Invitation and Opening
Who writes letters anymore? In this age of emails, instant
messages, and twitter, we have grown out of touch with any written
communication that is more than 100 characters, the ideal length
of a tweet. Some of us stop reading or listening after a few
sentences. The art of writing and reading letters seems to be
A good portion of the New Testament, however, is made up of
“epistles” – letters written by an apostle to a church or an
individual. The early followers of Jesus didn’t just pass these
epistles around to be read in private. No, these letters were read
together with other believers, the act of listening as a community
being a form of worship. In the spirit of our denomination’s
upcoming Annual Conference, we are this morning letting the whole
letter of Paul to the Philippians guide our worship.
Last summer, the moderator of our annual meeting challenged us to
lift up Philippians this year, as we seek to “live as courageous
disciples.” And so, as we worship our Lord today - ten days before
Brethren gather in Columbus, Ohio - let us stretch our gift-given
ability to listen, and hear the whole letter, divided up into
smaller portions to spiritually digest together... Join me in the
following prayer, written by one of our Brethren forebearers,
Alexander Mack jr.
Jesus Christ, God's only Son,
praise and honor be to thee!
Thou the great enthroned
around whom throngs of angels be.
lift up joyful praise and prayer.
Lift, O Lord, thy gracious face,
give us of thy holy peace.
May the light of thy sweet
in our midst, Lord, never cease.
lambs, we humbly pray,
in and out, day after day.
Bless, O Lord, this church of thine,
which thou with thy blood didst buy.
Fill us with thy
'twas for us that thou didst die.
hast chosen us to be
consecrated, Lord, to thee. Amen
copyright © 1951 Church of the
Brethren General Board
Responding with our Confession
Prince of peace,
from peace that is no peace,
from the grip of all that is evil,
from a violent righteousness…
paralysis of will,
from lies and misnaming,
from terror of truth…
hardness of heart,
from trading in slaughter,
from the worship of death…
the folly of your gospel,
by your choosing our flesh,
by your nakedness and pain…
your weeping over the city,
by your refusal of the sword,
by your facing of horror…
your bursting from the tomb,
by your coming in judgment,
by your longing for peace …
us peace. AMEN
Hymnal #697 - Peace
litany, 20th c., source unknown
Returning our tithes and offerings
Letters come in many forms. Some are written down on paper. Others
are made of flesh and blood. As we have just heard in this
epistle, Paul planned to send Timothy and Epaphroditus as living
letters to the folks in Philippi. It is one thing to read the
message. It’s another thing to actually touch it in a living,
breathing human being. You are also a living letter, sent by God
to those around you in your neighborhood. As you return your
offering just now, think about how you might be “a
breath of fresh air” in your community this week, how you
might “provide people with
a glimpse of good living and of the living God.”
While you are doing that, I’d like to invite any children who are
here this morning to come up front for a chat, just and me…
Talk with them (with the microphone off) about how nice it
is to get a tangible letter. Some of them will be at camp
this summer, and will be getting mail there from family,
friends, and church folks. Lay out a challenge to them,
something they can do if/when they get bored during this
worship service. “Write a letter to your end-of-summer
self. Now that school is out, put in it some of your
dreams for this vacation time, maybe some things you hope
to accomplish in the next few months. But also give
yourself a pep-talk for going back to school in the fall.
Write a good letter, and give it to me later this morning.
I’ll make sure it gets mailed back to you at the end of
the summer. Wouldn’t that be interesting to receive a
letter from yourself? Here is some paper, an envelope, and
pencils. Okay? Return to your seats.”
written closer to the time (if not at the