ADVENT 2 – Peace Candle
The candle of this second week of Advent is a candle of Peace. Today the flame of this candle reminds us of the peace that Jesus brings into this world and his presence with us. (Candle is lit)
We pray together:
We thank you Jesus that you want to bring peace and freedom into every life. We thank you for the peace you have brought to us. We bring to you now prayers of peace for the people and places on our hearts this morning. Trusting in your powerful name. Amen.
ADVENT 1 – Hope Candle
We come together in the midst of a busy season to take a breath. To breathe in together the life that God gives us, to listen to the beat of God’s heart and the blessings and lessons this season brings to us. Each week of Advent we light the candles in this Advent Wreath. With its light comes our prayers.
The candle of the first week is a candle of Hope. Today the flame of this candle reminds us of the hope that came to the world when Jesus was born and His presence with us. (Candle is lit)
We pray together:
We thank you Jesus that you want to bring fullness and hope into every life. We thank you for the hope you have brought to us. We bring to you now prayers of hope for the people and places on our hearts this morning. Trusting your powerful name. Amen.
A story is told of a very wise turtle that wanted to spend the winter in Florida, but he knew he could never walk that far. So this very wise turtle convinced a couple of geese to help him, each taking one end of a piece of rope, while he clamped his vise-like jaws in the center. The flight went fine until someone on the ground looked up in admiration and asked, "Who in the world thought of that?" Unable to resist the chance to take credit, the turtle opened his mouth to shout, "I did--"
It's so tempting to take credit for the good things we do. I mean... I learned early on in my marriage... that if I was going to do the dishes, to do it when Lisa could see me doing it. You see... doing the dishes may indeed be a very good thing, but it helps to be seen doing it!
I know there are exceptions, but generally speaking... it goes against our nature to do things without getting the credit. Sure we'll help someone out, sure we'll lend that hand... but normally we want people to know that we did it. We want that glory... we want that warm feeling of someone REALLY appreciating us... we want people to KNOW just how good we are.
Maybe even worse yet, we may begin to keep track in our head. OK... I did this for so and so... now they are going to owe me something, and someday I will collect! Or if nothing else, someone will see my good deed and decide to reward me for my kindness. We begin to feel entitled... to have our good deeds noticed and rewarded.
Everybody wants to impress others, want to be seen as successful, or better than others. They want the newest car, biggest house, nicest clothes, or the most land. They want to be the head honcho. This desire to be first or be the best or be admired has another name: pride. God tells us what He thinks about people who want to be first. The "first will be last and the last will be first."
Just like many people today, the Pharisees wanted others to see them as special and treat them as though they are closer to God than anyone else. They wanted others to be impressed with their piety and holiness. They were chest thumpers who said, "Hey, look at me! Look at how important I am! See how broad my phylacteries are and how long my fringes are?"
Now, phylacteries were small leather boxes containing portions of God's Word and they were worn by Jews who interpreted literally the instructions to fasten God's Word on their hands and forehead. And Moses, in Numbers 15, had instructed the children of Israel to put fringes on their garments to remember, not only the law in general, but also the smaller parts of the rites and ceremonies belonging to it.
So the Pharisees made their phylacteries broad, that is, they put more writing on them or made the letters larger and thus more visible, to appear more holy. And they made their fringes longer to show how much more they followed the finer points of the law, therefore making them "holier than thou".
I'm sure they didn't like it one bit when Jesus pointed out how these men dressed to draw attention to themselves to put themselves on a higher level than others. They wanted to appear religious without actually being religious. "...for they do not practice what they teach." Their philosophy was, "Do as I say, not as I do."
These men thought they were important to God, they thought they were important to men, but they were just a bunch of hypocrites.
A man, returning from a business trip, was met at the airport by his wife. They walked from the gate together and were standing waiting for the baggage to be unloaded. An extremely attractive stewardess walked by. Suddenly, the man came to life. Beaming, he said to the stewardess, "1 hope we can fly together again, Miss Jones."
His wife asked, "How come you knew the name of that stewardess?" The man replied smoothly, "Well dear, her name was posted up front in the plane, right under the names of the pilot and co-pilot." To which the wife replied, "Okay, so what were the names of the pilot and co-pilot?" " Ummm..."
The man's hypocrisy was uncovered. Jesus spent a great deal of time uncovering the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. He told his followers, "Do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice as they teach."
A hypocrite is someone who pretends to be something he/she isn't. I'm sure we all know people like that. I heard a story told of a man who, when asked by a minster why he didn't come to church with his family, replied, "Because the church is filled with hypocrites." To which the minister responded, "That's okay. There's always room for one more."
And I think if we take a minute, in all honesty with ourselves... we would find ourselves standing right next to the people Jesus is condemning more often than not. And maybe it's so that each one of us stands there, side by side with the Pharisees, with table-sized phylacteries strapped to our foreheads, receiving these chiding words from Jesus.
And, just for a bit of context: Just before Jesus begins speaking to the crowds here in the passage we read today, he had been asked by a lawyer in the crowd: "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" And Jesus answered him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind...and you shall love your neighbor as yourself." Then Jesus ends by saying, "On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
In essence, Jesus is saying, "Here it is; here is the root. When it comes to following God, this is what's most important. Sure there are plenty of laws and regulations, but when it all boils down, this is what matters." After answering the lawyer's question, Jesus then turns to the crowd and speaks the words we heard a few moments ago.
And basically, Jesus is telling his followers that the Pharisees are good in their devotion to God, and that what they teach is right, and good, and pure, but that when it comes to actual practice they're not so good; they're not focused on the root.They're caught up in the mundane. They're saying one thing and doing another, they're talking the talk, but not walking the walk.
They're not practicing what they preach: In short, the Pharisees have neglected the most important things, which Jesus describes as "love of God and neighbor."
Now, it is easy for us to read Jesus' words, to nod our heads in agreement, and to think to ourselves, "those awful Pharisees." But Jesus isn't trying to throw the Pharisees "under the bus," so to speak, if he was, he wouldn't have complemented their teaching at the beginning of the passage.
And so, we too must be careful about our rush to judgment. As with all of Jesus' teachings, we need to ask the question, "What is Jesus saying to me?" That's the question we always need to ask, and today we need to consider the possibility that, when it comes to our spiritual lives, we may be more like those Pharisees than we realize.
So friends... what should we do about it? How do we move from being the bad kind of Christian that Jesus condemns... to the good of Christian that Jesus calls us to be?
Well, it's right there in today's message: The heart of today's message from Jesus is about service! Not simply doing good things... but doing good works for the right reason!
We are all called to be disciples and to do good deeds but we are NOT to do them because we feel guilty... we are NOT to do them because we seek glory... we are NOT to do them because we are seeking reward. We need to be diligent to make sure our heart is in the right place. To make sure we are in a spot where everything we do is done to worship and glorify God. We need to be prepared to give greatly, and to do it in a way that puts all of the focus on WHY we are doing it; instead of putting the focus on WHO is doing it! We need to act in such a way that when we do great works... people see Christ... and not us.
A pompous-looking preacher was trying to impress upon a Sunday School the importance of living the Christian life. "Why do people call me a Christian?" the man asked. After a moment's pause, one child said, "Maybe it's because they don't know you."
A local church asked it's members to donate money for a new building. The building committee made one stipulation: no plaques or recognition of any kind would be placed in the building to honor the givers. The response was mediocre at best. When the committee withdrew their requirement and allowed for a memorial registry with a listing of donors, the money was easily raised. What had changed? At first, the building committee was appealing solely to people's charity and generosity. Later, they offered an appeal to their egos, and the egos won.
Of course these donors didn't want others to know that they never gave a penny till they found out there would be a plaque noting their "wonderful generosity". You see, hypocrites don't like being found out. They don't like others knowing the truth about them. They're more concerned with their appearance before people than God.
Pride and our egos cause us to become hypocrites. And that hurts us. And it hurts our relationships with others. We pretend to be somebody we're not because of pride. We try to hide who we really are. ("I don't have any problems! My life is perfect! I don't make mistakes! ) Our pride and egos won't allow us to be real. We're too ashamed to admit we're not better than everybody else.
Sure we may, like the Pharisees, be able to fool other men and be looked up to. But to what gain? That and two bucks will get you a cup of coffee. I'm more concerned, and I hope you are too, with being honest with God and pleasing Him more than other people.
We can't fool God. 1 Samuel 16:7 says, "..the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but te Lord looks on the heart." God sees through our pretending and posturing like a squeaky clean window. Our broad phylacteries and long fringes do not impress God. We need to be less concerned with titles, clothes, and who we can impress, and concentrate more on coming before God in humility, knowing that, without His grace, we are nothing. "All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted."
PROCESSIONAL: Presentation of Colours:
0 Canada/The Queen:
Depositing of Colours:
Act of Remembrance: Let us remember before God and commend to
His sure keeping those who have died for their country in war, those
whom we knew, and whose memory we reassure, and all who have lived and died in the service of mankind. During the minute of silence
remember not just the soldiers who died in the ft and 2nd World Wars,
but all soldiers. It's a time to close your eyes and think about the people
who are fighting in wars and conflicts right now, all over the world. Let us a pause in a minute of silence.
Minute of Silence:
Lament: They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn; at the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.
In Flanders Fields:
CALL TO WORSHIP: ONE: Let us begin our time of worship with a moment of remembrance
ALL: We remember fallen soldiers and the sacrifice they made for us.
ONE: Let us begin our time of worship with a moment of thanksgiving.
ALL: We thank God for brave men and women who have given their lives so that we may worship without fear.
ONE: Let us begin our time of worship with a moment to reflect, for
a moment is the least we can do for those who gave their eternity
ONE: In the rising of the sun and in its going down, we remember them.
ALL: In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter, we remember them.
ONE: in the opening of buds and in the rebirth of spring, we remember them.
ALL: In the blueness of the sky and in the warmth of summer, we remember them.
ONE: In the rustling of leaves and in the beauty of autumn, we remember them.
ALL: In the beginning of the year and when it ends, we remember them.
ONE: When we are weary and in need of strength, we remember them.
ALL: So long as we live, they too shall live, for they are now a part of us, as we remember
PRAYER: We are here to worship Almighty God, whose purposes are good and whose power sustains the world. As we give thanks for His great works, we remember those who have lived and died in His service and in the service of others. We pray for all who suffer through war and are in need. We ask for His help and blessing that we may do His will and that the whole world may acknowledge Him as Lord and King.
We ask this through Christ, our Lord, who taught us when we pray to say:
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, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION: God of every nation, as we remember those who gave their life for our sake, let us be stirred to action in their memory. We confess that we have not done all that is possible to promote peace and justice in our world. We have not loved our neighbours, let alone our enemies. Forgive us for failing to live up to Your commandments. Empower us to work for Your Kingdom in this world, and welcome us by Your grace into that Kingdom.
God of peace, forgive us when we have participated in that which turns people against each other. Forgive us for fueling anger and harbouring vengeance, for not heeding Your call to love one another. Inspire us to never give up on the hope that Your life offers us, and the courage to see past war and destruction. Inspire us to live for the day when there will be peace worldwide. Amen.
Offertory Prayer: We sing "Praise God from whom all blessing flow" but sometimes we forget where our blessings come from. Remind us, Lord. Remind us each and every day that You are providing our blessings. Accept these gifts from Your grateful children, acknowledging Your many blessings. Amen
The definition of war: "a state of usually open and declared armed conflict between states or nations." War is never good. It's terrifying and leaves such horrific scars — scars that never fade.
I recently read a book to our two and half year old grand-daughter entitled "Tusk, Tusk" by David McKee. To my grand-daughter, it was just a cute little story with lots of colourful pictures, but it actually explores the themes of racism, prejudice and tolerance.
This is the story: "Once, all the elephants in the world were black or white. They loved all creatures, but they hated each other, and each kept to his own side of the jungle. One day the black elephants decided to kill all the white elephants, and the white elephants decided to kill all the black elephants. However, there were some peace-loving elephants from each side who went to live deep in the darkest part of the jungle. They were never seen again.
A great battle began between the black and white elephants. It went on
and on and on, until all the elephants were asleep. For years, no elephants were seen in the world. Then, one day, the grand children of the peace-loving elephants came out of the jungle. They were grey. Since then, the elephants have lived in peace."
This story, to older children, and even to us, as adults, is inspiring because it challenges us to live a life that makes a difference. There have probably been people in your past who have made a significant contribution in your life. Obviously our parents contributed, but others often make a difference too — a good friend, a teacher, a co-worker, a relative or a minister.
But as Christians, God has made the biggest difference in our lives. Do we repay God for all He has done for us? We should, and we can. However, this world is not the way we would like it to be. It's not the world God intended. We know this because of the day we celebrate today — Remembrance Day. This isthe day Canadians and others around the world remember and think about the men and women in the military who have died fighting to protect the country's citizens. We also think about the people who are currently in the Armed Forces, those who have died and are veterans. This is the day we honour all the men
and women who have served in the military and who have fought to defend our freedom.
Our calling, as Christians, is to be a person of peace. We must choose what is right in the eyes of God and follow His Word, and that, my friends, takes courage. It's those Christian men and women we celebrate today, Remembrance Day. They gave their lives for the benefit of all of us. They fought for the greater good and fought against the greater evil.
We enjoy a lot of freedom because of their sacrifices. We're free to come
to church and worship. We're free to choose what career we want. We're free to choose where we want to work and where we want to live. We're free to choose almost everything that affects our daily lives, including our religion.
You will hear the words "Lest we forget" or Never forget" said many times at Remembrance Day. We say these words so that we will always remember the sacrifice of the men and women who served and those who died to protect their country and families. But it's also so that we never forget the horrors of war. It's so we will ever strive to make sure it doesn't happen again.
The soldiers, sailors and airmen were also free to choose, and they chose
to fight for freedom — to keep their land, to keep their dignity and to keep their religious beliefs. At this point I would like to take a look back and read you some extracts from letters written between 1914-1918. These are some accounts and impressions from those who lived through the 'Great War.'
"We spent our second Christmas of the war Senlis. Strict orders had been
issued against any form of truce on the trench line. The Germans caught one of our men on patrol and we shelled them when they started singing carols. But it is a commentary on modern war that commanders should fear lest the soldiers on each side become friendly. Our soldiers have no quarrel with 'Fritz', save during the heat of battle, or in retaliation for some blow below the belt. If whole armies fraternized, politicians on both sides would be sore set to solve their problems. Yet it is possible that if there had been a truce for a fortnight on the whole trench line at any time after the Battle of the Somme, the war might have ended." (Colonel W.N. Nicholson, Suffolk Regiment, Highland Division)
"Last night a strange thought came to me. I was with a working party in the trenches. We had come up the communication trench, zig-zagged our way thither for a mile and half or more. Now this time of year the communication trench is a thing a beauty. On either side the piled earth has covered itself with vegetation, fresh thick grass, heavy growths of bunched white daisies interspersed with blood-red poppies. The daisies are, in fact, chamomile, so I am assured by one who is by way of being a botanical expert. Through chamomile and poppies we make our way back to reat and peace for a brief spell. Through chamomile and poppies are borne the wounded, their bandages of white splashed with scarlet, like the flowers themselves, and through chamomile and poppies passes the last sad procession when, over the line, death has suddenly shaken his dread spear." (2nd Lieutenant Ewart Richardson, 4th Battalion,
Prince of Wales Own Regiment)
"On the ninth all Batteries were relieved by the 42nd Divisional Artillery and orders were issued to march to Quievy to rejoin the Division. We moved on November 11th, Armistice Day, and we heard the announcement of the Armistice when we were still in the Foret de Mormal on a cheerless, dismal, cold misty day. There was no cheering or demonstration. We were all tired in body and mind, fresh from the tragic field of battle, and this momentous announcement was too vast in its consequences to be appreciated or accepted with wild excitement. We trekked out of the wood on this dreary day in silence. We read in the papers of the tremendous celebrations in London and Paris, but we could not bring ourselves to raise even a cheer. The only feeling we had was one of great relief. (Gunner B.O. Stokes, 13th Battery, New Zealand Field Artillery)
On Remembrance Day we hear the phrases "Lest We Forget" and "We Will Remember Them". These words should not be taken lightly. We must always remember — never forgetting the consequences of war, the injustice in the world, the hatred, the prejudice, the terror and the evil. We must always remember and continue to pray for peace in the world, forever upholding our faith in God.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet. Lest we forget. Lest we forget.
BENEDICTION: God, grant to the living, grace; to the departed, rest; to the Church, the
Queen, the Commonwealth, and all mankind, peace and concord; and to us and
all His servants, life everlasting. The blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and
Holy Spirit, come down upon you and remain with you always. Amen
THE FINAL INSPECTION
The soldier stood and faced God,
Which must always come to pass.
He hoped his shoes were shining,
Just as brightly as his brass.
"Step forward now, you soldier,
How shall I deal with you?
Have you always turned the other cheek?
To my Church have you been true?"
The soldier squared his soldiers and said,
"No, Lord, I guess I ain't.
Because those of us who carry guns,
Can't always be a saint.
I've had to work most Sundays,
And at times my talk was tough.
And sometimes I've been violent,
Because the world is awfully rough.
But, I never took a penny,
That wasn't mine to keep...
Though I worked a lot of overtime,
When the bills just got too steep.
And I never passed a cry for help,
Though at times I shook with fear.
And sometimes, God, forgive me,
I've wept unmanly tears.
I know I don't deserve a place,
Among the people here.
They never wanted me around,
Except to calm their fears.
If you've a place for me here, Lord,
It needn't be so grand.
I never expected or had too much,
But if you don't, I'll understand."
There was a silence all around the throne,
Where the saints had often trod.
As the soldier waited quietly,
For the judgement of his God.
"Step forward now, you soldier,
You've borne your burdens well.
Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,
You've done your time in Hell."
Author: Sgt Joshua Helterbran
CALL TO WORSHIP (responsive reading in bold)
Randy: God calls us to a feast!
The table is set, and we will come from east and west,
from north and south to sit at Christ’s table.
Randy: Compassion, love, and grace are poured out like fine wine.
We come to share our stories and Your story,
to share our hope and our pain,
to share our wisdom and our laughter.
Randy: The table is set, so come let us worship God together!
ALL TO WORSHIP:
ONE: God, our God, how glorious is Your name in all the earth!
ALL: Your glory is sung by all Your creation!
ONE: When we look to the heavens, the work of Your hands, the moon and the stars, we wonder- who are we that You care for us and for this world?
ALL: You are the God of life, crowning us with glory and honour to serve You all our days. 0 God, our God, how glorious is Your name in all the earth!
OPENING PRAYER: Be gracious to us today our Lord, for we are in need of Your mercy. We are often too quick to doubt and slow to pray. We are tempted to let go of faith when we need to hang on. We are discouraged by wrong when we need to be encouraged by Your Spirit. 0 God, we are thankful for the strength You give us to trust in You all the days of our lives. Amen.
Dear Lord, we offer our gifts to You, who claims us as children, who names us beloved, and who celebrates our presence. Use these gifts and our service to further Your kingdom. Thanks be to God. Amen
PRAYER & THE LORD'S PRAYER: (Choir sings 0 Lord, hear my prayer )
Lord God, You are the father of all people and we come before You today with our prayers, knowing that You will hear us, help us and guide us.
We have come together in the name of Christ to offer our praise and thanksgiving, to hear and receive God's holy Word, and to pray for the needs of the world. We come to seek the forgiveness of our sins, that by the power of the Holy Spirit, we may give ourselves to the service of God. As we rejoice in the gift of this new day, so may the light of Your presence, 0 God, set our hearts on fire with love for You, now and forever.
Gathering our prayers and praises into one, as our Saviour has taught us, so we pray: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is 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, the power and the glory, forever and ever, Amen.
SCRIPTURE READING: 1 Samuel 2:1-10 (Page 41-8)
When Hannah, received the child Samuel she had begged God for, her first instinct is to praise the One who provided. She wants to thank Him for His greatness and His deliverance. Too often we pray before receiving, but forget to pray after God answers. Let this prayer, Hannah's prayer of praise, guide you in thanks.
EDITATION: Teach Me To Pray
A five year old girl was attending a formal wedding with her grandmother.
She had gone to Sunday school every week but she had never attended a formal church service. During the wedding, the minister said, "Let us pray." Each person bowed his or her head in prayer. The little girl looked around and saw all heads bowed and eyes turned toward the floor, and she whispered,
"Grandmother, what are they all looking for?"
That's the question: what are we all looking for when we pray? Prayer is
one of the most powerful privileges God has granted us. Prayer is a crucial and integral part of being a Christian. It's one of the most important things we can do. We need to know that even if all the world seems too busy, or when it seems like no one is listening to us, God is always there to hear our prayers and care about the things we do. We have a loving God with whom we can communicate, anytime, anywhere.
Just think about it — we can have a conversation with the creator of the entire universe! So how can we make our prayers the up close and personal interaction with God that we desire? Does anyone here like to talk on the phone? Do you Skype, email, message or text? Talking with people is important to us. We make sure we can communicate with others wherever and whenever we want. So if talking to other people is easy, and we do it all the time, why is it so hard spending time talking to God?
If you have a friend, you want to talk to him or her, and you want to hear what he or she has to say in return. Friends talk. They talk about all kinds of things. We're rarely too busy to communicate with our family and friends, so why do we say we're busy to talk with God? Or maybe it's because we don't see Him. Out of sight — out of mind. Or maybe it's because we just don't know how to talk to God. We might question whether He is really listening. Or maybe we think our problems are too small and inconsequential to bother God with.
Sometimes we wonder if God is really there, but trust me, He is. When we look around us and see all that has been created, we can't help but know that there is a God. In the past, and even now, people have pretended that God didn't exist. They wouldn't acknowledge Him as Creator or give thanks to Him for all that He had made. As a result, the Bible says, "Their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened."
I'm sure no one here wants anything like that to happen to us. And this gives us an excellent reason to pray. We're able to pray and give thanks to God for who He is and for all that He has done. If you don't pray already, perhaps a good way to start would be to pray and thank God when you notice something in nature that reminds you of who He is and what He has created.
If you stop and think about it, praying is really very easy. It's as simple as talking to someone you love. All you have to do is remember the 4 letters in the word TALK.
T: Take the time. Find time in your day to talk to God. Pray at the
same every day. Make it a habit, like brushing your teeth or taking a shower.
A: Ahhhhh Quiet! Find a quiet place. Turn off the TV, turn your music
off and find a way to escape. Sit out in your backyard, find a quiet corner or hide away in your bedroom if that's what it takes.
L: Learn from God's word. Read one verse a day. And if you're up for the
challenge, read one chapter a day. Try to understand what God is saying to you.
K: Keep a prayer plan. Write down praises, prayer requests or verses that
mean a lot to you. It's really easy. Take a look at your hand — you have 5 fingers, and there are 5 parts of prayer.
I'm going to pass around some jelly beans. I want each of you to take one jelly bean at random, but don't eat it until I tell you to. I went to a lot of trouble getting these jelly beans. I had to taste test several kinds before I made my final selection. And since it was a candy store, I also had to try several other kinds of candy and chocolates. So I hope you can appreciate the sacrifice I had to make.
Now, as they're passed around, let's think about when and why we are supposed to pray. As Christians, we are instructed to pray continually and to pray in every situation, especially if we are anxious about it. The reason for this is that prayer accomplishes things. Remember what Jesus said, "Whatever you ask in my name, the Father will give You." This means if you ask something which is in God's will for us, He will give it to us. We are also told if we pray with thanksgiving and present our requests to God, that the peace of God which passes all understanding, will keep our hearts and minds in Jesus Christ. This is a very great promise, and it gives us a good reason to begin praying in every situation. What would the world give for peace of mind?
Alright, does everyone have a jelly bean? No, don't eat it just yet. Before
you do, I want to let you know that all the jelly beans are not the same. Some are sweet, some are hot and spicy, some are sour and some taste like dark chocolate.
If you get a sweet tasting jelly bean, I want you to thank God for a sweet time in your life. If your jelly bean is sour or bitter, ask God to help you add sweetness to someone else's day. If you taste hot and spicy, ask God to keep you excited about serving Him. And if the flavour of your jelly bean is dark chocolate, pray for someone who is going through a difficult time. Now, let's all taste and pray.
This jelly bean tasting exercise is a demonstration of how easy it is to pray. There is always something or someone to pray for. We are so fortunate to know God and know that He loves us. By praying to Him, by praising Him and giving Him thanks, our lives will be filled with the love, grace and goodness of God.
Offering praise at the beginning of our prayers is a way to focus us on the blessings we've received, and serves as a brief worship before starting our conversation with God, the creator of all things. We serve a God who cares deeply for His creation and longs so very much to be in a relationship with each and every one of us. Prayer is absolutely necessary to that relationship because prayer is the way we can talk personally and intimately with God.
Let us pray together. You'll find the prayer on the back of your bulletin.
Heavenly Father, You have brought me to the beginning of a new day. As the world is renewed fresh and clean, so I ask you to renew my heart with Your strength and purpose. Forgive me the errors of yesterday and bless me to walk closer in Your ways today. This is the day I begin my life anew; shine through me so that every person I meet may feel Your presence in my soul. Take my hand, precious Lord, for I cannot make it by myself.
Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering or embarrassing
others. Give me the physical strength to bear the labours of this day. Direct my will, teach me to pray and pray in me. All this we ask in Jesus' name. Amen.
BENEDICTION & CHORAL AMEN: Loving God, we thank You for hearing our prayers, feeding us with Your word and encouraging us in our gathering today. Take us and use us to love and serve You and all people in the power of Your Spirit and in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”
― Søren Kierkegaard
What are some of the things that cause you worry and anxiety? I can tell you, every morning, I get out of bed and swear to myself that I'm not gonna pick up the newspaper.I'm not gonna switch on CNN. I'm not gonna even wonder what he's doing, or planning, or thinking today. And if you don't know who HE is, ask me later., and I promise I'll rant
about it for a couple of hours.
Each of us deals with worry in big and small ways at various points in our lives and for various reasons. There might be times when we are anxious about our health, or maybe our big worry is finances. Sometimes, when the hospital bills begin mounting, we worry about both at the same time. Or maybe we worry about our children. Are they healthy? Are they doing okay in school? Will they be able to care for me as get older? Then there are the smaller worries that fill our thoughts from day-to-day. When will I have time to get in touch with that friend that messaged me last week?
Will the recently completed project at work be acceptable to my boss or will I need to start all over again? Will I ever be able to get the house clean again?
We usually say, "Nothing is certain in this life but death and taxes." I think we could also say fairly, "Nothing is certain in this life but death, and taxes...and worry." I suspect we'd be tying if any of us said we never worry about anything. But how about this one: have you ever worried about being imprisoned and killed because of your faith? I'd almost be
willing to bet this is one matter that has never caused any of us anxiety. We are fortunate that we live in a country where, we are free to live out faith and practice our religion without fear of persecution. But this has not always been true, even as it is still not true in every country today. Almost 2,000 years ago when Paul wrote this letter to the Church in Philipi, it is believed he was imprisoned in Rome.
Early on in the letter, he speaks of his upcoming sentence, and he also shares his optimism in the face of death. Where we pick up this morning, Paul is urging the Philippians to always rejoice in the Lord, to be glad in every circumstance. Paul, imprisoned in Rome and facing a sentence of death is enthusiasticaly encouraging his brothers and sisters in Christ to always be glad and rejoice. And he's not talking about some simplr feeling of happiness within; when Paul says, "Rejoice!" He means get out and celebrate exuberantly, dance with reckless abandon, hug all your riends, neighbors, relatives, and even strangers! Be glad! Can you imagine? Can you imagine be so happy when there is so much to worry about? Clearly, Paul has a handle on something that frees him from anxiety, and today we are going to spend some time talking about what that is.
Now, there is the obvious reason for Paul's near exuberance in his letter written from a Roman prison, and that is simply his faith in the risen Christ. With the promise of life, who needs to fear death? Certainly, our faith should be so strong and sure that we do not worry about anything. But in all truthfulness, even when our faith is strong, we still worry, don't we? So let's dig a little deeper into Paul's instructions to the Philippians because in this case, faith is basically assumed. Paul has been to Philippi, he has shared the Good News, a community of believers in Jesus Christ has built up, and now Paul is checking in after being away from them for some time. We know he is talking to faithful people. And yet he also knows there are problems. There is some strife and disagreement among some of the Christians in Philippi, but Paul knows there is something greater here than a conflict between a few people. The Christians are worried, they are anxious, and so Paul says, "Don't be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers andpetitions, along with giving thanks!' Instead of worrying, Paul instructs, Christians should pray. That sounds pretty easy, doesn't it? Yet most of us know that praying instead of worryinE_Y is much easier said than done. So what I want to try and do today js help all of us think of ways we can improve our prayer practices in order to overcome worry and experience greater peace. Let me begin by saying that none of us are perfect, and we are all human. No matter how much we might pray and present our petitions to God with thanksgiving, there will still be times when things worry us. But even if we can just find that right way to connect with God's peace in anxious times, then we are at least moving in the right direction. So how do we use prayer to find peace?
As we begin to look for this answer, I'd like to ask a few questions, for your consideration:
Do you pray only at church?
Do you p! ay only before meals?
Do you pray a few times a week, but not every day?
Do you pray every single morning?
Do you pray each and every night?
Do you pray several times each day?
Every time, every single time you worry, do you stop and pray?
If you're like me, you probably just realized a few ways you could improve your prayer life. I mean, I'm pretty good at returning thanks before holiday meals and special dinners, but e certainly don't pray before every meat, I very often forget. And though i try to say a pray at least once a day, I would probably benefit from a more disciplined practice where I actually set aside time specifically to talk and listen
to God, rather than just squeezing in a few minutes wherever i can fit it each day. Prayer is like a lot of things; the more you practice it, the better you will be at it, and the more beneficial it will be in our iives. The youth director at a camp I once volunteered at said to us that, "Prayer is like underwear; nobody has to know when you're praying, just like nobody has to know if you're wearing underwear." His point was that we should pray without ceasing, that we should not be afraid to pray as we walked the halls at school, or practiced bail on the field with our teammates. If we develop such habits of prayer, then it certainly is much easier to turn to prayer when life gets chaotic and worry creeps in.
But you know; I've learned something about prayer as I've developed spiritually, and that is that prayer is as much about listening as it is about talking. think this is very important in particular when it comes to prayer as a source of peace. Let me explain what I mean. Talk is easy. It's a lot easier to go to God and tell God everything that is wrong in our lives and then to expect that because we have shared our need with God, God will fix the problem. But if what we want is peace, then we need to he willing to listen to the God of peace. We need to allow God to guide our hearts, minds, and lives. We need to push aside the busyness of our lives long enough to rest in God's presence and discern God's ways. We might not hear an audible voice, but God speaks to us in many ways, and we can "hear" God if we will close our mouths for a moment and open ourselves up to simply listening. Just the thought of it is peaceful to me, especially at this time in my life with my kids running about and filling my time and my ears, with the animals to take care of on the farm, with all my rock and roll gigs. I imagine myself finding a comfy chair, a glass of hot chocolate in hand, laying my head back, closing my eyes; no noise, no talk, just a simple, "Tell me what I need to know God," and then waiting. The scene might be a little different for you, but here's the thing, none of us are very good at this because we worry that if we sit down and don't "do" anything, then we are wasting time. But we're not. We need time for prayer every day. We need to share our hearts with God, and we need to allow God to speak peace into our lives. Time spent in such prayer is not wasted, not at all. And if we want peace in our lives, as Paul instructs, we need to pray. Think of it like this: what would your marriage be like if you never talked o your spouse? As I asked the kids earlier, what would school be like if the teachers never talked and we never asked questions? What would our family relationships be like if we just waved at each other in passing? We know that relationship without communication
is a recipe for disaster. So why would we expect our relationship with God to be any different? We have to keep the lines of communication with God open through regular prayer—at least every day, if not multiple times every day. If what we want is peace, then we have to share our burdens with God a t invite God in Christ Jesus to guide our lives toward peace.
Somehow, in the midst of persecution and impending death; Paul was able to find joy and peace. We are the very fortunate beneficiaries of Paul's instruction about how to experience the same peace in our lives. We have to make time for prayer. We have to be intentional about regularly connecting with God; sharing our sorrows, celebrating our victories, unloading our burdens, giving thanks for our blessings, and offering our worries. But we also have to take time in prayer to listen, so that God can talk back to us.
Communication is a two-way street, just as much as we open our mouths, we also need to open our ears. If we want to experience God's peace, then we need to allow the God of peace to guide us.
"Don't be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus."
May it be so.
The Gift of Prayer, The Power of Thanks, Sunday, Oct.8, 2017
Thanksgiving, a time for family, a time for prayer, a time for thanks, and a time for humour. So, to start it off, let’s open with a story….
A man in Huntingdon calls his son in Toronto the Saturday before Thanksgiving and says, I hate to ruin your weekend, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing; forty-five years of misery is enough.
The son is shocked, ”Pop, what are you talking about? You and Mom are inseparable.”
“No, son, we just can't do it any more," the father says. "We're tired of each other, and I don’t want to talk about it. It’s over. Call your sister in Halifax and tell her, too.”
Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone. "Like heck they're getting divorced," she shouts, "I'll take care of this,"
She calls Huntingdon immediately, and screams at her father, "You are NOT getting divorced. Don't do a single thing until I get there. I'm calling my brother back, and we'll both be there by tomorrow night. Until then, don't do a thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?" and hangs up.
The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife. "Okay," he says, "they're coming for Thanksgiving, and paying their own way.”
But to get to the heart of my message, The gift of prayer, The power of thanks…
Nowadays, you often hear comments that say prayer is a waste of time. We have prayed for 1000s of years, it is said, but we still kill. We still hate. We still can’t just get along.
When 50 people were killed recently in Las Vegas with hundreds more wounded, some responses called for everyone to pray. One person said, prayer is the one thing we can all do. And while there was general agreement in that caring thought, there were also those who scoffed at the notion that prayer does any good. These would say, Prayer is useless. We have to take action, not practice superstition. We have to get involved politically, organize, and put pressure on our elected leaders to change our laws and to demand results.”
To my way of thinking, there’s certainly nothing wrong with getting actively involved to bring about change designed to better our society. In fact, it should be done on some level by every able-bodied person. It certainly is not enough to leave everything up to the politicians, unless maybe you believe they can do no wrong.
So, what about prayer? Does it work? The bible basically says, in Matthew, whatever you ask of the Father in Jesus’ name, He will grant you. In order for that to be true, one important ingredient is needed. BELIEF. No, not that you have to believe that all prayers are answered, but I think you do have to believe in THE POSSIBILITY that all prayers are answered in some way. Now, if it is so, I will ask, do you believe all prayers will be answered exactly in the way you want them to be answered? Or, will answers from God be very different from what we would expect?
A little humorous question asks, “How do you make God laugh?” The answer, “Tell him your plans.”
The movie “Rudy,” shows what happens when a person prays with an expectation of a certain result. Rudy Ruettiger, was a young man who had a dream. He dreamed he would someday attend Notre Dame University and play football for the school team, nicknamed “The Fighting Irish.” With that goal in mind he packed his bags, said goodbye to his parents, and took a bus to South Bend, Indiana, home of Notre Dame.
Only two problems with Rudy’s plans. One, he didn’t have the marks to get into Notre Dame. So, he had to attend a junior college in order to get his grades up. He tried and tried, prayed and prayed, but after 3 semesters, he still hadn’t qualified. Unbeknownst to Rudy, he suffered from dyslexia, which made it difficult for him to grasp educational concepts. Once this was diagnosed, a great weight was lifted off his shoulders.
The second problem was that, even if he did get into Notre Dame, it was doubtful he could make the team. After all, he was only 5’6” tall, and weighed 160 lbs. Not exactly American college football material. But he still carried on with a firm resolve and a whole lot of prayer.
Notre Dame was a Catholic college, so Rudy found it convenient to pray in the school church. He did so often. One day, while he was there on his knees, a priest who knew him well saw him at prayer.
Here is the transcript from the movie which, by the way, is a real story about a real person. The dialogue is between Rudy and Fr. Cavanaugh, the priest.
Fr. Cavanaugh: “Rudy, are you appealing to a higher authority?”
Rudy: I'm desperate. If I don't get in next semester, it's over. Notre Dame doesn't accept senior transfers.
Father Cavanaugh: Well, you've done a hell of a job kid, chasing down your dream.
Rudy: Who cares what kind of job I did if it doesn't produce results? It doesn't mean anything.
Father Cavanaugh: I think you'll find that it will.
Rudy: Maybe I haven't prayed enough.
Father Cavanaugh: I don't think that's the problem. Praying is something we do in our time, the answers come in God's time.
Rudy: If I've done everything I possibly can, can you help me?
Father Cavanaugh: Son, in thirty-five years of religious study, I've come up with only two hard, incontrovertible facts; there is a God, and, I'm not Him.
Well, without giving you more story details because maybe you’ll want to see the movie yourself someday, suffice to say that in all of Notre Dame’s illustrious football history, Rudy Ruettiger was only one of two Fighting Irish alumni who were carried off the field after a game by his teammates on their shoulders, in praise. In the end, Rudy was the first of his 13 brothers and sisters who graduated from university, followed eventually by all his younger siblings. Did God answer Rudy’s prayers to play football for Notre Dame? I’d say emphatically yes, and so much more. But the key here in following up on prayer experience is, when your prayer is answered, pause and reflect. Recognize that it was your God who made the difference, not just yourself.
So, what do I mean when I call prayer, a gift from God? What I mean is that prayer allows us to communicate with Him at the most basic spiritual level. Prayer does not rely on any Tower of Babel language. We can use English, French, Spanish, Greek or any of the 6,909 living languages listed by The Ethnologue catalogue of world languages. Prayer is multilingual, as is God. I personally say two sets of prayers every night. One set is the prayers my mother taught me in Hungarian. The other set is prayers I learned over the years in English, including naturally, The Lord’s Prayer.
Prayer is our bridge to God. Formal or informal, memorized or not. Verbal or in silence.Through prayer we are reaching out. We are acknowledging that what we experience with our senses is not enough. It is not enough to see, hear, touch, taste or smell. It is not enough even to think, calculate and conclude. Prayer is the vehicle to belief. Without it, we are hobbling along in a 4-wheel carriage with one wheel missing or weak. With it, we are wheeling along smoothly, and our direction is true.
So, how does the power of thanks come into it? In my mind, thanking someone for something done for you is an acknowledgement that you have received a benefit that didn’t come entirely from your own resources or power. The power of thanks recognizes the duality of an accomplishment. The duality being you and someone else. One gives to another. One returns a gift to another. The power of this recognition, the power of admitting this other, is the admission that we are not alone. We admit that every time we thank another person, and every time we thank God.
The poet and Anglican cleric, John Donne, wrote these lines hundreds of years ago…..
“No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
Never ask for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee. You are not alone. You are a part of mankind. And as such, if a part of you is diminished, we are all diminished. And, as such, we are a part of God, and when we give thanks, we recognize the power of our relationship to God, and that recognition allows us to understand that together, in God, we can accomplish great things because we don’t have to rely solely on our own strengths, but the combined strength of us together, and together with God.
In yet another example from the world of football, a panel of sports prognosticators - a fancy word for sports tv analysts - were discussing various teams and players. One of them asked the question, “What makes Tom Brady tick?” For anyone who doesn’t know, Tom Brady is the 40-year-old quarterback of the New England Patriots who won the league championship last February, the Super Bowl. In fact, Brady has won 5 of them over 17 years, the only player ever to accomplish that.
Well, one of these experts tried to formulate an answer to, “What makes Tom Brady tick?” He said, “It’s almost as if he acknowledges that he has been given this immense power to compete and to excel, and his constant striving to use these gifts is his way of giving thanks.” This said by an ordinary tv sports guy, one who, I believe, has tapped into the power of thanks.”
And now, I will resort to a line by George Burns, that wonderful comedian:
“The secret of a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending, and to have the two as close together as possible.”
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
PROCESSIONAL: Thy Word (#496 — Blue Hymnal)
INTROIT: "Sing A New Song" (Choir)
OPENING PRAYER: Creator God, You have made us in Your image to reflect Your goodness. You have called us to use our gifts to build Your kingdom. Help us to focus on how to develop our creativity and, at the same time, to seek the wisdom to use our skills to Your glory, and for the building up of the people we serve. In the name of Christ and through the Holy Spirit, we pray. Amen.
CALL TO WORSHIP:
ONE: 0 give thanks to the Lord, call on His name, make known His deeds among the peoples.
ALL: Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; tell of all His wonderful works.
ONE: Come let us worship the Lord.
OPENING HYMN: #466 "Praise The Lord With The Sound Of Trumpet"
WELCOME: All who come to this sanctuary are welcome companions on this special musical day. You are invited to turn to those nearest you and greet them with words of peace and joy.
SPECIAL MUSIC: Norm Rennie & Rob Ireland "Let's Walk Along/Shoutin' On The Hills"
THE MUSICIANS PRAYER: Oh Lord, please bless the music which we share today, that itmight glorify Your name. May the talent that You have bestowed upon us be used only to serve You. Let this music be a witness to Your majesty and love, and remind us that You are always watching, and listening, from Your throne above. May Your presence and beauty be found in every note, and may the words that are sung reach the hearts of Your people so they will draw closer to You. May Your Spirit guide us through every measure so that we might be the instruments of Your peace, and proclaim Your glory with glad voices. Amen.
SPECIAL MUSIC: Kevin Harvey "Be Thou My Vision"
RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 96 (Page 934)
SPECIAL MUSIC: Quinn Burrows "The Midnight Special"
PRAYER & THE LORD'S PRAYER: Creator God, because You make all that draws forth our praise and the forms in which to express it, we praise You. Because You make artists of us all, awakening courage to look again at what is taken for granted, grace to share these insights
with others, vision to reveal the future already in being, we praise You. Because You form Your Word among us, and in Your great work embrace all human experience, even death itself, inspiring our resurrection song, we praise You. Lord, You have called us to worship You. We gladly gather. As we praise You, though, our own inadequacy reminds us of how we have broken our relationship with You. Because we have sinned against You, even our worship fails to be what it could. We often treat it as a show. We simply go through the motions, failing to recognize that You want to engage us deeply.
Renew us, we pray, according to Your steadfast love. Remind us of Your
covenant faithfulness and have mercy on us. Now let us pray together the prayer Jesus taught us: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is 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, the power and the glory, forever and ever, Amen.
HYMN: #422 "Sing A New Song Unto The Lord"
SPECIAL MUSIC: Kim Graham "Hands"
ANNOUNCEMENTS, BIRTHDAYS & ANNIVERSARIES: (Betty)
SPECIAL MUSIC: Stewart Burrows "Jesus Met The Woman At The Well"
SCRIPTURE READING: 2 Peter 1:3-11 Page 1893
SPECIAL MUSIC: Yvonne Langlois "A Time To Gather"
PRAYER OF INTERCESSION: (Choir sings right before prayer- Take, 0 Take Me As I Am)
Creator God, You have made us in Your image to reflect Your goodness. You have called us to us our gifts to build Your kingdom. As we worship this day, we seek to reflect Your image in our daily routine. Help us not only to focus on how to develop our creativity, but also to seek the wisdom to use our skills to Your glory, and for the building up
of the people we serve. In the name of Christ and through the Holy Spirit we pray. Amen.
SPECIAL MUSIC: Diane Morrison "The Rose" annuled
HYMN: #412 "Come Let Us Sing"
OFFERING: This is the time where we make our love visible through the giving of our offerings. Let's give with cheerful hearts.
Offering Received: "Let's Just Praise" Choir
Offertory Hymn #79 (Blue Hymnal)
Generous God; over and over Your grace sustains us, over and over Your
Love provides for us, and over and over Your arm steadies us. We give You these gifts, with gratitude and joy, thankful that You are God over all. Amen
SPECIAL MUSIC: Howard Welburn "Gonna Build A Mountain"
MEDITATION: Using God's Gifts
USING GOD'S GIFTS
A church bulletin ran this notice; "Someone has taken the paper cutter
from the church office and we are in dire need of it. Please bear in mind that without the paper cutter, the sermons will get longer and longer." Well please don't worry, I haven't lost my paper cutter!
We're all here today because we love music. It's been wonderful hearing
everyone sing and the instruments being played. It's been said that music is food for the soul, and I agree. We sing when we're happy. We whistle or hum while we work. We clap our hands or stomp our feet when we hear a lively tune, and we sway to the rhythm of a lilting ballad. I Corinthians 7:7 says "Each man has his own gift from God," and we've enjoyed the musical gifts He has given today.
There's an old joke about a man who, when asked if he could play a violin, answered, "I don't know. I've never tried." This is psychologically a very wise reply. Those who have never tried to play a violin really don't know whether or not they can. Those who say too early in life, and too firmly, "No, I'm not at all musical," shut themselves off permanently from whole areas of life that may have proved rewarding.
Each of us has unknown possibilities, undiscovered potentialities. One big advantage of having an open self-concept rather than a rigid one, is that we will continue to expose ourselves to new experiences and therefore continue to discover more and more about ourselves as we grow older.
This afternoon we have listened to beautiful voices, and heard the sound of guitars, flutes, violins, a euphonium, a saxophone, drums and piano. I remember the first time I picked up my saxophone. I put the mouthpiece between my lips and blew. The most horrifying sound came out and I was convinced this was not the instrument for me. But after several tries and instruction from my Dad, the sound improved. And eventually, after a few weeks of practicing, I was part of the saxophone section in the Ormstown Band.
It's the same for any person wanting to play an instrument or sing. First, we need instruction, a teacher to show us what to do. Then we need to practice, practice, practice. That reminds me of four year Jimmy who was thrilled when he family got a piano. He immediately went to the instrument, got up on the bench and began pounding the keys. After a while he got down from the piano bench in total frustration. "It's no use," he cried. "Jesus Loves Me just isn't in that piano." The moral: You get out what you put in. After some instruction and practice, little Jimmy would be able to play Jesus Loves Me.
The same can be said for anything. You get out of worship what you put into it. You get out of discipleship what you put into it. You get out of prayer,faith, etc. What you put into it. All these things need practice, dedication, devotion and desire to always try to do better.
I want you to think with me, just for a moment, about life as a great
musical instrument and we are all required to play. There are so many people who don't know how to get any music out of this instrument of life. They find fault with life itself. They put the blame on God when they should be blaming themselves. It isn't life that is to blame and neither is it God, if we get no music. It's you and I.
If we want to get music out of life, we must have a teacher, and the world's greatest teacher is Jesus Christ. He gives us our lessons, but we must practice, practice, practice.
Are you getting music out of life? And if you are, what kind of music is it? Is Christ your teacher? Do you practice? When we let Christ teach us and when we follow his teachings and practice what 1-le has taught, our lives will be filled with the most beautiful music which we can share with others. That is our gift from God and we should use it every day.
Let us pray: Gracious and loving God, our souls are filled with the power and joy of Your song of Creation. Our hearts dance to the beat of Your rhythm as we raise our voices in response to Your call. Wrapped in the arms of Your sustaining Love, we offer our gift of music. In the presence of Your Holy Spirit, hearts are stilled to hear, minds are stirred to action and lives may be transformed.
We pray that all who listen will hear with understanding, and open
themselves to feel You presence through the joy in our voices and the passion in our hearts. We pray that all who listen will feel their spirits touched by the wonder of Your mystery, and add their own voices to our joyful noise.
SPECIAL MUSIC: Elisabeth Churchill "You Raise Me Up"
CLOSING HYMN: #410 "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore You"
CLOSING PRAYER: God of majesty, whom saints and angels delight to worship in heaven; be with Your servants who make art and music for Your people, that with joy we on earth may glimpse Your beauty and bring us to the fulfillment of that hope of perfection which will be ours as we stand before Your glory. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen. And now
BENEDICTION & CHORAL AMEN: May the blessing of God, the giver of every good and perfect gift, and of Christ, who summons us to service, and of the Holy Spirit who inspires generosity and love, be with us all.
"Music is the art of the prophets, the only art that can calm the agitations of the soul; it is
one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us."
- Martin Luther
Once upon a time in their marriage, a fellow, let's call him Jim,
did something feally stupid. His wife chewed him out for it.
He apologized, they made up.
However, from time to time, his wife would mention what he
"Honey," the fellow finally said one day, "why do you keep
bringing that up? I thought your policy was 'forgive and
"It is," said his wife. "I just don't want you to forget that I've
forgiven and forgotten."
"Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." Have you ever
given much thought to that line from the Lord's Prayer? I think
it's fair to say that most of the time, we pray this prayer
without thinking deeply about what we are saying. But today's
teaching from Jesus forces us to give serious thought to our
practice of forgiveness towards others, especially as it relates to
God's forgiveness towards us.
The lesson begins with Peter's question, "Lord, how many times
should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me?
Should I forgive as many as seven times?" Peter doesn't literally
mean saying, "I forgive you," seven times over. Throughout the
Bible, seven is considered the number that represents
perfection. So Peter is in essence asking, "If I forgive perfectly,
that should about take care of it, right?" But Jesus response is
not really affirmative. "Not just seven times," Jesus says,
"but...seventy-seven times." In other words, your forgiveness
must be better than perfect, it must be perfect perfection. And
then Jesus goes on to illustrate just what forgiveness should
look like through a parable, known as the "parable of the
Now, this parable is told to a first century audience, familiar
with the economy of that day and the value of talents and so
forth. Because we don't have a full knowledge of the value of
money and various denominations of money in that time, it's
hard for us to understand the immensity of what Jesus is
conveying here. So let me try and put this servant's debt in
perspective. In the first century Roman world, a talent was
equal to about fifteen years' pay for a laborer. Did you hear
that? It took roughly fifteen years for an average laborer to
earn just one talent! And now we have this king who has said
the servant owes him 10,000 times that; 150,000 years worth
of labor! So clearly, this is an absurd amount of money the
servant owed to the king. There really would have been no way
the laborer could have run up such a debt with his master.
Jesus is speaking in hyperbole here in order to convey
unquestionably that the servant owed his master a lot. But the
point is not the exact amount owed by the servant. Instead, the
point Jesus wants to make in this parable is the immensity of
the forgiveness offered by the king. Certainly, what the servant
owed the master was great, but what the master forgave was
Which is why it's so ironic that the servant immediately turns
around and does just the opposite! As soon as the servant has
left the king's presence, he runs across a fellow servant who
just happens to be in debt to him some 100 coins. Again, this is
most likely not a precise amount. But to give you an idea, let's
call the first servant's debt "the ocean," and let's call his fellow
servant's debt "a drop." What this fellow servant owed was
miniscule compared to the debt just forgiven by the king. Still,
though, the unforgiving servant did not show the same
generous forgiveness his master had shown him. In fact, he
offered no forgiveness at all. That's pretty unbelievable, isn't it?
Imagine how we would feel if we had been so generous with
someone, and they turned right around and attempted to take
something from someone else. We'd be pretty angry, wouldn't
we? And the king gets angry as well. When he gets word of his
unforgiving servant, he calls him back and punishes him. Now,
what we have to note here is that the servant is not being
punished because of the debt he owes his master. Instead, he is
being punished because he did not show the same generous
forgiveness the master had offered to him. Just think about
that for a minute, friends. We mess up a lot in our lives. We sin
against God and our neighbor. But if we go to God again and
again seeking God's forgiveness, then Christ tells us, the Father
will generously bestow that forgiveness. But, if we cannot in
turn offer the same generous forgiveness to those who have
sinned against us...well, it's only THEN that God's forgiveness
may not be so readily available. Do you see what I'm getting at?
One message of this passage is that God does not punish us for
the bad things we do; rather, God punishes us for the good
things we do NOT do, our failure to be generous with others as
God in Christ Jesus has been generous with us.
Clearly, forgiveness is serious business. And I do not in any way
want to diminish either the seriousness of our failures, nor the
extreme difficulty in forgiving those who have wronged us. If
we are to receive God's forgiveness, it requires that we repent
of our wrongdoing. This means we have to acknowledge that
we were wrong, we have to approach God in humility, and we
have to seek God's grace. In other words, we essentially turn
ourselves over to the mercy of God. Forgiveness is not just like
some Christmas present that a kindly grandfather gives to his
sulky grandchild, even though the grandchild has been
disrespectful and ungrateful the whole Christmas morning.
Forgiveness requires a change of our hearts, and it results in a
change of our lives.
In the same way, the forgiveness we share with others should
not be bestowed lightly. There are terrible, terrible things that
people do to one another in this world. Children are abandoned
or abused by their drug-addicted parents. Thieves rob us of our
material goods and our sense of security. Terrorists kill
innocent civilians in an effort to get some attention. People lie
to us, take advantage of us, and bully us. And many of us, no
doubt, have been on the receiving end of such hurt at times.
We know it is not easy to forgive, nor is it appropriate to just
flippantly forgive such harm. But if, in time, the person who has
wronged us seeks us out, acknowledges their wrongdoing, and
genuinely asks for our forgiveness, then Christ's message to us
this morning is that we should not withhold it. And if, even
then, we find it difficult to forgive the person who has hurt us,
then at the very least, we should pray to God to help us do
what needs to be done. Maybe even the prayer goes something
like this, "God, will you forgive this person for the hurt they
have caused me? And in turn, God, please help me to forgive
them as well."
Forgiveness is a hard road to walk, but it is the way to life and
life abundant. Forgiveness is the way of Jesus, the way of the
cross. And while revenge may seem to be much easier and
more desirable, it in fact is what leads to bondage and death!
Did you know that the Greek word for "forgive" means to "let
loose"? It's like a really tough knot that suddenly gives way and
becomes completely untied. It's like a dark bondage from which
there is sudden release. That's what it's like to be forgiven. And
that is what it is like to forgive as well!
Forgiveness means to release, to let go of the other, but
forgiveness is not denying or forgetting our hurt. When we
minimize what has happened to us, gloss over it, or tell
ourselves that it was not really that bad, we cannot really
Today, as every year at this time around September 11, we
remember those terrible attacks in New York City and
Washington DC, just a few hours south from us. This was a
major event, causing widespread heartbreak. Perhaps we knew
families hurt by the tragedy; perhaps we ourselves felt hurt by
these obscene acts. This was an event that rocked our world.
An event that changed our world. An event that had incredible,
life changing negative impacts on an entire world.
And perhaps we also remember other pains and the hurts,
fears and angers, not as far reaching, but that have nonetheless
changed our own lives in the last decade.
Forgiveness is only truly possible when we are able to
acknowledge the negative impact of another person's actions in
our lives. And what Christ teaches us is that once we have
acknowledged the hurt, we are to forgive the perpetrators. We
have to make a conscious choice to release those who have
wounded us from the sentence of our judgment, however
justified that judgment may be.
Often we do not really want to forgive someone or ask for their
forgiveness, even though we know we "should." One reason
may be a desire for revenge, and that is surely true for many
when we recall the events of 9/11, or other harmful or hateful
things. We want to get back at the people for what they have
done to us. We may want to return the hurt by inverting the
Golden Rule, "Do unto others as they have done unto us." We
may resist forgiving another because we think that the person
who hurt us ought to do or say something to mend the hurt, or
repay us for what we have experienced. We want to put
conditions on forgiveness, probably because it is so difficult.
But.... The great blessing of forgiveness is that it is a two-way
street, where both the one who is forgiven as well as the one
who forgives are set free. How can we, sinners saved by grace,
those who owe a great debt to God but who have had that debt
cancelled by Christ's shed blood on the cross, by God so loving
and forgiving us; how can we refuse to forgive others? Our
hearts are either open or closed to God's forgiveness. If they
are open, able and willing to forgive others, it shows that they
have truly and for real been open to receive God's love and
forgiveness gratefully and in such a way that saves our very
souls, changing us from the inside out! But if our hearts are
locked up to the love of God they will be locked up from
extending God's love to others. It's basically just a law of
There can be no doubt that this is a hard lesson for us to learn,
both in our thinking and in our acting. This lesson holds up a
mirror for us to see our tendency to withhold the very mercy
and forgiveness we have received.
Think about it, the ONLY righteous judge, Jesus, says from the
cross, "Forgive them." We, from our positions of self-
righteousness, cry out, "Pay me back what you owe!" The key
point of Jesus' words to Peter are that the way of life which
marks out the Christian life is forgiveness! Those who truly
understand the magnitude of God's mercy must may it forward
Not only does Jesus forgive us, but it is only through Jesus'
forgiveness that we, ourselves, can possibly forgive others. As
Jesus' words make clear, those of us who have been forgiven so
very, very much by God through Jesus Christ must take a good
look in the mirror. Those who have been forgiven, must forgive.
Every time we accuse someone else, we accuse ourselves.
Every time we forgive someone else, though, we pass on a drop
of water out of the bucketful that God has already given us.
God does not forgive our sins easily, nor does God expect us to
simply blow off the deep pain that others sometimes cause us.
But when we can acknowledge the cost of our own mistakes,
and let go of the pain and hurt that others have caused us, then
we will find ourselves free of a great burden. Forgiveness is life-
giving. It is an important part of the abundant life Christ has
promised to those who follow him. In fact, forgiveness is the
way of life that will mark out the new covenant community.
And it's not just that Jesus' disciples be forgiving people, but we
must together be a community of forgiveness. Still, there is a
deeper demand of this text, which is to forgive others as our
acceptance of God's forgiveness. "Forgive us our trespasses as
we forgive those who trespass against us." If we are not willing
to share the generous forgiveness that God has shared with us,
then we cannot expect that God will continually be so merciful.
Think of it like this: forgiveness is like the air in your lungs.
There's only room for you to inhale the next lungful when
you've just breathed out the previous one. If you insist on
withholding it, refusing to give someone else the kiss of life
they may desperately need, you won't be able to take any more
in yourself and you will suffocate very quickly. Like those lungs,
if our heart is open, able, and willing to forgive others, it will
also be open to receive God's love and forgiveness. But if it's
locked up to one, it will be locked up to the other.
We can allow ourselves to be robbed of life as we keep pain
and hurt locked up inside us, or we can let it go. The key to
letting it go is forgiveness; allowing ourselves to forgive and to
be forgiven. But grace will not operate if it's not embraced
wholeheartedly. There is a direct connection between God's
saving work on our behalf and the behavior that is expected of
the family of God. Our lives must make obvious who God is and
what God is like. So let us move and live in God's grace,
extending to others what has been so freely given to us.
Here is a question that was posed in the 4th chapter of Genesis. And it has been discussed by bible scholars, by students of the human condition, by writers and by students ever since.
It is the rather surly response to God who asks Cain where his brother, Abel, is. Of course, God knows where he is. He has been murdered by Cain. Not only that. Cain knows that God knows, so his attitude is, “Why ask me when you know full well what happened.”
Isn’t it strange how this story unfolds at the very beginning of the bible writings? Why so early? Why should there be a tale of intrigue and murder so soon after the Creation? Why, in fact, why was there a story of temptation, of giving in to temptation, of disobedience to the Creator God, and of God’s response to man’s disobedience? Wouldn’t you think it might have been more glorious to speak of God and his angels in all their glory, describe the beauty of heaven, and thank God for his great gifts?
I’ve thought of these things, as many of you probably also have. Taking a step back, a step away from individuals like Adam, Eve, Abel, Cain, Seth and so many more, I believe the writers of these early stories were simply trying to make sense of the world as we know it, not necessarily as we would like it to be.
We don’t live in a world without pain. We don’t live in a world without death. We don’t live in a world in which man is always unselfish and kind to his fellow man, his brothers and sisters. But recognizing the truths of our human failings, I also recognize the strong truth that we still look for solutions to our faults. There is an instinct within us that prompts us to search for the RIGHT way to do things. This also is what the bible stories constantly probe. Therefore, we have the question, “Am I My Brother’s Keeper?” And if the answer is YES, we must be able to answer WHY?
So, it is not simply a story of Cain and Abel. It is a story of jealousy, of hate, of aggression, and of the ultimate crime, that of murder. It is the beginning probe of ethics and of why such heinous crimes are not simple transgressions against God, not simply sins, but actions that result in a dysfunctional world, a world that does…not…work.
As a young man in high school, I loved sports of all kinds, mostly football and hockey, but also soccer and baseball. If you notice, all four of these sports are team events, not the classical individual Olympic events like track and field, but events that require several players working together toward a common goal. I had some pretty good coaches throughout high school and college, and my school, Loyola, won its fair share of championships. How was that accomplished? What our coaches taught us is that in order to WIN, certain basic disciplines must be applied.
But why bother with winning? Why bother with success? Why bother with our fellow men and women? And what is winning anyway? Why is it desirable? Isn’t it enough to just participate and have fun? Isn’t it enough to just do for ourselves?
Well, in my opinion, winning is just a word to describe the attainment of certain challenging goals. Yes, you can be a winner by simply doing the best you can. You can be a winner by achieving certain set personal individual goals. But to be a winning TEAM, you have to rise above your own individual world and include the world of your TEAMMATES. You have to not only do your best. You have to help your teammates to do their best. If one stumbles, another must immediately step up to take his place, to lend a hand. You must recognize what others’ strengths and weaknesses are. You must be willing to BE YOUR BROTHER’s KEEPER. If you do not, your team will fail, and repeated failure in the big world means an eventual failure of your society. You will eventually perish without winning.
Christ recognized this in his parable of the Good Samaritan. The interesting thing to me about that story is that the expert in the law - or lawyer - who challenged Jesus ended up by answering his own questions.
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[c]; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’[d]”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”
30 In reply, Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[e] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
So, you see, this lawyer had his answers already in his own soul. Jesus only asked him questions. The lawyer was instinctively able to provide the correct answers. In the same way, we instinctively know that we need to be our brother’s keepers. We have the answers in our own conscience. If we are able to think as TEAM players, not as selfish individuals. If we are able to see others as our own brothers and sisters, not as strangers to fear. If we do not allow prejudice and fear, but caring, be our guiding light. The essence of caring for others begins when we are very young. The essence of hatred and fear likewise begins at the same time. I don’t know if I’ve ever sung this little song to you here in Rockburn, so forgive me if you’ve heard it here before. It’s from South Pacific:
You’ve got to be taught to be afraid, of people whose eyes are ugly made
And people whose skins are a different shade, you’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear, you’ve got to be taught from year to year,
It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear, you’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late, before you are six or seven or eight
To hate all the people your relatives hate, you’ve got to be carefully taught,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
But in our modern world, we often fail to recognize how to be a good neighbour. We often fail to distinguish what it takes to be a good Samaritan. There’s a little story I read about a Scotsman named Jock:
Jock’s mother calls him from Aberdeen.
"How's the flat you're living in in London, Jock?" she asks.
"It's okay," he replies, "but the woman next door keeps screaming and crying all night and the guy on the other side keeps banging his head on the wall."
"Never you mind," says his mother, "don't you let them get to you, just ignore them."
"Aye, that I do," he says, “And I just keep playing my bagpipes.”
We all have trouble being good neighbours sometimes. When someone goes to cut you off on the road, you see him coming, you know exactly what he’s going to do, you have plenty of time to slow down and let him in, but do you? Or, do you speed up and try to keep him from getting in front of you? And when he flashes you his middle finger, do you feel sorry for what you did, or do you give him the finger right back again? I admit there have been times I have done exactly that.
The story of Cain and Abel is a story about a brother killing a brother. It is a shocking story, a cruel story, but it was an act fuelled by jealousy and murderous thought before it actually resulted in the taking of a life.
Luke 10 makes it clear that the thought comes before the deed:
21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
And Matthew makes clear that while it is a good thing to attend church and to offer sacrifice, it is even more important to settle your differences with your brothers and sisters.
Matt 5 23-24
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First, go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
You see, it’s easy to hold a grudge and to keep a wall of silence between you and your neighbour, friend, or family member. And, it’s easy to let your pride take over when, instead of making up over some differences, you decide to “never talk to him again.” It’s easier in the short run, perhaps, but sometimes such an attitude can become hardened, neither side gives way, and you may end by taking your differences to the grave. I can guarantee you that if that happens, you will be forever sorry, and too late to do anything about it. Better to make amends now while you can. Better to be ‘brothers’ again, even if you feel he or she was the wrong one. Go to him, knock on his door, and say, “Hey, bud! Look, I just want to say I’m sorry. Can we forget about all this and just be friends again?” I guarantee you won’t regret it. I know. I have been there. Better to be your brother’s keeper than to let the wound fester until your relationship is dead.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
CALL TO WORSHIP: (Based on Psalm 100)
ONE: Shout with joy to the Lord! Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before Him, singing with joy! Know that the Lord is God!
ALL: He made us and we are His. We are His people, the sheep of His pasture.
ONE: Enter His gates with thanksgiving, go into His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and bless His name.
ALL: For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and His faithfulness continues to each generation.
WELCOME: This is what the Lord God says: I, myself, will search for my sheep. I will take care of them. A shepherd will take care of his scattered flock when it is found. In the same way I will take care of my sheep. I will save them from all the places where they are scattered. (Ezekiel 34:11-12)
PRAYER TO THE GOOD SHEPHERD & THE LORD'S PRAYER: Lord of the 23rd Psalm,
I have known death, and You have refreshed my soul. I have known fear, and You have comforted me. I have known hunger, and You have set a feast before me. In the darkest valley no calamity of humankind or nature has separated us.
Teach me to walk as You walk, beside those in mourning, so they will know joy. Beside those in fear that they will know comfort. Beside those in hunger that they will feast until their cup overflows. As Your goodness and love follow me, may mine follow my neighbour that the threat of the worst terrors may turn to the knowledge of the comforts of the house of the Lord, where You have invited us to dwell forever. And so let me strive to help build on earth what You have promised us in heaven. In the face of all calamity, present and yet to come, let me lead my neighbour beside quiet waters, the quiet waters of the Good Shepherd.
Now let us pray together the prayer Jesus taught us: 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, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
As followers of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, we like to help His work of taking care of others. We give You this offering today and with it we worship You and give our whole selves to You. Please take it and use it for Your kingdom and Your glory. Extend and multiply its reach and influence we pray. May it be a great blessing to many. We ask all this in the name of Jesus. Amen.
PRAYER OF INTERCESSION:
Confident that the Lord's love for us has no end, we bring forward our needs and the needs of others, all over the world. We pray for those who serve and lead in the Church, that they may follow the example of Christ, the Good Shepherd. (pause for silent prayer) we pray for all members of the caring professions, that the Lord's compassion may be visible in them. (pause) We pray for young people deciding how they will spend their lives, that they may consider serving God's people. (pause) We pray for farmers and those who work on the land, that they may show respect for all God's creation. (pause) We pray for people who call on the name of the Lord Jesus in their sufferings, that they may experience God's healing power. (pause) We pray for all who have gone on before us in faith, that they may see God, face to face. (pause)
God of beauty and compassion, You love us as a shepherd loves all the flock. Continue to support Your people with Your grace, we pray, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
SPECIAL MUSIC: "The Silence Of The Lambs" - Norm
MEDITATION: The Good Shepherd
The Good Shepherd
When I was preparing this morning's meditation, I was reminded of a story. Kevin and Ryan, ages five and three, were waiting for breakfast one Saturday morning. As their mother was preparing some pancakes, the boys began to argue loudly over who would get the first one from the griddle. Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson and said, "If Jesus were sitting here, he would say, 'Let my brother have the first pancake — I can wait.'" Kevin immediately turned to his younger brother and said, "Okay, Ryan, you be Jesus."
This little story is about sacrifice and for some it's not an easy thing to do. Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice by giving His life for us. He paid the ultimate price to save all of us from sin. I guess by now you've figured out that this Sunday has been devoted to the Good Shepherd.
Typically, Good Shepherd Sunday is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Easter, but since we're breaking for summer vacation and will be separated from each other for a while, I thought today would be a good day to talk about the Good Shepherd.
We all know who the Good Shepherd is, right? I learned 'way back when I was a little girl in Sunday School that Jesus was the Good Shepherd. But it wasn't until much later that I really understood all that the name stood for.
Let's start with Jesus himself. In the Bible, there are well over 2000 different titles and names used to describe Jesus Christ. Many of these are how Jesus described himself. He was called Lamb of God, Bread of Life, Light of the World, The Way, The Word, The Truth, The Door and the Son Of Man, just to name a few.
In this morning's scripture reading from John 10, Jesus said "I am the Gate (or Door)" and "I am the Good Shepherd." I've talked about this passage before, but I'm talking a slightly different direction this time.
In the time of Jesus, the shepherd was very important. Sheep are totally defenseless and absolutely dependent on the shepherd. Even the sound of running water can frighten them. There were many kinds of dangers and it was really important for the shepherd to keep a watchful eye on his flock. Heavy rains could cause flash floods and sweep the sheep away. Robbers were a constant threat, coming in the night to steal the sheep. Wolves could attack the
flock at any given moment. Remember the story of David, a young shepherd boy, who killed a bear and a lion while watching his father's flock.
Weather also played a part in the shepherd's care of his flock. Driving winter snow and blowing and burning sand in summer. A shepherd's hours were long and lonely, but a good shepherd's main focus was the care of his flock. In fact, many shepherds gave up their lives in face of grave danger just to protect their sheep.
Jesus tells us that a good shepherd does three things: 1) He cares for his sheep; 2) he makes sure the sheep know him and know his voice; and 3) he lays down his life for his flock.
Jesus compares 'caring for his sheep' with the shepherd who is not so caring the one who abandons his sheep when a wild animal comes to prey; the one who abandons his sheep at the first sign of any danger. Jesus tells us that a good shepherd is the one who takes care of his flock even when he is put in harm's way. This is what the Good Shepherd does.
Jesus tells us that a good shepherd is known by his flock. Jesus repeats this several times, emphasizing its importance. This is the point when it should become clear that Jesus isn't talking about actual sheep or actual shepherds. Jesus is talking about himself and each one of us. Jesus is telling us that He has given His life for us so that we may be brought closer to God and truly know and follow His ways.
Jesus gave his life on the cross as the Good Shepherd. Through His willing sacrifice, Jesus made salvation possible for all who come to Him in faith. It is only through Him that we can receive salvation. "I am the Good Shepherd. I know my sheep and they know me."
I'm going to hold up a couple of pictures. First, this is a picture of what? (a crutch). What is a crutch used for? It provides support under the arm to help someone walk if his leg is injured or weak. It can assist a person with balance problems and help him to perform daily activities more easily.
Now, this is a picture of a___________ ? (ladder) What are ladders used for?
Ladders are used for reaching high places: for putting things away in storage; for changing a light bulb; for painting or cleaning walls and ceilings; for cleaning out the eaves troughs, cutting tree branches, and many other uses.
So crutches are used by the lame, injured and weak, and ladders are used by stronger, healthier people to gain access to higher places. Did you ever realize that some people use God as a crutch and others think of God as a ladder? Those who think of God as a crutch go limping through life. However, those who think of Him as a ladder climb up to higher things.
Don't get me wrong. We need crutches. People are always getting hurt and some will never walk like the rest of us do. But we need ladders to do the work of the world. How do you think of God: as a crutch to help you out of trouble, or to lean on when you're hurt; or are you a strong person who regards God as a ladder to climb in order that you may reach the best in life?
God will be a crutch for you to lean on if you should hurt yourself, but you don't want to be a lame Christian all your life and go limping into heaven. We are always answering God's call to walk a great life journey of faith. A journey that will enable our love for God and others to grow. Let God strengthen us and nourish us as we take that journey. It's an easy journey if we follow the Good Shepherd.
I always go back to that part of Jesus' story where He tells us the sheep know him and know His voice. The sheep hear the shepherd's voice and are comforted by it. A voice to which they are irresistibly and powerfully drawn.
God calls to us, too, each one of us. But sometimes we don't hear His voice or even recognize it. No matter what we've done, or how far we've strayed, God calls to us. He wants us to climb the ladder, step by step, as He climbs with us.
We are the sheep and Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He loves us, He takes care of us, He makes sure we have everything we need. He was even willing to give His life so that you and I could live with Him forever. There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus really loves His sheep.
Let us pray: Our dear Lord Jesus, the Good Shepherd, You count us to make sure we are all safe, secure and content. We can't go astray without You knowing and going out to look for us. What a wonderful feeling of security. You always go beyond what is expected in looking after Your children. You see to it that we are refreshed after a hectic day. You restore our emotions. Thank You for that kind of caring love. In Your name we pray, Amen.
SPECIAL MUSIC: "Goin' Up To Heaven To Live In Green Pastures" - Norm
BENEDICTION & CHORAL AMEN:
The Lord takes care of His people like a shepherd. He gathers the people like lambs in His arms. Jesus, our Good Shepherd, always loves us, always takes care of us and always listens to us when we pray to Him. Go now in His care. Trust Him, follow Him
Jesus in Blue Jeans
One of the great mysteries of our faith is the mystery of the Second Coming. There are many passages of scripture referring to it. There are equally as many interpretations of these passages. Will He come again? When will He come again? How will we recognize Him when He comes? Is the second coming a physical, full body representation, or is it to be a spiritual ‘gift’ from God?
Let’s look at some of these passages and think about their meanings:
"Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away." (NAS, Luke 21:32-33)
This generation will not pass away? This suggests that Christ will return within the lifetimes of the disciples. But in the very same paragraph it also says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not.”
In the letters of Paul, it is very clear that the apostles expected Jesus’ imminent return, in full body form. After all, wasn’t this the Messiah who had performed a bounty of miracles, including raising his friend, Lazarus, from the dead? And did He not promise to do the same to Himself? Well, maybe…and maybe not. You see, Jesus also said this:
"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come." (NIV, Mark 13:32-33)
So, not only can we not know when this will be. We don’t even know how it will happen, since there is no description of it. Stranger still, Jesus says, not even the Son - meaning Jesus Himself - will know, not even the angels in heaven, but only the Father. Not even Jesus Himself will know when He will return? Certainly, these words are a superb mystery, and they can only have one ultimate meaning. Like everything else Christ has passed on to us, this is something we must accept not on the evidence of our senses. Not by what we have seen, or heard, or physically felt, but by virtue of our faith. We hear the words, or see them written, and we believe, because we have been given the power of the freedom of choice. We believe because we choose to believe. Or, we disbelieve for the same reason, because we choose to disbelieve.
But let’s assume for a moment that Jesus will come again as a complete human being. Let’s assume he came walking from the south across the mountains. Maybe he crossed the border below the First Concession and walked across the fields of Marilyn Partridge’s farm. Is that a serious challenge to your beliefs? Do you really think He will come descending from the sky, fully adult and wearing shining white robes? Or, will he wander into town as a stranger, wearing a denim shirt and blue jeans, with a wild black beard and a huge, heart-warming smile. Maybe he’ll wear a Montreal Canadiens hat? No, no. That’s going too far. Lord knows they need a Messiah, but he’ll have to wear skates.
But with all this speculation, added to a long list of speculations stretching back 2000 years, are we any closer to knowing the reality? Maybe not.
I am calling this message I decided to pass on to you, “Jesus in Blue Jeans.” The title is not mine. I took it from a book by author Laurie Beth Jones. In it, she responds to the question, “Who was Jesus and who would he be today?” I’ll approach it this way.
Since I live in Huntingdon, I’ll approach it from my familiar territory. I’m crossing the Walker Bridge one Sunday afternoon on my way to the Little Green Library to drop a book I borrowed into the return slot, when I see this lean stranger walking towards me from the direction of Athelstan. “Good afternoon,” I say. And I nod. “Hello,” he replies. Then as I’m about to get abreast of him, he stops and gazes deep into my eyes. I stop also and am mesmerized by this gaze. His eyes are a dark chocolate brown, his beard is somewhat wild and unruly, he has a tan worthy of an inhabitant of Calcutta, and his overall expression is that of a Buddhist monk, calm and serene, yet with a kind of underlying nonchalance and humour, as if anything going on around him just doesn’t matter much. He isn’t young, but then he isn’t old either.
“Can I help you?” I ask. “Yes,” he replies. “Come, follow me.”
And with these words, I forget about the library and I go with him. Thus begins a journey I have often formed in my own mind as I attempt to answer the group question, What if Jesus comes again in my lifetime? What if he shows up in Huntingdon? How would he look? What would he wear? Would he come as depicted by artists, wearing a long white robe and descending from the clouds? Or, will he come as he always came, dressed like a common man and mingling with us all. In that scenario, he’d maybe still have a beard, maybe wear sandals or Nikes, maybe be dressed in blue jeans, a bit faded, a bit worn.
So, I turn and walk with him crossing the bridge and talking. And I’m reminded of the song,
“And he walks with me, and he talks with me, and he tells me I am his own. And the joy we share, as we tarry there, none other has ever known.”
As we hit Chateauguay street, he looks up and sees the United Church in front of us. “What building is that?” he enquiries. “Why that’s the United Church, a house of God,” I reply.
“So it is,” he agrees. “Let’s go inside.”
“I’m afraid we can’t.”
“Well, Sunday service is over and the door is locked. I don’t know who has a key.”
“Will I have to wait until the Sabbath?” he asks.
“Today is the Sabbath.”
He looks at me kind of sternly and says. “No. Saturday is the Sabbath.”
That stops me cold and I ask, “What did you say your name was?”
And he says, “Yeshua, or, in your language, Jesus.”
All kinds of crazy thoughts rush through my head. They culminate in this one huge question, “Is this really him?” Nooo way. That’s just crazy. That gaze hits me again. And then he asks, “Still having doubts, Thomas?” And I am crushed.
But wouldn’t you have doubts? Would you refuse to accept the obvious, that this stranger beside you is just that? Just a stranger, just a man? What would it take to convince you that this is Jesus Christ, the son of God, come down to earth again? He sees my confusion and he asks, “Would it take a miracle? Should I walk across your river and back? Would that do it?”
I deflect the question and ask, “Are you hungry?”
“Sure am,” he smiles, “I haven’t eaten for a while.”
I suggest we get a hot dog and continue our conversation, and he agrees. And as we walk towards Pivin’s he looks at the stores and restaurants we pass and he questions me, “I thought this day, Sunday, was your holy day.”
“It is, at least it is to some of us.”
“And yet your stores are open?” He says this more as a question, one he would like me to answer.
“You see, not everyone views this as the day of the Lord. Some people work all week and need the time to buy provisions.”
“But it wasn’t always like this, and people still bought provisions.”
“Yes, that’s true.” I’m floundering, and wishing he wouldn’t carry on in this vein. I’m feeling uncomfortable with all this talk of the Lord’s day, his day.
But he persists. “Has everyone forgotten the ten? 2, do not have idols before me. Isn’t your hungry pursuit of material things much the same as the worship of idols?”
“Some would see it that way.”
I’m getting defensive because we have also participated in Sunday shopping at times.
“And what about 4, remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day?”
“Yes, but you see our governments don’t support religions and their practices.”
“And who said anything about governments or religions. Have you all forgotten how to pray?”
“We, er, tend to do that in church.”
“You mean once a week…for an hour? And from what you’ve been telling me, very few people even attend church…or pray at all.”
“That is a shame,” I admit.
But maybe this isn’t the way it would go at all. Maybe when he does come, it will be in sounds and sights of glory, and it would be such a large, shining event that no one could possible deny him. Do you think it might happen that way? I suppose it could. I don’t know for sure, no one does. After all, he said no one could guess the hour when he would return. It’s even possible that he’s come and gone already. It’s not as if his followers have disappeared. It’s not as if no one understands his message, love God and love your neighbour. He may have come in some unfathomable way.
He may have decided that it’s up to us to keep on track, to carry on with social programs that follow his lead, to show our love by helping kids and the elderly, by providing clothes and housing to our community and to foreign communities. By welcoming strangers in our midst. By forgiving known and perceived slights against us. Yes, his message transcends millenniums. He sends us transmissions daily, if we would just pause long enough to listen, to tune in to his channel, not the hundred or more channels that brainwash us into trading real experience for vicarious experience or, in other words, experience we live through the lives or fantasies of others.
So, we stop at Leblanc’s to enjoy a Pivin hot dog and fries.
And he asks, “Can you tell me why the place where you eat is called Leblanc, but the hot dogs you eat are Pivin’s?”
“It’s a devilish long story,” I say.
“That’s all right,” he says, “I have an eternity of time.”
And so, I begin……
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Note to readers: Canada day was celebrated at this date because all our musicians and singers were part of the Branches and Roots Festival the next week)
CANADA DAY SERVICE
PRELUDE: Madrigal Choir
PROCESSIONAL: 0 Canada
INTROIT: Not On This Land Alone Madrigal
CALL TO WORSHIP:
ONE: In a world filled with violence and war,
ALL: we gather together to celebrate the promise of peace.
ONE: in a world filled with tyranny and oppression,
ALL: we gather together to celebrate the promise of justice for all.
ONE: In a world filled with hunger and greed,
ALL: we gather together to celebrate the promise of plenty for all.
ONE: Our hope is in the name of the Almighty God,
ALL: the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer of heaven and earth.
CANADA DAY PRAYER & THE LORD'S PRAYER: Thank you God for this piece of the world, a slice of land broad and wide, blessed with rivers and great lakes, wide skies and great forests, high mountains and gracious plains, beautiful from sea to sea to sea. Thank you for letting us live in this land, even though we do not own it; this land is your land, which we use in trust for future generations. Thank you for its rich history, which includes Aboriginal and Metis and Inuit peoples. We pray for justice and wisdom as we work on relationships with First Peoples.
Thank you for our system of government, for the right to speak freely, and to elect our leaders. Thank you for the freedom of religion and conscience that we enjoy. Thank you for universal health care, and a social safety net, even though not all are caught by it, and not all
dwell in safety.
We want a country that is the best it can be, a home for all, welcoming refugees and newcomers, sharing this wealthy country with the world. Bless our leaders, our Prime Minister and all members of parliament; guide their steps, and help us use our voice to guide them as they make difficult and far-reaching decisions. We thank you today for our home and native land, thank you for giving us a home here, where we live in peace and security. God keep our land, Canada, keep it strong and free, keep it safe and beautiful for future generations.
Now let us pray together the prayer Jesus taught us: 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, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
SPECIAL MUSIC: Amazing Grace Madrigal
SPECIAL MUSIC: Montreal Madrigal
OFFERING: Inuit Vignette Madrigal
Generous God, you have blessed us with the resources to share the good news of your love for all creation. We dedicate these gifts and pray that
they may bring healing, wholeness and hope to the world so that future generations may also know your graciousness and love. Amen.
SPECIAL MUSIC: Farewell to NovaScottia Howard Welburn
LITANY: "The Nation"
ONE: 0 my people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth.
ALL: Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.
ONE: But remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the
ability to produce wealth, and so confirms His covenant, which He swore to your forefathers, as it is today. Like the nations the Lord destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the Lord your God.
ALL: But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing
stream. Hate evil, love good.
ONE: Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He chose
for His inheritance.
SPECIAL MUSIC: Une Colombe Elisabeth Churchill
Peace Like A River
Just a few short weeks ago there was flooding in our communities
and surrounding areas. The winter ice melted, the rains came pouring
down, the rivers and lakes swelled and the water came rushing over the
banks. Many people faced the loss of their homes, personal belongings
and irreplaceable memorabilia. To these people, peace is NOT like a
But whenever these rivers and lakes overflow their banks, the
waters always recede and things eventually return to normal. It's a fact
of life that we can always expect trials, hardships, sacrifices and
difficulties. Isaiah tells us that when we go God's way, there is a
beautiful peace which falls over us. God doesn't want us to back away
from the hardships and trials that face us from time to time. They are
part of His plan. When we receive them in the right spirit, they can
increase our desire to do God's will.
God is the source of all peace and His peace is like a river. A river
is constant. God's peace is constant. It keeps flowing no matter what.
God's peace keeps flowing no matter what we do or say.
A river receives fresh supplies of water from springs and small
streams. God's peace is kept by a constant supply of grace from the
At its source a river can be small, but it grows as it moves along its
path. As we grow spiritually, God's peace also grows.
True peace is only found in a relationship with God. There is a
Buddhist saying I'd like to share with you: If there is to be peace in the
world, there must be peace in the nations. If there is to be peace in the
nations, there must be peace in the cities. If there is to be peace in the
cities, there must be peace between neighbours. If there is to be peace
between neighbours, there must be peace in the home. If there is to be
peace in the home, there must be peace in the heart.
Whenever I think about peace I think about this beautiful saying.
But there is one thing missing. It doesn't tell us where peace in the
heart comes from. For a Christian the only source for peace in the
human heart comes from God. Each one of us must accept God's truth
and believe in the Lord.
Until each individual is at peace, there can be no peace between
us and the people around us. The lost man has no peace. Man was
made to be in communion with God. When he is separated from God
by his sin, there is only confusion, emptiness and frustration. He is
always seeking contentment and peace, and is never able to find it.
Believe in God. Accept Him as your Saviour. Ask God to forgive
your sins. Then you will be reconciled with Him. Isaiah 48, verse 18,
says: "If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace
would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the
sea." The promise of peace like a river suggests the idea of increase. It
constantly grows stronger and fills us.
When we take our sins to God, the peace that He bestows on us
transforms our life. God never stops loving us. God never gives up on
us. He never stops thinking about us. So we must never give up on God.
We don't always see the obvious. Sometimes we can't see the
forest for the trees. The truth can be as plain as the nose on our face,
but we just don't see it.
There's a story about Batman and Robin going on a trip:
The story goes that Batman and Robin decided to go camping.
They set up their tent and fell asleep. A couple of hours later, Batman
wakes his faithful friend, "Robin, look up at the sky and tell me what
Robin ponders for a minute, and then replies, "Astronomically
speaking, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially
billions of planets. Astrologically, it tells me that Saturn is in Leo.
Chronologically, it appears to be approximately a quarter past three.
Theologically, it's evident that God is all-powerful and we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, it seems we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you, Batman?"
Batman is silent for a moment, then speaks: "Robin, you're an
idiot, it means that while we were sleeping, somebody stole our tent."
This funny little story reminds us that we don't always see the
obvious. We can be misled by many things and we sometimes fail to
see what is most important. Along with God's grace, God's peace is one
of the most important things we need to know. By knowing God's
peace we are able to live a valuable Christian life.
Lasting peace only comes from God. "Oh the peace I find in Jesus,
peace no power on earth can shake; peace that makes the Lord so
precious, peace that none from me can take." If you want peace, real
peace, everlasting peace, you can come to the Prince of Peace, the Lord
Jesus Christ, and you can give His peace a chance.
Don't worry about anything. Instead, pray about everything. Tell
God what you need and thank Him for all He has done. If you do this,
you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the
human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and
minds as you live in Jesus Christ.
Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, this world is crazy, chaotic
and quick. Everything is fast paced, problems compile, issues simmer,
and there seems to be no time to address much of anything, let alone
Evil parades around and takes lives. Terrorism strikes fear in the
hearts of everyone. Please give us peace among the chaos in life. I pray
that in our culture and in the time we have, we would make it a priority to rest in Your peace. To comfort others who are going through a rough time. To take a break from the never-ending transitions we face, to appreciate life to the fullest.
To experience the beauty of creation, the detailed craftsmanship
of others and their relationships, to explore with our senses, and find
joy in the stillness. Your power rejuvenates, Your soft whispers
encourage, Your comfort is warming to the soul, and Your presence is
However, we will miss out if we don't stop to rest and soak it all
up. Please help us to make time to seek You daily. Thank you Lord for
Your love. You are truly amazing and You have gifted us much more
than we deserve. May You be blessed by our lives, as we have been
blessed by Yours, and may peace flow like a river in our hearts. In Jesus
name we pray, Amen.
SPECIAL MUSIC: Peace Like A River 4 members of the Madrigal
BENEDICTION: Let us depart in peace, and in love and charity with our neighbours. May we be joined together in the common goal of service to our God and our Country. Let us drive safely and carefully to our homes, and may God's blessing be with us all.
POSTLUDE: C-A-N-A-D-A Madrigal
"Christ in You, the Hope of Glory"
Text Colossians chapter 1 vs 27
Colossians 1:27 New American Standard Bible (NASB)27 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Him we preach warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.
Last week we looked at who Christ is Image of the invisible God
What He has done
Reconciled all things, presents us holy and blameless
Therefore How should we be? Wanting to please and serve and know him, praying for one another has Paul prayed for the church.
Now I want to look at the context of this verse, it was written to a gentile audience, and Paul uses the word and a theme found throughout many others epistles, that is "the mystery" Christ in you!
Paul's call and purpose and his main goal Was to present every man perfect in Christ! Who in this life does not want to be "whole"? People in this world are turning all kinds of things to ﬁnd meaning and propose,they always have and always will.
Part of what Paul did was to warn people of empty philosophy and legalism. Ch 2 vs 8
Colossians 2:8 New American Standard Bible (NASB)8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.
Because in the Colossian culture, philosophy was king. Knowledge, and great wisdom was greatly valued.
So notice what Paul says in chapter 2 Encouraged , knit together in love, riches, full assurance, understanding, knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Verse 4 lest anyone deceive you by persuasive words. False hope and prayer for them is that they would see them in "good order "steadfast in their faith in Christ"
Friends…. When we can lay hold, truly lay hold of who Christ is.... and understand what this epistle is saying to us! We will have power. Power to be the kind of people that Christ wants us to be...
And it's so simple, it's right there in front of us. And the answer is this... Chapter 2 verse 6 as you therefore you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him. How did you receive Christ as Lord? ...... rooted and built up in Him and established in your faith. As you have been taught, abounding in it with Thanksgiving.
Faith is only as good as the "object of our faith can be" in other words.. Faith in Jesus! Chapter 2 vs 9-10 Four in the Him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. I'm sure no matter what message you gave from the Scriptures, no matter what topic you gave him the Scriptures, it would all be pointless and moot if we do not talk about faith! I'm sorry, but it always comes down to that...
This epistle to the Colossians is a complete document and wants to be read out loud to the church. We need to look at this epistle as a complete document, you need to go home and read it over a couple of times, pray on it, meditate on it. It is a letter to you today.
For today's purpose,,, I'm giving a message from this epistle of which the main point I'm drawing out today. Is "Christ in you the hope of glory" of which part of that hope is. "Complete in him" lacking nothing!
My question for us today is... do you want to be "whole" perfect? Look to Jesus our Lord. Amen
God of all things, source of all blessings; accept the gifts of our hands, the thankfulness of our hearts, the praise of our worship and the bounty of our lives. We pray that this offering will be used for the building up of your kingdom of justice, peace, love and reconciliation and that you bless us and our offerings to be a blessing. Amen.
The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you,
and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you,
and give you peace.
God ever creating,
God ever loving,
God ever leading:
Wherever people are unhappy because of their work, overwhelmed by their responsibilities, or anxious about the future,
where people sit idle and feel of no use:
Your kingdom come.
Where people are lonely or searching for love,
where people are trapped in unhealthy, uncaring, or violent relationships, where people are in pain because of the loss of friendship or meaning in life:
Your kingdom come.
Where people feel pain in their bodies, in their minds or spirits,
where people seek healing or help,
where illness has eroded hope and desperation has moved in:
Your kingdom come.
Where people gather to make the world a better place,
where people work with science, medicine, law and the economy to improve the quality of life and society,
where any one person strives to build a better and more beautiful world:
Your kingdom come.
Wherever new life has begun,
where hope flickers,
where the morning light comes after a long period of darkness:
Your kingdom come.
In Jesus name we pray Amen