Saturday, February 28, 2015

A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line – A Spring of Living Water

Below is a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find a podcast on the church page at Cove Presbyterian Podbean page.

John 4:7-15

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

A Spring of Living Water

Individuals make a sham of the faith they claim by slaughtering innocent people without pity or remorse. Parents struggle to offer their children the same opportunities they enjoyed in an economy where wages are stagnant and wealth has become concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. Good man and women are left to say good-bye to people that they love much too soon or are trapped by diseases that they certainly didn’t choose and don’t deserve. Now, for a lot of folks, this is life in the modern world, life in the fast lane. These are things that impact them personally, either because they’re things they’re facing themselves or they’re watching others endure. But in either case, I think they experience the same feelings. They feel exhausted and frustrated, helpless and hopeless, parched in desert surrounded by sand and mirages.

But it’s to those people that I think Jesus says the same thing he said to the Samaritan woman. He says, “...those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” You see, even though life can drain away our hope, God offers a spring of living water, something that can help us avoid being distracted and sustain us when we’re dry.

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for February 28, 2015

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for February 28, 2015: Today our passages are Leviticus 22:17–23:44; Mark 9:30–10:12; Psalm 44:1-8; and Proverbs 10:19 . The readings are the Contemporary ...

Friday, February 27, 2015

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

On Sunday, March 1, Cove Presbyterian Church will lift to God the following needs.

Adults
Alyssa LaRosa
Annette Goff
Audrey Vincent
Barbara Maze
Bill Manley
Cameron Gray
Carlyn
Chad Wilson
Cindi Livingston
Concordia Poblete Nazaire
Corinne Ferguson
Deloris Chesebro
Dick Spencer
Elizabeth Sue Hunt
Emery Edwards
Evan Pulice
Goldie Baly
Gen Meyer
George Bownlee
Greta Billham
Jeff Grant
Jen's Mom
Jim & Shelley Pearson
Jo Magnone
Joanie Lawrence
Jodi Kraina
John Guglielmo
John Philips
John Schlotter
Josh Boyd
Judy Edmonds
Karen Lombardi
Kelly Stephens
Larry Shane
Lindy Starck
Lou Ann Seevers
Marcia Cooper
Martha Meadows
Marybeth Lewis
Matthew Kirtley
Michael Frank
Mike Churchman
M'Liz Held
Patty Hvizdak
Paul D. Welch
Peggy Stewart
Phyllis Manley
Randy Willson
Rob Roy Jones
Robb Starck
Robert Hans
Ronnie Buffington
Rose Bell
Rosemarie Gomineck
Sally Marple
Sam Fortunato
Sharon Wheeler
Shirley Everhart Kirtley
Stacy Jo Vogel
Susie Kurcina
Wink Harner

Children
Aksel Ace
Audri King
Basil Collen Slater
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

In the Hospital
Gen Meyer – Weirton Medical Center

Bereaved Families
Sue Reynolds and Family on the passing of Sue’s sister, Sarah Chambers
The Criss Family on the passing of Roger’s father, Conrad Criss

Church Families
Kristin, Anthony, Kiara, Melia & Nikos Palavis
Patty & Beth Patsch
Ruth Ann Oesterling

Local Church
Shiloh Apostolic Church

Special Friend
Corinne Ferguson – Woodland Hills, 8 North 10th St., Weirton, WV  26062

Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery Congregations
Stone Presbyterian Church, Wheeling, WV – Rev. Robert Nagy
Vance Memorial Presbyterian Church, Wheeling, WV – Rev. Chuck La Placa

Also Remember in Your Prayers
Alice & Kenny Orr – Weirton Geriatric Center, 2525 Pennsylvania Ave., 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.

BOARD MEETINGS. . .
Board of Deacons will meet on Monday, March 2 at 6:30 p.m. in the board room.
Board of Session will meet on Sunday, March 8 after the worship service.
Board of Trustees will meet on Monday, March 9 at 6:30 p.m. in the Board Room.

MYRTLE MCHENDRY CLASS. . .
will meet on Tuesday, March 3 at 12:30 p.m. in Fellowship Hall. Please bring a brown bag lunch. Beverages and dessert  will be served.  All members are encouraged to attend this planning meeting and share their ideas and hopes for our 2015 Year. Devotions will be led by Bonnie Nichols.

OUR TUESDAY EVENING STUDY . . .
will  meet on Tuesday, March 3, at 6:30 p.m. to continue our study of the Gospel of Mark. During this session, we’ll discuss Mark 6:30–7:23. And so bring your Bibles and get ready to grow in your understanding of God’s word to us.

CHURCH WOMEN UNITED . . .
will celebrate World Day of Prayer on Friday, March 6 at Memorial Baptist Church, 121 Ivy Street beginning at 1:00 p.m.  The program, “Do You Understand What I Have Done For You,” will be coordinated by Karen Tate of Paris Presbyterian Church.  First year delegates from area churches will participate in the program.  Everyone is invited to attend. A tea will be held following the program.  Mission project for the day is bringing snack foods for the Weirton Christian Center. If you have any questions please contact Penny Mourat.

PRESBYTERIAN WOMEN’S . . .
Executive Board will meet on Wednesday, March 11 at 10:00 a.m. in the board room. Regular Monthly Meeting and Bible Study will be held on Wednesday, March 18 at noon in fellowship hall.

PANCAKE BRUNCH . . .
with the Easter Bunny, sponsored by Cove’s Deacons, will be held on  Sunday March 29 from 12:00 p.m. till 2:00 p.m. in fellowship hall. Menu includes pancakes, sausage, and beverage. $2.50 ages 10 and under; $5.00 adults. Pictures will be taken with the Easter Bunny or Valentine, the Children’s Academy’s live bunny.

A MEMBER OF OUR CHURCH FAMILY NEEDS OUR HELP. . .
Please let us know if you’re able to do some light housework and offer personal help to a part of our congregation who needs our assistance.

REMINDER. . .
when Hancock County Schools are closed due to weather, we assume evening activities at the church are cancelled. Therefore, there will be no custodial staff at the church that evening.

NOTE THE CHANGE IN OUR OFFICE HOURS. . .
the church office will be open on Monday thru Thursday from 7:30 a.m. till 12:00 p.m.  The office will now be closed on Fridays.

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.

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 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, March 1, 2015

Cove Kids: Children Bulletins for Sunday, March 1, 2015: Below are puzzles for children focused on Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16. There are two “bulletins,” one for ages 3-6 and the other for ages 7-12. Fe...

Cove's Bulletin for Sunday, March 1, 2015

Below is a copy of our Sunday bulletin. During the service, we’ll focus on how God is always with us and how he guides us through life’s twists and turns.









Remembering Our Sister Sarah Chambers

Augusta, GA – Entered into rest Wednesday, February 25, 2015, Mrs. Sarah Chambers, 77, wife of 63 years to Mr. Lewis Chambers.

Mrs. Chambers was a resident of Evans, GA and a member of Northwest Baptist Church in Concord, NC. She taught Sunday School for many years and was very active in church. Mrs. Chambers was the co-Owner and Administrative Assistant of Chambers Distributing. She loved to cook and was a very loving wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.

Family members in addition to her husband include children: Deborah Baker (David), Gail Cook, Rick Chambers (Ruby) and David Chambers, Jr. (Teresa); 11 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren; sister: Sue Reynolds; and brother: Keith Cates. Mrs. Chambers was preceded in death by her brother: Barry Cates and sister: Carolyn Harton.

A funeral service will be held Monday, March 2, 2015 at 1:00 P.M. in the chapel at Thomas Poteet & Son with Rev. Steven Chambers officiating. Interment will follow at Westover Memorial Park.

Memorial contributions may be made to the American Heart Association 190 Knox Abbott Drive Suite 301, Casey, SC 29033 or to the Alzheimer’s Association 106 SRP Drive Suite A. Evans, GA 30809

The family will receive friends one hour prior to the service beginning at 12:00 Noon at Thomas Poteet & Son Funeral Directors, 214 Davis Rd., Augusta, GA 30907 (706) 364-8484. Please sign the guestbook at www.thomaspoteet.com

Friday’s Essay – Winter Will End

Below is an essay I sent to those on the Cove Presbyterian Church e-mailing list. If you're interested in hearing this essay, you can also find a podcast at Podbean (Cove Presbyterian Church).

Yesterday, I was talking to Betty Virtue about the weather we’ve been having. And we pretty much agreed that this has been a tough winter. I mean, not only has there been a fair amount of snow, but there have been days when the temperature stayed in the single digits, and at night, dropped even lower. And even though, when I lived in Montana, they called this kind of weather “Spring,” around Pittsburgh, it’s considered pretty extreme.

But even though the winter has been challenging for nearly everyone, with the exception of public school students and teachers, we all know that this too shall pass. I mean, we’ve already reached the end of February, which means that spring is just around the corner. Of course, we probably have some more cold weather on our dance card. Still, before we know it, the weather will start getting warmer. Basketball will give way to baseball. And coats and hats will be replaced by sandals and shorts. And soon we’ll be complaining about the humidity rather than the chill factor and cutting the grass instead of shoveling the snow. It happens every year. I think we all know that, unless you’re living on the equator or near the poles, seasons come and they go.

But I also think it’s important for us to remember that there’s one thing that never changes, and I’m talking about something that I think you could call the ultimate constant. You see, regardless of what’s happening around us, God never changes, and that’s why theologians call him immutable. He’s the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Now, our understanding of him may shift and our awareness of and relationship with him may grow and evolve; still, his nature never changes, which means he’ll continue to be perfect in both his freedom and his love. And his will can never be compromised or detoured, which means God will always be guided by mercy and by compassion, and he will always love his creation. And of course, his ultimate goal will be always be the same: a new heaven and a earth, a recreated universe, a place where they’ll be no more pain and no more partings. You see, those things will never change.

And I think that’s important for us to remember, because like the seasons, change seems to be a fact of life and stability in short supply. And because of that, when things seem to be unraveling, it’s easy to assume that the decline will continue and broaden. And when it looks as though God and his people are becoming more relegated to the margins, it’s easy to assume that God will change his mind and his will. And when we wonder about what the future holds, it’s easy to assume that we’re caught in a spiral of unpredictability that will only get worse. I’m telling you, it’s when both our faith and hope are slipping that we need to remember that the one constant in the universe isn’t change, but rather it’s God.

Of course, right now, it’s nine degrees, and I see they’re calling for more snow on Sunday morning. But on Wednesday, we might actually see fifty. We can be sure that winter will end. But when we’re faced with all those other changes over which we have limited control and that shake our confidence and faith, I think we need to remember that, when it comes to God’s nature, love and future, that will never change.

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

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for February 27, 2015: Today our passages are Leviticus 20:22–22:16; Mark 9:1-29; Psalm 43:1-5; and Proverbs 10:18 . The readings are the Contemporary Engl...

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line – Tomorrow’s a New Day

Below is a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find a podcast on the church page at Cove Presbyterian Podbean page.

John 3:16-21

“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 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. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”

Tomorrow’s a New Day

Each and every day we face a choice, and our decision will determine whether we experience salvation or judgement. You see, right now, we can decide to believe that Jesus is exactly who he claimed to be. And we can decide to trust that through him, our past has been cleansed and our future assured. And we can decide to follow his command and love one another as we’ve been loved. This we can choose to do, and we can do it today. And if we do, then we’ll experience salvation. We’ll enter into a relationship with God. We’ll be freed from shame and filled with hope. And we’ll enter a new kind of community in which people are viewed as brothers and sisters rather than strangers or competitors. You see, today we can make that choice. Or, we can decide not to believe or to trust or to follow. And if that’s our decision, I think we’ll feel judged, because our view of God and others and self will be shaped by an impersonal world instead of a loving God. Right now, we can make that choice as well.

Of course, that’s what we can do today. But since we’ll have the chance to be make the same choice again, well, tomorrow’s a new day, will all kinds of new opportunities and possibilities.

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

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for February 26, 2015: Today our passages are Leviticus 19:1–20:21; Mark 8:11-38; Psalm 42:1-11; and Proverbs 10:17 . The readings are the Contemporary Eng...

Sunday's Minute for Mission - Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary

The Reverend Paul Timothy Roberts Sr.
On June 30, 2014, after 45 years of membership, Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary disaffiliated from the historic consortium known as the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC) of Atlanta. Why? Because the religious environment has changed. We feel called to bring a new kind of seminary into existence—one that is innovative and helps students anticipate the 21st-century reality of Christian ministry at home and abroad.
What are some of the hallmarks of the changing environment to which we are responding? Virtually every mainline Protestant seminary in the United States is seeing a decline in enrollment. Nearly half of all seminary students want to serve but are not especially interested in ordination. And those whodo prepare themselves for ordained parish ministry soon discover that declines in denominational membership have resulted in fewer opportunities for traditional ministry. The situation is especially acute for African American students who would like to serve historically black churches but find that only about 50 of the approximately 400 African American Presbyterian congregations in the country can afford full-time pastoral leadership.
Meanwhile, traditional residential theological education has become increasingly expensive. Many seminary graduates today embark on their careers saddled with tens of thousands of dollars of debt. This debt load isa hindrance to their ministries. Further, technological advances are leading to huge shifts across the board in higher education.
Our seminary’s move away from ITC sets the stage for us to become a leading institution. We are now freed to be creative and nimble in our response to the theological needs of today’s church leaders. Already, our bold move is generating new energy and excitement about the seminary’s future. We invite you to take this journey with us!
Paul T. Roberts Sr., president, Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Growing in Grace: The Gospel of Mark (Session 6 - Taking Sides (Mark...

Growing in Grace: The Gospel of Mark (Session 6 - Taking Sides (Mark...: You may listen to a podcast of this session on the Cove Presbyterian PodBean page. During this session, we considered Jesus’s reception i...

Bible Talk: The Lectionary Passages for Sunday, March 1, 2015 ...

Bible Talk: The Lectionary Passages for Sunday, March 1, 2015 ...: Below are NRSV translations of the lessons from the Psalms (Psalm 22:23-31), Old Testament (Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16), the Letters (Romans 4:13...

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

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for February 25, 2015: Today our passages are Leviticus 16:29–18:30; Mark 7:24–8:10; Psalm 41:1-13; and Proverbs 10:15-16 . The readings are the Contempor...

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Our Reception for the Schwertfegers

Below are some pictures from our reception for Jessi and Jake Schwertfeger and their children. After dinner, Jessi and Jake shared their mission work in Zambia and southern Africa. We thank Kayla Violet and all those responsible for the meal. You can hear a podcast of the presentation by going to the Cove PodBean page.









A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line – The Word After “Because”

Below is a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find a podcast on the church page at Cove Presbyterian Podbean page.

Deuteronomy 9:4-7

When the LORD your God thrusts them out before you, do not say to yourself, “It is because of my righteousness that the LORD has brought me in to occupy this land”; it is rather because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is dispossessing them before you. It is not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart that you are going in to occupy their land; but because of the wickedness of these nations the LORD your God is dispossessing them before you, in order to fulfill the promise that the LORD made on oath to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

Know, then, that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to occupy because of your righteousness; for you are a stubborn people. Remember and do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness; you have been rebellious against the LORD from the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place.

The Word After “Because”

Suppose someone asks me a question like, “Are you saved?” In my answer, I think the word I use after “because” shows a lot about how I see my relationship with God and what I’m going to feel and do when my life become difficult. For example, if my answer is something like “I’m saved, because I gave my life to Jesus” or “...because I accepted Christ as my savior” or “...because I’ve done all those things my church told me to do,” in other words, if the first word I use after “because” is “I”, then my relationship with God is primarily grounded on me, you know, on what I’ve done or said or felt. When push comes to shove, I’m saved because of me; which may be fine when things are going well and I’m doing everything I’m suppose to do. But what if things turn south and I prove to have feet of clay and doubt and fear creep in? If it’s all about me, I don’t think faith offers much comfort when I fall short of God’s glorious ideal.

But what if my first word isn’t “I” but “God”? I mean, what if I believe my salvation isn’t based on me and what I’ve done, but instead it’s grounded in God and what he did, does, and will continue to do? In other words, what if I say to myself the same sort of thing Moses challenged the people of Israel to do right before they entered the Promised Land, that rather than saying to myself that salvation is a reward for my righteousness; suppose I recognize that I’m being saved because of God and his promises? Well, when I do that, I believe two things will happen. First, my understanding of my relationship with God shifts from me to him. And second, since it grounded on him and based on his will and not my words and work, my ultimate salvation rests in hands far stronger than my own.

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

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for February 24, 2015: Today our passages are Leviticus 15:1–16:28; Mark 7:1-23; Psalm 40:11-17; and Proverbs 10:13-14 . The readings are the Contemporary E...

Monday, February 23, 2015

Two Ridge's Worship Service - The First Sunday in Lent (Genesis 9:8-17)

Below is a copy of the Sunday worship I led in Two Ridges Presbyterian Church, Wintersville, Ohio, on Sunday, February 22. You can also find a podcast of this sermon at The Cove Podbean page.

First Sunday in Lent
February 22, 2014
Prelude

Welcome – Announcements

Introit  

Call to Worship
Leader: To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.  O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me.
People: Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
Leader: Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.
People: Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.
Leader: Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.
People: Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness' sake, O Lord!
Leader: Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.  He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.
People: All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.

Gathering Hymn: Lord, to You My Soul Is Lifted” 

Prayer of Confession:
Almighty God, we confess that we’ve sinned against you.  You’ve given us the rainbow as a sign of the covenant you made with us and the promise that you’d never again destroy your creation. We forget that you also made this covenant with all creatures.  Sadly, we often live as though we have a right to exploit them as we see fit. Merciful Lord, forgive us and help us respect all those with whom you’ve established your covenant.

– 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 

Sermon A Bow in the Clouds” 
                                                   
Hymn: “This Is My Father’s World”

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: “God of the Sparrow”  

Benediction                

Choral Response 

Postlude



Cove's Worship Service - The First Sunday in Lent (Genesis 9:8-17)

Below is a copy of the Sunday worship I led in Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia, on Sunday, February 22. You can also find a podcast of this sermon at The Cove Podbean page.

The Order of Worship
The First Sunday in Lent - February 22, 2015

Enter Worship with Praise

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

Praising God Through Song
Hymn: "All Creatures of Our God and King"
Hymn: "God of the Sparrow"
Our Song for the Children "God Made Our Wonderful World"

Approach God with Humility and Thanks

A Special Time for Children

The Choir Offering Praise through Music: "Faith Medley"

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: "Journey Home"

Song of Praise: Doxology

Our Prayer of Thanks and Dedication

Affirming Our Faith: From The Scots Confession
We constantly believe that God, after the fearful and horrible departure of man from his obedience, did seek Adam again, call upon him, rebuke and convict him of his sin, and in the end made unto him a most joyful promise, that "the seed of the woman should bruise the head of the serpent," that is, that he should destroy the works of the devil. This promise was repeated and made clearer from time to time; it was embraced with joy, and most constantly received by all the faithful from Adam to Noah, from Noah to Abraham, from Abraham to David, and so onwards to the incarnation of Christ Jesus; all (we mean the believing fathers under the law) did see the joyful day of Christ Jesus, and did rejoice. 

Hear the Word with Understanding

The Word Read: Genesis 9:8-17
And God spoke to Noah and to his sons, saying, "And I, behold, I'm establishing my covenant with y'all and with your seed after you. And with every living soul which is with you: those things that fly, the beasts and all the animals of the earth with y'all, with all of the ones coming from the ark, to all the animals of the earth. And I'm establishing my covenant with y'all and never will all flesh be cut off by waters of a flood and [never] will there be a flood to ruin the earth. And God said, "This is a sign of the covenant which I'm giving between me and between you and between every living soul which is with you, to perpetual generations. My bow I set in the cloud, and it will be to me a sign of the covenant between me and between the earth. And I will bring in my clouds, a cloud over the earth, and the bow will appear in the cloud. And I will remember my covenant which is between me and between you and between every living soul in all flesh, that never again will the waters of a flood ruin all flesh. And the bow will be in the cloud, and I will see it to remember the perpetual covenant between God and between every living soul in all flesh which is upon the earth." And God said to Noah, "This is the sign of the covenant which I establish between me and between all flesh which is upon the earth."

The Word Proclaimed: A Bow in the Clouds

Leave Worship with Joy

Hymn 73: "This Is My Father's World"

Charge and Blessing

Congregational Response    

Postlude: "High Praise"

Sunday’s Sermon – A Bow in the Clouds

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

Genesis 9:8-17

And God spoke to Noah and to his sons, saying, “And I, behold, I’m establishing my covenant with y’all and with your seed after you. And with every living soul which is with you: those things that fly,  the beasts  and all the animals of the earth with y’all, with all of the ones coming from the ark, to all the animals of the earth. And I’m establishing my covenant with y’all and never will all flesh be cut off by waters of a flood and [never] will there be a flood to ruin the earth.”

And God said, “This is a sign of the covenant which I’m giving between me and between you and between every living soul which is with you, to perpetual generations. My bow I set in the cloud, and it will be to me a sign of the covenant between me and between the earth. And I will bring in my clouds, a cloud over the earth, and the bow will appear in the cloud. And I will remember my covenant which is between me and between you and between every living soul in all flesh, that never again will the waters of a flood ruin all flesh. And the bow will be in the cloud, and I will see it to remember the perpetual covenant between God and between every living soul in all flesh which is upon the earth.”

And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I establish between me and between all flesh which is upon the earth.”

A Bow in the Clouds

As some of y’all know, I really like musicals. And I’ve got a lot of cast recordings that I’ve copied on my computer and that’s what I play when I’m in my study, along with a whole bunch classical and jazz albums I’ve also ripped. Anyway, the other day I listened to Nunsense, a musical about these nuns, the Little Sisters of Hoboken, who are putting on a show in order to raise money for reasons that are pretty complicated. And each of the nuns has some back story, I mean, one’s a ballerina and one’s from Jersey and one’s called Sister Mary Amnesia. You see, a crucifix fell on her head and she completely lost her memory, including her real name.

Anyway, about midway through, the nuns sing a song about how lilacs seem to be able to bring back memories. For example, the dancer, Sister Mary Leo sings, “Every time I smell lilacs I remember my first romance. I was putting on a ballet in my backyard when I fell in love with the dance.” And then the mistress of the novices, Sister Mary Hubert, sings, “Every time I smell lilacs I remember that very special day, when the bishop came and gave me my new name, Hubert, I thought I was going to die.” And then Mary Leo has what must be a moment of divine inspiration. She sings, “Wait a minute Amnesia, I’ve got an idea. If lilacs make us remember things that happened long ago, maybe the fragrance will take you backwards in time to a place you know.” And so they try to jar Amnesia’s memory by having her smell the flowers, because, for them, lilacs can remind people of things that are really important but that they may have forgotten.

And you know, when you think about what we just read from Genesis, we may be looking as something that has the potential of doing the same thing for us. I mean, just look at this passage: “And God said, ‘My bow I set in the cloud, and it will be to me a sign of the covenant between me and between the earth. And I will bring in my clouds, a cloud over the earth, and the bow will appear in the cloud. And I will remember my covenant which is between me and between you and between every living soul in all flesh, that never again will the waters of a flood ruin all flesh.” In other words, God has given something that may do for us the same kind of the thing the lilacs did for the nuns. You see, since God put his bow in the clouds to remind him of the covenant he’s made with us, every time we see that bow ourselves, that rainbow, I think it can remind us of two things that I believe are absolutely crucial to all of us.

For example, whenever we see a rainbow, first, we can remember this, that God will never withdraw his protection from us again. You see, that’s what I think he’s getting at when he said, “I’m establishing my covenant with y’all and never will all flesh be cut off by waters of a flood and [never] will there be a flood to ruin the earth.” Now, that’s what God said, but I’ve got to tell you, more’s going on here than may be apparent at first glance. Trust me, it was no accident that when God got fed up with humanity, the world was destroyed by water. You see, for the ancient Jews, water was a symbol for confusion, for disorder, for chaos. And that’s why, in the first creation story, in the beginning there wasn’t nothing, you know, a vacuum, instead there was water. Just listen, “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” You see, in the beginning there was water. And what does God do in the midst of this watery chaos? “Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.” That’s day one. And on the second day, “God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. God called the dome Sky.” And then on day three, “God said, ‘Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas.” Don’t you see what’s happening? In this chaotic universe, God brought order. He created this bubble, surrounded by water. And with the sky and dry land, he kept back the confusion and protected his creation.

But with the flood, well, he removed that protection. As it says, “In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. The rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.” In other words, God withdrew his protection and the chaos took over again, and I’ll tell you, chaos did what chaos always does. “And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, domestic animals, wild animals, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all human beings; everything on dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. ...Only Noah was left, and those that were with him in the ark. And the waters swelled on the earth for one hundred fifty days.”

Now that’s what happen, and I’ll tell you, that’s why God’s promise is so important, and I’m talking the promise that he puts in this covenant and symbolizes by the rainbow. You see, God promises that this will never happen again. Never again is God going to remove his protection. Never again is he going to allow his world to descend into chaos. And regardless of what people do in the future,  never again is he going to watch his creation wiped out and brought down. We have his word.

And I think that’s something pretty important for us to remember, especially when we hear and read about some of the things happening all around us now-a-days, and I’m talking about the slaughter of those twenty-one Christians in Libya and the massacre of those villagers in northeastern Nigeria and of course, all those folks we see every day who feel, for whatever reason, that their lives are spinning out of control and they have no idea why. I’m telling you, in the face of hatred and war and destruction, in the face of disease and depression and death, in fact, in the face all those things that cause us to feel frighted and frustrated, isolated and alone, we can hope, because not only has God promised that he will never, and I mean never again withdraw his protection, we can also trust that the time is coming when God is going to recreate his creation; something we know started when he entered our space, when he lived and died and rose again, and we know will be complete when he comes back. You see, God will never again withdraw his protection. It’s in his covenant with us and that’s the first thing we can remember when we see that bow in the clouds.

And second, we can also remember that this covenant isn’t just between God and Noah or God and humanity or God and us for that matter. Again, listen to what he said in our passage: “And God spoke to Noah and to his sons, saying, ‘And I, behold, I’m establishing my covenant with y’all and with your seed after you. And with every living soul which is with you: those things that fly, the beasts and all the animals of the earth with y’all, with all of the ones coming from the ark, to all the animals of the earth.’” Now, when I translated this, I intentionally used the contraction “y’all,” but I could have used “y’uns”, because this wasn’t just between God and a single “you.” Rather it was between the Creator and his entire creation, between the one who breathes life and all those things that carry his breath. Of course, you see what that means? It means the preacher in another musical, this one written by Leonard Bernstein entitled MASS, was dead wrong when he sang, “God said, ‘Take charge of my zoo. I made these creatures for you.’ So he won’t mind if we wipe out a species or two.” And it means that vision of the perfect world makes a lot of sense, and I’m thinking of the one seen by Isaiah when he wrote, “His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins. The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”

You see, whether we like it or not, we may have more in common with slugs and sloths than with the infinite and eternal Lord of the Universe. With them, we’re creatures, not creators; and like them, we breath because God breathed into us. Therefore, I can’t see how the world is ours to exploit for our own benefit, or how we can do it without regard for all those other creatures that God included in this same covenant. Now I know, the Psalmist wrote, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.” Now I know, that’s what it says. But, maybe we’ve been a little off when we interpreted this dominion business in the past. I mean, since this covenant is for us all, maybe as we exercise this dominion, we might want to to feel more responsibility than license. The covenant is with all creatures, and I think that’s the second thing we can understand when we see that bow in the clouds.

Now remember the musical I mentioned at the beginning of the sermon? Well, the nuns have Sister Mary Amnesia smell the lilacs. And when she does, she sings this: “They smell very nice it’s true, but they don’t remind me of anything, wait a minute, yes they do, they do. I’m running through the fields with the neighbor kids and I hear mama calling me to go. Dinner is ready, hurry home... But I can’t remember who.” The lilacs, they didn’t work. But I’ll tell you, that sure doesn’t have to be the case with us, not with what God’s given to jar our memory. You see, we can remember that in his covenant, he’ll never again withdraw his protection and we can remember that this covenant was made not just with us, but with all living things. You see, this is what we can remember, every time we see a bow in the clouds.

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

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for February 23, 2015: Today our passages are Leviticus 14:1-57; Mark 6:30-56; Psalm 40:1-10; and Proverbs 10:11-12 . The readings are the Contemporary En...

Sunday, February 22, 2015

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

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for February 22, 2015: Today our passages are Leviticus 13:1-59; Mark 6:1-29; Psalm 39:1-13; and Proverbs 10:10 . The readings are the Contemporary English...

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Funeral Sermon for Anthony LaPosta – Coping with Sudden Death

Below is the sermon I preached during Anthony LaPosta’s funeral service. You can hear the entire service on the Cove Presbyterian PodBean page.

Death is always hard to accept. I mean, it's never easy to say good-bye to a person whom you know and love. But I'll tell you, I think a death like Anthony's is particularly difficult, because it was so unexpected. My gosh, we shouldn't be here this morning. Rico should be out in LA and Michael up in Washington and Patty, well, she should be down in Florida with Anthony and the dogs, setting up appointments with doctors and figuring out what to do next. And y'all should be doing whatever y'all normally do on a Friday when the temperature is below zero, but you know, we shouldn't be here. And yet here we are, dealing with the death of someone who was important to every one of us, frankly, feeling a little numb, maybe even frustrated because this just isn't right.

Now I think that's may be what you're feeling now, I know I am; but later, and I'm talking about when it suddenly hits you that Anthony is no longer around to provide the joy and the balance he just seemed to have, and when you feel really a deep down kind of sadness because you miss him and never had the chance to say good-bye properly, I want you to remember that we're not without hope, because right now, I believe there are three things we can do today and tomorrow that will not only help us through the sadness but that will, in a real way, keep Anthony alive in our hearts and minds. And I want to be straight with you right now, these aren't just words I'm giving you because that's what ministers are suppose to do at times like these. No, they're things that I believe right to the core of my being, and I really want y'all to believe them too.

You see, first, in the face of all this, we can believe; we can simply trust in God. Of course right now, I'm talking about faith, and although sometimes religious folks make all this overly complicated, I'll let you in on a secret, it's really very simple. And I'll tell you something else, it's something Anthony knew. You see, starting today, we can simply trust that he was and is and that we are and will always be in the hands of God, in his loving and gracious and merciful hands. Man, we're his children, and he couldn't love us more than he does right this minute. And you know, we can believe this because of what he did for us all. I mean, Jesus Christ came; he entered our time and space, and showed over and over again the freedom and love of God. And he was crucified for our sakes, for all of us, which means he was hung on a cross to save the people who drove the nails. And this same person, this same Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, reminding everyone of us that the last race has been run, the meet is over, and the death lost. Now, remember the Psalm we read a little while ago. Well, that God who like a shepherd takes such good care of his sheep, man, he's already led Anthony through the valley of the shadow of death, just like one day he'll lead us. Now like I said, this is something Anthony knew, and I'll tell you, we can know it too. You see, first, we can believe.

And then second, we can hope, knowing that the time is coming when we're going to see him again, and that's something I want you to remember. You see, right now we're entering a time of separation, and even though I don't want to suggest that's easy, that's all it is; a time of separation. But one day, one day, we're going to see Anthony again in a new heaven and new earth. And he's going to be there and he's going to be singing and playing the bass, and you know he's going to be smiling. And on those streets that are suppose to be paved with gold, man, I've got to believe that Anthony will probably be driving a piece of junk. I'm telling you, we're going to see him again. You see, as y'all move through the grief, you can hope. That's the second thing y'all can do.

To see this performance, go to
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCm_ciM1S1w
And third, starting this afternoon, we can remember Anthony. And even though I think that was one of the best obituaries I've ever read, I've got to admit, I'd only known him for about five years. But y'all knew him a lot longer than that. And so y'all can remember the kind of man he was, the eternal optimist; when people were fighting and scrapping, he was the guy who could still the waters, the one who was willing to put himself second if it meant helping someone else. Y'all can remember who he was. And you can also tell and retell all the stories, especially the funny ones, and I think there were a lot of the funny ones. You see, y'all can remember all this stuff, and of course, pass them on to Roman so he can know just how special his grandfather was. And although this won't bring him back, I think it will make him feel a little closer until we see him again. And that's the third thing we can do.

Now I'm not going to stand up here and pretend that if you trust and hope and remember, suddenly the grief will magically disappear, because it won't.  We cared too much for Anthony not to feel pain and emptiness right now. And regardless of what I say, a lot of the questions are going to remain.  But I honest believe the more you trust and the more you hope and the more you remember, the more you'll be able to get through this time of separation until you see him again.