Wolcott United Methodist Church

Wolcott United Methodist Church

Welcome to the Wolcott, VT, United Methodist Church. We invite you to worship with us at 10:00am either in person or online. We look forward seeing you.

4023 VT Route 15 , Wolcott , VT 05680
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(802) 851-2031

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The United Methodist Church

Service and Pastor Mike's Message for Sunday, October 1, 2023, 18th Sunday of Pentecost

posted on October 01


L:  Come! Now is the time to worship!
P:  We come to worship God who loves us.
L:  When the Israelites grumbled and quarreled when there was no water to drink, God miraculously produced water to show them God’s faithfulness and love.
P:  When we question and accuse God, God responds by showing us love.
L:  When the chief priests and elders questioned Jesus’ authority, Jesus answered them with a story about the righteousness of doing God’s will instead of paying lip service to God’s will.
P:  When we test and interrogate God, God responds by pointing us back to love.
L:  By answering our quarrelling and questioning with love, God teaches us how to love God, neighbor, self, and all creation.
P:  When we love as God loves, we respond to testing and accusing by living the faith and sharing God’s love.
L:  Come! Now is the time to worship!

P:  We come to worship God who loves us for the long haul.  (Written by Dr. Lisa Hancock, Discipleship Ministries, April 2023.)
*OPENING HYMN:    “Gather Us In”  TFWS#2236
Here in this place new light is streaming,
now is the darkness vanished away.
see in this space our fears and our dreamings,
 brought here to you in the light of this day.
Gather us in the lost and forsaken,
gather us in the blind and the lame;
call to us now, and we shall awaken,
we shall arise at the sound of our name.
We are the young – our lives are a myst’ry,
we are the old – who yearn for your face,
we have been sung throughout all of hist’ry,
called to be light to the whole human race.
Gather us in – the rich and the haughty,
gather us in – the proud and the strong;
give us a heart so meek and so lowly,
give us the courage to enter the song.
Here we will take the wine and the water,
here we will take the bread of new birth.
here you shall call your sons and your daughters,
call us anew to be salt for the earth.
Give us to drink the wine of compassion,
give us to eat the bread that is you;
nourish us well, and teach us to fashion
lives that are holy and hearts that are true.
Not in the dark of buildings confining,
not in some heaven, light-years away,
but here in this place the new light is shining,
now is the Kingdom, now is the day.
Gather us in and hold us forever,
gather us in and make us your own;
gather us in – all peoples together,
fire of love in our flesh and our bone.
OPENING PRAYER:    Living Water”  (inspired by Exodus 17: 1-7)

L:  In the dry wildernesses of our lives,
in the days of heat and thirst,
you offer us living water,
P:  Thank you, gracious and generous God.
L:  When we begin to doubt your presence,
and grumble that your love is unreliable,
you offer us living water,
P:  Thank you, gracious and generous God.
L:  When life’s regrets and the bad choices we have made
leave us feeling excluded and unworthy,
you offer us living water,
P:  Thank you, gracious and generous God.
L:  When circumstances, or the inhumanity of others,
have left us alone and wounded,
you offer us living water,
P:  Thank you, gracious and generous God.
L:  We thank you and praise you, O God,
that how ever we may thirst,
what ever we may need to satisfy our souls,
you offer it freely and abundantly in Christ;
P:  So we drink deep of the living water
and, as we draw from your wells,
we seek to pass the cup to others,
who, like us, are thirsty for your grace.

All:  Amen  (Copyright © John van de Laar, posted at Sacredise.com. Reposted on the re:Worship blog at https://re-worship.blogspot.com/2011/09/prayer-living-water.html.)

*OFFERING:    “Spirit of the Living God”    UMH#393
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me. (repeat)
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.
*OFFERING PRAYER (in unison):

Holy God of infinite patience and grace, we bring our offerings today knowing that our actions too often don’t live up to our intentions and aspirations. When calling ourselves Christians, we announce ourselves as followers of Christ, knowing how many times our choices have made us unrecognizable as his disciples. Yet you wait patiently for us to find our way back to the path. May our giving this day and our living reflect our desire to be on the path that would be recognized as faithful to the Savior, in whose blessed name we pray. Amen. (Matthew 21:23-32)

 WORD AND RESPONSE   (please remain seated):
[Reader:  Linda Martin]
       Exodus 17:1-7

1 From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 The people quarreled with Moses, and said, "Give us water to drink." Moses said to them, "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?"3 But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, "Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?"4 So Moses cried out to the LORD, "What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me."5 The LORD said to Moses, "Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink." Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.7 He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the LORD, saying, "Is the LORD among us or not?"

      Philippians  2:1-13

1 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2 make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.  5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death-- even death on a cross.9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. 

     Matthew 21:23-32 

When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”  24 Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you byu what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven or was it of human origin?”  25 And they argued with one another, “If we say, 'From heaven,' he will say to us. 'Why then did you not believe him?' 26 But if we way, 'Of human origin,' we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.  28 “What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' 29 He answered, 'I will not';, but later he changed his mind and went. 30 the father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, 'I go sir'; but he did not go.  31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of heaven before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not belive him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

HYMN:    “Trust and Obey”   UMH#467
When we walk with the Lord in the light of his word,
what a glory he sheds on our way!
While we do his good will, he abides with us still,
and with all who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
but our toil he doth richly repay;
not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
but is blest if we trust and obey. Refrain
But we never can prove the delights of his love
until all on the altar we lay;
for the favor he shows, for the joy he bestows,
are for them who will trust and obey. Refrain
  Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at his feet,
or we’ll walk by his side in the way;
what he says we will do, where he sends we will go;
never fear, only trust and obey. Refrain

THE MESSAGE:  "Massah and Meribah: Quarreling and Testing."

Moses was at his wit's end. These people whom he was leading to freedom, leading to a promised land, leading to what, to these people, would be the readmittance into Eden, were unable to see beyond their own immediate needs, wants and desires and trust that God would deliver the promise to them.
Moses, also unable to see past the quarreling and testing (mostly of his patience) calls upon God to deliver him from that Massah and Meribah.
If we have read that bit of bible story from the time we were small children, we all know how the story turns out: Charlton Heston, er, Moses strides forward behind God, raises the same staff that parted the Red Sea and drives it into the side of the cliff and out gushes water. Even if we haven't read that story since we were children, the Charlton Heston reference may trigger some memories of Hollywood's version of how this scene went.
I don't know if the Moses story is a factual recording of events in his day. I am told there is no reference in Egyptian history of Hebrew slaves, of Moses, nor of the loss of Egyptian soldiers in the Red Sea. There is in this story, however, an immense metaphor of the struggles and impatience of living we encounter in our everyday lives while walking toward the path of the promise of the kingdom.
Jesus is faced with a 'gotcha' question. His inquisitors are demanding to know who Jesus thinks he is. To the ordinary observer, there is no possible way for Jesus to answer the question without making a blasphemous claim. If he declares the miracles he has and is performing come from God, then he is claiming to have a superior relationship than that of the Chief Priests to God, or he would have to declare himself to have the powers of God. Neither of these claims would be acceptable to the Chief Priests.
Instead, Jesus turns it around and asks them to state where his authority comes from. In other words: “Who do you say that I am”? By answering their question with a question, they are now on the spot instead of Jesus. With all the people who had heard John the Baptist preach to them from the river present in the synagogue, they had to be careful with their response, very careful. Wisely, they choose not to answer the question, leaving Jesus the option of likewise not answering their question.
He then goes on to challenge them with a huge piece of metaphor with the story of the two sons. The man asks his eldest son to go out and do some work. The son says “nope, I'm not doing that.” but then after some time passes, goes out and does the work anyway. The second son, when asked to do the same thing, says “yes” but doesn't ever lift a finger to do the requested task he said he would do.
In the early eighties, I worked as an assistant manager at a McDonald's in Lowell, Mass. I was in charge of scheduling, hiring and training employees. I enjoyed my job, I enjoyed the people I hired, I enjoyed making the schedule fit the needs of my employees. I have stated in the past that I had been called into the ministry while in my teens but, like that first son, said no.
Funny how walking away from God to do your own thing always seems like an exercise in futility. There I was in a job that I thought was about me, but the whole time I was in that role I seemed to be looking out for the needs of others. One of the people who came to me for a job was a single mom. The thing that struck me most about her was that she was very upfront with me about her situation. She had been an addict and was in recovery. She had worked as a prostitute to support her addiction. She was trying to find an honest job where she could turn her life around. She had cleaned up well. I discussed her situation with the store manager and we decided to hire her.
For many months, she always showed up on time, always showed up clean. She asked me about my faith, asked me to take her to church with me. I made sure our schedules kept an evening open to  go to the church I had started attending a few months earlier, a church that seemed to be rethinking church as something that didn't just meet on Sunday mornings.
Then one night she showed up for work in wrinkled clothing, her hair a mess, high as a kite. She had returned to her old ways, we had to let her go. I always hoped that she would be able to turn herself around again. I lacked the tools then to help her with recovery that I have access to now. The mistake I had made was in thinking that I had the power to lead her to recovery not realizing that the power was never mine to offer.
Jesus lays out the picture very clearly for the Chief Priests. He pulls no punches explaining to them that, in truth, they have no authority and have never had any authority. In all their haughtiness in judging others, they have overlooked the simple authority that was given to the wildman in the wilderness, John, to offer salvation to the taxpayers and the prostitutes who came to him for cleansing.
And there lies the question. Are we leading a life that leads us to the same righteousness that is earned, sometimes late in life, that comes when an addict, tax collector or prostitute asks for that final forgiveness? I chatted with one of my classmates from high school recently, one that was raised in an evangelical church, one that had earned a good living as a musician in similarly evangelical large churches. He was a very accomplished musician, highly intelligent.
He was curious about my call, about my faith, about my preaching. He quoted scripture to me, I don't recall which one, that spoke to leading a life that led to a path of personal righteousness. I have no doubt that he is, indeed, following a path of personal righteousness. He appeared puzzled when my response was that I was simply trying to follow Jesus' commandment for us to love one another as He loved us.
There is a great rift in the Methodist church. I sometimes wonder how we can love each other while at the same time seeking to exclude the very people Jesus told the Chief Priests would be welcomed into heaven first? The writings of the Apostle Paul seem to take a circuitous path to the love that is the true teaching of Christ. Paul has listed a number of requirements in his many letters that, to him, is the only way we can achieve personal righteousness in God's eyes. He has instructed us as to what love is and what love isn't. He has instructed women how to dress, he has instructed men not to take the counsel of women, which is the reason why the Southern Baptist Conference, and I suspect many other denominations, does not allow women to preach. He has even suggested reasons for raising a hand to those who are not following the straight and narrow. He has instructed us who can come to church and who cannot. Unfortunately, his list includes those same people that Jesus told us and the Chief Priests would get to heaven before us.
I don't know if my friend quite knew what to make of my preaching. We didn't talk much after our initial conversation; not at all after the brief memorial service I offered for our fallen classmates and invocation. Though he looked my way a number of times, there was no more conversation.
I don't know if I am preaching what I feel I am being called to preach. I sometimes wonder if Jesus is up there shaking his head and nudging me to the right path.
This particular passage really calls us all on the carpet. While it has long been the tradition to ensure our children are being raised in the church, it sounds more to me that Jesus is asking us to be more inviting to those shunned by 'Christian' society.
I don't know what happened to that young woman who came to me for help those many years ago. I don't know if that brief exposure to Jesus helped. I don't know if she was one of those Jesus called and was told “no” then turned herself around at a much later date and accepted him as her 'higher power' that may have led her to recovery. I don't know.

The hard part for me is realizing that those of us who profess to be walking a path of righteousness may already be realizing our reward. I will soon be returning to breakfast on us, returning to doing what I can to minister to those most in need, return to helping to bring those who ask a path to repentance, a path to the promise.

The Great Thanksgiving

L: The Lord is with you.
P: And with you also.
L: Lift up your hearts.
P: We lift them up to the Lord.
L: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
P: It is right to give God our thanks and praise. . .
L: And so, with your people on earth and all the company of heaven, we praise your name and join their unending hymn:
P: Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and
earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest. . .
L: And so, in remembrance of these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ, we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving as a holy and living sacrifice, in union with Christ’s offering for us, as we proclaim the mystery of faith.
P: Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again. . .

 The Sharing of Bread and Cup

L:  We gathered to worship God who responds to our grumbling with grace-filled, sustaining love.  So now go from this time and place guided by our loving God who leads you to respond to the quarreling and questioning of the world with a living faith and abundant love.
All:  Amen.  (Written by Dr. Lisa Hancock, Discipleship Ministries, April 2023.)

  CONGREGATIONAL  RESPONSE:  “Bind Us Together”  TFWS#2226
Bind us together, Lord, bind us together with cords that cannot be broken;
 bind us together, Lord, bind us together, Lord, bind us together in love. 
There is only God, there is only one King; there is only one body, that is why we sing. 
Bind us together, Lord, bind us together with cords that cannot be broken;
bind us together, Lord, bind us together, Lord, bind us together in love.
We are led this morning by Pastor Michael Thorpe and Rev. Pat Thompson
If you need the services of a pastor, you may call Pastor Mike at 802-355-9574
Prayer is not a substitute for action;
it is an action for which there is no substitute."
Those who are struggling with cancer: Gary H., Amanda, Gary G., Steve S.,
Inez, Carrigan N., Bob F., Louise S. and daughter, Tony, Donna K., 
Mari-Jo M., Francis W.
Those suffering from dementia and their families
All those who are struggling to pay the high cost of food and fuel
All those anywhere who are struggling to find housing
Families of all of those who continue to lose their lives in mass shootings
People of the Ukraine who continue to struggle
Those who continue to struggle with drug addiction
    Continuing prayers for Robin G., who is still having difficulty with pressure
in her eyes and is waiting to hear about the possibility of surgery
For everyone who is experiencing the results of flooding and extreme heat
All those who have lost their homes in the recent flooding, including Arthur H.
Barb B's sister, Carol, who sustained substantial damage to her home
All those businesses and churches who received substantial damage
in the recent flooding, including Trinity UMC in Montpelier, Wesley UMC
in Waterbury, Elmore UMC, and McKenzie Mission House in Riverton
Lou, who has macular degeneration in one eye and is
continuing to struggle with the cellulitis in her leg
All those who regularly attend Breakfast on Us at the UCCM in Morrisville
who struggle with on-going issues in their lives
Those who are struggling with the results of the latest hurricanes in Florida
and those in Hawaii who continue to struggle following the wildfires
Elizabeth, whose good friend, Vivian, just passed from pancreatic cancer
Friends of Kathy who had a daughter who passed from a massive heart attack
Kathy’s friend, Therese, who is doing fairly well following a 12-hr surgery
and is now facing a period of radiation
Barb B’s brother David and wife Carol Ann whose first great-grandson
was born prematurely
Barb’s friend, Paulette H., who had a massive heart attack
Pat's nieces, Tausha and Lisa, who father finally passed this week
following a long battle with pancreatic cancer
Elizabeth “Toots” D., her daughter Donna Touchette, and all their family
whose son and brother passed unexpectedly and tragically this week
Prayers of Thanksgiving for Pastor Ellen’s husband, Malcolm,
who will be released from rehab on Sunday;
for Barb B., who is doing well enough to travel with her daughter to Colorado;
Sherry, who has finally recovered from a parasitic infection;
Pat and Vernon who are recovering well from covid
(It is our policy to keep and individual or a prayer concern on the list for
two weeks unless we recognize it as an ongoing concern. It may then be paired
with other similar concerns. If someone/some concern is removed that you
would like to have continued, please contact Rev. Pat at pajt8817@aol.com).

Wolcott United Methodist Church

(802) 851-2031