Sunday, March 31, 2019

Worship Prayers March 24


God of light and God of night, creator of seed and mountain, raindrop and fountain, we bring our offering of praise. God of right and God of might, lover of child and childless, rich and homeless, we bring our offering of praise.


Everyone who thirsts:
Come to the waters, seek the Lord, repent and return so that you may live.

All who are hungry for righteousness:
Come to the waters, seek the Lord, repent and return so that you may live.

All who need the help of God:
Come to the waters, seek the Lord, repent and return so that you may live.


Holy God, we confess we have grown complacent in our response to you. You set before us a rich feast of blessing, but we are drawn to lesser things that can never satisfy. You call us to attend to urgent needs in the world, but we indulge our own desires. Our ways are not your ways; our thoughts do not ascend to your thoughts. Forgive us when we fall short of your claim upon our lives. Disturb our complacency and quicken our desire for a more fruitful life. Be patient, we pray, as we amend who we are, in the hope of becoming who you intend us to be. We ask this in the name of our Savior, your Son, Jesus Christ. (Silent Confession)

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH – The Apostles’ Creed

For the sermon, click here.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Scripture for March 31

Luke 15:1-3 New International Version (NIV)

15 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus.But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Then Jesus told them this parable:

Luke 15:11-32 New International Version (NIV)

The Parable of the Lost Son

11 “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his propertybetween them.
13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
James Tissot – The Return of the Prodigal Son (Le retour de l'enfant prodigue) – Brooklyn Museum

Friday, March 29, 2019

Daily Prayer March 29

If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

New every morning is your love, great God of light, and all day long you are working for good in the world. Stir up in us the desire to serve you, to live peacefully with our neighbors, and to devote each day to your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord. God of all times and places, in Jesus Christ, lifted up on the cross, you opened for us the path to eternal life. Grant that we, being born again of water and the Spirit, may joyfully serve you in newness of life and faithfully walk in your holy ways. God of all joy, fill our souls to overflowing with the fullness of your grace. Lord, remind us of your triumph over the tragedy of the cross, and your victory for us over the powers of sin and death, so that we may reflect your glory as disciples of Jesus Christ, our risen Lord. (Add your prayers.) Amen.

With God's help and love may your lives be blessed and your labors fruitful as you offer yourselves gladly in the service of our common Lord.

(Opening sentences, prayers, and blessings are from the Book of Common Worship. Readings are from the daily lectionary in Daily Prayer. Both are published by Westminster/John Knox Press.)

Thursday, March 28, 2019

There is a Strength

There is a poem about prayer by Helen Lowrie Marshall.   In it, she refers to the strength, peace and joy that comes through prayer.  Prayer gives you power.  When you take things to the Lord regularly, you are renewed and empowered.  You have the confidence and faith to tackle any problem knowing you have the power of the Lord behind you.   Prayer dresses you in the armor of the Lord to do His battle.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Prayer also brings you peace.  With the Lord steering the ship, there is not as much to worry about.  The seas of life are calm and your life is put in a better order.  It is easier to see the horizon and to face the future when you are calm about the present.  Having the peace of Christ allows you to know the future will be good and right, even though there may be problems you are addressing today.

Finally, giving your thoughts to God gives you a great sense of joy.  You are lifted above and beyond the roubles of the world.  God doesn't answer every prayer, but He listens to all of them.  Knowing that He is listening brings one profound joy.  You are never alone.  No matter what the situation, there is someone to talk to and share your problems with.  This peace and joy helps to provide the strength that is gained from prayer.

In our busy world we don't always have time to take moment to pray.  We get in bed at night too tired to thank God for our day.  We eat dinner in shifts because of our busy schedules and don't take time to say grace.  It only takes a moment, but we seem even too busy for that.  We can gain so much by prayer.  It's so simple, so why can't we find time to do it?  Try and make this Lent a time for more prayer in your life and in your family.  Take the time.  You'll see with prayer that you have strength, peace and joy and a refreshed, renewed, body made whole.  God bless you.

Dear God, 
We pray to You today.  We pray because we know You listen.  You listen and give us strength, peace and joy.  Help us to slow down and talk with You at every turn of our day. Amen.

Luke 23: 1-25

Reprinted from St. Mark Presbyterian's 1998 Lenten Devotional with permission of the author, Kathy Klos

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Ragamuffin Gospel Week 2

Click here for a video of the on-line discussion from last week.  Remember Week 3 will be discussed on-line at noon or at church at 6 PM in room 102.

Prayer from p. 234 The Ragamuffin Gospel:

O God, I seek you, but my heart is fickle.
I believe: please help my unbelief.  When all I can do
is want to want you, take my crumb of faith and break it
like bread to feed thousands, beginning, by Your mercy, 
with me.  You reject no desperate, sinful, seeking, child.
You say only and always, Come! I come to You, God.
Pour out Your Sprit on me.
Speak Your words of life to this child.
I pray in Jesus' name, amen.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Lost or Found

Luke 15:31-32 New International Version (NIV)

31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

In 1988, Dave and I took our daughters on a trip to Scotland.  While there, we visited St. Giles Cathedral where I bought crosses for my daughters, my mother and me.  I thought it would be very symbolic that the five of us had identical crosses from St. Giles Cathedral because Scotland is our ancestral home.  And St. Giles is like the mother church for Presbyterians.

I treasured that necklace but worried that I might lose it some day, so I took it to a jeweler to have him solder the sliding loop which attached the cross to the chain.  While walking across the parking lot with the necklace in the little brown envelope, the cross slipped out.  I didn't notice it was missing from the envelope for several days.  When I went back to the jeweler and the parking lot, it wasn't there.

I have mourned the loss of that symbolic tie that bound me, my mother and my daughters to our ancestral home until I taught a class last fall on crosses.  We were to bring in a cross that meant a lot to us.  Again I thought back to my missing cross.  In the class, Debbie related a similar story of a cross that had been her mother's that she had lost.  I started thinking about the missing crosses and the hymn Amazing Grace kept going through my head.  "I once was lost but now am found"  The flip side of losing something so precious, is someone else may have found it.  And, it may have come to them at a low point in their lives.  Hopefully the warm feelings and love that were attached to that cross were passed on to them.  Now, I am at peace and don't think of it as being lost, but rather found.

Jaclyn Morgan

Monday, March 25, 2019

Marion Medical Mission

Unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation kills more people annually than all forms of violence, including war. In the world, 663 million people do not have access to clean water. About half of the world’s population who lack clean water live in Africa.

Marion Medical Mission has played an active role in the fight against dirty water. Since 1990, they have built over 31,000 wells in Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia providing over four million people with a sustainable source of safe drinking water. Without Christ, that would not have been impossible! With Him, all is possible. And by His power, we believe that countless millions of others will receive life-giving water.

It's not too late to give up coffee, soda, wine for Lent.  By drinking just water during Lent, you can help in two ways.  First, you can appreciate having clean water to drink anytime you want.  But also the money you save by drinking water can be donated to Marion Medical Mission so others can share in the luxury of clean water.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Worship Prayers for March 17


God of Love, God of Peace, this fractured word cries out in pain, burns deep into my soul, and challenges me to make a difference.
God of Love, God of Peace, God of this world, scarred by grief and tears ignorance and  fear, soften hearts of stone and begin with mine.
God of Love, God of Peace, create within me a heart for people, a desire for change, for new beginnings to start this day.


The LORD is my light and salvation; whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
One thing I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the Lord all my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple.
Come! Let us worship our saving LORD together.


Merciful God, you made us citizens of heaven, but we confess we have set our minds on earthly things. We let our desire for security restrain our commitment to serve the poor. We let our fear of danger curb our obligation to love our enemies. We let our love of things dull our generosity to the needy. We let our craving for public status prevent our honesty about hidden sins. Yet, you know the desires of our heart and nothing is hidden from you. By the power of the Holy Spirit, conform our sin-weakened bodies to the glory of Christ, that we may be the body of Christ for the world. (Silent Confession)

For the sermon,"Catching Stones", Click Here.

*J. Birch,

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Scripture for March 24

Luke 13:1-9 New International Version (NIV)

Repent or Perish
Photo by Kawin Harasai on Unsplash

13 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’
“‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Daily Prayer March 22

Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.

Jesus, Good Shepherd of the sheep, by whom the lost are sought and guided into the fold: Feed us and we shall be satisfied, heal us and we shall be whole, and lead us that we may be with you, with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Almighty God, by grace alone you call us and accept us in your service. Strengthen us by your Spirit, and make us worthy of your call. Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation. In the beginning you separated light from darkness and placed all your works in our hands. You have given us the light of day that we might see your wonders in all we say and do; you give us the gentle darkness of the night that we might rest from our burdens and be refreshed in body and spirit. Break through the darkness of our sins with the splendor of your mercy and love. Send your light to dispel our fears and anxieties and fill us with hope and joy. Glory, praise, and honor are yours, O God. (Add your prayers.) Amen.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

(Opening sentences, prayers, and blessings are from the Book of Common Worship. Readings are from the daily lectionary in Daily Prayer. Both are published by Westminster/John Knox Press.)

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Presbyterian Women's Retreat 2019

Deuteronomy 14:2 New International Version (NIV)

for you are a people holy to the Lord your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the Lord has chosen you to be his treasured possession.
Twenty-eight women gathered at Toddhall in Columbia, IL, for the 22nd Annual St. Mark Women’s retreat on March 8-9, 2019.  This year’s theme was Treasured—You are a Gem
Our Bible study led by Marie Holt, Stacey Caplinger, Christy Brewer, and Laurie Dolson focused on how from coal to diamonds, we are continually being transformed in Christ and reflecting his glory and light into the world.  In Deuteronomy 14:2 it is written, “For you are holy to the Lord your God; it is you the Lord has chosen to be his treasured possession.”  The women committed to keeping their lights shining in word, deed and song.  Right on cue, the sun even came out after the gloomy rain!

The women enjoyed fellowship time as they put together informational packets about Newborns in Need, PW’s newest mission project.  Thanks to Shirley Boeker and Louise Grothe for organizing this activity.  Packets will be distributed to the congregation as a collection of needed items begins in April.  In a “show and tell” session we shared gems and treasures from our lives with one another.  The jewel theme carried on in a most enjoyable retreat game night.  The real sparkle at the retreat came from the creation of necklaces following the direction of Lynn Laux, our own jeweler-in-residence.  

Before leaving retreat, the women again gathered in prayers of thanksgiving, reflection on how God’s love shines through us and a community meal. 

The retreat was a product of love, dedication, time and talents.  Thanks to everyone who helped make this truly a treasured time.  Mark your calendars now for the 2020 retreat February 28-29!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Reflections on Ragamuffin Gospel

Grace Again?

Why do we keep coming back to the message: God loves us, though we do not deserve it,  the essential meaning of grace? We enter the kingdom of God by this door, but keep going out and coming in again. It is like a recurrent dream that we can not escape. We are only asked to believe it, as if we didn't believe it the first time, as if believing needs to be practiced, because it is so easily unlearned.

If you think believing once in your life  is complete redemption, just listen to the bitter voice of a KKK clansman or the rage of  a sniper, his faith broken by PTSD. Grace may be offered to all, but all do not accept it.

Even when we accept the message of grace, we easily give it away. It is no less than human nature to believe that "Discipleship will be an untarnished success story; life will be an unbroken spiral toward holiness," as Brennan Manning says (30). The church itself has devised an upward spiral toward holiness: baptism, confirmation, wedding, funeral. How many  people stand before Godonly on these occasions? Only then to remind themselves of the grace of God, because they do not want to be reminded of it every day. The church is complicit in this myth that we are always on the upward way because we entered the right door once.

We can hardly blame the church for our hard hearing, our stony hearts. We do not want to live our lives at the mercy of God by our very nature. We have a merit badge mentality, that we gain God's favor only by the faithfulness of the Elder Brother, not the fickleness of the Prodigal Son.  If we are members of a church, we inevitably want to consider our faithfulness as a secure investment in a heavenly enterprise. How often are church people offended if they are passed over for a position, if they are not publicly recognized for their service, or if a newcomer gets most of the attention.  We are always checking our status in the kingdom of God, because we assume we have earned it. 

Jesus is  hard on the Pharisees, the most religious people in the Gospels, because, like church members today, they easily succumb to self-righteousness. What does this mean--"self-righteousness"? Merriam-Webster says: "convinced of one's own righteousness especially in contrast with the actions and beliefs of others narrow-mindedly moralistic."  Look how the definition becomes more offensive with each clarification:
  1.  Convinced of righteousness
  2. In contrast with  . . . others
  3. Narrow-mindedly moralistic
Self-righteousness is a degenerative condition. First we are convinced of being right, then we feel superior to others, and then we develop a code that proves how right we are.  None of this is conscious or intentional.  We develop a shell and feel its protection against need, against vulnerability.

The shell of self-righteousness is what Jesus has to knock against to get through to us. We are saved, but have become water-resistant to the streams of mercy. We are among God's hard cases, because we believe we are righteous.
So insidious this shell,  it can secrete from merely writing or speaking about self-righteousness (as I am doing now). Writers and speakers have the severe obligation to live what they communicate or the shell of self-righteousness encases them. Preachers and teachers have to be the first audience for their language or it loses its power and freshness. It is hard to preach vulnerably, much easier to write or speak from a pedestal, claiming superiority. It happens by losing the touch of grace, hiding under the shell of self-righteousness, which Jesus has to bang against to get our attention.

"Prone to wander, Lord I feel it."  To experience grace again and again is to be eternally vulnerable and open to God's mercy. Not a place we will easily gravitate to, a place we are more likely to run from, a dangerous place.  So we are called back to grace again and again. We are reminded again and again that we have earned nothing in the Kingdom of God. We are saved by grace day by day.  Every day a child, seeing the newness of life and the joy of forgiveness.

Bill Tucker

Discussions of the book will continue at noon on Facebook Live or at 6 PM in room 102.
Click here for last week's discussion.