Worship Service – February 26, 2023

Relationships within the body are important, but so is the relationship of the church with the wider community. Jesus calls us to go above and beyond in our attempts to see all the people.

Come, let us worship God!

Scripture: Matthew 19:13-15
Message: “Watch What You Say!”
Matthew 19:13-15
The Little Children and Jesus
(13) Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them.
(14) Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (15) When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.

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

In our worship service today, our focus is on children. Earlier in our service we had a “Dedication”, a “Baptism”, of a child, and you would have heard the song by Charlie Daniels titled: “Little Folks”. The first lines of that song are “Little folks are people too, very much like me and you. The little things they say and do they kind of make your day.” and that’s what led me to choosing the scripture from Matthew 19:13-15 and titling the message; “Watch What You Say!”.
We all know that we lead by example and definitely teach our children by example. I’m sure that’s why, “Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
So today, in addition to our gospel reading from Matthew 19, let me share a few of other readings. One from the book of James, and 2 others from Matthew. Being that this is the first Sunday of the Lenten season the lectionary suggested we read, Matthew 4:1-11. So, let’s begin there.
Matthew 4:1-11
The Temptation of Jesus
(1) Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. (2) After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. (3) The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
(4) Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ “
(5) Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple.
(6) “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: ” ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ “
(7) Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” (8) Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. (9) “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
(10) Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’ “
(11) Then the devil left Him, and angels came and attended Him.
Let’s also read another reading from the gospel of Matthew, a teaching, by Jesus from the sermon on the mount titled “Oaths”.
Matthew 5:33-37
(33) “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ (34) But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; (35) or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. (36) And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. (37) Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
Then in James 4:13-17, James’ writings are titled; “Boasting about Tomorrow”.
James 4:13-17
(13) Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” (14) Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (15) Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (16) As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. (17) Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.
These Scriptures are some of the lessons we need to learn. Lesson Jesus taught his disciples because they, “rebuked those who brought them.”(Matt. 19:13) Did they think it was a waste of time to teach these children? Were they boasting and bragging because they thought they had better things to do? Did they need to learn to, “Watch What You Say!” Because God and Little Folks are listening!
Here’s a few examples for watching what we say especially around children.
One three-year-old’s explanation for being in the kitchen atop a chair, eating cookies: “I just climbed up to smell them, and my tooth got caught.”
Where would a child learn to tell such a tale? I wonder?
Then there’s the story about a Boston minister who noticed a group of boys standing around a small stray dog. “What are you doing, boys?” the minister asked.
”Telling lies ,”Said one of the boys. “The one who tells the biggest lie gets the dog.”
”Why, when I was your age,” the shocked minister said, “I never ever thought of telling a lie.”
The boys looked at one another, a little disheartened and disappointed. Finally, one of them shrugged and said, “I guess he wins the dog.”
Then there’s a story of a teen-age boy told his parents he was going to run away from home. “Listen,” he said, “I’m leaving home. There is nothing you can do to stop me. I want excitement, adventure, beautiful women, money, and fun. I’ll never find it here, so I’m leaving. Just don’t try to stop me!” As he headed for the door, his father leaped up and ran toward him. “Dad,” the boy said firmly, “you heard what I said. Don’t try to stop me. I’m going!” “Who’s trying to stop you?” answered the father, “I’m going with you!”
Humans are always declaring their freedom, wishing for more “space,” announcing that they belong only to “themselves.” We want to be free from the commitment of a job we don’t like, or the enslavement of the kitchen. Or even commitment to our family responsibilities.
The words we speak are important! Watch what you say! Especially if you’re a minister, or around children. That’s why the Bible has lots of guidance about godly speech. The words we speak are a sort of a barometer revealing the state of our souls.
“Watch What You say”, because what we say is a daily advertisement of the hold Jesus Christ has on our lives. Jesus said, “For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” In Luke 6:45. In Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount, he talked about swearing or oath-taking, but his underlying message was about the integrity and honesty of our commitments. About, watching what we say.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke all begin their stories of the adult life of Jesus at the Jordan River, where he is baptized by his cousin John. In baptism, Jesus identifies with us, and with all people everywhere. And there, at the baptism, God said, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” So, at the beginning of each of their accounts, the gospel writers want to make it clear who this is they are telling us about. This is Jesus! The Son of God! God’s Son, Jesus, who came and died and rose again so that we might have life eternal.
Jesus knew, and must have known for some time, that God was calling Him to a special mission. Now was the time to begin it. So, He went into the desert to sort it all out, to better understand the nature of God’s call. He stayed in that desert, fasting and praying for 40 days (that’s where we get the 40 days of Lent.) And his time in the desert was much like the 40 years Israel spent in the wilderness on their way to the promised land. During that time, both Israel and Jesus were tempted, or put to the test. And they emerged from the test even stronger in faith, not in spite of the testing, but in large measure because of it.
I think, Jesus went into the desert because he wanted to leave the world of many voices, telling Him what to do. Like many teenagers. The difference being that He wanted His father to come along. He wanted to hear the One voice, the voice of God.
Jesus revealed to us that even in that remote desert there was more than one presence, and there was more than one voice. There always is. It was up to Jesus, and it is up to us to sort out the many voices we hear. To focus on the One voice that is the source of truth, the source of strength, the source of life. The ultimate question is: in the presence of many voices calling to us, enticing us, and tempting us, to what voice will we listen?
Jesus was there without any human companions, so he must have told this story to the disciples later. He must have considered it to be a turning point in his life. If God was calling him to be the Messiah, the question was, what kind of Messiah was he to be? The people wanted a Messiah like David, the greatest of the Hebrew kings. They wanted a Messiah who would recruit an army, defeat the Romans, and bring back the good old days of peace, pride, and prosperity. Would Jesus listen to the voice of the people and attempt to do all those things? It occurs to me that sometimes the voice of the majority is the same as the voice of the devil.
It would have been far easier and more popular for Jesus simply to go along, and to become an earthly king. But that’s not the choice he made. Listening to the voice of God, he rejected the urging of the people. Jesus sensed that God was calling him to be a suffering servant, one who would win people not by force, but by the redemptive power of “A Love”, that “Loves” enough to suffer. Jesus was called to the way of the cross.
His time there was a time of testing, He needed to clarify His purpose. And it would be a great thing if something like that can happen to us during our 40 days of Lent. It will be a great thing if we can become clear about who we are as children of God, clear about what God is calling us to do, and clear about our commitment to do it! And learn to “Watch what we Say”.
We all know that temptation is real, and we will be wrestling with it, all our lives. There, in the desert, every time Jesus was tempted, He quoted scripture. And don’t miss the fact that all of the scriptures He quoted were from the Exodus. So, when facing his own struggles in the desert, He looked back and remembered Israel’s struggles in their desert. Teaching each of us to, “Watch What You Say!”
To quote scripture is not like rubbing Aladdin’s lamp to produce a miracle. To quote scripture is to remember. It is to recall how God has been faithful and dependable in times past. It is to recall how God’s grace and strength has always been sufficient for our every need. And, as we remember, God Himself comes to us and gives us what we need to resist temptation. God comes and gives us what we need to cope. And God uses that experience to make us stronger and more faithful followers of Jesus. Scripture is not just the record of what God said and did long ago. It is the means by which we open ourselves to Him so that He can do it again right here, right now!
In our gospel reading from Matthew 5;33-37, Jesus gives us three guidelines to follow. But first, to put it in context, a little history.
In the First century, most people did not sign contracts. Instead, they took oaths as a way of binding and insuring their honesty. As you might expect, this process was abused. There were several unsavory practices which Jesus despised. One was the practice of frivolous oath-taking; that is, using sacred language as meaningless slang. For example, a First-Century Jew might say to a friend, “I swear by the Temple of Jerusalem that I won’t take any more abuse from these Roman soldiers.” The Temple of Jerusalem was a holy place, but he was talking about it in an empty, casual way. You can hear something similar today. You might hear someone say today, “For heaven’s sake I didn’t say that”. Or something like, “I swear to God, I put it there just a minute ago.” Jesus condemned the irreverent use of holy names.
The other practice Jesus condemned was evasive oath-taking. That is, using an oath in a cunning way to evade keeping one’s word. In Jesus’ day, if you used God’s name in an oath, it was binding. But if you took an oath that did not actually have the name of God in it, it was not considered binding. In reaction to these abuses, Jesus called the people of faith to speech that glorifies God and is utterly honest. When we open our mouths in public, in the workplace or in the home, we advertise what is in our hearts. What we say will either glorify Jesus Christ or ridicule him. So, you must, “Watch What You Say!”
So, the first lesson Jesus teaches is: Don’t use God’s name in a frivolous way. Anytime you utter the name of God or Jesus or Christ, let it be done intentionally and reverently.
I remember years ago, standing in an airport next to a man I didn’t know. We were both gazing upward at the listing of arrivals and departures. Slowly and deliberately, he spoke the names–Jesus Christ–out loud. Then he added to nobody in particular, “That flight is an hour late.” He had used the name of Jesus as a substitute for “shucks” or “phooey.”
If you had asked that man thirty minutes later if he had uttered the holy names of Jesus Christ in a profane, empty way, I doubt that he would have even remembered. We so often see this in our culture today.
Most of us are like parrots in one respect. We repeat what we hear. Children definitely do. Words that we listen to frequently, will find a way to our tongues, and consequently theirs. So, one very good reason to avoid most prime-time TV is that God’s names are misused constantly. The standard expression of surprise is “0 my God.” And I wonder how many Christians are misusing God’s name in the same way because they have heard it so often.
The second lesson from Jesus in that text is this: Don’t promise more than you can deliver. Remember your limitations. When we take oaths or make commitments about the future, we must remember that we don’t know what the future may bring. Jesus reminded us in this scriptural passage that we don’t even have the power to change one hair on our head from one color to another.
Obviously, Jesus wasn’t aware of products like Clairol and “Just for Men.” While I don’t use that stuff, I don’t criticize those who do. But since I earned my gray hair, I’m not about to hide it.
The writer of the book of James grasped this truth. He declared: “Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”(James 4:13-15)
I’m sure many of you have heard someone say, “I’ll be there next week, Lord willing, and the creek don’t rise.” Because we all have learned the lessons of unkept promises. So, we don’t promise more than we can deliver because we don’t know what will happen today or tomorrow.
How many of you have gotten a quote from the sales representative, in person, or over the phone or on the Internet and have been given an amount that something would cost. And when you went to pay for it or pick it up, there would be an additional charge or something else you needed to buy in order to make the product usable. (You weren’t told of that charge because they didn’t wanted to deter you from making that purchase.) Then you have to decide whether or not you are to make that purchase, or return it, and if you will ever again return to that establishment. Learn from that experience. Don’t you, promise more than you, can deliver.
Thats why Jesus’ third lesson for us is the primary one of our gospel texts in Matthew 5: Be people of plain open honesty.
Your word- yes or no- should be enough. Christians should have such integrity that neither an oath nor a signature should be needed. Our word should be trustworthy.
We must be radically different from the culture we are a part of. In this culture, people are constantly asking, “Do you have that in writing?” “Despite what we promised to do, what am I compelled to do under contract?” “If our company does not provide what we said we would, could we get sued?”
In our culture, people are always looking for loopholes, so they won’t have to keep their word. We must be radically different in that we stand by our word even when there is no oath or contract.
When we are tempted to compromise with our own values, we become less than our best, the more we focus on the situation, the more the tempter shows us how to rationalize and gives us “good reasons” for doing the thing we know we should not do. But, if we focus on God and His word, God comes and reminds us that we were made for something better than that. We are children of God and the very best in life comes to us when we act and speak like it.
Jesus instructed us not to use oaths because they shouldn’t be necessary for Christians. Our scriptures for today are about the words we speak, the commitments we make, and the integrity that should permeate everything we do. Every commitment we make, every contract we sign, has some invisible fine print right beneath our signature. It says, “I make this commitment as a representative of Jesus Christ.”
Don’t use God’s name in a frivolous way. Don’t promise more than you can deliver. Be people of plain open honesty.
We all know that we lead by example and definitely teach our children by example. I’m sure that’s why, “Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
All our words and commitments should be saturated with the word of God and integrity. Starting this Lenten season remember, when your integrity shines, it reflects the glow of Christ who lives in your heart.
So, “Watch What You Say!” Because God and Little Folks are listening!
Pray with me.
Father, we are tempted by voices, other than yours. Help us to remember who we are, who’s we are, and all that you have done for us in the past by your grace and strength. Place, our lives in your loving hands. Give us the grace to do just as Jesus did, and in whose name we pray. Amen.
In His Service,
Pastor Joe
Listen To Audio: Sermon 20230226

Call to Worship:

L: Are you awake? Are you alert?
P: Christ is coming into our lives in a new way.
L: Come, let us worship and let us work in the reign of God.
P: Christ has extended the invitation: let us work together in the reign of God on earth.


Prayer of Confession:   Holy God, You desire from us hearts that are a fit place for you to live and dwell. Help us to clear out long-held anger, resentments, prejudice, and hate. Help us to furnish our hearts with love, mercy, justice, compassion, and forgiveness so they might be a place where you feel welcome and at home. We ask this in Jesus’ Name.  Amen.



Pastor Joe will be available at the church on Thursday afternoon from 11 to 1. If you need to speak to him, contact Pastor Joe at570-267-4570 (cell) or Email: joe.s.travis@gmail.com

Please join the Travis Family for cake and coffee in the CB following the service TODAY.

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!

Newsletter Deadline – Tuesday, February 28th, 2023.

Social Hour after church Sunday March 5th. If you are able please bring something to share.

PW will meet on March 9th at 11:00 A.M.

Men’s Breakfast 8:00 on March 15th.

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.

Comments are closed.