ANNOUNCEMENTS

In-person worship begins at 10 a.m.
Note: today’s online service is not the same as the in-person service.

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

OPENING SONG:  “Word of God, Speak” (MercyMe)

CALL TO WORSHIP

Open our ears, Lord, and teach us to listen;
IN SILENCE AND CONTEMPLATION
MAY WE HEAR YOUR VOICE.

UNISON PRAYER

LORD, TEACH US
TO BE QUIET IN YOUR PRESENCE,
TO LISTEN INTENTLY THROUGH THE NOISE.
MAY WE HEAR YOU IN NATURE AND IN EACH OTHER.
MAY WE EXPERIENCE YOUR STILL, SMALL VOICE.  AMEN.

WORDS OF ASSURANCE: John 10:27, NIV

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

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 Jesus, be with Alan as he leads worship today at our church.  May he be anointed by your Spirit and supported in prayer.

We seek your blessing as we move into a new season.  You are our help in ages past, our hope for years to come.  We thank you for watching over our church and all churches.  In this world and the next, may your name be forever praised.

Bless those struggling with cancer, especially Liz S., Dannie M., Laura S. and Tracy S.’s brother 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, Vivian, Jim, Joanna, Sue, Janet, Joan, Karen, Lois, Mary, Kathleen, Lily, Ken, Harriet, Diane, Laurie, Paul and Ruth; 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 LESSONS:  Matthew 13:9-13, TEV & 1 Kings 19:9-12, NIV

Jesus concluded, “Listen, then, if you have ears!”  Then the disciples came to Jesus and asked him, “Why do you use parables when you talk to the people?”  Jesus answered, “The knowledge about the secrets of the Kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. For the person who has something will be given more, so that he will have more than enough; but the person who has nothing will have taken away from him even the little he has. The reason I use parables in talking to them is that they look, but do not see, and they listen, but do not hear or understand.

And there he came to a cave, and lodged there; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Eli′jah?” He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the people of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thy altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” And he said, “Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.

SUNDAY SERMON (Print Only This Week)

The Scripture above often gets lost because it’s sandwiched between the Parable of the Sower and the explanation of the Parable of the Sower.  The disciples want to get to the good stuff, and so do we.  But Jesus wants to teach a lesson within a lesson.

Why does Jesus speak in parables?  Wouldn’t it be easier to just say what he means?  For three years, he teaches in parable and metaphor.  Only at the Last Supper does he change his approach.  His disciples say, “finally you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech!”

Jesus does give them a direct answer ~ of sorts.  He tells his disciples that others listen but do not hear or understand.  The parables are meant to be puzzled over, so that the disciples can figure out the answers themselves.  Only after a pause does their teacher help them out.

How are we at parables?  When we see a chestnut and a squirrel, do we think only of their surface value?  When the seasons change, do we simply mourn the disappearance of warmth?  And when we listen to each other, do we hear the feelings behind the words?

Jesus offers a parable within a parable: the person who has something will be given more, so that he will have more than enough; but the person who has nothing will have taken away from him even the little he has.

What if Jesus is referring to the very act of listening?  The person who listens intently will be given even more understanding and grace; the person who fails to listen, or only half-listens, will lose what little they have.

To put it another way, consider the lives of two persons.  The first is a terrible listener as a child, as a student, as an employee, as a spouse (if anyone cares to marry them) and as a parent; and they seldom listen for God.  The second is an excellent listener as a child, as a student, as an employee, as a spouse (they are a good catch), and as a parent; and they often listen for God.  These two lives will likely follow two very different trajectories, based on this factor alone.

A famous story in the first book of Kings describes Elijah’s approach to God.  Elijah is concerned about many things and wants an immediate response from God.  God sends  a wind, an earthquake and a fire, which is almost the name of a popular soul band; but God is not in any of these.  Instead, God speaks in a still, small voice.  What does he say?  The author does not record the answer, so we have to guess.

Perhaps Elijah had not been able to hear God because he was drowning out his still, small voice with the volume of his own complaints.  Perhaps he was giving his attention to the voices of the world ~ worry, anger, fear.  He is yelling at God, and expects God to yell back.  God defies expectations by sending the bombast but speaking through silence.

How might God be speaking to us?  What might God be saying?  If the world is saying one thing and God is saying another, who is right?  (If you don’t know the answer to this one, I will have homework for you.)

Both of these stories come back to the same point: when we listen, we are blessed.  James writes, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.”  Imagine if parents and children took the time to listen to each other; if politicians really heard the opposing viewpoint; if we were able to hear the worry below the words, and respond to the heart instead of to the lips.  To quote Louis Armstrong, “What a wonderful would this would be.”

When we listen for and to God, Jesus promises us knowledge about the secrets of the Kingdom of heaven.  What if the road to heaven began not with our feet, not with our speech, not even in our hearts but in our ears?  Listen, then, if you have ears, says Jesus.

Listen.

OFFERING

 Please use this time to make a donation to our church.  As you write out your checks, please enjoy “I’m Listening” by Chris McClarney feat. Hollyn.

OFFERTORY PRAYER

Thank you, Lord, for continuing to love us whether we are faithful or unfaithful, whether we stray or follow, whether we listen to or ignore your voice.  We return but a portion of your boundless love.  Fill us with gratitude and give us hearts to serve you.  Amen.

BENEDICTION

This week, may we hear God’s voice in the trees, in the rain, in the birds, in our homes, in our families, in our friends, and in our hearts.  May God’s voice speak to us with and without words.  Amen.

  Blest Be the Tie That Binds

Thank you for worshiping with us.  May your week be blessed!