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  • Writer's pictureTillamook UMC

19 November 2023 - Gratitude for the Givers and Helpers


Philippians 4:4-13 (Paul gives thanks for those who have helped him during his times of struggle and tribulation) |

Matthew 25:14-30 (Parable of the talents and the servants’ use of them)

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Welcoming Words (Liturgist)


As we gather for worship today, we lift our heads, and we open our hearts. We open our hands to give to one another, and we open our hands to receive the gifts of God’s provision and grace. We remember those who have helped us in times when we were feeling low, and we give thanks for the givers and the helpers who have cared for us along our way.


In our first reading today, we will hear Paul giving thanks for those who have prayed for him, who have sent messages of encouragement, and who have showed their concern for him, even though he was far away.


The gospel lesson brings us to a parable of Jesus that challenges us to consider what we are holding, and what we are hiding away. What might we share with the community? And what might we offer to those around us who are in need during this season of holiday and holy days?


Please join me in a word of prayer:


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Opening Prayer (read together):


Holy Creator, you have called us here for many reasons. To give and to receive. To open our hearts, and to hear your call. To heal one another, and to receive healing words. To love one another, and to receive Your deep compassionate love.

Here we are, Beloved. Fill our gathering with your Holy Spirit. Guide us in the Ways of Love. Inspire us and boost our spirits today, in Jesus’ name, Amen.


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Call To Worship:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, Rejoice!

God, we delight in your creation. We thank you for soft breezes, crisp apples, and changing seasons that remind us of your presence and provision.


Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, Rejoice! God, we delight in our connectedness. We thank you for friends who check in, for church family who lift one another up, for neighbors who show up in the good and challenging times.


Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, Rejoice!

God, we delight in your peace that dwells among us. We give thanks for neighbors who offer help in times of trouble, gentleness in the midst of pain, and acts of kindness during seasons of struggle.


Let us come into God’s presence with thanksgiving and rejoicing!

Come! Let us worship God together. Amen.


Written by Dr. Lisa Hancock, Discipleship Ministries, May 2023.


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Prayer of Confession (Read Together)

Faithful God,

We confess that we do not give attention To the things that are of you. We listen to rumors and gossip instead of what is true and honorable. We do not hold fast to justice. We do not train our hearts on what is pure and pleasing to you. In our words and our deeds, we stray from all that is commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise. We do not attend to all we have received and learned of your good news, and so we do not live in peace with you or with our neighbors. Forgive us, we pray. Free us to live as your grateful people.


Offer silent prayers of confession.


Receive the good news: God pays attention to us when we pray. God receives our confession and saves us by grace. May the peace of God guard us in mind and heart now and forever.

Thanks be to God! Amen.


Written by Dr. Lisa Hancock, Discipleship Ministries, May 2023.

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Prayer for Illumination (Read Together)


Creator God, who claims us as your own, we bring our full selves to worship today. Our happiness and our sorrow, our singing and our crying, our strengths, and our failures—we carry it all. Teach us to trust that your faithfulness endures in all the seasons and circumstances of our lives. Help us to know that all that we are is bound to you and teach us to rest on your steadfast love as the source of our gratitude and joy as we, your sheep, follow you wherever you lead. Amen.

Written by Dr. Lisa Hancock, Discipleship Ministries, May 2023.


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Philippians 4:4–13 (The Message):


4-5 Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in [our Maker]! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive and could show up any minute!


6-7 Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.


8-9 Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.


Content Whatever the Circumstances

10-14 I’m glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess—happy that you’re again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am… It was a beautiful thing that you came alongside me in my troubles.


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* Choir Sings between the Readings *

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Matthew 25:14-30 (The Message):

The Story About Investment

14-18 “[The Kingdom of God is] also like a man going off on an extended trip. He called his servants together and delegated responsibilities. To one he gave five thousand dollars, to another two thousand, to a third one thousand, depending on their abilities. Then he left. Right off, the first servant went to work and doubled his master’s investment. The second did the same. But the man with the single thousand dug a hole and carefully buried his master’s money.


19-21 “After a long absence, the master of those three servants came back and settled up with them. The one given five thousand dollars showed him how he had doubled his investment. His master commended him: ‘Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.’


22-23 “The servant with the two thousand showed how he also had doubled his master’s investment. His master commended him: ‘Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.’


24-25 “The servant given one thousand said, ‘Master, I know you have high standards and hate careless ways, that you demand the best and make no allowances for error. I was afraid I might disappoint you, so I found a good hiding place and secured your money. Here it is, safe and sound down to the last cent.’


26-27 “The master was furious. ‘That’s a terrible way to live! It’s criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least? The least you could have done would have been to invest the sum with the bankers, where at least I would have gotten a little interest.


28-30 “‘Take the thousand and give it to the one who risked the most. And get rid of this “play-it-safe” who won’t go out on a limb. Throw him out into utter darkness.’


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Benediction


Pastor to the People: May God’s peace follow you wherever you go, guiding and guarding you, that you may live in joy and thanksgiving with God, self, neighbor, and all creation. Amen.


All Respond to the Pastor: And may God’s peace follow you wherever you go, guiding and guarding you, that you may live in joy and thanksgiving with God, self, neighbor, and all creation. Amen.


Written by Dr. Lisa Hancock, Discipleship Ministries, May 2023.

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Reflection by Pastor AJ Wolff-Lynne

Whether we are gathering in person or sharing time via zoom or phone call this week, at some point we will be invited to give thanks. Although the upcoming holiday is a secular one, we honor the awareness that it brings to all of us this week. Rather than simply treating one day as a reason to give thanks, we, as followers of Jesus the Christ, are called to live a life of gratitude, and that has a way of inspiring joyfulness.


Now, joy is different than happiness. Happiness is an emotion, and a response to chemical bath in the brain that is often influenced by external factors. Joy, on the other hand, is cultivated through an active participation in life, and a deep, abiding sense of promise that God’s presence is never far away, even when we cannot see it. Gratitude and Joy go together like salty peanut butter and dark chocolate. They complement each other beautifully.


A person can be experiencing deep grief, and yet, in their heart of hearts, still hold a sense of gratitude and trust that, as the psalmist says, “weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning”. Living a life of gratitude, (which takes actively choosing to engage with the world around us) and noticing the little things to be grateful for, helps us to cultivate that deep undercurrent of joy that can buoy us up during times of great challenge.


We see this in Paul’s letter to the folx in Philippi this week. Even though he, Paul, had been experiencing a time of tremendous difficulty, persecution, and had even spent a length of time in a solitary cell in prison, he never stopped giving thanks for those who were holding him in their hearts. Although they were far away, and could not tangibly express their love for him, he still chose to remember their kindness, their generosity, and their steadfast love. He listened when word of their faithfulness was brought to him while he was in prison, and he celebrated their gifts, rejoicing in the active presence of the Holy Spirit, who was guiding their actions. Through all that he was enduring, Paul chose to remember that they had shown him, and his friends, deep kindness when they had been in Philippi prior to his arrest.


This week, at a time when many families will gather to share a meal, and to catch up, there are also others who will be having their first Thanksgiving without a loved one, or whose family is going through some deeply challenging times. They may be experiencing an unexpected physical illness or facing a sudden need for surgery. They may have an uprising of mental illness in their family. Or they may be trying to heal from old, (or determine how best to work through current) trauma or abuse.


We hold all these gatherings in our hearts, and we pray for a sense of peace and wholeness, of shalom, to cover them all. And, because we trust that our prayers for shalom are being heard, then we can experience this week with a sense of joy. We give thanks that our prayers and our supplications are never ignored, even if we don’t always understand the answer.


And, in our gospel reading for this week, we are challenged by Christ’s parable to watch for an invitation from the Holy Spirit, who may be calling us to act with courage. To reach out of our comfort zone. To offer our gifts into such situations. For, by answering this calling, we may become the sign of hope and healing that will inspire someone who is experiencing a hard time this season, to remember that they are loved, that there is a community here showing God’s love, and that they also are not alone. In this way, may we be beacons of joy that will lead others to give thanks in this unfolding season of holidays and holy days.


Lord Christ, be our guide. Holy Spirit inspire our words and actions. Loving Creator, receive our prayers. May we be the reason someone around us gives thanks today. In your holy name we pray, amen.

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