ANNOUNCEMENTS

In-person worship returns to 10 a.m. this morning.

Our Thrift Shop is open on Saturdays from 10-2 and in need of volunteers ~ simply contact Tracy S. or the church office.  Wednesday night Bible study meets at 7; Thursday night men’s study meets at 7 at the Bayport UMC.

Whether wildfires, hurricanes or other natural disasters, the United Methodist Committee on relief is always part of the response team.  They have been active this season in Haiti, Tennessee and New Orleans, and now New York and New Jersey.  If you’d like to see what they are doing and to donate, simply visit their website.

OPENING SONG:  Kari Jobe, “The Garden” (Acoustic)

CALL TO WORSHIP from Psalm 126

Those who sow with tears
WILL REAP WITH SONGS OF JOY
Those who go out weeping, carrying seeds to sow
WILL RETURN WITH SONGS OF JOY, CARRYING SHEAVES.

UNISON PRAYER

MAY WE BE GOOD SOIL.
MAY WE BE FERTILE EARTH.
MAY GOD’S SEEDS SPROUT WITHIN US. 

MAY WE PLANT AND WATER.
MAY WE PRODUCE GOOD FRUIT.
MAY WE BECOME GOD’S GARDEN.  AMEN.

WORDS OF ASSURANCE: Galatians 6:9, Good News Bible

So let us not become tired of doing good; for if we do not give up,
the time will come when we will reap the harvest.

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 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 forever.
Amen. 

CONGREGATIONAL PRAYER
(Note: Add your own prayers at the beginning or end)

Lord God, we thank you for the life of Dolores Harvey, as we remember her faithful witness in our choir, at Annual Conference, at weekly Bible study, in the Thrift Shop and throughout our community.  We are grateful for the chance to have known her and we look forward to seeing her again in your eternal Kingdom.

Be with Mary as she recovers from surgery and Joanna as she adjusts to dialysis.  Bless Joan in her time of need, and Ruth as she begins her new stage of life at the veterans’ home.  Continue to strengthen Kathleen M.’s neck, and help Karen G. to adjust to surgery and treatments.

Watch over all those struggling with cancer, especially Liz S., Dannie M., Tracy S.’s brother Paul, and Brie’s boyfriend Mike’s father Paul.  Blanket them with love, support encouragement and healing.

We pray for others in our church family who are going through times of need:  for Pat, Jim, Sue, Janet, Lois, Lily, Ken, Harriet, Diane, Laurie and Paul; for all members of our extended family who are suffering; for this nation and for the world.

We come to you now in silent prayer …

Lord, as you know what is written in our hearts, attend now to our spirits, we pray in your name, Amen.

SCRIPTURE LESSON:  1 Corinthians 3:6-9, New Living Translation

I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building.

SUNDAY SERMON (Video Version Followed by Slightly Shorter Print Version)

As we approach a new season, we wonder what happened to the season we were promised.  Where was our post-pandemic season, our season of freedom?  We thought COVID would be over by now, but it’s still going.  People are still arguing about the same things they argued about last year.  Things are not back to normal, and the further we get from normal, the more we misremember.  We recall with perfect clarity the halcyon days of 2019, when the sun shone every day, people were decent and politicians had our best interests in mind; when we were all healthy and happy and carefree.

This summer, my plant (a Christmas and Easter cactus) stopped growing.  I yelled at it, but nothing happened.  If you think that’s a dumb thing to do to a plant, then ask yourselves, “Why do we yell at each other and think it will change things?  Why do we honk and think it will make the traffic move faster?”  There’s also a weed in my plant.  I don’t know how it got there, since it’s been inside for 9 months.  It couldn’t have been transported by a bird, only by a bug.  But this too is a parable.  Where does evil come from?  How does it get in?  Why is it that we can do everything right and still see things go wrong?

This is a common question in the Scriptures, especially in the Old Testament.  Ecclesiastes says that everything is useless because nothing ever changes.  The powerful oppress the weak and are protected by even more corrupt people above them.  The sun crosses the horizon, and the rivers return to the sea.

A famous song by John Mayer has the same theme.  The repeated chorus: “We’re still waiting, waiting on the world to change.”  The singer seems to have given up on the possibility of change.

God’s first response to our anxiety, fear and pain is to comfort.  God reminds us that He is near, still working, still loving, and that everything is unfolding as it should.  All we need to do is be still and trust that He is God.

A couple years ago, I was at a party with some of my friends, who had two pre-school children.  This story may have something to do with gender roles, but it’s also applicable here.  The little girl fell down and scraped her knee, and she started crying. Lots of adults ran over to her, told her she was going to be all right, hugged her and gave her ice cream.  Seeing this, her brother fell over and started crying, but the same people said to him, “Get up, brush yourself off, you’re okay.”

God’s second response is like this.  It’s easy for us to fall into a cycle of pain and comfort, and to keep looking for reassurance.  But at a certain point, God asks, “How many blessings do you want?” ~ to which we probably respond, “How many do you have?”  And God, having already exercised infinite patience, says to us, “Get up, brush yourself off, you’re okay.”

But then God has a third response.  The kids in my story have both grown up by now.  What should the brother do if his sister falls down again?  Should he fall down too, in hopes of getting ice cream?  Of course not.  God’s response is, “Help your sister.”

An oft-heard prayer is, “God, when will you do something about all the evil and suffering in the world?”  And I believe God is throwing the question back at us:  “When will YOU do something about all the evil and suffering in the world?”

This week, while I was reading Ecclesiastes, I noticed something I’d never noticed before.  He writes that each evil person is protected by someone above them who is even more evil.  But he’s the king.  He is in fact the very person who can do something about it, but what he does is write down how terrible and pointless everything is.

What if we are the answer to some of our own prayers?

James writes that one person plants, and one person waters, but God makes the seeds grow.  Sometimes we never see the results of all our planting and watering, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t made a difference.  And there is value in the planting and the watering, even if we don’t achieve the results we hope for.

Keep believing in each other; keep believing in God; keep believing that small acts can make a huge difference, and that seeds bloom in God’s time.  Don’t just wait for the world to change; as the famous saying goes, be the change you want to see.  Amen.

OFFERING

 Please use this time to make a donation to our church.  As you write out your checks and envelopes, please enjoy Christ for the Nations Worship’s “God of New Seasons.”  For more seasonal songs, see our New Hymns page!

OFFERTORY PRAYER

Thank you, Lord, for being with us as our Comforter, our Encourager, and our Challenger.  Help us to walk the path you would have us walk and to lead the lives you would have us live.  Amen. 

BENEDICTION

 As we go forth, may we do so to plant and water, even if we never see the results; and may we trust in God to make the seeds grow.  Amen.

  Blest Be the Tie That Binds

Thank you to all who helped with today’s service.  May your week be blessed!