You make me to lie down in green pastures…

You make me to lie down beside still waters…

I don’t wanna!

I don’t hafta!

You can’t make me!

You’re not the boss of me!

You make me to lie down beside still waters…

But, but, but there’s so much to do.

Whaddya mean I’ve been doing too much?

Whaddya mean I have to rest?

Whaddya mean I should take a break?

You make me to lie down beside still waters…

La-la, I can’t hear you!

You make me to lie down beside still waters…

I can’t take it all lying down.

Don’t I have to soldier on?

Don’t I have to keep it all going?

Don’t I have to keep going?

You make me to lie down beside still waters…

I can’t lay it all down.

They’re my burdens and I gotta carry ‘em.

I can’t trust anyone else to do it (right).

It’s just my cross to bear.

You make me to lie down beside still waters…

You are always with me.

You guide and comfort me.

You direct me to sabbath rest.

You sleep amidst the storm.

You calm the sea.  

You make me to lie down beside still waters…

You take my burdens upon you.

You offer me your light and easy burden.

You give me peace.

You make me safe.

You call me to come aside and rest.

You make us to lie down beside still waters…

Thank you, God.

Featured post
Featured post

A Prayer for Looooong COVID

Prayer for Loooooong COVID

Dear God,

Encourage us as we continue to deal with looong COVID—

with the after-effects of COVID

for those who have had it but are somehow not yet over it

and the after-effects of COVID

for all of us who have lived through these past three years.

Strengthen our commitment to maintaining health—

ours and everyone else’s.

Open our ears to hear what we may not want to hear

about how to stay safe from the triple-demic:

from COVID, and RSV, and the flu.

Forgive us for wanting to dehumanize those who don’t agree with us

about what is best for us, for them, for our communities.

Forgive us for thinking that any of our choices affect only us.

Forgive us when we are angry with those

who left us too soon due to choices they made,

who are taking up healthcare space again-still-yet

that is needed by others for other things

and forgive them as well.

As we face a(nother) new variant, the most contagious one yet,

we give thanks for the ways we know to reduce the risk

to ourselves and others—

for vaccines and new treatments,

for home tests and quick PCR tests

and also for tests for flu and for RSV,

and even for masks and distancing.

Re-enervate our commitment to paying attention

to our health,

to the health of those we love,

to the health of those we know but find it hard to love,

and to the health of those we do not know.

Comfort those who have lost loved ones

more than a million and still counting, although more slowly.

Heal those who have been oh-so-careful

or even oh-so-careless

and who are now infected

or infected again.

Make them pay attention to their own health.

Make them get treatment.

Make them protect those around them in every way they can.

O God, encourage us as we continue to deal with looong COVID. Amen.

For info on the latest variant, see

Featured post

Narrative Lectionary Worship Resources January 1, 2023 Matthew 1:1-17 plus A New Year’s Prayer

Image from the

*CALL TO WORSHIP (Venerable Bede, 2 Peter 1:19; Revelation 22:16)

One: Christ is the morning star, who, when the world’s night is past,

All: gives us the promise of the light of life and opens everlasting day.

God, open us to your light shining in a dark place

until the day dawns and your morning star rises in our hearts.

For Christ is the root and descendant of David,

the bright morning star. 

*HYMN #69 O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright


Let us open our hearts to God and offer the truth of our lives. 

PRAYER OF CONFESSION (unison)                                                                                 

O God, we offer up to you

The fear that stifles us; the prejudices that blind us,

the ignorance that hobbles us; the doubt that plagues us.

Forgive us and make us anew.

Prayer of Confession adapted from a prayer by Beth Merrill Neel on her blog, ‘Hold Fast to What Is Good’.  Used with permission.

–Silent Confession–

ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS (2 Corinthians 5:17-18

New Living Bible) Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. 

The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift 

from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. 

Thanks be to God for the Good News:  In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.                                                                                              

SCRIPTURE READING Matthew 1:1-17 NIV pp. 1496-7/NRSV p. 777

            The Word of the Lord.  Thanks be to God!

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH The Apostles’ Creed (traditional)  Hymnal p.14

HYMN #525 Here I Am, Lord

*CLOSING HYMN #265 Great God, We Sing That Mighty Hand

CHARGE and BENEDICTION                                                                              .                                                                                                     

                     Prayer for the New Year

Almighty and Eternal God

In the midst of all that is dark and icy

In the midst of a winter’s day that grabs our senses

with a cold beauty and yet fear of accident,

we your people,

brought together because of our love of Jesus Christ,

come to proclaim light in the darkness

life in the presence of death

warmth in the midst of cold and

love in the face of hate.

For it is out of darkness that you bring light

out of chaos you bring order

out of despair you continue to bring hope

even to people like us.

Lord God

no matter what has happened in the past

no matter what the last 52 weeks have brought

your love has reigned supreme.

Your love has reigned supreme

while our response

has wilted and faded

like the leaves on an autumn tree.

Bring us back to the hope of a winter’s day, Lord God.

Bring us back to the brightness of a blue sky

   that reminds us of warmer days of summer.

Bring us back to the evergreen trees that stand tall and proud

   in the frost signs of hope to come.

Bring us back to the white not of snow and ice

   but to a purity of heart and mind,

for your love unlike the snow and ice does not grow cold.

Lord God, forgive us for failing to appreciate all your gifts

   in the cycle of your created order.

Even when we think all is dead you are providing signs of life.

Even when we believe all is finished

   you are sowing seeds for a harvest still to come

Forgive us for failing to see them.

As we stand on the threshold of a New Year

so allow us to grasp the picture you have for us of all that lies ahead.

It is a picture full of hope, full of purpose and full of love

and forgive us for ever thinking what might suggest otherwise.

All this we ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.

— written by the Rt Rev David Arnott, and posted on the Church of Scotland’s   Starters for Sunday website. 

Featured post


Wreath Themes.xlsx

Featured post

Gathering for Healing: Sermon on 2 Kings 5:1-16, Narrative Lectionary for 11/6/2022

How’s your geography?

I have to admit mine’s not too good

In fact, when Bush was running against Clinton and made a gaffe about the location of Arkansas

my own geographical knowledge was being similarly tested

as we had just moved to Arkansas, a state I’d never been to before

and couldn’t really locate on a map…!

But geography is important to today’s story

By the time of today’s passage, Israel had become divided following the death of King Solomon

(The king whose wisdom was the focus of last week’s passage)

It was divided into a southern kingdom (Judah)

      and a northern kingdom,

which kept the name of Israel

but was also called Samaria

And Aram is what has become modern-day Syria

And these neighboring countries had been at war

Thus, the encounter between Naaman and Elisha

        is a confrontation between enemies

        two people from warring countries

        representatives of kings of warring countries

So that, in today’s story, we witness that countries at war are still in contact


This is true in Ukraine where, alongside of (despite?) the war,

conversations and negotiations are still happening

          From negotiations regarding Brittney Griner

the basketball player sentenced to prison in Russia for smuggling hashish oil

to the grain deal, in which Russia is (again) allowing grain exports from Ukraine 

In our story today, the kings are involved

The king of Aram readily agrees that Naaman should go to Israel to seek healing

                                sending him with a kingly letter of introduction

Naaman adds to this intro his own pomp and posturing

                                taking with him great riches, perhaps as presents

                                and a military entourage of horses and chariots, perhaps as a threat

And the king of Israel,

who receives Naaman with his pomp and posturing, presents and power,

                                suspects that, since he is “not god” and cannot grant Naaman’s request

                                                          this all a pretext for more warfare

But Elisha can. And Elisha does.

Hearing of Naaman’s request, Elisha tells the king to send Naaman to him.

(We are not even told of how that message gets to Naaman)

          Just that Naaman goes, with his presents and his power,

          To Elisha’s house

But his presents and his power do not gain him immediate access to Elisha

Instead, the great commander with his great need, is met by a servant and a message

          Go wash seven times in the Jordan River

          And Naaman is incensed by both the messenger and the message

By the way, it is likely true that Aram’s rivers were better than those of Jordan

          As the Jordan was more of a muddy creek than a river

          Kind of a backwater in a country that had been bested by Aram and Naaman in war

But once again the servants come to the rescue

Counseling Naaman in ways that combat his power, pride and position

So that he does go and wash seven times in the Jordan River

Likely feeling vulnerable and foolish and possibly dirty in that water

Stripped of power and presents and left just at the mercy of God

A (lack of) status further solidified by Elisha’s refusal of his gifts

Leaving him a great man in debt to an enemy and that enemy’s God

Resulting in Naaman’s vow to serve Israel’s god

                                         asking for some dirt from Israel to help him in that worship

                                         and for forgiveness when accompanies his king to worship other god

Over a year ago we had a worship/sermon series about gathering

                                                                                                    why we are here

This morning’s texts suggest that one reason we gather is in order to heal

And that, like raising a child, it takes a village to accomplish this healing

From the Israeli slave girl to the wife of the king of Aram to the king himself

From Naaman to the king of Israel to Elisha and the servants in Naaman’s entourage

          People of great, and no, status

          People who are considered important and people who tend to be ignored

          And people who are enemies

                    All participate in the healing of Naaman

Where are you hurting?

Where are you in need of healing?

From church conflicts to conversations gone wrong or not held

From losses due to COVID and its restrictions to divisive politics and policies

From physical illnesses and pains to emotional shocks and shudders

          We are in need of healing

And so we come with Jesus’ letter of introduction to

the King of healing

                 One with the power and compassion to heal

We come at the direction of a lowly carpenter

descended from glory to live among us

          as servant and washer-of-feet

We come into the presence of God

as those who have been enemies of God

          participating willingly or unwittingly in what wounds and deals death

                                                                                          works against love and compassion

                                                                                                                    mercy and justice

In need of healing as and with and through the community of faith

That stretches from a slave girl through kings to prophets to God Godself

In need of the healing, living water that forever slakes our thirst

In need of the water of baptism that makes us citizens

not of this party or nation, but of God’s kingdom

In need of the bread of life that confounds death

In need of the fruit of the vine that connects us to the giver of life

An ancient communion formula reads

O God, I am not worthy to receive you,

But only say the word and I shall be healed.

Let us pray…

Featured post

Narrative Lectionary Worship Resources: 2 Kings 5:1-16 November 6, 2022

Different cover image (with Naaman)  can be found at

Call to worship adapted from a prayer written by Katherine Hawker, 2003. Posted on Liturgies Outside. 


We gather together for God’s healing

like the slave girl, the army commander, the religious zealot, the servants.

We gather together for God’s healing–

differences suspended, doubt superseded.

We gather together for God’s healing

through ordinary water and a cube of bread.

We gather together for God’s healing

through simple ritual and extraordinary presence

We gather together for God’s healing

across the power lines that divide us.

We gather together for God’s healing

acknowledging our need for help and direction.


*HYMN #372 Lord, I Want to Be a Christian  (by request)



When we let fear and favor take the place of love and justice, 

heal us, O God.

When we wish for retaliation rather than reconciliation, 

heal us, O God.

When we forget that the “other side” is made up of people who are all made in your image, heal us. O God.

When we allow our differences to divide us from each other, 

heal us, O God.

When we do not tap in to your power to love, heal, and forgive,

heal us O God. 


ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS (concepts from 2 Kings 5:14)

God washes us clean, healing us inside and out. We  become good as new, spanking new, soft and clean and sweet as a just-washed newborn baby. Thanks be to God for the Good News: In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.                                                                                              

SCRIPTURE READING 1 Kings 5:1-16           NIV p.**/NRSV p.** 

The Word of the Lord.  Thanks be to God!

HYMN #399 We Walk by Faith (tune of The Lord’s My Shepherd )

SERMON   Gathering for Healing          


*CLOSING HYMN #521 You Satisfy the Hungry Heart (by request)

Cover image

Call to worship adapted from prayer written by Katherine Hawker, 2003. Posted on Liturgies Outside. 

Featured post

Narrative Lectionary SERMON: Discernment 1 Kings 3/October 30, 2022

Cover image from

As we continue on our way through some of the highlights of the OT via the Narrative Lectionary

we come today to the wisdom of Solomon

the best-known story having to do with Solomon

emphasizing his desire to be a good leader

despite the political intrigues that led to him becoming king

and the excesses that will subsequently characterize his kingship

The passages we have read this fall could serve as a litmus test for leadership—

          an important question as we prayerfully approach voting in the mid-term elections

because, while we live in a nation of many religions (and no religion at all)

          the question of what candidates represent the values of God’s kingdom is still of import

And while the church cannot be partisan, the church is called to address

Power—and therefore politics

          Ethics–that is, right and wrong

          and the well-being of all people

For the Gospel calls on us, in all we do,  

          to be representatives of Jesus

          to stand for what is right

                           and for the good of all people

          and to be the people of God in all we say and do

So we are called on to ask similar questions of our leaders  

Going beyond any religious claims made by candidates

to discern what—and who—potential leaders represent

         what—and who—they stand for

         and who they are                                       

And while we can also see that the biblical leaders are far from perfect

And that their wrongdoings have consequences both for them

                                                                                        and for the people they lead         

At their best, they not only seek, trust and obey God, but provide biblical examples of

the use of power and blessing to serve the people, all nations

       from God’s proclamation to Abra(ha)m that he is blessed to be a blessing

       to Solomon’s motivation in seeking wisdom, which is to govern God’s people well

transformative leadership in tough circumstances leading to salvation/new life

       Noah in the time of the Flood

       Joseph unjustly imprisoned

       Moses in slavery and in the wilderness

and just last week we saw David taking responsibility/being held accountable—and repenting

Now, if you find yourself less-than-hopeful

          cynical about our leaders and our elections

          uncertain that there is much a regular citizen can do

          let me point you to something else found in this passage—and those preceding it

That is, throughout these stories that we’ve read, (not just in Joshua as highlighted by Cindy)

          the focus is actually on God and God’s actions

          –and this is where we find hope

In the Flood narrative, we talked about turning the picture upside-down

                                                                        seeing things from God’s perspective

                                                                        participating in God’s hope

         God’s transformative action

In the promise made to Abram, it is God who swears to use Abra(ha)m’s leadership

                                                                        the blessing of Abram and his family

                                                                        to bless all people

In the story of the crossing of the Re(e)d Sea,

                                                                        God acts to free the Hebrew people

                                                                        acting on the behalf of the oppressed

                                                                                    against the oppressor

                                                                                    through Moses

In the giving of the manna in the wilderness, we ask with the Hebrews, “What is it?”

                                                                       “What is God doing?

                                                                        and “How can we become a part of what God is doing?”

In Joshua, we heard the litany of what God did for the people

                                                                      culminating in the question of who the people will serve

And it is God who made it possible for Nathan to call David to account

In today’s passage, although it begins by talking of Solomon

          of his sacrifices and burnt offerings

          in short order, God takes center stage

Moving the narrative focus from what Solomon is doing

                                                      to what God does

Making the story less about what Solomon does for God

                                and more about what God does for, and through, Solomon

This is the question we, as individuals and as the church, are called back to over and over again

          What is God doing?

          Where are we called to participate in what God is doing?

And while, for me, the most current, loudest application of this call is the upcoming election,

when Len read this sermon, he heard a call to the people of the church he is working with

to the hard work of truth and reconciliation.

The reality is that the call to find and join what God is doing is a larger lifelong call

A call that is both gift and obligation

(as the South African Belhar Confession puts it with regard to the call to unity)

a call to join God’s work that is made alive in us by the Holy Spirit

“yet simultaneously a reality which must be earnestly pursued and sought:

one which the people of God must continually be built up to attain—”

a building up that we seek to do as we gather together each week

When we gather, we proclaim and celebrate that

God never leaves us

                  never forsakes us

                  comes alongside us

        and is ever-present with us and among us

But the Christian life is not just about God being with us

        It is about us being with and following God

                                saying, in answer to Joshua’s question to the Hebrew people, we will serve God

                                vowing, in front of witnesses, to serve and obey God

                                                                                           have no other gods

Joining with God means taking up the cause of God’s kingdom

          A Kingdom where the rich and powerful serve the poor and the powerless

                               where every gift and advantage that we have is used to serve all people

                               where wisdom means hearing the grievances of those who are often unheard

Can you imagine a king hearing the case of two prostitutes?

          Talk about hearing from the voiceless, the powerless, those who are looked down on!

Who is denied a hearing today?

          Who do we cut off from discourse?


The lack of listening has reached epic proportions today

          Making us forget that others are people

                                                  their experiences have shaped them

                                                  just as our experiences have shaped us

          And that we are, all of us—leaders and ordinary citizens, us and them—are both

made in God’s image—and flawed

          And none of us can see the whole picture

          So that we need community

to hear from, to listen to, one another

And not just from those who are suffering here in the U.S.  (I’m sure you can make a list…)

but those who are unheard throughout the world, in places and spaces where the US continues to have an effect, an influence—sometimes by our lack of attention to their plight

So we’re talking not just about the big ones that we are aware of—

          Great Britain and Ukraine and Iran

But ones that are in our news for just a brief moment, for example:

          Pakistanis suffering severe floods

          Yemeni people experiencing war

          Somalians threatened with starvation

          Haitians at the mercy of gangs that have taken over

Today we have come, like Solomon before God

          Offering our sacrifice of praise and worship

          Reviewing what God has done for us

                    God’s great and steadfast love to us as God’s servants

                    Making us part of God’s kingdom



What do we ask for God to give to us?

          Solomon sought a discerning heart/an understanding mind

                                         the ability to distinguish right from wrong

                                                                                     good from bad, from evil                                 

We seem to have lost a national consensus regarding the questions of right and wrong

We no longer agree as to what behavior has occurred

           much less what is wrong

           and how to respond to it

And while it is tempting to point fingers of blame as to why that is—or who is responsible

As Christians we are in a position to ask God  for a discerning heart/an understanding mind

  to know good from evil

  and what it is we are to do

                                and who we are called to be

To not only see the good, but to do it

To not only recognize evil, but to resist it

To take responsibility for ourselves

And to practice holding ourselves—and others—accountable.                                            Let us pray…

Featured post

Narrative Lectionary Resources for 10/30/22 1 Kings 3: The Wisdom of Solomon

Cover image from

Feel free to use/adapt with credit to Barb Hedges-Goettl

CALL TO WORSHIP (from Colossians 2:2)

People of God, we are encouraged in heart and united in love and so

we sing God’s praises.

God give you the full riches of complete understanding,

in order that you may know the mystery of God and so that

we sing God’s praises.

In Christ, the mystery of God, are hidden all the treasures

of wisdom and knowledge, given to you, so that

we sing God’s praises.

With those who listen and understand,

with those who seek a discerning mind,

we sing God’s praises.

*HYMN insert  My Life Flows On 


When we do not discern your ways and paths for our lives,

forgive us, O God.

When we do not ask for your discernment in order to understand and love others, forgive us, O God.

When we do not treat all human beings as made by–and loved by–you, forgive us, O God.

When we practice judgment and condemnation rather than love and compassion, forgive us, O God.

When we let fear and favor take the place of faith in your faithfulness, forgive us, O God.

When we do not have faith that you will use our small actions for great good, forgive us, O God.

–Silent Confession–                                                                                              

Assurance of forgiveness (1 Corinthians 1:30 NRSVUE)

Because of God we are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.

 Thanks be to God for the Good News: In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.                                                                                              

SCRIPTURE READING 1 Kings 3:4-28  

HYMN #327 O Word of God Incarnate 

SERMON   Discernment                                              

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH (Proverbs 2:6-12) The Lord gives wisdom. From God’s mouth come knowledge and understanding. God stores up sound wisdom for the upright. God is a shield to those who walk blamelessly, guarding the paths of justice and preserving the way of God’s faithful ones. Then we will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path. Wisdom will come into my heart. Knowledge will be pleasant to my soul. Prudence will watch over us. Understanding will guard you. It will save us from the way of evil. Thanks be to God.

*CLOSING HYMN #420 God of Grace, and God of Glory

Cover image from

Featured post

A riff on the hymn “O God of Earth and Altar”

(Feel free to use/adapt, crediting Barb Hedges-Goettl)

Photo view from hotel room at Hilton, Ocean City MD by Barb Hedges-Goettl

O God and Lord above us

O God of sky and sea

You never cease to love us

To ever present be

You live and dwell among us

And call us to your side

To join you in your purpose

Of healing what divides

Designer of creation

And maker of the earth

You call for re-creation

Another, better birth

You know our ev’ry action

Our sorrows and our joys

And when our own inaction

Turns promises to noise

God, give us grace to follow

The path that Jesus trod

To take our lives and hallow

Them unto you, O God

O heal and reconcile us

To others and to you

That we may be your children

In all we are and do.

Featured post

Narrative Lectionary Sermon 2 Samuel 11-12 “You are the Man” October 23, 2022

Like the crossing of the Re(e)d Sea, this story has been the subject of several movies

In the 1951 Gregory Peck/Susan Hayward film,

     Bathsheba and David have a consensual adulterous affair

In the 1985 Richard Gere King David film,

     Bathsheba appears before King David in court claiming abuse by Uriah before becoming involved with him

Interesting how neither film wants to tell the biblical version of the story

Preferring to tell of an illicit and steamy romance

Do you remember the rest of the story?

That David’s response to Bathsheba’s pregnancy

is to bring her husband Uriah home from the front so the baby will be seen as legitimately his

but Uriah will not go home to sleep with his wife while his men are in the field

and so David sends a message with Uriah himself

to direct David’s commander to put Uriah at the front of the line

and then withdraw, so that Uriah will be killed by the Ammonites.

Of course others with Uriah are killed as well, but David brushes this away as the cost of the plan

And then, after her period of mourning, David marries Bathsheba.

And although later in the story of King David,

Bathsheba will stand up for their second son, Solomon, in his successful bid to become the next king

In this part of the biblical story, the only recorded words of Bathsheba are “I am pregnant.”

And, indeed, it hardly matters what she said or thought

The king sent for her and took her, and that was that

Meaning that, although the NRSV(UE) entitles this story “David Commits Adultery with Bathsheba,”

The story is really that of the abuse of power, of “Me Too,” of rape

David’s abuse of power more than fulfills Samuel’s prediction of how the Israelite king will act (I Sam. 8:10-17)

In fact, Samuel stops short of naming such sexual taking of women

While noting that the king the Israelites request will

take their sons and daughters to serve him in war and in agriculture and in his household

demand their labor and commandeer their lands

and make them serve him

And of course we still see this behavior among those with power today

Those who abuse their positions in a variety of ways

Hiring friends and cronies and family

Showing favoritism to those who can benefit them

To the detriment of those they are sworn to serve

And those who use their positions to force themselves on others sexually

From movie moguls to politicians to bosses

But instead of everyone turning a blind eye to this abuse of power, David has someone who holds to account

Of course the wily Nathan tells the story in a way that David can hear

Asking him to apply ethical principles to the behaviors of others

Which he readily does—apparently even without any prompting

He is outraged by the way the rich man exercised power over the poor man and his lamb

Taking the sheep (just as David took Bathsheba) and killing it for his own benefit

How often have we heard leaders apply ethical principles to those whom they consider their “enemies”

But changing their tune when asked to apply those same principles to themselves?

But here, in this passage, David actually listens to Nathan

Not excusing his own misconduct by somehow claiming that the rules are/should be different for him

Instead, David recognizes what he has done

Confessing and repenting of his sin

       Both in our passage

       And likely also in Psalm 51, used in our Call to Worship and Prayer of Confession

Perhaps Nathan had the king’s ear because he had been on the scene earlier in the account of King David’s rule

Responding to David’s desire to build a house for God

With the promise that God will build a house, that is a dynasty, for David

A dynasty that stretches so far forward

that “the wife of Uriah the Hittite” is named in Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew

alongside other suffering women whose are listed in the lineage of the One

who himself would suffer and die and then rise again

A dynasty that goes forward, but is disrupted and dysfunctional after David’s actions

For, despite his confession and repentance, Nathan tells David his actions still have consequences (v.10-12)

       “The sword will never depart from your house.”

Your wives will sleep with those who are close to you “in broad daylight.”

And the child you conceived with Bathsheba will die.

As we wish for more Nathans

And have the opportunity to use elections as a way to hold our leaders accountable

  to elect leaders who can recognize their own faults as well as those of others

We are also called upon to do the same—

Not only to hold others responsible, but to be accountable ourselves

There’s this challenging little thing called “agency”

A fancy way of saying that we are actors in our own stories

That being responsible for what we do means that we are in charge of our own changing

That we are called by God, with God’s help, to be the subjects of our own lives and actions

Were you taught in English class to avoid write in active, rather than passive, tense?

While we may have learned this about grammar, we sometime miss it in regular life

 If we say, “The glass broke,” we avoid the reality that someone (likely the speaker!) broke it

            I was talking to Len about this sermon and noted that this was something my mother tended to do

            He pointed out that was an understatement!

            Good, bad or indifferent, she had a hard time making “I” statements

            Instead, the world revolved around what others did

                       and what had somehow just happened

The newspaper article about the pickup truck that landed in our side yard was masterful in this

            Beginning with police finding the driver about 500 feet from the crashed vehicle

And saying things like “The crash happened” about 2:30 pm

And “two homes were evacuated.”

But there were agents for all these action—

There was a driver to whom one could say, “You are the man”

            A driver who was no longer with the truck when it crashed

            But who is not thereby absolved of any responsibility for what happened

We are called on to take the log out of own eyes before we take the speck from our neighbor’s eye (Mt 7:5)

Where is it that we might be blind to our own actions?



                                                                                        part in the problem?

Where can we take responsibility


                                      be accountable

Makemie is a “Matthew 25” congregation

This PCUSA initiative focuses has three foci:

Building congregational vitality by deepening and energizing our faith and growing as joyful leaders and disciples actively engaged with our community as we share the gospel of Jesus Christ in word and deed

Eradicating systemic poverty by acting on our beliefs and working to change laws, policies, plans and structures in our society that perpetuate economic exploitation of people who are poor

Dismantling structural racism by fearlessly applying our faith to advocate and break down the systems, practices and thinking that underlie discrimination, bias, prejudice and oppression of people of color

Now the first response to the question of racism is frequently to state that one is not a racist

And, while this can be a great starting place, our Matthew 25 commitment means this is not enough

Matthew 25—the initiative and the Scripture itself asks for greater action than not being racist

Matthew 25—the gospel overall, asks us to take action for those who are hungry






Meaning that it’s not enough to refrain from being racist

Calling us to go beyond that to be anti-racist

To take actions, to be active, in combatting racism

I’m taking a class on combating racism sponsored by the Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice

Last week a new person showed up to our class

And it turned out he was there to see if we were the real deal or if we were full of [fill-in-the-blank]

He himself was full of examples in his own life where he had gotten along fine with black people

And didn’t buy that there was racism in the world, much less in him

But this is as if David held the parable of the sheep at arm’s length

Blaming the problem on that rich man

Demanding justice for that situation

But not seeing the parallel to his own situation

This kind of attitude belies the Christian gospel, which is predicated on the understanding we are sinners

So that we are asked to see our own part in it all

            Do we hear those crying out for justice?

            Do we see how our lives have been easier because of who we are

            And harder for others because of who they are?

            And how are we working to change this?

Because, when it comes to change, we are the ones God works through to make  a change

            A change that can then radiate beyond us to our church




Let us pray….

Featured post

Narrative Lectionary Resources 2 Samuel 11-12 October 23, 2022

*CALL TO WORSHIP (from Psalm 51 The Message)

O God, enter me; conceive a new, true life in me.

Set me to singing.

Tune me in to foot-tapping songs;

set these once-broken bones to dancing.

Set me to singing.

Make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life. Set me to singing.

Breathe holiness in me. Bring me back from gray exile,

put a fresh wind in my sails!

Set me to singing.

Unbutton my lips, dear God;

I’ll sing anthems to your life-giving ways. I’ll let loose with your praise. COME, LET US SING TOGETHER TO GOD.

*HYMN Purple Hymnal #821 My Life Flows On


PRAYER OF CONFESSION (Psalm 51, The Message)

Generous in love—God, give grace!

My sins are staring me down. I know I’ve fallen short.

You’re the One I’ve violated. You’ve seen it all.

You have all the facts before you–how I’ve been out of step with you. Huge in mercy—wipe out my bad record.

Scrub away my guilt. Soak out my sins in your laundry.

My sins are staring me down. I know I’ve fallen short.

What you’re after is truth from the inside out.

Enter me, then. Conceive a new, true life in me.

–Silent Confession–

Assurance of forgiveness God soaks us and we come out clean. God scrubs and cleanses us. God gives us a clean bill of health. God commutes our death sentence, and grants us salvation.

Thanks be to God for the Good News: In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.

SCRIPTURE READING 2 Samuel 11:1-5, 12:1-7

HYMN #361 How Firm a Foundation

SERMON You are the man!


AFFIRMATION OF FAITH (from the Confession of 1967 9.25, 9.31)

As the church, we are emissaries of peace. We seek the good of all in cooperation with powers and authorities in politics, culture, and economics. But we have to fight against pretensions and injustices when these same powers endanger human welfare. Our strength is in our confidence that God’s purpose rather than human schemes will finally prevail.

To be reconciled to God is to be sent into the world as God’s reconciling community. Our community, the church universal, is entrusted with God’s message of reconciliation. We share God’s labor of healing the enmities which separate people from God and from each other. Christ calls us as the church to this mission. God gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit. We maintain continuity with the apostles and with Israel by faithful obedience to this call of God. Thanks be to God.

*CLOSING HYMN #562 Eternal Father, Strong to Save

Featured post

Sing a New Song Prayer

Dear God,

I would like my church to sing a new song,

but it’s not as easy as it sounds–

possibly because what I’d really like to do

is have everyone else sing the new song I’ve already learned–

the one that touches my heart

and is hard for me to sing because I am tearing up

making me want to share it with others.

But what works for me may not work for others–

that is, what is on the “growing edge” for me,

what is just a little ahead of where I am

but still within the realm of the possible

may be beyond the reach of others,

just as what some people sing—way out there                                                            

is beyond what I can reach from my place/space/time.

And then there are the logistical challenges

that mean that even if we sing it all month—

or especially if we sing it all month—

it may not really become our/your new song.

Instead, we may just end up alienated from worship,

distanced from one another and you

by too big a challenge,

a challenge complicated by logistical constraints–

How we all sit so far away from each other

retrained, perhaps, by COVID

How we don’t really have a song leader,

but just me, the pastor with the loud voice,

And while the first week we had a piano player

who could do it justice,

Figuring out how to use a recording

(do we have the copyright rights?)

or using the organ, which really deadens this one,

seems likely to kill it as well.

So, God, please help me to do better in learning your new song—

a song we can all learn and sing together

a song that will be meaningful to most, if not all

a song that is within our growing edge

a song that stretches us without tearing

a song  we may sing together

joining our voices with angels and archangels

and with all the faithful of every time and place,

who forever sing to the glory of your name,

not just in tried-and-true moldy oldies,

but in the new songs, the new ways, you teach us.


Featured post

A Prayer of Great Thanksgiving for World Communion

O God, who holds the whole world in your hands,

for dividing the waters at creation

creating order out of chaos,

and a place and space for your creatures,

we praise and thank you.

For the renewal of life on earth following the Flood,

for the salvation of the Israelites through the Red Sea,

for our renewal and redemption by Baptism,

we praise and thank you.

For allowing us to be part of the work of recovery

from devastating floods

and from disease and drought, wars and divisions,

embodying your love and presence,

we praise and thank you.

For working with and through your people,

from Noah to Abraham and Sarah

from Joseph to Miriam and Moses;

For working with and through us,

we praise and thank you.

For always pursuing your people,

and blessing us that we may be a blessing,

we praise and thank you.

For the many ways you call, convict and care for us,

we praise and thank you.

For sending Jesus to live as one of us,

to share in our sorrows and joys,

to lead us from death and destruction to resurrection and rejoicing,

we praise and thank you.

For our participation in Jesus’ very life blood,

in the Spirit that hallowed and ordered the waters of chaos at creation,

with you who cradles the whole world in your hands,

we praise and thank you.

Pour out your Spirit upon us and upon these gifts of bread and cup,

that we may share our very life blood with the world,

hallowing and ordering the waters of chaos,

cradling and bathing the whole world in your love.


Featured post

Narrative Lectionary Worship Resources Exodus 14:5-29 October 2, 2022

Cover image from

*CALL TO WORSHIP (Exodus 15)

Moses and Miriam led the people in song:

I will sing unto the Lord, for God has triumphed gloriously;

Horse and rider God has thrown into the sea.

Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?

Who is like you, majestic in holiness,

awesome in splendor, doing wonders?

In steadfast love you led the people.

You brought them and planted them on your own mountain.

You made your home with them,

Your people are your sanctuary.

The Lord will reign forever and ever.

*HYMN #281 Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah

PRAYER OF CONFESSION (by Barb Hedges-Goettl)

God, sometimes we would rather go backward than forward.

Forgive us, O God.

We would rather stick with the known instead of pursuing the new.

Forgive us, O God.

We are not sure we can trust and fully rely on you.

Forgive us, O God.

We would prefer not to have our lives wholly transformed.

Forgive us, O God.

We want the world as it has always been instead of converted by you.

Forgive us, O God.

We worry and fear and flail and resist.

Forgive us, O God.

–Silent Confession–

Assurance of forgiveness (Exodus 14:13-14 Good News Translation) “Don’t be afraid! Stand your ground, and you will see what the Lord will do to save you today…The Lord will fight for you, and all you have to do is keep still.” Thanks be to God for the Good News: In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.  


HYMN #334 When Israel Was in Egypt’s Land

SERMON  Different Kinds of Resurrection         

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH (from the Scots Confession)

As God’s chosen people, we receive the Spirit of the Lord Jesus by true faith. Once received, this Spirit moves into each of our hearts, regenerating and renewing us. The result is that what was previously loved is now hated. What was previously hated now begins to be loved. This is the source  of  that  constant  battle  between  natural  impulses

and the Spirit in the children of God. Human nature and reason yearn for personal pleasure and delights. We do things like complain in adversity, be  arrogant in prosperity, and cause offense to God’s majesty. However, the Spirit of God bears witness to our spirit that we are children of God. The Spirit causes us to resist base pleasures. The Spirit causes us–in awareness of God– to long for release from this bondage of decay. The Spirit eventually conquers sin to prevent it from triumphing over our mortal bodies. Thanks be to God.

*HYMN #118 The Day of Resurrection

Featured post

Narrative Lectionary Resources September 25, 2022 Genesis 39:1-23

     Makemie Memorial Presbyterian Church

                                    Image from

*CALL TO WORSHIP (Psalm 139; Genesis 21:22)

 God, investigate my life; get all the facts firsthand.

You are with me whatever I do.

I’m an open book to you; even from a distance, 

you know what I’m thinking. You are with me whatever I do.

You know when I leave and when I get back;  I’m never out of your sight.

You are with me whatever I do.

You know everything I’m going to say before I start the first sentence.

You are with me whatever I do.

I look behind me and you’re there, then up ahead and you’re there, too—

    your reassuring presence, coming and going. 

You are with me whatever I do.

This is too much, too wonderful—I can’t take it all in! 

You are with me whatever I do.

Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit? to be out of your sight?

You are with me whatever I do.

If I climb to the sky, you’re there!  If I go underground, you’re there!

You are with me whatever I do.

If I flew on morning’s wings to the far western horizon,

You’d find me in a minute— you’re already there waiting!

You are with me whatever I do.

Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark!

    At night I’m immersed in the light!”

You are with me whatever I do.

It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you;

    night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.

You are with me whatever I do.

*HYMN #457 I Greet Thee, Who My Sure Redeemer Art



PRAYER OF CONFESSION (categories from the Gen. 39 Joseph story)

God, at times it is hard to believe that you are with us. 

When all is well, we can forget that we are still dependent on you.

Forgive us, O God. 

When others seek to do us harm, we may lose faith.

Forgive us, O God. 

When we our fortunes drastically change, and we doubt your presence. Forgive us, O God. 

When we are captive to our circumstances and do not believe you free us, Forgive us, O God. 

When we are falsely accused and we question your righteousness,

Forgive us, O God. 

When we prosper and forget that all we have and are is yours,

Forgive us, O God. 

–Silent Confession–

Words of forgiveness (Romans 8:38-39)  God is always with us. Nothing fazes us because Jesus loves us and nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.


HYMN # 179 God Is My Strong Salvation

SERMON  Wherever You May Be               Pastor Barb Hedges-Goettl


AFFIRMATION OF FAITH (from the Confession of Belhar)

We believe God has revealed God’s self as the one who wishes to bring about justice and true peace among people. In a world full of injustice and enmity, we believe God  is in a special way the God of the destitute, the poor and the wronged. We believeGod calls the church to follow God in this: to bring justice to the oppressed and give bread to the hungry; to free the prisoner and restore sight to the blind; to support the downtrodden, protect the stranger, help orphans and widows and block the path of the ungodly. We believe that, for God, pure and undefiled religion is to visit the orphans and the widows in their suffering. We believe God wishes to teach the church to do what is good and to seek the right. Therefore, we musttand by people in any form of suffering and need, which implies, among other things, that the church must witness against and strive against any form of injustice, so that justice may roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

*HYMN # 332 Live Into Hope

Featured post

Genesis 12:1-9 Worship Resources Narrative Lectionary for 9/18/22

Cover picture from

Prayer of Confession by Dorothy McRae-McMahon; found at

*CALL TO WORSHIP (Psalm 105:1-6)

 Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness!

 Let the whole world know what he does.

Sing praise to him.

Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds.

 Praise God’s holy name!

 Let all who seek the Lord rejoice.

Search for the Lord and for his strength;

look for signs of His presence at all times.

All you children of Abraham, his servant,

remember the wonderful things he does,

all his marvelous work,

and the justice he demonstrates.

*HYMN # 26 Ye Servants of God, Your Master Proclaim



We own our humanness, O God. We know that there have been many moments when we have failed to be true to the hope of your reign and the unity we know is found in you. We have not always received the gifts which lie within our differing human journeys or in the insights which we could share. We have been tempted by the power and realities of our own stories rather than the wonder of new life with each other. Forgive us, loving God, and call us on to truly walk with you.                                               –Silent Confession–

Words of forgiveness

God, in Christ Jesus, holds us in love and will lead us into a new journey together and a future filled with hope. In Jesus Christ we are forgiven. 

Thanks be to God.


SCRIPTURE READING  Genesis 12:1-9  

HYMN # 54 My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less

SERMON Being Great                                 Barb Hedges-Goettl


AFFIRMATION OF FAITH (from the Brief Statement of Faith)

We trust in God, whom Jesus called Abba, Father.  In sovereign love God created the world good and makes everyone equally in God’s image, male and female, of every race and people, to live as one community. But we rebel against God; we hide from our Creator.  Ignoring God’s commandments. we violate the image of God in others and ourselves, accept lies as truth, exploit neighbor and nature, and threaten death to the planet entrusted to our care. We deserve God’s condemnation.      Yet God acts with justice and mercy to redeem creation. In everlasting love, the God of Abraham and Sarah chose a covenant people to bless all families of the earth. Hearing their cry, God delivered the children of Israel from the house of bondage. Loving us still, God makes us heirs with Christ of the covenant. Like a mother who will not forsake her nursing child, like a father who runs to welcome the prodigal home, God is faithful still.     

*HYMN # 435 I Love to Tell the Story

Featured post

Sermon: A Rainbow Perspective Narrative Lectionary for 9/11/2022 Genesis 6:11-22, 8:6-12, 9:8-17

Photo by Barb Hedges-Goettl, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. August 10, 2022.          

We are now entering into the fall cycle of the Narrative Lectionary

In the fall, this lectionary always makes its way through the stories of the Old Testament

          This year beginning with the Flood narrative

                           then taking up the call to Abraham

                                                             imprisonment of Joseph

                                                             the Israelites crossing the Re(e)d Sea and so on

          In Advent, the Narrative Lectionary picks up one of the gospels—this year, Matthew

          And in the spring, it provides us with passages from Paul’s letters and/or Acts

The Flood story is likely one of the best-known stories of Scripture

But teaching of the story of the Flood to children is a bit like the reality of fairy tales

In that the original Grimm fairy tales were, in fact, quite grim

Containing blood and lust, infanticide and incest

Recently expurgated and Disney-fied to be more child-appropriate

In recognition that the originals are not as fitting for children as we assumed

This is pertinent in that the Flood is actually a violent story

          The near-total destruction of humanity by God

          Has been occasioned by the destructiveness of humanity

In fact, the Hebrew word for what humanity had done and what God does in response is the same:

          A word meaning to destroy, to do something with violence, to harm, ruin, lay waste 

         So that what the people have done and what God subsequently does make a complete circle

         Bookending the Flood itself in violent, destructive actions on both sides of the equation

As a friend of mine puts it, “It was going good until human beings got involved.

                                                   Then things just get messed up.”

This is the reality of our world—in the time of Noah and in our times

That our hopes for ourselves, for our families, for our world

Are frequently disrupted by things that humans do, by how humans are

Especially in these politically fraught times, it is difficult to have—and maintain—hope

          Signs that seem to portend change for the better

          Come alongside of signs that indicate otherwise

          A turn in what one views as a positive direction

          Is rapidly followed by a turn in the opposite direction

And we will see through our OT readings this fall (and likely our NT readings as well)

          That this reality continues

          That despite the Flood’s almost full-stop cessation of human activity

          It is not long before humans are back at it again

          Although God vows never again to take this kind of action in response

And so where does this leave us? Where is our hope?

Our hope is, our hope remains, in God

Our hope lies in understanding God-at-work no matter what

This means that our hope is a matter of our perspective

          That our hope comes from believing that God can redeem any situation

          That what looks to be our demise, our death, our crucifixion

                   Can be turned on its head by new life, by rising-from-the-ashes, by resurrection

At the Makemie lunch on Wednesday, pastors had a real conversation about faith


                                                                                                                                          life in Christ

Where we asked one another, and ourselves, if we really believe in resurrection

That when we think we can’t do it

                                     it’s over

                                     it is–we are–dead-and-gone

God offers us resurrection

          Not just pie-in-the-sky-by-and-by, but here and now

          Belief that the death of the way we’ve always done it can result in rising again

          So that when we think we are can’t do it, we hold onto the resurrection that’s already begun

          Knowing ourselves to be children of God’s promise

                                                                            the earth washed by flood

                                                                             sins washed away by baptism

And God’s promise is signified to us in multiple ways

          Not only in the rainbow

                  but in baptism

                  and in the Lord’s Supper

Giving us not only the spoken promise, the Word, but something more tangible to hang onto

And this hanging onto the promise can make all the difference

        re-framing our reality in small ways that have big results

        cracking open our tired old stories to offer a new ending

Much of the work of therapy can be encompassed under the category of “reframing”

This means learning to see the glass as half-full instead of half-empty

                                          look for the “silver lining” (or the rainbow) in the cloud

                                          rather than the cloud in the silver lining

On our recent trip to Niagara,

Len had (as he usually does) researched what was there

                                                                                           open when

                                                                                   could fit together on a single day’s road trip

                                                                                   and how much it all cost

And one of our party liked to raise possible impediments to our plans—

          Maybe it will rain

          Maybe we won’t find parking

          Maybe we’ll get there too late

As you can imagine, this was exasperating to Len, who’d put a lot of time and effort into planning

But eventually he learned to respond, “Or it could all work out!”

And the person raising the objections was able to laugh and say, “Yeah, it could.”

It could all work out

Of course, God’s promises are even better than this

It’s not a question of whether it will all work out, but how and when

Of finding the chink in the fog

                   the rainbow in the storm that allows us to trust God

Recent storms have given us some chances to look for rainbows

During one of them, the people I was with were looking for a rainbow

But the storm was at noon and so the rainbow was nowhere in sight

This is because the rainbow shows up in the sky opposite the sun

                                      and at noon there is no sky opposite the sun

                                                             only the ground is opposite the sun

That is, the ingredients of the rainbow are there, but they cannot show themselves

Feels a bit like how life is sometimes, doesn’t it?

                           when we have to wait for hope, for the rainbow, to show itself

                           because it’s the wrong part of the storm to see it

When we cannot see the rainbow

 When it’s not visible

we can nonetheless hang on to the promise of the rainbow

This “promise of the rainbow,” this rainbow perspective, is twofold

          we can remember the last time we saw this symbol of hope

                                                                   we found hope amid storms

          and we can remember its accompanying promise

                                                                            the promise that we will see it again

                                                                                   once again we will find hope despite the storm(s)

Sometimes the rainbow perspective comes from others

bucking us up with their testimony of hope and of God’s faithfulness

          holding us in hope and faith and prayer when we can’t do it ourselves

Sometimes hope comes from letting go

          turning our cars into the skid instead of against it

          swimming with, instead of against, the tide

          riding things out instead of fighting them

My husband tells of a client whose perfectionism threatened to overwhelm her other values

          This was a woman who, after the kids decorated the Christmas tree

                                                      with the younger child covering the lowest branches

                                                      and the older one decorating the mid-level branches

                                                      re-decorated the tree after the kids went to bed

                                                      resulting in a hew and outcry for them when they saw it the next day

Len invited the client to gain some perspective on this by asking what kind of tree it was

Upon discovering it was a live tree, he asked the woman to think about what it means

          That we take a live tree and cut it down, killing it

          And drag it indoors to put stuff all over this dead piece of wood

                    Given all this, what does it mean to have the “perfect tree”?

                    Maybe it has more to do with the joy people take in it than the tree itself

When storms come (and go), remembering the covenant of the rainbow

          Offered not just to Noah and his family but to the whole world

          Every living creature that is on the worth—you and me and all that lives on earth with us

          Giving us a chance to take God’s perspective on it all

The perspective of the rainbow, making beauty out of storms

          Offering hope amid disaster

          Believing in resurrection in the face of death, even death on a cross

          Knowing that the God of the rainbow can—and does—overcome it all

          Even when it is the wrong time of the storm for us to be able to see it clearly.

Featured post

Narrative Lectionary 9-11-22 Genesis 6-7-8

Cover picture from DXLyEXh18Aq7mdn4cTJYxDDPP3cURb6LHFrQQ5wG8wbXRRt2l

The cover picture is a real, unedited photo. All of its parts are real. 

The stone is real. The trees are real. The soil is real. The sky is real. 

The only thing you have to do is change your point of view. 

Look at the photo upside down!


As in days of old, Creator God,

we come to look for signs of covenant promises. 

Like the rainbow days of Noah, we see and know your signs

and hear your voice again, directing us to the place of preparation

and transformation in our lives and in our world. 

Thank you, O God, for your covenant signs. Amen.

*HYMN # 276 Great Is Thy Faithfulness 


God, we confess that sometimes it is hard to hope for rainbows. 

We do not believe that every storm will run out of rain. 

When people who call themselves Christians scream hate, we have trouble remembering that you are the God of love. 

Stop the hate–theirs and ours.

Protect us, and help us to see the rainbow we pray. Amen.

–Silent Confession–


Nothing can separate you from the Love of Christ: Not height nor depth nor floods nor hate. Know the truth and affirm it to one another: In Jesus Christ we are always beloved and always forgiven. Thanks be to God, Amen.  

SCRIPTURE READING  Genesis 6:11-22, 8:6-12, 9:8-17

SERMON   A Rainbow Perspective                             Barb Hedges-Goettl


AFFIRMATION OF FAITH (from the 2nd Helvetic Confession)

To be baptized in the name of Christ is to be enrolled, entered, and received into the covenant and family. Through the water, we have entered into the inheritance of the children of God, and so in this life  we are to be called after the name of God. We are called children of God. We are cleansed also from the filthiness of sins. We are granted the manifold grace of God, in order to lead a new and innocent life. Passing through the water in Baptism, therefore, calls to mind and renews the great favor God has shown to the race of mortals. For we are all born in the pollution of sin and are the children of wrath. But God, who is rich in mercy, freely cleanses us from our sins by the blood of his Son, Jesus, in whom God adopts us to be God’s own children. By a holy covenant God joins us to himself, and enriches us with various gifts, that we might live a new life. All these things are assured by our passing through the waters in baptism. For inwardly we are regenerated, purified, renewed by God through the Holy Spirit; and outwardly we receive the assurance of the greatest gifts. These great benefits are represented to us as we pass through the water, as Noah did, and so they are set before our eyes to behold.

*HYMN # 388 O Jesus, I Have Promised

Call to Worship from  from Prayers for the Journey: Service Prayers for the First Sunday of Lent, written by the Rev. Rosemary McCombs Maxey from the United Church of Christ’s  Worship Worship Ways website.

Prayer of Confession by Rev. Katy Stenta,

Featured post

Narrative Lectionary: GOSPEL of MATTHEW PLAN

Here is my plan for now through Easter using the Narrative Lectionary with some modificaitons.

My church has chosen an Active/Outward Focus for 2023 and, as a Matthew 25 congregation (PCUSA initiative focusing on congregational revitalization, combating systemic racism and combating systemic poverty), I made some adjustment to allow worship to move us further in that direction. Hymns are from the (old blue) Presbyterian Hymnal.

1/15Matt. 3:1-17425 Lord of Light, Your Name Outshining 492 Baptized in Water 391 Take My Life and Let it BeJesus’ Baptism
1/22Isaiah 9:1-4 & Matt 4:12-23140-Holy, Holy 179-God Is My Strong Salvation 386-O for a WorldCasting & Mending: fishing for people
1/29Matt. 5:1-12470 O Day of Radiant Gladness 339 Be Thou My Vision (by request) 365 Jesus, Priceless TreasureBeatitudes
2/5Matthew 10#512 Living Word of God Eternal #521 You Satisfy the Hungry Heart (by request) #332 Live into HopeJesus sends the disciples
2/12Matt. 13:24-33#473 For the Beauty of the Earth #454 Blessed Jesus, At Your Word #441 I Love Thy Kingdom, LordParables of the Kingdom
2/19Matt. 17:1-23GTG #192 Lord, the Light of Your Love is Shining #73 Swiftly Pass the Clouds of Glory #462 Christ, Whose Glory Fills the SkiesTransfiguration
2/26(Matt. 18:12-35)Forgiveness First Sunday of Lent
3/5Matt. 20:1-16#467 How Great Thou Art #357 O Master, Let Me Walk with Thee #101 When I SurveyLaborers in the vineyard 2nd Sun Lent
3/12Matt. 22:1-14#382 Somebody’s Knocking at Your Door #333 Seek Ye First #510 Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving HeartsWedding Banquet 3rd Sun Lent
3/19Matt. 25:1-13#313 Come Down, O Love Divine #15 Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers #92 Beneath the Cross of JesusBridesmaids 4th Sun Lent
3/26Matt. 25:31-46#420 God of Grace and God of Glory #428 We Give Thee but Thine Own #98 O Sacred Head, Now WoundedLast Judgement 5th Sun Lent
4/2Matt. 21:1-17/26:17-30/67:27-61#88 All Glory, Laud and Honor #302 I Danced in the Morning #76 My Song is Love UnknownPalm/Passion Sunday
4/9Matt. 28:1-10#102 Were You There? #119 The Strife is O’er #123 Jesus Christ Is Ris’n TodayEaster
4/16Matt. 28:16-20#106 Alleluia, Alleluia! Give Thanks (do they know it?) or
#107 Celebrate with Joy and Singing #429 Lord, You Give the Great Commission #300 We Walk by Faith and Not by Sight
Great Commission

Epiphany Worship Resources Matthew 2 including Star Words Confession of Faith

Image from   498753496-960×526-1.jpg

Call to Worship written by Glenn Mitchell, and posted on MINemergent’s Daily Communique (altered).

Prayer of Confession adapted from prayer by Bruce Prewer, on Bruce Prewer’s Homepage.


One: O Star-flinging God, whose light dances across eternity,

dazzle us into your presence this new year.

All: Open our hearts to the mystery of your love.

Awaken us to your presence, knit to the ordinary.

Reveal to us what is possible, but not yet present.

Heal us, that we might be healers.

Stop us often, with news that is good, with hope that holds,

with truth that transforms, with a Word tailored to this trail we’re on.

May the word of your grace guide our steps like the sun by day and the north star by night, as we travel into the gift of a new year. Amen.                               

*HYMN #66 We Three Kings of Orient Are


The coming of Christ was not, and is not, widely welcomed. 

Wherever there is epiphany there will also be darkness.

PRAYER OF CONFESSION (responsive)   

God, forgive us when we live in darkness:

the darkness of old superstitions and dogmas which refuse to fade away.

God, forgive us when we live in darkness:

the darkness of half truths that masquerade as wisdom.

God, forgive us when we live in darkness:

the darkness of evil that hates the light and tries to avoid it;

God, forgive us when we live in darkness:

the darkness of apathy that cannot be bothered to open the shutters.



God is light and in him there is no darkness at all…

If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 

Thanks be to God for the Good News: In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.                                                                                              

SCRIPTURE READING Matthew 2:1-12 NIV pp. 1497-8/NRSV pp.777-8

            The Word of the Lord.  Thanks be to God!

SERMON This Shall Be a Sign   Rev. Barb Hedges-Goettl                               

MUSICAL MEDITATION Brightest and Best of the Stars of the Morning

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH  (from theological warrants for star words)

As the magi followed the star that led them to Jesus, so we seek to move closer to God. We trust God to use all possible avenues to guide us. We make ourselves available to God not just by speaking to God, but also by listening to God in silence and contemplation. Since it can be easy to miss God in our daily life, we commit ourselves to hearing and practicing the word God gives. We commit ourselves to listening, to reflection and review as we seek to receive what God offers to us. We promise to follow where God leads.

HYMN #63 As With Gladness Men of Old

*CLOSING HYMN #68 What Star is This, with Beams So Bright?


Sermon on Matthew 1:1-17 Narrative Lectionary 1/1/2023

Have you ever even noticed before that this is how Matthew starts his gospel/how the NT starts?

Not exactly the “hook” that writing coaches advise people to start with…

More like a snore for most of us,

          Although it makes great fodder for a test passage to give student pastors to read aloud

          And one these “begat” passages shows up in an account of a Bible memorization contest

          Where this is the one the little boy learns, and he learns it well enough to win the prize.

Yet today there is a renewed interest among some folks in our ancestry, our genealogy

From to places to go to do research to DNA tests to tell you your ethnic origins

          There is a movement afoot to figure out who we are by looking at who we are from

If you look at a Bible that has footnotes,

you can find more information on most of these characters—

And some of them are really characters

          There are a host of powerful people who abuse their power

         those who lie casually and indiscriminately

                             bullies and thieves

         idolaters and adulterers

         powerful people who abuse their power

And there are those whom God has given wisdom and riches (Solomon)

          Who do what is right (Hezekiah)

          turn to the Lord with their whole heart (Josiah)

          praise God with beautiful words in the psalms (Asaph)

So that saints and sinners are both represented

And, in fact, a single person (think David!) can and does represent both categories

As it is human to do

The Bible study group just did a series of lessons on the women in this list—quite an interesting list

A list that seems to go with the idea that Matthew the Tax Collector authored this gospel

In that the women are all suspect, unpopular, likely condemned in their contexts

          Matthew, who would know something of scandal and rejection and exclusion

                repentance and conversion and transformation

The first woman on the list is Tamar, perhaps the only Israelite on the list

          The death of her first two husbands, who were brothers

Made her a pariah to her husband’s family

So that they did not follow through on having her marry the next brother

Instead, she took to subterfuge to make her husband’s family live up to their obligations

masquerading as a prostitute so that her father-in-law, Judah, begat a child with her    

with the eventual result that he declared her to be more righteous than he was

and inserting her—and her child—into the Davidic lineage

Then we have Rahab

a foreign prostitute, who helped Joshua’s spies in Jericho

revering and honoring Israel’s God

and saving her own family

and then becoming the mother of Boaz, who married Ruth

Ruth, herself is another foreigner

whose faithfulness to her mother-in-law & her mother-in-law’s God

brought her to into the land of Israel marry Naomi’s kinsman Boaz

and enter into the Israelite fold and the lineage of David

And then “the wife of Uriah,” likely also a foreigner

A way of talking about Bathsheba that highlights David’s adultery

          An adultery that resulted in a pregnancy that in turn resulted in David’s murder of Uriah

          Since when he brought Uriah back from the war front so the baby might be considered his

          Uriah’s loyalty to his men meant that he didn’t go home to sleep with his wife

          With that baby dying and the next baby, Solomon, becoming King after David

Not exactly cozy and comforting happily-ever-after narratives

Yet words of hope for us—

Telling us that no matter how messed-up our families are

And no matter how messed-up we are

We are included in the family of God

And, between the lines, we also have evidence of the openness of the family of God

Especially since all this genealogy traces down to Joseph who is not Jesus’ biological father

And while some resolve this by assuming that Mary was related to Joseph in some way

The only resolution Matthew gives to this is in the final verse of what we read on Dec 20th

Joseph names the baby Jesus, just as the angel told him to do

          Reflecting his belief in the angel’s message

          And also his acceptance of Jesus as his adoptive son

While we were made in the image of God by God, our adoption goes in the other direction

Children of flesh and blood, and of this world and its powers, we are adopted by God

And this adoption comes hand-in-hand with participation in the Spirit of God

          In Romans 8(:14-17), the Bible says those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God

          And in Galatians 4:6, the Bible says because we are children of God, God sent the Spirit

          In John 20:17, Jesus refers to God as his father and our father

          Eph. 1:5 notes we are predestined for adoption as children of God by Jesus Christ himself

And 1 John 3:2 (my husband’s favorite verse) says

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! … And that is what we are! 

That is what we are.

That is who we are.

That is whose we are.

Whatever our backgrounds,

                   our foibles and faults and failings

                   our fractured families

         our hurting–and hurtful—selves

God brings us into the family.

God brings us into Jesus’ lineage.

God makes us part of the Kingdom.

How do we know who is family?

One of the ways we know who is family is when we gather…

Something some of us (still) didn’t get to do this year

But we know who belongs, who should be there, when we gather

As the church, as the family of God, we gather

We gather in prayer in church and from our homes

in worship here and online and in other places/spaces for worship

in fellowship in the social hall and across phone lines and texts and emails

at meals we’ve made, meals made by others, meals given to others

at this holy meal, offered to us to join us to Christ and to each other

making us know that we belong

          to God and to one another

               God’s family

Let us pray…

Prayer of Great Thanksgiving for New Year’s Day (Narrative Lectionary: Matthew 1:1-17)

The Lord be with you. And also with you.

Lift up your hearts. We lift them up to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

It is right to give our thanks and praise.

We thank you, O God, that everything you make is made through Jesus,

and that without him nothing is—or can be–made.

We thank you that your creative and transformative power comes to

us, your people, through our relationship with you in Christ Jesus.

We thank you that Jesus brings your Kingdom, not with weapons,

but with love to bless all families and nations of the earth.

We thank you that, like us, Jesus was the product of complicated and

dysfunctional families as well as faithful family members who served

you—all of whom nonetheless you gathered into your loving purposes.

We thank you for the scandal of your grace, big enough to include us

all—those whom we like and respect and those whom we don’t.

We thank you that your grace includes all of us, even when we think

that if people found out who we really are they would reject us

But you know who we really are–and yet you still love us.

And you know how we act,

and yet you still follow through on your promises.

And so, O God, we join the ages and the angels

who forever sing the glory of your name:

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might; heaven and earth are full of Your glory. Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest!

We praise you, for in Jesus Christ, the mystery of the Word made flesh, you sent a light to shine upon the world, that we might be brought out of darkness into your marvelous light. In him we know your presence and we proclaim that… Great is the mystery of faith:

Christ has died; Christ has risen; Christ will come again.

We thank you that Jesus was born in Beth-lehem, the house of bread and that he is himself the living bread, which answers all our hungers.

We thank you that Jesus is himself the vine and we are the branches,   finding our source and meaning in him.

By partaking in this bread and cup, we respond in love to the love you offer us. Through the action of the Holy Spirit and the incarnation, death and resurrection of your Son Jesus, we offer ourselves to you. Empower us to love and serve you as we love and serve our neighbors of all stripes, from all kinds of families and backgrounds, made by you as your beloved children. In the name of the Parent who creates us,  the Child who redeems us, and the Spirit who enlightens us, we pray.

No Room: A Christmas Service of Readings and Carols

Cover image from

Prelude   Cello Variation on O Come, O Come Emmanuel (arr. M Harvey)   

Welcome and Announcements   

Christmas Candle Lighting: Christ Candle (Gen. 1:1-5/ John 1:1-5, NRSV

One: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.

All: In the beginning, God createdthe heavens and the earth.

The earth was a formless void

and darkness covered the face of the deep.

And the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.

Then God said, “Let there be light.” And there was light.

All things came into being through him.

Without him not one thing came into being.

And God saw that the light was good.

And God separated the light from the darkness. 

What has come into beingin him was life.

And the life was the light of all people. 

God called the light Day. And the darkness he called Night.

The light shines in the darkness.

And the darkness does not overcome it.                                                           

CANDLE LIGHTING Hark, the Herald Angels Sing           Blue Hymnal   #31

OPENING SENTENCES (by Ann Weems)                                   

The Christmas spirit is that hope that tenaciously clings to the hearts of the faithful
and announces in the face of any Herod the world can produce
and all the inn doors slammed in our faces
and all the dark nights of our souls
that with God all things still are possible,
that even now unto us a Child is born

*Opening Hymn It Came Upon a Midnight Clear                   Hymnal #38

Scripture Luke 2:1-5 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that  all the world should be taxed.(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea,  unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his

espoused wife, being great with child.

Vocal Music                           Mary, Did You Know?      Len Hedges-Goettl

Luke 2:6-7 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.And she brought forth             her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

OPENING PRAYER                                                                                    

PASTOR BARB Fragile God, born in the night –

READER: We listen in the clarity of the cold night air.

          We hear the hoofs clopping in the dust,

           a man’s soft voice reassuring a tired woman.

           PASTOR BARB We hear his voice inquiring,

          “Is there room?”

“Is there room for us?”

READER: Fragile God, born in the night –

           PASTOR BARB We know the story.

           READER: We know that you are coming.

          “Is there room?”

          “Is there room for you?”

PASTOR BARB Fragile God, born in the night –

          READER: We see the shadowy figures finding the stable.

          “There is no room.”

PASTOR BARB We see the man preparing a place in the hay.

He makes room.

READER: We see the woman moving heavily,

the hours of labor, the sweat, the tears, the cries, the moans,

the crushing grip of the hands.


We hear the insistent cry of the child wail out, born at last!

“Make room! Make room for me!”

READER: Fragile God, born in the night –

PASTOR BARB: We hear your cry.

READER: We hear from the hills and the pastures,

your cry as a newborn child ringing out in the still air,

your cry echoed in the thunderous announcement from the skies.

PASTOR BARB: We see you in the manger.

READER: We travel across the miles to see,

your glory as a newborn child lying in a manger,

your glory reflected in the star we follow.

PASTOR BARB: Fragile God, born in the night –

READER: Meet us here at your manger.

PASTOR BARB: Meet us as a newborn child meets new parents,

come to change our lives forever.

PASTOR BARB & READER Meet us as the newborn

READER: who insists that we make room for you,

PASTOR BARB: who requires that we reorder our lives

to pay attention to you,

READER: who demands that we be re-centered

on the very center of life.


In the name of the newborn king we pray, Amen.


1 Corinthians 16:22b-23                                                                                                  

  Make room for the Master!                                                                                                       23 Our Master Jesus has his arms wide open for you.

Psalm 4:1

[O Lord,] when I call, give me answers. God, take my side!
Once, in a tight place, you gave me room;
Now I’m in trouble again: grace me! hear me!

Psalm 61:3-5

3-5[Lord,] You’ve always given me breathing room,
    a place to get away from it all,
A lifetime pass to your safe-house,
    an open invitation as your guest.
You’ve always taken me seriously, God,
    made me welcome among those who know and love you.

Psalm 62:1-2

1-2 God [is] the one and only–  I’ll wait as long as he says.
Everything I need comes from him, so why not?
He’s solid rock under my feet  breathing room for my soul,
An impregnable castle:  I’m set for life.

John 14:1-4

1-4 [Jesus said,] “Don’t let [anything] throw you.

You trust God, don’t you? Trust me.

There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home.

If that weren’t so, would I have told you that I’m on my way to get a room ready for you?

And if I’m on my way to get your room ready,

I’ll come back and get you so you can live where I live.

And you already know the road I’m taking.”

Reflections by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“He came in the form of a beggar,

of the dissolute child in ragged clothes.

He confronts you in every person you that you meet.

As long as there are people,

Christ will walk the earth as your neighbor.”

Martin Luther said, in a Christmas sermon,

“There was all the room in the inn but no one would give up a room.

I can just hear you say, ‘Oh, we would love to take care of the baby Jesus.’

If you would, why don’t you do it for the neighbor in your midst, who is Christ among you?”

Special Music  Cello Variation on How a Rose E’er Blooming

M. Praetorius (arr. M. Harvey)   

Hymn The First Nowell                                           Hymnal, #56 v. 1 & 2

Scripture  Luke 2:8-12

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior,  which is Christ the Lord.  

12And this shall be a sign unto you;   Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

Luke 2:13-14 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward all.

*Hymn The First Nowell                                         Hymnal, #56 v. 1 & 2

Confession of Faith The Nicene Creed (Traditional)       Hymnal, p. 15




The Lord be with you. And also with you.

Lift up your hearts. We lift them up to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

It is right to give our thanks and praise.

…who forever sing the glory of your name:

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might; heaven and earth are full of Your glory. Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest!

… Great is the mystery of faith:

Christ has died; Christ has risen; Christ will come again.

Prayer continues….the Lord’s Prayer (Hymnal, p.14, Ecumenical)




*Hymn  Angels from the Realms of Glory                            Hymnal   #22


Offering              Cello Variation on What Child is This? (arr. M Harvey)   

Prayer of Dedication

Love that shapes heaven and earth, dwell in these gifts and in our lives. Love that cannot be overcome, dwell in these gifts and in our lives.  Love that will not let go, dwell in these gifts and in our lives.                                           

 In the name of the One who dwells among us, Amen.                 

Sung Response (instead of Doxology) O Little Town, v. 3-4  Hymnal #44

Prayer of Dedication

Hymn Joy to the World                                                     Hymnal #40

Benediction                                   Colossians 3:16-17 The Message

Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house.

Give it plenty of room in your lives.

Instruct and direct one another using good common sense.

Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—

be done in the name of the Master, Jesus,

thanking God the Father every step of the way.

And sing, sing your hearts out to God! 

ALL: God bless us, everyone!


Opening prayer from Dr. Susan M. (Elli) Elliott,

Blog at

Up ↑