Worship Service – January 9, 2022

SERVICES CANCELLED TODAY DUE TO ICE STORM

Scriptures: Psalm 29, Luke 3:2-18, 21-22.

Message: “Ascribe to the Lord. Repent Name It and Claim It.”

Psalm 29

(1) Ascribe to the Lord , O mighty ones, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
(2) Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.
(3) The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.
(4) The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic.
(5) The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
(6) He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, Sirion like a young wild ox.
(7) The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning.
(8) The voice of the Lord shakes the desert; the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh.
(9) The voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forests bare. And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
(10) The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever.
(11) The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.

Luke 3:2-18 21-22

John the Baptist Prepares the Way

(2) during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. (3) He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (4) As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. (5) Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. (6) And all mankind will see God’s salvation.’ “
(7) John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? (8) Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. (9) The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
(10) “What should we do then?” the crowd asked.
(11) John answered, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.”
(12) Tax collectors also came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”
(13) “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told
(14) them. Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely–be content with your pay.”
(15) The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ. (16) John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. (17) His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (18) And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them.
(21) When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened (22) and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

This is the word of God, for the people of God! Thanks be to God.

The first word in our Psalm reading today is;”Ascribe”. We find it 3 times in the first 2 verses. If I asked you to give me a definition of the word “ascribe”, what would your answer be?
When I asked that question in a Sunday school class I got the response, isn’t that a clerk or a writer. Someone who recorded things in biblical times.
Then I repeated myself and said; “Not a scribe but ascribe”.
The definition of ascribe according to the dictionary is,
: to refer to a supposed cause, source, or author
: to say or think that (something) is caused by, comes from, or is associated with a particular person or thing.
The first two verses of Psalm 29 is a summons to all beings to worship the Lord. The NKJV uses the Phrase : “Give unto the Lord”. The Life Application Bible translates it; ‘Give honor to the Lord”. But most of the translation of the Bible I’ve found to read;”Ascribe to the Lord”.
Now let me ask you this. How many of you are familiar with the saying: “You need to name it, to claim it”? I believe that’s what the Psalm writer was doing when he wrote: ”Ascribe to the Lord”.
Think about this. When we compose a letter don’t we usually start with: “Dear so-and-so”, and then continue writing about whatever it is we wish to state or claim? When we pray the Lord‘s prayer don’t we ascribe to the Lord when we say; “Our Father which art in heaven”, then continue to pray what we believe and claim to be true?
Although there are times when we pray when we are not certain of what to pray for or even how to make a request of God. We’re often like Dennis the Menace where his mother says,”Time to say your prayers, dear”, as she puts him to bed.
Dennis says: “I can’t, Mom.”
Mom replies: “Why not?”
Dennis response: “Cause I can’t think of the exact words.”
Mom encourages him by saying: “Oh, honey, you don’t have to worry about that. There are no right words when talking to God…He understands everything.”
To that Dennis replies: “Good! Then I’ll just say my ABCs. God knows what I’m thinking. He’ll put them together for me.”
Of course we have to be careful about what we “Ascribe” to God. J.K.Johnston wrote: “Do not hastily ascribe things to God. Do not easily suppose dreams, voices, impressions, visions or revelations to be from God. They may be from Him. They may be from nature. They may be from the Devil.”
Just because we believe something and name it, do we have the confidence, to ascribe, that it’s the truth and claim it?
Einstein gave grudging acceptance to “the necessity for a beginning” and eventually, to “the presence of a superior reasoning power,” but never did he accept the doctrine of a personal God.  Two specific obstacles blocked his way.  According to his journal writings, Einstein wrestled with a deeply felt bitterness toward the clergy, toward priests in particular, and with his inability to resolve the paradox of God’s omnipotence and man’s responsibility for his choices. In one of his journals he wrote: “If this being is omnipotent, then every occurrence, including every human action, every human thought, and every human feeling and aspiration is also His work; how is it possible to think of holding men responsible for their deeds and thoughts before such an almighty being?  In giving out punishment and rewards He would to a certain extent be passing judgment on Himself.  How can this be combined with the goodness and righteousness “ascribed” to Him?”
Seeing no solution to this paradox, Einstein, like many other powerful intellects through the centuries, ruled out the existence of a personal God.
In our Gospel reading today in Luke 3, I’m certain their were many who worshiped God and like Einstein didn’t believe in a Personal God. They named Him but never claimed Him. Maybe it was because of the messengers appearance or tone.
Humorous newspaper columnist Dave Barry once made an interesting observation: “If there really is a God, who created the entire universe with all its glories,” wrote Barry, “and He decides to deliver a message to humanity, He will not use, as his messenger, a person on cable TV with a bad hairstyle.
Barry’s probably right. I certainly would not look to a TV preacher–even one with a good hairstyle–to bring me an accurate depiction of God.  But I have to ask what would Dave Barry do with John the Baptist? Bad hair wouldn’t even begin to describe John’s distinctive appearance. According to Matthew’s Gospel John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. (Matt.3:4) And when he preached, he outright insulted his congregation. He called them a brood of vipers!  Imagine if I began my sermon by addressing you as snakes. “Listen up, you lizards!” Obviously John never read Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.
John’s message was as distinctive as his appearance. John never ascribed to be Jesus. John was not the promised one sent from God. He said so himself. His task was to prepare the way for Jesus, the Messiah. His preaching lacked the quality and the richness of Jesus’ preaching. But John’s message was a powerful one. And great crowds came out into the wilderness to hear him deliver it. Given his limitations John gave the only advice he could give. But John’s words have stood the test of time. And they are important words for helping us as we head into this New Year. Words that we can ascribe to.
Let’s read this again: “the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”
John ascribed to all, who would listen a need for, ‘a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins’.
Isaiah ascribed to John as being; “A voice of one calling in the desert,’Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.
David, the writer of Psalm 29 tells all who would listen, ’Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness’. (29:2) Then he proceeds to tell us how we are to ascribe to, ‘the voice of the Lord’ 7 times. He tells all who ascribes to the voice of the Lord that one day all, ’in his temple’, all that ascribed to; ’a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins’, will cry ,”Glory!”
John’s message to all who would listen was; Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God’s salvation.’
Being who John was I don’t think the crowd was all that surprised when he began to preach by saying; “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”  Harsh words, but important words.
Let’s take a moment to understand what a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, truly means.
To be baptized in a spiritual sense is to recognize that you have a personal relationship with God. That you have been purified or cleansed spiritually.
To baptize something or someone in a worldly sense is to give it a name.
Spiritually it is to give you a voice. To ‘ascribe to the Lord’ your life. To build a relationship with God in prayer and in your living.
Consider this. A young man who had made it big had been away from home a long time traveling to exotic places all over the world.  He had not been very attentive to his widowed mother.  His conscience began to bother him and he decided to do something about it.  He sent her a unique gift, a rare South American parrot for which he’d paid $1200.
Well, time went by.  Two weeks, three weeks, and he heard nothing.  And the fourth week he called.  When he got his mom on the phone he said, “Did you get the bird I sent you?”
“Oh yes!”–It was so nice, I cooked it the day after it came.  It was delicious!”
“You cooked it!  Mom, that was a rare South American parrot.  It cost me $1200.  That parrot could speak five languages.”
“My goodness, son,” the mother responded.  “If only you’d said something.”
To be baptized is to be changed, from a child of man to a child of God! We can only ascribe to that change if we name it! We do that through repentance.
Someone has said that a sign of insanity is to keep doing as you’ve always done and expect different results. If you want to improve your life, then you will have to change your ways! In other words, repent! That’s common sense!
To repent means
: to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life
: to feel regret or contrition
: to change one’s mind
: to cause to feel regret or contrition
: to feel sorrow, regret, or shame for the sin in our lives.
After John told the people to repent and be baptized, they asked, “What should we do?” John answered, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”
In other words claim it! Live a life in keeping with the forgiveness you’ve received. ‘Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.’
Claim it he told them. “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.”  Tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”  “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them. Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”  He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely–be content with your pay.”  In other words, the repentance John preached, was not simply about our personal indiscretions and vices. He was concerned with our relationship with God and with others.
The impact of John’s preaching was extraordinary and the people were all wondering in their hearts, if John might possibly be the Christ. John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire . . .” He was speaking, of course, of Jesus.
Repentance is good and necessary, but we can carry it only so far. We can never, by our own power, correct all the imperfections that make up our character. And right relationships are important. But just because your heart is right with your neighbor does not mean that you have an overall meaning and purpose for your life. Look to Jesus. He is the only one who can fill the God-shaped void at the center of our souls.
Dr. Keith Wagner, St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, Sidney, Ohio tells a wonderful story about a man named James Pierpont.  Pierpont died in 1866 after living what most people would consider a life of failure. A  graduate of Yale, a school his grandfather had help found, Pierpont chose education as his profession. However, he did not last. They say he was too easy on his students. And so, he turned to law, but couldn’t make a go of it. He was too generous with his clients. He published a book of poems, but he didn’t collect enough royalties to make a living.  Pierpont decided to become a minister, but his positions for prohibition and against slavery got him in trouble with the influential members of his congregation. And so he tried politics.  He ran for governor and  for Congress, but, of course, he lost.  The Civil War came. He volunteered as a chaplain.  Two weeks later he quit. The task was too much of a strain on his health. Of course, he was 76 years old at the time.  Finally someone found him an obscure job in the back offices of the Treasury Department in Washington and he finished out his life as a menial file clerk. A scribe.
James Pierpont accomplished nothing he set out to do or be. A small memorial stone marks his grave in Mount Auburn cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The words in the granite read POET PREACHER PHILOSOPHER PHILANTHROPIST.
However, in one very important sense James Pierpont was not a failure. He wrote a song, a song not about Jesus or angels or even Santa Claus. It’s a simple song about the joy of whizzing the snow in a sleigh. James Pierpont wrote “Jingle Bells”–a song that three or four hundred million people around the world sang this Christmas season.
What is there about James Pierpont’s life that speaks to me about Jesus? Just this: James Pierpont spent all his life working to make his life count. And all he experienced was failure. And then, in a bit of whimsy, he wrote a little chorus that will be sung by millions of people for generations. To me this is a glimpse of grace.
You and I strive so hard to please God. But all our strivings are as nothing in God’s eyes. But when we, “Ascribe to the Lord” we Name Him and Claim Him, as the person of Jesus Christ. We open our hearts to his love, his peace, his joy–and suddenly with no effort of our own, we move from the losing side of life, to the winning side, we move from the hopeless side of life to the abundant side of life.
So, this is the message from the Psalmist and John the Baptist: “Ascribe to the Lord. Repent,”Name It and Claim It” get into a right relationship with others, and look to Jesus. He is our hope, our joy, our peace throughout this New Year.
In His Service,
Pastor Joe
Listen To Audio: Service 20220109

Prayer of Confession:     Almighty God, The verbs of Psalm 147 remind us of your actions: you strengthen, bless, grant, fill, send, give, make, and declare.  But we confess that our verbs do not always match yours:  we argue, fight, lie, steal, oppress, ignore, refuse, and silence.  Forgive us, Lord, for what we’ve done to tarnish your holy name.  Give us courage, merciful God, to make our actions match yours.  Help us to shed our sin and join you in your redemptive work.  This we pray in your good and gracious name.  Amen.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

 

Pastor Joe will be available at the church on Thursday afternoon from 2 to 4.  If you need to speak to him, contact Pastor Joe at570-267-4570 (cell) or Email: joe.s.travis@gmail.com

Loose change goes to General Fund

Sunday School starts at 8:30am

Choir practice will be on Thursday at 1:00! Please come a join us in singing praises to Jesus! 

Corporation Meeting after church TODAY

PW will meet on January 13th at 11:00 A.M.

Men’s Breakfast Wednesday January 19th at 8:00 A.M.

Session Meeting Saturday, January 22nd at 9:00 A.M.

Newsletter Deadline – Tuesday, January 25th, 2022.

Please sign up to host one of the social hours on the Sunday after Communion Service on the first Sunday of the month. 

Listen to WPEL 96.5 for church cancellation if your internet is down during a storm this winter.

 

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