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  • Thank you, Pete and Gene.

Welcome to our church website.

We are glad you are here!

We hope to see you in worship.

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Ash Wednesday Sermon

Genesis 3: 16-24 "Dust Thou Art" March 6,2019

We all know the story of Garden of Eden. God places Adam and Eve in the Garden; he warns them to stay away from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Of course, they don’t listen. Not only are they disobedient, they lie about their disobedience. God tells them, now that they know Good and Evil, they will suffer. Let us listen for the Word of God…


16 To the woman he said,
“I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing;

in pain you shall bring forth children,
yet your desire shall be for your husband,
and he shall rule over you.”
17 And to Adam he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife,

and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 In the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”

20 The man called his wife’s name Eve,[a] because she was the mother of all living. 21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins, and clothed them.

22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever”— 23 therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.

One day a group of scientists got together and decided that man had come a long way and we no longer needed God. So, they picked one scientist to go and tell God they really didn’t need Him anymore.

The scientist walked up to God and said, "God, we've decided that we no longer need You. Our scientific knowledge is so advanced, we can do fine without You. We're at the point we can even clone people, we don't need you here anymore, you can go your way "

God listened very patiently and kindly to the man. After the scientist was done talking, God said, "Very well, how about this? Let's say we have a man-making contest?"

To which the scientist replied, "Okay, great!"

But God added, "Now, we're going to do this just like I did back in the old days with Adam."

The scientist said, "Sure, no problem," and he bent down and grabbed a handful of dirt.

“Wait a minute,” said God, "You create your own dirt!"

“Dust thou art and to dust thou returnest.”

We may be just dirt, but we are God’s dirt.

 

Some 4.5 billon years ago, scientists tell us there was no life of any kind on earth. Not only that, there was no prospects for life either. There was nothing here which would allow life to grow. All the crucial elements which make life possible were missing.

Right about that time, the earth was pulverized with meteors. These meteors were crammed with what scientists called the building blocks of life: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur. After those meteors hit, then life was possible.

Suddenly, from out of nowhere, all that was needed for life was sent from heaven above to land on earth. One scientist said, “We literally come from the stars. We are star dust.”

We are not just any dirt. We are God’s dirt. What makes us special, is that we are made from the same stuff which makes up the heavens.

Psalm 8 talks about the creation of humanity and the Psalm says,

“O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is thy name in all the earth!

Thou whose glory is above the heavens…

3 When I look at thy heavens, the work of thy fingers,
the moon and the stars which thou hast formed;
4 what is man that thou art mindful of him,
and the son of man that thou dost care for him?

5 Yet thou hast made him little less than God,
and dost crown him with glory and honor.

The writer of Psalm 8 is honestly perplexed. Why would the God who put so much effort into the creating the galaxies, with all its beauty and perfection, why would this same God treat human beings in such high regard?

People are all nice and good, but you and I both know, we are not perfect like the Aurora Borealis on winter night is perfect. We are stubborn, selfish, and, as the story from Genesis makes clear, we are clearly flawed.

Even with people we love, we can be difficult. A planet isn’t difficult. A planet doesn’t argue about staying in its orbit. A moon doesn’t tell “white lies.” A butterfly nebula doesn’t fly off the handle.

Psalm 8 says that God thinks so much of us, that, “Thou hast made up a little less than God and has crowned us with glory.”

And, God doesn’t just give us glory, God actually takes it a step farther, God gives us authority over all this wonderful creation.

So, Psalm 8 tries to understand, why would the God who created this vast universe, place human beings so high up in the scheme of things?

"Thou hast given him dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet,"
 

In the story from Genesis, God places Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. God warns them not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. AND, God even tells them if they break this rule, they will die. After being caught, God lectures them on all the ways their lives will now be difficult. God ends his lecture by saying, “Dust thou art and to dust thou returnest.” It isn’t like God didn’t warn them. God did. We might predict how this could end, except it doesn’t really end like its predicted.

 

Do you see what happens? Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden. But, then what? God DOESN’T kill them. They don’t die. Now, you might say, “Well, God didn’t mean they would die immediately. God meant they would die eventually. Well, maybe. Except God was pretty explicit with his warning. God didn’t say if you eat from the Tree that some day you will die. God said, “On THAT day, you will die.” They didn’t.

In fact, not only does God not kill them, God actually makes provisions for them. God makes them clothing. God goes out of the way to provide for them.

Why is that? They were just dust after all, and not obedient dust at that! Why did God protect us, his stubborn dust?

Because we are more than just dust to God. We are God’s special and beautiful stardust. As flawed and frail as we are, as tempted as we are to go ff course and break our orbits, God still has a soft spot for us.

I think when God said, “Dust thou are and to dust thou returnist,” God was telling us two things. Yes, we are made from a bucket of dirt and someday our body will return to the earth. However, the fact of the matter is, that only amplifies the testimony of God’s love for us. A person doesn't just go through all that much effort to protect, preserve and provide for a bucket of dirt. However, a perseon would go through great lengths to protect, preserve, provide for something or someone who dear to us. Yes, our body may come from the earth and yes, our body may return to the earth, but our soul is from the stars.

“Dust thou art and to dust thou returnest,” It sounds like punishment. But, it is really a way of saying just how special we are to God. No one goes through that kind of effort just for dirt.

 

Like Adam and Eve, we will often have to pay the price for our sins, but this story reminds us God loves us too much to relegate us to some black hole or forever dispatch us to oblivion.

During this season of Lent, we confess we are like dust. We are common, imperfect, and flawed, but we are God’s dust. We may get off course, but let’s remember God is pulling for us. The gravity of God’s love is drawing us back to the Garden of Eden. We may not get there in this lifetime, but, we will get there in the next. I think Psalm 8 would agree with the lyrics of that the old Joni Mitchel song

“We are stardust, we are golden

And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden.”

 

TO GOD BE THE GLORY FOREVER AND EVER. AMEN.

 

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Genesis 45: 1-9, 15   God Sent Me      February 24, 2019

The passage today is a turning point in the story of Joseph. Joseph faces the brothers who tried to kill him. When that didn’t work, they sold him into slavery. Years have pass. There is a famine. The brothers go to Egypt looking for food. They don’t know it, but the person they ask for help is the brother they thought was dead. Here is where we pick up the story.

 

There once was a farmer who had an old horse. It was his only horse. He could tell the horse was unhappy being penned-up, so he let it loose. The villagers heard about it and said, “That’s not good! You must be sad?”

The farmer replied: "Who knows? We shall see.”

Two days later the horse came back rejuvenated after being able to run around the countryside. The horse brought with it twelve younger and healthy horses which followed the old horse into the corral.

People heard about the farmer's good luck. They stopped by to congratulate him. “How wonderful! You must be happy?" they said

Again, the farmer said, "Who knows? We shall see."

The next morning, the farmer's only son set off to train the new wild horses, but the son was thrown and broke his leg. When the villagers heard about the misfortune: "How awful! You must be sad?”

Once again the farmer said "Who knows? We shall see"

Several days later a war broke out. The Emperor's men arrived in the village conscripting all the young men for the Emperor's army. But, since the farmer's son had a broken leg, they didn’t take him. "How wonderful,” the villagers said. "You must be very happy?"

Again, the farmer said, "Who knows? We shall see!"

As time went on the broken leg healed but the son was left with a limp. Again, the neighbors came by, "Oh no,” they said. “You must be sad.” But, what did the farmer say? "Who knows? We shall see."

As it turned out, with all the other young men off at war, even though the farmer’s son had a limp, he was still the only person young enough and strong enough to do so much of the needed work. So, old farmer became wealthy and, in turn, was very generous to the villagers. And all the villagers said, "Oh, how fortunate we are, you must be very happy?"

To which the old farmer said what? "Who knows? We shall see!"

Life is like that. With all these twists and turns. What looks bad could be good. What looks good could be bad. We won’t know it all until it is all said and done.

 

If anyone could relate to that parable it would be Joseph. One moment Joseph seems to have everything going for him and the next moment his life seems to be in a mess, and we have no idea what is going to happen next. His life was not straight line, but a meandering journey all leading to this to this meeting with his brothers in Egypt.

The story begins. Joseph is the favorite son of Jacob and Rachel. They don’t even attempt to hide their favoritism. They give him what Andrew Lloyd Weber’s musical called a, “Technicolor dream coat.” I don’t know about you, but, for most of us, if you had older brothers or sisters, what we got were hand-me-downs.

Now, as wonderful as all that attention was for Joseph, it wasn’t wonderful to his brothers. They resented him. Yet, Joseph had a great imagination, which is good, except, Joseph is a spoiled brat. He tells his brothers about his dreams: “Brothers, I had these really cool dreams and in them, I saw you bowing down before me, isn’t that neat?” In one dream Joseph sees the sun and the moon orbiting around him and he sees eleven stars in the sky (guess how many brothers he has? – eleven!) and they are all bowing down before him.

For a man with a lot of imagination, Joseph was so self-absorbed he doesn’t stop to imagine how these dreams could be hurtful. His brothers are fed up with him. This dream about them bowing down before him, was too much. They get so mad they scheme to kill him. Just as they are about to do him in, Reuben, the eldest brother stops them. “Thank you. Thank you, Reuben!” says Joseph. What a relief. Saved by a kindly older brother. Except the older brother doesn’t exactly save him. Reuben says, “Let’s not kill him. Let’s just throw him in a pit for a while.” Now, it’s obviously good not to be killed, but being thrown naked in a hole is hardly something to be happy about. While Reuben is gone, his brothers, who aren’t so forgiving, decide to sell Joseph into slavery.

You see? It’s up and downs for Joseph. Joseph is like the old farmer. He is never quite sure if this is good news or bad news? Joseph ends up working for Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guards. Joseph does such a good job, that Potiphar puts him in charge of running his whole estate. Which is good.

Now, it just so happens that Joseph is a handsome guy, which might also be good. But, if your boss’s wife is smitten with you, that’s trouble. She tries to seduce Joseph. Joseph refuses.

I think it is important to stop here and wonder about that. Why didn’t Joseph give in to Potiphar’s wife? Joseph seems to understand it was wrong to do this. But, where did he learn that it was wrong?

Out in Fellowship Hall, Becky put up a quote from Proverbs 22:6. If you haven’t noticed it, maybe you can today. It says: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and he will not depart from it.” This is part of what we try to do here. I think the main reason Joseph knew to resist is because he went to Sunday School? Someone taught him the Ten Commandments. You shall not covet your neighbor’s stuff. You shall not commit adultery. Joseph’s parents did a lot of things wrong, but they did one thing right. They taught Joseph the Word of God. And here he is, whether consciously or unconsciously, he remembers. We see Joseph acting out his faith in ways which may eventually bless him.

Once Potiphar’s wife realizes he’s not going to sleep with her, she turns on him. She accuses him of rape. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. He is sent to jail. Joseph can’t seem to get a break.

Once in jail, Joseph makes friends with the jailor. They like him. He interprets dreams for his jail mates. One of the dreams helps the butler get a job working for Pharaoh himself. The butler is so happy that he promises to tell Pharaoh about Joseph and help to get him out. This sounds like the best news Joseph has for a long time. Except, the butler forgets his promise. Joseph is in jail for another two years. Just as it seems life is going to turn around for Joseph, he is knocked back down. He is on the mountain for awhile only to end up back in the valley.

What Joseph experiences is no different than what a lot of us experience. Life is a series of valleys and mountains. And, just like Joseph, doing the right thing doesn’t always bring immediate rewards. Joseph tries to be a moral person. He fights off temptations. He shows compassion. He tries to be honest. And, yet, bad things still happen. Nothing seems to change until this day when he meets his brothers and then everything changes.

At first the change seems almost imperceptible. Joseph himself probably didn’t even notice it. But through all these good and bad experiences, something happens to Joseph. I think his faith – just below the surface – but being lived out as he tries to do the right thing – is changing him. The story begins with a self-absorbed teenager, so wrapped up in himself, he can’t even see how his arrogance might hurt the people he loves. Then, we come to this moment.

His brothers have traveled to Egypt looking for food. They don’t know it, but the person they are asking to help, is the brother they tried to kill. When Joseph first sees them, he is angry. All that misery and all the memories of what they did and what happened to him, came back. Because of them, he was betrayed and belittled; he was demoralized and imprisoned. He doesn’t tell them who he is. He gives them a hard time. He accuses them of being spies. Joseph realizes has the power to do to them what they tried to do to him. Just at that moment, when we might be prepared for him to take vengeance on them, Genesis says, Joseph broke into tears. The flood gates opened, and all his grief and anger and resentment washed away.

Then Joseph says something which is not of this world, but this, I mean, his ability to say these things, could only be made possible by the grace of God. He says, “Do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me; for God sent me before you to preserve life.” Wow – really? Joseph is trying to console them! He tells them, “Don’t be upset with yourselves?” They should be upset with themselves, right? They tried to kill him. They should be mortified. They are. In fact, they are not just mortified. They are scared to death: “What will Joseph do to us?”

But, of all things, Joseph tries to comfort them.

Joseph changed. He didn’t get to this moment all at once. It was over time - through the rising and falling tides of the mistakes he made and the mercies he received. All the choices he made, led to this change.

Here he was. Joseph’s dream is literally coming true – do you remember? His brothers are bowing down before him, just as he predicted. And what does Joseph do? Joseph bows before them. Like Jesus kneeling to wash the feet of the disciples who would betray him, Joseph is consoling the brothers who tried to kill him. When he does that everything changes.

He isn’t Joseph the selfish boy. He is now Joseph the righteous man. He isn’t a victim of circumstance any more, he is an instrument of peace.

All the cruelty and all that suffering was not sent by God, but was used by God for something good. Notice, Joseph doesn’t just save his own people. God uses him to save the Egyptians too. He provides food for the very people who would eventually enslave the Hebrews. God used Joseph to bring them all back from the precipice of starvation.

Most of us would expect Joseph to get even. Most of the time, that’s what happens. But, one reason we are here is to imagine we can be more than what we are. We are here to become what God wants us to be. Joseph did that.

Our lives are not that different from Joseph’s. The falls, the failures, the betrayals, the pains and remorse, the joys and happiness. God is working behind the scenes. Whatever stuff that happens to us, God wants to use as a blessing, but we still need to choose. We choose to do our best and follow God’s will as best we can. It may not change the world and it may not change what other people do, but it can change us. Over time, it changed Joseph.

 

TO GOD BE THE GLORY FOREVE AND EVER. AMEN.

 

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Church: A model community of the imperfect

 

Eugene Peterson, from his Introduction to the book of James.

 

When Christian believers gather in churches, everything that can go wrong sooner or later does. Outsiders, on observing this, conclude that there is nothing to the religion business, except, perhaps, business – and dishonest business at that. Insiders see it differently. Just as a hospital collects the sick under one roof and labels them as such, the church collects sinners. Many of the people outside the hospital are every bit as sick as the ones inside, but their illnesses are either undiagnosed or disguised. It’s similar with sinners outside the church.

So Christian churches as not, as a rule, model communities of good behavior. They are, rather, places where human behavior is brought out in the open, faced and dealt with.

 

Together in Christ,

Stephen

 


“A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH”

The Presbyterian Church was an unexpected offspring of a religious movement called “The Reformation.” Two of the leading Reformers of the time, Martin Luther (1483-1546) and John Calvin (1509-1564), had no intention of forming a new church, at least not initially. Their desire was to reform the present day Catholic Church, to purge the Church of corruptions and set it more in line with the traditions and theology of Scripture and of the early church. The Reformers became known as “Protestants” because their requests for change sounded more and more like protests.

The Presbyterian Church is one of several churches that can trace their origins to the Reformation. Presbyterians get their name from the Greek word “presbuteros” which means “elder.” The term refers to the system, in apostolic times, of choosing leaders from among the wisest members of the church. A prominent doctrine of the Reformation was “the priesthood of all believers.” Reformed churches designed themselves in ways that gave more power to the congregation. The Presbyterians established a representative system where elders, presbyters and commissioners were elected.

The French organized the first congregation in 1555 and the French Huguenots were one of the first Presbyterians to reach America, followed closely by the English, Dutch, German, Irish and Scottish. In 1706 the first American presbytery was formed in Philadelphia and soon after the Synod of Philadelphia in 1716. 1789 marked the First General Assembly in Philadelphia.

The Church grew and diversified as it headed westward. By 1800 there were 20,000 members. In another thirty-seven years, there were 220,000. With the growth in numbers came an increase of conflict, separation and sometimes reunion. “Old School” and “New School” divisions plagued Presbyterians for years. The most infamous of issues was slavery. The Civil War severely divided the Church.

The next 120 years saw movements toward reunification. In 1958 the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA) and the United Presbyterian Church of North America merged to form the Presbyterian Church in the United States of American (UPCUSA). In 1983 the two largest Presbyterian Churches united at the Atlanta General Assembly (G.A.): the southern-based Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) and the northern-based (UPCUSA). In 1985 the G.A. approved a seal for the new Church. There are some powerful images in the symbol which reveal what is important to us as Presbyterians. Today there are about 2,000,000 members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A), the largest of the mainline Presbyterian denominations.

“Unexpected” may seem like a good way to describe the beginnings of the Presbyterian Church. But for Presbyterians it has always been the “providence of God.”

Together in Christ,

Stephen

 
 
Contact Us  
Churchville Presbyterian Church

2844 Churchville Road
Churchville, Maryland 21028
Map  •   Directions
Phone 410-734-7344
Announcements
WINTER WORSHIP SCHEDULE

8:30 a.m. Informal Service   

9:15 a.m. Adult Class

9:30 a.m. Youth & Children Sunday School

10:30 a.m. Traditional Service 

March Events

March 30 - Pie Sing - 6:30 p.m. - Join us in the sanctuary to sing our favorite hymns. Afterward we will spend a little time enjoying pie and fellowship!  You may bake your favorite pie to share!

 

 

 

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