OPENING PRAYER & THE LORD’S PRAYER
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
Giving, forgiving, and healing God,
We gather in your light and beauty
to worship and adore you.
You are our strength, when we cry out in weakness.
You show us grace in solidarity with the sinner.
You guide our paths, when we lose sight of your purpose.
Your love is powerful and holds us close even when we feel or run far from you.
Before you, nothing is hidden.
You know us and our shortcomings,
and so we come before you and confess:
Generous and loving God,
we confess that
in a world where many do not have enough,
we have taken more than we need.
In a world where many live in fear,
we take peace for granted.
In a world where many have lost hope,
we are too often indifferent to despair.
Forgive us, merciful God,
and transform our lives.
Shall We now Pray the Pray Jesus taught his disciples to pray:
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 is from evil…for Thine is the Kingdom the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.
We Listen to God’s Word
Prayer for Understanding
As we read & listen to your Word let us hear your voice, and in hearing, let our lives be changed and your world transformed.
Ephesians 2:4-10 New International Version But because of his great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Colossians 3:12-17 New International Version 12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do,whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
MESSAGE: Paying Forward- Acts of Kindness
My message today is Paying Forward-Acts of Kindness. Like the first line reads of the hymn we just sang….Jesus’ hands were kind hands, doing good to all, and it goes on to say… Take my hands Lord Jesus, let them work for you; make them strong and gentle, kind in all I do.
In reading stories about Jesus in our Bibles we can visualize Jesus and his disciples travelling the countryside…caring, helping, healing people…without judgement. Only with pure LOVE!
This is what is asked of us in our earthly life… To show each other and strangers unconditional Acts of Love and Kindness…
“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”
Winston S. Churchill
The thrill of paying it forward is that you do something really good for someone who would not at all expect this kind act. You don’t necessarily have to pay it forward only to people you know. Quite the contrary, you can pay it forward to basically every individual that you can somehow get in touch with.
By paying it forward, you can make quite an important difference in this world. Not only will you brighten another person’s mood, but you will also set a chain reaction in motion. If you pay it forward to three people, who again pay it forward to three others themselves, the entire planet could be transformed. Affecting change doesn’t take much. You don’t have to be rich, powerful or influential. Every ordinary person can help to make this world a better place, by paying it forward.
Doing a good deed to an unsuspecting stranger is a beautifully selfless act. Not only will it remind them that this world is full of selflessness, generosity, and kindness. It will also encourage the benefactor to be kinder and more compassionate to others.
How to Pay It Forward?§ Look out for the opportunities. Life will provide you with numerous opportunities to pay it forward. You only have to be attentive.
§ Be willing to help complete strangers. There may not always be an opportunity to do your family or friends a good deed. But you can always help those who are in need, even if they are complete strangers.
§ Give freely without expecting anything in return. Many people will ask you how they can reimburse you for your kindness. You can introduce these people to the idea of paying it forward. Tell them that you don’t expect anything in return, but that you would greatly appreciate it if they could pay the good deed forward.
§ Even small acts count. It doesn’t matter so much how much you give. All that matters is that you are willing to give and to spread the word.
Enjoy the following pay it forward ideas!
1. Do a good deed to a homeless person. There are so many things you can do for a homeless person. Ask them if they want a coffee or a pizza slice of the restaurant they sit next to. Drop them something to eat you’ve bought in the supermarket. The opportunities are endless.
2. Pay for someone’s coffee. When buying a coffee, you can casually pay the coffee or tea of the person behind you. It’s a fantastic way to brighten their mood. The idea of paying a coffee forward worked so incredibly well in Canada that more than 200 consecutive orders were paid forward. That is until someone who was paid four coffees was not willing to pay the three coffees of the person behind them.
3. Participate in a cleanup day. Cleanup days are a fantastic way to contribute your part in helping to preserve mother nature.
4. Donate some of your clothes. Have a look in your closet. If there are many items you haven’t worn for years, consider donating some of them.
5. Run for a good cause. Numerous charity runs (or walks and bicycle rides) are held each year. Sign-up for the next one and participate in raising funds for a good cause.
6. Ask for donations instead of gifts. Many people wonder how they can do something good without having to spend money. Well, by asking people to donate for a good cause instead of buying you a birthday/Christmas/wedding gift, you can do a good deed without having to spend anything.
7. Free up spare change. As the days pass by, you’ll notice that the spare change in your purse grows bigger and bigger. The next time you come across a payment machine, be sure to throw a couple of quarters in it for the next person. You can do this with basically any payment machine, for example, parking ticket terminals, parking meters but also paying for the next person’s vehicle fee at a toll booth.
8. Donate your books. There are two types of books. The first type consists of really good books that you pick up again and again. The second type consists of books that were – more or less – interesting to read but no longer serve a purpose. You could donate all the books you no longer need, for instance to your local library.
9. Leave a good book behind. Once you’ve finished reading an excellent book, consider leaving it for someone else to read. No matter if you’re in a cafe, train, bus or airplane, leaving a copy of a book behind is a nice way to lighten someone’s mood.
10. Smile at someone. Give someone a smile. You’ll see that many people will quickly loosen up and return the smile.
11. Become someone’s mentor. You can always mentor someone. It’s free and there will be always people younger and less experienced than you who could greatly benefit from your knowledge.
12. Donate blood. By donating your blood, you can potentially help another person to live. What could be more beautiful than doing something that helps someone else to stay alive?
13. Buy something from a kid’s lemonade stand. Many kids sell lemonade or old toys. Be sure to buy something from them, it will make them incredibly happy and gives them a sense of accomplishment.
14. Donate 5-10% of your income. By cutting your expenses for things you don’t really need, you’ll have quite a lot of money left over that you can donate to a good cause.
15. Offer your services for free. There are many lawyers and psychologists who offer their services entirely for free for those who are in need. You could do the same by sharing your service for free. It certainly won’t hurt your business and if you’re a service provider, it only costs you some of your time.
16. Listen to someone’s story. Many people don’t have someone who listens to them, someone who cares about them. You could be that someone. You don’t even have to find a solution to all their problems, sometimes it simply takes someone who is willing to listen.
17. Give some words of encouragement. There are many situations in life where we see the most ludicrous things happen to strangers. Don’t be the one who just stops to stare, be the one who helps them to get back up.
18. Help someone improve their life. Making beneficial changes in your life is all about knowledge. If you’ve gone through a tough time and if you’ve found crafty hacks that helped you to overcome the difficulties, consider sharing them with other people. Your advice may greatly help them to overcome the difficulties as well.
19. Be forgiving. Life will confront you with numerous opportunities to lose your patience. Perhaps someone is “stealing” your parking spot. Or the intern made another terrible mistake. Whatever it is, be willing to forgive others immediately. Be kind about their weaknesses and try to see yourself in them.
20. Encourage others with Post-it notes. There are many places where people could greatly use some encouragement. If you have the time, consider posting some motivating or encouraging notes in these places.
21. Spend some time with the elderly. There are many people in retirement homes that have no one who comes visiting. You could drop by your local old-age home and ask if there’s someone whose day you could brighten.
22. Pay the animal shelter a visit. Your closest animal sanctuary will most likely be glad if you’re willing to spend some time with their dogs or cats. In many cases, it’s possible to take a walk with a dog.
23. Pray for someone in need. Many people consider praying as something that is incredibly powerful. If there is someone you know who is in need, you cannot lose much by including them in your prayers. Sent them some love and wish them the necessary strength it takes to see things through.
24. Share your umbrella. When it’s raining, let someone stand with you under your umbrella.
25. Pay someone an honest compliment. If you see someone doing something really great, don’t shy away from giving them a competent. You can give out compliments for basically everything, you only need to seize the opportunity.
26. Put coupons on community boards. Whenever you have a coupon that you don’t need, be sure to put it on a notice-board or post the coupon code online. There will always be someone who can make use of it.
27. Offer to take a photo. If you see someone taking pictures of their family, offer to take the picture so that this person can be alongside their family on the photo.
28. Leave your change where kids will easily find it. Remember that awesome day when you found some money when you were a little child? Well, now it’s your turn to pay this wonderful feeling forward to another child. Leave some of your change somewhere you know that kids will instantly spot it.
29. Mow the lawn for an elderly person. There are many people who can no longer take care of their gardens themselves. Taking care of their garden is a fantastic way to pay it forward.
30. Be nice to customer service personal. Treat service personal kindly and be sure to tell them how much you appreciate their service. It can greatly brighten their mood, especially when they are confronted with ungrateful, harsh and impolite customers all the time.
31. Pick up garbage. Many people are so careless about nature that they simply throw things away right where they are. By picking up some garbage, you can relieve the burden these ignorant people place on nature.
32. Carry someone’s bags. If you see an someone struggling with all their bags from the grocery store, offer your help.
33. Loan something without expecting it to be returned. There are people who simply won’t accept a gift from you. But if you tell them that you’re just loaning whatever you have to give, they will gladly accept the help. You don’t necessarily have to tell them that you don’t intend on calling it in again.
34. Give up your seat. Offer your seat to an elderly person. They will greatly appreciate your good deed.
35. Do pro bono work. You wouldn’t believe how many skills you have that could be greatly used in charitable or non-profit projects. If you have some time to spend, doing pro bono work is a fantastic way of paying it forward.
36. Let others in the line go in front of you. If you’re standing in the line at the supermarket and you see that the person behind you is buying only a couple of things, let them go in front of you.
37. Help someone pursue their dream. What better way to pay something forward than helping someone accomplish their dream? If you find yourself in a position that allows you to help someone realize one of their dreams, offer your help.
38. Say “yes” when someone asks for help. If someone asks you for help, see if you can help in any way shape or form. You may not always be able to solve the problem, but you can at least help to alleviate its effects.
Hebrews 11:1-13; 39
All is not Lost
Let me begin by acknowledging that this is a difficult passage to hear, as is much of the book of Job. We have a tendency in our modern world to like things to be nice and clean; neat and easy to understand; joyful and upbeat. Job is really none of those things. We tend to try and make Job manageable by focusing on the "patience of Job," it is even a modern-day cliché; but Job is far more complex. Job does much more than merely exhibit patience. The book of Job is messy, complicated, and even depressing at times.
Yet, this is precisely why Job is so important. We balk at the idea of being angry at God. We look at God as an ever-present, ever-loving being, and when all we feel are emptiness and sadness, we are afraid to talk about it because somehow this seems to be an inappropriate front to God. We have this general idea in our heads that we are being disrespectful if we cry out that God seems totally absent from our lives. And yet, this is precisely what Job does, and the passage we heard a few moments ago is a prime example of that. Job gives us permission to feel bitterness in the face of injustice. Job allows us be upset and to cry out when God seems absent. But Job also tells a story of faith; a faith which does not falter in the face of the greatest trials. And like Job, we must keep the faith no matter what we face.
Today, I would like to focus on two ideas: Faith, and hope. I think to really talk about hope; about the importance of hope in our Christian journeys, and about having hope, we have to acknowledge that there are times in our lives when things are so bad it is as if all hope is lost. So we begin today with Job, who was in such a situation himself.
As we know, Job is hit with one trial after another. And in the passage we hear this morning, Job is at his wits end. He admits a bitter complaint. Job acknowledges a heavy hand, despite his groaning. Job expresses his desire to go before God in trial, desperate to be free of his many difficulties, but laments that even this is not possible because he cannot find God; God is absent. Job cries out that his heart is faint and he is terrified.
I think we all have at least a sense of what Job is feeling; perhaps at times such feelings have been more prevalent than at others, but it doesn't change the fact that there are times when we desperately need God and it seems as if God simply is not there.
I believe we are all familiar with Mother Teresa; known the world over for her work with the poor, sick, orphaned, and dying in the slums of Calcutta, India. By all measures, she was and is an exemplar of the Christian faith. But as we began learning after her death in 1997, Mother Teresa's faith was not as rock-solid as outward appearances would indicate. Like so many who seek after God, Mother Teresa struggled in the midst of great doubt, wondering about the presence of God.
In 1979, three weeks after accepting the Nobel Peace Prize for her work, Mother Teresa wrote in a letter to a spiritual confidant, "Jesus has a very special love for you. [But] as for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see,--Listen and do not hear—the tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak...l want you to pray for me — that I let Him have [a] free hand."
In personal letters and writings, Mother Teresa spoke of "dryness" and "darkness." In a lament to Jesus, Mother Teresa wrote, "When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven — there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul. — I am told God loves me —and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul." At times, she was even driven to a doubt about the existence of God. This spiritual pain seemed to persist through much of Mother Teresa's life and ministry.
The truth is we all have periods of "darkness" in our lives. We all face the pain and sorrow of losing a loved one. Or we agonize in watching a loved one suffer. Some struggle themselves in the face of overwhelming illness or disease. Parents worry about their children; sons and daughters worry about their parents. Families break and marriages dissolve, leaving nothing but stress and depression in their wake. Presently, we are facing the darkness of a financial recession; once soon-to-be retirees have lost a lifetime of savings. Jobs are disappearing left and right.
Such darkness in our lives is compounded when we cry out to God for help and for comfort and find no response, no reprieve, no respite from the agony. How can there be hope in the face of such hardships?
All is not lost. There is always hope. But hope is nothing without faith. The eleventh chapter of the letter in Hebrews begins this way, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."
Faith brings assurance to hope. Our hope lies in the future, but it is mere optimism if we do not have faith in the God who raised Jesus from the dead. As difficult as it may be; in the "darkness" of our lives, we must seek to maintain our faith in God and hold fast to it.
As we heard this morning, even as Job laments the absence of God, he forges ahead, persisting in his search for God. "God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me." Job says, "Yet 1 am not silenced by the darkness, by the thick darkness that covers my face." Job is persisting in his faith. Despite the darkness cloaking his life, Job declared that he would not be silent, that he would continue to cry out for God. When we are relentless in our faith, we can hold on to hope.
Mother Teresa, too, continually sought after her faith even in the darkest despair. She found ways to live through her spiritual struggles, and she never abandoned her belief or her work.
That is our task too. If you are like me, then you have wondered how Mother Teresa maintained her belief and forged ahead in her work in Calcutta. Throughout her life and career, Mother Teresa had spiritual advisors and confidants. In perhaps her darkest hour of doubt, her spiritual advisor, Joseph Neuner, told her three things she desperately needed to hear, and things that we need to hear too. Rev. Neuner told Teresa that there is no human remedy for the "darkness" we sometimes find ourselves in. He told her that feeling Jesus is not the only proof of his being there, and that her very craving for God was a sure sign of God's hidden presence in her life. And finally, Neuner advised Mother Teresa that the absence she sensed was a part of the "spiritual side" of her work for Jesus.
We were created to long for God. We are designed to desire God in our lives. God has made humanity this way. And when it seems that God is completely absent, this craving, as Neuner says, is a sure sign of God's hidden presence in our lives. This longing becomes the basis for faith, and with this deep desire for God within us, we must forge ahead. If we are to maintain faith in the dark hours of our lives, it requires patient perseverance.
When John Wesley himself was in the throes of a period of doubt in his life, the German preacher, Peter Bohler said this to him, "Preach faith until you have it, then, because you have it, you will preach faith." We must preach faith until we have it, so to speak. We have to be diligent in our prayer life; even if that means our prayers are full of laments in God's absence. We have to study God's Word through the Scriptures. We have to abstain from those things which distract our attention from God. We must follow God's call and seek God's will. Of course, none of these things are easy, but they are the building blocks of our faith and in turn our hope. In the midst of everything, Job never stops talking to God, and neither can we.
Job may not understand how God hears him, but it is a statement of faith that Job is able to voice even his pain and confusion to God. We are better off to rail against God as Job does, or cry out to God in pain as Mother Teresa does, than to turn away from God in our time of darkness. God has willingly entered into an hour of darkness on our behalf.
God in Jesus Christ came to this earth and subjected himself to hatred, brutality, and even death, so that we might have hope. Will we shun that great act? We know God more fully because God incarnate walked on this earth.
We know God's love and grace more fully because Jesus not only taught us about God's love and grace, he demonstrated it as well. Might we know God more fully even when God seems
absent? In some way, we often come to know the meaning of a thing through its absence rather than its presence.
Think of it this way. A carpenter goes into his well-furnished workshop, complete with stacks of wood, containers of nails, and racks and racks of tools. As the carpenter focuses on the work of his project, he thinks very little of the individual items. The wood, the nails, the hammer are simply taken for granted as part of the carpenter's activity. But then, in the midst of his diligent work, the hammer breaks as the shaft snaps off at the head. Suddenly, the carpenter is acutely aware of the hammer. Once simply taken for granted, the image of the hammer, what it does, how essential it is to his work, are all vividly present to the carpenter precisely because of its absence.
So it was for Job, who felt not the justice of God, and so longed for it even more. So it was for Mother Teresa, whose soul was empty, and so she prayed God's hand at work in her life all the more. And so it shall be for us, if we hold fast to the faith as Job did and as Mother Teresa did. God's love and passion are no less real to those who hold fast the faith than the hammer is to the carpenter.
God's time is not our time.
God's ways are not always our ways.
But we have known and experienced God's love in our own lives; that is most likely the reason we are all gathered here this morning. And having known and experienced God's grace and love, we can doubt its existence no more than our own reality.
The Bible teaches us that if we meet the trials of life with the steadfast constancy of faith in Christ, life becomes infinitely more splendid than it ever was before. The struggle is the way to glory, and the very struggle itself is a glory.
So, in those deepest, darkest hours of our lives, we can have faith because we already know of the reality of God's love through Jesus Christ. When that darkness stretches on for weeks, or months, or even years, we must cling to that faith and strive after it.
And in our striving after faith, we will find hope.
All is not lost. God is at work in this world. God is at work in our
lives. And that, friends, is a glorious thing.
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