A digital version of this week’s worship bulletin and sermon.

Gathering

PRELUDE

CONFESSION & FORGIVENESS

GATHERING SONG                       “Awake, My Soul, and with the Sun”                      red book # 557

GREETING

KYRIE                                                                                                                  red book # 157

CANTICLE OF PRAISE                                                                                  red book # 167

PRAYER of the DAY

Word

DEUTERONOMY 4:1-2, 6-9

PSALM 15

JAMES 1:17-27

MARK

SERMON                                                                                                              Pastor Chris Halverson

When NASA created the Solid Rocket Boosters for the space shuttle
they ended up making them smaller than they would have liked. They did
this because they needed to fit on railroad cars, the tracks of which
are 4 feet 8 and a half inches wide.
Why 4 feet 8 and a half inches wide? Because that’s the same width as
pre-Railroad tramways.
But why were the tramway’s gauges 4 feet 8 and a half inches wide?
Because the tramways were built by the same folk who built wagons.
But why were wagon wheels 4 feet 8 and a half inches apart? Because
there were already wheel ruts in old Europeans Roads 4 that they
needed to fit in which where 4 feet 8 and a half inches wide.
And why, I suppose you are asking, were these road ruts 4 feet 8 and
a half inches wide? Because they had been driven on by Roman War
chariots, which were, you guessed it 4 feet 8 and a half inches wide.
Why 4 feet 8 and a half inches wide? Because Roman War chariots were
built to be just wide enough to fit the rears of two average sized
horses…
In other words, the measurement of the width of an ancient horses
posterior has been passed on all the way through both the centuries
and on through space, even on to the moon and onto mars.
And seeing how a measurement like that can be passed on—I wonder how
our faith gets passed on and what parts of our faith we pass on?
Let us pray:

Remember that story I just told you—about the Solid Rocket Booster
being shaped by the size of a roman warhorse’s rump. Well… it’s not a
true story—at least not completely.
Politicians and preachers have been using it since the 60’s to
illustrate various points, but in point of fact it ignores a lot of
them… facts that is.
One of the big ones is that there were a whole lot of different train
track widths used up until the Civil War, at which point, during
Reconstruction, a standardized width was introduced of 4 feet 8 and a
half inches.
In other words, in order to tell a good and memorable story and make
a point that was relevant and could easily be passed on, the whole
story about transportation from horse to space ship was condensed into
about 200 words.
I bring up this example of condensing story because I think it has
everything to do with passing on our faith. Part of passing on faith
involves condensing it into an easily memorable and relevant whole.
Fitting it in an easily accessible package.
We see a positive example of this in today’s reading from the book of
Deuteronomy.
Deuteronomy is, in many ways, Moses’ farewell address. He has reached
the edge of the desert and can see the Promised Land. He is the last
of the generation that made its way out of Egypt—the oldest guy
there—the last to have heard God’s promise that God’s people would
reach the Land of Milk and Honey.
And so, he goes before the next generation and tells them about the
journey of faith his generation took. He didn’t tell them every detail
we find in the books of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, instead he
simply tells them of the commandments and teachings he received, and
about God, and about God’s continued faithfulness.
This is a common way to pass on the faith—to keep it fresh—retelling
the stories of God—retelling our faith stories—internalizes them and
makes them our own.
That’s why confirmation students are sometimes asked to re-write the
Apostolic Creed—not because the pastor wants to correct the inevitable
heresies that will be produced, but because the creed shifts from
being rote to being real.
And there is a long tradition of this—The book of Judges re-imagines
Joshua, the book of Chronicles re-imagines the book of Kings taking
into account the destruction of the northern kingdom, Matthew and Luke
re-tell Mark in a way that is faithful to their communities.

But there can be a dark side to these retellings, this condensing of
faith. What happens if we begin to take our ways of making faith and
interpreting scripture real for us and for our generation—take this
and confuse it with the thing itself, confuse our faith with The Faith
and interpretation with inspiration.
That’s what we find in today’s gospel reading, that’s what the
Pharisees and scribes have done.
Jesus has just finished feeding the five thousand, and walking on
water, and healing those in Gennearet who were in need.
And for his trouble—he got in trouble. He was confronted by Pharisees
and scribes, and not just the local folk, but religious officials from
Jerusalem, from 100 miles away.
Now, you have to remember in those days you don’t go 100 miles away,
on a lark. It would be like walking, or riding a horse, from South
Plainfield to Poughkeepsie New York. These folk were
serious—they we pretty sure something was wrong, otherwise they
wouldn’t have made that long trip.
As it turned out, their concern was that Jesus and his disciples were
not following purity laws—but not exactly the laws set out in the
Levitical codes—instead addendums to these laws that they had
established in order to make absolutely sure the Law wasn’t broken.
Essentially adding to the Law to make sure we don’t break the Law.
And it was over this safeguard that these Pharisees marched those 100
miles from South Plainfield to Poughkeepsie.
It was over their attempt to make scripture relevant to their time,
make their retelling of God’s law into Law itself, that they
persecuted Christ.

And right there you have the danger and the joy of re-interpreting
our faith and our scriptures for new times and places.
On one hand, its necessary to be relevant and memorable, to focus on
scripture that speaks to the moment. To condense faith so it makes
sense.
On the other hand we must always be a little humble about these ways
we attempt to keep the flame of faith alight, otherwise we might miss
God doing a new thing and maybe even persecute Christ in the process.

But what parts of our faith are we passing on? Central things or just
whatever we can get our hands on?
I wonder what it would look like if we passed on the book of James’
insistence that true religion involves taking care of widows and
orphans?
If we did that we might point out that Moses was orphaned in the reeds
of the river Nile and adopted by Pharoah’s daughter. That the Laws God
gave Moses dictated how we are to live with and for one another—always
including and caring for the sojourners and strangers, that even
slaves, orphans, and widows receive the fair justice of God.
We might point to those two widows, Ruth and Naomi and how they took
care of one another traveling together and finding a new family and
source of life.
Point out that Elijah stayed with the Widow of Zarephath, feeding her
household with miraculous bread and raising her son from the dead.
That the Prophets called their people to renew their fidelity to God’s
commands to do justice and love mercy—they called their society out
for oppressing the widow, the orphan, the alien, and the poor.
That Jesus , while in the town of Nain saw the only son of a Widow,
dead as a doornail—and raised him up, returned him to that widow.
That when Jesus was in the temple and observed a Widow give all she
had, he pointed it out.
And finally that Jesus’ disciples too—like widows weeping for their
bridegroom—like children mourning their father’s passing—were cared
for by Jesus even after his death. And that we, orphans and widows
all, will be cared for too.

HYMN of the DAY                     “Precious Lord, Take My Hand”                   red book # 773

APOSTLES CREED

PRAYERS of INTERCESSION

PEACE

Meal

OFFERING & OFFERTORY                “As the Grains of Wheat”

GREAT THANKSGIVING

LORD’S PRAYER

COMMUNION SONGS                      “Lamb of God”

     Also, “Let There Be Peace On Earth”, red book # 888

Sending

SENDING SONG                “Praise to You, O God of Mercy”             red book # 208

BLESSING

ANNOUNCEMENTS  & DISMISSAL

POSTLUDE

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