March 29, 2020
This service was presented in a Zoom worship meeting March 29, 2020. Blessings to you during these isolated days.
Chuck Williams, Pastor
Houghton Grace and William Paine UMCs
Opening Song Even Now
We are trying to be careful with what music we can legally put on the internet, and so far haven’t found a lot of options, but we have a couple of songs today that I think have a good message for these times and our theme -- They are new to us, feel free to sing along, or just focus on the words and listen along… This first one is called “Even Now”, and we’ll just listen to the first half…
https://open.life.church/items/169835-lyric-video-mp4 (stop at 3:19)
If you don’t have internet access to the song, here are some of the lyrics…
Open my eyes so I can see
Steady my heart so I can sing of your praises
You are the only one I need
You are enough for me
And even now I see the clouds
a silver lining’s breaking
my hope is found in you
my one defense, my confidence
the anchor to my soul,
my hope is found in you.
Help me to trust in the unseen
fill every space that’s in-between
with your promise
You are the strength that carries me
You go before me, you are surrounding me
[I let go -- you take control]
Before all this hibernation began, my daughter Angela had posted this picture of a person on a bike -- the path on which the person rode was smooth and only slightly inclined as it moved toward the finish line. I have re-labeled the caption to read “Life as we expect it”. (Actually, I think the real hope is that it is a slight downward slope where there is no effort at all except to stay balanced and hang on). Hold on to that image while I tell you about this couple that is very much in love and getting on in years. He sits in his easy chair while she sits on the couch. She becomes pensive and muses, "Things have really changed. You used to sit very close to me." "I can fix that” he said as he moved next to her on the couch. "And you used to hold me tight" He gave her a snug hug. "How's that?" She continued, "Do you remember you used to nudge my neck and nibble on my ear lobes?" He jumped to his feet and left the room. "Where are you going?" she asked. "I'll be right back," he said. "I've got to get my teeth!"
While he goes out to get his teeth, let’s look at Isaiah 51:1-11. I’ll lift out some of the key verses.
"Listen to me, you who … seek the LORD: Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn… [He is speaking of their faith heritage, He goes on to talk about the ruins of Zion, of Jerusalem - not only the ruins of the city itself, but also as a metaphor for the inhabitants themselves who are now in ruins, as defeated refugees in exile. He says:] The LORD will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD. Joy and gladness will be found in her… [his] salvation is on the way, and… will bring justice to the nations... Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth beneath; the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies. But my salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail. Clothe yourself with strength, as in days gone by, as in generations of old. The ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away. (NIV)
He tells us to look at the skies over our head and the dirt under our feet. How vast, how solid, how permanent it all seems. Then he reminds us of the law of entropy. Order is moving to disorder. The skies we admire will fade like smoke and the earth upon which we stand is wear out like clothes... This is all the more reason to be good stewards of our earth.
But Isaiah probably isn’t being that literal. He is trying to paint a picture for us. The nation’s smug, certain, “nothing can shake us” security of the pre-defeated nation has rather suddenly turned to the now uncertain times in which these exiled refugees lived. Cosmic deterioration doesn’t usually lead us to panic or drastic action. But his next line, "the inhabitants will die off like flies". captures our attention, especially in these critical days. Like the old man who limped away to get his teeth, we realize that each day we are one day closer to not living in this seemingly stable and permanent physical universe.
Not only are the length of our days more fragile and uncertain than we like to think --- no matter how well we take care of ourselves, we can’t know when or how the quality of our days will move from order to disorder.
Sometimes it is a permanent thing from which we will not completely recover. Other times it is only temporary as we run into circumstances beyond our control. Circumstances that make our day - or a period of our life -- go sideways on us. Not a good thing if life is a bike ride.
Filled with steep climbs followed by plunging drops into unexpected obstacles, followed by another steep climb - then if we live right, there may be a bridge we can use, or fall off, forcing a steeper climb. In short, there are times of storms and times of coasting until finally we reach the end of our destination…
Marco Polo made his way through China's wilderness on what is now called “The Silk Road”. Miles and miles of large, challenging sand dunes. The only way to survive was to move from one water hole to the next oasis, finding refreshment and renewal between each difficult leg of the journey.
Likewise, in life, and especially important to know in the difficult parts of the journey: God travels with us. And he grants us bursts of hope and refreshment by His Spirit. But even more so is God’s promise that in the end, the dry, corrupted, entrop-ied land would be remade -- from desert wasteland to gardens lush like Eden.
The desert begins to blossom as the glory of [God's creative power] is given to it. The wonder of life springs from Jesus’ death and resurrection and his presence with us makes all things new. Isaiah says that while heaven and earth and we may pass away; his salvation and righteousness will not. His Word will continue to light up the world, His Son will continue to redeem us from the entropy of life. We have been saved from spiritual deterioration as we continue to trust in him.
In a sense we already experience this salvation of the journey, this renewal of life, this freedom from the entropy of life, the rejuvenation of the world. In another sense, we are still waiting for it to be completed. In the waiting, Isaiah has practical advice.
When life takes us through the barren, chaotic desert -- choose to focus on the many oases provided along the way and on the gradual transformation of the wilderness to lush gardens.
Think of the history of the faithful throughout Bible history and our personal history. Remember how God has provided from one event to the next in the past, cares for us in the present, and so we can be confident that He will maintain his loving care on into the future until that day when we will come into his presence with cheering, shouting, and perpetual joy.
Focus on the ultimate goal of joy, the transforming times, the refreshing times, and keep moving forward through the challenging times.
Orville and Wilbur Wright surely had many setbacks along the way. People discouraged their plans at every turn, “We’ll never fly like birds”. Some would have given up. But they were determined to make a flying machine. (Bill Engvall jokes that they invented the airplane in 1903 because in 1902 they packed their families in tightly spaced vehicles and took them on an extended cross-country vacation). Their 1903 biplane flew for 12 seconds and several hundred feet. They refused to give up in discouragement and their ultimate hope drove them to work from one accomplishment to the next -- from one oasis of progress and refreshing success to the next, until they became the fathers of our modern aircraft and set the foundation to make our world a better place.
Likewise, let us too live from oasis to oasis, from renewal to renewal, until our legacy will shine with inspirational hope. We may not leave a legacy of flight, but each of us can leave the influence of positive character traits and love that will play a part in making this world a better place for those around us and those that follow us.
Let the best of what we leave our world be in the lives of other people. as author Albert Pine once wrote “What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal.”
Where do we start? Isaiah says we are hewn from the rock and upon that rock we are founded and grounded. For us, that rock is Christ. If we build our lives and hope on the foundation of Christ, and everything else you build into your life and the lives of others will fall into place... He will win the victory for us, because he is Lord of all…So let’s listen and or sing along to this song…
Closing Song - Lord of All
If you don’t have internet access to the song, here are some of the lyrics…
Giants, they will rise and fall
God, you stand above them all
Seasons, they will come and go
but you will stay the same
Even when I’m weak and worn
You are able to restore
and every time my heart is torn
I’ll praise you even more.
And I will sing glory to the King of kings
the Lord of all.
The one who goes to war for me
the one who is my Prince of peace
I’m resting in your victory
Jesus, I am yours.
(ohh) with every breath that’s in my lungs
I declare the battle won
that sin and death are overcome
that you alone are God
Thank you God, forever the Lord our hope
Your cross at calvary
Your life laid down for me
your blood my victory
forever and ever
Your love - the final say
Your grace - my everything
Your breath - alive in me
forever and ever
Please help us keep both of our prayer lists accurate and up to date. If you see any updates, corrections, additions, or removals, please leave a message on the Grace office phone 906 482-2780 or email churchoffice@houghtongraceumc
Grace Prayer List
New Requests: F/F Florence Burich, F/F Jan Lubinski’s father Glenn Utt, Sally Santeford’s daughter Jody’s friend Dave - on respirator with flu related pneumonia, Plichtas - safe and healthy travels home, Bob and Becky Boss, missionaries to Peru who care for needy and infected, Anita Quinn’s sister - works in a lab, F/F Mark Wilcox’s cousin Ron Salmi, Relative of Lynn Watson- infected health care worker, All health care and essential workers…
Ongoing Requests: Grace UMC, Albert Paine Memorial UMC, Community, Country, World, Military & Veterans, Missionaries Mark & Rebecca Smallwood, Un(der)employed, Alice, David Desparse, Jill Nissila, Pat Lanier, Jan Lubinski, Tim Wakeham, Sara & Don Peterlin, John and Marcelaine Lewis, Ashley Booth, Scott Seaman, Viola Hedin, Cara Lee Johnson, Brock, Ann Newman, Jim Winsor, Lavinia, Jerry & Nancy Smith, Sierra Jarvi & her mother Jen Palesari, Peyton (young child), Penny, Greg Van Heartesvelt Family, Marion, Lorraine Michaels, Boyne, Baily, Gary Hanson, Paula Ross, Dale Neimi, mom, Russ Alger, Jen’s aunt, John & Gayle Maloney, John Botto, Mike, John Bowen’s wife, Ron Winsor’s uncle Jack, Danny Wakeham, Pam, Rowan, Stella-Jay Calloway, Fred’s friend Mark L., Jordan Roe’s father, Andrea Johnson, June Jenkins, Jean Burich’s friend Karen, Ellie Zimmerman, Amira Rauvala, Ron Winsor, Jano Chappell Johnson, Mike, (Kerr’s) Clyde Huntoon, Mark Eschenburg, Barb Horton, Roger Samaro, Joshua Johnson family, Adam Plichta, Ted Hemmer, Fred Gaff’s aunt Bonnie, Michael McParlan, Jim Manderfield, Uncle Mike, Kelley Dutcher, Child Rylan Gibson, Debbie’s niece Monica, Barb Koski, Sara’s co-worker Janice, Baby Charlie Goke, Melissa Curtis and family, Jan Hinkle-shoulder surgery, Approaching Emmaus Walks, Debbie’s niece Danielle-breast cancer, Peachie’s niece and family-flu, Alexandra’s cousin Grace-hospitalized in early pregnancy, All travelers, Melanie Walls-hip surgery, Kathy Duncan-being tested for ALS, All of us who are impacted by or needing to deal with the Coronavirus in some way…
Painesdale Prayer List
Our nation and its leaders, all those who are traveling, Sara Sipola, Dale Niemi, Diana Johnson, Jackie Niemi, Dan Coponen, Jim and Violet Medhurst, Veronica Stevens, John Semler, Bob Verran, Jon Marshall, Nick Shalim, Tracy Clock, Garry Hoekstra, Jim & Elaine, Bob Neumann, Doug Hayrynen, Jack and Bertha Rossberg, Josie Klemett, Sandy Aittama, Barbara Mattila, Don Moore (and family), Rylan Gibson, Ozzie and Barb Koski, Alice Gerzetich, John MacKrain, Monica, Sandy Rein-smith, Mary Thayer, Neil Lowney, Robbyn Lucier, Kathy Johnson, Mary Ann Jarvi, & Joy Minnich.
All who are incarcerated, in hospitals or in nursing homes, including these nursing home residents: Jimmy Harry, Pat Mattila, Pearl Savela, Betty Sajdak, Eleanor Bertolli, Mary Lou
F/F = family and friends of * = praise
Prayers Lord, you have done great things for us. You comfort and restore us, you dry our tears and fill us with joy. We seek you with all our hearts. Keep us on that restored path, directed by what you teach us in your word. May we find happiness and joy before you, whose name is above everything.
You give company to the lonely, defend the oppressed, remove us from whatever holds us captive, and lead us to green pastures where you provide our every need.
Christ, you emptied yourself, dashed your doubts, faced your fears, and broke yourself for us so that as we prepare to open and trust in your word, we may find hope, peace, freedom, and life, and pray as you taught us to pray. LORD’S PRAYER
Stay safe and stay healthy and may God’s peace be with you always. Amen.