Marine United Church of Christ

Pastor Phil

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  • DEVOTIONAL PIECE: March 29, 2020

    March 29, 2020

    Good morning, or good evening, to all and welcome to worship.

    My first announcement is that the yard clean-up day, originally scheduled for April 4, has been postponed. No new date has been set yet. A second announcement is that the Trivia Night, scheduled for April 25, has been postponed. We don’t know yet what the make-up date will be. A third announcement is that you might want to break up some of the reading below by pausing after a prayer or hymn to play a favorite hymn of yours on your phone or on a CD or, if you are musically inclined, to play something yourself on a piano, violin, guitar, etc. A final announcement is that this service will soon be available to watch on You Tube if you would prefer that style of service. We will shortly be sending out a link to that You Tube service.

    Those with announcements to add for next Sunday’s service are invited to send them to me.

    Here is the link to this week’s message on YouTube. Thank you,

    March 29, 2020 YouTube Devotional

    I would like to begin with a quote from Franklin Delano Roosevelt, words that I’m sure are familiar to many of you: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” I don’t take those words literally, because in these difficult days there are other things to reasonably fear. We don’t know how many will be affected by the coronavirus before it either dies a natural death or our medical experts find an anti-viral cure and/or vaccine. There is also reason to fear what will happen to our national economy and the devastating effect a recession can have on so many lives. Yet I am still drawn to FDR’s words because fear has the ability to incapacitate people and that has the potential to do more damage than anything.

    I urge you to practice all the safety measures being shared with us by the best medical experts and, knowing that you have done all you can, open yourself to the peace Jesus offers that can transcend incapacitating fear. It is the peace that comes from knowing that all life is fleeting, every day is a gift, nothing is guaranteed, and, yet, the love we experience from family and friends, and the love we can share with others, makes every day worth living.

    Those in our faith family needing help are encouraged to ask the church for help. We have a community emergency fund and there is no more precious community than our own family of faith. We cannot promise to fully meet every need, but we will do what we can. Of course, your need may not be financial. You may need someone to pick up your groceries, take you to a doctor, or something else I have never even thought of. Please ask for help. There are people in our congregation who would not only be able, but eager, to help.

    Let us also remember those residents in assisted living and nursing homes who are currently in lockdown. A simple phone call or card might do wonders to brighten their day.

    Current best safety practices prevent me from being in my office for any lengthy period, but I can be reached at my cell number (618-540-9894) or my home phone (618-887-4734), Yes, I still have a landline!! You can also reach me by email: phkershner@yahoo,com

    Let us continue with our opening prayer. I will be using the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, who knew troubled times himself.

    Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;  Where there is hatred, let me sow love;  Where there is injury, pardon;  Where there is doubt, faith;  Where there is despair, hope;  Where there is darkness, light;  And where there is sadness, joy. 

    O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek To be consoled as to console;  To be understood, as to understand;  To be loved, as to love;  For it is in giving that we receive,  It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,  And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.  Amen.


    These seem like strange times, I am sure. It may even be a little scary. Do you know what a buoy is? A buoy is something that floats in the water but is anchored to the bottom so that it stays in its place. If you see them at a lake where people swim, buoys are often used to mark just how far out people are allowed to go. They are usually red, or orange, or yellow.

    One time I was swimming pretty far from the shore when I got a leg cramp. I was a little scared, but fortunately there was a buoy nearby and I could hang on to it. That buoy gave me a sense of comfort until I was able to work out the leg cramp and swim back to the shore.

    In difficult times we all need buoys to hang onto to help us feel that we are safe. Who are the buoys in your life? I’m sure that at the top of your list would be your parents. They are the ones who will be best able to assure you that things will get better. Other relatives can also serve as buoys.

    I would like to add another buoy to your list. Remember the stories of Jesus you have heard at church and at home. Remember that helping people to feel peace was always important to Jesus. When times are tough, many people find it helpful to pray. In praying they find peace and strength. But let us remember to also pray in good times. Those are perfect times to give thanks for all the good things in our life. Come to think of it, even in difficult times it is good to include in our prayers thanks for all the good things in our lives. No matter how bad life may seem, there is always something for which to be thankful.

    Let us pray: Dear God, please help us to be brave during these difficult times, and let us not forget to say “thank you” for all the good things that fill our lives, even when times are tough. Amen

    Our Scripture reading this morning is from the 15tth chapter of Luke, verses 25-32.

    25 “Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what this meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”


    Perhaps you know the experience of losing something. One lady who had just gotten off a bus reports that as the bus pulled away, she realized she had left her purse under the seat. Later she called the company and was relieved that the driver had found her bag. When she went to pick it up, several off-duty bus drivers surrounded her. One man handed her her pocketbook, two typewritten pages and a box containing the contents of her purse. "We're required to inventory lost wallets and purses," he explained. "I think you'll find everything there."

    As she started to put her belongings back into the pocketbook, the man continued, "I hope you don't mind if we watch. Even though we all tried, none of us could fit everything into your purse. And we'd like to see just how you do it."

    In today’s text, it is not a purse that is lost, it is a son. If you read the text below from Luke, you may be scratching your head a bit. It may well have been because you thought that something was missing. What happened to the prodigal son, you may be wondering: the one who took his inheritance and ran off and blew it all in a short period of time? Well, I didn’t include that part of the story.

    A prodigal is one who spends foolishly. I would like to suggest that the older, and supposedly wiser, son, the one who stayed home on the farm, is equally a prodigal. In fact, I sometimes wonder if that isn’t the son Jesus wants us to focus on and all that stuff about the younger son was just the set-up.

    The younger son chose the path of self-destruction, thinking he could buy love with his money. The older son took perhaps the more insidious path of perfection. They are different paths, but both lead to lostness because both foster the illusion that love and acceptance can only come by being bought or earned. Life under either illusion cannot understand being loved and accepted unconditionally.

    When the younger son returns, the older son cannot share in the joy of reconciliation. He is resentful of the fact that his father extravagantly celebrates the return of the wayward child.

    The older son is lost not by being self-destructive, but, ironically, by trying to be perfect. In his efforts to be the perfect son he feels he has earned his father’s love which, in fact, was not available to be earned because it was freely given. He has made himself a slave for something that was already his. When we think we have earned something, it is hard to understand it as a gift. And it is hard to understand someone less deserving getting the same gift.

    The elder son suffers from one of the most deeply rooted and most difficult sins of all to see, the pernicious sin of resentment. It quietly eats at our heart. The book, Alcoholics Anonymous, makes the remarkable claim that resentment destroys more alcoholics than anything else, more than pride, anger, envy or any of the other great sins.

    Resentment means clinging to the past, revisiting, even relishing old hurts. This is the opposite of a healthy spirituality which encourages us to recognize our own imperfections and then move ahead.

    But we aren’t doomed to live with resentment. Abraham Lincoln was once asked what he would do with the Confederates once the Civil War was over. He said, “I will treat them as if they had never gone away.” That is precisely what the older brother couldn’t do for his younger brother.

    So, the question is, how do we get to that point? Perhaps the secret lies in realizing that to let go of resentment is not a matter of the will. In fact, the more you try to make it happen the more impossible it becomes.

    We have to move from will to willingness. We have to focus less on effort and more on openness. Here’s a way to start. Remind yourself that the one you resent has his or her own burdens and we can’t begin to know all of their life experience. A little empathy is called for. Try praying for the one you resent. It doesn’t have to be a long prayer, maybe just a wish that he or she find happiness in their own way. At first it may feel phony. In fact, it almost certainly will. But keep at it. One day you may be in for a surprise.

    If you are open to change, it may strike you when you least expect it. Knowing that you are loved is often the catalyst. That’s how it worked for the younger son.

    We aren’t told in the Gospel if the older son ever reached the point of being able to let go of his resentment. But being loved unconditionally as he was by his father, I know where I’m placing my bet. Amen.

    At this time, I invite you to look over the prayer list that follows before we enter our time of prayer:


    "With the respect and privacy of the poeple on the prayer list we will not state the reason of being on the prayer list. Please call Phil with any questions (Who/What/When/Why) about these people on the list. Thank You"

  • Karma_Yangzom
  • Dorothy_Langenwalter
  • Elvenia_Riebold
  • Elisa_Smith
  • Bill_Chase
  • Diane_Prott
  • Karen_Hahn
  • Leah_Whitaker
  • Jason_Skees
  • Dale_Bogovich
  • Joe_Feigl
  • Jerry_Woods
  • Darrell_Conrad
  • Dale_Grotefendt
  • Linda_Cissell
  • Our sympathy to the family and friends of Matt_Barnes (friend of the Baers) – Matt died February 29
  • Our sympathy to the family and friends of RJ_Pohl - RJ died March 5
  • Our sympathy to the family and friends of Danny_Micheletto – Danny died March 7

    Merciful and Loving God, we admit that we are prone to be proud that we are not like the younger son. At least we like to think that we are not. But we know that the sin of resentment is never far from us. The older son looms over us. Teach us the futility of resentment. Show us how resentment hurts us more than anyone else. Remind us that those we resent have difficulties just as we do. Guide us toward empathy and the release of resentment.

    In these difficult days we think of those around our globe who suffer from the coronavirus or live in fear of it. May they find your peace. Having taken the time to look through our prayer list, guide us to find our role in the lives of one or two of these individuals. Remind us that we can send a card or make a phone call in less time than we can pass on the latest neighborhood gossip to a spouse or friend. Help us to keep our priorities straight. As we pause in silence, we remember any and all who come to mind as fellow beings in need of help [period of silence.

    We bring all our prayers to you in the name of your son, our savior and friend, Jesus, who taught us to pray together, saying,

    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 debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

    We would like to remind all that the church’s financial needs must be met if we are to continue to be an instrument of God’s peace. As you saw in the letter from the council, you can simply mail in your contribution to the church or use some form of electronic banking (transfer). Please call if you have any questions. Now let us pray.

    OFFERTORY PRAYER: We thank you, Lord, for the generosity that continues to allow us to be an active church even in these trying times. We long to continue to be a source of light to those who would find their way here. Bless the gifts that have come in for the wellbeing of all. Amen.


    Let us never forget that through tough times and good times we are in this together. Go in peace. You do not go alone. Amen.


    Thank You

    The following individuals are sponsoring today’s bulletin: Betty & Joe Szatkowski in memory of Jerry Hess; Katie Chase in celebration of her Gotcha Day 2005; Dee & Darwin Dormeier; Arlene Hostetler 63rd wedding anniversary.


    Pastor: Phil Kershner - Home 887-4734, Cell 540-9894; phkershner@yahoo,com,

    Council President: Rich Branson 314-295-6747, rich.branson@gatewaypave,com

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    Marine United Church of Christ ☀  111 N. Center  ☀  P.O. Box 396  ☀  Marine, Il    62061