Love Life

14th Sunday of Pentecost, Year A,  

6th September, 2020

Romans 13:8-14 CEV /  Matthew 18:15-20 CEV

 


Intro/Prelude Move In Me, played by church musician Annie Center

Call to Worship/Welcome

I’m glad to welcome you to online worship with Olympic View Community Church. 
We seek to welcome all of God’s children to join us in bearing witness to the radically transforming power of God’s love.  

(for credits only~ posted by Rev. Mindi on rev-o-lution.org 

Part of our tradition is a commitment to share words of peace and welcome with each other when we gather.  A big part of sharing peace is to express our Christian love towards one another.  As we listen to the following video from the BibleProject explaining what agape love really means, let’s give some thought to how we really express that in our own lives, and those we wish to share that love with.

 

Passing the Peace of Christ

Word Study: Agape – “Love”
      BibleProject
(For credits only) BibleProject is a nonprofit animation studio that produces short-form, fully animated videos. Our videos and all of our other resources are available for free to help people everywhere experience the unified story of the Bible. Please visit their channel to see many more fascinating and educational videos at:  https://www.youtube.com/c/TheBibleProject/featured  


Invocation

Join me in a word of prayer.

We long to find a place to relax, O God,
     to lean into the welcome and the love of real friends
         who stay true no matter who we are or what we’ve done.
We want to be known – not just our names, but ourselves,
     our dreams and longings, our fears and failings
         and be warmly, unrestrainedly welcomed.
We yearn to know the joy of opening our arms to others
    and seeing them melt and grow soft in the safety
        of our acceptance.

And you have created a place like this for us
     a place of people, with failings and disagreements
         who still look out for one another;
     a place of difference and struggle
         where we can all belong;
     a place of faith and deep doubt,
         a place of awkward stumbling toward Christlikeness;
     a place of worship, of mystery and of rest.

And though we can’t always see it,
     although sometimes it doesn’t feel like it;
     this is the place – here.
Not the buildings and the furniture – no, these people
     who gather each week in your name
         and try so hard to remember each other’s
And for this place, and your being with us
     We give our heartfelt gratitude and devotion.

Amen.

 

(for credits only)  —written by John van de Laar, © 2007 Sacredise and posted on Sacredise.com.  

We light a candle today to represent the Spirit burning within us, and among us, guiding our time together. (light candle) Amen.

 

In our Epistle reading this morning from Romans, Paul discusses the importance of love to faith and our walk with Christ.  As we listen to these words, let’s reflect the place the agape love of others plays in our own lives.

Epistle Reading Romans 13:8-14 CEV

Scripture Video Romans 13:8-14Love – 
    The Day That Christ Returns |             Lectionary bible reading
(for credits only) read and posted to YouTube by Douglas Brown,
used under Creative Commons Attribution license

 

A Time of Prayer

Today we come together as a community to share together our joys and concerns, and lift them to God in prayer.  If you would like to share a specific request to be included in our communal prayer time, please leave a comment in the video below, or email myself at:  vicarglenn [at] gmail [dot] com, and I’ll make sure to include that request in next week’s service, as well as send a prayer chain email, if you would like.

Joys and Concerns

Please keep Bryn Edmark in your prayers, as she has been going through a rough time and is currently seeking treatment to help resolve some of the issues she’s been dealing with.  Please pray that she can find healing, comfort , and strength.

Also please keep Melissa Hinton’s son Joey in your prayers for healing, as he has been plagued with another sore toe that may require the removal of the nail again.

Also, Matthew went back into the hospital this week with unresolved issues related to his previous stay for esophageal ulcers.  Please pray for healing and a more effective resolution.

We can take joy in Robert’s good healing from his fall last week.  He was able to remove the sling and wrappings early, and is scheduled to get his stitches removed.

Also, let’s remember Bill and JoAnn Shoemaker in our prayers.  While Bill has been able to resume aquatic therapy, he has lost significant strength in the interim, and has a long way to go to get back to where he was before the quarantine.  Also keep JoAnn in prayer as well, as she is fatigued from managing Bill’s care, and has several medical needs of her own.

Let’s bring these concerns and others in our lives to God together in prayer.

 

Pastoral Prayer

Gracious God,

When we hold out our hands
to be cuffed by loneliness,
you clasp our wrists
to pull us into your heart.
When our lives are shattered
by the injustices done to those
passed over by the world,
your love puts us back together,
so we can serve them with your hope.
Emancipating God,
      we praise you!

When we would build walls
between us and our neighbors,
you come to be the welcoming gate.
When we would curse someone
who has hurt us in our souls,
you sing us songs of blessing.
When we would focus only
on our needs and our desires,
you hand us the dinnerware
and ask us to set the Table.
Ever-near Salvation,
we would follow you!

When we would feed on
our bitter brokenness,
you would offer us
the Bread of reconciliation.
When we would grasp
the Cup of peace,
and drink it to the last drop,
you whisper, ‘offer some
to those you don’t like.’
Liberating Spirit,
we would be filled with you!

God in Community, Holy in One,
free us of all fears and doubts,
as we pray as Jesus has taught us,
Our Father who is in heaven,

Hallowed be your name.
Your kin-dom come, your will be done,
on Earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For yours is the kin-dom, and the power, and the glory,
forever and ever, Amen.
      Thom Shuman, Lectionary Liturgies.

Our gospel lesson this morning deals with how the community of faith should handle situations where members have suffered harm through the actions of another.  As we listen to these words, let’s think about how we handle conflict in the church today, and how we do or do not address the injuries that conflict causes.

Gospel Lesson Matthew 18:15-20 CEV

Scripture Video   Matthew 18:15-20
When Someone Sins – Allowing And Not Allowing Lectionary bible reading

(for credits only) read and posted to YouTube by Douglas Brown, used under Creative Commons Attribution license

Message ~ Love Life

I’m sure most of us are familiar with that classic standard of the Beatles, “All You Need Is Love.” A catchy tune and simple message, “love is all you need.” When we think of love, we often think of the warm fuzzies we get from romantic love, or our love of our children and family. Songs like these often make us smile and remember those warm interactions from our lives. Love is often an important part of our lives, and when we are lacking in love, we often struggle. 

The importance of love also carries into our faith lives. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, love is often equated with the Divine. The theme of “God is love” is found throughout the epistles of the New Testament. 

Yet the love referenced in the scriptures is more than the warmth we feel for another. It actually is focused entirely on another. Called agape love, it is solely concerned with the well-being of others. It is being willing to make sacrifices yourself for the welfare of another. 

Certainly it is not exclusive of other forms of love. When we love our partner or our family, we are usually willing to make sacrifices to ensure their well-being. Yet agape love really is about the other person. It’s being able to let go of your own self-interest to attend to the needs of another. 

Our gospel lesson this morning illustrates the interaction between the love we are called to and our relationships with others. Written during the development of the early church, our gospel writer recognizes the reality of conflict in the church, and how that discord can affect the body as a whole. 

It’s important to understand that this isn’t just a disagreement over points of view or perspectives. Those kinds of disagreements are just a fact of life in a world full of unique individuals who see the world from their own understanding, based on their life experiences and circumstances. 

What is referenced here is something more serious. To sin against someone is to in some way cause them harm. This is more than just a common argument, this is action that will cause the offended party to suffer in some way. This is behavior that threatens the stability of the community itself. 

It’s an acknowledgment that while we may be called to suffer at the hands of the secular world for our faith, the body of Christ should be something in contrast to what the world has to offer, a place of safety and security. And when that sanctuary is threatened by a member of the body, the situation needs to be addressed. 

Unfortunately, this passage has been used too often throughout history as a guidebook for punitive discipline by the authorities of the church. Our own Anabaptist tradition has a long history of enacting the “ban” against those who fail to follow our doctrine and practices, being seen as threats to the rules and regulations that ensure conformity and unity. However, what is being addressed here is a much more personal focus. 

This looks at the perspective of one individual directly leading to harm against another, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual. Behavior that if allowed to continue will cause further harm, and could impact the larger community. 

Yet is this procedure meant to be the punitive process it has so frequently become over time? Or is that the easier way out, to just cast aside the problem? To interpret this as a punitive process is to lose its original perspective. 

In first century Palestine, honor was everything. It determined one’s place in society and one’s acceptance by others. To publicly shame someone was to make them outcast and could affect their families for generations. Recognizing this, our gospel instructs us to try to resolve this one on one. To take the offender aside and express the harm they have caused, and seek restoration and redemption. Then to just involve a few others if that is unsuccessful. It is only after multiple attempts at resolution do you involve the entire community and risk shame. And even if redemption is not found at that point, the result is not to ostracize and banish them permanently from the fold. 

Our scripture tells us that if all attempts have failed, they should be as “an unbeliever”, in other words, a Gentile, or a “tax collector.” Does that mean they are to be driven away and separated from us? I think we would be hard-pressed to make that argument in light of who Jesus chose to spend his time with. He was frequently in the company of tax collectors and Gentiles. There was no one beyond his love and compassion, reflecting the love and grace of our Creator. If anything, he spent more time with them because they were in greater need of that caring love. 

Because that’s what it ultimately boils down to, agape love. 

Letting go of your own desire for retribution to work at redeeming another. Forgiveness at its finest. The implication, however, is not that you accept the harmful actions of another, but that you do not let it replace your concern for the other, that you seek the restoration of the other which leads to their redemption and acknowledgment of how their actions have caused harm. 

Christian forgiveness is not easy, but essential not only for the other, but just as much for yourself. Letting go of bitterness lifts the burden off your own soul yet doesn’t absolve the other of accountability. This entire process is focused on being accountable, but through love and redemption, not retribution and revenge. 

Paul reinforces this love focus in our reading from Romans this morning. He tells us that if “If you love others, you have done all that the law demands…no one who loves others will harm them.” Yet have we really committed ourselves to that criteria as the body of Christ today? 

Do our actions reflect love, or do they lead to harm? 

The church today is certainly not without its disagreements and division. The viewpoints expressed reflect a wide spectrum of theological and interpretive perspectives. Even in Jesus’ time, the Jewish faith was far from uniform in belief and ideology. There’s a reason we know the terms Pharisee, Sadducee, Essene, scribe, etc. These were all groups of different faith perspectives within the greater faith. Groups that often had lively debates with each other, and within their own groups. 

There is a rich tradition of discussion and debate within the history of Judaism. So it is natural for our own tradition and the early church to follow suit. But as I mentioned before, there is a difference between arguing the finer points of theology and biblical interpretation, and actions that lead to causing harm, or “sinning against” another. When your ideology leads to injury of another, you have crossed that line. It is no longer about love. 

Unfortunately, too often we have allowed such perspectives to cause harm under the guise of being tolerant. However, such “tolerance” often leads to “intolerance,” and “exclusion,” hurt and harm. When we think of the issues that divide the church today, do we focus on the hurt caused or the tolerance of the argument? Do we pull those aside who promote hurtful doctrine as Matthew 18 instructs? Or do we allow the focus to be on the potential perceived inadequacies of individuals and spend our time waxing philosophically and theologically? Is our focus on ourselves or on the needs of the other? 

Nobody likes conflict. We all yearn for unity and uniformity. It makes things so much easier and more comfortable. But it comes at a cost. Someone pays a price. A cost they shouldn’t have to count within the body of Christ. And sadly, unlike the direction of our Matthew 18 scripture, we let them be excluded, we let them walk away, injured and without justice, instead of seeking to redress and redeem those who caused them harm. 

To quote a song I’ve played a few times now in worship by the Black Eyed Peas, “do we practice what we preach…where is the love?” When the church today is faced with hurtful conflict, how do we react? Is our focus love, or is it something else? 

I hope and pray we choose the same lens as our Savior, 
the one who taught us what love really means, 
and what forgiveness and redemption truly imply. Amen.

 

Call to Serve. 


As we continue to seek to be a place of compassion and support to our
community, we ask that you give prayerful consideration as to how
you may support our efforts.  If you would like to make a donation, gifts can still be mailed to our church office, or online donations
can be made here.  Thanks again for all your support, and may we continue to work together to keep being a place of ministry that seeks to promote the growth of God’s shalom around us.  As we listen to this interlude, played by Annie, let’s give some thought how we should express the love we are called to live in our lives with each other.

 

(for credits only) adapted from post on Worship Ways at www.ucc.org

 

A Time for Reflection

Reflection on the Word

When Love Is Found,
written by Brian Wren,
played by church musician Annie Center

(for credits only), written by Brian Wren, played by church musician Annie Center, used and reported under CCLI Streaming license 20261246

The Prayer of Thanksgiving

Generous God,
through Your Son, Jesus Christ,
You have shown us what it means to love.
And You’ve called us to follow Your example—
to love our neighbours as we love ourselves,
to offer our lives and our resources in Your service.

Accept the gifts we bring today.
May they help to spread the love we have received
to the world around us. 

Amen.

(for credits only) ~ posted on re worship blog, re-worship.blogspot.com

Blessing/Assurance

“Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.”
Love leads us to forgiveness. Love leads us to grace. Love leads us to mercy
and compassion. Fill your hearts with love and know God’s love is with you. Know that God’s forgiveness, grace, and mercy, are given freely to you, for you
are God’s beloved child. Go forth and share this love, seeking forgiveness, and
offering mercy. Amen. 

As we extinguish this candle, may we carry its Spirit-light into the world with us this week, and be the beacon of the Beloved we are called to be.  Amen.

(for credits only) ~ posted by Rev. Mindi on rev-o-lution.org

Postlude There Is A Redeemer

written by Melody Green,
played by church musician Annie Center
(for credits only)written by Melody Green, played by church musician Annie Center, used and reported under CCLI Streaming license 20261246  played by church musician Annie Center

 

 

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