Thursday, July 31, 2014

Sunday Minute for Mission: Homelessness/Affordable Housing

Home is the foundation for families. But according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, more than 7.1 million American households find even a modest rental home is unaffordable and unavailable. In the United States, families are too often faced with the choice of paying rent or buying groceries.
NHTF LogoThe National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) was established as a provision of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. The passage of NHTF legislation was a major victory for the lowest-income people in our country. The NHTF provides states and communities with funds to build, preserve, and rehabilitate rental homes that are affordable for extremely low-income households. Many states and localities have also established trust funds to complement efforts to address low-income housing concerns. To date, the NHTF has yet to be fully funded. Housing advocates are now seeking funding for the NHTF through mortgage interest deduction and housing finance reform, reestablishment of Freddie and Fannie contributions, and appropriations included in the 2014 federal budget.
To date, the NHT and its affiliates have accomplished much:
  • Helped to save more than 25,000 affordable apartments in 42 states
  • Preserved more than 5,700 affordable apartments through real-estate development
  • Helped to save nearly 7,000 affordable apartments through lending
  • Helped to save more than 13,300 affordable apartments through technical assistance
  • Made loans totaling more than $8.7 million
  • Leveraged more than $1 billion in financing

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has endorsed the NHT, as have 11 PC(USA) congregations and presbyteries. In addition, the PC(USA)’s Office of Public Witness is actively working to promote theNHTF
Douglas G. Grace, MDiv, STM, director, Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice

Let us pray

Dear Lord, thank you for the gift of shelter and home. Challenge us to find ways to extend this gift as we work together to create just, sustainable communities for all. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line – Behind the Long Straw

Below is a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. If you're interested in hearing this devotion, you can find a podcast at Podbean or iTunes (Cove Presbyterian Church).


Acts 1:15, 21-26

In those days Peter stood up among the believers (together the crowd numbered about one hundred twenty persons) and said, “...So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us - one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.” So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed and said, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.


Behind the Long Straw

I think this story is a perfect example of faith, one that can teach us a lot (no pun intended) about trusting God. Now the situation behind the story is clear. The believers were meeting after the ascension of Jesus Christ and before the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. When he was with them, Jesus appointed twelve people to be his apostles; but thanks to Judas’ betrayal, they’re one short. And so, to select a replacement, they cast lots. Now, according to the dictionary, in this context, “lots” is “one of a set of objects such as straws, stones, or pieces of paper that are randomly selected as part of a decision-making process.” And that’s exactly the kind of thing they used here. They used something like straws or stones to make their decision. But according to Luke, as they did it, it wasn’t random at all, because they believed that the Lord was shaping the decision; in other words, he was literally behind the long straw.  Now that reflected their faith.

And I think we can learn from their example. I mean, we can choose to see that God is always working behind the scenes, leading us in the direction he would have us go and teaching us the lessons we might need to learn. And I’ll tell you, when we make this decision to trust that he’s not only working but that he also loves us, we might be able to grow in some very unexpected ways.

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for July 31, 2014

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for July 31, 2014: Today our passages are 2 Chronicles 29:1-36; Romans 14:1-23; Psalm 24:1-10; and Proverbs 20:12 . The readings are from The Message...

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Bible Talk: The Lectionary Passages for Sunday, August 3, 2014...

Bible Talk: The Lectionary Passages for Sunday, August 3, 2014...: Below are NRSV translations of the lessons from the Psalms (Psalm 17:1-7, 15), Old Testament (Genesis 32:22-31), the Letters (Roman 9:1-5), ...

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for July 30, 2014

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for July 30, 2014: Today our passages are 2 Chronicles 26:1–28:27; Romans 13:1-14; Psalm 23:1-6; and Proverbs 20:11 . The readings are from The Messa...

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Situation Report - Unaccompanied Children

July 28
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) held a conference call on Friday, July 25 with all presbyteries along the U.S. Mexico border, The Office of Immigration also held a call on Friday with members of Presbyterians for Just Immigration. On both calls, the primary need expressed was legal representation to assist the children and families with filing an asylum claim and to help when it was time to appear in court. ContactImmigration Advocates Network , a network of nonprofit immigration lawyers, or partner with your local AILA chapter or bar association to recruit attorneys.
 Children with successful claims will receive status in the U.S. Some will not have a family in which to go. The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) is looking for Spanish-speaking foster placements. Information on becoming a foster family can be found through our ecumenical partner Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services.
 Several Presbyterian congregations in Texas and Arizona are providing or supporting humanitarian assistance for the children and families that includes overnight housing, food and other needs as they wait to be reunited with family in the U.S. Gift of the Heart Hygiene and School kits will be helpful for the congregations as they provide shower or bathing facilities and an activity for the children. How to make Gift of the Heart kits
 Church World Service (through whom PC(USA) engages in ministry to refugees) has been asked to provide chaplaincy services at the Family Residential (detention) Center in Artesia, NM, a temporary shelter for women and children who have crossed the border.  They are looking for volunteers to provide religious services with the children and women who are residents. Spanish language bibles and rosaries are also requested.  If this is something you may be interested in, please send a note topda@pcusa.org so your contact information can be passed on.
 PDA will continue to be involved on conference calls to learn more on how the faith community can minister to these children. We learned that, FEMA is requesting suggestions and offers of emergency shelter options across the country to house some of the children and families. View the requirements for a facility to be used as shelter. If you or someone in your congregation has a facility that meets that criterion, please email your recommendations to FEMA.

PDA Response

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) is working with congregations and mid councils along the border that are especially impacted by this situation as they minister to the needs, and with the Office of the General Assembly Immigration and the Office of Public Witness to identify specific advocacy needed to address this situation. We are also collaborating with our ecumenical and interfaith partners who have experience in working with refugees and immigrants and who are also responding to the growing crisis along the southern U.S. border.

How You Can Help

GIVE

Your financial gifts will strengthen the ability of Presbyterian congregations and mid councils to continue meeting needs during the immediate phase. The need for assistance is not likely to end in the short-term, and your gifts will help meet other needs that will likely manifest themselves in the foreseeable future.  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

Learn More
Advocate
  • Call on Congress to reject rollbacks to Child Protection Law (Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA). Read the letter to President Obama from Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, expressing concern for the protection of unaccompanied children and send a similar letter to your members of Congress. Find your congressional member
  • Ask for additional funding for the Office of Refugee Resettlement
  • Share these alerts with your friends, and ask them to take action as well.
Make Gift of the Heart kits
Consider putting together Gift of the Heart School Kits and Hygiene Kits. The contents of the kits are such that they would be useful, and by getting kits pre-positioned at the warehouse, they will be available for immediate shipment when it is known that they can be received. Get information on the kits.

PRAY

  • Pray for the protection of the children who have traveled hundreds of miles to escape the violence in their home countries. Pray for our government and community leaders that they may be compassionate in their response.
  • Use the new hymn - The Children Come, by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette or the prayer by Laurie Krausin your worship service.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Totes for Malawi

Reverend Picklen Chafulimira liked the tote he received on his visit here last year, and wished that the Church Women's Guild Members could each have one. See attached photo.

For those who have partnerships with churches in Malawi, you might care to send some to your partner churches. For those who have no partnerships, you might want to purchase some totes for the churches that may not be included in partnerships.

The cost is less than a dollar each. $35.00 would purchase about 50 totes. If interested, please e-mail Karen Edwards at ptookle@comcast.net or call her at 740-598-4794. Our Malawi Mission Team may be able to take some with them in September. Otherwise, we could send some next year when the Mission team from Malawi comes here.

Blessings and gratitude,

Karen Edwards

A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line – Behavior Has Consequences

Below is a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. If you're interested in hearing this devotion, call 1-304-748-7900. You can also find a podcast at Podbean or iTunes (Cove Presbyterian Church).


Judges 2:16-21

Then the LORD raised up judges, who delivered them out of the power of those who plundered them. Yet they did not listen even to their judges; for they lusted after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their ancestors had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the LORD; they did not follow their example. Whenever the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge, and he delivered them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the LORD would be moved to pity by their groaning because of those who persecuted and oppressed them. But whenever the judge died, they would relapse and behave worse than their ancestors, following other gods, worshiping them and bowing down to them. They would not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways. So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel; and he said, “Because this people have transgressed my covenant that I commanded their ancestors, and have not obeyed my voice, I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations that Joshua left when he died.”


Behavior Has Consequences

Behavior has consequences. Now, for me that seems obvious. I mean, if I choose to do something dangerous and/or stupid, I have only myself to blame when I get hurt. And if I choose to stretch the truth until is breaks, I’m probably not going to be consider trustworthy. And of course, if I choose to share information that people have shared in confidence, only a fool would be ready to spill his guts to me. Why? Dah, because behavior has consequences.

But having said that, I’m amazed at how many Christians believe that this principle doesn’t apply to them. In other words, they’ve gotten it in their heads that somehow, for some reason, God shields them from bad decisions they’ve made and irresponsible actions they’ve taken. Of course, as the Book of Judges indicates, that’s really not how God works. You see, as it was with Israel, what goes around, comes around, and that rebound can be rough. It’s just a fact of life. But here’s some good news: even though our behavior has consequences, the Father still loves us, the Son still died for us, and Holy Spirit is always close. That will never change, regardless of the dumb things that we do.

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for July 29, 2014

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for July 29, 2014: Today our passages are 2 Chronicles 24:1–25:28; Romans 12:1-21; Psalm 22:19-31; and Proverbs 20:8-10 . The readings are from The M...

Monday, July 28, 2014

Sunday's Sermon - Behind the Scenes

Below is a copy of the sermon I preached on Sunday Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia. You can also find a podcast of this sermon at Podbean or iTunes (Cove Presbyterian Church).


Genesis 29:15-28

Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?” Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were lovely, and Rachel was graceful and beautiful. Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.”

So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her. Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.” So Laban gathered together all the people of the place, and made a feast. But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her. (Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid.) When morning came, it was Leah!

And Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?” Laban said, “This is not done in our country—giving the younger before the firstborn. Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.” Jacob did so, and completed her week; then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as a wife.


Behind the Scenes

As most of y’all know, one of the problems with Summer vacation is that kids lose a lot of what they learned, you know, as they pass through those two and a half months of television and sleeping late, video games and sleeping late, pools and vacations and parks and, of course, sleeping late. Yesterday morning I got Maggie up before I went down to the church; I think it was about 9:45, and she told me that this was the earliest she gotten up all week. In fact, the day before she slept until 12:30, and that’s after going to bed at 11:30 the night before. I don’t know how she does it, but she does.

Anyway, because I know that my daughter might lose a lot during the eleven hours she’s awake each day and since she plans to attend Princeton sometime in the future (I’ll accept any donations to her college fund immediately after the service) and since she wants to study either medicine or biology, I thought I’d expose her to something that might help her in the future, something that might prepare her for her academy studies, you know, something educational that might broaden her knowledge of biology. And so on Monday afternoon, we went to see, I think it’s considered a documentary, the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, in 3D. And I’ve to tell you, it was amazing.

Now understand, I’ve seen all the original “Ape” movies. I mean, I went to the Planet of the Apes and then Beneath the Planet of the Apes. I did Escape from the Planet of the Apes and witnessed the Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, which strangely enough came before the Battle for the Planet of the Apes, which I also saw. I even suffered through Tim Burton’s remake; I didn’t like the talking humans and didn’t understand the end at all; and really enjoyed the Rise of the Planet of the Apes. But I’ve got to tell you, I’ve never seen anything like this. Man, I don’t care what you say, those apes sure looked real to me. And it didn’t take me long to suspend reality and just get into the flow.

And maybe that’s why it kind of surprised me when, on the way home, Maggie said, “It must have been really hard for those human actors when they were talking to the apes. I mean, they were talking to nobody, right?” And even though I wanted to say that they were talking to apes, dah; I didn’t, because it hit me that she was right. I mean, because the apes were all digital imagines, it must have been rough on those actors, reading their lines without anyone standing in front of them. Even though they might have been able to envision the final product, they were pretty much alone when they were making the movie.

And that loneliness, that isolation, well, I think that’s a lot like we feel as we’re living our lives. I mean, even if we believe in the Father and the Son and the Spirit, it’s pretty easy to feel sort of alone, isn’t it? Well, it is for me. Of course, I can tell you that in my life, there have been plenty of times when God feels like he’s right there. Man, I could almost touch him and at least for me, there was no question about whether or not he was present; he was. But I’ve got to be honest, there’ve been other times, when, well, when God didn’t feel quite so close. I know for me, sometimes it’s when something really bad or expected has happened, you know, like a death or getting laid off or finding that something I thought was securely hidden in the dark has suddenly been dragged into the light. But you know, sometimes I get the same feeling without a lot of drama and intrigue. I mean, I can feel it even when life seems boring and mundane, and I’m talking about a feeling of being alone and powerless, of being isolated and weak, of being like an actor trying to discuss with intensity or to respond emotionally to this big chimpanzee who’s really not there.

And even though I don’t think this kind of stuff has ever caused me to doubt the existence of God or even to question his presence in the universe, during those times, I think I can understand why our founding fathers tended to have what’s called a deistic view of God, you know, that God is sort of like this heavenly watchmaker who constructed the universe, wound it up and just stepped back to let it run on it’s own. But more important than that, I’ve got to tell you, when I’ve a hard time seeing God, man, that just makes me sad, because when you get down to it, I don’t want to feel alone. But sometimes that’s exactly how I feel.

And you know, if you’ve ever felt that way too, I think I have some good news for you. You see, I think there’s something we can actually do when we’re having a tough time seeing God in our lives and in our world and when that’s caused us to feel alone and powerless. And even though I don’t think it’s directly mentioned in the passage we read from Genesis, I definitely believe it’s implied in this story of Jacob, Laban and his two daughters. You see, when it seems as though God is anywhere other than right here, I think we can remember that regardless of what we may see, think or feel, God is always working behind the scenes. And I’ll tell you, I think remembering that involves doing three things that I want to share with you now.

I mean, when God seems a millions miles away, first, I think we can decide to trust that he’s still present whether we see him or not. In other words, we can to choose to believe. We can make up our minds that we’re going to have faith, because this is exactly what I believe faith is all about. It’s about a decision made over and over again. If y’all get those daily Bible readings e-mailed from the church or if you’re one of my Facebook friends, you know that every day I send out and post a verse with a couple of my related thoughts. And yesterday, this was the verse: “Faith makes us sure of what we hope for and gives us proof of what we cannot see.” And this is what I wrote, “I think we often confuse faith and knowledge. Knowledge involves certainty, while faith comes from trust. In other words, we show faith by stepping into a dark room, trusting that there’s floor on the other side of the door. Although we might be confident when we take that step, we’re not certain; we don’t know. Instead we believe; we trust; we have faith.” You see, regardless of what happens, we can decide to trust that God’s still present and involved. And I’ll tell you, that’s certainly something that’s assumed when we read this story from Genesis. I mean, even though God is never mentioned, we still know he’s there with Jacob, because that’s exactly where he promised to be. And even though it’s really hard to see anything divine in Laban pulling a “Jacob” on Jacob, because we’ve heard the rest of the story, we know that Leah, Rachel and their respective maids are going to bear the children of Israel and be the mothers of all twelve tribes. You see, even though his name isn’t splash around all over the place, God is still there, and he’s involved, something that we can trust when, in our own lives, God seems no where to be found. We can decide to trust that he’s still present whether we see him or not. That’s one thing we can do.

And second, after we’ve decided to trust, we can learn how to wait patiently until we see his presence again. And I’m not talking about that attitude I’ve heard in a pretty well-known prayer: “Lord, give me patience, and give it to me right now!” Although I definitely believe that God can teach us how to be patient, he may do that by forcing us to just, plain wait. And isn’t that what happened to Jacob in the story we read? I mean, he fell in love with Rachel, but Laban said that he’d have to work seven years before he could marry her, something I need to remember when some boy says he wants to marry Maggie. And after he’d done what he needed to do, Laban switched daughters at the wedding, something that happens more often than you’d think, and then Jacob had to work another seven years to get the girl of his dreams. And even though, later in the story, Jacob would get back at his father-in-law, right here, I think he learned patience. And so can we. I mean, after we’ve decided to trust that God’s presence and activity isn’t determined by our senses, we can learn to wait in order to see and to understand and to know. When we feel alone and powerless, we can learn how to wait patiently until we see his presence again. And that’s the second thing we can do.

And third, and this one may be the most challenging, in the meantime, we can continue to do what God has called us to do. And I’ll tell you, sometimes that’s tough to do. I mean, even when we’ve made the decision to trust and even when we’re determined to learn patience, we still have the tendency to make deals with God, you know, “you do this for me and I’ll do that for you”, or, at the very least, to slap on some time restrictions, “I have faith and I’m willing to wait, but if I don’t see something soon...” But you know, when we’re making deals or threatens, even small ones, that doesn’t say much about either our patience or our faith. You see, the bottom line is this: God is doing his thing in his own way, in his own time. That’s not our concern. Our job is to do what we’ve been called and equipped to do. It’s sort of like when, after his resurrection, the disciples asked Jesus, “‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’” In other words, I’ll worry about the time. You just focus on what I’ve called you to do. And I’ll tell you, when you think about, that’s really what Jacob did in our story. He did what he could, given the hand he’d been dealt. And we can do the same. As we trust and as we wait, we can do the best we can with what we’ve been given. In other words, we can live in the present, using the time we have to demonstrate our love for both God and neighbor. When we feel alone and powerless, we can continue to do what God has called us to do. And that’s the third thing we can do.

Now, I don’t really don’t know how those actors felt, dealing with apes what would be digitally inserted later, but I do know something about how feels to be alone and powerless. But when those feelings come up in the future, I think I know what I can do and so can you. You see, we can trust that God is working behind the scenes whether or not we can see him. And we can learn how to wait patiently until we see his presence. And in the meantime, we can continue to do what God has called us to do. I’ll tell you, we can remember that regardless of what we see,  think or feel, God is always working behind the scenes.

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for July 28, 2014

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for July 28, 2014: Today our passages are 2 Chronicles 21:1–23:21; Romans 11:13-36; Psalm 22:1-18; and Proverbs 20:7 . The readings are from The Mes...

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for July 27, 2014

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for July 27, 2014: Today our passages are 2 Chronicles 19:1–20:37; Romans 10:14–11:12; Psalm 21:1-13; and Proverbs 20:4-6 . The readings are from The ...

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line – Praise Music

Below is a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. If you're interested in hearing this devotion, call 1-304-748-7900. You can also find a podcast at Podbean or iTunes (Cove Presbyterian Church).


Psalm 149

Praise the Lord!
Sing to the Lord a new song,
          his praise in the assembly of the faithful.
Let Israel be glad in its Maker;
          let the children of Zion rejoice in their King.
Let them praise his name with dancing,
          making melody to him with tambourine and lyre.
For the Lord takes pleasure in his people;
          he adorns the humble with victory.
Let the faithful exult in glory;
          let them sing for joy on their couches.
Let the high praises of God be in their throats
          and two-edged swords in their hands,
to execute vengeance on the nations
          and punishment on the peoples,
to bind their kings with fetters
          and their nobles with chains of iron,
to execute on them the judgment decreed.
          This is glory for all his faithful ones.
Praise the Lord!


Praise Music

Right now, I’m listening to one my favorite musicals, “Mamma Mia!” I just love the music, but not only because hearing ABBA takes me back to my youth. For me, the songs are just full of joy. Even the sadder ones have this energy. And when I listen, well, I feel that energy too. And I find myself singing along and just feeling good.

And you know, those are the same feelings the psalmist felt when he sang to the Lord his new song. Music touched him just like it can touch me. But it’s not always the same kind of music. You see, people may be moved by songs that have a rhythm and a beat very different from the songs that we enjoy and that are meaningful to us. And because of that, we may need to broaden our acceptance. Now, I didn’t say broaden what we enjoy. Although that may happen, I’m not sure it’s something we can control, you know, whether or not we like a certain song much less a rhythm that may seem strange to us and a beat that we might actual find annoying. No, we might never like it, but we can accept it as something that brings joy and elicits praise from another generation of Christians. And even if we can’t share their enjoyment, we can certainly share in their praise.

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.

GUEST VIOLINIST . . .
Regina Givi who is providing our special music this morning is a violin teacher at Torrance Music Studios. Regina resides and also teaches in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She has a Masters Degree from Point State Park in Pittsburgh. We thank her for sharing her talent with us this morning.

BOOKMARKS . . .
Cove's Reading Group will meet on Monday, July 28th at 6:30 p.m. in the church parlor.  The book of the month will be Sam's Letters to Jennifer by James Patterson.

FOR THOSE INTERESTED IN LEARNING MORE ABOUT THEIR BIBLE. . .
we're offering an introduction to the New Testament. Lead by Pastor Rudiger, we'll consider the historical and theological background for the different books within the New Testament. This study will offer an outstanding overview for the part of the Bible that's distinctively Christian, and everyone is invited to come. During the session this Tuesday, July 29, from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. we'll look at the writing of Paul.

IF YOU'VE EVER WONDERED ABOUT THE DIFFERENT DIVISIONS . . .
within the Body of Christ, we're started a new series on Wednesday mornings from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. It's entitled "Within the Body of Christ"and we'll consider some of the different divisions within the Christian church. On July 30, we'll look at the Lutheranism.

OUR BROWN BAG BIBLE STUDY . . .
will meet Thursday, July 31, beginning at 12:31 p.m., we'll discuss Acts 12.

CHRISTMAS IN JULY . . .
Cove Deacons work all year planning for Project Christmas Smile. With the help of the congregation, 20 children enjoyed a Special Christmas in 2013. This year brings many financial challenges. Therefore we are getting started early with Christmas in July. We are asking anyone willing to bring in donations of toys or books to the church during the month of July and place them under the Christmas tree.  If you have any questions regarding Project Christmas Smile, please ask any of the Deacons or contact Tina Viakley (304) 723-5558. Thanks for your support! Example of Donations – Ages: Baby to 17 years old
1. Games for all ages (Connect Four, Candy Land, Yatzee, Uno, etc)
2. Books
3. Baby Dolls or Barbie Dolls
4. Hot Wheels Cars
5. Stuffed Animals
6. Toy Trucks
7. Coloring Books, Crayons or Markers
8. Legos
9. Arts & Craft Kits
10. Balls (Soccer, Football, Kick Ball, Basketball, etc).
These are only examples, any donations will be appreciated.

OUR SYMPATHY . . .
is extended to the family of Constance (Connie) Francis, wife of George Francis and mother of Benna Milliken who died on Tuesday, July 22, 2014. Connie was a  Fifty Year Plus member of the Cove Family joining on
June 28th, 1964.

HELP NEEDED. . .
due to the fact that we no longer have a custodian to do upkeep on the church grounds, we are in dire need of individuals who can possibly give an hour or two to assist with weeding, grass cutting or  occasional shrub trimming. Any help that we receive, will beautify your church.

USHERS ARE NEEDED . . .
for our Sunday morning worship services. If you can give of your time, please sign the monthly schedules that are posted on the wall opposite the board mailboxes.

ELECTRIC PANELS . . .
we are asking EVERYONE to please stay out of the electric boxes. If you feel a switch needs changed, ask a church staff member to do it. Once again, we have found switches turned off to different parts of the church and adjoining rooms disabling outlets and air conditioning units.

WE'LL HAVE SPECIAL MUSIC . . .
through the summer months. The chancel choir is taking a much deserved summer break. If you would like to participate in our summer music program contact Janice Torrance at 304-797-1908. All types of music are welcome!

CHECK YOUR KROGER'S RECEIPT . . .
if the bottom of your sales receipt does not say, "You requested Kroger to donate to Cove Presbyterian Church," please consider registering or re-registering with Kroger's Community Rewards Program. Registration must be renewed each year after May 1st.  It costs you nothing, you retain all your points, however Kroger will periodically send a dividend check to the church for a percentage of all sales which designate Cove as a Rewards recipient.  It's FREE MONEY for Cove!! PLEASE HELP US WITH THIS ENDEAVOR! If you have any questions please contact the church office.

SUMMER BREAK . . .
just a reminder that most groups suspend their activities for the summer months, if you wish to meet at the church please contact the church to be sure someone will be available.

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 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 four 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.
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.  You may  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 used 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.

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

On Sunday, July 27, Cove Presbyterian Church will lift to God the following needs.

Adults
Charles Saffle
Emery Edwards
Gen Meyer
Conrad Criss
Barbara Maze
Cindi Livingston
Annette Goff
Doug Haller
Carol Mowl
Evan Pulice
Audrey Vincent
Andy DiRemigio
Dean Allen
Deloris Chesebro
Dan Tenaglio
Chuck May
Dick Spencer
Carol Caston
Donald R. Billham
George Bownlee
Genny VanGilder
Hannah Leasure
Hargun Sandhu
Hattie Black Marcum
Jack Hatala
Jamie Edwards
Janet Holmes
Jeanne Buffington Rowland
Jeff Grant
Jen's Mom
Jo Magnone
Joanie Lawrence
Jodi Kraina
John Schlotter
Jonathan Serafine
Josh Boyd
Justin Vogel
Kelly Stephens
Lori Lancaster
Lou Ann Seevers
Manuel Fraga
Marcia Cooper
Maria Drennan
Marjie Dinges
Martha Meadows
Mary Ellen Grove
Marybeth Lewis
Matthew Kirtley
Mbanda Nathaniel
Michael Hvizdak
Mike Churchman
Mike Terri
Paul D. Welch
Peggy Stewart
Randy Willson
Robert Hans
Roger Criss
Ronnie Buffington
Rose Bell
Sally Marple
Sam Bosnic
Sam Fortunato
Sharon Johnson
Shirley Everhart Kirtley
Stacy Jo Vogel
Stanley Smoleski
Steve Zubay
Susan Ponville
Susie Kurcina
The Ingram Family
Tim Bradley
Tom Salvati
Wink Harner

Children
Aksel Ace
Audri King
Daniel Marchione
Devon Bragg
Jeffrey Konovich
Joey Cowher
Jonathan Marte
Kade Haines
Kya Schwertfeger
Lily Ghrist
Michael Liptak
Shelby Kamarec

Military
Cory Shumard
Isaac Stephens
Jason Kerr
Jonathan Criss
Lisa Burk
Michael Criss

In the Hospital
Dean Allen – Mercy Hospital

Bereaved Family
The Family of Jim Allen

Church Families
Paula Boyce & Christian Truax
John, Leesa, Owen & Madeline Boyd
Jay & Cindy Briscoe

Local Church
First Nazarene Church

Special Friend
Wanda Morgan – 3608 Hanlin Way, Weirton, WV  26062-4406

Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery Congregations
Trinity Parish, Chester, West Virginia – Rev. Matt. Camlin
Westminster Presbyterian Church, Chester, West Virginia – Rev. Katrina Lewis

Also Remember in Your Prayers
Alice & Kenny Orr – 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

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for July 26, 2014

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for July 26, 2014: Today our passages are 2 Chronicles 17:1–18:34; Romans 9:22–10:13; Psalm 20:1-9; and Proverbs 20:2-3 . The readings are from The M...

Friday’s Essay – If They Can Do It, So Can We

You can also find a podcast of this essay at Podcast or iTunes (Cove Presbyterian Church). 

I think divisions have become unavoidable facts of life. I mean, it seems as though everywhere we turn one group has set itself against another, with both sides claiming to be right and usually righteous, which makes the other side wrong and probably bad. And it doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about the Middle East or the Ukraine, the United States Congress or the next family reunion, I think we’ve become so accustomed to yins and yangs that we’re almost surprised when real unity rears it’s unexpected head.

And even though this seems to be a problem within humanity, I think the impact of this kind of divisiveness is particularly damaging for the Body of Christ, namely the church. Of course, the fact that the body is less than unified shouldn’t be a surprise; I mean, last time I looked, most church members are human. Still, when denominations struggle among themselves and congregations believe they’re doing evangelism when they transfer a person’s membership from one flock to another and when brothers and sisters within congregations fight with one another over things like music and structure with the same passion that families might fight over whether or not to put mustard in the potato salad, two things seem to happen. One, we lose our focus, or at the very least, it shifts from Jesus Christ to whether the sermon should be at the end the service or somewhere in the middle. And two, we become witnesses to ourselves. In other words, we testify to our own nature and not the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. And it doesn’t really matter the pronouncements we make, the sermons we preach or the essays we write; when we fight and scrap and act silly, those around us will see us not unlike squabbling children who won’t get along or worse like communities of "Neros" who seem content to fiddle around with issues that most people on the other side of the stained glass have settled years ago while the world around them burns. Let’s just say, that nobody wins crusades fought over the color of the carpet in the sanctuary or some other issue that most folks would consider of secondary importance.

And I’ll tell you, because divisiveness aresuch a big and potentially damaging deal, I think it may be worth our while to consider how we might resolve some of these issues that we face, especially within the church. And as a Christian, personally I believe the first place to look for answers is right in the Bible, particularly in that history of the early church that Luke offered to Theophilus, in other words, the Acts of the Apostles. And I’ll tell you, when we do, when we open the book and read it, I think we find a situation in the ancient church that’s frightening close to what we face right now. You see, it seems as though the church of Luke was being split by the issue of circumcision; specifically, whether or not, after accepting Jesus Christ, a gentile Christian should get himself circumcised. Now, I think we need to understand that the importance of this issue was so great that it makes our battles over ordination and marriage look like nothing. I’ll tell you, there were two sides, and both had all kinds of theological and biblical material to support their respective positions. In other words, this was a big deal among first century Christians.

And you know, how they dealt with it, well, I think that offers a good illustration to us. I mean, instead of doing what modern Christians do, you know, to get mad, to judge or despise those on the other side, and then stomp out if you don’t get your way or gloat if you do, the early church did these four things that we could also do, and if you’re interested, they’re all in the fifteenth chapter of Acts. You see, first, they got everybody together, and I mean everybody who had an opinion. Second, both sides talked about the issues in an atmosphere of personal respect and Christian love, seeking a resolution that might heal rather than a reason to leave. Third, they came to a conclusion that couldn’t have made everybody happy, but one that would remove circumcision as a distraction to the good news of Jesus Christ. And finally, they went back to their mission, their reason to be, namely to proclaim the truth of God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) to the ends of the world and to love one another just as they’d been commanded to do.

Now, I’m not stupid nor am I naive. I don’t think our world will suddenly become less divisive. But maybe, if we could set a new tone around the church, both the church universal and our individual congregations; maybe we could become instruments of change by following in some pretty big apostolic footsteps and start gathering and talking, resolving and then working together. And to tell you the truth, I really think that’s possible, because if they could solve their issues in an atmosphere of unity, so can we.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for July 25, 2014

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for July 25, 2014: Today our passages are 2 Chronicles 14:1–16:14; Romans 9:1-21; Psalm 19:1-14; and Proverbs 20:1 . The readings are from The Messag...

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Cove Kids: Children Bulletins for Sunday, July 27, 2014

Cove Kids: Children Bulletins for Sunday, July 27, 2014: Below are puzzles for children focused on Genesis 29:15-28, one of the passages we'll consider this Sunday. There are two “bulletins,” o...

Cove Kids: Launching Kids on a Mission of God's Love

Cove Kids: Launching Kids on a Mission of God's Love

Cove's Bulletin for Sunday, July 27, 2014

Below is a copy of our Sunday bulletin. During the service, we'll focus on why it’s important for us to remember that God is always working behind the scenes.









Remembering Our Sister Connie Francis

Connie Marie Francis, 91, of Weirton, passed away Tuesday, July 22,2014 at the Life Line Hospital in Wintersville, OH. She was born on September 15,1922 in Bunola, PA, a daughter to the late Howard Hamilton, Sr. and the late Margaret Kopsack Hamilton. On March 3,1968 Connie was joined in marriage to George Boyd Francis in Weirton, WV. Connie was a member of the Cove Presbyterian Church in Weirton. She was also a member of the Weirton Women's Club and a member of the McHendry Sunday School Class. She was formerly employed as a Wal Mart greeter and was the owner and operator of The Dinor Restaurant in Weirton from 1958 to 1988. Connie is preceded in death by her brother Howard Hamilton, Jr., and her sisters Della Clark and Norma Mikec. She is survived by her husband George Boyd Francis; her daughter Benna Milliken (Jeffrey); grandson Raymond Sacripanti; granddaughter Daniel Riddle; great grandchildren Keagan and Kadian Sacripanti and Ayden Munoz. Visitation will be held at the Steel and Wolfe Funeral Home and Cremation Services, Inc., 380 Penco Road, Weirton on Friday July 25,2014 from 12:00 p.m. until the time of funeral services at 1:30 p.m. with Dr. J.E. Rudiger presiding. Burial will take place at Jefferson Memorial Park, Inc., 401 Curry Hollow Road, Pittsburgh, PA. In lieu of flowers memorial contributions may be addressed to Cove Presbyterian Church 3404 Main Street, Weirton, WV. or St. Jude Childern's Research Hospital 262 Danny Thomas Place Memphis, TN, 38105. Online condolences may be addressed to www.steelandwolfe.com. Connie's family would like to express their sincere thanks to her caretakers over the last four years: Marilyn Bloomer, Carmen Blavos, Joyce Epsilantis, and Betty Corley; as well as Dr. Amar N. Khurana, M.D. and staff and the staff at Life Line Hospital.

A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line – A Different Way to Build the Team

Below is a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. If you’re interested in hearing this devotion, call 1-304-748-7900. You can also find a podcast at Podbean or iTunes (Cove Presbyterian Church).


Romans 15:1-7

We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Each of us must please our neighbor for the good purpose of building up the neighbor. For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, "The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me." For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.


A Different Way to Build the Team

Professional football training camps are about to open, which shows that everything is right with the world and will be even righter in about six weeks. But it’s not just the pros. This morning I drove by Weir High School and saw the football team practicing. Of course, the approach to football preparation has changed a lot since I was young. I remember coaches taking an almost Marine approach to training. I mean, they’d talk about how they needed to break down the players before they could start building them up into a team. And if you couldn’t keep up with the rest, maybe you should consider another Fall activity.

But as I look at this passage from Romans, that wasn’t Paul approach to the church or to inter-Christian relationships. In fact he focused on building up, not breaking down. And he preached harmony instead of conflict. And he encouraged unity rather than divisions. And for him, those who were strong in the faith, they had the responsibility to take the lead is fostering those attitudes. Now that was what Paul wrote. And I just wonder, if we listened to and applied his words, we might see a renewed Christian community and a powerful witness to Christ.

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for July 24, 2014

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for July 24, 2014: Today our passages are 2 Chronicles 11:1–13:22; Romans 8:22-39; Psalm 18:37-50; and Proverbs 19:27-29 . The readings are from The ...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Sunday's Minute for Mission - Metropolitan/Urban Ministry

It’s Saturday morning at Laurelton United Presbyterian Church in Rochester, New York. A handful of people are spread out around plastic dinner tables in the fellowship hall. A few are chatting; one is looking through today’s paper; another is intent on his pancakes. The kitchen nearby is buzzing with activity. A woman is flipping pancakes on an electric griddle while a young man runs full plates to guests at the table.
Three young women are talking about their new cat. They show off pictures like proud parents. One says, “I’ve never felt comfortable at a church, but I feel comfortable here.” Two men arrive and shout warm greetings to folks around the table. A young man comes in and hugs the woman in the kitchen. He sits down next to an older woman waiting at the table with another hug. It seems like they’ve known each other for years, but it’s only been eight Saturdays.
This is Laurelton’s Saturday cafĂ©. The idea started with a session discussion about how we could use our assets (a building, heat, Internet, a kitchen) to welcome our neighbors in a new way. The first week we served five members of the congregation, but before long we were serving 15 people a week, most of whom hadn’t been connected with Laurelton before. Two years later, we serve 35 people a week, many of whom come every Saturday.
You can see community growing around the table: folks of different ages, from different places and backgrounds, sharing stories, joys, and sorrows; people rediscovering neighbors they haven’t seen in years; new relationships forming and deepening. It is simple, intergenerational, and holy. The congregation is reconnecting with the neighborhood, and God is doing something new in our midst. How might God be leading you toward your neighbors today?
Sam Picard, pastor, Laurelton United Presbyterian Church

Bible Talk: The Lectionary Passages for Sunday, July 27, 2014

Bible Talk: The Lectionary Passages for Sunday, July 27, 2014: Below are NRSV translations of the lessons from the Psalms (Psalm 105:1-11, 45b), Old Testament (Genesis 29:15-28), the Letters (Roman 8:26-...

The Bible in a Year: Today our passages are 2 Chronicles 8:11–10:19; R...

The Bible in a Year:
Today our passages are 2 Chronicles 8:11–10:19; R...
: Today our passages are 2 Chronicles 8:11–10:19; Romans 8:9-21; Psalm 18:16-36; and Proverbs 19:26 . The readings are from The Mess...

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line – The Devil’s in the Details

Below is a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. If you’re interested in hearing this devotion, call 1-304-748-7900. You can also find a podcast at Podbean or iTunes (Cove Presbyterian Church).


Romans 14:1-12

Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God.

We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.
Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” So then, each of us will be accountable to God.


The Devil’s in the Details

Now I think most folks have heard the old saying, “The devil’s in the details”; in other words, in most projects, it’s getting the details right that will usually cause the most problems, cost the most money, and result in the most stress and aggravation. Well, I think we can say the same thing about our lives in relationship with God and one another, although in this case, I believe the Devil is literally in the details. Almost every day, I encounter Christians who sincerely believe that some detail of the faith in crucially important. As a matter of fact, for them, if you don’t share their very focused perspective, you’re probably not a Christian at all. Of course, I also know others who look down on folks with a narrow view of faith, you know, Christians who tilt toward law rather than grace. Man, I see it all the time. And I’ll tell you, I think it’s right here where the Devil’s involved, because it doesn’t matter on which side of the fence we stand, when we’re battling over the details, not only does the fellowship we have with one another break down but it’s virtually impossible for us to do what God has called us to do.

And you know, I think Paul understood this. And that’s why he challenged the Romans to do two things that he believed would reduce the power of spiritual details. First, he sort of suggested that Christians mind their own business. Of course, having said that, I can hear all those folks who believe that one the most important jobs we have is to judge and correct one another. And although that might be so with big, important issues, Paul seems to suggest that there are many spiritual details that don’t rise to that level and that we shouldn’t be using to pass judgement on our brothers and sisters. That’s one. And second, I think he challenged them and us to refocus on what’s most important, and that’s not what we eat or when we worship. What’s most important is living the kind of life Jesus Christ called us to live. And you know, if we remember this focus, maybe some of these divisive issues just might take care of themselves.

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for July 22, 2014

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for July 22, 2014: Today our passages are 2 Chronicles 6:12–8:10; Romans 7:14–8:8; Psalm 18:1-15; and Proverbs 19:24-25 . The readings are from The M...

Monday, July 21, 2014

Sunday's Sermon - When We Wake Up

Below is a copy of the sermon I preached on Sunday in Two Ridges Presbyterian Church, Wintersville, Ohio and Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia. You can also find a podcast of this sermon at Podbean or iTunes (Cove Presbyterian Church).


Genesis 28:10-19a

Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the Lord stood beside him and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called that place Bethel.


When We Wake Up

Victor Hugo believed that “...there is nothing like a dream to create the future.” And according to Carl Sandburg, “Nothing happens unless first a dream.” Henry David Thoreau wrote, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” And of course, Tommy Cooper said, “Last night I dreamed I ate a ten-pound marshmallow, and when I woke up the pillow was gone.” Let’s just say, dreams are important.

And to tell you the truth, I find that kind of depressing, because I just don’t seem to remember my dreams. And if all these famous writers are correct, I’ve already missed an awful lot. Now, to be honest, I’m not one of those guys who never dreams. My goodness, I have them all the time; like I said, my problem is that I just can’t remember them, at least not very often. And the few times that I have, well, they just don’t make a lot of sense, sort of like yesterday morning. I remember dreaming something about me having to take a test and being quizzed by a hillbilly. What heck is that suppose to mean? How is that going to create something new or to cause something important to happen or to move me confidently into the future? Good night nurse, that kind of dream doesn’t even involve a pillow or the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. I feel like the “Dream Weaver” has passed me by.

And for me, that’s a shame, because if you had any doubt about the power of dreams and their ability to change our lives, just take a look at the story we just read from Genesis. I think I’m safe in saying that his dream was a pretty big deal to Jacob, and that’s particularly true when you look at what happened before his head hit the rock. Now, do you remember what we talked about last week, you know, about how Jacob lived up to, or maybe better, lived down to his name, “heel”. Well, right before the story we read this morning, Jacob again proved to be exactly what his name meant. I mean, in typical Jacob fashion, he cheated his brother again, only this time he did it by pulling a fast one on his old man. You see, like we talked about last week, he’d already gotten the birthright from Esau by swapping it for a big steaming bowl of red stuff. Later, with the help of his mother, I guess you could say the first “helicopter parent”, he got his older brother’s blessing by tricking his blind and dying father into believing that he was all hairy and smelly like Esau, a person who was covered with red hair when he was born and whom the writer of Genesis described as “a man of the field.”

Anyway, through manipulation and lies, Jacob got what he wanted. And even though he was still the apple of his mother’s eye, his brother was less than pleased. In fact, according to the story, “Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him, and Esau said to himself, ‘The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob.’” Of course, this was bad news for the human heel. I mean, not only do Mama’s boys tend to have problems when facing their big, hairy, ticked-offed elder brothers, but remember, “Esau was a skillful hunter” and his sights were set on Jacob. And so, again with the help of Mommy Dearest, Jacob got out of town. As Rebekah said to him, “Your brother Esau is consoling himself by planning to kill you. Now therefore, my son, obey my voice; flee at once to my brother Laban in Haran, and stay with him a while, until your brother’s fury turns away—until your brother’s anger against you turns away, and he forgets what you have done to him; then I will send, and bring you back from there.” Now that’s what she said.

And it was as he’s making his escape that he had this dream, a dream that he certainly remembered when he woke up. You see, as he was sleeping, Jacob saw a ladder, or better, a tiered ramp, something called a Ziggurat, extending from the earth into the heavens. And on those stairs, angels were going up and down, and that made sense. I mean, since angels really didn’t acquire their wings until the Middle Ages, this was the only way for them to get from one place to the other. Now that’s what he saw. But I’ve got to tell you, what he heard was really a lot more important, because after the Lord had identified himself and restated the covenant he’d made first with Abraham and then Isaac, the Lord offered Jacob a three-fold promise. He said, “Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

Now, that was the Lord said to Jacob. And when he woke up, Jacob must have remembered it, because he said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it! ...How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” And after he set up and consecrated the stone on which he’d laid his head, he made a promise to God. You see, in the passage that immediately follows the one we read, this was what happened. “Then Jacob made a vow, saying, ‘If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house; and of all that you give me I will surely give one tenth to you.’” You see, in response to this dream, Jacob made the first really deep commitment of his life, that is to someone other than himself; he made a promise that would reshape his life. I mean, no longer would he be free to do his own thing. Right here, Jacob dedicated himself to the God he now trusted, that he now believed was dedicated to him. And it’s all because of that dream.

And I’ll tell you, even though we may not have the same dream ourselves, I think we’re really a lot like Jacob in this story and I say that for three reasons. I mean, first, we’re constantly facing challenges in our lives. And even though they may not involve a hairy, red brother, they’re just as threatening to us as Esau was to Jacob. You see, just like Jacob felt when he heard that Esau was gunning for him, there are plenty of times when we feel panicked and scared, when we feel overwhelmed and overloaded, when we feel like packing it in and hitting the road, even though we don’t have a clue where the road is heading; it’s got to be better than where we are. Man, I’ve got to believe most of us, if not all of us can understand what Jacob was thinking and feeling when he drifted off. I’ll tell you, that’s the first way I think we can identify with the story.

And second, I believe God offers us the same sort of thing he offered Jacob. Now, I’m not necessarily talking about seeing a stairway to heaven; if you receive that I think you can consider it gravy. But you know, even if the vision isn’t there, I believe the promise is. Remember how God said this to Jacob: “Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Well, I believe he’s made and is making the same promises to us. You see, God has promised us his presence. Man, he’s with us all the time. I mean, he’s with us when we’re so scarred we don’t know what to do. And he’s with us when we feel that if we have to carry one more straw, the camel’s back won’t be the only thing broken. And he’s with us, even when we chuck it all and get the heck out of Dodge. God is still with us, and I’ll tell you, this is something we can take to the bank because remember, right at the end of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” God has promised his presence. That’s one.

And just like he did with Jacob, he also promised his protection. “I...will keep you wherever you go...” It’s just like the words the Lord told Aaron to use when he and his sons blessed Israel: “You shall say to them, The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.” Or maybe better, according to the 121st Psalm: “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.” You see, the Lord will keep his children; he promises to protect us. And that’s two.

But that’s not all, he also promises to give us a place. I mean, just like God promised to “...bring [Jacob] back to this land”, man, he’s also brought us into a place, a home, a family in which we can always return and feel safe. And I’ll tell you, this is something we celebrate with every baptism. God has given us this place. But you know, if we don’t work to make this a place that’s welcoming not just for us but also for those on the outside, and I’m talking about folks different from us, then maybe we might want to readjust our priorities or face the sad but unavoidable truth that when we’re gone, our place may become an empty house or a barren land. You see, right now God offers us place and protection and presence. Like it was for Jacob, that’s also his promise to us. And to me, that’s the second point of contact.

And third, like Jacob, we now have to respond. You see, unless we choose to deny our past or to pretend that the promise hasn’t been made, we’re left with a decision, aren’t we? I mean, we can be like Jacob, and in light of what we know is true, we can rededicate ourselves, but not just with something as vague as our lives. Remember, Jacob said, “...and of all that you give me I will surely give one tenth to you.” Ouch, it would have been easier if he’d talked about his life or heart or mind or some other internal organ that he knew God wasn’t going to collect anytime soon or that he didn’t control anyway. Man, this sounds like he could be talking about giving God stuff, and I’m talking about possessions, in a word, money; something that often don’t want to give or even talking about giving. But that’s what he said, so you know what, it may hurt a little, but if a heel like Jacob can do it, so can we. You see, on one hand, we can decide to really dedicate ourselves. But on the other hand, we can choose to do something else. But you know, since the lives we live and the promises that God has made don’t change, we’ll face the same decision tomorrow and next Tuesday and each and every day we live. You see, like Jacob, we’re going to have to respond in one way or another, and that’s number three.

And I’ll tell you, all that’s true whether you remember your dreams or not. And as y’all know, that’s good news for me. But be-that-as-it-may, there’s one dream that I think we can all remember, and that’s the one Jacob had, because through that dream we can also hear the promises of God. And you know, I think it also reminds us that, as it relates to this particular dream, what’s really important is what we decide to do when we wake up.