Order of Worship
Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
January 31, 2021

Organ Prelude
Call to Worship 
Take off your dress shoes; you may need to cross a rocky path. Take off your head covering; God may wish to kiss your forehead with a holy breeze. Take off the thing that protects you; feel the warm presence of the people around you. God is in the air, and God is in the space between us. God will make the emptiness into a holy place.  Come, let us worship.

Opening Prayer
God, we trust that you are in the holiest of holies.
We also trust that you can make all places holy.
Guide our understanding of your presence,
so we will find comfort wherever it is available.
Guide our hearts so that we may be drawn toward places that will challenge our beliefs about what is holy.

Storytelling             “A Letter to Paul from a Friend in Corinth”
Sharing of Scripture                                 Mark 1:21-28
Message in Music
Message                  “Coming Through the Holy Places”                   Rev. Laura McLeod
Prayer of Dedication
We have entered this holy place without any trepidation.
We now freely leave behind a piece of our treasure, in faith that courage will lead to more courage and we will be amazed by your willingness to provide for us and our willingness to give to those who have less. Amen.

A Time of Prayer
Preparation for Prayer
Silent Prayer
Pastoral Prayer and Lord’s Prayer
Gracious God,
We know that we can demonstrate your love.
This is why we name aloud those who need us to act as advocates:
For healing of the body, we name those who suffer illness.
For healing of the spirit, we name those who suffer complacency or ambivalence.
For healing of the mind, we name those who question their intelligence or need companions in the work to take every thought
For healing of war-torn countries, we name those places where holiness has been ignored in favor of control.
For healing of the planet, we name the ecosystems that suffer when we are selfish consumers.
We pray this in the name of Jesus, who taught us to pray saying, Our Father…Amen.

One:   And now we share in a common practice of blessing one another. We will repeat it twice.
All:      We may fail; God does not.
            We may end; God does not.
            Bless and be blessed. Amen.

Organ Postlude

Sharing of Scripture                                 Mark 1:21-28
They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

A Letter to Paul from a Friend in Corinth
Based on Mark 1:21–28 and 1 Corinthians 8:1–13

Dear Paul,
You may not remember me, but I know who you are. My father taught me about scriptures and then told me about you and your travels. He said that you would know the answer to my question because you are one of the smartest people we could ever hope to meet.
We have a temple to our local gods and goddesses where people bring all kinds of beautiful food and bread. Some of my friends like to go to the feasts to eat with the people who worship the gods. Some of my friends say that it is a bad idea if followers of Jesus the Christ are seen in their company.
I want to know what is right and what is wrong, so I ask my teachers and the religious experts. Some of them offer long lectures about morality and others simply tell me to do what seems right to me. It seems to me that some of the people in my family find it easy to follow rules, but I have to search with questions.
Will I stumble upon the right answer to questions about God? Or should I devote my life to the study of the scriptures and expect the answers to make sense as I get smarter?
My mother says that I am the kind of person who will need both wisdom and knowledge if I want to know how to love. She says that when wisdom informs our study of scripture, we call it an epiphany. She says that it’s likely the seeds of epiphany are sown in the soil beneath our bare feet, and they lie waiting until someone waters them with tears. I asked her what she meant, and she told me a story she heard about a time Jesus taught in the synagogue and a man came in weeping and crying and begging Jesus to answer his questions and calm his fears. She said the man knew who Jesus was but didn’t know that Jesus was loving and kind.
This person had knowledge but needed wisdom.
The man was emotional and upset, which is what compelled Christ to be compassionate and to drive out the spirit of fear that had gripped him. My mother insists the seed of epiphany was buried deep in the soil beneath the synagogue and it wasn’t until the tears of the fearful man watered that seed that it suddenly sprouted and grew into full understanding. She loves the element of surprise that comes with an epiphany.
I am just not sure what this means for me and my friends who argue about eating the foods that were given to the followers of the local gods. Do you think there are seeds of epiphany sown below the soil in all the temples? Do you think Christ has compassion on those of us who yearn to love those who disagree with us? I have never cried over this question, but I do feel sad when I think of the way we argue when we could be singing, working or enjoying a meal together.
Perhaps we will see you again soon and share a meal with you; you are always welcome in our home.

Until then, travel safely,
Your friend in Corinth

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