Online Service: April 5, 2020 • Palm Sunday

Oconee Street UMC Online Service
Palm Sunday • April 5, 2020

Welcome:

Pastor Elaine Puckett

Prelude:

Maxine Easom

Scripture — Luke 19:28-40:

Joe Dennis

Response:

Beth Gavrilles

Opening Hymn:

Park Central Presbyterian Church

Opening Prayer:

Beth Gavrilles

Anthem:

First Plymouth Choir, Lincoln Nebraska

Prayer for Illumination:

Pastor Elaine Puckett

Proclamation of the Passion Story (with hymns):

Pastor Elaine Puckett and The Rev. Richard Puckett

Closing Hymn:

Benediction:

Pastor Elaine Puckett
Westminster Choir of Westminster Choir College

Please consider making an online offering by clicking here.

Service: March 29, 2020

March 29, 2020 • Fifth Sunday of Lent

Godly Play

Alys Wilman

Welcome

Pastor Elaine Puckett

Invocation

The Calkin Family

The journey to Good Friday is fraught with danger; 
The road to Jerusalem is difficult indeed. 
Be among us, as we enter this story together 
Help us to faithfully follow the rugged path that takes us home.

Opening Hymn: “How Firm a Foundation”

Psalter: Psalm 130

The Calkin Family

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD.
Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!
If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered.
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;
My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.
It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 43: 16-21

Pastor Elaine Puckett

Sermon

Pastor Elaine Puckett

Anthem: “Come Away to the Skies”

Houston Chamber Choir

Come away to the skies, 
my beloved, arise
and rejoice in the day thou wast born.
On this festival day,
come exulting away,
and with singing to Zion return.
We have laid up our love and our treasure above,
Though our bodies continue below.
The redeemed of the Lord will remember His Word,
And with singing to paradise go.

Hallelujah we sing,
to the heaven’s high King,
and his rapturous praises repeat:
to the Lamb that was slain,
hallelujah again,
sing, all heaven, and fall at his feet. 

Prayer:

Pastor Elaine Puckett

Hymn: “Standing on the Promises”

Standing on the promises of Christ my king,
through eternal ages let his praises ring;
glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
standing on the promises of God.

Refrain:
Standing, standing, 
standing on the promises of God my Savior;
standing, standing,
I’m standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
when the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
by the living Word of God I shall prevail,
standing on the promises of God. [Refrain]

Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord,
bound to him eternally by love’s strong cord,
overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword,
standing on the promises of God. [Refrain]

Standing on the promises I cannot fall,
listening every moment to the Spirit’s call,
resting in my Savior as my all in all,
standing on the promises of God. [Refrain]

Please consider making an online offering by clicking here.

Service: March 22, 2020

March 22, 2020 • Fourth Sunday of Lent

Godly Play:

Welcome:

Pastor Elaine Puckett

Invocation:

Read by Joe Dennis

The journey to Good Friday is fraught with danger;
The road to Jerusalem is difficult indeed. 
Be among us, as we enter this story together
Help us to faithfully follow the rugged path that takes us home.

Opening Hymn: “Rejoice, Ye Pure in Heart”

Psalter: Psalm 32

Read by Joe Dennis

1 Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
2 Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. 
3 When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.
5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”– and you forgave the guilt of my sin.
6 Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found; surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him.
7 You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.
8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you and watch over you.
9 Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.
10 Many are the woes of the wicked, but the LORD’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him. 
11 Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous;
Sing, all you who are upright in heart!

Presentation of the Gospel: Luke 15: 1-3; 11b-32

Sermon: “Dangerously Angry”

Pastor Elaine Puckett

Anthem: “Jesus, Friend of Sinners”

The Lord’s Prayer:

Our Father, who art in heaven,
    hallowed be thy Name,
    thy kingdom come,
    thy will be done,
        on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
    as we forgive those
        who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
    and the power, and the glory,
    for ever and ever. Amen.

Closing Hymn: “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”

Performed by The Choral Arts Society of Washington Chamber Singers

Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of heav’n to earth come down:
fix in us thy humble dwelling,
all thy faithful mercies crown:
Jesus, thou art all compassion,
pure, unbounded love thou art;
visit us with thy salvation,
enter ev’ry trembling heart.

Breathe, O breathe thy loving Spirit
into ev’ry troubled breast;
let us all in thee inherit,
let us find the promised rest:
take away the love of sinning;
Alpha and Omega be;
End of faith, as its Beginning,
set our hearts at liberty.

Come, Almighty to deliver,
let us all thy life receive;
suddenly return, and never,
nevermore thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
serve thee as thy hosts above,
pray and praise thee without ceasing,
glory in thy perfect love.

Finish, then, thy new creation;
pure and spotless let us be:
let us see thy great salvation
perfectly restored in thee;
changed from glory into glory,
’til in heav’n we take our place,
’til we cast our crowns before thee,
lost in wonder, love, and praise.

Benediction / Homework:

Pastor Elaine Puckett

Please consider making an online offering by clicking here.

Service: March 15, 2020

March 15, 2020 • Third Sunday of Lent

Invocation:
The journey to Good Friday is fraught with danger;
The road to Jerusalem is difficult indeed.
Be among us, as we enter this story together
Help us to faithfully follow the rugged path that takes us home.

Opening Hymn: Come Ye Sinners Poor and Needy

Performed by Fernando Ortego featuring Amy Grant

Psalter: Psalm 68: 1-8

May God arise, may his enemies be scattered;
    may his foes flee before him.
May you blow them away like smoke—
    as wax melts before the fire,
    may the wicked perish before God.
But may the righteous be glad
    and rejoice before God;
    may they be happy and joyful.

Sing to God, sing in praise of his name,
    extol him who rides on the clouds[b];
    rejoice before him—his name is the Lord.
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
    is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families,[c]
    he leads out the prisoners with singing;
    but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

When you, God, went out before your people,
    when you marched through the wilderness,[d]
the earth shook, the heavens poured down rain,
    before God, the One of Sinai,
    before God, the God of Israel.

Presentation of the Gospel: Luke 13: 1-9

Presentation of the Gospel: Luke 13: 1-9

Sermon: “Dangerous Decision”

The Rev. Elaine Puckett

Choral Response: “Just as I Am”

Performed by Alan Jackson

Just as I am without one plea,
But that thy blood was shed for me,
And that thou bidst me come to thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, and waiting not
to rid my soul of one dark blot.
To thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,

O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, though tossed about
With many conflicts, many doubts,
Fighting fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am, poor wretched, blind,
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea all I need in thee I find,
O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come!

The Lord’s Prayer:

Our Father, who art in heaven,
    hallowed be thy Name,
    thy kingdom come,
    thy will be done,
        on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
    as we forgive those
        who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
    and the power, and the glory,
    for ever and ever. Amen.

Closing Hymn: “They’ll Know We are Christians by Our Love”

Performed by Carolyn Arends

Benediction (and homework):

Pastor Elaine Puckett

Please consider making an online offering by clicking here.

Sermon: Dangerously Tempting

When Jesus was tempted by the devil, he could’ve easily given into the temptation. After fasting for 40 days, Jesus was famished. The devil offered him everything, from food to power to glory, and even used words from the Bible to reinforce his point. In the end, Jesus did not give into the temptation.

We are tempted by “the devil” many times in our life. Our belief in the literal interpretation of “the devil” does not matter. We are all faced with key decisions in which we can ignore God’s call for us and focus on the tempting forces of selfishness, greed and power. Are we going to give into the temptation? Or are we going to walk the path of Jesus and make decisions based on what is good for all God’s people?

Sermon: “Dangerously Tempting” by The Rev. Elaine Puckett

“Dangerously Tempting”
Sermon by The Rev. Elaine Puckett
Luke 4:1-13
March 1, 2020 • First Sunday of Lent

Lenten Devotional: Saturday, April 20

By Dee Cole Vodicka

John and I thank God that we were led through the doors of Oconee Stree United Methodist Church! We have been so blessed by your warm and gracious welcome. You are so welcoming, in fact, that you allow a non-member to offer a Lenten reflection. Here goes!

In this season of Lent, I’m taking time to read and reflect on “An American Lent,” from the Repentance Project.  “The Repentance Project exists to encourage racial healing by communicating the systemic legacies of slavery, building relationships, and creating opportunities – through formation, repentance and repair – for a just future.” https://repentanceproject.org/

Each day, I’m challenged to read and reflect on the legacy of enslavement in the United States, and to repent on how this evil practice lives on in systems and structures that benefit me every day. I encourage you to sign up for their daily Lenten readings.

Then I started to think about other systems and structures that call out for justice, particularly the struggle to lift up and affirm the full personhood of my LGBTQ siblings. And, I’m thinking about my place in this struggle, and how to respond as a straight woman. It occurred to me that I might learn something by applying lessons from the civil rights movement for racial equality to the civil rights movement for LGBTQ equality, and that these lessons might also inform us at Oconee Street UMC as we consider “The Way Forward.”

I recently re-read “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” written by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in April 1963. In it, he lays out a case for clergy, and all people of faith, to apply Jesus’ teachings to a movement demandingrecognition of the full personhood of African Americans. Please read these excerpts (and read the entire letter, when you have time), and then reflect on whether you see an application to other movements for civil rights.

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states…. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

……

Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

……

So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are.

……

And, speaking of people of faith who stood up and spoke out: Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment. I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour.

Please pray with me in a prayer adapted from this week’s Repentance Project meditations:

God our creator and redeemer, you are holy and just. You love honesty and fairness. You embedded your image in all people.  I don’t know what to do with my failure to recognize this and my failure to act justly with all people – especially people who don’t look like me, or who identify differently from me, except to ask for your mercy and for the courage to be stretched to meet the challenges before me. May your will be done; your ways established; and your honesty, generosity, and freedom openly exchanged among your children —here in our town, in our state, and in our nation. Have mercy on me. Have mercy on us.

Sermon: Discerning the Body

Paul tells the Corinthians that if they are confident in their spirituality, it is OK to go ahead and eat with nonbelievers. It would be better to share in a meal rather than shun another person. Paul consistently tells the Corinthians it is more important to think of others, rather than think of what others may think of them. And we should treat others with dignity and respect out of love for them, and not so we will be recognized as good people.

As we discern our next steps as a church in regards to how we welcome and show love towards our LGBTQ friends and family, we should remember this advice from Paul. We need to reach out to those who need us, but ensure that we are serving them out of a place of love rather than self-righteousness.

Sermon: Discerning the Body

“Discerning the Body”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
1 Corinthians 10:23-33
March 31, 2019 • Fourth Sunday of Lent

Sermon: Running to Win

“The needs of the world are so great, that the only way to serve and love in the pattern of Jesus is that we require ourselves the same discipline that Jesus had … Before we rush to ensure that we are saving our own time, maybe we should pause for a moment and let God waste it for the sake of the Gospel.”

Sermon: Running to Win

“Running to Win”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
1 Corinthians 9: 19-27
March 24, 2019 • Third Sunday of Lent

Lenten Devotional: Saturday, March 31

by Carla Dennis

Matthew 6:5: And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat? Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be temped to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense God’s grace.

First of all, let me apologize. If you have ever received one of my voicemail messages, they are absolutely the worst and I know it! Imagine the most rambling piece of audible nonsense you’ve ever had the (un)pleasure of hearing. Yep, that’s my voicemails. Unfortunately, this awkward communication style has spilled into other aspects of my life – storytelling, joke telling, and especially saying prayers aloud.

I think excellent prayers. When I pray in my head, I feel so connected to God. The prayers just flow from my heart and it’s not unusual I’m brought to tears. Everything just seems so organic and authentic. But when I need to pray out loud, my brain takes over control from my heart. I overthink words and phrasing. I babble and sometimes even smile mid-prayer at my inadequacy of voicing my petitions. I often wonder, have I yet to fully develop that part of my brain that can appropriately put my feelings into words? It’s not that I’m worried about how my prayers are being judged by others or whether I said the “right” words, it’s more that I can’t seem to honor the feelings I have in my heart with the words that come out of my mouth.

This Lenten season has brought listening to God as a focus for Oconee Street, and frequently that’s accomplished through meditation and prayer. So what’s wrong with praying internally?  Absolutely nothing … as long as you’re not doing it because you’re embarrassed to be heard praying!

One of the strategies I’ve employed to help my external prayers be more meaningful is to write down what I want to pray about before I actually pray. The act of taking pen to paper allows my feelings to flow, and in fact, often generates additional reflections. Writing down simple concepts lets me look at the word and stirs up emotions and other thoughts. This concept works really well when praying out loud with kids as they, like us, are also uncertain about how to express their thoughts and feelings through prayer. Creating a prayer list helps prepare me to pray, but it also helps me hold myself accountable to truly pray for those who have asked for prayers in the last week.

Prayer is at the core of a relationship with Jesus, and as with any good relationship, regular communication is imperative in order to maintain it and grow from it. Therefore, if we want our kids to have a relationship with Jesus, we must look for opportunities to help them get comfortable with prayer aside from what they see and hear on Sundays. Whether it’s at mealtime, bedtime or anytime you see an emergency vehicle drive by, praying as a family is important.

This Lent, our family kept a routine of writing prayers using a Western Wall made of Legos. For those of you unfamiliar with the Western Wall, the Wall is a Jewish holy site in the Old City of Jerusalem. Each year, millions of people from all faiths and all countries journey to the wall to leave their prayers and petitions in the cracks and crevices of its massive limestone blocks. These written prayers are tucked in wherever space allows and represents voices of gratitude, adoration and desperation. The belief is that God’s divine presence filled the Temple built in the surrounding space many years ago and still rests upon the Western Wall. Once a year a local rabbi collects the notes and buries them in the nearby Mount of Olives.

Now while our Lego wall lacks the historic and divine presence of the Western Wall, it does provide a visual reminder that anytime can be prayer time. Life is so busy between work, school church and baseball that so much of our time is occupied. Rather than give something up for Lent, this is a way to support a more prayerful routine as a family – bringing ourselves as individuals and our family unit closer to God.

I’ll be honest – Matthew was a little confused at first and thought this was an opportunity to get ahead on his Christmas wishlist for Santa. But once we got past the whole praying-for-toys-petitions, I think everyone genuinely used it as a pause in their day to pray about what was on their heart. Of course, you can take written prayer beyond the world of Legos  and consider the spiritual habit of journaling, but similar to the small written notes, don’t make it too complicated! Simply write down what you’re saying to God, and write down what God’s saying to you.

Prayer: Dear God, there are times when the words I speak do not match the profound feelings in my heart. Please help me grow in my prayer routine and to remember that it’s not about the grand things I wish I could say. Whether written, oral or in my head, God, help me keep my prayers honest and simple.

Lenten Devotional: March 30

by Janet Frick

Luke 6:42: How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Things you don’t want to hear your 15-year-old half-screaming to you, in a panicked voice, while he drives on a highway for the first time: “What do you mean, glance over my shoulder? I can’t do that while I’m driving 55 miles per hour!”

In retrospect, I suppose it would have been good for me to verify that Colin understood how to safely change lanes before we were practicing driving on the loop for the first time. I had been giving little random driving lessons for a few years before that with the kids, pointing out pitfalls that can arise, and I am certain that many times, I had discussed the concept of our driving “blind spot” with the kids — that area just over our shoulders, where our mirrors and peripheral vision can’t see. It’s dangerous precisely because it’s so close to us that we forget we can’t see it. But a random lesson from mom, months earlier, is no substitute for understanding exactly *how* to deal with that particular issue, while you’re speeding down the road.

And so while driving that day on the loop, I was Colin’s extra set of eyes, to help him have confidence on when he could change lanes. When we got home, I demonstrated for him (in the safety of our driveway) how to do the quick over-the-shoulder glance, and then I stood outside the car so he could get a better feel for where that blind spot is precisely located. Once he realized how quick that “check the blind spot” glance could be, he felt a lot more relaxed about it.

As it turns out, driving is not our only blind spot. My intro psych students learn every fall that both of our eyes have literal blind spots — areas on the retina where we have no photoreceptors, because of where the optic nerve exits from the eye to travel to the brain. So theoretically, if you close one eye, you should have a small black spot in your field of vision. There are a couple of reasons why we don’t… for one thing, our eyes are constantly moving (even when we think we are holding them still, we still make little short scanning movements called saccades) and so our eyes don’t stay static long enough for us to become aware of that blind spot. But on top of that, our brain (which covers over so many of our shortcomings) helpfully “fills in” the missing information in our field of vision, so that what we see and perceive is a unified whole, even though it’s based on limited input because of that structural blind spot. (Here’s a helpful article for how to find your blind spot.)

 

That nerve-wracking day of driving practice out on the loop got me thinking about blind spots — how to discover we have them, and how to compensate for them. We don’t actually have to eliminate them, and in fact, in the two examples I’ve given here, we can’t. We can’t develop a wider angle of peripheral vision, and we can’t grow photoreceptors over our optic nerve. But we can discover we have them, and we can develop strategies for not being hindered by them.

First, how do we discover we have a blind spot? This can be tricky, because in so many areas of life, we don’t know what we don’t know. We may discover it through trial and error (a sharp car horn when we inadvisably try to change lanes on a multi-lane road) but more often, we can be told by trusted friends / loved ones with experience — not only more driving experience, but more life experience. I once received a gift of a sappy book of inspirational quotes, and most were forgettable but one stuck with me (original source unknown).

“If you want to know a person’s faults, go to those who love the person. They will not tell you, but they know.”

I believe we can discover our blind spots by listening to those who love us, by listening to those whose life experiences are different from ours, and by stepping outside of our comfort zones to live and love in the areas where God calls us.

And then, once we uncover some blind spots, what do we do next? Well, if we can’t eliminate them, we have to learn some new behaviors to compensate. It’s not easy to learn to glance over your shoulder while speeding down a highway, and in fact, that environment is not a good time to practice it for the first time. 🙂 But it gets easier with practice, to make that quick glance around us to see what we didn’t realize we couldn’t see; to be aware of things going on outside of our little incubated world; to learn how to live in harmony and community and mutual benefit with others around us who are also on their own unique journeys.

We can discover our blind spots, and learn ways of overcoming them, as we listen to God, and listen to the community of friends and loved ones that God has brought into our lives, walking (and riding) beside us.

Prayer: God, show me what I don’t know that I don’t know. And help me to find new ways of living, and loving, in better harmony with you, and with more awareness of the new eyes I need to better see the world around me. Amen.