Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Sunday's Worship Service - Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia

Below is a copy of the Sunday worship I led in Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia, on Sunday, December 28, 11:00 p.m. You can also find a podcast of this sermon at The Cove Podbean page.

The Order of Worship
The First Sunday after Christmas

Prelude

The Greeting and Announcements

Enter Worship with Praise

Entry of the Word: “This is the Day that the Lord Has Made”

Praising God Through Song
Hymn: “Angels We Have Heard on High”
Hymn: “In the Bleak Midwinter”
Song for the Children: Bethlehem Lullaby

Approach God with Humility and Thanks

A Special Time for Children

The Choir Offering Praise through Music: “Star Child”

Our Congregational Prayer, followed by The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name.  Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil;  For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.  Amen.

Our Song Glorifying God: Gloria Patri

Giving Back to God: “What Child is This”

Song of Praise: Doxology

Our Prayer of Thanks and Dedication

Saying What We Believe: From The Heidelberg Catechism
Leader: Why is the Son of God called JESUS, which means SAVIOR?  
People: Because he saves us from our sins, and because salvation is to be sought or found in no other. 
Leader: Do those who seek their salvation and well-being from saints, by their own efforts, or by other means really believe in the only Savior Jesus?  
People: No.  Rather, by such actions they deny Jesus, the only Savior and Redeemer, even though they boast of belonging to him.  It therefore follows that either Jesus is not a perfect Savior, or those who receive this Savior with true faith must possess in him all that is necessary for their salvation. 

Hear the Word with Understanding

The Word Read: Isaiah 61:10 - 62:3
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch. The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give. You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

The Word Proclaimed: Torn Cards, Stale Fruit Cake, & Wilted Poinsettias

Leave Worship with Joy

Hymn 139: “Go, Tell It on the Mountains”

Charge and Blessing

Congregational Response    

Postlude: “In Excelsis Deo”

THE FOLLOWING PERSONS ARE ASSISTING IN WORSHIP THIS MORNING:
Worship Leader: Ed Rudiger
Choir Director & Accompanist: Janice Torrance
Video Specialist: Eric Violet
Duet: Janice Torrance & Enid Williams
Usher: Linda Krynicki

Sunday's Worship Service - Two Ridges Presbyterian Church, Wintersville, Ohio

Below is a copy of the Sunday worship I led in Two Ridges Presbyterian Church, Wintersville, Ohio, on Sunday, December 28, 9:30 p.m. You can also find a podcast of this sermon at The Cove Podbean page.


1st Sunday after Christmas - December 28, 2014

Prelude

Welcome – Announcements

Introit:

Call to Worship
Leader: Praise the Lord!  Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights!
People: Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host!
Leader: Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars!
People: Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!
Leader: Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created.
People: He established them forever and ever; he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.
Leader: Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command!
People: Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars!  Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds!
Leader: Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!  Young men and women alike, old and young together!
People: Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven.
Leader: He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his faithful, for the people of Israel who are close to him. 
People: Praise the Lord!

Gathering Hymn: “In the Bleak Midwinter”

Prayer of Confession: 
Almighty God, we confess that we’ve sinned against you.  Often we’re a little down after Christmas. We work so hard preparing for the day, we feel a let down after it’s over. Sadly, when this happens, we forget the real meaning of Jesus’ birth and the joy it brought into the world. Merciful Lord, forgive us and help us continue to feel the joy of Christmas after the day is over. – Amen. 

Time for Personal Confession:

Words of Assurance

Gloria Patri 

THE WORD

Prayer for Illumination 
Father, open our ears so that we might hear.  Soften our hearts so that we might feel.  And guide our wills so that we might respond - Amen.

Anthem:  

Scripture Lesson:  Isaiah 61:10 - 62:3  

Sermon:  “Torn Cards, Stale Fruit Cake, & Wilted Poinsettias”                                                      

Hymn:  “From Heaven Above”  

Sharing of Joys and Concerns

Pastoral Prayer/Lord’s Prayer
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever - Amen.

Presentation of Tithes and Offerings

Offertory                                                              

Doxology

Offertory Prayer 
We offer these gifts that your kingdom may take shape here on earth, and that we may also be shaped in the giving by the One whose very life is a gift to us, Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen. 

Departing Hymn: “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” 

Benediction                

Choral Response:  


Postlude

Sunday’s Sermon – Torn Cards, Stale Fruit Cake, & Wilted Poinsettias

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

Isaiah 61:10 – 62:3

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.

For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch. The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give. You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

Torn Cards, Stale Fruit Cake, & Wilted Poinsettias

I think I’m safe in saying Christmas has come to a close at the Rudiger house. And if that there was any doubt, Friday evening we sort of officially shifted from Lenny the Elf and whether Santa might leave a puppy under the tree (he didn’t) to Maggie’s birthday and her deciding whether she wanted furniture for her new, redone bedroom more than Ariana Grande concert tickets. (she didn’t.) You see, we’ve already shifted gears, and Christmas is now in our rearview mirror.

Of course, there are plenty of other signs that we’re moving on, you know, like Christmas cards that are little worse for wear, and fruit cake that’s kind of gotten hard and of course poinsettias that just don’t look at good as they did last week. My goodness, even the nativity is getting dusty and the garbage bags full of used wrapping paper need to be put out on the curb and frankly the mistletoe has lost some of it’s charm. And in four days we’ll be in a new year, which means for a least another week we’ll be trying to make a “4” look like a “5” when we’ve written the date wrong. And even though, according to the church calendar we’ll be in the season until January 6, Epiphany, when you get right down to it, as it relates to Christmas and all the holiday hustle and bustle, well, stick a fork in it, because it’s done.

And you know, maybe that’s why I think the same kind of thing happens to us all, and I’m talking about when we return to the everyday lives we lived before the holiday season kicked off last month. For example, speaking for myself, I always feel a little down right about now, and this year’s no exception. Now I’m not talking about “break out the prozac depressed”, but I’ve got to admit I feel a little blue, because, for some reason, the lights just don’t seem to twinkle the way they did before the twenty-fifth. And the Christmas music does offer the same lift. And the immediate future doesn’t feel nearly as exciting. I mean, give me a break, last Sunday this time, “Jack Frost nibbing at your nose” was kind of fun, but now it’s just another reminder that we’ve got at least two and a half months of cold weather before the thaw, and probably a sign that you’re getting a cold. And remember when decorated trees were surrounded by boxes wrapped in red and green paper? Now all we’ve got are trees that are bare surrounded by skies that are grey and cold. I’ll tell you, if it weren’t for the college playoffs and the Super Bowl, I wouldn’t mind being a bear until spring. The dog days of Winter, how could you not feel a little down; I know I do.

And along with that and sort of in line with a hibernation theme, man, right now, I’d love a little down time. Last week, I told Debbie that the time right before Christmas is the busiest time in my entire year, busier than Easter, because along with all the other holiday stuff, I’ve got bulletins to do and services to prepare, while some of the folks I depend on most, like the secretary, are taking some time off. And since I tend to procrastinate on gift buying, that makes for a rough few days. And for that reason, right now, I think I’d love to put my feet up and relax, but I’ll take anything that allows me to be still and quiet, even a five-hour drive to Indianapolis. I’ll tell you, down and still, that pretty much describes the kind of post-Christmas party I’d like to attend.

And frankly, I don’t think I’m alone. But you know, even though we might be justified in feeling that  way, I don’t think we need to leave the twenty-fifth either down or passive. As a matter of fact, I believe we can carry some of that pre-Christmas delight and energy into 2015, and I’ll tell you how and why. You see, as we move beyond Christmas into the new year, I’m convinced that we can continue to feel joy because of what God did and to share that joy because of what we believe God is doing and will continue to do. And you know, I think we have a wonderful example of person who was able to do that right in front of us this morning.

I mean, just think about what we read from Isaiah and consider what he said he was going to do. You see, first, he said that he felt joy, and friends, so can we. Remember, he wrote, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God...” And a little later in the same prophecy, he said, “I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad about my people. No one will ever hear the sound of weeping or crying in it again.” You see, Isaiah felt great happiness; man, he felt joy. And the reason, just listen: “for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” In other words, when he looked toward God, he could see his savior, the one who rescued him, the one who offered deliverance. And he could also see the source of righteousness, of justice, of truth; in other words, the one who could restore the relationship that was broken when people decided to do their own thing. Now that’s who Isaiah saw when he looked toward God, and I’ll tell you, that vision filled him with joy, something that I think he expressed really well when he wrote, “Pour down, you heavens above, and let the clouds flow with righteousness. Let the earth open for salvation to bear fruit; let righteousness sprout as well.” You see, as he looked at what God had done, Isaiah felt joy.

And brothers and sisters, at we leave Christmas, so can we, and I’ll tell you, it can be based on the exact same reason. You see, we can also rejoice based on what God has already done, and I’m talking about what he already did through Jesus. I mean, that’s what the name Jesus means for-crying-out-loud. Remember, when the angel appeared to Joseph to explain the birth, the angel said, "Joseph son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the child she carries was conceived by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you will call him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Jesus, Joshua in Hebrew, his name means “savior.” But more than that, he’s also the righteous one, the one who pierced the curtain that separated us from our creator, I’m talking about the one who brings us into a right relationship with the one who loved us before the foundation of the world. You see, through Jesus Christ, the one whose birth we remembered about three days ago, we’ve already been delivered from the power of sin and death and brought into the loving presence of God. That’s what God has already done. And for that reason, we can leave Christmas feeling the same kind of joy and exaltation felt by Isaiah. You see, that’s the first thing we can do.

And second, we can also share it; man, we can share that joy and hope and peace to those around us. And isn’t that exactly what Isaiah was talking about doing when he wrote, “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch. The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give.”? You see, for him God’s vindication, his righteousness and God’s salvation, his deliverance wasn’t something that belonged to the past nor was it limited in scope. No, it was as bright as the dawn or like a burning torch, one so brilliant and dramatic that would remind people of what happened on Mount Sinai, when “...all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the horn, and the mountain smoking, [and] the people shook with fear and stood at a distance.” You see, this is what Isaiah believed the Lord was doing not just for him but for the entire world. And because of that, he couldn’t be silent and quiet. In fact, he needed to stand up on his hind legs and announce it to everybody, something he described a little bit later in this same chapter: “Upon your walls, Jerusalem, I have appointed sentinels. Continually, all day and all night, they won’t keep silent. You who call on the Lord, don’t rest, and don’t allow God to rest until he establishes Jerusalem, and makes it the praise of the earth.” You see, because of what God is doing right now and will do in the future, Isaiah felt called to share the joy.

And I’ll tell you, so can we, so can we right here within our families and community and church, so can we for the exact same reason. And it doesn’t matter whether we do it through the words we use or the actions we take, we can become what Jesus had in mind when he said that we “...are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.” You see, we can be the bright and burning torches that Isaiah described, announcing that God is still active and involved in our world. I mean, we can help people understand that through Bethlehem’s child their sins have been forgiven and their lives cleansed and that now they have the opportunity to do something they could have never done before. They can have a full relationship with their creator. You see, we can share what God is doing. But that’s not all, we can also share what he’s going to do in the future, you know, how the time will come when he’ll recreate his entire universe and we’ll enter a new world, one where there’s no more parting and no more pain, because all that stuff is gone forever. You see, there’s absolutely no reason why we can’t leave Christmas sharing the same kind of joy and exaltation felt by Isaiah. You see, that’s the second thing we can do.

And I’ll tell you, this is what we can feel and share, and we can do it even though Maggie is now focused on her thirteenth birthday. Pray for me. You see, following the example of Isaiah, starting today, we can choose to leave Christmas 2014 feeling joy based on what God has already done and ready to share that joy based on what God is doing and will do in the future. This was can do. And if we do, we’ll be entering the new year with a whole lot more than torn cards, stale fruit cake, and wilted poinsettias.

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

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for December 31, 2014: Today our passages are Malachi 3:1–4:6; Revelation 22:1-21; Psalm 150:1-6; and Proverbs 31:25-31 . The readings are from The Message...

Sunday's Minute for Mission - University of Dubuque Theological Seminary

Gilo G. Agwa teaching Anuak children in Stillwater, Minnesota, in the summer of 2013 Courtesy of Gilo G. Agwa
ilo G. Agwa teaching Anuak children in Stillwater,
Minnesota, in the summer of 2013
Among the international students at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, one from Ethiopia saw significant seeds of ministry take root in 2014. Gilo Agwa was granted asylum status in 2012 and welcomed his family to the United States in 2014. That year, Gilo completed his MDiv while continuing his leadership ministry among diaspora Anuaks in the United States. Gilo has a particular concern for the spiritual and holistic nurture of immigrant and refugee families.
A grant from the Presbyterian Mission Agency funded a ministry that Gilo initiated to support the church among the Anuak community in Minnesota. “Change always seems to have some side effects,” Gilo says, “especially when not managed in the right way. Immigrants and refugee communities, when moving from their countries of origin and through the transitional years, encounter culture shock and language barriers. These and other challenges change their expectations. Nothing is what they imagined or planned. The host country provides opportunity, but there is benefit only when the hosting, immigrant, and refugee communities understand one another.”
Gilo oversaw the creation of materials and ministry programming to equip the church to support children and families. “The ministry addresses language barriers between the kids and their parents, and improves marriages. It also builds relationships between immigrants and refugees and their neighbors.”
This new ministry enters its second year in 2015, with the hope that it will continue to build faith, family, and community in a new country.
Beth McCaw, pastor to students, University of Dubuque Theological Seminary

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

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

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for December 30, 2014: Today our passages are Malachi 1:1–2:17; Revelation 21:1-27; Psalm 149:1-9; and Proverbs 31:10-24 . The readings are from The Messag...

Sunday, December 28, 2014

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

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for December 29, 2014: Today our passages are Zechariah 14:1-21; Revelation 20:1-15; Psalm 148:1-14; and Proverbs 31:8-9 . The readings are from The Messa...

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

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for December 28, 2014: Today our passages are Zechariah 12:1–13:9; Revelation 19:1-21; Psalm 147:1-20; and Proverbs 31:1-7 . The readings are from The Mes...

Saturday, December 27, 2014

A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line – Through the One

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 on the church page at Cove Presbyterian Podbean page (covepresbyterian).

John 13:21-35

After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples — the one whom Jesus loved — was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival”; or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.

When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Through the One

Soon we’ll be leaving the Christmas season and entering a new year. Of course, this means we’ll be packing up the nativity with the other decorations.. We’ll be wrapping carefully the sheep and the donkey, the shepherds and kings, Mary and Joseph, and of baby Jesus in tissue paper, ready to be pulled in about eleven months But before we close the lid on the box, I think it’s important for us to remember that we probably shouldn’t isolate the birth story. You see, it’s meaning is found in the life, death and resurrection of the one who was born, Jesus Christ. You see, through the one who lived, we have the opportunity to see God’s love and to hear his word. And through the one who died, our sins were forgiven and our past cleansed. And through the one who was raised, not only was our future secured, we were given the opportunity to experience that eternal life right now. You see, it was through the one whose birth we just celebrated that everything changed, and this is something in which we can trust all year long.

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for December 27, 2015

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for December 27, 2015: Today our passages are Zechariah 10:1–11:17; Revelation 18:1-24; Psalm 146:1-10; and Proverbs 30:33 . The readings are from The Mes...

Friday, December 26, 2014

A Service of Readings and Carols – Cove’s Christmas Eve Service

Below is the Cove's Christmas Eve Service. You can find a podcast of this service on The Cove Podbean page.

Our Call to Worship: Psalm 96
Leader: O sing to the Lord a new song, sing to the Lord, all the earth.
People: Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.
Leader: Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples.
People: For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be revered above all gods.
Leader: For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens.
People: Honor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
Leader: Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
People: Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts.
Leader: Worship the Lord in holy splendor; tremble before him, all the earth.
People: Say among the nations, "The Lord is king!
Leader: The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved.  He will judge the peoples with equity."
People: Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it.
Leader: Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord; for he is coming, for he is coming to judge the earth.
People: He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with his truth.

Hymn: "O Come, All Ye Faithful"

Our Offering to God: Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring

Our Prayer of Thanksgiving

The Lord's Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name.  Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:  For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.  Amen.

Choir: "Way Down Yonder in Bethlehem"

A Service of Readings and Carols

First Reading: Genesis 3:8-15
During that day's cool evening breeze, they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden; and the man and his wife hid themselves from the Lord God in the middle of the garden's trees. The Lord God called to the man and said to him, "Where are you?"

The man replied, "I heard your sound in the garden; I was afraid because I was naked, and I hid myself."

He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat from the tree, which I commanded you not to eat?"

The man said, "The woman you gave me, she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate."

The Lord God said to the woman, "What have you done?!"

And the woman said, "The snake tricked me, and I ate."

The Lord God said to the snake,
"Because you did this,
you are the one cursed
  out of all the farm animals,
  out of all the wild animals.
On your belly you will crawl,
        and dust you will eat
        every day of your life.
I will put contempt
between you and the woman,
between your offspring and hers.
They will strike your head,
  but you will strike at their heels."

Hymn: "Come, Thou Long-expected Jesus"

Second Reading: Genesis 22:15-18
The Lord's messenger called out to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, "I give my word as the Lord that because you did this and didn't hold back your son, your only son, I will bless you richly and I will give you countless descendants, as many as the stars in the sky and as the grains of sand on the seashore. They will conquer their enemies' cities. All the nations of the earth will be blessed because of your descendants, because you obeyed me."

Hymn:  "Angels, from the Realms of Glory"

Third Reading: Isaiah 9:2,6,7
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.
    On those living in a pitch-dark land, light has dawned.
A child is born to us, a son is given to us,
    and authority will be on his shoulders.
    He will be named
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
There will be vast authority and endless peace
    for David's throne and for his kingdom,
    establishing and sustaining it
    with justice and righteousness
    now and forever.
The zeal of the Lord of heavenly forces will do this.

Choir Piece: Come, Emmanuel

Fourth Reading: Isaiah 11:1–3a; 4a; 6–9
A shoot will grow up from the stump of Jesse;
    a branch will sprout from his roots.
The Lord's spirit will rest upon him,
    a spirit of wisdom and understanding,
    a spirit of planning and strength,
    a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord.
He will delight in fearing the Lord.
He won't judge by appearances,
    nor decide by hearsay.
He will judge the needy with righteousness,
    and decide with equity for those who suffer in the land.
He will strike the violent with the rod of his mouth;
    by the breath of his lips he will kill the wicked.
The wolf will live with the lamb,
    and the leopard will lie down with the young goat;
    the calf and the young lion will feed together,
    and a little child will lead them.
The cow and the bear will graze.
    Their young will lie down together,
    and a lion will eat straw like an ox.
A nursing child will play over the snake's hole;
    toddlers will reach right over the serpent's den.
They won't harm or destroy anywhere on my holy mountain.
    The earth will surely be filled with the knowledge of the Lord,
    just as the water covers the sea.

Hymn: "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming"

Fifth Reading: Luke 1:26–35; 38
When Elizabeth was six months pregnant, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a city in Galilee, to a virgin who was engaged to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David's house. The virgin's name was Mary. When the angel came to her, he said, "Rejoice, favored one! The Lord is with you!" She was confused by these words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. The angel said, "Don't be afraid, Mary. God is honoring you. Look! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and he will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father. He will rule over Jacob's house forever, and there will be no end to his kingdom."

Then Mary said to the angel, "How will this happen since I haven't had sexual relations with a man?"

The angel replied, "The Holy Spirit will come over you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the one who is to be born will be holy. He will be called God's Son.

Hymn: "What Child Is This?"

Sixth Reading: Luke 2:1; 3–7
In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists.

Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled. Since Joseph belonged to David's house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David's city, called Bethlehem, in Judea. He went to be enrolled together with Mary, who was promised to him in marriage and who was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby. She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom.

Hymn: "Away in a Manger"

Seventh Reading: Luke 2: 8–16
Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night.  The Lord's angel stood before them, the Lord's glory shone around them, and they were terrified.

The angel said, "Don't be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. Your savior is born today in David's city. He is Christ the Lord. This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, "Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors."

When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, "Let's go right now to Bethlehem and see what's happened. Let's confirm what the Lord has revealed to us." They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger.

Solo: "Mary Did You Know?"

Eighth Reading: Matthew 2:1–12
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the territory of Judea during the rule of King Herod, magi came from the east to Jerusalem. They asked, "Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We've seen his star in the east, and we've come to honor him."

When King Herod heard this, he was troubled, and everyone in Jerusalem was troubled with him. He gathered all the chief priests and the legal experts and asked them where the Christ was to be born. They said, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for this is what the prophet wrote:

You, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
        by no means are you least among the rulers of Judah,
            because from you will come one who governs,
            who will shepherd my people Israel."

Then Herod secretly called for the magi and found out from them the time when the star had first appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search carefully for the child. When you've found him, report to me so that I too may go and honor him." When they heard the king, they went; and look, the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stood over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy. They entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him. Then they opened their treasure chests and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Because they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back to their own country by another route.

Hymn: "We Three Kings of Orient Are"

Ninth Reading: John 1:1-14
In the beginning was the word
and the word was with God,
and God was the word.
He was in the beginning with God.

All things through him came into being,
and apart from him nothing came into being.
That which came into being in him was life.
And the life was the light of humanity.
And the light in the darkness shines,
and the darkness did not overcome it.

He was in the world,
and the world through him came into being,
and the world didn't know him.
To his own he came,
and his own didn't accept him.
But all who accepted him,
he gave to them the ability to become children of God,

And the word became flesh
and dwelt among us,
and we saw his glory,
glory as the first born from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Because from his fullness,
we all received, even grace upon grace.

Hymn:   "Silent Night!  Holy Night!"

Dismissal

We thank everyone involved in this service, that includes the following:
Ed Rudiger Pastor
Janice Torrance Organist
The Cove Adult Choir, under the direction of Janice Torrance
Tim Connell Solo
Janice Torrance & Enid Williams Duet
Usher Debbie Rudiger
Greeters The Dowler Family
           Adam, Amy, Olivia & Abigail

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

On Sunday, December 28, Cove Presbyterian Church will lift to God the following needs.

Adults
Alyssa LaRosa
Annette Goff
Barbara Maze
Bill Manley
Bonnie Nichols
Cameron Gray
Carlyn
Chad Wilson
Charles Saffle
Cindi Livingston
Conrad Criss
Deloris Chesebro
Dick Spencer
Elizabeth Sue Hunt
Emery Edwards
Evan Pulice
Gen Meyer
George Bownlee
Greta Billham
Helen Shivers
Jeff Grant
Jen's Mom
Jim & Shelley Pearson
Jo Magnone
Joanie Lawrence
Jodi Kraina
John Guglielmo
John Philips
John Schlotter
Josh Boyd
Judy Edmonds
Kelly Stephens
Lou Ann Seevers
Marcia Cooper
Martha Meadows
Matthew Kirtley
Michael Frank
Michael Hvizdak
Mike Churchman
Mike McCleaf
M'Liz Held
Paul D. Welch
Peggy Stewart
Phyllis Manley
Randy Willson
Rob Roy Jones
Ronnie Buffington
Rose Bell
Rosemarie Gomineck
Sally Marple
Sam Fortunato
Sharon Wheeler
Shirley Everhart Kirtley
Stacy Jo Vogel
Susie Kurcina
Twinkle Smith
Wink Harner

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

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

In the Hospital
Bonnie Nichols – Weirton Medical Center, Room 518

Church Families
Suellen Lewis
Barbara Losey
Doris Lord

Local Church
Christ United Methodist Church

Special Friend
Betty Morgan – 3708 Hanlin Way, Weirton, WV  26062-4408

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
Charles Saffle – Wyngate, 100 Wyngate Dr., Weirton, WV  26062
Conrad Criss – Wyngate, 101 Wyngate Dr., Weirton, WV  26062
Dolores Edwards – Wyngate, 100 Wyngate Dr., Weirton, WV  26062
Eleanor Dueley – Brightwood Center, 840 Lee Ridge Rd., Follansbee, WV  26037
Harry Hutch – Villa Vista, Room 507, 1800 Sinclair Ave., Steubenville, OH  43953
June Virtue – Grace Cottage, 195 Eden Dr., Weirton, WV  26062-3664
Margaret Heaton – Weirton Geriatric Center, 2525 Pennsylvania Ave., Weirton, WV  26062

What's Happening at Cove Presbyterian Church?

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

CHANCEL CHOIR PRACTICE . . .
is being held at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday mornings in the choir room.  Anyone wishing to praise God through song is welcome to join us!

DON'T FORGET SUNDAY SCHOOL  . . .
we meet every Sunday morning at 9:45 a.m.

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.

HOLIDAY SCHEDULE . . .
the church office will be closed on Thursday, January 1 for New Year's Day. Happy Holidays!

OUR TUESDAY EVENING STUDY . . .
will next meet on Tuesday, January 6 at 6:30 p.m. During this session, we'll consider the Biblical story behind the Epiphany of the Lord.

BOARD MEETINGS . . .
Board of Deacons will meet on Monday, January 5 at 6:30 p.m. in the board room.
Board of Session will meet on Sunday, January 11 at 6:30 p.m. in the board room.
The Trustees will meet on Tuesday, January 13 at 6:30 p.m. in the board room.

BOARD MEMBERS . . .
Please remember to clear your mailboxes. New mailboxes will be set -up the beginning of January.

THANK YOU - KROGER COMMUNITY REWARDS PARTICIPANTS. .
Cove's Supporters, 20 households, who shopped at Kroger's earned Cove
$ 270.64 as our share of this quarter's funds (August 1 thru October 31). If you are not registered please consider doing so, it cost you nothing, you retain all of your points but earn FREE MONEY for Cove Church.  The bottom of your JANUARY receipt should read -  - You requested Kroger to donate to COVE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH.  If you have any questions, please contact the church office.

NOTE THE CHANGE IN OUR OFFICE HOURS. . .
the church office will be open on Monday thru Thursday from 7:30 a.m. till 1:30 p.m.  The office will now be closed on Fridays.

2015 OFFERING ENVELOPES . . .
are available in the narthex. Please take your box and any family, friends or neighbors that you can deliver saving us postage.  If you did not receive a
box and wish one, please contact the church office and envelopes will be assigned to you.

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 information on  upcoming events 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.

SERMONS, DEVOTIONS, LESSONS, AND ESSAYS ARE AVAILABLE ON . . .
the Cove PodBean page (covepresbyterian.podbean.com) and iTunes (search Cove Presbyterian).

WE ARE BLOGGING!
We now have eight 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 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.
Living the Faith in the Real World (http://livingthefaithintherealworld. blogspot.com/) - Our beliefs shape both our opinions and actions. And even though that's true for everyone, often people of faith struggle to apply their understanding of the divine to both practical and political issues. This becomes particularly challenging when we hear multiple voices, all claiming to represent the truth but coming to different conclusions. This Blog will provide a forum where we might share how our faith shapes our perspectives on some specific issues. We hope that through this sharing, we might all better understand how the sacred impacts the profane. We'll pose a question and invite you to respond. We only ask two things of you. First, we ask that you avoid profanity and demeaning language. Second, we want you to write the truth as you see it.
The Question of Faith (http://thequestionoffaith.blogspot.com/) - I believe that there are basic ideas that all people of faith share, but once you get below those "basics," there are many different ways to understand God and our relationship with the divine. Even within Christianity, Christians disagree about the nature of God, the identity and work of Jesus Christ, and how we might or should respond to his coming. As a matter of fact, some people consider certain things absolutely essential to the Christian faith while other believers are indifferent to the same ideas and actions. We hope this Blog provides us the opportunity to share and to understand better what we believe. We'll offer a question, and you'll have the chance to respond. And even though many of the questions will be distinctively Christian, we hope that you'll still share your insight even if it's from other faith traditions.
O, That's Interesting! (http://cove-talk.blogspot.com/) - The great thing about being part of a community is that you have the chance to share with other folks. Now, there are times when you're dealing with matters of great weight. But other times you may be talking about general plans, special memories, and personal hopes. Through this site, we hope to encourage you to share your thoughts and feelings on a variety of topics that may be meaningful to you. We hope you see this Blog like a water cooler or a kitchen table, in other words, as a place to share.
Growing in Grace (http://sproutsoffaith.blogspot.com/) - Although we're saved by God's grace, we can grow in our understanding of grace. At Cove Presbyterian Church, we offer a variety of different classes for children and adults, many of which are recorded and the podcasts posted on our PodBean (covepresbyterian). In this Blog, we'll offer the link to the podcast and notes from the particular session. You may also ask any question you might have and enter into a discussion with others.

IF YOU'RE ONLINE...
"like" us on Facebook (Cove Presbyterian Church,  https://www.facebook .com/Covepresbyterian) or join our Facebook group (The Cove Community, https://www.facebook.com/groups/115579235630/). You can also connect with Pastor Rudiger on Instagram (rev_ed).

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 or to receive communion 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 . . .
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.

Cove Kids: Children Bulletins for Sunday, December 28, 2014

Cove Kids: Children Bulletins for Sunday, December 28, 2014: Below are puzzles for children focused on Isaiah 61:10–62:3. There are two “bulletins,” one for ages 3-6 and the other for ages 7-12. Feel f...

Cove's Bulletin for Sunday, December 28, 2014

Below is a copy of our Sunday bulletin. Using a passage from Isaiah, the sermon will focus on how we might keep the joy of Christmas into the new year.









The Bible in a Year: Bible Reading for December 26, 2014

The Bible in a Year: Bible Reading for December 26, 2014: Today our passages are Zechariah 9:1-17; Revelation 17:1-18; Psalm 145:1-21; and Proverbs 30:32 . The readings are from The Message...

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Today's Minute for Mission - Nativity of Jesus Christ/Christmas Day

Dressed in a choir robe, she looked from the back of the church out across the sea of families who had made their way downtown to rejoice in the day that God had sent the Son into this world. Recently she had lost her well-paying job; her stability. She wouldn’t be able to afford to fly home; today, she would be alone.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a woman in the last pew of the church buried under two old raggedy coats and surrounded by three or four large plastic shopping bags stuffed to the fullest. She thought of her family, who at that moment would be around their tree opening gifts, and stepped into the center of the aisle and sang in a beautiful soprano, “Once in royal David’s city / Stood a lowly cattle shed, / Where a mother laid her baby.” And down the aisle she went, singing, “With the poor, oppressed, and lowly, / Lived on earth our Savior holy,” and, “He was little, weak, and helpless.”
From her seat high up in the choir loft, she spotted the homeless woman again. As the congregation sang, “And he feels for all our sadness,” she wished that she could do more. And so she prayed, “Lord, thank you for this lowly cattle shed with open doors and room for all.” She hadn’t ever remembered praying so often or so easily. “Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion!” the preacher read. And she began to cry, for at that moment her family would be having hot chocolate at her home in Zion, Pennsylvania. Sometimes mission is right there in the backyard. “Sing to the LORD a new song,” the preacher read.
Mark Eldred, middler, McCormick Theological Seminary; member, Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago

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

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for December 25, 2014: Today our passages are Zechariah  8:1-23; Revelation 16:1-21; Psalm 144:1-15; and Proverbs 30:29-31 . The readings are from The Mess...

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Growing in Grace: The Passages of Christmas (Session 3 - The Origin in John)

Growing in Grace: The Passages of Christmas (Session 3 - The Origin ...: You may listen to a podcast of this session at PodBean . During this session, we’ll consider the prologue from John We discussed the fol...

A Sermon for Christmas Eve – Living in the Light

Below is a copy of the sermon I preached on Christmas Eve in Two Ridges Presbyterian Church, Wintersville, Ohio. You can also find a podcast of this sermon at The Cove Podbean page.

Isaiah 9:2-7

The people who walked in darkness
     have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness —
     on them light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation,
     you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
     as with joy at the harvest,
     as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden,
     and the bar across their shoulders,
     the rod of their oppressor,
     you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For all the boots of the tramping warriors
     and all the garments rolled in blood
     shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
For a child has been born for us,
     a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
     and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
     Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually,
     and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
     He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
     from this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

Living in the Light

You know, one of the things I love most about Christmas are the lights. I mean, it seem likes everywhere you look, there’s twinkling going on, especially on the outside. Man, they’re hanging on trees and around houses. They’re framing deers and lighting up great, big inflatable Santas. And I’ll tell you, one of my favorite displays is right close to where I live up on Marland Heights. You see, someone’s cut out wooden figures of all the folks we usually put at the manger, you know, kings and shepherds and of course, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus in a manger. Now they’ve got these cut-outs in their yard, not far from their home, and right in front, they’ve put this kind of spotlight directed toward the figures so that they cast a shadow on the wall of the house. I love it; it’s really cool. I’ll tell you, I think it would be hard to argue that this is a season of lights.

And why shouldn’t it be? I mean, according to what we just read from Isaiah, this is really the focus of our celebration. As he wrote, “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness — on them light has shined.” And the reason for this sudden illumination, again according to Isaiah, “a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.”

Now, that’s what Isaiah wrote, and this is really what Christmas is all about, isn’t it? As the Evangelist John said right at the beginning of his gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” Now that’s what he said.

But you know, when he wrote about that light entering the world and about the Word becoming flesh in the form of Jesus Christ, he said something else that I find interesting. 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.” In other words, despite of the fact that they now had the opportunity to live in this glorious light, people preferred to remain in the dark. Of course, the reason, well, that may be clear, at least it was from Jesus. Like he said to Nicodemus, “And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed.” You see, for Jesus, people like to stay in the dark, I guess pretending that ignorance really is bliss.

And I think that applies to most of us too. I mean, there are some mighty good reasons to prefer the dark to the light. It’s sort of like when I was a teenager and my skin was a mess and I had these big, silver braces on my teeth. Back then, I wasn’t fond of mirrors in well-lit rooms. They’d revealed too much, stuff I frankly didn’t want to see. And let’s face it, there’s nothing like bright, florescent light to expose every flaw. And so, even thought pitch darkness had it own set of problems, I think I would have taken a dim bulb over a bright light any day of the week. And I think that’s often the case with us morally and spiritually; we tend to cover and cloak those things we’d prefer to keep hidden, hidden from others and from God, even hidden from ourselves.

Now that’s often what we do, and I believe it’s a shame, and I’ll tell you why. Without light, it’s hard to see ourselves as we’re seen by God, namely as children whom he loves in spite of our dirty hands. And this is something we may never understand, if we don’t muster the courage to step out of the dark so that we might stand exposed in the light. As a matter of fact, I think that’s one of the reasons Christ came, to reveal who we really are, as men and women who fall short of God’s glorious ideal, but who are still loved. We miss a lot when we choose to stay in the dark.

And I’ll tell you, for that reason, I think it may be pretty important for us to try as hard as we can to live in the light. I mean, even though it may mean accepting some things about ourselves that we’d rather deny, when we take the chance and step out of the shadows, we’re going to experience genuine peace, assured that our past has not only been forgiven but also cleansed. And we’re going to be able to see forward, right into a glorious future that’s already in the mind of God, one in which we’ll enjoy perfect freedom, because all the garbage that we’ve kept hidden will be gone. But maybe best of all, as we go about living everyday, we’re going to feel God’s presence and his love, a presence that’ll enable us to see and avoid a lot of the obstacles that are there before us, things that can really trip us up if we’re not careful and a love that reminds us that even when we fail and fall, nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love which is in Christ Jesus our Lord; therefore, we can get ourselves up and start moving again. You see, I believe all this is going to happen, when we make the decision to accept and to live in the light, that wonderful light that entered our world when Jesus was born.

Now, next month this time, our neighborhoods are going to be a little darker than they are now, because most people will have taken down their decorations and those who haven’t probably aren’t going to publicize that by turning them on. And even though, personally, I’ll be a little disappointed, it’s probably a good thing. I mean, if they were on all the time, they might lose some of their wonder. But just because the electricity isn’t flowing, this doesn’t mean we can’t live in a light that’s a whole lot more lasting and meaningful than anything I can put in my front yard. You see, as we move into a new year, we can live as thought we really believe that because of Jesus, “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness — on them light has shined.”

Bible Talk: The Lectionary Passages for Sunday, December 21, 2...

Bible Talk: The Lectionary Passages for Sunday, December 21, 2...: Below are NRSV translations of the lessons from the Psalms (Psalm 148), Old Testament (Isaiah 61:10–62:3), the Letters (Galatians 4:4-7), an...

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

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for December 24, 2014: Today our passages are Zechariah 6:1–7:14; Revelation 15:1-8; Psalm 143:1-12; and Proverbs 30:24-28 . The readings are from The Mess...

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line – Trust the Lord and Carry a Quarter

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 on the church page at Cove Presbyterian Podbean page (covepresbyterian).

Isaiah 33:17-22

Your eyes will see the king in his beauty;
     they will behold a land that stretches far away.
Your mind will muse on the terror:
     "Where is the one who counted?
     Where is the one who weighed the tribute?
     Where is the one who counted the towers?"
No longer will you see the insolent people,
     the people of an obscure speech that you cannot comprehend,
     stammering in a language that you cannot understand.
Look on Zion, the city of our appointed festivals!
     Your eyes will see Jerusalem,
     a quiet habitation, an immovable tent,
whose stakes will never be pulled up,
     and none of whose ropes will be broken.
But there the LORD in majesty will be for us
     a place of broad rivers and streams,
where no galley with oars can go,
     nor stately ship can pass.
For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our ruler,
     the LORD is our king; he will save us.

Trust the Lord and Carry a Quarter

When I was a kid, I remember how a mother of one of my friends would always say the same thing whenever he and I went out. As a matter of fact, it really didn’t matter where we were going, she’d say, “Trust the Lord and carry a quarter.” Of course, at the time we were usually so anxious to go that neither one of paid much attention, but looking back, I think what she said, well, it makes a lot of sense. You see, she was actually challenging us to do two things: one, to trust the one who’s always with us and who’s always ready to offer direction and protection but two, also to be smart. In other words, in spite of our faith, we should always carry enough change so that we could call home if we got into trouble.

And like I said, I now think that’s good advice. I believe that the same God whom Isaiah believed  was going to be with his people Israel, this same one is still with us, guiding us to places of comfort and offering hope as we look into the future. The Lord is right here, right now. But believing this shouldn’t give us an excuse to be stupid. I mean, we still need to live the kind of lives he’s called and equipped us to live. And we still need to recognize that we live in the real world where, depending on what’s happening around us, we might need to be wise as snakes and innocent as dove.

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for December 23, 2014

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for December 23, 2014: Today our passages are Zechariah 4:1–5:11; Revelation 14:1-20; Psalm 142:1-7; and Proverbs 30:21-23 . The readings are from The Mess...

Sunday's Minute for Mission – University of Dubuque Theological Seminary

Seminarian Brian Beverly, pictured here with college student Becca Thiltgen, mentors Logan in collegiate ministry. Photo courtesy of Nicky Story
Seminarian Brian Beverly, pictured here with college
student Becca Thiltgen, mentors Logan in collegiate
ministry.
The summer before starting college, Logan Webb fervently prayed to find other Christians on campus, so that by their friendship he might continue to grow in faith and receive encouragement. You see, just months before heading to the University of Dubuque, Logan decided he would unreservedly live for Christ. Despite this new enthusiasm, he knew enough to fear that, without fellowship, faith might be left behind at home.
God answered Logan’s prayer through campus-ministry student leaders, who greeted him on move-in day to carry his belongings to his dorm. Responding to their invitations, later that week he ventured out of his dorm room to a worship service. Little by little, Logan took steps into fellowship, daring to know others and be known by them. Through a small-group Bible study, he went from being a guest who simply receives to a committed member of the fellowship who gives. In other words, he responded to the challenging call to discipleship lived in community with other disciples. He realized that he was called to reach out to classmates in response to their needs.
Logan eventually began wondering whether God was calling him to either camping or collegiate ministry. Finding himself at a university that also has a theological seminary, Logan entered seminary and continued ministering to college students, all on the same campus.
Now Logan, in reaching out with the love of Christ, is sometimes an answer to others’ prayers for fellowship.
Jim Gunn, chaplain, undergraduate campus