Being Overcome

Scriptural Immersion
West Side Moravian Church
June 22, 2014



☆ Call to Worship Based on Psalm 66 (verses) and Jeremiah 17:10-11

Praise God with shouts of joy!
How wonderful are the things you do!
Come and see what God has done.
God has done wonderful deeds among us.
God has kept us alive
and has not allowed us to fall.
Yet you have put us to the test, God.
As silver is purified by fire,
so you have tested us.
God will search the minds
and test the hearts of humankind.
God will treat each woman according to the way she lives,
each man according to what he does.
☆ Hymn: "Today We All Are Called to Be Disciples of the Lord" [#696]

Reading From Jeremiah 20:7-13

Reflections on Being Overcome

Overall, we don't spend a lot of Sunday mornings reflecting on how God has tricked us into doing unpleasant tasks which seem to bring no rewards. That is exactly what Jeremiah is saying to God. Who here would prefer to have your friends turn against you? Which one of us would choose to be denounced to the authorities as a traitor? To be imprisoned and thrown down a well? To be the butt of jokes at dinner parties? But God's Word was so overwhelming that Jeremiah could not back out of the job; he had to speak.

Thus God acts in all his saints, Martin Luther told his students in a lecture on the book of Romans, he makes them do very willingly what they do not want to do at all.

In contemporary church culture, we tend to avoid mentioning that God asks us to do things which we do not want to do at all. We may prefer to quote Isaiah's ringing response, Here I am! Send me! But Isaiah, too, had been overwhelmed by an overpowering vision of God in the temple. He saw flaming creatures flying about in attendance on the Almighty. He had cried out, I'm doomed!. Only after that was Isaiah ready to be a prophet of God. [Is. 6:8]

When God assigned Jeremiah to become a prophet, God said, I promise to be with you and keep you safe, so don't be afraid. God did not promise comfort, wealth, and popularity. In fact, God was clear from the beginning about what life would be like. God said:

You will oppose all of Judah,
including its kings and leaders,
its priests and people.
They will fight back,
but they won't win.
I, the Lord, give you my word –
I won't let them harm you.
[Jer. 1:18b-19]

They did fight back against the word of God, the kings and leaders and priests and people; they fought back and fought back and fought back so that Jeremiah said, give me a break. But the presence of God was so overwhelming that it was a fire in his bones. There was no break from being overwhelmed by God.

Response Based on Jeremiah 20:7-13

You seduced me, my God, and I was seduced.
You seized me and I was subdued.
Now all the day long I am seen as a joke
and every new morning their laughs are renewed.
Whenever I speak, I have to cry out;
"Outrage!" and "Robbery!" – that's what I shout.
The Word from the Lord has gotten for me
Only scorn and abuse which never give out.
I say to myself, "I'll forget the Lord's word!
In God's name nothing more will I speak!"
God's word in my heart is a fire that burns;
It burns in my bones and relief I must seek.
In crowds all around me I still hear them whisper:
"Denounce him!" they say, "That old prophet denounce!"
So say my 'friends', who had hoped I would stumble.
"Can he be seduced? – well, then we can pounce!"
The Lord, on my side, is a warrior dread;
All those who would hound me will stumble, not win.
Utter shame will be theirs, for they cannot succeed;
Their disgrace will be filled with confusion and din.
"Outrage!" and "Robbery!", "Injustice!" and "Strife!"
And yet – praise to God! Praise to God let us sing!
For Yahweh has rescued the needy one's life
From the grasp of the wicked ones' clutching.
Hymn: "God, When I Stand" [#755] (new hymn)

Prayers of the gathered people

A Reading From Romans 6:3-11

Reflections on Overcoming

You can't threaten a Christian with his life.

I'm not certain any more just where I read this quote. It may have been said by a Roman Catholic priest who was working with the poor in Central America during the late 1960s. That's how I remember it, anyway.

Ever since I read that statement it has been a challenge and an affirmation. What does it mean? How does it play out in life? If you were living in Central America under a terrorist government during the late 1960s, it would mean that you would help the poor and the oppressed and that you would speak against those who were oppressing them. If you were a Moravian missionary in the 1700s, you would seek out the oppressed, live with them, and speak out for their value as children of God. If you were Jeremiah you would declare God's displeasure with a government which perverted justice and stole from the poor.

You can't threaten Christians with ending our lives because we know God is greater than death. We know this because we have the example of Jesus Christ who lived and died and rose up and was eating and talking with his friends. We know this because we have the testimony of those earlier followers. We also have the witness of many who lived much later but were similarly empowered by their contact with a living Jesus Christ. And we know it from our own, personal experience which is aligned with the experiences of those who came earlier.

You can't threaten Christians with our lives because in a profound way we have already lost our lives. We have lost our lives and found our true lives in God. We have nothing to lose in this world. The only thing of value that we have is eternal life in relationship to God through our friend Jesus. And that we are not willing to give up for anything else. Not for money or power, not for comfort, or for friendship, or even for family.

You can't threaten Christians with our lives because we have already died with Jesus. But Jesus is alive! And we are already living Christ's life in this world.

☆ Response Based on Romans 6:3-11

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized
into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
We have been buried with Christ by baptism into death,
so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead
by the glory of the Father,
we too might walk in the newness of life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his,
we will certainly be united with him
in a resurrection like his.
Hymn: "We Know that Christ Is Raised" [#366, verses 1 & 2]
We know that our old self was crucified with Christ
so that the body of sin might be destroyed,
and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.
For whoever has died is freed from sin.
But if we have died with Christ,
we believe that we will also live with him.
We know that Christ, being raised from the dead,
will never die again;
death no longer has dominion over him.
The death which Christ died, he died to sin, once for all;
but the life Christ lives, he lives to God.
So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin
and alive to God in Christ Jesus.


Invitation to dedicate our lifes and our substance
Hymn: "Because He Lives" [#706] (sing during the collection of the offering)
☆ Offering prayer

Reading From Matthew 10:24-31

Reflection With the Children and Youth

Response Based on Matthew 10:24-31

Disciples are not better than their teacher,
and slaves are not better than their master.
It is enough for disciples to be like their teacher
and for slaves to be like their master.
If people call the head of the family Satan,
what will they say about the rest of us?
Don’t be afraid of anyone!
Everything that is hidden will be found out,
and every secret will be known.
Whatever Christ has said in the dark, you must tell in the light.
We will announce from the housetops
everything Jesus has whispered to us.
Don’t be afraid of people.
They can kill you, but they cannot harm your soul.
We will fear only God who rules both body and soul.
Aren’t two sparrows sold for only a penny?
Our Father knows when any one of them falls to the ground.
Even the hairs on your head are counted.
So we won’t be afraid!
You are worth much more than many sparrows.
Hymn: "God of the Sparrow" [#462]

Reflections on Belonging

If people accuse you of being the spawn of the devil, perhaps that might be true. If nobody says anything like that about you, then it must certainly be true. Good religious people suggested that Jesus was the chief of the devils. If people are saying nicer things about you, is it time to take another step closer to Jesus?

On Pentecost Sunday (which was June 8 this year) we concluded the confirmation class with a celebration here. But the question was raised, What happens on June 9? What happens after the training to be an adult member of Christ's church is finished? The journey begins. For this reason it was at the very end of our program that we gave each student a walking stick for the journey. We know that the journey is just beginning.

In this we have the precedent of our spiritual ancestors. After the first Pentecost, after the Law was given at Sinai, the Hebrew people began 40 years of journeying through the wilderness. After the new Pentecost, after God's Spirit was given, Jesus' disciples began their journeys spreading the news about the living Word of God to places like Ethiopia, Ephesus, India, and Rome. After the Moravian Pentecost of August 13, 1727, the Moravians began their journey: first to explore community with each other and then to carry God's love to marginalized peoples in St Thomas, Greenland, South Carolina, Suriname, Labrador, and South Africa.

Such journeying is not without its cost. The Hebrews lived through two generations without a permanent homeland. The Apostles were ridiculed, jailed, and executed. The Moravian missionaries were jailed and mistreated; Zinzendorf himself was exiled from his home in Saxony.

Journeying with God begins to sound like being homeless and friendless. But it isn't quite like that. Those of us who have been overwhelmed by God know that even if we are forced to wander we always do have a home with God. And we have friendship with God and with God's holy people, a friendship that is not broken by distance or time or troubles or death. So in fact we can never be homeless, or friendless, or fatherless.

I've read about people who have trouble hearing the word father without spitting. Their experience of fathers has been so terrible that a phrase like our loving heavenly father is nonsense, just words next to each other that can have no meaning. In this congregation, I've had the opposite problem. As a teacher, I've sometimes asked kids to imagine what it would be like to be abandoned by their fathers. In this congregation there are children who instantly and emphatically reject the concept. It can't happen, they tell me. My father could never leave me. In this congregation, there are fathers who have been so successful at showing their love and commitment to their children that we don't talk about how God is like a father; we have to say God is like your father.

People may say our big brother Jesus is the devil and they may say worse things about us. We may have to wander over the face of the earth. But we are never without home and father. We belong.

Reading From Matthew 10:32-39

☆ Hymn: "The Springs of Salvation" [#616]

☆ Benediction

God has kept us alive and not allowed us to fall.
God has overpowered us. Now we belong to God.
God's love for justice has been whispered.
We will shout it from the housetops.
God's love for the poor has been whispered.
We will shout it from the housetops.
God's love for the outcast has been whispered.
We will shout it from the housetops.
We are already dead to robbery of the poor.
We are already dead to injustice against the oppressed.
We are already dead to warfare against the alien.
Our true lives are hidden with Christ in God.
We will give away our lives for the sake of Jesus.
We will walk with Jesus. We will not be afraid.

Therefore live, yet not you alone, but Christ live in you, and the life which you live now, live by faith in the Son of God, who loved you and gave his life for you.

Scripture reference sources

John Bright, Jeremiah; The Anchor Bible, Volume 21; 1965; pages 129-130ff. Confraternity for Christian Doctrine, New American Bible; 1970. New Revised Standard Version; Graded Press, 1990 [via Vanderbilt Divinity Library]. Contemporary Engish Version; American Bible Society, 1995 [via].


Martin Luther, Lectures on Romans [1515-1516]; translated by Wilhelm Pauk; 1961, Westminster Press.

Moravian Book of Worship; 1995. (Baptism, page 165.)