CALL TO WORSHIP:
ONE: By the word of our Lord the heavens were made.
ALL: By the Spirit of our Lord life was begun.
ONE: By the Wisdom of our Lord His laws were made.
ALL: By the Love of our Lord was born His Son.
ONE: By the Grace of our Lord mankind was saved.
ALL: By the Power of our Lord the victory was won.
PRAYER & THE LORD'S PRAYER:
By faith I gaze up to the heavens and know within its vastness that this is Your creation planned and effected within eternity. By faith
I pluck an ear of corn and know within its symmetry lies the chemistry of life, the potential of creation within my hand.
By faith I listen for Your voice and know the whisper that I hear breathed a world into existence, yet listen to the prayer within my soul. By faith I strive to do Your will and know that door that I approach may lead me to the shadows where my role is to become Your light.
By faith I cling to Your Word and know the strength that I receive has its source within the love that is at the centre of all things.
And now by faith we pray together:
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed by 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 Thineis the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
Creator of all things, everything on earth is Yours. We have
nothing that can make You richer, for it all comes from You in the first place. But what we have, we bring -- the acknowledgement that we live, thanks to You, and that without You we have nothing and can do nothing. Receive and bless these gifts for Your holy work, and bless those who offer them to You. Amen.
Reading from the International Children's Bible
The man led me back to the door of the Temple. I saw water coming out from under the doorway that faces east. (The Temple faced east) The water flowed down from the south end of the Temple. It was south of the altar. The man brought me out through the outer north gate. And he led me around outside to the outer east gate. The water was coming out on the south side of the gate. The man went toward the east with a
measuring line in his hand. He measured about a third of a mite.
Then he led me through water that came up to my knees. Then he measured about a third of a mile again. And he led me through water up to my waist. The man measured about a third of a mile again. But it was now a river that I could not cross.
The man asked me, "Human being, do you see this?" Then the man led me back along the bank of the river. As I went back, I saw many trees on both sides of the water.
The man said to me, "This water will flow toward the eastern areas. It will go down into the Jordan Valley. When the water enters the Dead Sea, it will become fresh. And everywhere the river goes, there will be many animals and fish. Wherever this water goes the Dead Sea will become fresh. So where the river goes there will be many living things. Fishermen will stand by the sea. There will be many kinds of fish in the Dead Sea.
But the swamps and marshes will not become fresh. They will be left for salt. All kinds of fruit trees will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not dry and die.
The trees will have fruit every month because the water for them comes from the Temple. The fruit from the trees will be for food. And their leaves will be for medicine."
Again, reading from the International Children's Bible
The Pharisees and the Sadducees came to Jesus. They wanted to trap Him. So they asked Him to show them a miracle to prove that He was from God. Jesus answered, "When you see the sunset, you know what the weather will be. If the sky is red, then you say we will have good weather. And in the morning if the sky is dark and red, then you say it will be a rainy day. You see these signs in the sky, and you know what they mean
In the same way, you see the things that are happening now. But you don't know their meaning. Evil and sinful people ask for a miracle as a sign. But they will have no sign
— only the sign of Jonah.
Then Jesus left them and went away. Jesus and His followers went across the lake.
But the followers forgot to bring bread, Jesus said to them, "Be careful! Guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees." The followers discussed the meaning of this.
They said, "Did Jesus say this because we forgot to bring bread?" Jesus knew that they were talking about this, so He asked them, "Why are you talking about not having bread?
Your faith is small. You still don't understand? Remember the five loaves of bread that fed the 5000 people? And remember that you filled many baskets with bread after the people finished eating? And remember the seven loaves of bread that fed the 4000 people? Remember that you filled many baskets then also?
So I was not talking to you about bread. Why don't you understand that? I am telling you to be careful and guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees."
Then the followers understood what Jesus meant. He was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread. He was telling them to guard against the teaching of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.
(based on Matthew 25:31-46)
ONE: Jesus is clear about what He expects of us who follow Him.
ALL: What does He tell us?
One: He tells stories of those, like the Good Samaritan, who was marginalized, yet who know we are all neighbours.
ALL: Who are our neighbours?
ONE: Jesus describes ten bridesmaids, five without oil and five with oil, for their lamps. Does He want us to be like the five who withhold their oil from those in need?
Who claim their social privelege is a sign of their worthiness in God's eyes? Does He want us to be like the bridegroom who closes the door on the five women when they return with their hard-got oil?
ALL: Jesus tells us to love our neighbours, all people, and to give to those who have nothing.
ONE: What does He tell us?
ALL: He says we are to give food to the hungry. He says give drink to the thirsty. He says clothe the naked, care for those who are sick, visit those in prison. Always, we should welcome the stranger.
ONE: Why should we do these things?
ALL: We do these works because every time we serve another it is the same as if we were doing these acts for Jesus Himself.
ALL: God of the oppressed, protector of the poor, liberator of the unfree, help us to live our lives in service to our neighbours and so in service to You. Amen.
MEDITATION: 0 Ye Of Little Faith
"Then they understood that He was not telling them to beware of the
yeast used in bread, but about the deceptive teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees." (Matthew 16:12)
"But when John saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to
where he was baptized, he said to them: 'You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?" (Matthew 3:7)
"For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the
Pharisees and the teachers of the, law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:20)
"Your boasting is not good. Don't you know that a little yeast works
through the whole batch of dough?" (I Corinthians 5:6)
These four verses are some of many where Jesus is telling, not only His
disciples, but anyone who was listening, that it was not necessary to receive a physical sign from heaven in order to believe. Anyone who needed a sign was blind to the true, spiritual meaning of the signs that Jesus was already performing — His miracles of healing and His casting out of demons. So Jesus says, "Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." But the disciples misunderstood and said, "We brought no bread."
To the disciples, worrying about their lack of bread, when Jesus refers to
the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, what else can He be talking about but 'literal bread'? Now let's ask ourselves if we would have responded any differently. Let's say we set out on a fifteen mile hike in the woods. About half way we sit down on the trail to eat lunch and realize we forgot to pack the food. Do you think that we might begin to look at the world through the eyes of our missed meal? It's very unlikely, or at worst, extremely rare, that we would ever find ourselves without food readily available. But if this should ever happen, 1 wonder how quickly our minds would become consumed with the thought of where we will find our next meal?
So when the disciples said, "We brought no bread," Jesus responded saying, "0 ye of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet understand? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?"
Jesus was trying to put the disciples' lack of bread in proper perspective.
When Jesus says, "0 ye of little faith, do you not understand?" what is He asking the disciples? He's saying, "Have you not yet understood that I am the true bread of life, and that my teaching is the true bread of life?" The real meaning of feeding the five thousand was that it was a sign and symbol of the true bread of life.
Let's go back to the Pharisees and Sadducees for a moment. They are
Jewish sects that were already in place before the advent of Christianity. They were considered as religious parties in the time of Jesus. Both the Pharisees and the Sadducees were opposed to what Jesus had to say.
The Sadducees were characterized by its elite and priestly class. They
enjoyed authority, as their priestly class also included aristocrats. Sadducees believed only in the written Law of Moses. They didn't believe in afterlife and they opposed priesthood to be given to any other class of people other than themselves.
Pharisee was a socio-political group among the Jews that was made up of common people. Pharisees did believe in after life, resurrection and the
existence of angels. The group represented the views of the poor man. They
had business people among its members who were in touch with the common man.
Now back to Jesus and the disciples. Jesus asked His disciples how it was
that they didn't understand that He wasn't speaking to them about literal bread. And then He said, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." What is this leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees? It's their teaching, and it's specifically teaching that suffers from a preoccupation with materialistic and worldly concerns. Their teaching caused people to be blind to the true spiritual realities of the Messiah's kingdom.
When the disciples finally understood what Jesus was talking about, they realized there are much bigger and far more pressing realities than missing one meal. The danger of being preoccupied with bread is that we become insensitive to the spiritual realities of the kingdom.
I'm going to change gears and interject a little humour. An atheist was
spending a quiet day fishing when suddenly his boat was attacked by the Loch Ness Monster. In one easy flip, the beast tossed him and his boat high into the air. Then it opened its mouth to swallow them both.
As the man sailed head over heels, he cried out, "Oh, my God! Help me!"
At once, the ferocious attack scene froze in place, and as the atheist hung in midair, a booming voice came down from the clouds. "I thought you didn't believe in me!" "Come on, God, give me a break", the man pleaded. "Two minutes ago I didn't believe in the Loch Ness monster either!"
Now, moving on: I'll need your help and participation for this next part.
The subject is "Rivers." The first part is easy. We all know what a river is, but I need to know some things that rivers are good for. Who knows one? (boating,swimming, fishing, irrigation, power, drainage, water supply). Now think about the rivers you have seen. Were they broad or narrow? Were they deep or shallow? All rivers are not the same size and not all broad rivers are deep.
Are shallow rivers as good as deep ones? If we need to make a river
deeper, we dredge. Suppose a river spreads out all over everything, what do
people do then? What did they do in Holland when the sea came in?
(They built dykes and walls).
Now suppose all the rivers in Canada were to have a convention. Yes, I
said convention. They have a convention tomorrow and decide that they
would all cut their banks away and spread out as far as they could. What would happen to this country? There would be water almost everywhere. We wouldn't have any deep streams for commerce or power, and if the water stayed spread out we would have marshes and swamps. And as you know, marshes and swamps are full of disease, fevers and all kinds of things that cause sickness, and even death.
There are some streams that we call streams of thought, which help to
carry on the work of the world just as rivers do. People are always telling us to be broadminded. Now, here is where we must be careful, for some of the things they want us to do are like the rivers, broad and shallow, while others are broad and deep.
A Christian must be careful not to be the shallow kind of thinker. I
wonder, sometimes, if we aren't getting our streams of thought so broad and so shallow that we're making a swamp or a marsh which will cause misfortune or disaster.
Let's strive to have deep, serious, worthwhile thinking. Let's make the
rivers of our thought and life to be just the width and just the depth shown us in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.
The disciples were close to becoming insensitive to spiritual realities and
that's a constant danger that we face today. Our preoccupation with the
realities of life in this world make us insensitive to the things of the kingdom — things such as the blessedness of those who are poor in spirit, of those who mourn, of those who are meek, of those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, of those who are merciful, and pure in heart, and peacemakers, and of those who are persecuted. The disciples heard Jesus talking about a loaf of bread that you buy in the market place, when in fact Jesus was talking about the spiritual dangers of false teaching!
Jesus died on the cross for our sins. He arose from the grave in power
and victory. He sits as the right hand of the Father. It is through Him that we can have salvation. He alone can quench our spiritual thirst. Let's believe in Him and receive the abundant life that He offers to us. Jesus invites you to come to Him. Accept His invitation!
BENEDICTION & CHORAL AMEN:
The embrace of the Father be the comfort you desire;
the name of the Son be the one on whom you rely;
the presence of the Spirit be with you every hour;
and the Three in One be the focus of all you are.
WHO WILL YOU FOLLOW
(THE GOOD SHEPHERD)
One of the wonders of God’s creation is the FREEDOM TO CHOSE.
Sounds good but along with the choice is responsibility, “There may be a thousand little choices in a day. All of them count.”
If you think about it “learning what to choose and how to chose, may be the most important education we will ever receive.”
-How to raise our children—what type of work will do for a living
-do I have a good retirement plan.—is this the time to change my vehicle
- my gifts to charity—will I frequent the casino or poker halls
-what about LOTO tickets. And the list goes on!
All good questions and all done by choice! Our thoughts for this morning are on following Jesus, the good shepherd in making our decisions.
The Apostle John tells us to follow—the teachings of Jesus and to be aware of wolves in “sheep clothing.”
We have a choice between following the Good Shepherd who loves us and promises us abundant life versus falling prey to the rustlers-the sweet talkers who just use us, cheat on us and in the end make our lives miserable.
Unfortunately, we can often be hooked on get rich schemes or the promise of big winnings, so we must always be vigilante.
I thought I might put a modern face on the scripture story and give some examples which, I hope will give us reason to always follow Jesus.
The story tells of rustler who try to get in the back gate who in today’s world we would call swindlers; they are looking out for themselves and they are still around today.
Remember EARL JONES who ran a Canadian PONZI scheme for 20 years, duped his elderly clients out of $ 40 million and these included his brother and sister –in –law. In all those years he was held in high regard by the community, joined in their celebrations and holiday trips, no one thinking what he was up to.
Another hustler, was BERNIE MADOFF down south of the border. His ponzi scheme ran for 30 years valued at $ 65 billion and in the end his clients lost$ 18 billion. In all those 30 years no one on Wall Street suspected he was a fake. He even had family members working for him and they eventually informed to the FBI about his scheme. His son got 10 years in jail, one grandson committed suicide and Madoff received a 150 year jail sentence. Seems the devil got his due!
Another startling case was the demise of ENRON a few years back. In the final month, the C.E.O of the company advised his son to sell his shares, he then sold off his shares giving a profit of $ 70 million dollars and all the while he was encouraging the employees to buy the company shares. We know now that it was a scam, the company collapsed and all the employees lost their jobs, their healthcare plans and their pensions. He was looking out for himself with no feelings for all the people he hurt. If we only knew!!
I guess things don’t change, the Apostle John warned about rustlers and today we still have those who try to get in the back gate and take advantage of us. Jesus is telling us we always need to keep our guard up as we make our way through life.
Jesus must have been familiar with the life of a shepherd to refer to himself as the Good Shepherd. He knew being a shepherd is tiring, dirty and sometimes dangerous work.
I remember on our sheep farm, in order to catch one I sometime had to wrestle it down and I often ended up under the sheep. Being a shepherd means going out in the freezing cold winter’s night to check on them and stay there if any needed assistance. It means getting up at all hours during lambing season to help the ewes. They can be so maddening, one finds a hole in the fence they all follow. It isn’t quite so easy to love sheep when they are acting up
The Scripture give another image of shepherds and their sheep, it talks about
the great danger from lions and bears that preyed on the flocks out on pasture and the sheep had to be alert and follow the Shepherd’s VOICE.
I remember, on our farm we had a problem with coyotes. These coyotes would kill the lambs at night and leave half eaten carcasses they on the field.
So each night I would herd the sheep into the barn, lock all doors and leave a light on to keep the sheep calm. This became a nightly ritual for the balance of the summer.
In the morning I would open the barn door and call to the sheep. The sheep recognized my VOICE and would follow me out onto green pasture for the day. If someone, other than Sharon or myself called them, the sheep would panic and scatter to the end the pen.
Jesus warns us to beware of the false shepherd, he advises us not to follow their voices because they are mainly concerned with their own well being and will abandon us when the going get rough.
In our scripture Jesus says “the sheep know my VOICE and follow me.” Jesus wants us to hear his voice follow Him when we have difficult choices to make. His only longing is to help us make decisions that will give us a loving, successful, abundant life.
We must learn to recognize the voices of FALSE SHEPHERDS” coming at us over the TV, radio and telephone today and we TRAIN OURSELVES TO recognize the VOICE of JESUS THE GOOD SHEPHERD and follow Him.
In his commentary of the gospel of John, William Barclay likens the phrase, “good shepherd” to the phrase, “the good doctor. It has a quaint ring about it—perhaps it’s because William Barclay wrote his commentaries many years ago,
Do you remember hearing that phrase—the good doctor—maybe it was related to the very personal attention that the doctors gave us in the past.
Remember in past, the doctor making house calls He would come to the house—usually in the evening after dinner with his little black leather bag full of tools of his trade along with some medications. He would take our temperature—remember that cold metal stethoscope on your chest and back.
Those days are past, now most of us must get to the doctors on our own.
Taking an expression from Archie Bunker “those were the days”—can you imagine that being done today?
We are thankful The good doctors of today have power far beyond that of the doctors who came to our homes.
Thank God that the good doctors today have better tools, they use CAT-scans and MRI’s and a host of other tools to determine what is wrong.
There are still doctors today devoted to going beyond the call of duty to help those in need.
Not too long ago, I read a story in Reader’s digest, about Dr. Adele O’Sullivan who still made house calls. Dr. Adele practices medicine in the clinic for the homeless in Arizona and because many homeless people never visit the clinic, she goes to soup kitchens and shelters to treat them.
Dr. O’Sullivan told about a homeless man who apologized when she raised his shirt to listen to his heart and lungs. He hadn’t had a bath in two days, he said . My guess is that he hadn’t had a bath in two weeks—or maybe two months. But the good doctor told him it was okay and went about her business.
Not many people were aware Dr. Adele was a NUN.
Her love of the needy “comes from her love of Jesus.” She learned her craft at the feet of the GOOD SHEPHERD.
I wasn’t surprised. Jesus had a special place in his heart for down and out—and he calls us to love them too.
I guess that homeless people are a little like sheep. They aren’t always easy to love but Jesus the good doctor loves them none the less.
Philip Schaff, the great historian, wrote a wonderful summation on why we should follow Jesus and listen to his VOICE. He said:
“Jesus of Nazareth,” without science and learning, shed more light on things human and devine than all the philosophers...
Without the eloquence of the school, he spoke words of life such as were never spoken before or since, and produced effects which lie beyond the reach of orator or poet....
Without writing a single line, he set more pens in motion and furnished themes for more sermons, discussions, works of art, learned books and songs of praise...
Born in a manger and crucified as a criminal and He rules a spiritual empire which embraces one third of the inhabitants of earth.
What more can be said to convince us that the ways of “JESUS THE GOOD SHEPHERD, THE GOOD DOCTOR” is the true way to live an abundant and loving life in God’s Kingdom on earth.
This morning Jesus invites all of us to follow HIS VOICE and WALK IN HIS FOOTSTEPS.
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