Coulda Shoulda Woulda

North Congregational UCC New Harford CT
WORSHIP: 3rd Sunday in Lent
March 7, 2021

Pastor’s Greeting


“The Ten Commandments are not a recipe for gaining God’s favor, {we} already have God’s favor…. They are a description of what it will be like to live as God’s own people.” Albert Curry Winn, A Christian Primer: The Prayer, The Creed, The Commandments (Westminster/John Knox 1990 ), 189


Voluntary in D Minor William Walond (1719-1768)


Gather in worship to ponder the wisdom and law of God. Come into God’s presence to gain our Lord’s strength and power. The law of God is perfect, reviving the soul. God’s testimony is sure, making wise the simple. Let the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock and redeemer. Amen.
(Based on Psalm 19) 


#216 “Beneath the Cross of Jesus”

Beneath the cross of Jesus, I fain would take my stand,
the shadow of a mighty rock, within a weary land;
a home within the wilderness, a rest upon the way,
from the burning of the noon-tide heat, and the burden of the day.

Upon the cross of Jesus mine eye at times can see 
The very dying form of One who suffered there for me;
And from my stricken heart with tears two wonders I confess:
the wonders of redeeming love and my unworthiness.

I take, O cross thy shadow for my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of his face;
Content to let the world go y, to know no gain or loss,
My sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross.


 Open to us your perfect love, O God, so we may live by its spirit of love. Empower us to embrace your foolishness rather than human wisdom, the crucified and risen Christ rather than earthly principalities and powers. Help us to discern the errors within and among us that separate us from others, our own best selves and you. Amen.

EXODUS 20:1-17   The Ten Commandments (Please read full version-audio is abbreviated statement)


I Corinthians 1: 18-25

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ”I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.


“Could Have, Should Have Would Have….”   
Rev. Art Yost

In my parallel profession as a counselor, when working with a client, one of the words that would come up in conversation was the word “should.” When I was most involved in training, the discipline known as TA Therapy was very popular. You almost never hear about it now. Some of the techniques and approaches are used in CBT (that’s Cognitive Behavioral Therapy-not “cannabinoid”). Not to go into great detail-part of TA dealt with transactions between individuals and ego states (P A C- parent, adult, child) and how transactions were parallel or crossed. The word “should” might send a signal to the counselor (me) the person might be talking about the P state. Within the P state there was both the nurturing parent and the critical parent. The critical parent messages were often self-defeating for the client and sometimes the clinician would see then as “witch messages.”

The Ten Commandments (sorry, they are not suggestions) are a good example of should-ism.

There are both should and should not messages in them. I find it helpful to see these ten as a figure of a cross with the vertical symbolizing the transcendental and the horizontal human relationships. The first four focus on our relationship with God and the other six relate to relationships between God’s children.(US) Knowing our temptation to lose our way, God tries to nurture us with these six in the form of things we should not do. Of these, 7-10 are pretty obvious. You should not commit adultery, steal, lie or covet. Five and six need a little explanation. Honor Father and Mother (or respect) does not mean agree or obey in certain circumstances. Some parents live lives that should not be emulated. And number six, thou shalt not kill seems strange given how much killing happens in the story of Israel-some seem sanctioned by The Almighty. Perhaps the better translation is thou shalt not murder-to lie in wait, to take a life without cause or with self-interest. (I’m always amazed still how painful it must have been for Dietrich Bonhoeffer, theologian, to be part of a plan to place a bomb in a suitcase to murder Adolf Hitler). With very few exceptions, the basic Ten Commandments, if kept, will lead to a blessed, successful, good, responsible life. There are many should and should-not events that enter our lives and, individually, we will decide which deserve our obedience. However these Ten, called God’s Perfect Law, DO require our obedience.

So, what happens when we disobey? Enter THE CROSS. The hymnist George Bennard had it right in The Old Rugged Cross-“…an old rugged cross, the emblem of suffering and shame…that old rugged cross, so despised by the world, has a wondrous attraction for me.” Or, as Paul says in today’s scripture- the cross is “a stumbling block and foolishness.” In a passage from Romans, Paul delineates the difference between God’s first man Adam and God’s male likeness Jesus, the Christ. Romans 5:18 states, “Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.” All of our fasts and feasts of Lent are to remind us of the cost of that act of grace-the suffering of Jesus, physically and emotionally as the disciples deserted and the powerful unrighteous among his people plotted his execution out of expediency. There are many examples of dishonoring the cross. Think of the crusades that were said to be “religious” when, in fact, they were political and wealth grabbing. Or the use of Christian symbols by the Nazi’s in WWII and by the mob that attacked the Capital seeking to murder our leaders. We also minimize the power of the cross if we forget the meaning behind the crosses we wear as jewelry.

Finally I’m reminded of the wonderful story in Genesis about the Tower of Babel. Humankind way back then were so full of pride that collectively they decided to build a tower to heaven so they could do what? Shake God’s hand? So God confused their language which made it impossible for them to complete the task. Technology and all the wisdom available to us will be of no avail to us if we do not learn to do our best to keep the basic Ten and amplify them with the incarnation of God’s intent of the law revealed in Jesus, our Savior. Amen.

(PS. If you were not able to access this on line and are reading a printed copy, I encouraged everyone to think about creating a “Mission Statement” about who you are and how God might be leading you. You are here for a reason. Try to reflect what that might be into your statement.) 

Musical Meditation

Pastoral Prayer

Loving God, who creates us into new be-ing each day, help us to discover your purpose for our lives and to seek our roles in fulfilling this purpose. We praise you for your creation of our lives. We pray for this world of ours, facing so many difficulties from pandemics, storms, climate change, divisions caused by mistrust and the desires fed by greed and abuse of power.  We confess when our actions or inactions have added to these difficulties and pray for your grace to cleanse us so we can better move forward with hope, compassion and love. We remember all those who need a sense of your presence in their lives. We ask for healing and hope for all those ravaged by disease. We remember all who, for whatever reason, have led them to destructive behaviors that have caused grievous harm to loved ones or strangers. We pray for the leaders of this local community of faith, the leaders of our Conference and to all denominations and expression of faith that work towards a fuller understanding and dispensing of your love and grace.  We know that you are with us and for all your creation. We praise you for constant love and in Jesus’ name we pray as Jesus taught us, Our Father, who art in heaven….. Amen. 

HYMN for Journeying

# 729 (verses 1-3)  “Lord, I Want to Be a Christian”

Lord, I want to be a Christian, in my heart, in my heart.
Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart.
In my heart, in my heart, Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart.

Lord, I want to be more loving in my heart, in my heart. (repeat)
In my heart, in my heart, Lord, I want to be more loving in my heart.

Lord, I want to be more holy in my heart, in my heart (repeat)
In my heart, in my heart, Lord I want to be more holy in my heart.


As we have met God in worship, we go forth to encounter God in all areas of our work and play. The cross of Christ goes before us into the world, reminding us of the cost of discipleship. The promise and presence of God’s covenant go with us to strengthen our resolve. We will praise God in or words and deeds.  Amen


Voluntary in A Minor A. L. Vivaldi (1678-1741)


Rev. Art Yost will continue to provide a worship experience each Sunday in Lent
On March 28th. (Palm/Passion Sunday) there will be a full service available.
On April 2nd there will be a Last Supper Service followed by a Tenebrae (Descent Into Darkness) Ceremony.

Easter Sunday, April 4th we again will have a full service available with Rev. Art Yost.