Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Kingdoms in Conflict

by Bill Tucker

Oh, to grace how great a debtor
daily I'm constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee:
prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here's my heart, O take and seal it;
                                                                         seal it for thy courts above.                                                                                                     ("Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing", Verse 3)

The kingdom of heaven is nothing like the kingdom of this world, Jesus constantly reminded us. In the kingdom of heaven people are paid for participation, not for length of service, the meek inherit the earth, and the lost take precedence over the "righteous ones who need no repentance." It is a parallel existence with few parallels on earth.

The kingdom of this world lives by a transactional law, the relentless standard that says what you give is what you get.  The kingdom of heaven lives by a transcendent motion, the unconditional love that expects us to forgive an offender "seven times seventy."  When we try to reduce the kingdom of heaven to rational terms, it slips through our fingers like fine sand. There is no common sense in transcendent love.

As someone who has known debt, I understand what it means to be constrained by a creditor.  In the world of transactions, it means that I am never free. I am always obligated to one who holds my debt in hand. Transactional society enslaves debtors without options until the debt is paid.

In contrast, the hymn quoted above refers to the fetter of "goodness," which is how God discharges our debt.  We are not bound by the debt of our misdoings. We are not even bound from the need "to wander."  We know our tendencies, so we pray for grace. "Here's my heart, O take and seal it." We use our weakness as a reminder of our need to remain close to God.

We should understand that the transactional world runs contrary to God's idea of grace, that we are swimming against the current, if we believe we are saved by grace.  The transactional world says you will always pay back, always get what you deserve. Grace says that the cycle of debt and re-payment has been broken by God's love.  Debt no longer rules our lives.

How does this work in the world of bank notes and invoices? We can't refer those debts to God. We have to pay them. The books are kept by the transactional priests of this world.

But the transcendent kingdom affects our regard for those who owe debt to us. "Debt" might mean any obligation: financial, legal, spiritual, emotional.  It is the symbol of our power over a fellow human being.  How do we collect this debt? Ruthlessly, equitably or generously?  How do we use our power over others in the kingdom of heaven?

If we do not struggle with the overlap of transactional and transcendent demands in this world, then we are not listening to the Spirit or the "better angels" (as Abraham Lincoln called them). Even if we can not escape our worldly debts, we are expected to forgive or loosen the debts owed us. Even if we make transactions of good deeds with the kingdom of heaven, we are compelled to listen to the transcendent voice that could ask for more from us. Even though we attend church, we may not compare favorably with our neighbor who coaches Little League on Sunday morning.

We are debtors to grace. We cannot pretend we have paid our way into the kingdom of heaven. We live in the transcendent world where debt persists, yet is constantly forgiven, where repentance carries more weight than faithful service, where God's love is unconditional and undeserved.  Everything in the transactional world recoils at this arrangement. It offends the world's sense of "the fair." It undermines our security, if security is based on a bank account of good deeds.

"Quid pro quo" is an arrangement that compels a compensating reaction in return for our action. It is the rule of the kingdom of this world, an inflexible demand. It corrupts the freedom and love of the kingdom of heaven, which operates unconditionally and which we call "Amazing Grace."

The wonder of Amazing Grace is that it has no "quid pro quo." It will not bind us, but it will secure us. We have freedom to wander, and we will. We wander into transactional relations and power struggles, which deny unconditional love, the love that will not let us go.  In our wanderings we experience again the love that cannot reject our soul, the love that "seals it for thy courts above."

We can wander, but we must not sell our souls to the world of transactions. Our souls belong to the kingdom of heaven. Best to keep it within hailing distance.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Mission Successes: Virtual and Real-Time!

 Back to School Supplies. . . and Socks/Underwear Donations  have been sorted, boxed and delivered!

This year’s collection benefits three of our mission partners:· Presbyterian Children’s Home and Services, Isaiah 58, Circle of Concern

Virtual ABC Sale

The tally of donations to the Virtual ABC Sale is not yet final. An update will be provided to the congregation in the November Messenger. Thanks to all for your ongoing support.

Lafayette Industries Going Strong!

It remains the leading full-time, long-term employer of adults with developmental disabilities in the State of Missouri. To date, they have remained open continuously during the pandemic with zero known COVID-19 cases! Support them by writing a check to St. Mark Presbyterian Church with “Lafayette Industries” on the memo line or online at https://www.lafayetteindustries.com

Last Blood Drive for 2020 at St. Mark

Sunday, October 25th, 8:30 AM-1:30PM in Gleason Hall. The Red Cross is still testing all donators’ blood for COVID-19 antibodies, providing insight into possible past disease exposure.

Schedule an appointment by going to: http://www.redcrossblood.org/Donate/Blood

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Worship Service September 27


September 27, 2020 

10:00 am 

Virtual Service 



Gracious God, we thank you for always being present with us. We know we are never alone. Your mercies are faithful and rich. Pour out your Spirit upon us, that we might do the work of your will. We pray this in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

PRELUDE           Blessed Assurance           Grichtetchkin 





Praise the Lord who is our provider.

The Lord is our hope. Our trust is in God.

God brought us out of bondage and makes us free.

The Lord is our hope. Our trust is in God.

Glorious are the deeds of our God, and mighty are God’s acts.

The Lord is our hope. Our trust is in God.

† HYMN           “All Creatures of Our God and King”           Hymnal #15




Almighty God, we have wandered the wilderness of sin. We complained in the face of your mercy. We were selfish and conceited in the face of your sacrifice. We do not do your will. Teach us humility. Teach us gratitude. Infuse your spirit into our beings so that we might be reconciled to you and to one another. We continue to pray in Jesus’ name. (Silent Confession)


† SHARING THE PEACE OF CHRIST The peace of Christ be with you. And also with you

SCRIPTURE Philippians 2:1-13 

SERMON “Breaking the Fourth Wall” Rev. Dr. Dave Burgess


AFFIRMATION OF FAITH – The Apostles’ Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen. 

 OFFERING SPECIAL MUSIC        For the Beauty Medley       The Masked Ringers: Joyce Blackwell, Nicole Lesh, Jean Stephenson, Jean Steward 



 † HYMN      “O for a World”      Hymnal #372 


† BENEDICTION RESPONSE “     You Shall Go Out with Joy”      Hymnal #80 

POSTLUDE      Postlude Maestoso      Lorenz 

†You are invited to stand, as you are able. 

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Scripture for September 27


Philippians 2:1-13

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature[a] God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

Do Everything Without Grumbling

12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

Read full chapter


  1. Philippians 2:6 Or in the form of
  2. Philippians 2:7 Or the form
Photo by Sonder Quest on Unsplash

Friday, September 25, 2020

Daily Prayer for September 25

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

Daily Readings for Friday, September 25, 2020

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.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

How Great Thou Art

by Judy Richardson 

September 15, 2020 

We are studying Hymns in Adult Sunday School. September 6 we studied “How Great Thou Art.” I

Carl Boberg

cannot remember the first time I heard this hymn but its notes strike chords in my heart every time I hear it sung. It never fails to bring tears to my eyes. It was very interesting to learn that this hymn has not been around forever. 

It all started in 1885, in Sweden when a Pastor named Carl Boberg walked home from an afternoon Church service. Nature was presenting her best face, but he had to seek cover from a quick storm accompanied by lightning and thunder. Later at home he was able to open his windows to sunshine and thus the first verse was born:

 O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the worlds thy hands have made. 

I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, thy power throughout the universe displayed. 

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee: How great thou art! How great thou art! 

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee: How great thou art! How great thou art! 

Pastor Dave added the description of the first verse as one of praise to God. This was originally written as a poem called “O Store Gud” (Oh Mighty God) but several years later Pastor Carl heard his poem being sung to the tune of an old Swedish folk song which it retains in modified form today. 

In 1907, Manfred von Glehn, a German Baptist minister heard the hymn sung by a Swedish community in Estonia. He was so impressed that he translated it into German and it was called, “Wie Gross Bist Du” (How Great You Are). It quickly gained popularity and traveled throughout Germanspeaking Europe. 

In 1912, it was translated into Russian by Ivan Prokhanov who was a leader and popular hymn writer among Russian Protestants. His version was called “Velikiy Bog” (Great God) and grew in popularity throughout Russia, including south to Ukraine. 

Stuart Wesley Keene Hine and his wife were missionaries who ministered to the Ukrainian people, arriving in 1930. They heard the Russian version of the Hymn and used it in their outreach services. This verse praises God’s creation, this earth, this gift of life. It was inspired by the beauty of the Carpathian Mountains. 

When through the woods and forest glades I wander and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees, 

When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur and hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze 

Then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee: How great thou art! How great thou art! 

Then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee: How great thou art! How great thou art!

 One evening, the Hines visited a small village. They inquired about Christians living there and were given directions to a home. When they arrived there were loud voices coming from within. They heard a group of people just learning about Christ who were actively repenting their sinful lives. They were eagerly expressing their new found faith and joy in Christ’s promise of love and mercy. Not wanting to disturb, they did not enter, but Hine was inspired to write the third verse: 

And when I think that God his Son not sparing, sent him to die, I scarce can take it in, 

That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing, he bled and died to take away my sin. 

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee: How great thou art! How great thou art!

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee: How great thou art! How great thou art! 

Pastor Dave reminded us that this is the verse that is most often left out, but it is so important because the Cross is at the heart of our beliefs. Just thinking of God delivering his son to bear our sins and die on the Cross for us is such an awesome gift of grace and mercy. 

In the early 1930’s, the Hine’s were forced to leave the Ukraine as Stalin came to power and in 1939 they had to leave Europe altogether as Hitler came to power. 

When WWII came, the Hines ministered to the inmates of a camp of displaced Russians in Sussex County, England. Sussex County is Southwest of the Cliffs of Dover and also has white cliffs along the English Channel. 

The fourth verse was inspired there, by a man who told a story of being separated from his wife at the end of the war. When they were separated, his wife was a Christian, but he was not. He had found Christ after the separation and had no hope of ever seeing her alive. He wanted to share their faith together but knew it could not happen. Instead he was longing for the day they would meet in heaven and share eternal life together. This inspired Hines to write the fourth verse: 

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart! 

Then I shall bow in humble adoration and there proclaim, “My God, how great thou art!” 

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee: How great thou art! How great thou art! 

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee: How great thou art! How great thou art!

 I looked up the word “acclamation.” It means “loud and enthusiastic approval, typically to welcome or honor someone or something.” You can’t beat that! 

It was not until 1949, the year of my birth, that this hymn was translated into English. I somehow had thought that this hymn had been around forever. George Beverly Shea popularized this hymn during the Billy Graham crusades and Elvis Presley recorded it in 1966, which also added to its popularity. I have been checking out YouTube for different renditions and have heard many singers leaving out verses. Most often, they have included just the first and last verses. 

When I finished learning about this Hymn, I realized that it has taken a long trip to reach its perfection. I can still hear my mother’s beautiful Contralto voice singing this hymn. It is a favorite memory of mine. What a glorious way to celebrate our God and the many gifts that he has given to all of us. Praise God!

Monday, September 21, 2020

No Contact Food Drive September 27


Support Circle of Concern and Isaiah 58 -- September 27 from 1-3PM -- Donation Collection

On Sunday, September 27th, from 1-3PM, St. Mark will host a no contact drive through donation collection. Items received will be split between Circle of Concern and Isaiah 58 based on agency need/priorities.
· FOOD: canned vegetables, peanut butter, chicken noodle soup, oatmeal, rice
· NON-FOOD: toilet paper, laundry detergent, bar soap, shampoo, lotion
Isaiah 58 and Circle of concern are most grateful for St. Mark’s past and current support through gifts of time, talent, and treasures.
Any questions, contact Joyce Blackwell, St. Mark Mission Committee Co-Chair.

Circle of Concern

112 St. Louis Avenue
Valley Park, MO 63088

Phone: (636) 861-2623


Isaiah 58 Ministries

2149 S. Grand Blvd.

Saint Louis, MO 63104

Phone: 314-776-1410