CALL TO WORSHIP
One: The Lord is our Shepherd.
Many: He leads us beside still waters.
One: He restores our souls.
Many: He leads us in right paths.
One: Even though we walk through the darkest valley.
Many: We fear no evil. God is with us.
One: Come, let us worship God.
Finding the Good in the Bad
Knowledge is instant these days.
The other day, I asked one my kids what a word meant, something silly and obscure and useless, like synecdoche or eponymous, I think, and they told me, I can't Dad, my phone's dead.
There followed a long, protracted, and disgruntled lecture about how everything these days was too easy, too complicated, and just plain wrong, and then all of a sudden I became my dad.
We live in a world where the answer to nearly every question is right at our fingertips. All we have to do is log on to Google, type a question, and in a matter of milliseconds, we have hundreds and sometimes even hundreds of millions of answers to our query. Or, if it's a little too inconvenient to get to the computer, turn it on, and navigate to the search engine, we can just press the "Home" button on our smart phones and ask Siri our question. It's quite nice, really. Except for that fact that we are now conditioned to expect a definite answer to all of our questions, and the simple fact of the matter is that there aresome questions for which no good answer exists. This question before us today is perhaps the best example of such a question,
"Why is there suffering and evil?"
The funny thing is; this is not a new question. Humans have been asking this same question for thousands upon thousands of years; probably as long as we have existed! It is to some degree the question that is asked by the disciples in this morning's gospel reading, "Rabbi, who sinned so that he was born blind, this man or his parents?" They are in essence asking, "Why is this man suffering?" What's interesting is that Jesus doesn't really give them a direct answer. But maybe that's because as I mentioned a few moments ago, there's really no one good answer to the question of suffering and evil in the world.
As we seek greater clarity to this question, "Why is there suffering and evil?" I think it best for us to begin by considering why we ask this question in the first place. And for the answer to that question, we have to go all the way back to creation.
Genesis tells us that as God created the universe and each part of it, God called it "good"; this includes the light, the seas, the land, the plants and vegetation, the animals and creatures, and even humans. So throughout history, faithful God-followers have looked at this story of the "good" creation, and leaned upon their faith in a "good God", but that knowledge cannot be reconciled with the fact that there is indeed a great deal of "bad" in the world around us. So we ask, "Why?" And for a long time, humanity had a pretty straightforward answer to this question, which was basically that suffering happened because God was punishing a person or group of people for some specific reason.
The Bible tells us the answer begins with Adam and Eve, the first humans who defied God's instructions and ate of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. Their sin broke the relationship of all humanity with God, and subjected us to temptation and sin. We call this original sin. So throughout the Old Testament, we see this sort of cause and effect relationship between humans and God. The humans sin, defy God's law and mandates, God punishes the humans. God sent ten plagues upon the Egyptians because Pharaoh would not release theIsraelites from enslavement. When the Israelites didn't trust God and built idols in the wilderness, God made them wait 40 years before entering the Promised Land. The Israelites were exiled to Babylon according to the prophets because they had not been following God's commands and God's law. So it was for thousands of years. Every earthquake, every disease, every disaster humans explained, was the doing of God, a response to the sin of the people. But over time, two things have happened that make such a simple response to the question of suffering and evil inadequate. For one, Christ has come, the embodiment of God himself. And in his own suffering and death, we see God's immense love for all people, and God's desire to save us, not to harm us. Secondly, science has taught us a lot about theway the natural world works, and with the knowledge we have now, it just doesn't make sense to point to every naturaldisaster and say that it is God's way of punishing humanity (even though some people still like to do this). A good example of this is forest fires. Forest fires sometimes start because of dumb things we humans do, like burning leaves in the middle of a drought, but sometimes they begin with a lightning strike. Often, these fires spread rapidly, they decimate not only forest vegetation, but also animals and birds. They can even force people from their homes. They can cause immense destruction, but forest fires also cleanse the ecology and restore the system to balance, and often the wildlife that returns after a fire is more lush and beautiful than it was before the fire.
So, we have to acknowledge that some of the suffering humanity experiences as a result of natural disasters is not God punishing us for some sin or wrong-doing, but is part of the natural order of things. And these disasters don't make God's creation, or even God, less good. They are in some ways and at some times an unfortunate by-product of keeping creation balanced and healthy. Still, that doesn't answer for all of the suffering that humans experience. What about this question of evil?
Nearly every day the news is filled with war and genocide and terrorist attacks that are causing innocents to suffer around the world. Why doesn't God, who is all-powerful, prevent such evil?
Why doesn't God stop people from doing evil things? To find the answer to this question, we have to consider free will. Going back again to creation, we are reminded that humans are created in God's own image, and we were created with the freedom to choose between good and evil. I suppose that God could have created humanity so that we would always choose to do good, but that's not really freedom, is it? That's more like robots that have been programmed. And devotion or faithfulness to God would be awfully empty if it were something that were coerced rather than chosen.
So God has given us the freedom to make choices for ourselves. As Joshua said, "Choose you this day whom you will serve...as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." That's a wonderful choice to make; a life-giving, saving choice; the best choice any person could make. It is the choice God WANTS us to make, but does not coerce us to make. But we also have the freedom to choose to act against God, and it is often such
actions that are evil, harmful, and the cause great suffering. In his infinite power and knowledge, God clearly chose to allow for human freedom even knowing there would be negative consequences. Even still, God does not want to see us suffer, whether by our own doing or for any other reason. God really does want good for us, even when we make bad choices. So it is that suffering, however horrible it may be, provides an opportunity for God's grace to be at work. And it is God's grace we need to lean upon in the midst of suffering. This is especially true when we face illness, disease, even death, which are often the most difficult types of suffering to comprehend. You all know that question that goes, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" As we consider such suffering, let's now take a closer look at our Scripture reading from John.
John tells this story of a blind man. Unlike blind other afflicted people in the gospel stories, this man does not approach Jesus seeking healing. Rather, he is noticed by the disciples as they walk by him in the midst of their work with Jesus. The disciples see this man who has been blind his whole life, and they revert to the common explanation at that time for such affliction original sin. But the disciples want to know now, since this manhas been blind since birth, if his blindness is due to his parents' sin, or his sin. Jesus' answer, as you heard, is neither. "This happened so that God's mighty works might be displayed in him," Jesus tells his disciples. Now, let's make it clear that God doesn't cause suffering and harm so that he can subsequently heroically sweep in to "save the day."
Life happens; we make poor choices, natural disaster strikes, our physical bodies fail us. But God does not wish harm for us, in any way. God does not want us to be sick, or hungry, or lonely. Such an idea is completely contrary to the entire Biblical story. God desires good for us. God loves us. God wants to save us. So it is that in the midst of suffering we can find hope. So it is that in the midst of the bad, we can look for the ways God is still working good. Indeed, that man had been suffering from blindness for many long years, not because of his own sin or that of his parents, not even because someone evil had harmed him. Without giving an answer as to the cause of the man's suffering, Jesus healed the blind man so that his disciples, all of us, can see that God does not leave us alone in our suffering. God is with us and God works to bring good even in the midst of all the bad.
Could you imagine living in this world without such promise and hope, without such faith in a good God? Why is there tragedy? Why suffering? Why evil? These questions can cause us to doubt God and one another. But if a flood comes or a child is born with a heart defect and there is no God, then what answer is there to suffering and evil? What meaning and purpose? Life is nothing but one tragedy after another, and the only thing before us is fear. I would rather live in a world of hope than a world of fear. "I would rather live in the world that has a possibility of God than one that has none, particularly one like ours where evil and suffering" are such a part of our existence. Because "with the possibility of God comes the possibility of
meaning, purpose, and hope being found [even] in the midst of tragedy and suffering." Indeed, we are still left with questions, but at least with faith in the promises of a good God, in the midst of tragedy and suffering, we can always have hope in abetter day. So you're in the coffee shop with your friends and one says, "Okay, I don't want a long, complicated answer, but explain this: If God is so good, how come there is so much bad in the world?"
Why not try something like this: "That's a tough question with no straight answer, but I know that God is loving and works for good in all situations. In the hardest times of my life, I have experienced God's love in so many ways that have helped me make it through. I know there is suffering and evil in this world, but I also know that God is a force for good. And I'm a Christian because I want to be part of God's good work in our world."
CALL TO WORSHIP:
ONE: Thank you, God, for Your gift of the Holy Spirit.
ALL: Like the wind that blows across our land, we can't control it.
ONE: But like a ship on the sea, we can lift our sails and journey with it.
ALL: By Your mercy, Lord, move us.
OPENING PRAYER & THE LORD'S PARYER:
Almighty God, You know that in this world we are under great pressure. At times, we cannot cope. We yield to temptation and fall into sin. Stiffen our resolve and make our faith strong, so we may dig in against temptation and, by Your power, overcome it. And now as Jesus taught us: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy kingdom came, 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.
Gracious God, accept these gifts, and with them our lives, to be used in Your service, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
"What Is The Bible?" (not available at this time)
PRAYER OF CONFESSION: Creator God, forgive our moments of ingratitude, the spiritual blindness that prevents us from appreciating the wonder that is this world; the endless cycle of nature, of life and death and rebirth. Forgive us for taking without giving, reaping without sowing. Open our eyes to see, our lips to praise, and our hands to share. May our feet tread lightly on the path we tread, and our footsteps be worthy of following, for they lead to You. This we ask in Your name. Amen.
HE WORD OF GOD:
The Word Of God
The Bible is truly a miracle. There are a total of 66 books, 39 in the
Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. The Bible was written by
over 36 different people, and over a period of about 1500 years. The
authors come from many different backgrounds and professions. There
were fishermen, farmers, politicians, teachers, doctors, tentmakers and
even kings. It would be impossible for so many different people over so
many years to write with such accuracy if it were not for the Holy Spirit.
God told these people what to write.
The Bible is more than words communicated to us from God; the
Bible is the Word Of God. Unfortunately, there are people in this world,
in the country and even in our own community, who think the Bible is
just another long, boring book. But all of us gathered here this morning
know that the Bible was given to us from God to Jesus as our Saviour.
All Scripture came from God. The Holy Spirit inspired the writers.
Scripture is used for teaching, rebuking, correcting, training and
equipping. Anyone who doesn't understand the Bible doesn't have the
Holy Spirit to guide them.
Let us pray: Dear Lord, many among us are guilty of trying to get
through life with reading the manual for life. Help us, Lord, to remedy
this. Thank you. Lord, for giving us clear, set directions for our life. Help
us to make more time to be with You in Your word. Amen.
This morning we are going to demonstrate just how useful the
Bible can be. Let's begin by singing "There Is A Book" found in your
bulletin. The tune is the familiar children's song, B-I-N-G-O.
WHAT YOU WILL DO:While singing this song, the * replaces a letter and represents a single hand clap.
There is a book that has Good News, the Bible is its na-me.
B.. I.. B.. L.. E.. B.. I.. B.. L.. E.. B.. I.. B.. L.. E.. the Bible is its na-me.
There is a book that is our guide, the Bible is its na-me.
*.. I.. B.. L.. E.. *.. I.. B.. L.. E.. *.. I.. B.. L.. E.. the Bible is its na-me.
There is a book that gives new life, the Bible is its na-me.
*.. *.. B.. L.. E.. *.. *.. B.. L.. E.. *.. *.. B.. L.. E.. the Bible is its na-me.
There is a book that has the truth, the Bible is its na-me.
*.. *.. *.. L.. E.. *.. *.. *.. L.. E.. *.. *.. *.. L.. E.. the Bible is its na-me.
There is a book that gives us wisdom, the Bible is its na-me.
*.. *.. *.. *.. E.. *.. *.. *.. *.. E.. *.. *.. *.. *.. E.. the Bible is its na-me.
There is a book that talks of Jesus, the Bible is its na-me.
B.. I.. B.. L.. E.. B.. I.. B.. L.. E.. B.. I.. B.. L.. E.. the Bible is its na-me.
The Skit : Cover 2 cover!!!!!!!
SKIT - Cover 2 Cover
© 2010, Sharon Kay Chatwell
SKIT – COVER 2 COVER
[CURTAIN OPENS with SALESMAN and SALESWOMAN standing or seated behind desk.
SPECTATOR ENTERS from STAGE RIGHT.]
(Speaking to SPECTATOR) Good Morning, and welcome to Cover 2 Cover... How may I help you?
I was just walking by and noticed your sign. Cover 2 Cover... What kind of store is this?
Oh, this is a wonderful store!
I’m sure it is. But what do you sell here?
Oh, we don’t sell anything here. The things we have are free to everyone!
That sounds good to me! But what do you give away for free?
Cover 2 Cover is a place where people can get what they really need. Just watch and see!
[WORRIED PERSON ENTERS and speaks to SALESMAN.]
PERSON #1 (Worried Person)
Can you help me? I am so worried! I am afraid of what happen in the future. What if I lose my job? And if I lose my job, what will happen to my family? Or what if I get sick? Or what if my dog runs away? Anything could happen!! Please can you tell me what will happen in the future?
No, I can’t tell you the future. But I know the One who holds the future in His hands. And He has some words for you.
(Calling loudly) Matthew 6:31-34 and 1 Peter 5:7!
[MATTHEW 6:31-32 and MATTHEW 6:33-34 ENTER and say their verses]
So do not worry saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all these things and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
1 PETER 5:7
Cast all your anxiety on (GOD) because he cares for you.
[PERSON #1 and BIBLE VERSES EXIT TOGETHER.]
Hey, what kind of place is this?
Cover 2 Cover is a place where people can find wisdom to help them with their problems. Just watch and see...
[PERSON #2 ENTERS]
Hello, may we help you?
PERSON #2 (Relationship Issues)
Please help me. I don’t know where else to turn. My family is a mess. My marriage is in trouble. And my children won’t talk to me. I just want to run away and hide. There is this very nice person at work who seems to like me a lot. Is it wrong to run away from such trouble at home? I don’t know what to do. Can you help me? Can you fix my
No, I can’t. But I know the One who has made all things: He gives wisdom freely to anyone who asks. He has some words for you.
(Calling loudly.) PSALM 127:1 and PROVERBS 3:5-6!!
[PSALM 127:1 and PROVERBS 3:5-6 ENTER and say their verses.]
Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
Hey, what kind of place is this, anyway?
Cover 2 Cover is place where people can find answers to their questions. Just watch and see!
[PERSON #3 ENTERS]
Hello, how may we help you?
PERSON #3 (Unsaved Person)
Can you help me, please? I seem to be lost! I have no direction in my life and no reason for living. Sometimes I don’t even want to go on, but I am afraid of what will happen when I die. Can you help me? Can you tell me what will happen to me after I die?
No, I can’t. But I know the One who will someday judge the living and the dead. And He has some words for you.
(Calling loudly.) John 11:25-26 and John 14:6!
[JOHN 11:25-26 and JOHN 14:6 ENTER and say their verses]
Jesus said... I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even thought he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.
Jesus said... I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
[PERSON #3 and BIBLE VERSES EXIT TOGETHER.]
Hey, what kind of place is this anyway?
Cover 2 Cover is a place where people can get what they really need, gain wisdom for their problems, and find answers to their questions.
Is this the only store you have?
No, we have many locations all over the world!
And when are you open?
We are open anytime your Bible is open! God’s Word is found in the Bible 24/7…365!
Yes, the Bible. It is where you can get what you really need, gain wisdom for your problems, and find answers to your questions. In it you will find the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
That sounds great. Can I take some of these verses home with me?
Sure, you can take them all!
(Calling loudly.) ALL VERSES!
[ALL VERSES ENTER and say 2 Timothy 3:16-17. They may break up the following verse if you like.]
ALL VERSES (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
(To SALESWOMAN) You were right. This is a wonderful store. Come on verses...
(SPECTATOR AND ALL VERSES EXIT WAVING. SALESWOMAN AND SALESMAN EXIT.)
CALL TO WORSHIP: ONE: The pathway is just beginning.
ALL: We have encountered the wilderness.
ONE: Now we are moving rapidly toward Jerusalem.
ALL: Along the way we will witness astonishing acts of
mercy and justice.
Lord of presence and power, be with us on our Lenten
journey to trie cross. Help us to make a commitment of
our lives, our spirits and our hearts. Even though we might
hesitate on this journey, we promise to come with You
through all the trials and fears You will encounter. In this
broken world, so tragically pulled apart and fragmented,
we seek to serve You and do Your work in the world.
Forgive us, we pray, when we insist on our own way above
Your way. Unite us as we can be united in worship or in
service. This we ask in Your name who prayed that we
might be one, as You and He are One. Amen.
You stop us in our tracks, 0 Lord, with Your reminder that
discipleship is not a `sometime' thing. We are called to place our
whole lives in Your care; to follow You; to serve You by caring
for others, not just once in a while, but always. We admit that
we're not always ready to do this. The demand is great; our
energies are limited. Help us to place our trust and our lives in
Your care. You will give us the strength and courage that we will
need for this step of our Lenten journey. Be with us, Lord. Help
us to remember that Your love is poured out for all Your people;
You are never far away. It is in Your name, we pray. Amen
CHILDREN'S TIME with Nancy
Have any of you ever read the book "The Very Hungry Caterpillar?" I really love this story. It begins with a tiny egg on a leaf. On a Sunday morning, the warm sun came up and POP! out of the egg came a very small and very hungry caterpillar. He began to eat, and eat, and eat — but he was still very hungry. Finally he had eaten up so much that he got a stomach ache! Now the next day was Sunday again. The caterpillar ate through a nice green leaf and his stomach felt better again. He built a nice house around himself. Do you know what that house is called? That's right! A cocoon. Well the caterpillar stayed in his cocoon for two weeks. Then he nibbled a hole in the cocoon and pushed his way out. Guess what!
He wasn't a caterpillar any more, he was now a beautiful butterfly!
The story of "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" reminds me of a story in the Bible about a man named Nicodemus. Nicodemus was a very religious man. He spent a lot of time studying the Scriptures, but there was still a lot he didn't understand.
So late one night, Nicodemus went to see Jesus because he was hungry. He wasn't looking for a midnight snack, but he was hungry for the truth about the kingdom of God. He had questions and he knew Jesus would have all the answers.
Nicodemus said, "Teacher, we all know that God has sent you to teach us. No one could perform the miracles that you do without God's help. And Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you can't see the kingdom of God."
Nicodemus was confused and asked Jesus, "How can a man be born again?" Jesus told him that a person is born again when the Spirit of God enters into his heart, saying that the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. And Nicodemus left, scratching his head, and saying
"How are these things possible?"
Think about the story of "The Hungry Caterpillar" again. When he came out of his cocoon, he was an improved caterpillar, wasn't he? He was a totally new creation — a butterfly! That's the way it is when we let Jesus into our heart. He doesn't just make us a better person. He makes us a new creation!
Let's pray together: Heavenly Father, we praise you that in Christ Jesus we are a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! In Jesus name we pray, Amen.
A Ruler Came By Night by Nancy
John 3:17 — "Make them ready for your service through your truth. Your
teaching is truth." (ICB)
This verse follows the very well known "For God so loved the world" verse in the third chapter of John. Jesus was talking to Nicodemus, telling him that God didn't send Him into the world to condemn it, but to save it through Him.
We'll start with the beginning of the story of Nicodemus and Jesus.
Nicodemus was a good man. He was a nationally known religious leader. He was rich, well educated and he was a Pharisee. He had a place in the highest council of the Jews, being a member of the body of the seventy rulers called the Sanhedrin. Nicodemus began to believe in Jesus because of the works He did and the lessons He taught.
However, Nicodemus was afraid to confess his faith before others, because he might be put out of the Sanhedrin and be condemned by his fellow Pharisees. So he decided to go to see Jesus at night, when no one would see him. Nicodemus was a teacher in Israel, very highly regarded, and he thought he would have a friendly visit with this young Man from Galilee who showed such promise of becoming a prophet.
Nicodemus thought he might be able to teach Jesus something, so he
opened the conversation with a compliment. He said, "Master, we know that You are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can show the signs that You do unless God is with him." But Jesus wasn't flattered. He wasn't about to give compliment for compliment. He looked beyond this Pharisee's pride and fear, and He saw a poor soul who was really reaching out for truth. Jesus went right to the point and He said to Nicodemus: :I tell you, no one can get into the kingdom of God unless he is born again."
Jesus knew that Nicodemus understood what He meant, at least, partly,
and He just put it more strongly, with a little explanation: "I tell you, a man must be born again, through baptism by water and by the Spirit of God, or he cannot get into the kingdom of God. There is a natural birth and there is a spiritual birth. Do not wonder at My telling you that you must be born again from above. Listen! You hear the wind blow, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. That is the way with everyone who is born of the Spirit."
What Jesus meant was that just as we can't see the wind, or call it up, or stop it, we are able to see how it waves the grass and rustle the leaves, and how it turns windmills and pushes against the sails of ships, and sometimes cools us and sometimes warms us, and does many other wonderful things beyond our power. Likewise, we can't see the Spirit of God, or control it, but we can see and feel how it moves us and makes us over, and lifts burdens and comforts the sorrowing, and opens minds to the light of truth. We should think of this every time we hear the wind or see what it does. It's through the influence of the Holy Spirit that a man is born again.
Nicodemus was very serious now. Jesus had been telling him things that he ought to have already learned from his teachings and from nature, and he felt humble. But Nicodemus wasn't used to thinking like that and it sounded a little strange to him and he asked, "How can these things be?"
Jesus answered, "You are a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not know
these things I have taught you. I have taught the things I know about, and I have seen the things I teach; but your class turn away from it. No one has been in heaven and come down to teach except the Son of man; but He must be lifted up, as Moses in the wilderness lifted up the brazen serpent. And everyone who believes in Him will have eternal life."
Jesus' reference to Moses referred to when the children of Israel,
journeying through the wilderness, were attacked by fiery serpents, whose bite was poisonous, and many of the people died. God told Moses to make a serpent of brass and lift it up on a pole. Then everyone who looked at it, with faith in God, would be cured of the serpent's bite.
The usual symbol of the Redeemer, the sacrifice for sin, was a lamb, and
that lamb represented Christ's innocence. His freedom from sin. But the brazen serpent represented the Saviour as well. Jesus was made in the likeness of sinful men, yet He was without sin. The brazen serpent was made in the likeness of poisonous snakes which had bitten the people, yet it never bit anyone, and looking upon it in faith cured them.
Here was something for Nicodemus to think about and he went away
thinking very deeply. Still, he didn't have the courage to tell anyone that he believed in Jesus. He just kept it to himself. But twice, in the Sanhedrin, he defended Jesus, and after the Lord was crucified, Nicodemus came forward and helped to bury Him.
Remember the verse, "For God sent not the Son into the world to judge the world; but that the world should be saved through Him." Most people don't like to talk about unpleasant things, and unfortunately, there are plenty of unpleasant things going on in the world today: terrorism, hate crimes, missile threats, kidnappings, rape, theft and so much more. But there is one unpleasantness that I will talk about today. It's the sad fact that there so many car accidents, pile-ups and wrecks on roads all over the world. There's hardly a day that passes in which there isn't an accident mentioned in the news. Accidents don't just happen — something or someone is generally to blame. Sometimes we blame Mother Nature, but is it, in reality, carelessness or recklessness or ignorance. It doesn't make much difference what the cause of an
accident is — if things are smashed and broken, they're smashed and broken up, aren't they?
If I had my arm broken in a car accident, it wouldn't heal any faster
whether the accident was caused by carelessness or by ignorance. Even if the person who caused the accident were sorry, that wouldn't make my arm heal any faster. However, I might not feel as angry if they were sorry, but my arm would still hurt just as long.
What would be a good cure for accidents? How could we prevent them? If every person did the right thing, then would there be fewer accidents? Before a person can do the right thing, he must learn what is the right thing to do!
There are people who are wrecks. Have you heard the expression, "He's an
accident waiting to happen?" These peoples' lives have been all smashed to pieces because someone has been careless or reckless or ignorant. It may be that they themselves are to blame, or it may be that someone else is to blame, but it is our business to help prevent these accidents.
Christ came to teach us how to run this earth without wrecking it. He was with God in making it so He should know how to run it. Jesus wants to show us how to run our lives so we don't make a wreck of it. He doesn't want us to be careless or reckless or just plain ignorant. He wants us to use our life in the right way, because once a life is broken or scarred, it can never be repaired so that the mark won't show. Christ knows the safe way to drive; let's learn from Him!
The encounter Nicodemus had with Jesus had a profound effect on him. It changed his life. He became a disciple of Jesus and learned to drive along the road of life using Christ's rules. He acknowledged the work of Jesus and realized that his soul could be awakened with new life by allowing the Holy Spirit into his life.
To be reborn is not allowing ourselves to be careless, reckless or ignorant.
To be reborn is to accept the realities and truths of Christ, follow His ways, and accept the Holy Spirit into our hearts and lives. So today, let's accept the reality of a spirit, a Holy Spirit, who surrounds us and immerses us in love, in God and in Christ.
Let us pray: Father, all the riches of life in Your kingdom are ours if we will but open up our lives, our hearts and our souls to the new life that You would have us live. Open our eyes to the truth of Your Word and our hearts to the need of renewal and rebirth. Amen.
Call to Worship
One: Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him
All: Do not fret when people succeed in their ways
One: Let a righteous man strike me—that is a kindness
All: Let him rebuke me—that is oil on my head
ALL: My head will not refuse it, for my prayer will still be found in the love of the Lord and of all my neighbours.
Lord, we are in your presence. Let us walk with you knowing we belong entirely to you. We ask that You keep us in the glory, in the joy, and in the stillness of your peace. Let us deflect all gossip, criticism and ill will towards others, whether they be of our own country, creed, gender, or race or any other. In the silence of the womb we were carried and nurtured by our loving mothers. In the silence of Your presence we were conceived in Your image. Help us to reflect Your image, always and with all people.
We ask this in the name of your Son, Jesus, who taught us how to pray with these words:
Our Father, Who art in heaven….
Prayer of Confession (In Unison)
God of healing, God of wholeness, we bring our brokenness, our sinfulness, our fears and despair, and lay them at your feet.
God of healing, God of wholeness, we hold out hearts and hands,
minds and souls to feel your touch and know the peace that only you can bring.
God of healing, God of wholeness, this precious moment in your silent presence and power, grant us faith and confidence that, here, broken lives are made whole again.
Assurance of Pardon
We are drawn to your feet in worship,Your creation facing its creator, hearts laid bare by your light humbly asking for your mercy. We come to you as a people in need of assurance and forgiveness. We come to you as a people in need of healing and wholeness. We come dependent upon your love. Draw us close. Enfold us in your arms. Fill us with your silent Spirit that we might reflect your light inside this dark world, and spread openly your Word to draw others to your feet. We ask this through your Son, Jesus Christ, our brother, Amen.
Psalm 23, King James Version (please read together)
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Prayer for Illumination
In this world of darkness and strife, in this world of conflict and war, in this world of the slaughter of innocents, we appeal to you, O Lord, to spread Your silence across the land, to quiet the guns, to feed the hungry, to show this material world your spiritual calm and welcome us all into your silent glory.
Scripture Readings: (Joe)
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
People listened to me expectantly,
waiting in silence for my counsel.
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;
L: This is the word of the Lord P: Thanks be to God.
Message: Be Still and Know That I am God
Have you ever taken your TV remote and scrolled through 30 or 40 channels looking for an interesting program, and not found it? “There’s nothing on,” you might say. And maybe you leave the TV on anyway because it’s better to have something, anything, going so you don’t have to be enveloped in perceived nothingness.
But in the end, you finally turn it off, maybe just before bed, and suddenly you stop and listen. You listen to the sound of sudden silence. And maybe you go, “Ahhh. That’s better.” And if you were to sit for a while in the stillness of the night, there in the vacuum of non-sound you might hear - or sense - something you’re not used to. You might hear, or sense, a voice that is no voice at all, but a communication of another kind. There, in that other dimension that only your soul can understand, there is God. And he - or she - is speaking to you.
When I scoured the internet looking for reference to Silence, I came across these notes from a spiritual website. I have taken a summary of these notes and put them into my own everyday language because I found them so interesting.
‘There is an obvious and deep irony in any attempt to talk about silence. It’s like trying to depict the invisible. It is inherently impossible. Silence can only be described by the absence of everything else, not by the presence of anything physical. Silence can only speak for itself: not through words, but through experience. There is a little story in the collection of traditions that have come down to us from the desert fathers of the early Christian church. It is said that one day Theophilus, an archbishop, came to Scetis, a desert wasteland but spiritual paradise, where great numbers of monks carried on their unseen spiritual exercises. Archbishop Theophilus made his way to the cell of Abba Pambo, a man recognized for his humility and wisdom. The brethren who accompanied Theophilus said to Abba Pambo, “Say something to the archbishop, so that he may be edified.” Abba Pambo replied: “If he is not edified by my silence, he will not be edified by my speech.” Silence, it seems, had greater impact to Abba Pambo than any words.
In these few minutes, I will try to speak of silence and stillness in the language of Scripture and the desert tradition, and to elaborate very simply with some personal experiences.
In the beginning there was absolute silence. Through His Word, God spoke into this silence, to create the heavens and the earth. Then, on the cosmic sabbath known as “the seventh day,” God rested. His Word, however, has continued its creative activity throughout human history. As God declares through the prophet Isaiah,
“My Word that goes forth from my mouth will not return to me empty…” (Isa 55:11). In other words,
To say that God creates from nothing is to say that He speaks out of, or from, His silence, to bring all things into existence by the power of His creative Word. Silence, in the most positive sense, is the the sacred space, into which God speaks His Word, both to create the world and to guide it along the right paths.
Silence is where Moses went to receive the 10 Commandments. Silence is where Jesus went for 40 days and nights to receive the confirmation of his mission from his Abba, his father. Silence is where the prophets received their visions. Silence is where David communicated with God via his beautiful psalms, before the physical senses of this world dragged him down, corrupted him, and turned him into a killer. When he left the world of silence behind, he turned his back to God.
Further in Old Testament tradition, silence becomes the medium for divine revelation. In a terrifying vision recounted in the first Book of Kings, God appeared on a mountain to the prophet Elijah. As the Lord passed by, there came a mighty wind, so strong it split the mountain and shattered the rocks in pieces. But, the narrative tells us, “the Lord was not in the wind.” After the wind there came an earthquake, then a fire; but the Lord was in neither. Then, the passage concludes, “after the fire a still, small voice” (1 Ki 19:12). The New Revised Standard Version states this more forcefully: “after the fire, the sound of sheer silence.” It is in this sound of sheer silence where God spoke to Elijah. God was not in the physical displays of force. God was present only afterwards, in the “sound of sheer silence.”
Through the ages, mystics and holy men withdrew into silence in order to hear God. Even Muhammed dwelt in a cave somewhere in the mountains to receive his messages from God. So, it becomes a universal truth, to hear the Word of God, go to Silence and listen in that Silence to hear what He has to say. Oh, you may pray to Him, communicate to Him in any language and in any location. You may speak to Him in church with your fellow worshippers, at home while doing your chores, in the depth of the forest, or in your car on the way to work. But if you want to hear his response, you must go to Silence and listen in Silence.
Jesus rebukes the wind and the sea by saying: “Peace! Be still!” And, St Mark continues, “the wind ceased, and there was a great calm” (Mk 4:39). Whether on the open sea or in the human heart, peace requires stillness. In the midst of our own storms and turmoil, Jesus speaks these same words, “Peace, be still!” For those who have ears to hear, who can listen to this commandment which is also an invitation, the wind of noise, confusion and tumult ceases, and there comes a great calm.
“Be still and know that I am God.” This means that in stillness, you will have the power to recognize where God resides. Speak to Him wherever you are, but listen to Him in silence blocking out all the distractions of the world’s senses.
A certain St Diodochos, a 5th century bishop, explained the purpose and fruit of silence in these words. “Spiritual knowledge comes through prayer, deep stillness and complete detachment….“A brother came to Scetis to visit Abba Moses, a monastic mystic, and asked him for a word. The old man said to him, “Go, sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything.” In other words, the silence of your cell will teach you everything. Perhaps the greatest challenge in Christian life is to transform the heart and mind, our inner being, into a place of silence and solitude, an interior monastic cell in which the Spirit of Truth dwells, to teach us everything we need for our journey towards God.
Mother Theresa dedicated her entire life to the poor of Calcutta, the so-called Untouchables. But she herself lived her entire life wrestling with many doubts about God and His presence in the world.
In one of her books she says these things about silence:
“We cannot put ourselves directly in the presence of God if we do not practice internal and external silence.
Listen in silence because if your heart is full of other things you cannot hear the voice of God. But when you have listened to the voice of God in the stillness of your heart, then your heart is filled with God.
Some of you may know that once a year I attend a weekend retreat in a place called Manresa, a Jesuit retreat centre in Pickering, Ontario. The retreat begins on Friday evening and concludes on Sunday noon. It consists of a theme that changes each time you attend, it includes 4 gatherings in a conference room to hear the retreat director’s guidance, time for formal prayer, and personal time for meditation or reading in your room or to silently walk the 38 acres of woods and streams. Oh, and by the way, this is all done in silence by the participants. All 3 days in silence. Let me tell you, when you get back to the so-called real world, it is a rude awakening. Where you had 3 days of God invading your every being, you are suddenly flooded by the sights and sound of technology and the bustle of business.
The act of creation by God moves us out of His silence, His rich eternity, into the physical world with all its tapestry of our 5 senses. But when our sojourn is done - some sooner, others later - we return enfolded into the arms of God once again. So, why has God done this? I believe, and I have mentioned this in the past, that He really has no choice. He is an all-loving, all-giving, continually creating God. What He has done by creating us in the physical universe, is to give us a gift, one that He himself does not exercise or possess. He has given us the gift of free will. Our purpose is to acknowledge His gift, and use it according to our values of unselfish love and our values of creative energy that we received from God, as best we can.
In conclusion, let me leave you with a small poem that formed in my mind during one of my silent walks on the grounds of Manresa. I call it ‘Trails’.
Trails June 3, 2013
Behind the seven arms of the menorah tree
the sun breaks up into rays of hope
for a new day. And I am called
by my spirit wind to reflect on all
that God has shown by acts of love,
where ferns grow in the shade,
where tumbling brook carries seeds of life
to a mossy shore, where the cardinal leaves
his evening call, where my journey bends,
where the white lilacs fall
And to the world outside I bring
a soul refreshed by prayer in psalm
and offer praise to you, my God,
for life, for love, for sight to recognize
your gentle unrelenting call
wherever on this earth I bide
in work, in sport, in weekend caterwaul,
where all my paths turn into one,
where my journeys bend,
where the white lilacs fall
Silence can reward you with creation, at least it does that for me. And I am totally convinced that the creation is not really mine, but flows through me from my God who remains silent only on the human plane, but speaks volumes honing my instincts, my 6th sense, my faith.
In the final silence experienced by everyone throughout time who has gone before us, we merge in the silent exultation of God, in a place that has no need of our physical senses, and that rewards us with an experience so rich that it is unending and beyond all imagination.
Let us now bow our heads and take 30 seconds of silence to listen to the voice of God within us.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Offering And now, in our offerings, let us return to God a small portion of his blessings to us.
Lord, we offer you these our gifts freely and without reservation. Please accept them as a sign of our bond to others of your children, our brothers and sisters. Amen
Prayer of Thanksgiving We thank you, Lord, for all we have received at Your hands. Our family, our neighbours, our material wealth, our good friends. We indeed are 1000 times blest. May we always recognize our debt to you by also recognizing how little others have throughout this world. Amen.
And now may the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. And may God give you His peace in your going out and in your coming in, in your lying down and in your rising up, in your labor and in your leisure, in your laughter and in your tears… Until you come to stand before Jesus in that day in which there is no sunset and no dawning. Amen.