Favorite Verses

1. John 3:16

 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

2. John 14:6

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

3. Ephesians 2:8

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God...

4. 2nd Timothy 3:16

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousnes...

5. Matthew 11:28

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

 

 

 

 

Leading us in worship:   Rev. Matthew Froeschle 

Sunday Worship Schedule 

Worship Service
9:30 a.m.
Children's Church
9:45 a.m.
(after Children's Chat)
 

 

      VISIONS - Ezekiel and the Glory of God

                             A sermon by the Rev. Matthew D. Froeschle
                                                   August 11, 2019
The Old Testament is an unusual collection of ancient writings; an entire library of God encounters and divine revelations expressed in different genres.  There are histories and genealogies of God’s people Israel.  There are reams of laws and ledgers.  There are poems and proverbs.  There are stories, songs, and sermons.  The Old Testament is difficult, daunting, delightful and disturbing (adjectives are fun!).
For the next few weeks, we are going to take one of those books off the shelf - the book of Ezekiel.  What kind of book is this?  Well, it’s a book of visions and prophecies attributed to an ancient Spirit-filled God-follower named Ezekiel.  Is it spooky?  Is it weird?  Is it still relevant today?  Let’s find out!  God reveals truth when we read the Bible together.
God, speak Your words of truth and challenge to us, just as you did to Your people through Ezekiel long ago.  Holy Spirit, lift us up - move us - show us the stunning glory of the Lord and empower us to be a force for good in this world.  Amen!
CHILDREN’S CHAT
After the children’s sermon, children ages 4-12 may be excused to Children’s Church with our teaching staff.
Talk about backpack blessings - and bringing your backpack next Sunday as we prepare to go back to school.  Speak also about our mission to provide others with the supplies they need.
 
FIRST READING - Ezekiel 1:4-14 (Ezekiel’s vision of God’s glory)
As I looked, a stormy wind came out of the north: a great cloud with brightness around it and fire flashing forth continually, and in the middle of the fire, something like gleaming amber. In the middle of it was something like four living creatures.
This was their appearance: they were of human form. Each had four faces, and each of them had four wings. Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the sole of a calf’s foot; and they sparkled like burnished bronze. Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands. And the four had their faces and their wings thus: their wings touched one another; each of them moved straight ahead, without turning as they moved.
As for the appearance of their faces: the four had the face of a human being, the face of a lion on the right side, the face of an ox on the left side, and the face of an eagle; such were their faces. Their wings were spread out above; each creature had two wings, each of which touched the wing of another, while two covered their bodies.
Each moved straight ahead; wherever the spirit would go, they went, without turning as they went. In the middle of the living creatures there was something that looked like burning coals of fire, like torches moving to and fro among the living creatures; the fire was bright, and lightning issued from the fire. The living creatures darted to and fro, like a flash of lightning.
SECOND READING - Ezekiel 3:4-15 (God commissions Ezekiel)
[God] said to me: Mortal, go to the house of Israel and speak my very words to them. For you are not sent to a people of obscure speech and difficult language, but to the house of Israel— not to many peoples of obscure speech and difficult language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely, if I sent you to them, they would listen to you.
But the house of Israel will not listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me; because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart. See, I have made your face hard against their faces, and your forehead hard against their foreheads. Like the hardest stone, harder than flint, I have made your forehead; do not fear them or be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house.
He said to me: Mortal, all my words that I shall speak to you receive in your heart and hear with your ears; then go to the exiles, to your people, and speak to them. Say to them, “Thus says the Lord God”; whether they hear or refuse to hear.
Then the spirit lifted me up, and as the glory of the Lord rose from its place, I heard behind me the sound of loud rumbling; it was the sound of the wings of the living creatures brushing against one another, and the sound of the wheels beside them, that sounded like a loud rumbling.
The spirit lifted me up and bore me away; I went in bitterness in the heat of my spirit, the hand of the Lord being strong upon me. I came to the exiles at Tel-abib, who lived by the river Chebar. And I sat there among them, stunned, for seven days.
 
SERMON - “VISIONS - Ezekiel and the Glory of God”
I have no idea why I chose the book of Ezekiel for us to study together these next few weeks.  I’ve always found this particular book compelling, but I don’t even know that I’ve read it all the way through like this before, and I certainly have never had a Bible Study or a sermon series about it that I can remember.  Maybe it’s a spiritual craving - we just need a bit more Old Testament in our diet.
But having spent some time studying this book this week, I’m actually quite excited about this journey, and maybe some time in the future it will become clear why we studied this book in this late summer/early autumn time.  Or maybe not.  Nevertheless, it is God’s Word, and like every book in our Bible, it contains truth and wisdom.  So really, the question isn’t why, but why not?
Ezekiel lived during a tumultuous time.  His people - the nation of Israel - God’s chosen - had been subjugated by the Babylonian empire and were living in exile - away from Jerusalem and the Temple used for worship.
Ezekiel himself had been part of a priestly family, but before he could take on his role as a Temple priest, he found himself in a foreign land, and the temple would be destroyed.
Once upon a time, Israel had been a great nation, with great kings and wealth and a land of their own.  They had a rich history and a long record of successes and God’s wonders.
But now, in Ezekiel’s day, the people felt defeated.  They couldn’t help but think they had failed - things were messed up - and all those wonderful promises of God felt empty.
Ezekiel himself had been trained in his people’s history and theology.  He knew a lot about God, and he knew a lot about religion, but it wasn’t until this time of exile that he had a dramatic personal encounter - an overwhelming experience of God when and where he least expected it.
In these visions we are reading about this morning, Ezekiel discovers that God is much more indescribable and real and holy than he’d thought.  All of his religious and theological training had not prepared for him for this encounter - which would leave him stunned for a week.
Words are obviously insufficient to describe Ezekiel’s experience, and that’s why it reads as pretty strange to us.  It was strange to Ezekiel.
Furthermore, Ezekiel is far removed from our 21st Century American experience - he lived 2,600 years ago in a vastly different culture.  The images that would have meaning for him may be lost on us.
Nevertheless, there are things we can guess at, since we do know a little about Ezekiel’s religion and culture.  The vision he has is of some kind of angelic beings drawing a chariot bearing the LORD GOD.
The scary looking angelic beings (four faces) represent ALL of creation lifting up the Lord.  Wild (lion) and domesticated beasts (ox), heavenly beasts (eagle) and humanity (man’s face) are all under the rule of God, and made to glorify God.
Also, those scary angelic beings are reminiscent of the decoration on top of the ark of the covenant - which Ezekiel may have seen or heard about in the Temple.
While this experience for Ezekiel was mostly powerful and unnerving, perhaps there was a bit of joy, as he realized that even though he was no longer in Jerusalem and no longer had access to the Temple (in fact, the Temple would be destroyed later), God was still present and active.
God is not dependent on any human religion, and is not limited by location or culture.  God is God over all the earth, and for all people.  That’s an important epiphany, yes?
This is a good reminder for us, when we fret about the decline of mainline Christianity or the state of the church in the world.  For guess what?  God is still God - even when our cathedrals collapse or our church attendance is dwindling or when things aren’t going the way we think they should.
God is the one who takes the initiative, calling out to regular people, revealing His nature, and speaking His astonishing Word of truth through them.  God still surprises - shatters our religious notions with a real encounter.
Ezekiel was just one person, who lived in the midst of a lot of stubborn people.  Yet he was obedient and willing to surrender to the authority of God’s Word.
It’s doubtful that Ezekiel ever wanted to be a prophet, taking God’s Word to a people that don’t want to hear it.  In that second reading, God warns Ezekiel that his task would be unpleasant.  He is being sent to a people like us - a people who tend to be stubborn and not terribly happy with change.
Moreover, Ezekiel probably loved and liked his fellow Israelites, and so it was going to be very bitter for him to take some harsh words back to them from God.  (This is probably why he returned from his mountaintop experience with God rather bitter and stunned.)  Being a prophet is incompatible with being a people-pleaser.
The prophet listens to God first, and though the prophet must love the people as God loves the people, the prophet cannot generally give the people the nice and easy word they want.  The prophet has to give them something real - the very Word of God that does not change based on cultural fads and fashions.
In this book of Ezekiel, we are going to hear God’s terrible message through the prophet Ezekiel.  And it’s not just in words, but in the prophet’s actions and even in his silence and attitudes that the message will come through.  The prophet has visions (he eats scrolls and finds them tasty, he sees dry bones come to life, he sees a vision of a new temple and all kinds of other wild things).
Books like Ezekiel are good for us to ponder alongside the more pastoral books like John’s letters or other New Testament passages on God’s grace.  Because although God is certainly rich in love and forgiveness and mercy and joy, God is also holy and awesome and righteous and way beyond our understanding.  We need to be knocked on our butt if we are too comfortable with our “pet god.”
And we need to listen to the voice of the prophets sometimes, telling us the truths that we DON’T want to hear.  Prophets are unpopular because they hold up a mirror to our injustice and our guilt.
We like comforting, encouraging messages.  But sometimes we need the more invasive spiritual operations that make us uncomfortable and calling out to God for real change.
My friend Troy shared a quote with me that hit me with the force of prophesy this last week.  “It is hypocritical to pray for something that you are unwilling to address.”  I didn’t like that word very much, but I totally needed it.  I do need it - every day.
Books like Ezekiel keep us from “easy believing,” “cheap grace,” and “lullaby faith.”  They call for a robust and honest encounter with the One True God.  Ezekiel is not a safe and easy book.  It will mess with us, as it did with Ezekiel.  It will get us talking - and Lord willing - changing.  Are we willing to hear things we don’t want to hear?
I do need to say that YES - God is absolutely good and our best friend.  No doubt.  That is truth, and cannot be preached enough.  Nothing we read from Ezekiel negates the truth of Jesus Christ and the gospel of love and grace.
But God is also holy and righteous.  An encounter with the Living God, without the work that Christ did for us on the cross, would utterly wreck us.
The Word of God.  We are right to celebrate it, but it nearly cost Ezekiel his sanity to be its bearer.  It surely cost Ezekiel friendship and popularity and welcome.  May we be willing to hear it, and learn from Ezekiel these days.

 

 

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Adult Bible Class

The class meets at 8:30 am on Sunday morning.  Please join for this lesson and lively discussion time before the worshp service. 
Everyone welcome.

 Worship Service

Please join us for Sunday Worship at 9:30 a.m.  Let us be your church as you're passing through town, or your church home throughout the year.  We invite you to worship with us.  Children may stay in the sanctuary or go to Children's Church after the Children's Chat with the Pastor.  During the worship service, we worship God through scripture reading, listening to the sermon, prayer, responsive readings, hymn singing, special music, and reflection.

Children's Church

During the 9:30 a.m. worship service, Children's Church is offered for children ages 4-12.  Childlren are in the sanctuary until after the Children's Chat with the Pastor.  Children's Church is a service where kids learn through scripture, stories, and music tailored to their age group.

 

First Presbyterian Church is a Family of Faith. 

Like many families, we:

*Support one another.  Troubles are shared and burdens are lifted hrough requests to the Prayer Team, prayer requests made during worship, and conversation over coffee, etc.

*Share a common outlook.  Presbyterians are dedicated to hearing and acting on scripture.  We listen to what the Bible has to say through sermons and studies.  We carry out what we learn and believe through our daily lives and in missions at home and abroad.

*Nuture Children.  Outreach within and outside our church happens through Sunday School, Kids' Club, Youth Groups, LOGOS retreats, Camp Carew, and Vacation Bible School.  We help children "grow up in Christ."

*Care for the Elderly.  Members of the "Sunshine Brigade" conduct Christian care visits with shut-ins and those who live in skilled care settings.

*Help neighbors in need.  Friends and families reach out to others in the Church when help is needed.  In addition, members of the First Presbyterian family serve the community through programs like the Food Bank, Peace Meals, PADS homeless and transient shelter, etc.

*Grow.  Families have a habit of growing.  Our Family of Faith grows with those who are beginning or renewing their trust in Jesus Christ.  Please consider what Christ means to you, and experience God's love through First Presbyterian Church.