Lift Up Your Voice

Jun 19, 2020 by

Preamble/Welcome: 

Welcome to MacNeill’s virtual worship for June 21, 2020.  Today is Father’s Day, and I would like to acknowledge fathers and grandfathers in our congregation.  May God’s grace and peace be with each of you. 

Our theme for the service today is based on the Genesis story we will read, and some of the music is selected with a nature theme in mind, to celebrate the first day of summer.  Let us prepare our hearts to worship God.

 

Prelude  Let all things now living

     

                   

 

Lighting of the Christ Candle

(you may wish to light one in your home)

 

 

Together, We Come to God

 

 

Call to Worship

In our wilderness, God comes and says,

“Do not be afraid for I have heard your voice.”

Out of the shadows of fear

And into the light of faith we come, O God.

When we ask for a sign of love,

God comes and provides all that we need.

Out of the shadows of fear

And into the light of faith we come, O God.

The old ways have been put to death

And we are made alive with Christ.

Out of the shadows of fear

And into the light of faith we come, O God.

Jesus says. “Those who find their life will lose it,

And those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”

Out of the shadows of fear

And into the light of faith we come, O God.

Come, let us worship in faith our faithful God.

            ~Prayers for all Seasons

 

 

Hymn # 712    Arise, your light has come    Tune: FESTAL SONG (as in the hymnal)

 

    1. Arise you light has come! The Spirit’s call obey.

Show forth the glory of your God which shines on you today.

 

    1. Arise, your light has come! Fling wide the open door;

Proclaim the captive’s liberty, good tidings to the poor.

 

    1. Arise, your light has come! All you in sorrow born,

Bind up the broken-hearted ones and comfort those who mourn.

 

    1. Arise, your light has come! The mountains burst in song!

Rise up like eagles on the wing; God’s power will make us strong.

Text: © 1992, GIA Publications, Inc. Reprinted with One License A-722822

 

 

Prayer of Approach

God of steadfast love, we pray for your guidance in these times of change.  Like our ancestors we are learning to sing our praise in a strange land.   Where we hear cries for justice, grant that our witness may be bold, our love deep and our faith true as we follow Christ to serve the world.  Amen.

 

 

Sung response

 

 

 Text and music: © 2006, Barbara Bridge. Published by OCP. Reprinted with One License A-722822

 

 

God Speaks to Us

 

 

Old Testament Reading:  Genesis 21:8-21

The child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.” The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son. But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you. As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.

When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Do not let me look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink.

God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt.

 

Hymn # 91   Out of the depths, I cry  

Tune: QUAM DILECTA (I hunger and I thirst)

   (just listen for one verse.)

 

    1. Out of the depths I cry: O God remember me!

What earthly help have I if you watch silently?

 

    1. If you watch silently and mark things done amiss,

To whom then may I fly at such a time as this?

 

    1. At such a time as this my soul waits for the Lord;

No joy is there, no bliss, without God’s saving word.

 

    1. Without God’s saving word all hope forever dies:

Speak now most mighty Lord, and from the depths I rise.

Words: paraphrase, ©1990 by Hope Publishing Co. Reprinted with One License A-722822

 

 

Epistle Reading:  Romans 6:1b-11

Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

 

 

Musical Reflection  The Peace of Wild Things 

Poem by Wendell Berry;  Music by Jake Runstead

 

 The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
And I wake in the night at the least sound
In fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be
I go and lie down where the wood drake
Rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds
I come into the peace of wild things
Who do not tax their lives with forethought
Of grief. I come into the presence of still water
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
Waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free

 

 

Gospel Reading:  Matthew 10:24-39

A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!

“So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

For I have come to set a man against his father,

and a daughter against her mother,

and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;

and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

 

      

Message  Lift Up Your Voice – meditation by Paula Papky

            Last Tuesday, as I settled down to write about Hagar, I was waiting to hear from my daughter, Heather, who was at MUMC giving birth.  Like Hagar, Heather was acting as a surrogate, bearing a child for parents who otherwise could not have a child.  Unlike Hagar, she would willingly hand over the child to his parents.  Hagar, an enslaved woman, would have known as she was giving birth that her child would be taken from her.  She had no voice, no power, no rights.  But let us imagine that she has a voice and can tell her story in her own words.

            My name is Hagar and I was a slave.  I was a very young woman when I was taken from my home in Egypt to be a slave to a woman named Sara.  I heard whispers soon after I arrived, people who said that Abraham, Sarah’s husband, had received a promise from God that he would father a great nation and Sara would give birth to a son.  It seemed an outrageous promise.  Everyone knew Sarah was too old to have a child.

            One day I heard their voices.  Sarah told Abraham to have intercourse with me and that way he would have a son which Sarah would raise as her own.  It was a common enough story among us slaves, to be forced to conceive and bear a child only to give him up to people of power and prestige.  And so, in due time, I gave birth to a son and he was named Ishmael.  No one asked how I felt about this sacrifice.  I could watch Ishmael grow but not be a mother to him.

            I saw how Abraham doted on his son.  But Sarah was angry and ashamed when she saw him.  It was as if she was an outsider, an old woman with no child of her own.  Imagine how surprised I was when it was announced that Sarah was pregnant!  All went well and she gave birth to a son, calling him Isaac, God’s laughter, for Sarah had laughed at God’s promise to her of a son.  Yet that promise was fulfilled.

            Sarah’s joy in her role as a mother of her own son, Isaac, was clouded by Ishmael’s presence, however.  Ishmael was the elder son of Abraham, set to inherit all the privilege and promise of an eldest son.  Every time Sarah laid eyes on Ishmael, she seethed.  How was Isaac to become the progenitor of a great nation with Ishmael in the way?

            Once again Sarah took matters into her own hands, for although she was a woman, she was privileged to have a voice.  She spoke the cruelest words to Abraham in my hearing:  “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.”  I could tell that Abraham was distressed but I heard him tell Sarah that God had spoken to him, telling him to do as Sarah had said, for Isaac was to be his important offspring.  There would be a place for Ishmael, too, in God’s plan but it was Isaac who would come first.

            Soon after, Abraham roused me early and handed me Ishmael.  He gave me bread and a skin of water and sent us away into the wilderness, that place of wild animals and no shelter.  And I held my tongue, not even using my voice to say good-bye.

            Soon enough the water was gone and my son was crying out in thirst.  When I could not bear his wailing any longer, I cast him under a bush and went away.  I spoke to God saying, “Do not let me look on the death of my child.”  And I sat down, lifted up my voice, and wept.

            It was then I heard an angel call out to me, saying, “Do not be afraid, Hagar; God has heard your son’s voice.”  The angel told me to lift up the boy and hold him fast with my hand, for God’s promise would hold true, to make a great nation of him also.  Then God opened my eyes and I saw a well.  My son and I drank and we lived.  Ishmael grew up in the wilderness and I found for him a wife in Egypt.

            It’s not easy for girls and women to find themselves in the Scriptures.  We aren’t among the kings and warriors, the major prophets, or the twelve disciples.  Often we have no names and no speaking parts.  And many women, like Hagar, appear to be victims of sexual violence.  Their stories don’t often turn up in lectionaries because they show that culture, and even God, in a poor light.   We barely register their names:  Bilhah and Zilpah, handmaids to Rachael and Leah; Dinah, raped by her half brother, King David’s son; Tamar, a widow who has to masquerade as a harlot to sleep with her dead husband’s father to get a child and her inheritance. 

            Women in that Ancient Middle Eastern world could not hope to change the partriarchal systems that made them so vulnerable, so completely dependent on men to protect them and speak and act on their behalf.  Women had no voice outside the home, no influence in politics or economics, no sway in religious ritual or practice.  Particularly powerless and silent were widows and single women with children, like Hagar.  In today’s story Sarah does have power and a voice but it is to serve the purposes of a man’s world and Israel’s obsession with lineage, with male heirs.  Only at the end of the story does Hagar use her voice to call for help and God answers, but for the boy’s sake more than hers.

            The well-regarded historian of our day, *Mary Beard, writes: “When it comes to silencing women, Western culture has had thousands of years of practice.”  The Greek and Roman world Mary Beard studies, a world Jesus inherited, provided no template for empowering women.  That emancipation would not be seen until our own times with the first wave of the feminist movement.  In the 1920’s came the protests and demands for women’s suffrage.  The second wave, in the 1960’s, spurred rapid change which continues into this 21st. century.  The complete transformation has not happened yet.

            Mary Beard suggests that for equality between women and men to be achieved, we need to think differently about power and the sharing of power:  “What I have in mind is the ability [of women] to be effective, to make a difference in the world, and the right to be taken seriously, together as much as individually.”  There are some signs of progress.  It was three women who started “Black Lives Matter” and few of us know their names, but they showed people, women and men, a different way of having and using power.  Today we see them gathering together by the thousands, speaking out, refusing to go home.

            There is much sidelining of women the Old Testament and in the gospels and epistles.  And yet the stories of Jesus often point us in the direction of equality, of justice for women as well as for men; of the lifting up and honouring of the lowly; the washing of feet and the welcoming of the lowliest to the banquet table; paying attention to women who step from the crowds to ask his help.  These actions of Jesus speak as loudly today as they did long ago.  They are a trustworthy template for change.

            As we turn to today’s gospel reading, what do we find but a surrogate family!  It’s the family Jesus has been gathering on his preaching and healing travels.  We know that the family, one’s blood kin, was the most important dimension of that ancient culture.  We can imagine the chagrin, the outrage, the sorrow of those left behind when women and men went to follow Jesus.  Such abandonment would have been very damaging to the family’s honour.  Yet Jesus tells his followers, the new members of his family:  have no fear.  It was a tall order in Matthew’s time when Israel’s people were fleeing Jerusalem and settling in far-flung places of the huge Roman Empire.  Have no fear as soldiers quell rebellions, burn a city, deal brutally with protests?  Have no fear, Jesus says.  And there’s no need for secrecy.  Be confident in proclaiming your allegiance to me and this new family.  Your honour is very high, no matter your origins.  Every hair on your head is counted.

            You can almost hear Jesus saying to the protesters of our day:  they may erect a wall against you, send in the soldiers, arrest you, even kill you for no reason other than your gender, your orientation, the colour of your skin.  But do not be afraid.  You can never lose the life you have found in me.  This is the good news of Jesus Christ for these days when millions march in the streets demanding a voice, willing to make sacrifices, to take up the cross for freedom, for the power to speak.

            For those who thought Jesus’ message was peace, a rude awakening awaited and still awaits.  He says outright, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”  This good news will divide people, even families, he tells his friends.  Peace will not be ours without justice.  Justice for single moms who’ve lost their low-paying jobs because they cannot afford child care.  Justice for all the young men of colour who can’t jog in the daylight; who are stopped, carded, violently arrested, even killed.  It takes more than a man standing in front of a church, holding up a Bible, to put things right; to let voices be heard and power shared in order to build new cities that all can dwell in.

            L.P. Hartley wrote: “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”  In so many ways, the world of Hagar, the world of Jesus, are foreign countries.  The class system, so rigid then, is no more.  Or is it?  The rule of patriarchy has weakened.  Or has it?  Women’s stories are told and listened to.  Or are they?  Ask the Missing and Murdered Women and Children if their stories have been heard.  There is still work to do and we are set in surrogate families to do it.  Jesus invites us to think differently about power.  He encourages us to serve without fear the cause of justice, that all may have abundant life.

 

*Quotations from Mary Beard are from her short book of essays:  Women and Power:  A Manifesto  (Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2017)

 

 

We Respond to God

 

 

Hymn of Response  # 722   Lord, whose love through humble service   

Tune: BEACH SPRING (as in the hymnal)

(intro and 4 vs)

 

    1. Lord, whose love through humble service, bore the weight of human need.

Who upon the cross, forsaken, offered mercy’s perfect deed:

We, your servants, bring the worship not of voice alone, but heart,

Consecrating to your purpose every gift that you impart.

 

    1. Still your children wander homeless: still the hungry cry for bread.

Still the captives long for freedom; still in grief we mourn our dead.

As, O Lord, your deep compassion healed the sick and freed the soul,

Use the love your Spirit kindles, still to save and make us whole.

 

    1. As we worship, grant us vision, till your love’s revealing light

In its height and depth and greatness, dawns upon our quickened sight,

Making known the needs and burdens your compassion bids us bear,

Stirring us to tireless striving your abundant life to share.

 

    1. Called by worship to your service, forth in your dear name we go

To the child, the youth, the aged, love in living deeds to show;

Hope and health, good will, and comfort, counsel aid and peace we give,

That your servants, Lord, in freedom may your mercy know and live.

Text: Albert F Bayly,© 1988, Oxford University Press.  Reprinted with One License A-72282

 

 

The Offering of Gifts     All things bright and beautiful

      

 

 

Sung Response

            

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Praise God all creatures here below.

Praise God above ye heavenly hosts.

Creator, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Text: © 1989, Hope Publishing Company. Reprinted with One License A-722822

 

 

Prayers of Thanksgiving and Prayer for Others

  

Holy and eternal God,

we give you thanks for people brave enough

to cry out for justice, to carry signs and to challenge

those in power who deny the equality of people

whatever their gender, orientation, race, religion, class.

These courageous ones are ushering in tremendous change;

they give people hope, who for hundreds of years had no hope.

May we, as members of Christ’s family enter the struggle

thoughtfully, prayerfully, respectfully, openly,

that all may have abundant life.

 

We give thanks for the freedoms we have

and want to share with all:

long, warm days with crops growing in the fields;

time spent outdoors in the natural world

of shade trees, flower gardens, songbirds, cool rivers and lakes,

for all of these nourish us in body and spirit.

 

We remember before you all those who mourn,

especially the families of those in long term care who have died alone.

We remember families who fear for their children in places

where power struggles turn deadly.

May they all know they are deeply loved by you.

We pray for those whom this pandemic has made lonely;

has robbed of work; has ruined business; has rendered helpless.

May we so engage in Jesus’ continuing ministry

that communities are strengthened, confidence restored, companionship found.

 

We pray for the sick, O Holy Healer,

those who suffer in spirit as well as body,

that they may find peace and comfort.

We remember Charles and Cheryl in their illnesses and loneliness;

we pray for friends of the congregation,

for Nancy as she undergoes cancer treatment,

for Jim as he battles a rare form of cancer,

for those others we know and name before you……

May they be well cared for, respected and comforted

in their struggles to live.

 

We pray for the world you created and still create, O God,

that its loveliness will not continue to be marred by our neglect,

our over-consumption of resources.

May we be faithful in our efforts to preserve and restore

this gift of nature.

 

Send your Spirit, O God, to strengthen us as we fellow Jesus Christ,

our brother, our friend and our guide.  Amen.

 

 

Hymn  # 634   Will you come and follow me  (lyrics in video)

Sing vs. 1 – 3, vs. 4 is different melody (just listen and enjoy), sing vs. 5

 

 

 

Benediction

As we turn from our worship to our work in the world, let us speak up for justice and for new ways of sharing power.  May the blessing of our Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer God surround you now and for evermore.  Amen.

 

Sung Dismissal

 

 

Tune and Text © 1995, Desert Flower Music/Jim and Jean Strathdee. Reprinted with One License A-722822

 

 

Postlude    All creatures of our God

     

    

 

Please join us for a Zoom Coffee Hour at noon today.  The meeting link is in your email.

 

2020 06 21 MacNeill News and Notes

     

With appreciation to Paula Papky for our reflection, prayers and benediction, Leanne Tees for her musical selections with a focus on nature, and to Bev Leslie for posting this service to our website.

~Jennifer Nettleton, Coordinator of Worship

 

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