Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line – Lemons and Lemonade

Below is a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find a recording of this devotion on the prayer line (1-304-748-7900) and a podcast on the Cove Presbyterian Podbean page.

Acts 8:1b-13

That day a severe persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria. Devout men buried Stephen and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church by entering house after house; dragging off both men and women, he committed them to prison.

Now those who were scattered went from place to place, proclaiming the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them. The crowds with one accord listened eagerly to what was said by Philip, hearing and seeing the signs that he did, for unclean spirits, crying with loud shrieks, came out of many who were possessed; and many others who were paralyzed or lame were cured. So there was great joy in that city.

Now a certain man named Simon had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he was someone great. All of them, from the least to the greatest, listened to him eagerly, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” And they listened eagerly to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. But when they believed Philip, who was proclaiming the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Even Simon himself believed. After being baptized, he stayed constantly with Philip and was amazed when he saw the signs and great miracles that took place.

Lemons and Lemonade

There’s an old saying, “if you’re given lemons, make lemonade.” Now, in my opinion, the point is pretty clear. When bad things happen, rather than sitting around and brooding about the unfairness of life, we can decide to do the best we can with what we have. Of course, that makes a lot of sense. Even if things aren’t ideal, it’s better to do something positive with what we have, than doing nothing at all.

But I’ll tell you, this makes even more sense for Christians than others, and I’ll tell you why. Since we believe that God is in control and that he’s leading us toward our ultimate destinies, we can accept what happens as part of something greater than ourselves, and we can decide to move forward, confident that God will be with us every step of the way. Of course, we may still feel disappointed and discouraged but I don’t think we’ll descend into despair. Instead, just like Philip demonstrated in the passage we read from Acts, we’ll to look for opportunities offered by our current situation to show love to both God and neighbor. In other words, even if we’d rather have either apples or grapes, we can use the lemons that we’ve been given to make a glorious pitcher of lemonade.

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for June 30, 2015

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for June 30, 2015: Today our passages are 2 Kings 17:1–18:12; Acts 20:1-38; Psalm 148:1-14; and Proverbs 18:6-7. The readings are from t...

Monday, June 29, 2015

Sunday’s Sermon – It’s Your Story

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

2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27

After the death of Saul, when David had returned from defeating the Amalekites, David remained two days in Ziklag.

David intoned this lamentation over Saul and his son Jonathan. (He ordered that The Song of the Bow be taught to the people of Judah; it is written in the Book of Jashar.) He said: Your glory, O Israel, lies slain upon your high places! How the mighty have fallen! Tell it not in Gath, proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon; or the daughters of the Philistines will rejoice, the daughters of the uncircumcised will exult. You mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew or rain upon you, nor bounteous fields! For there the shield of the mighty was defiled, the shield of Saul, anointed with oil no more. From the blood of the slain, from the fat of the mighty, the bow of Jonathan did not turn back, nor the sword of Saul return empty. Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely! In life and in death they were not divided; they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions. O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you with crimson, in luxury, who put ornaments of gold on your apparel. How the mighty have fallen in the midst of the battle! Jonathan lies slain upon your high places. I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; greatly beloved were you to me; your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women. How the mighty have fallen, and the weapons of war perished!

It’s Your Story

I think we all know something about what occurred in Charleston a little over a week ago. Of course, right after it happened, and I’m talking about before an arrest was made, nobody really understood why the shooter had killed those people. But after he was identified and some of the stuff he’d posted online became public, it seems pretty clear that racism was a major factor behind what he did. And as symbol to represent his beliefs, right along with the old flags of South Africa under apartheid and Rhodesia, he sort of lay claim to the battle flag of the Confederacy. And because of that, it reopened the debate about whether it’s appropriate to fly that particular flag on the grounds of the South Carolina state capital building in Columbia, with some saying it’s an offensive sign of racism while others say it’s actually a noncontroversial reminder of history and heritage. Now, this debate has been going on for decades, but it got new legs after the shooting.

And I’ve got to tell you, as a southerner, this controversy has not only touched me personally, it’s also reminded me of something that we all do but that I sometimes forget. You see, on a personal level, when I was about ten years old, while we were on vacation, I bought a little display with five flags of the Confederacy. It had a little wooden base with five holes, one for each flag, with four surrounding one in the middle. Well, I thought it was pretty neat, and since I was a good, Virginia boy who was also interested in history, I also believed it reflected my heritage, something about which I was and am proud. And for that reason, as soon as I got home, I set it up in my bedroom. And when I went to college and seminary, it went with me. And then, later, it traveled to New Orleans and Montana and Indianapolis, always occupying a visible place in my office. And when I went back to Virginia, it sat right there by my computer in the basement. In other words, it was always close, and the reason, well, I can tell right here and now, it had nothing to do with racism or white supremacy. Rather, it sort of carried me back to old Virginia and those wonderful family trips we took when I was kid, and in a broader sense, it reminded me of some of the stuff a Virginian growing up in the sixties learned in school, and I’m talking about things like the dignity of Robert E. Lee and courage of those who fought against enormous odds in the War Between the States and the nobility of the lost cause. You see, for me, those flags were meaningful, but not because they pointed to any specific event or ideology. Rather they reflected my own interpretation of that historical story. And so personally, I could really identify with the debate in South Carolina.

But like I said, it also reminded me of something that we all do but that I sometimes forget. You see, although we have absolutely no power over events that have already happened, and I’m talking about words that have already been said and actions that have already been taken, although we can’t control them, we do have control over how those events and words and actions are interpreted in the present and applied to the future. In other words, we have the freedom and the ability to shape our own stories. Or put another way, even though we can’t change the content, we can shape the meaning of the past, of our past, and this is something that we do all the time.

And I’ll tell you, I think we have a great example of a person doing this very thing right here in this passage we just read. Now it’s important to understand, as we open this new book, Saul had just died in battle, and David was responding to the news. But I want you notice that, in his response, David shaped the story of Saul. I mean, David chose to put aside a lot of the negative stuff, you know, like how, not very long ago, Saul tried to impale him with a spear and how the old king was jealous of the younger man’s success in battle and how, for most of his adult life, he’d had be on the lam, trying to stay alive with the King of Israel always in hot pursuit. Now, historically, that had already happened; therefore, and if David had wanted, he could have focused on all this stuff. And if he had, then the news of Saul’s death would have a resulted in relief if not joy. But according to these verses, that’s not what David did. Instead, he chose to focus on Saul’s nobility, on how his death should bring joy to the Philistines, a people that the former king had defeated time and time again and from whom he’d liberated Israel. You see, as he shaped his story of Saul, David concentrated on what Saul had done not to him, but rather for his people, and how, because of that, they should all mourn. And so, instead of relief, David felt genuine grief, both with the death of Saul but also Jonathan, Saul’s son and David’s best friend. You see, right here, David interpreted the past and shaped his own story, one that effected his life in the present.

And like I said, we do the exact same thing ourselves, and we do it all the time. I mean, although we can’t change what’s already occurred, we’re constantly determining how we’re going to interpret it; we’re constantly shaping and reshaping the story, our story. And from that story, we take away lessons that not only we apply to ourselves but that we pass on to others. And I’ll tell you, this is something we really have to do, because if we look at our lives objectively, all we’re going to see is a string of events, some good and bad, some positive and some negative, some that, at the time, offered comfort and peace and happiness while others caused us to be feel scared or discouraged or angry. I mean, I think we’d all agree that life is really a mixed bag. But to find meaning, well, we need to take that bag and unpacked it and interpreted the contents. And you know, it’s when we start sorting through those events that the stories develop. And it’s when we begin to filter out those things that just don’t seem to fit with the general narrative and emphasize those things that do that those stories start to have meaning. And it’s when we start thinking about the meaning that lessons rise to the surface and we begin seeing how the past effects what we feel in the present and how we plan to move into the future. You see, often it’s not the events, the words, the actions of past that have the biggest impact on us. Rather it’s what we do with them that matters, and I’m talking about the themes we see repeating themselves and the reasons we associate with both the positives and the negatives. In other words, the past acquires it’s meaning and offers to us lessons and direction when we shape it into a story that we can understand and apply. And because it’s the meaning that we want and the lessons that we need, we’re doing this stuff all the time.

And we do it whether we’re aware of it or not. And for that reason, I think it’s something that we should recognize that accept; you see, that’s the only way we can exercise any control. And I’ll tell you why I think that’s important: if we don’t control our interpretation, our interpretation just might control us. Let me give a few examples of what I’m talking about. If I want to justify being angry or jealous or bitter, I think I’m going to start looking for stuff that’s happened in the past that’ll offer me some really good reasons for feeling that way. Or if I want to leave my job or my community or my marriage, if that’s what I really want to do, I’m probably going to filter out those things that might raise questions and to emphasize everything that enables me to go. And my goodness, if I want my daughter to study and to work and to believe, I’m going to develop lessons based on lives and situations in which folks found that success because had they had qualities I want her to claim. You see what I’m saying? Whether we’re aware of it or not, we’re constantly interpreting and reinterpreting the past. And if we don’t recognize that we’re doing it, the stories we create just might control us in ways we don’t expect and frankly don’t want. You see, I think it’s really important for us to understand that this is something we all do. But that’s not all.

Once we recognize it, I think we need to decide that we’re going to be more intentional as we do it. In other words, we might want to take some control over how we interpret the past so that we can avoid justifying feelings and excusing actions and passing on lessons that will, in the long run, result in a lot pain and heartache. And you know, this just makes sense. I mean, if I recognize that a lot of my anger and jealousy and bitterness is the result of those things I choose to remember, then maybe I can intentionally look at other events that might balance those feelings. And whether I’m doing it consciously or not, if I’m only considering those things that make my decision to leave easier, maybe I might need to force myself to take a second look at some of the memories I chose to filter out, because I’ve got to tell you, I don’t think a decision to leave should ever be easy. And you know, if the only lessons I find to teach Maggie are the ones that are intended to move her in the direction I want her to go, maybe I need to broaden my vision, something that I’ve got to tell you, will be painful, but may be necessary, because God just might be leading her toward a life that’s different from the one I want her to live. You see, I think we have some control over how we interpret the past. And even though I don’t want to suggest that we should only look at the bright side of life, I think we need to remember that the things on which we choose to focus will, not may, but will effect us, both now and into the future. And for that reason, I think we need to be intentional in how we justify our feelings and excuse our actions and form our lessons.

Now remember, I started all this by talking about the how the shootings in Charleston have renewed a discussion of the place the Confederate battle flag should play in our culture. Well, it seems that, because of this one event, some of those who believed it should remain in front of the state house a month ago, well, they’re now are saying it should be removed. And I’ll tell you, as a southerner, I’m very comfortable with that, because when I teaching history in Buckingham County, Virginia, my perspective on my little Confederate flags changed, and I started to understand how, for good historical reasons, it was not only offensive to people whom I really didn’t want to offend and for whom Jesus died, but in the face of 9/11, maybe I should back away from glorifying and romanticism another group who under the flags sitting on my desk, fired on soldiers serving the United States of America. And so, without surrendering any of my childhood memories or any of the pride I will always feel being a son of Virginia, I retired my display to a box with which, one day, Maggie will have to deal. In other words, I chose to reinterpreted my history, the same kind of thing David did with Saul. And we can do it too, when we recognize that this is something we’re constantly doing and take some control so that our past can help us as we live in the present and move into the future. And this is something you certainly have every right to do, because when you get right down to it, it’s still your story.

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for June 29, 2015

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for June 29, 2015: Today our passages are 2 Kings 15:1–16:20; Acts 19:13-41; Psalm 147:1-20; and Proverbs 18:4-5. The readings are the C...

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line – Vive la Différence

Below is a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find a recording of this devotion on the prayer line (1-304-748-7900) and a podcast on the Cove Presbyterian Podbean page.

Luke 22:39-46

He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed,“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” (Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.) When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.”

Vive la Différence

I think there’s a fundamental difference between Christianity and every other religion that I’ve encountered, and it doesn’t center around the almighty nature of God nor in humanity’s innate weakness nor in a process through which that weakness can be transcended. As a matter of fact, although it may be expressed in different ways and with different imagines, these things are fairly consistent across the religious spectrum. In other words, in most systems, God is above and we’re below and that separation is bridged by some action on the part of God, us or some combination of the two. This really isn’t what makes Christianity different.

Instead, Christians believe that God bridged the separation between himself and us, and he did it by entering our time and space as Jesus Christ, 100% human and 100% divine. And it was through Jesus that we were able to encounter God in the only way we could understand and that humanity, with all our fears, doubts and limits, entered into the very nature of God. You see, it was through the incarnation that God entered us and we entered God. And I’ll tell you, that’s what makes Christianity different. And because of what that means both for those who believe and those who don’t, all I can possibly say is “Vive la Différence!”

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

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for June 27, 2015: Today our passages are 2 Kings 10:32–12:21; Acts 18:1-22; Psalm 145:1-21; and Proverbs 18:1. The readings are from t...

Friday, June 26, 2015

Cove Kids: Children's Bulletins for Sunday, June 22, 2015

Cove Kids: Children's Bulletins for Sunday, June 22, 2015: Below are puzzles for children focused on 2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27. There are two “bulletins,” one for ages 3-6 and the other for ages 7-12. Feel...

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

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

Adults
Annette Goff
Audrey Vincent
Barbara Maze
Beatrice Sobolak
Betty Michael
Betty Potts
Bill Manley
Carol Mowl
Chad Wilson
Cindi Livingston
Concordia Poblete Nazaire
Corinne Ferguson
Darcy Keffer
Dave Rogerson
David Mowl
Deloris Chesebro
Dennis Wayne Allen
Dick Spencer
Edward Morgan III
Emery Edwards
Emmy Martinez
Evan Pulice
Fred Straka
Gen Meyer
George Bownlee
Goldie Baly
Greta Billham
Jeff Grant
Jen's Mom
Jim & Shelley Pearson
Jo Magnone
Joanie Lawrence
John Guglielmo
John Philips
John Schlotter
Jonathan Smith
Judy Edmonds
Karen Lombardi
Kelly Stephens
Laurie Lehman
Lindy Starck
Lou Ann Seevers
Marcia Cooper
Martha Meadows
Marybeth Lewis
Matthew Kirtley
Michael Frank
Mike Churchman
M'Liz Held
Nick Mourat
Nick Petrovich Jr
Olivia Young & family
Patty Notte
Paul D. Welch
Penny Mourat
Phyllis Manley
Rob Roy Jones
Robert Hans
Ron Neely
Ronnie Buffington
Rose Bell
Sam Fortunato
Sharon Wheeler
Shirley Everhart Kirtley
Stacy Jo Vogel
Susie Kurcina
Todd Lojszczyk
Vicki Williams
Wink Harner

Children
Aksel Ace
Audri King
Basil Collen Slater
Ella Marsh
Daniel Marchione
Devon Bragg
Jeffrey Konovich
Jonathan Marte
Kade Haines
Kya Schwertfeger
Leyton Burket
Lily Ghrist
Lucian Hill
Michael Liptak
Shelby Kamarec

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

Bereaved
The Family of Fred Marsh, on the passing of John Puskarich, Fred's uncle
The Family of Wayne Williams, on the passing of Eddie Williams, Wayne's brother

Church Families
Goldie & Melanie Baly
Kathy Banks
Lou & Carol Bernardi

Local Church
St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church

Special Friend
June Virtue – Grace Cottage, 195 Eden Dr., Weirton, WV  26062-3664

Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery Congregations 
United Presbyterian Church, Bethlehem, West Virginia – Rev. Philip Keevil
Pleasant Valley Presbyterian Church, Blaine, Ohio – Ms. Ela Robertson, Student Pastor

Also Remember in Your Prayers
Alice & Kenny Orr – Weirton Geriatric Center, 2525 Pennsylvania Ave., Weirton, WV  26062
Corinne Ferguson – Woodland Hills, 608 North 10th St., 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.

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.

BOOKMARKS . . .
Cove’s Reading Group will meet on Monday, June 29th at 6:30 p.m. in the church parlor to discuss the book, There Was An Old Woman by Hallie Ephron.

OUR TUESDAY EVENING STUDY . . .
will  meet  on Tuesday, June 30, at 6:30 p.m. to continue our new series dealing with Paul’s Letter to the Romans. During this session, we’ll discuss Romans 5. And so bring your Bibles and get ready to grow in your understanding of God’s word to us.

BOARD OF TRUSTEES . . .
will meet on Monday, July 13 at 6:30 p.m. in the boardroom.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR. . .
Hot Dog Luncheon Sunday, July 19 following morning worship.  The Deacons are sponsoring a luncheon featuring hot dogs, chips, sundaes and beverages.  Donations will be used toward Project Christmas Smile.

OUR SYMPATHY IS EXTENDED TO THE FAMILIES OF  . . .
Eddie Williams, brother of Wayne Williams who died on Friday. May 29, 2015 and
John Puskarich, uncle of Fred Marsh who died on Sunday, June 21, 2015.

COVE’S  ANNUAL COMMUNITY BIRTHDAY CALENDAR. . .
project is underway.  This is our 11th year. Everyone’s support is vital for our continued success! Approximately sixty families of Cove’s members/friends participate. Please if you are not a supporter, we encourage you to become one!  It would be wonderful to have that number increase!!  The calendar is a great  way to remember special dates involving those important people in your life  - - whether it be a birthday, anniversary or
a memorial for that someone special you have lost. What a wonderful asset it would be to have ALL MEMBERS and FRIENDS  listed on the calendar! All important dates - AT YOUR FINGERTIPS! This is a beautiful, colored calendar sponsored by local area businesses listing important dates for special people. For ten years this has been a wonderful fund raiser for the church, approximately a thousand dollars a year! Included  you will find a blank  listing form,  please fill out the form and return it to the church office with your payment. If you received your previous listings in the mail, please review them, make any changes or corrections and return to the church office.  If you have any questions please contact the church office.  There is a copy of last year’s calendar on display on the main bulletin board in the downstairs hallway.

PROJECT CHRISTMAS SMILE KICK-OFF . . .
begins next Sunday, July 5th with “Christmas in July.”  During the month of July there will be a Christmas Tree in the narthex.  We are seeking donations of new, unwrapped toys or books.  Examples of donations include - games - Connect Four, Candy Land, Uno; books- either story or coloring; baby dolls or Barbie Dolls; Hot Wheels cars; stuffed animals; toy trucks; crayons or markers; Legos; arts and craft kits; and any type of ball. Please  consider donating an item or two to aide in giving less fortunate children in Weirton a “Special Christmas.” If you have questions, please talk to any Deacon or Tina Viakley.

PLEASE DON’T PROP THE DOORS OPEN . . .
and then leave them unattended. In the past, we’ve had a problem with rodents entering the building; therefore, we’d appreciate you keeping an eye on any door you prop open. Thanks.

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, contact the church office.

THE CELEBRATION OF A CHURCH ANNIVERSARY . . .
is significant because of its threefold impact: It expresses gratitude to God, appreciates members for their diligence and hard work, and looks toward the future.  The Board of Elders is seeking volunteers for the 225th anniversary celebration committee to include members who have abilities and interests in worship, publicity, and organization.  Let us seize the opportunity to gather the members of our congregation to celebrate God’s faithfulness to our church and together step forward in faith.  Please contact the church office if you are interested in participating on the committee.  Celebrating God, recounting His blessings, and renewing Christian fellowship — that’s a recipe for a great 225th anniversary celebration.

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 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.

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 know of someone who is in the hospital please contact the church office, due to privacy laws the hospital is unable to contact us. 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 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.  Telephone the church office to place your order. After the service, the flowers will be placed in a 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. No envelopes -please. 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 hallway downstairs.

Cove's Bulletin for Sunday, June 28, 2015

Below is a copy of our Sunday bulletin. During the 11:00 service, we'll focus on how we might learn from our past so that we might better live in the present and move into the future.









Friday’s Essay – The Real Distractions

Below is an essay that I sent to those on the Cove Presbyterian Church e-mailing list. You can find a podcast on the Cove Presbyterian Church PodBean page.

It’s amazing how your perspective can change. For example, up until a couple of years ago, when folks came to talk about some stress that was threatening to overwhelm them, I can remember advising them to go get out and start doing some of the things that they enjoyed doing, you know, like playing golf or working out in the yard or even just seeing a movie. Now that’s part of the advice I’d give. And the reason, the reason why golf or gardening or going to a theater might be a good thing to do, well, I’d probably call those things positive distractions, activities that might distract them from their problems for at least a little while. In other words, if they were swinging a club or pulling a rake or diving into a bag of popcorn, it might take their mind off the important stuff that was causing so much grief, probably some problem from the past or concern about the future. Now, that’s the kind of thing I’d say.

But not anymore, because my view of distractions have changed recently. You see, while I used to see actives that we might do right now as distractions from feeling ashamed or worried, I now believe that the real distractions are those things that cause us to feel shame and worry. You see, it’s our focus on the past, a past that we can’t control or change, that can dominate our thoughts and drain our energy and distract our attention from the one aspect of life over which we have some control and can make changes, and I’m talking about our lives right now. And the more we worry about a future in which our influence is very limited, the more our ability and willingness to live in the present is hampered. In other words, we fail to live up to our potential, we fail to claim fully the opportunities we have, and we fail to enjoy exploring new possibilities, when we’re focused on things that are done or on things that may never happen. Put another way, I believe that it’s the past and the future that are the real distractions, because they can distract us from living and loving in the present.

But you know, this doesn’t have to happen, not for us who trust in God and believe in the life and work of Jesus. You see, we don’t need to be distracted, because, on one hand, we’ve been cleansed from our past. And I’ll tell you, to be cleansed is a lot more than just being forgiven. For example, there have been people who’ve hurt me, who’ve said things that weren’t true and done things that were just intended to cause pain. Of course, I’m not unique in this; I’d wager that everyone has been there and felt that. And even though we may forgive those people and make the decision to treat them in a loving manner, I’m not sure we can ever totally forget what was said or done and that memory will always have some impact on us. But that’s not how God regards our past. As the Lord said through his prophet Isaiah, “...though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” Our past has been cleansed. This is something God has done, and something we can accept. And so, on one hand, the past should never be distracting.

And on the other hand, neither should the future. What hasn’t happened should never distract us from living right now, because we know that the future is in the hands of God. And he’s leading us toward our destinies. And no amount of worry or concern will change that future. Of course, I recognize that there’s a big difference between our ultimate destinies and what’s going to happen tomorrow. Still, remember that Paul wrote this to the Romans: “If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? ...No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Well, when he said this I think he was talking about both the ultimate and the immediate. You see, just like shame from the past shouldn’t hold us back, worries about the future shouldn’t distract us from becoming everything God created us to be and to do right now.

To tell you the truth, I don’t think I’ll ever call anything we can do in the present a distraction. I now call that living. As a matter of fact, in my opinion, it’s stuff from the past and fear of the future that can distract us from living in the only time over which God has given us some control and in which we can make and act on decisions, and I’m talking about our lives right now.

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for June 26, 2015

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for June 26, 2015: Today our passages are 2 Kings 9:14–10:31; Acts 17:1-34; Psalm 144:1-15; and Proverbs 17:27-28. The readings are th...

Thursday, June 25, 2015

A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line – We’re Number Two

Below is a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find a recording of this devotion on the prayer line (1-304-748-7900) and a podcast on the Cove Presbyterian Podbean page.

Luke 22:24-30

A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. But he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

“You are those who have stood by me in my trials; and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

We’re Number Two

Here in the United States, fans will encourage their athletic teams by chanting “We’re Number One.” But you know, even when it has nothing to do with sports, I think we still have this same attitude, and we carry into most aspects of our lives. Of course, that’s really not a surprise; I think most people would prefer to win than to lose. In fact, we’d rather come in first than second or lower. Just the other day, I heard someone say that the guy would finishes second is just first among the losers. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about business profitability, familial happiness or even church membership, we like being first among subordinates. And why wouldn’t we; our whole society is grounded on the idea that those who achieve should be rewarded, which will encourage them to continue to work hard, while the also-rans will feel bad enough to work harder next time. Frankly, I think it would be difficult to imagine an America that doesn’t expect to win in every possible field.

And yet, when Christ heard his disciples arguing about which one was number one, he redefined the meaning of greatest and leadership. You see, for Christ, the one who was greatest was not the one who received the accolades, rather it was the one who served others. And this was the pattern he established in his own life and challenged his disciples to follow. And even though I’m not sure that striving to be second best is inherently better than seeking to be first, maybe, when we resist focusing our energy and attention on beating everyone else, we might be in a better position to see the needs of those we’d otherwise pass on the way.

Sunday's Minute for Mission - Active Life

whimi110528_swtysheep0007_59If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” (Mark 5:28)
If God is infinite, then why does a sick woman in need of healing reach out to touch Jesus? When a girl needs healing, why does Jesus come to her bedside and hold her hand? For these people, Jesus’ presence and gentle touch were transformational, both spiritually and physically. Today, he calls us also to seek physical and spiritual wellness for ourselves and others.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) designated today as Active Life How do we, like Jesus, glorify God in all we do? Do we heal the sick? Do we keep our own bodies healthy? Do we praise God through work and play as well as words? Do we welcome people with all types of bodies—all colors, shapes, sizes, and abilities? Do we worship God with heart, mind, soul, and strength—or just the first three? Are we as brave as the woman who came to Jesus in the crowd? The first question is this: “Do you want to be made well?” (John 5:6b)
Active Life Church, which supports Active Life Sunday, is an online community and resource center that helps congregations share Christ’s good news and worship God more fully through physical activities and body-conscious theology. Learn more.
Rev. Alex Becker, pastor, Team Sweaty Sheep new worshiping community, Louisville, Kentucky

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for June 25, 2015

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for June 25, 2015: Today our passages are 2 Kings 8:1–9:13; Acts 16:16-40; Psalm 143:1-12; and Proverbs 17:26. The readings are from the...

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

PW Report from Presbytery - One Body, One Spirit

Six of us from the Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery have just returned from the Gathering of the Presbyterian Women in Minneapolis. Alcinda James and I traveled together and she agreed to participate in the Business meeting on Wednesday evening and Thursday morning. 

Mary and Byron McElroy, and Colleen and Anna Griffith joined us at the plenary session Thursday Evening. The 2012 Gathering was held in Florida with nearly 900 women in attendance. There was some concern that meeting in Minneapolis might bring fewer women, yet that evening I had the pleasure of being one of the 20 ushers who had to guide the women to their seats, making sure that each would move to the middle of the row to make room for later arrivals. Imagine people sitting shoulder to shoulder, and actually filling the pew! It was called to our attention that Gradye Parsons had wagered $10 that we wouldn’t break 900. When he was introduced, he had to pay up because there were 1500 women registered. Later during the program the new tally including late arrivals totaled 1700! Gradye paid another $10.

Those 1700 women brought with them money and Target gift cards for three worthy organizations.
  1. ECPAT is a global network dedicated to protecting children. Ending Child slavery, prostitution, and trafficking at the source. 
  2. The Instituto Pre-Vocacional e Industrial de Puerto Rico, our mission is based to educate every individual in their intellectual liberty, concepts and aptitudes, with moral conscious guided to the individual's professional/personal realization and contributions to society. 
  3. The Mission of the American Indian Family Center whose purpose has been to strengthen and value the capacity of the American Indian community, its culture and families to raise healthy, nurtured children to achieve their full potential and to be active, contributing members in their community. 

A monetary gift of $30,000 and $30,000 in Target cards were presented to these organizations.

Ladies and gentlemen of the presbytery, I maintain that Presbyterian Women as an Organization IS NOT DEAD!

We were blessed to have some MIGHTY and Wonderful speakers on our theme ONE BODY, ONE SPIRIT! Most of you have spoken on this theme many times before. We often compare which organ of the body is more important and yet we know they all have to work in concert with each other….they all have to be functioning well for the body to perform well. I tended to get a different perspective as I ushered at the gathering. You see not everyone there chose to move to the center to make it more convenient for their sisters. “I’m Claustrophobic” was used several times. 

Yet if we would magnify the microscope a little more, we would see that the cells of our body must all work pretty much in concert. When you see 1700 women and a few men clustered together, you might understand better how organisms like our skin, muscles, brain, nerves all need contact. As you look over your congregations, are there folks who don’t want their space invaded? Are there some Christians who would rather not come in contact or sit close to one another? It is JUST A THOUGHT!

At our previous Coordinating Team meeting it was called to our attention that there are only about 23 churches in our Presbytery with organizations of Presbyterian Women. As the Moderator of the Upper Ohio Valley Presbyterian Women, I pointed out that The Upper Ohio Valley is made up of 84 churches made up of Presbyterian Women. Can any of you ministers or CLP’s try to get along without them!

In the near future we are hoping that ALL churches will recognize that ALL of their women are PRESBYTERIAN WOMEN and that we may choose to meet monthly and we may choose to meet less frequently. The face of Presbyterian Women is changing and we are all Blessed to have had the great leadership over the years to carry us into the 21st Century! The ways we meet may be changing, however our intent and

PW PURPOSE will still remain forgiven and freed by God in Jesus Christ, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we commit ourselves:
  • To NURTURE our faith through prayer and Bible Study,
  • To SUPPORT the mission of the church worldwide,
  • To WORK for justice and peace, and

To BUILD and inclusive, caring community of omen that strengthens the Presbyterian Church (USA) and witness to the promise of God’s Kingdom.

The decision for women whose church has chosen to leave the Presbytery allows the women to continue their PW membership through the Presbytery. Perhaps women with like interests may belong to PW across church lines. The future holds many possibilities!

Finally, I would like to explain these plants! We are hoping to present a Lavender Day Spring Retreat for the rest of the women of the Presbytery. We really could use your help in referring some women to help us out. One of the characteristics of Lavender is that it helps to relieve tension or anxiety…Hopefully you have noticed that at this meeting. David in writing the Psalms also needed to relieve his tensions and we will spend a few hours learning how! Please refer volunteers to help to me at my email address and I will be getting in touch soon. 

Thank you for both your time and attention. And in closing, I also noticed that Presbyterian Men are still in existence so don’t feel neglected, GUYS!

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for June 24, 2015

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for June 24, 2015: Today our passages are 2 Kings 6:1–7:20; Acts 15:36–16:15; Psalm 142:1-7; and Proverbs 17:24-25. The readings are fr...

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Lectionary Passages for Sunday, June 28, 2015 (Fifth Sunday after Pentecost)

Bible Talk: The Lectionary Passages for Sunday, June 28, 2015 ...: Below are NRSV translations of the lessons from the Psalms (Psalm 130), the Old Testament (2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27) the Letters (2 Corinthians 8...

Cove's Worship Service – Fourth Sunday after Pentecost (1 Samuel 17:32-49)

Below is a copy of the service I led in Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia, on Sunday, June 21. You can also find a podcast of this service at The Cove Podbean page.

The Order of Worship
Fourth Sunday after Pentecost – June 21, 2015

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: "Great is Thy Faithfulness"
Hymn: "Be Still and Know"
Our Song for the Children: "In My Father's House"

Approach God with Humility and Thanks

A Special Time for Children

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: "Here Comes the Sun"

Song of Praise: Doxology

Our Prayer of Thanks and Dedication

Affirming Our Faith: From The Confession of 1967
The reconciling work of Jesus was the supreme crisis in the life of mankind.  His cross and resurrection become personal crisis and present hope for men when the gospel is proclaimed and believed.  In this experience the Spirit brings God's forgiveness to men, moves them to respond in faith, repentance, and obedience, and initiates the new life in Christ. The new life takes shape in a community in which men know that God loves and accepts them in spite of what they are.  They therefore accept themselves and love others, knowing that no man has any ground on which to stand except God's grace. The new life does not release a man from conflict with unbelief, pride, lust, fear.  He still has to struggle with disheartening difficulties and problems.  Nevertheless, as he matures in love and faithfulness in his life with Christ, he lives in freedom and good cheer, bearing witness on good days and evil days, confident that the new life is pleasing to God and helpful to others.

Hear the Word with Understanding

The Word Read: 1 Samuel 17:32-49
David said to Saul, "Let no one's heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine." Saul said to David, "You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth." But David said to Saul, "Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God." David said, "The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine." So Saul said to David, "Go, and may the Lord be with you!" Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. David strapped Saul's sword over the armor, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, "I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them." So David removed them.

Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd's bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine. The Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. The Philistine said to David, "Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?" And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, "Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field." But David said to the Philistine, "You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord's and he will give you into our hand."

When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.

The Word Proclaimed: The Secret to Handling Stress



Leave Worship with Joy

Hymn: "Abide With Me "

Charge and Blessing

Congregational Response    

Postlude: "Lift Your Hearts in Praise"


Worship Leader: Ed Rudiger
Choir Director & Accompanist: Janice Torrance
Special Music: Olivia Dowler

A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line – Our Focus

Below is a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find a recording of this devotion on the prayer line (1-304-748-7900) and a podcast on the church page at Cove Presbyterian Podbean page.

Psalm 123

To you I lift up my eyes,
          O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
As the eyes of servants
          look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maid
          to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the LORD our God,
          until he has mercy upon us.

Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us,
          for we have had more than enough of contempt.
Our soul has had more than its fill
          of the scorn of those who are at ease,
          of the contempt of the proud.

Our Focus

Sometimes it’s challenging for even people of faith to focus their attention and faith on the Lord. Of course, this is relatively easy when things are going well. It takes very little faith to trust that the Lord is with us when life and living are good. But that changes when things turn south and life becomes more difficult. You see, when we’re surrounded by circumstances that cause us to feel frustrated and afraid, we tend to trust ourselves, our judgements and our abilities, and do what we consider appropriate, what we consider best. In fact, when we try to sound spiritual and say we’re giving the problems to God, those words reflect the arrogant belief that we really are in change and that we possess the power to give to God something that he doesn’t already have. When times are tough, we take charge, and as a result, when we most need divine support and strength, we have little but ourselves on which we can rely.

And because of that, I think the psalm I just read is important, because it reminds us that we’re not alone. In fact, we have the Lord and Creator of universe ready to lead us through our problems and pains. And this is something we’ll be able to see the minute we intentionally shift our focus from ourselves to him.

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for June 23, 2015

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for June 23, 2015: Today our passages are 2 Kings 4:18–5:27; Acts 15:1-35; Psalm 141:1-10; and Proverbs 17:23. The readings are from th...

Monday, June 22, 2015

Sunday’s Sermon – The Secret to Handling Stress

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

1 Samuel 17:32-49

David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.” David said, “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.”

So Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you!” Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. David strapped Saul’s sword over the armor, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.” So David removed them.

Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine. The Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. The Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field.” But David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.”

When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.

The Secret to Handling Stress

As the title clearly indicates, this morning, I’m going to let you in on the secret to handling stress. And so that we’re all on the same page, I want you to watch this brief, educational video.



You see, I told you I’m going to let you in on a secret, but I bet you had no idea it had clinical strength.

Of course, I can really relate to this commercial, but not only because I can sort of see my self in a line over at Kroger as Maggie is begging for a candy bar or some Oreos or one of those teen magazines. You see, it seems to me that some the stuff that the woman faces relates the kind of things we all face and that cause stress for even the most calm and faithful person. For example, even though we all believe they’re wonderful and we wouldn’t trade them for love nor money, I think we all know that a lot of stress comes from having children and being a member of a family or community. I don’t care if you’re talking about marriages or neighborhoods or congregations, nobody is in a better position to drive you crazy than a spouse or the guy next door or a fellow church member. Often, they know all our buttons and seem to have no qualms about pushing them. And I haven’t even mentioned the stress that comes from kids. Of course, I recognize that I’m lucky. Now that Maggie’s thirteen I figure the hardest years are behind us. My goodness, she’s now old enough to grasp the logic behind my rules and to appreciate that, even when I’ve made a decision with which she disagrees, I’m just looking after her interest. From now on, she’ll understand that, right? Please someone tell me I’m right. Community causes stress.

And let’s face it, so do work and finances. I’ll tell you, in my experience with folks facing all kinds of problems, money and job-related frustrations are nearly always lurking somewhere in the background if not in the forefront. Of course, again, I recognize that I’m an exception to the rule, because I never face any stress at work, especially when one person says I’m doing something too much and someone else says I’m not doing the exact same thing enough and neither believes the other even exists much less offers anything of value. Of course, they’re not saying it to me; they’re saying it to someone else who says it to someone else who says it to someone else who says it to someone else who then says it to me. No, just ask Debbie, that kind of thing doesn’t bother me at all. Let’s just say work and money produce plenty of stress.

But I’ll tell you, so does just living. I mean, isn’t that what we see in the commercial? Olivia tears open the Skittles and they go everywhere. The only credit card she has won’t go through as the people behind her in line start huffing. And then, as the cherry on top of the sundae, there stands a person whom she’s been hoping to avoid. Ain’t it great. And I’ll tell you, if that poor woman finally makes it out of the store and gets her groceries into her car, take it to the bank, a bag is probably going to fall over in the trunk. And after hitting a pothole on the way home, she’s going to start hearing a rattle she hadn’t heard before. And when she finally gets into the garage, she’ll remember that she didn’t get toilet paper, the main reason she went to the store in the first place. Let’s face it, it doesn’t take much effort or skill to find stress.

But you know, handling it, well that’s not so easy. And for that reason, we’ll going spend some time this morning talking about stress and in particular how we might handle it. And to do that, we’re going to use a story that’s just loaded with stress, and of course, I’m talking about David’s confrontation with Goliath. And I’ll tell you why we’re going to do that. I think we can learn a lot from the future king of Israel, you know, things that we can do when our stress meter crosses over into red. As a matter of fact, I think there are three things that David did that we can also do if we’re serious about handling our stress.

You see, first, following the example of David, to handle stress, we’re going to need to be clear about what we do well and already know to be true, in other words, we need to consider some of lessons we’ve learned from the past as well as all those skills and talents we’ve both been given and acquired. Before we do anything else, we need to take some kind of inventory of what we already know will work and what won’t. And I’ll tell you, that’s exactly what David did, didn’t he? I mean, when he was getting ready to go out and face the giant, they gave him the very best weapons available at the time. Remember, it says, “Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. David strapped Saul’s sword over the armor, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them.” But it also says that David remembered that, when he was tending the sheep and when a loin or bear grabbed a lamb from the flock, he didn’t need a bronze helmet and a coat of mail and a sword to rescue it. And so, after saying to King Saul, “I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them;” David “...took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine.” In other words, David used what he knew best to fight Goliath.

And I’ll tell you, when we face stressful situations, I think we need to do the same. Of course, that’s not always easy. Often when times get rough and we’re feeling the heat, there are plenty of folks who’ll give us all kinds of advice. Man, they’ll tell us exactly what worked and didn’t work for them. In other words, they’ll load us up will all kinds of armor and weapons. And even if their motivation is good and we should listen to everything they have to say, we’re probably not going to be comfortable with all their wisdom. And just because it worked for them, it might not work for us; therefore, before we stumble ahead, we might want to pause for just a moment and to take stock of who we are and what we do well before we step forward. Because if it just doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. I think we can better handle stress by becoming as clear as possible about what we do well. That’s one.

And second, again following the example of David, I think we’ll be better off if we can avoid panicking, in other words, if we can void a lot of worry because with worry, comes fear. And when you’re afraid, you start playing not to lose. And when that happens, well, the game may already be over. We really need to keep our heads, just like David did when he was facing Goliath and the Philistine starting talking trash. I mean, if a giant said to me, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field,” well, let’s just say I’d be a little afraid. But not David. He was able to keep his wits about him and to stand firm.

And you know, if we can remain calm and confident, I honestly believe that stress will become more manageable. I mean, let’s face it, fear often causes us to overreact and panic can really distort our vision and cloud our decisions. But if we’re able to take a step back and calm down..., I’ll tell you, it’s putting into play the lyrics to a song from the musical Sweet Charity: “So when I panic and feel each day I come to the end of the line. Then I say that fear hasn’t licked me yet. I keep telling myself I’m the bravest individual I have ever met.” You see, that’s what we can do. And when we do, we just might find that Charity was right when she says, “This game makes very good sense. I get results.” If we want to be better at handling stress, we need to avoid panicking. And that’s two.

And third, I think we also need to be willing and ready to trust God: to trust that God is in control, to trust that he’s always with us, and to trust that he’ll see us through to the other side. Now, if the only way you can do that is to think that you’ve given him the stuff that’s causing you grief, I guess that’s alright, even though we’re not actually giving him anything, because he already holds our lives and destinies in his hands, whether we like it or not. We need to trust that God is in control. And you know, that’s really what David did. I mean, when Goliath tried his hardest to intimidate the boy, David said, “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.” You see, he didn’t give the battle over to God. David recognized, David believed, David trusted that God was already in control.

And I’ll tell you, brothers and sisters, we can do the exact same thing. I mean, as we consider those strengths that we have, we can acknowledge, at least to ourselves, that these are all gifts given to us by God, skills that we can use to face whatever obstacles might be thrown against us and experiences that will enable us to become the men and women we were created to be. And if we want to remain calm in the face of stress, in other words, if we want to keep our heads when everyone else is losing theirs, I can’t think of a better way to do it than to say to ourselves the same thing Jesus said to his disciples: “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.” I’ll tell you, self-confidence is fine, but God-confidence is better. And I believe it’ll enable us to handle the most intense stress, even when that stress involves life and death. We can trust God, and that’s three.

I think we’ve all been standing in the same place as that woman we saw a little while ago, there in the checkout line. Whether it involves family or work or just living, we all face situations that I think we can safely call stressful; therefore, the better we are at handling them, the happier and more successful we’ll be. And this is something I believe we can do. You see, I’m convinced that, following the example of David, we can handle stress better when we’re clear about what we do well and when we’re able to avoid panic and when we’re willing to trust God. Now that’s what I believe. And even though a clinically proven antiperspirant is important, for me, this is really the secret to handling stress.

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for June 22, 2015

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for June 22, 2015: Today our passages are 2 Kings 3:1–4:17; Acts 14:8-28; Psalm 140:1-13; and Proverbs 17:22. The readings are from the Contempora...

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for June 21, 2015

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for June 21, 2015: Today our passages are 2 Kings 1:1–2:25; Acts 13:42–14:7; Psalm 139:1-24; and Proverbs 17:19-21. The readings are fr...

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Schwertfeger Chronicles - June 2015



From the Funeral Service for Molly Fulmer

Below is a copy of a poem by Tony Minger, Molly’s son and the text of the sermon I preached. You can find a podcast of the service on the Cove Presbyterian Podbean page.

Poem – Tear Drops

Tear drops are rising to heaven
Wetting everything along their way
Tear drops are rising to heaven
God will be receiving them today

Our tears are what makes it rain
A slight drizzle from our eyes
They grace us upon our cheeks
Like rain drops from cloudy skies

They touch down upon our skin
Leaving their mark wherever they fall
They are felt throughout our bodies
While God is there catching them all

They dangle from our eye lashes
Ready to make their journey
The long path that's before them
Where just one will become many

They roll down pass our noses
Tickling the lining of our lips
They will settle upon our chin
From there they form their tiny drips

We'll believe they fall to the ground
Without even a presence of thought
They will fall into the hands of God
For he is holding onto our heart
He will lift our tears to the heaven
With the rise of his mighty hand
Taking a little of us with them
For those tear drops are where life began

White clouds awaits their arrival
As they start with a sprinkle to the sky
Then could turn to an up-pour
Of what was one tear turns to a cry

The clouds absorbs all the tears
Turning from white to shades of grey
Darkness casts out the shiny sun
Preparing below for a rainy day

With the sounds of rumbling
The clouds move into position
Letting go of their first small drop
To keep the cycle in motion

A piece of dirt that was once dry
Feels the splash of the first drop
Then a few more comes to follow
Of a downpour that just won't stop

The rain drops will water the fields
Where grass and trees shall grow
They will make the rivers run
Gathering together as the flow

Rain drops wilt fill up the water holes.
Satisfying life of its thirst
Hydrating all that lies below
Reviving fertile lands for new birth

Tear drops are seeds of happiness
There are ones of sadness and pain
Some may linger deep inside
Staying hidden, denying in vein

My tears flows in forms of sorrow
A little grief and possible regret
Some tears shall flow for lost time
Those tears may no longer flow wet

My tears may flow like the rain
Like a storm that's out of control
My heart may rattle like thunder
When those tears reaches my soul

God may Baptize me in pouring rain
So I can cry more tears that are lost and gone
Tonight more tears will be rising to heaven
Tonight my tears will be rising to you  Mom....

Sermon – A Vision of the World to Come

When we were children, I think a lot of us were taught a certain vision of the world to come. And in that vision, we were told to imagine these white, puffy clouds floating across the sky. And on the clouds, the dearly departed would be quiet and calm, just kind of sitting around all day long, occasionally playing the harp, but mostly just sitting, trying to look holy, trying to look happy. And this place, the only sound you hear are the harps and soft hymns being sung, something that seems kind of boring, but that's the way it was described.

Now this is the vision that many of us were taught when we were kids. And you still see this same kind of thing in the comics, you know, like Family Circus. And for the most part it's offered comfort when we needed it. I mean, it reminded us that there is a better place, prepared for us all, a place where there's peace and quietness and rest. In fact, this wonderful image may have even helped us release those whom we love to the care of God, because it reminds us that in God's care they'll be safe and secure.

And so this evening, I don't want to say that these impressions are wrong, because they're not. Instead, I want you think about another picture that's firmly grounded in Scripture and which just may also offer comfort and support, another image of a place where we'll be reunited with those who've died, another vision of the world to come. You see, when we look at scripture, we find something different from what many of us have been taught. Instead of a sanitized and clean place up in the clouds, we hear that God is  preparing for us a new creation. As Paul wrote, "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God." And since, according to John, in this new world "every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, [will] sing, `To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!'" I believe in our vision there must be animals, animals living in peace with one another, animals filling this new world with sounds and colors and joy. And there, in the presence of God, all creation will understand this promise: "Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand."

You see, this is another vision of the world to come, and one that seems very right for us to remember this evening. And I'll tell you why. You see, when y'all see Molly again, I don't think it'll be on some fluffy cloud drifting through the sky, but rather tramping through the woods or working on a car or maybe dressed up in a Halloween custom. I just how they don't might witches up there. And Molly won't be quietly and calmly playing the harp. Instead she'll be taking care of somebody or watching football and maybe just keeping Richie out of trouble, which even in the new creation, will be a full-time job. And it won't be soft music in the background, instead you going to hear Molly talking, and bragging on her kids and grandchildren, and standing up for someone who might be too shy to speak for herself.

Of course, since I didn't know Molly very well, I base all that on what I heard from some of y'all, and so the best I can do is to assume. But I'll tell, there's something of which I can be completely sure. When you see her in this new heaven and new earth, she'll be happy that y'all are all together again and I'm talking about Patty and Kim and Katie and Tony, Sandra and Arron and Gary, Denise and Dorothy, and of course, Wes; y'all will be together and that's going to make her happy. And she won't be alone. She'll be surrounded by all kind of family and friends, swapping stories just like y'all have been doing a little bit this evening. And like I said, Richie will be right there, and praise the Lord, I believe they'll be getting along.

You see, regardless of how we've seen things in the past, I think this is in our future. In other words, this is my vision of the world to come.