One of my very favorite Old Testament stories takes place as the children of Israel are about to cross into the Promised Land. Moses is speaking to the Children of Israel for the last time; he will die very soon. So in this last speech, Moses tells them God is about to bring them into the Promised Land, and so it is very important that they remain faithful to the God who has made them His special people. Moses tells them that if they are faithful to God, He will bless them; but if their hearts turn away from God and if they disobey Him, God will not let them live long in the land that He is presently giving them. Moses gathers them all together and says: “Choose ye this day whom thou shalt serve! I lay before you life and death, blessing and curse! So choose life! Choose to love and obey the Lord your God for He is your life.” Lo and behold! That particular lesson is this week’s Old Testament lesson — and it is paired with Luke 14:24-35 in which Jesus reminds his followers that there is a cost to everything, including being a disciple. “So count the cost before you become my disciple. If you do become my disciple and then can’t bear up, you will become like salt that has lost its saltiness: useless.” I love having these two lessons paired together because one of the first questions any new Christian has to answer is “Since I am a follower of Christ, why has he allowed suffering into my life?” So many people feel betrayed by God when He allows suffering into their lives, as though becoming a Christian were some sort of insurance policy against suffering — like paying protection to the Mafia. These people forget that any blessings there are for being a Christian come later — as long as you don’t count fellowship with the Creator of the Universe as blessing enough. (which mature Christians thank God for right now.)
To see & hear the YouTube videos of this week’s hymns, you will need to click the title of this blog. You will be taken straight to our website where you can see them. For some reason, the videos do not survive the trip into your inbox, if you are a subscriber to my blog. (And if so, thank you!)
The Processional Hymn for worship this week is “Lord Speak to Us that We May Speak”
And here are the lyrics so you can sing along (even though I still think that making a “karaoke version” of hymns is hysterically funny!):
We pray in The Prayer of the Day, “O merciful Lord, You did not spare Your only Son but delivered Him up for us all. Grant us courage and strength to take up the cross and follow Him, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.”
The Old Testament Lesson is Deuteronomy 30:15-20. This is the famous lesson about choice: “Choose ye this day whom thou shalt serve. I lay before you life and death. Choose life.” To choose to love and obey God is to choose life.
The Psalm is Psalm 1: Blessed is the man who does not walk in the way of the wicked, but whose delight is in the Law of the Lord. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous — but the way of the wicked will perish. (So choose ye this day …)
The New Testament Lesson is Philemon 1-21. At the point in history when St. Paul wrote this letter to Philemon, the 60 million slaves in the Roman Empire made up a critical component of Rome’s social and economic structure. As a result, runaways were considered criminals who were punishable by severe measures, including death. Philemon, the man to whom this letter was addressed, was the owner of Onesimus, a runaway slave. Somehow, Onesimus got to Rome, met Paul, and became Christian. He and Paul them faced the dilemma about what Onesimus should do. We may wonder why Paul did not take this opportunity simply to condemn the fact of slavery. The reason is pretty clear: the Romans would never have all voluntarily freed their slaves and any slave revolt would have been violently crushed. However, do not lose sight of the fact that this famous letter to Philemon struck the very first note for the ultimate abolition of slavery by the teaching that regardless of race or economic conditions, Christians are one family in Christ, brothers and sisters of each other. The letter is Paul’s attempt to persuade Philemon to forgive the runaway, and receive him as if he were Paul himself. Onesimus carried this letter back to his home. Although we do not know how this story actually ended, many scholars are convinced (for all sorts of reasons into which I don’t go here) that the man who ultimately became the Bishop of Ephesus, a man named Onesimus, was the former slave for whom St. Paul pleaded.
The Holy Gospel is Luke 14:25-35.In this gospel, Jesus reminds his followers that there is a cost to everything, including being a disciple. “So count the cost before you become my disciple. If you do become my disciple and then can’t bear up, you will become like salt that has lost its saltiness: useless.” (Choose ye this day …)
The Hymn of the Day is “Take My Life That I May Be”:
The following is NOT the tune that we will be singing this week, but it is so beautiful that I’m including it here:
THIS is the version we WILL be singing as the Hymn of the Day:
The Distribution Hymn is “Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart”:
The Recessional is “Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross”:
EVERYBODY loves this one!
I look forward to worship with you this week!