Introduction & Welcome
Welcome to worship today, God’s gift to us because God is good! all the time!
and all the time! God is good!
A house divided against itself cannot stand. Jesus makes this observation in light of charges that he is possessed. He is possessed, not by a demon, but by the Holy Spirit. We who have received the Holy Spirit through baptism have been joined to Christ’s death and resurrection and knit together in the body of Christ. Those with whom we sing and pray this day are Jesus’ family. With them we go forth in peace to do the will of God.
Confession and Forgiveness
All may make the sign of the cross, the sign marked at baptism, as the presiding minister begins.
Blessed be the holy Trinity,☩ one God,
the God of manna,
the God of miracles,
the God of mercy.
Drawn to Christ and seeking God’s abundance,
let us confess our sin.
Silence is kept for reflection.
God, our provider,
It is hard to believe there is enough to share.
We question your ways when they differ from the ways
of the world in which we live.
We turn to our own understanding
rather than trusting in you.
We take offense at your teachings and your ways.
Turn us again to you.
Where else can we turn?
Share with us the words of eternal life
and feed us for life in the world.
Beloved people of God:
in Jesus, the manna from heaven,
you are fed and nourished.
By Jesus, the worker of miracles,
there is always more than enough.
Through Jesus, ☩ the bread of life,
you are shown God’s mercy:
you are forgiven and loved into abundant life.
Prayer of the Day
All-powerful God, in Jesus Christ you turned death into life and defeat into victory. Increase our faith and trust in him, that we may triumph over all evil in the strength of the same Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
First Reading: Genesis 3:8-15
Immediately after Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit, they hide from God. Neither takes responsibility for their sin, instead blaming each other, the snake, and even God. The curse on the snake was understood as a messianic prophecy by the early church, who associated Eve’s “offspring” with Christ.
8[Adam and Eve] heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.9But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” 10He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” 11He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.” 13Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.” 14The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
cursed are you among all animals
and among all wild creatures;
upon your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
15I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
Psalm: Psalm 130
Wait for the Lord, for with the Lord there is steadfast love. (Ps. 130:7)
1Out of the depths
I cry to you, O Lord;
2O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication.
3If you were to keep watch over sins,
O Lord, who could stand?
4Yet with you is forgiveness,
in order that you may be feared.
5I wait for you, O Lord; my soul waits;
in your word is my hope.
6My soul waits for the Lord more than those who keep watch for the morning,
more than those who keep watch for the morning.
7O Israel, wait for the Lord, for with the Lord there is steadfast love;
with the Lord there is plenteous redemption.
8For the Lord shall redeem Israel
from all their sins.
Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 4:13–5:1
Life in the present is transitory and cannot compare with the eternal home God has prepared for us. So we do not despair no matter what life might bring because we know that as God raised Jesus from the dead, God promises to bring us into eternal life.
13Just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture—“I believed, and so I spoke”—we also believe, and so we speak, 14because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. 15Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
16So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, 18because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.
5:1For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
Alleluia. The ruler of this world will be driven out.* And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people | to myself. Alleluia. (John 12:31, 32)
Gospel: Mark 3:20-35
In response to charges that he is possessed, Jesus wonders aloud how anyone who is demon-possessed can cast out demons. Those who do the will of God are possessed by the Holy Spirit, siblings of Christ.
[Jesus went home;] 20and the crowd came together again, so that [Jesus and the disciples] could not even eat. 21When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” 22And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” 23And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 27But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.
28“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”—30for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”
31Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” 33And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
Meditation by David O’Brien
Lord, grant me wisdom as I minister to your people that my words might reflect the love you have for all of us. I ask You this with confidence for as it says in James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
A house divided against itself cannot stand. I’ve heard that a lot since I was a child. Often, it was used to refer to a nation whose people are not united. But I think it goes a bit further than that. I have written before about my despair at how divided we are as a nation these days. I like to think that it’s getting better, but I have my doubts. People are still arguing about who won the last election, which is now more than six months ago. People are still fighting about whether or not to wear a mask because of COVID and that’s been going on for more than a year. Perhaps the worst of all seems to be our divisions over civil rights of other citizens. I recently read a news story about a Jewish man who was walking to a rally in support of Israel who was attacked and beaten by a group of Palestinian men. This happened in Times Square in New York City and during the middle of the day, when the area was crowded! Apparently, these men were upset at events in the Gaza Strip area. After the attack, and while the attackers were in the jail, one of them was quoted as saying that he was proud of what he had done and would absolutely do it again, if given the chance. I wish I could say that this was an isolated incident, but it’s not. In Los Angeles, Jewish diners were the victims of an assault by a group of pro-Palestinian men who began throwing bottles at them and yelling anti-Semitic slurs. I’m not going to propose that we take sides in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and I have no idea how it should be resolved. It’s been going on for longer than I’ve been alive. But how is it that a conflict from the other side of the planet could cause this type of violence in out nation and among our citizens? Fortunately, at least one group that represents Muslims in this nation, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, has condemned the attack. Their spokesman said that, “We encourage people to express their views to participate in rallies for whatever cause they believe in but no one has the right to engage in violence, hate speech or intimidation”.
Jews aren’t the only people in this nation who have been the targets of a rising wave of hate, nor are Muslims the primary perpetrators. I’ve read stories of attacks on Asian Americans, whom some have unjustly blamed for the pandemic. An assortment of other ills that plague this country have been blamed on our neighbors from the south who have come here seeking a better life for themselves and their children. And as always, there is the fraught relationship between Americans of European decent & Americans of African descent. When I was younger, say back in the 1990’s, I thought we were on our way to healing that divide. It only seems to have gotten worse in recent years.
What does this portend for our nation in the future? I think we’d better find ways to bring our people together or we will be facing more violence like we saw on January 6. If we continue down this path of divisiveness and hatred, our house may be unable to continue to stand. But if we can start talking to each other, regardless of our racial or religious background, or differing political beliefs, I believe we can begin to heal our nation once more. We don’t always have to agree, but we have to respect the other persons point of view and remember that they are our neighbors. Christ told us to love our neighbors as ourselves. That would be a great place to start. This nation can heal if we work together and try to bring peace to all its’ citizens.
This congregation has seen its’ share of divisiveness recently. The question of how to worship and praise God during the pandemic caused a great deal of pain for several of our members. When Council took up the issue of same sex marriage, some folks became very upset about the result. Several of our brothers and sisters have left this congregation, and this has caused us no small measure of hurt feelings. To me, leaving your Church family seems like those who say they’re going to move to another country if they don’t get their way. Wouldn’t it be better to stay and work to fix what you think is wrong? One advantage that we have, as Christians, is our shared faith which teaches us to love one another. As we continue to move towards calling a pastor to serve our Church, I pray that we will work together, as a loving community, to find someone that will help us to heal our divisions,. But the real work will be up to us as a congregation. Will we find a way to come together so that we will not be a house that is divided against itself?
Prayers of Intercession
Let us come before the triune God in prayer.
A brief silence.
God of wholeness, we pray for believers all over the globe, especially for Daniel & Elizabeth, our bishops, and Howard our pastor. Unify us in service of the gospel, that we may work together as beloved siblings to share your love with all. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
God of the cosmos, we pray for creation; the gardens, waterways and creatures near to us and diverse forms of life that remain unseen. Teach us to treat the natural world with reverence, seeking restoration when human divisions have caused harm to your beloved creation. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
God of all people, we pray for harmony among the nations. Cast out from us unclean spirits of greed and fear, that we may work in solidarity with one another for the common good. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Dear God, we ask that you fill us with your Spirit of love and unity among believers all across this nation. We ask for your help to set aside our differences and look to the greater cause, the cause of Christ. We ask that you would help us to truly live a life of love. We know that this is only possible through the power of your Spirit, so we pray for your Spirit to move across our land in fresh ways. Turn your people back to you. Draw others to come to know you. Thank you that you are always with us to give us great purpose and hope. Lord in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
God of abundance, we pray for those who are oppressed or in any need. Encourage those who have begun to lose heart. Strengthen and renew us with your Spirit. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
God of righteousness, we pray for this holy house of worship. Set our gaze upon things eternal, that in thanksgiving for your mercy, we may extend grace to more and more people. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
God of the ages, in your goodness you have sent us faithful witnesses for every time and place. We give you thanks for those saints who now rest in your eternal mercy. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
We lift our prayers to you, O God, trusting in your abiding grace.
Together, let us profess our faith using the words of the Apostles Creed:
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead.* On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
And now, as our Savior, Christ is teaching us, we boldly pray:
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 trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.
The blessing of God,
who provides for us, feeds us, and journeys with us,
☩ be upon you now and forever.
Go in peace. You are the body of Christ.
Thanks be to God.