesn’t want anyone left behind or unaware of the awesome opportunities and privileges that come to those who love and follow him. We should be more excited than the geese and eager to tell our family, friends, acquaintances, and even strangers about his promises and love. As we pray about opportunities to share this good news, God will give us the wisdom and opportunities to do so. 

From The Upper Room.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Cove's Bulletin for Sunday, December 22, 2013

Below is a copy of our Sunday bulletin. During the service, we’ll focus on what it means to call Jesus “Emmanuel.”









Prayer Requests, to be shared during Sunday’s worship service

On Sunday, December 22, Cove Presbyterian Church will lift to God the following needs.

Adults
Annette Goff
Audrey Vincent
Barbara Maze
Bill Phillips
Brett Hannah
Bruce Oiler
Carol Mowl
Charles Saffle
Cindi Livingston
Conrad Criss
Dee Campbell
Diane Szymanek
Doug Haller
Elisa Archer
Emery Edwards
Ethlyn Dellaria
Evan Pulice
Gen Meyer
George Bownlee
Hattie Black Marcum
Jack Hatala
James Woolfolk
Jamie Edwards
Jean Jeffrey
Jeanne Buffington Rowland
Jen's Mom
Joan Gallagher
Jodi Kraina
John Schlotter
Jonathan Serafine
Justin Vogel
Kelly Stephens
Manuel Fraga
Maria Drennan
Marjie Dinges
Mary Ellen Grove
Marybeth Lewis
Matthew Kirtley
Megan Dughton
Mike Churchman
Mike Terri
Patricia Mitchell
Paul Walch
Pauline Oiler
Randy Willson
Robb Starck
Robert Hans
Robert Krupp
Ronnie Buffington
Rose Bell
Rose Sanders
Roxanne Baker
Sally Marple
Sam Bosnic
Sharon Johnson
Shirley Everhart Kirtley
Stacy Jo Vogel
Stanley Smoleski
Steve Zubay
Susan Ponville
Susie Kurcina
The Ingram Family
Tim Bradley
Wink Harner

Children
Aksel Ace
Audri King
Daniel Marchione
Devon Bragg
Eliza Mazezka
Jeffrey Konovich
Jonathan Marte
Justin McKinney
Kade Haines
Kya Schwertfeger
Lily Ghrist
Mallory Rosnick
Michael Liptak
Robbie Lucas
Shelby Kamarec

Military
Isaac Stephens
Jason Kerr
Jonathan Criss
Lisa Burk
Michael Criss

Hospital
Paul & Virginia Welch – Weirton Medical Center
Richard Spencer – Lifeline Hospital

Bereaved
The Gallaugher Family on the passing of Joan Gallaugher

Church Families
Thelma Longacre
Deana & Jenna Maine
Hugh & Phyllis Manley

Local Church
St Mary’s Byzantine Church

Special Friend
Dolores Edwards – Room 114, 100 Wyngate Dr., Weirton, WV  26062-5048

Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery Congregations
Bethel Presbyterian Church, Salineville, Ohio – Rev. Ted Ludwig
Calvary Presbyterian Church, Salineville, Ohio – CRE Frank Bohach

Also Remember in Your Prayers
Alice & Kenny Orr – Weirton Geriatric Center, 2525 Pennsylvania Ave., Weirton, WV 26062
Betty Morgan – Woodland Hills, 608 N 10th Street, Weirton, WV  26062
Bob Morgan – Weirton Geriatric Center, 2525 Pennsylvania Ave., Weirton, WV 26062
Charles Saffle – 100 Wyngate Dr., Wyngate, Weirton, WV 26062
Conrad Criss – 100 Wyngate Dr., Wyngate, Weirton, WV 26062
Dolores Edwards – 100 Wyngate Dr., Wyngate, Weirton, WV 26062
Eleanor Dueley – Brightwood Center, 840 Lee Ridge Rd., Follansbee, WV 26037

What's Happening at Cove Presbyterian Church?

Below are the announcements as they appear in Sunday’s bulletin.

DON’T FORGET SUNDAY SCHOOL  . . .
we meet every Sunday morning at 9:45 a.m.  Think about trying out one of our  classes.

OUR NURSERY FOR CHILDREN . . .
(infant thru five years) is open during Sunday School and the Worship Service. We still need some volunteer help.  We thank those of you in advance who help to care for the future members of our Cove Family.

CHANCEL CHOIR . . .
will be practicing on Sunday mornings at 10:00 a.m. in the choir room for the next few weeks.

THE CHURCH AND OFFICE WILL BE CLOSED . . .
Tuesday thru Thursday, December 24, 25 & 26. Happy Holidays!

CHRISTMAS EVE CANDLELIGHT SERVICE
will be held this Tuesday, December 24 beginning at 6:00 p.m.

OUR SYMPATHY . . .
is extended to the family of Joan Gallagher who died on Thursday, December 12, 2013. Joan was a faithful member of the Cove Family joining on December 12, 1965.

WINTER BREAK . . .
Thursday’s Brown Bag Bible Study is taking a short break. The study will resume in March.

2014 OFFERING ENVELOPES . . .
are available in the narthex. Please pick up your box and any neighbor’s or friend’s that you can deliver.

CHRISTMAS JOY INSERTS . . .
are being included in the bulletin thru today. This special offering is shared by the Assistance Program of the Board of Pensions and Presbyterian-related racial ethnic schools and colleges for education.  The inserts indicate how monies previously donated have been used.  Envelopes will be included in your  bulletin today and on  Christmas Eve for your contribution.

FOOD PANTRY . . .
is bare.  Thirty food baskets were distributed to area individuals to aide them with Christmas.  We are asking that you help us to replenish the pantry, if you can donate an item or two it would be greatly appreciated. We are in need of all types of noodles, macaroni and cheese, noodle or rice side dishes and spaghetti sauce.

DOORS . . .
with the change in the weather we ask that you please check to be sure the door s are closed when you enter or leave the building.  Hopefully this will help with the heating costs.

A SPIRITUAL MESSAGE . . .
can be found by calling 304-748-7900 Cove’s Prayer Line. You can call at anytime to hear a message by Rev. Rudiger. The messages are changed every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.  You can also hear the devotion at covepresbyterian.podbean.com and iTunes (search Cove Presbyterian). You can also read the devotion at www.thecovecommunity.blogspot.com.

WE WILL BE UPDATING OUR PRAYER CHAIN . . .
regularly. If you wish to add someone to the prayer chain contact the church office.

DO YOU HAVE A NEW ADDRESS. . .
new phone number or new e-mail? Please contact the church office so we can update our records. We like to keep everyone informed of our events.  If you don’t receive mailings,  we may not have your current and/or correct information.

GREETERS NEEDED . . .
if you would like to serve as a greeter before a Sunday morning worship service, please contact Bonnie Nichols at 304-723-5134.

OUR SERMONS ARE NOW AVAILABLE ON . . .
covepresbyterian.podbean.com and iTunes (search Cove Presbyterian).

WE ARE BLOGGING!
We now have five blogs that you can check out for information and on which you can leave comments. They're listed below:
The Cove Community (www.thecovecommunity.blogspot.com) - This is for the whole church. I'll post sermons and announcements. I also Invite y'all to send in material that you'd like to share with other members of the congregation. And please feel free to comment on anything you might read.
Cove Kids (www.covekids.blogspot.com) - This is tailored for the preteen young people in our church. Again I'll post announcements. You're also invited to send in any writings, photographs and art work you'd like to post. And they don't have to all deal with the church. We also post artwork from Jesus Time.
Bible Talk (www.cove-bibletalk.blogspot.com) - We've established this blog to give pastors and lay people the chance to discuss Scripture. The weekly passages are from the Common Lectionary, and we're posting the pastor's translation of the  Greek text. We want you to read any or all of the passages and to leave any comment or ask any question that you feel is appropriate. Please include any research you've done. As we share our ideas and insights, we hope that we'll all come to a better and deeper understanding of the Bible. Each passage is linked to a website that offers some informative information.
Let's Talk About It (www.cove-talk.blogspot.com) - Through this site, we hope to encourage a conversation on a variety of topics. Since this blog is sponsored by a church, we expect most of the issues to involve the Christian faith. Still we don't want to limit ourselves or you. If you have a topic that you'd like us to discuss, include it as a comment to a previous issue. Please phrase it as a question and offer a summary of at least two positions. We'll add a new item to discuss every three weeks. We hope this challenges you to apply your faith to issues that are important to you.
The Bible in a Year (www.cove-bibleinayear.blogspot.com) - Each day, we'll post passages so that you can read the Bible in one year.

IN THE HOSPITAL? HOMEBOUND? RECENT ILLNESS?
if you are unable to attend services and would like to arrange for a visit from Rev. Ed Rudiger please contact the church office. Also if you would like to receive copies of the Sunday Bulletin contact the church office.

LOOSE CHANGE OFFERING . . .
Session approved the Deacons collecting a “Loose Change Offering” that will be used to assist the Deacons with their utility assistance outreach program for Weirton residents or Cove Church members. We hope church members can help with the assistance program by donating some of their spare change. A container is  in the Narthex for your contribution. The Deacons thank you for your support of their projects.

IF YOU DON’T PLAN TO TAKE YOUR BULLETIN HOME . . .
feel free to drop it in the purple container at the back door so that it can be recycled.

VASES OF FLOWERS. . .
can be purchased for a service. The cost is  $16.00 a vase.  You may also purchase silk flowers or live plants, the choice is yours. The  flower calendar is located on the far wall in the church narthex or you can telephone the church office to place your order. After the service, the flowers will be placed in a plastic vase for you to take with you.

ONGOING MISSION PROJECTS . . .
Campbell’s Labels are being collected by the Presbyterian Women for the Weirton Christian Center.  The labels including the bar code or just the bar code can be dropped off in the container located in the main  hallway downstairs.
Greeting Cards are being collected. Please drop off your Greeting Cards or just the front of the card in the box located in the main hallway downstairs. The cards are being sent to St. Jude’s  Ranch to be remade into cards to be sold in their gift shop.  FYI . .. .Hallmark, Disney or American Greeting Cards can not be accepted as they are trade marked.
Can Tabs are being collected for the Ronald McDonald House in Morgantown, West Virginia. Deposit your tabs in the container locate in the main hallway downstairs.

Surviving the Holiday Hustle with Purpose and Peace

Well, we’re coming in for a landing. In less than a week, it’ll all be over. Using a line from How the Grinch Stole Christmas, we’ll be past the “...packages, boxes [and] bags.” The ornaments on the tree won’t be shining quiet so brightly. The only things life on the cookie tray will be the one’s that either look wonderful but taste like sand and those that just didn’t turn out this year. And we’ll be tired. Oh my goodness, we’ll be tired and ready for a look winter’s nap.

But before we rush toward the 25th, I think it might be worth our while to pause for just a second and remember how Jesus was born. I mean, Christ didn’t come with “Pop guns! And bicycles! Roller skates! Drums! Checkerboards! Tricycles! Popcorn! And plums!” And he certainly didn’t come with “...NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!” No, the creator of the universe, the infinite and eternal God entered his creation as a baby, to simple parents, in just another client kingdom of the Roman Empire. In other words, he wasn’t surrounded by the flourish that’s become an important part of our Christmas celebration. And although I don’t think there’s anything wrong with all the stuff we do this time of year, it seems important that, at some point, we sit down, brew a cup of tea, and think about the reason for the season. And then, when we go back to the holiday hustle, we just might carry with us a renewed sense of purpose and peace.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A New Devotion on Cove's Prayer Line - Hope in the Arms of Jesus

You can also find a podcast of this devotion at http://covepresbyterian.podbean.com/ or iTunes (Cove Presbyterian Church).


Mark 10:13-16 

People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.


A New Devotion by Jerry W. Krueger (Texas, USA)


It was during the Advent season, a time that as a people of faith we joyfully prepare our hearts for the coming of the Christ child, and I had been asked to conduct the funeral for a two-year-old child. In this time of joy and anticipation for so many, this family and their close friends were experiencing heartbreak as they mourned a beloved child. The message I focused on during that service was from the Gospel of Mark, where the little children came to Jesus. I find comfort and assurance in knowing that just as Jesus received that two-year-old child into his eternal care, he takes us all into his arms. In the midst of sadness and loss, we can take comfort and find hope in knowing that Jesus is a constant companion to us all, even when we grieve. Christ is with us; we are never alone. He lifts us into his arms, and we are blessed.

From The Upper Room.

Minute for Mission - Christmas Joy Offering

Rev. Lemuel Garcia, his nephew Jasiel, and Lemuel’s father, Rev. Juan Garcia, at the Presbyterian Pan American School graduation
Rev. Lemuel Garcia, his nephew Jasiel,
and Lemuel’s father, Rev. Juan Garcia,
at the Presbyterian Pan American School graduation
In Isaiah 7:14, we find the familiar words, “Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.” In Matthew 1:23, we learn that this name means “God is with us.”
The recipients of the Christmas Joy Offering know that God is with them: those who served the church so faithfully in the past receive needed assistance, and new racial ethnic leaders are, with God’s help, formed to serve Christ in the world. Received throughout Advent and Christmas, this churchwide special offering is designed to prepare and care for church leaders in every generation. It provides assistance to active and retired church workers and their families through the Board of Pensions, and it also supports education at Presbyterian-related racial ethnic schools and colleges.
Historically, these racial ethnic schools and colleges have played an important role in preparing leaders for their vocational service in the church and society. And they still do. One of these leaders is Lemuel Garcia-Arroyo, a fourth-generation Presbyterian. When he was growing up in Mexico, his family had limited resources. He received a scholarship through funds from the Christmas Joy Offering to attend Presbyterian Pan American School in Kingsville, Texas, a secondary school related to the PC(USA). He later attended Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminaryand was ordained as a teaching elder. I met Rev. Garcia when he served as associate presbyter in the Synod of the Sun, and he quickly became a family friend and colleague. Leaders like Lemuel Garcia-Arroyo and countless others embody in their leadership and service the mission of the Christmas Joy Offering. Through Christmas Joy, we recognize that God is indeed with us.

Rhashell Hunter, director, Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries/Presbyterian Women

Responding to the crisis in South Sudan


Mothers, children, families need our prayers and support in a violent time
The Africa Office of World Mission is asking for prayer for the current crisis in South Sudan.
South Sudan nationals continue to suffer the effects of conflict, and following this week’s attempted coup and military action, thousands of civilians are seeking refuge, and the border has been closed.  The BBC reports that the hospital in Juba can no longer cope with the number of injured people being brought in.
Presbyterian World Mission staff members are in contact with the six mission co-workers currently serving in South Sudan.  All the mission personnel are safe.  Please pray for the mission co-workers, our South Sudanese church and ecumenical partners, and all South Sudanese people.  Learn more on the World Mission page for South Sudan.
PDA RESPONSE IN SOUTH SUDAN
This year through PRDA, PDA has supported a community based agriculture, water/sanitation, and food security program in Uror County.  A recent grant installment will continue to support our partner in their work to provide water, food, seeds and tools, shelter, community health training, and other necessities for those in Jonglei State who are displaced due to conflict.PDA has been working in partnership to support those in South Sudan who were displaced during years of war, those suffering the effects of ongoing violence, and those who have been returning home to seek peace.  In light of the current situation, PDA is in contact with our partners from Presbyterian Relief and Development Agency (PRDA), who are safe and eager to continue their ongoing projects supporting and strengthening communities exposed to conflict in South Sudan.
As part of this ongoing response, a 6 minute flash video has been prepared to share how Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is responding in partnership to assist the people of South Sudan. Watch “Responding in South Sudan.”
HOW YOU CAN HELP
You can stand in the GAP for the people of South Sudan and help the church with this response.
Give.  Share your financial blessings by designating gifts to DR000042-South Sudan.  Individuals may give through your local Presbyterian congregation, online, or by mailing a check to Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) P.O. Box 643700 Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700. 
Act.  Like us on facebook (PDAcares) and share updates with your congregation and others.
Pray.  Please pray for the mission co-workers, our South Sudanese church and ecumenical partners, and the people of South Sudan, that they will be strengthened, have their needs met, and be reminded of the enduring hope that is found in Christ.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A New Devotion on Cove's Prayer Line - A Tender Salvation

You can also find a podcast of this devotion at http://covepresbyterian.podbean.com/ or iTunes (Cove Presbyterian Church).

Psalm 121:1-8 

I lift up my eyes to the hills-- from where will my help come? 
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. 
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. 
He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 
The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand. 
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. 
The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. 
The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.

A Devotion by Bozhidarka Ivanova (Varna, Bulgaria)

One day a bird flew into our living room through an open door and was unable to find its way out. It became very frustrated and bumped against the ceiling until its head began to bleed. Finally, it stopped and perched on the curtain rod. My daughter slowly reached out with her hand and gently grasped the little bird. The bird then allowed my daughter to set it free. Similarly, God watches us when we rush into obstacles in life. These hardships, bad choices, and mistakes can cause damage and pain to our souls. In the midst of anguish and distress, we may not always feel the tender hand of our Creator who watches over us and helps us in the right moment. But if we have the wisdom to allow God to gently hold and guide us, our soul can be calmed as we experience God’s power.

From The Upper Room.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Sunday's Sermon - How Do You Sing “Joy to the World”?

Isaiah 35:1-10

The wilderness and the desert-plain will rejoice
and the gorge will exult and bud
as a meadow of saffron. It will bud abundantly
and exalt indeed with joy and ringing cries,
the glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
the honor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the Lord
the splendor of our God.

Make firm your slack hands,
and strengthen your tottering knees.
Say to those who have fearful hearts,
“Be strong, don’t be afraid,
behold, your God
will come with vengeance;
your God with recompense
he will come and save you.

Then the eyes of blind will be opened
and the ears of the deaf will be opened.
Then the lame will leap as a deer,
and the mute will give a ringing cry,
that in the wilderness
waters will break through and watercourses in the desert plain.
And the burning heat will become a pond,
and thirsty ground become springs of water,
in the habitation of jackals, where they recline,
there will be reeds and rushes.

And there will be a highway and a way,
a way of holiness it will be called,
the unclean will not pass it by,
and for them, those who go their own way
and fools will not stray.
A loin will not be there,
and violent animals that go up
will not be found there
and those who are being redeemed will go there.
And the ones being ransomed by the Lord will return
and they will enter into Zion and will give a ringing cry
and joy upon their heads;
elation and rejoicing they will reach
and they will escape grief and sighing.


How Do You Sing “Joy to the World”?

Now, as you can see, we’re going to end this service by singing “Joy to the World”. Now I realize that we sang it last week. And I could tell you, that this is all part of a master plan, sort of like the young minister who preached the same sermon for his first four Sundays. And when a frustrated member asked him why, he said that he’d preach a second the minute the congregation started acting like they’d heard the first. Now, I could say something like that, but the fact is, we probably wouldn’t have sung it last week, if I’d read this passage before doing the bulletin. I mean, with all the rejoicing and joy going on in these verses, what else can you sing?

But you know, I really don’t mind singing it again, because “Joy to the World” is one of my all-time favorite Christmas carols. But I’m not alone. According to this article I read last evening, as of the late 20th century, it was the most-published Christmas hymn in North America, appearing in 1,387 different hymnals. But you know, what’s interesting; it wasn’t intended to be a Christmas carol at all. The words were written by a good, English Reformed Christian named Isaac Watts, a person actually published about 750 hymns, and he based this one on the 98th Psalm. Now according to Watts, this was a hymn glorifying Christ’s triumphant return at the end of the age, not a carol celebrating his birth. Later, Lowell Mason adapted an older melody and applied it to the lyrics, and as a result, we’ve got the hymn that we all know and I really like so well.

But right there lies the problem, at least for me and those around me. You see, the Christmas carols I like, I enjoy singing really loud. You see the problem? Well, if you don’t, some Sunday, come up here to choir or better ask Maggie and you’ll know. I’ll tell you, there’s a reason nobody sits right beside up here during the service. I guess you could say that what I lack in pitch I make up with volume. But this isn’t a recent problem. I remember when I was a kid, every Christmas Eve, my mom’s family would all get together at my grandparent’s house. And dad would bring his guitar, and my sister who has an incredible voice would sit beside him and lead everybody in singing Christmas carols. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Well, my job was to turn the pages in the song book and NOT SING. I still bear the scars. Anyway, I learned to fight my natural instincts and sing the carols really softly so that I could enjoy the words and melody and so could everyone else in the room.

But I’ll tell you, given what Isaiah wrote in this passage, as it relates to “Joy to the World”, well, that’s probably not the right thing to do. I mean, I don’t think it was an accident that he wrote all this stuff about exalting “...with joy and ringing cries” and about how, on one future day, the people who “...will enter into Zion, [how they] will give a ringing cry and joy upon their heads; elation and rejoicing they will reach...” Now, the Hebrew word that I translated “ringing cry” had already been used by Isaiah when he wrote, “Your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise. O dwellers in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a radiant dew, and the earth will give birth to those long dead” and then later by the prophet Jeremiah, when he said, “They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord, over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; their life shall become like a watered garden, and they shall never languish again.” Now I don’t know about y’all, but it sure seems as though there’s going to be a lot of loud singing when this day comes.

And you know what, for Christians, the process that leads to all this, well, it started with the birth of Jesus Christ, the coming of the almighty, unlimited God who entered our time and space with all the weaknesses and limitations of a human being. Now that’s what we believe. You see, although our Jewish and Muslim friends would disagree, we believe that this passage is all about the one who was born in Bethlehem over two thousand years ago. You see, because he came, the very landscape will one day rejoice and sing out loud. Because he came, the glory and the riches of the world will be offered up. I’m tell you, because he came, because that baby was born, because that man lived and died and rose again, because he came, we can “...see the glory of Lord and the splendor of God.” As Isaiah wrote a little later in his prophecy, “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you.” Man, because Jesus came, that’s what Christian believe.

And that’s why we also believe that we really need to stand up and stand firm. I’m telling you this is all too important to be lolly gagging up there with shaky hands and knocking knees. This is no time for faint and fearful hearts. Because he came, man, we’ve got to be strong and fearless, because not only did God settle the hash of those who oppress and ignore, I’m talking about, those who put personal wants above human need, those who act as though they have the power and call the shots, not only will God destroy evil forever; in Christ, he also came to save, to deliver us. As Isaiah said a little earlier, “It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

You see, at Christmas, we acknowledge what God has done, but not just for us. Man, he’s done it for all creation. It’s sort of like that peaceable kingdom we read about last week. I’m telling you, with the coming of Christ, things started to change. I mean, just think about what he wrote: “Then the eyes of blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf will be opened. Then the lame will leap as a deer, and the mute will give a ringing cry, that in the wilderness waters will break through and watercourses in the desert plain. And the burning heat will become a pond, and thirsty ground become springs of water, in the habitation of jackals, where they recline, there will be reeds and rushes.” Now you tell me that this is not pretty good stuff here. “And there will be a highway and a way, a way of holiness it will be called, the unclean will not pass it by, and for them, those who go their own way and fools will not stray. A loin will not be there, and violent animals that go up will not be found there and those who are being redeemed will go there.” I’m telling you, no wonder Isaiah tied this all up by writing, “...and they will enter into Zion and will give a ringing cry and joy upon their heads; elation and rejoicing they will reach and they will escape grief and sighing.” Now this is what we believe, and I’ll tell you, this is what the coming of Christ is all about.

But I’ll tell you something else, since we believe all this has happened, is happening, and will continue to happen because Christ was born at Christmas, I think it’s more than appropriate that we share it with others and to share with all the energy and enthusiasm and volume we can muster. Of course, we can do that through the words we use. I mean, without being obnoxious or arrogant we can share with those around us what it means that God came to us on Christmas and through his Holy Spirit, his presence is still with us right now, moving and shaping his world, opening eyes and hearts that were once closed so that people can see and feel his glory. Man, we can sure do that through our words.

But you know, we can also do it through our works, and now I’m talking about the stuff we do. And even though it could involve money, it doesn’t have to. Yesterday, I ran across an article in the Huffington Post entitled “25 Random Acts Of Kindness To Share On The Anniversary Of The Sandy Hook Tragedy”, and along with stuff like paying for someone eating alone at a restaurant and then leaving before they realize you did it or paying the toll for someone behind you, we can sure do a whole bunch of other stuff, stuff like letting someone go in front of us in line or letting another person have the parking space we’ve been scoping out. We can compliment someone on what they’re wearing or we can help somebody who’s wrestling with a suit case or stroller. Good night, we can simply smile at the folks who pass us on the street or in the hall or at the mall. Now, I know none of this is huge, but I’ll tell you, something as simple and inexpensive as a smile or a compliment just might make a big difference in a person’s life and be a fitting way to convey the joy of Christmas to others. And this is something we can do loud and clear.

Sometimes I still feel a little bit inhibited when I sing Christmas carols. I mean, the spirit may be willing but the vocal chords are week. And that’s really OK, but not when I’m singing the last hymn of the service. And I’ll telling you, it shouldn’t be for y’all either. I mean, when we stand up in just a little bit, we can really belt out, “Joy to the world! The Lord is come; Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare Him room, And heaven and nature sing, And heaven and nature sing, And heaven and nature sing.” But whether we sing it loudly or not, we can still share the meaning with others, through both our words and works. You see, that’s how we can sing “Joy to the World” throughout the Christmas season.