Worship Service – October 25, 2020


Psalm 90: 1-6, 13-17

I Thessalonians 4: 1-8


Sunday October 25, 2020.

Welcome! Our message this week I’ve titled “WHAT IF ”.

Would you please open your Bibles and read with me..

Matthew 22:34-46

The Greatest Commandment

(34)Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. (35)One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: (36)”Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
(37)Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ (38)This is the first and greatest commandment. (39)And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (40)All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
(41)While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, (42)”What do you think about the Christ ? Whose son is he?” “The son of David,” they replied.
(43)He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says, (44)” ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.” ‘ (45)If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” (46)No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.
The story is told of a little boy whose father taught mechanical engineering at a prestigious university.  One day he came in the back door and asked his mother, “What time is it?”  She wasn’t wearing a watch; plus, she was busy, so she said, “Your father’s in the living room, go ask him.”  The little boy shrugged his shoulders and said, “Never mind.  I don’t want to know how to make a watch; I just want to know what time it is!”
When it comes to religion and our understanding of the Christian faith, I suspect there are times when we all feel like this little boy. For example, there are sixty-six books of the Bible.  Many of them are long and complex.  For each book of the Bible there are commentaries explaining every nuance of every verse.
 If that weren’t enough, there are books on just about every conceivable topic of the Bible. There are books on church doctrine, Christian ethics and the history of Christianity.  There are books on worship, mission, education, stewardship and prayer. Christian writers are all too happy to tell you how to improve your prayer life, your sex life, your golf score and your investment portfolio.
 O.K., maybe I’m exaggerating just a little bit. The point is you could read all day, every day, for the rest of your life and still not make a dent in the mountain of information available on understanding the Christian faith and what it means to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. So, as much as we may love to know the mechanical intricacies of the watch, sometimes we just want to know the time. We just want to walk with Him.
Let’s play a little game of “What If” this morning. “What If”, someone who was visiting Our Church for the very first time came to you after the worship service and said something like this: “You know, I used to go to church a lot when I was a kid, but I’ve been out of the church for a long time now. It just didn’t seem that important to me, I guess. I couldn’t fit it in to my busy schedule. But now I want to come back. I feel like something is missing in my life, and I think I know what it is. So I’ve been visiting around at some of the local churches, trying to find out where I fit in. I wonder if you could tell me what would be expected of me if I joined this church?”
A word of caution: If your first thought is, “I’d send them to the pastor. That’s his department,” think about this. That person just sat through a worship service, right? During which, they listened for twenty minutes of the service , give or take a few – I know, I know sometimes it seems much longer than that, to the most visible person in the church? Do you really think that visitor who has come to you for information doesn’t know who the pastor is? But he or she did not ask the pastor the question, did they? They asked YOU! They want an answer from an ordinary person, someone who won’t take quite so long to tell them what they need to know. What will you tell this person who sincerely wants to know what it would mean to be a member of Our Church? How would you summarize, in five minutes or less, what it means to be a member of this church?
I suppose the answer they got would depend on who they asked, wouldn’t it? I mean, different folks have different priorities. For some, regular attendance at worship services comes first. Others, stewardship. They might stress the importance of consistent financial support of the church. Still others might answer that becoming involved in the life of the congregation, volunteering to serve on a committee, or some form of hands-on involvement was a high priority. And still others might stress caring for one another or witnessing to our faith in our daily lives. So there are many possible responses to the question, “What would be expected of me if I became a member of this church?” Would you remember that Our Church, ”The Franklin Hill Presbyterian Church”, is not ours, it’s God’s.
“What If”, Jesus was a member here? How would Jesus answer that question? What if, a prospective church member were able to ask Jesus himself? What would be expected of them, to be a member of the church, how would Jesus respond?
Maybe we can gain some insight into that by looking at how Jesus answers the question asked of Him in today’s gospel reading, “Which is the greatest commandment in the law?” True, they are two different questions, but the same concern lies at the heart of both questions, doesn’t it? The issue is, what is most important? Among all the things that are asked of us, what is absolutely essential? Is there one thing we simply must do in order to be a faithful follower of Christ?
Before we go any further, we should remember that in Matthew’s description of this encounter, the one who asks Jesus this question, “Which is the greatest commandment in the law,” probably has an ulterior motive for asking it. He is part of the group who asked Jesus that tricky question, the one about whether or not they should pay taxes to the Roman government.(Matthew 22:15-22) So this new question about the greatest commandment is most likely another test, a trap, a trick question designed to get Jesus into trouble.
You would think Jesus would be able to see through these folks by now, wouldn’t you? You would think that he would just ignore the question and the questioner and go on about his business. But he doesn’t. In fact, the response Jesus gives to this particular question forms the basis of the early Christian community’s understanding of the gospel. All four gospels and the writings of Paul bear unanimous witness to the fact that Jesus’ response to this question defines what is expected of those who would be followers of Jesus.
The question Jesus was asked that day deals with the Law, the commandments of God by which the children of Israel had been instructed to govern their lives. Now, when we hear commandments we immediately think of the Ten Commandments, which many of us may have committed to memory at an early age. But the one who asked Jesus this question, “Which is the greatest commandment in the law?” probably had in mind something a little more challenging than merely choosing one of the original ten commandments Moses received from God on Mount Sinai.
By the time Jesus came along, the multitude of commandments listed in the five books of the Torah,(the first five books of the Bible) the Law, dealing with everything from how to cut your food to the proper clothing to wear to a funeral, had been counted, numbered and systemized into 613 commandments, of Do’s and Don’ts. 365 of which were negative (“thou shalt not…”) and 268 positive commands (“thou shalt…”). You thought it was hard to memorize ten? So the spot on which the Pharisees tried to put Jesus with this question was this: out of all 613 of God’s commandments, which one would you say is most important? That’s sort of like asking someone which is the greatest sin, isn’t it? The Bible teaches us that a sin is sin, and, as Paul writes in Romans 6:23 ,“The wages of sin is death.” So, for example, is it more sinful to commit murder than it is to lie on your income tax return? The consequences are the same.
“What If”, we were not already familiar with the answer Jesus gives, we might be hesitant to answer the question, “Which is the greatest commandment?” And rightfully so. After all, what is the most important thing to remember in our relationship with God? We said earlier that different folks might have different perspectives on that. But I want you to notice that the text does not indicate that Jesus took even a moment to think about the question before giving His answer. He immediately quoted back to His listeners two of the positive, “thou shalt,” commandments. Which two were they?
They were two that begin with the words, “You shall love…” Deuteronomy 6:5, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” In other words, you shall love God totally, unconditionally, with all that you are and all that you have. And the second commandment Jesus selected, even though he was only asked for one, was from Leviticus 19:18, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” That is, you shall hold your neighbor in the same regard you have for yourself.
Apparently, because Jesus listed these two commands you can’t do one without doing the other. Everything, not only in the Law but in life itself, revolves around the commandment, “You shall love…”
So would that be an appropriate response to the prospective church member’s question. After all, we do believe that what Jesus says is the ultimate truth, don’t we? But if we did give that response, would we have to add a disclaimer, such as, “Don’t do what I do, do what I say”?
These words of Jesus put all 613 commands into perspective. If what Jesus says is right – that above everything else we are to love God and love our neighbor – then everything else is secondary. It’s great if you can be here every Sunday, and it’s great if you can contribute financially to the church, and it’s great if you volunteer to work in various ministries of the church. But above all else, we are to love God and love our neighbor.
If we were to ask Jesus today, “Which is the greatest commandment?” or “What’s the most important thing in life?” or “What would I have to do in order to pick up my cross and follow you?” I think I know what Jesus would say, don’t you?
“With all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might, you shall love the Lord your God and you shall love your neighbor.”
That may sound simple, but you and I both know how difficult it can be, especially during this pandemic. Sometimes, when life gets hard, we struggle with health issues, or with loneliness and fear, or with anxiety, financially or mentally. When we lose a loved one, when a marriage shows all the signs of falling apart at the seams, it’s not easy to keep loving God unconditionally, is it? And, Lord knows, our neighbors can sometimes do things or say things that make loving them next to impossible. But then, we also know that nothing difficult, nothing of lasting significance, is ever easy.
So, how do we answer the question, “What would be expected of me if I were to become a member of Franklin Hill Presbyterian Church?” Well, maybe we could just say, “That’s an easy question to answer, but living out the answer is where the hard part comes in. You see, the answer is all you have to do is love God totally and unconditionally, with all that you are and all that you have. That’s part one. Part two is you have to love your neighbor that way too. Still interested?”
Maybe we should end this game of “What If”, with the 2 questions Jesus asked the Pharisees in verse 42.”What do you think about Christ? Whose son is He?”
In His Service,
Pastor Joe
Listen To Audio: Sermon 20201025
Listen To Audio: Service 10252020


Pastor Joe is available at the church every Thursday 2-4pm if you need to speak with him. Contact Numbers: 570-465-7303 or his cell 570-267-4570

Loose Change Offering, (coins & bills), today goes to General Fund.

Sunday School begins at 8:30 – please join us! Weekly notes about the upcoming lesson will appear on your email.

Feed-a-Friend because of the Covid, only monetary donations can be accepted. Please mark your envelope accordingly. TODAY IS THE LAST DAY

BILL’s Kids for Christmas is underway. Rev. Bill Townsend was the Director of Spiritual Life at the Children’s Home in Binghamton. Our congregation has been donating money for many years to help to make Christmas more merry for the residents there. This will continue to the first Sunday in November.

Newsletter Deadline is Tuesday, October 27.

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