Webmaster's note: This is part 2 of Joe's message which started on Feb 11th.
Good Morning, and welcome to my Sunday morning message which I am calling,
The last time I spoke to you, I talked about the road to happiness and said that it is a road we all walk on. It is a dream we all chase. I mentioned that we as humans chase two kinds of happiness. The happy-ness with a ‘y’ which is the happiness that is temporary, the physical happiness of a gift or an experience, the happiness that comes and goes, day in and day out, and that we often have little or no control over. Examples might range from a small snack to a great banquet, from a Sunday drive to a world cruise, from a modest apartment to a 100-acre ranch. All wonderful experiences, but also all tinged with a certain sadness. Why? Because none outlast a physical timeframe. None give us eternal satisfaction. All are a part of this material world in which we are born and in which we die. We are left wondering…Can we expect anything more?
We are asked by our bible teachers to believe, but we again ask why. And no matter how many ways or how many times we ask the question, we still wonder what it’s all about. We are told God is the way to ultimate happiness In the Gospel of John it is written…
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God…… This ‘Word’ we acknowledge to be the Second Person, the Son of God.
The Gospel carries on to say that nothing has been made except it was made through God, and that if we believe in Him, we all become children of God. Which is all beautiful. It is a glorious idea. But still it leaves us with questions.
Anne Graham Lotz in her article, “Why God Why?” puts her questions this way,
My mother's pale, gaunt face was transformed into wreathes of joy when I walked through the door of her hospital room. Although her eyes seemed sunken, they sparkled with the zest for life that is her own special trademark. With IVs dangling from her arms, she lifted her trembling hands to welcome me. I embraced her frail body, feeling the heat of her temperature and the protrusion of her bones through the thin hospital gown. She was unable to speak clearly, so I just patted her and sat down nearby. Within moments, she was asleep. And I was left to wonder, Why? Why does my mother's life seem to be ending in suffering and, at times, confusion? Why, after a life lived selflessly for others, must her old age be, in some ways, a curse?
Yet I was reminded that unanswerable questions are not restricted to any particular age group when my son recently went through a series of tests to determine his physical condition five years after cancer surgery. The whys buzz through my head like irritating mental insects: Why? Why is my handsome, six-foot-nine-inch, 32-year-old son still stalked by the shadow of this horrific disease?
During the times when you and I can't trace God's hand of purpose, we must trust His heart of love. While wrestling with the illnesses of my mother and son, a beloved young friend was entering into the living death that is divorce. Why? Why doesn't God melt the heart of the offending spouse and bring that person to genuine repentance so the marriage can be saved?
And once again, the angel of death has struck, this time taking the life of the beloved pastor who ministered to my family and shepherded me through my formative years. Why?
And before that personal loss, I had other "whys."
Why would God let 110 fathers of unborn children perish in the collapse of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001?
Why would God withhold children from godly parents and give them to a mother who would bash in their heads with a rock or drown them in a bathtub?
Why would God allow thousands of people to lose their pensions because of greedy corporate executives who are padding their own retirement fortunes?
Why would God allow the kidnapping of babies and children for the perverted pleasure of some pedophile?
Why do the young die? Why do the wicked prosper?
In meditating on these themes, let me begin to answer them by saying that we are not alone with these thoughts. In fact, from the beginning of time, when people have first begun to gaze at the stars, such questions have been asked, and clear answers have been hidden behind a screen in some other dimension. Nevertheless, in every primitive human society, every remote tribe, no matter how isolated, no matter how different, no matter what strange ritual they might follow, has believed in God. Oh, they might not call it God. It might be Yahwheh, or Baal, or the Great Spirit, or a hundred thousand other names. But every one has acknowledged the presence of such a Creator, whatever form it might take.
If you allow me, I will tell you of a true personal experience that took place many years ago and that nudged me over the line and convinced me to believe. I always speculated on such matters from a very young age. In my teens I thought about becoming a Catholic priest but my three sons are happy I didn’t go that way. And so am I. Well, one night after reading from one of my favourite books, The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas a Kempis, I went to sleep with thoughts of belief and non-belief swirling through my head.
Some time in the very early morning, between the hours of midnight and dusk, I awoke from a dream state, or maybe I should say I awoke into a dream state. In this state, not fully realizing where I was, I felt myself being drawn over, over into what I can only call, the other side. And when I was partially in that place, sort of half here and half there, I felt a heavenly calm come over me. I can truly attest that never before, or since, have I ever felt that way. Suddenly, the realization hit me that if I kept floating along like this, I just might pass all the way over to wherever I was drifting.
And I got suddenly very scared. And that fear sucked me back like a mighty surge, and I was all here again, fully awake. And sweating. So, I jumped out of bed because I wanted to capture as completely as I could this unique but glorious experience. So, I started to write. And I wrote it all out in words that became a poem, a poem that had a form I had never used before. I have never recited it before to anyone, so please bear with me and see if you can share in some small way with my experience.
I call this ‘Assurance’……
I woke within the framework of the night
And felt the silent presence of the dead
As if they lingered floating in my head
In chambers lacking roof or walls or bed.
I stepped inside expecting to be led
Past alabaster angels but instead
A hollow toneless madrigal was read
By figments, of implicit pending dread.
I strained to see some path that I might light
To free my presence from that empty drone
And read or heard or felt a different tome
Timeless - yet insistent and alone.
“Come,” it shivered, piercing to the bone
“Come,” in sounds that suddenly had grown
To make me wonder how I must atone
For sins like seeds a prouder man had sown.
Straining still with eyes that spent their sight
The call beguiled me to an open door
Frameless hung, as if a fabric tore
Rent long and yawning open to the floor.
“Come,” it rang, more vibrant than before
As wispy fingers off some distant shore
Tugged gently at my soul, my unlocked core
Till I was carried drifting through the door.
At once my every fibre lost its might
And nerve and sinew stayed behind the shade
And I emerged more placid and restrained
As peace like snow descended in the glade
To which I’d come imperfect and unmade.
Then I knew the longer that I stayed
That time would stop, and I would merge and fade
Into eternity...I felt, afraid.
And in that fear new vision lost its sight
And I awakened wholly mine once more
The sweat of ages clung to every pore
Of this thin shell, this mortal husk I wore,
And wear still better than I did before
Until the day that legends, tales and lore
Fill up the book whose page this passage bore
And promises to kin and kith shall ring like truth,
once more. ——-— Joe Hevesy, June 1, 1997.
So, what does this prove? Well, obviously, it may not convince anyone else of God, or an afterlife, or any description that may be the same for everyone. But what it does prove is that somehow a single person on this earth believes wholeheartedly that he received a glimpse into Paradise. And I also think that if one person can be led to that state of belief, so can every other person, someday, somehow, even if only at the moment of truth, the moment of death.
But what about these hanging questions about why God allows suffering?
Well, once again, no single answer will suffice equally for all of us. I can only pass on to you my personal belief. God allows suffering for a couple of reasons at least. One, it proves definitively that this life, no matter how blessed it may be, is not without serious downsides. There is pain and, in many cases, there is pain that is so abundant, so excruciating that many of us at the end cry for release. And two, even in the midst of all this pain, god is with us.
There is a rabbi - I can’t recall his name now - who was in the Holocaust with his Jewish people. This question of God’s presence in all his people’s suffering kept nagging at him. “Where is this God who is all-caring?” “Why does He allow His own ‘chosen’ people to suffer such extremes?” “How can He justify all this pain?”
But this rabbi soldiered on. He stayed faithful to God, he showed a persevering faith to God visibly to all his people. He prayed every day and every night for an answer. And one day, he said, the answer was revealed to him. When he asked where God was, God whispered, “I am here. I am with you in all of this extreme terror. You are the ones who have been chosen to carry this burden for all mankind as my representatives. You are my Chosen people.”
Furthermore, as we Christians believe, God sent us His son, God-made-flesh, to suffer such terrible extremes with us, to show us that physical happyness-with-a-y is not the final answer. Our sufferings of one extreme or another is meant to coax us to let go of our grasp on earthly things. Without it, without suffering, we would want to stay here forever and not make it home to an ultimate reward.
But why do it at all? Why have Creation? Why not just stay in Paradise without the intervention of a physical world. Well, I will let you figure that one out through your own conversations with God. Hopefully, this message gave you some food for thought, maybe enough to spend a little bit of every Sunday in peaceful contemplation, reflection and prayer in the presence of God.
Now, let me leave you with yet another poem - don’t worry, not another one of mine. This poem is called Trees, not the one by Joyce Kilmer, but by Canadian Bliss Carman. I first learned it in grade 3 and it has reverberated with me ever since.
Does the Church still matter?
Is the church really important? I mean, really, really important in the grand scheme of things?
When someone needs medical attention, they go to the doctor. When someone needs to learn to read, they go to school. When someone needs legal advice, they go to a lawyer. When someone needs water, they go to the faucet. Food? Head to the fridge or the pantry.
But where do we go when we need hope? Where do we go when we need spiritual guidance, or a renewal of faith?
This is a crazy world. It's a scary world, with threats of missiles and global conflict in Syria. It's a tragic world, with the horrible crash in Saskatchewan. It's a confusing world, where evil and selfish people seem to get ahead while honest, hardworking folks have to scrimp to get by.
Our world needs the church, because there are things only the church can provide for people: The church can be a source of hope for the hopeless. It can be a soft, quiet voice in a boisterous and screaming world. It can offer answers to questions that make us uneasy, or unsure.
I hope, than as we examine the question of the church's importance today, we can be reminded about why this place matters in our lives, and that we can use the answers to challenge one another to live more fully in our covenant with Christ.
The church is a place of refuge that we continually come to throughout our whole lives. We are baptized there when we are babies. We have the opportunity to attend Sunday school and youth groups when we're young. We celebrate love through marriage, and sorrow as we say goodbye to our loved ones who pass on.
The church us a place where we share and develop our talents: Maybe we sing as a member of the choir.... Maybe we play the organ (and, by the way, my son Quinn just played his first Sunday as organist at Dundee last week!) or share talents with woodworking or repair. Maybe our talents lie in the kitchen, and aren't these folks popular! Pies and sweets, church dinners, I'm hungry just thinking about it!
The church helps us to better know our community: Through pastoral care, and outreach in elderly care homes and schools, through card parties and sing-alongs, we meet and share with our neighbours that same love that we know and experience through our relationship with Christ.
The church is a place where we continue to learn what it means to be a Christian; what it means to serve Christ and serve others.
And as I said earlier: The church can be a refuge from a lost and broken world. The church CAN be a place free from the hatred and judgement by which we are sometimes bombarded. The church CAN be a place where ALL people are welcomed as children of God, despite what the outside world might think of them. The church CAN be a place a place where forgiveness is offered without cost. It's not always perfect, because WE are
not always perfect, but it CAN be a place where we aspire to bring closer the Kingdom of God.
We are all here this morning; every Sunday morning; at every concert, church dinner or other event, because the church means something to each and every one of us. And, as much as the church about affecting and changing the lives of we as individuals, it's also about affecting and changing the world. Here's why:
Christ is no longer here anymore. That is to say: He is not physically present on this earth as he was two thousand years ago. That means that if people are going to experience Christ, they have to do it in a different way.
Christ knew that his ascension was coming, so as we heard this morning, after his resurrection Christ went to his disciples and commissioned them. That's just a fancy way of saying that he told them to go out and continue the work he had started in His name. He sent them out into the world as witnesses to his ministry, to preach repentance and forgiveness and share the good news of the Kingdom of God. Once he had effectively assured his continuing presence here on Earth, the assurance of his continuing ministry, he left them and ascended into Heaven.
That was the very beginning of the church, and it is also the very reason that the church matters in this world. What might have happened if Christ had ascended into Heaven without sending his disciples out as witnesses and ministers? What would have happened if those disciples had decided that they had had enough of Jesus' ministry and that they should head back to their families?
That would have sealed the end of the church right there.
Christ would have spent his few short years on this earth living, teaching, healing, dying and being resurrected................ And then would have been forgotten within a few generations. The healing would have faded away. The promise of eternal life would have been broken. The hope that he stood for would have been lost in history. Christ's love and the promise of salvation would have been limited to those few people that he had encountered during his brief time on earth.
Another risk that the early church faced came from the fact that the disciples didn't seem to believe that Jesus actually had been resurrected. Our reading today tells us that, when Jesus appeared to his disciples, they were terrified! They thought that they were being visited by a ghost! A spector... An apparition!
And here's the strange part of this reading: Why did the disciples struggle to believe and understand? Had Jesus failed to warn them in advance about what was going to happen to him?
Actually, the gospels tell us that Jesus had been predicting his death and resurrection for some time before the actual events of Easter week. Sometimes he spoke in deliberately vague terms; it's perhaps understandable in these cases that the disciples wouldn't have picked up on Jesus' meaning without help. For example, Jesus predicted his death and resurrection early in the gospel of John using a metaphor:
Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days." (John 2:18-19)
However, in other places, Jesus speaks plainly and directly about his imminent arrest, death, and resurrection: Matthew 16:21 tells us:
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. (Matthew 16:21)
If they had been so specifically forewarned—and especially if they knew in advance that Jesus would rise from the dead—why were the disciples so confused and frightened during the drama of Easter week?
Ultimately, we don't know the answer.
Surely, much of their confusion was simply the result of their being, well, human—like everyone else, they were prone to doubting things that were beyond their earthly understanding.
And we might consider that Jesus' teachings profoundly challenged the religious assumptions they had grown up with. Because Jesus taught both in plain speech and in parables, the disciples might have had trouble understanding when he was speaking literally and when metaphorically. Perhaps, even though they'd seen him work many life-giving miracles, the disciples couldn't bring themselves to believe Jesus' most dramatic claim—that he would die and rise from the grave. And the events of Easter week were stressful, to say the least.
But fortunately for us, and for billions and billions of other people over the last two thousand years, it didn't happen that way.
The disciples got out, got busy, and took up the mantle of their role as witnesses and ministers. They kept his message alive by sharing the good news all across the world. And the new disciples that they made in turn insured that the church would continue beyond their lifetimes and into the future.
Today, we as members and disciples of the church can do no less! If we in the church don't continue Christ's ministry, no one else will. That.... That is why the church matters.
He helped the poor. He forgave those who sinned. He shared God's grace and God's love. He died on the cross so that we might learn the way to eternal life. That......................... That is why the church matters.
It is as fundamental as the difference between life and death, and it's the church's responsibility to get that message out to people and communities across the world. Through Christ's message of peace and love, lives can and will be changed. That That is why the church matters.
Paul said to the Colossians: "He is the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: Things in Heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together."
The church is the body of Christ, and the body of his teachings. We are his mouth, his ears, his hands and feet in this world. We are witnesses to the good news, and messengers to take that news across our communities and across the world. That is both a great responsibility and a great privilege. The church has the power to help and heal people across the world from now until the end of time, as long as we keep the message alive. Like those first disciples who came to believe in the resurrection and went out to bear witness, the church depends on us. It depends on us going out into the world and saying "You want to know
what the love, mercy, grace and forgiveness of Christ means? Well, take a look at this! Look at what's happening here! See these very lives being changed!"
The church really does matter. Look at the world today. Our world hurts. In Parkland, Florida where a shooting in a school cost many lives. In Humbolt, Saskatchewan where a community and the world were stunned by a recent tragedy. In Syria and other battlefields across the world where both civilian and soldiers die every day.
When the television is on and the news is all bad. Where relationships fail because we prefer to tap fingers to our phone instead of engaging in conversation. When there is never enough money to keep up with the bills we have to pay. When the stress of our lives leads to despair and disease.
It is easier to see the world as a bleak and daunting place than a place of beauty and light. it is easier to find apathy and fear than kindness and love. But, through the church, God in Christ Jesus is able to offer justice, peace and blessings. Christ is able to bring hope to the midst of hurt. Christ's love feeds the hungry, heals the sick and forgives the sinner.
Above all, Christ brings unconditional love and abundant life. Through his ministry and teachings, we can find the strength to make it through this world. Through Christ, we can find the joy of this life, and the life to come. Through our discipleship out in the world, the church makes it possible for people to have real encounters with Christ's love.
And that... That is why the church matters.
God of new life,
we come with our praises and prayers.
We come rejoicing in the mystery of the Risen Christ,
present among us always;
blessing us with life-giving good news,
We come led and nurtured by your Holy Spirit.
Thank you for all your blessings,
For our family, friends and neighbours.
Thank you for all the beauty
In the skies, the lakes and the mountains.
Thank you for all the excitement of celebration,
Birthdays, weddings and christenings.
Thank you for all the variety of animals, birds and insects.
Thank you for all the enrichment of music, art and literature.
Thank you for the amazing jigsaw of life!
What a beautiful picture is made when we place all these pieces together!
Thank you for the promise of eternity,
For the sacrifices you made so that we can be free,
Free to make our lives into a glorious patchwork of thanksgiving
That carries us onwards to the promises of new heavenly pieces to add to all that we already hold.
We Thank you Lord....
Shall we now pray the words he taught us: Our Father…
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 also 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
Glorious God, we know that your capacity to love is infinitely greater than our own ability. Indeed, you call us to love one another in truth and in action. We yearn to be active disciples, so that our hearts truly abide with you. Use these gifts to increase our ability to be your followers. In the name of the One who laid down his life for us, Jesus Christ, we pray.
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad,because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
We Listen to God’s Word & Pray for Understanding
As your word is read, may it settle upon us
and nestle deep within us.
May it become more life-giving than the air we breathe,
more solid than the earth beneath our feet,
more powerful than the gravity that draws your creation together.
It is a blessing to be here with you today.
My sermon topic is “Giving and Receiving Blessings.”
There are so many facets to what we consider to be blessings – like joy, healing, grace, and gratitude.
In the movie “White Christmas” Bing Crosby sings “When I’m worried and I can’t sleep,I count my blessings instead of sheep.”
We know on some level that we have many blessings, and that when we become aware of them, or count them, the natural response is to feel gratitude, a feeling that dispels our worries. But are our blessings the good countable “things” in our lives – things we are grateful for? That may be one aspect of blessings, but there is more to it.
In David Spangler’s book “Blessing: The Art and the Practice,” he describes blessing as an invocation of the presence and power of the sacred. He encourages all of us, to experience the rewards of being a conduit for God’s blessings. We can bless through a kind word, a prayer, a ritual, a gesture, an embrace, or a gift – but the blessing is the sacred space that is experienced rather than the outward visible sign that helped convey the blessing.
A blessing is more than something you like or a kindness. A blessing is that which lifts us toward experiencing our spiritual nature. It brings Spirit into the picture. It gets us in touch with the essence qualities of God – like wholeness and perfection.
The phrase “circular blessing” comes to mind. It can become clear that every blessing has the potential to bless both the giver and receiver of any blessing.
We pray that our blessings have a positive effect on those we are blessing. Yet we, too, are reaping great benefit from being a blesser!
On a psychological level, when we bless, we are thinking good thoughts. Good thoughts feel good. We open our minds to something better or greater, which gives us hope for a happier future. Positive thoughts naturally have a positive impact on our mind and our body.
On a spiritual level, we are opening to God’s Good flowing through us outward into the world. We become joined with the brotherhood of God’s people. Blessings are a way of re-membering God’s family.
Many of us have had the joy of sharing blessings through prayers of the people. We’ve prayed for one another, especially those on our weekly prayer list, asking for God’s healing blessings for our extended church family. When we pray for another’s health and well-being, there is a range of experiences that we can have. My focus today is on the connection we can feel when we are extending blessings from a place of spiritual connection.
An image that comes to mind is a hose that has the potential to spray water onto a garden. My word of blessing is like turning the tap that allows the water to flow through the hose. The hose gets to feel the water flowing through it while the garden receives the benefit of the sprayed water. In the same way, any blessing I invoke flows through me, touching and cleansing me in the process. The water and the blessing are not mine. I am just the channel through which it flows when I am willing to turn the tap. That is the experience of “circular blessing.”
On the other hand, if I speak the words of a blessing while feeling separate and vulnerable, it is as if the hose is not attached to the water source. Nothing flows through it. As St. Paul writes in I Corinthians 13, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”
The power of the blessing is in staying connected to our Source, to our Creator, and allowing the Divine Presence to flow through my heart, mind, and soul.
The power of “circular blessing” is in remembering to connect to the Father’s Love that heals and transforms. That’s the Good News. I am not responsible for creating the blessing. My job is to invite God’s blessing and allow it to do its work.
The one who blesses from a state of communion with God is the voice for God in that moment. We are the hands and feet of God in the world, and we are invited to be the conduit for God’s blessings in any environment or circumstance.
What do we choose moment by moment? Do we extend blessings, or judge and complain? Do we just say “God bless you” when someone sneezes?
When I sneeze and you say “God bless you” where is your focus of attention? Are you present with me? affirming my health? wondering if I have a contagious cold or just an allergy? or maybe you just said it out of reflex and your mind was a million miles away, not really present with me or divinity.
Where your attention is when you say “God bless you” does make a difference. Maybe the next time you say it, there will be an extra dose of God’s Presence in your mind.
Most of us don’t speak blessings on a regular basis, but we can begin to exercise our blessing muscles.
We can choose to feel gratitude and give praise for the blessings in our lives while remembering the Source of our Good.
We can speak a blessing before meals, giving thanks for the abundance and variety of our nourishment.
We can enjoy the blessing of our freedom.
We can notice the miracles that flow from being a blesser instead of a complainer.
We can bless those who seem sad, confused, or lost from a place of peace in our own lives.
We can bless through mercy, kindness, compassion, beauty, and humor.
A deep spiritual blessing, in full openness to God’s Unconditional Love, can crack the heart wide open. Instead of my individual desire to wish another well, there is no “other”, just another part of myself seen through God’s eyes. Divine Wholeness is a healing balm that can be experienced by giving blessings.
In the Beatitudes (today’s Gospel reading of Matthew 5:3-12) Jesus speaks of people normally thought to be in disfavor. He pronounces them blessed because He tells us that God’s Healing Presence is available to all His Children. He teaches us that we, even in our brokenness, are due to receive an abundant life in God’s kingdom, regardless of our status or circumstances.
Blessing is a holy act that any Child of God can do, not just Jesus. It is our spiritual duty to remember that. We can and should bless by offering God’s blessing silently or aloud. Silent blessings are powerful, too, shining the Love of God into the world.
All things made by God are His children. Bless them all. Feel the healing power of “circular blessing.” There is a spiritual principle that what you give comes back to you. Give blessings, and you will receive blessings.
Practice makes perfect. Bless often. Hold God’s Hand, and ask for His Help to Bless with His Eternal Unconditional Love. With God’s help we are His Blessing in the world.
My message today is to bring awareness to the benefit of blessing, both giving and receiving.
We come to church to be reminded of our spiritual nature. Be willing to allow your spiritual nature to expand and express through the practice of blessing.
My prayer for each of you is that your heart fully opens to receive Spirit’s richest blessings of unconditional love and divine communion.
OPENING PRAYER: God, You have given us armor to enable us to stand against the attacks of Satan and the sin fighting for our hearts. Help us to take up this armor so that we do not fall. Help us to persevere by taking up truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation and the Word of God as our covering armor each day.
Lord, we pray that whatever the enemy throws at us, we will be able to withstand, for we know we can do all through Christ who gives us strength. Help us to remember to apply the full Armor of God to our daily lives. Be at our side whenever we call and especially at times when we may fall. We declare that on this day, we will walk by faith and not by sight, clothes in the full Armor of God. In Your name we pray. Amen.
PRAYER OF INTERCESSION & THE LORD'S PRAYER:
God of everlasting love, who provides all things, we pray for all people: make Your way known to them, Your saving power among all nations. We pray for the welfare of Your church here on earth; guide and govern it by Your Spirit, so that all who call themselves Christians may be led in the way of truth ad hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace, and in righteousness of life..
We commend to Your fatherly goodness all who are afflicted or distressed in body, mind or circumstances. Relieve them according to their needs, giving them patience in their sufferings, and deliverance from their afflictions. This we ask for the sake of Jesus Christ who taught us when we pray to say:
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
Forgiving God, You bring us the joy of salvation. Your steadfast love surrounds those who trust You. We are grateful that You nurture us with Your Word. By Your Spirit, help our congregation draw closer to You, even as we reach out to share Your Good News with our neighbours. We dedicate our offerings in the name of Your faithful Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.
Meditation Put on the armor of God.
PROCESSIONAL: Thy Word
CALL TO WORSHIP:
ONE: We've come to worship God who makes streams flow from rock.
ALL: Who turns the parched earth into springs of water.
ONE: Who sends the rain from heaven
ALL: and makes the wilderness blossom and flourish.
ONE: As the deer thirsts for flowing streams, so we thirst for You, 0 God.
ALL: Come, let's worship our life-giving God, who pours our living water on all who thirst.
OPENING PRAYER & THE LORD'S PRAYER: In the dry wilderness of our lives, in the days of heat and thirst, You offer us living water. When we begin to doubt Your presence, and grumble that Your love is unreliable, You offer us living water. When life's regrets and the bad choices we have made leave us feeling excluded and unworthy, you offer us living water. When circumstances, or the inhumanity of others have left us alone and wounded, you offer us living water.
We thank You and praise You, 0 God, that however we may thirst,
whatever we may need to satisfy our souls, you offer it freely and abundantly in Christ. So we drink deep of the living water and, as we draw from Your wells, we seek to pass the cup to others who, like us, are thirsty for Your grace. And now, as Jesus taught us, let us pray together: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
SCRIPTURE READINGS: Isaiah 12
Offertory Prayer: God is our source, our unending supply. With these gifts we carry our gratitude into action. God's blessings flow through us
and fill our world. We give and we live with absolute joy. Amen.
SPECIAL MUSIC: Therefore With Joy Shall Ye Draw Water — Nancy & Gord
MEDITATION: Living Water
We have all heard the pearls of wisdom found in sayings, such as "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush," or "Take time to smell the roses," and "Silence is golden." There is one saying in particular that is relevant to this morning's subject: "You will never miss the water until the well runs dry."
Living in Ormstown, we know about being without water. The infrastructure is old and pipes are always breaking. The water is often brown and slimy, undrinkable and not suitable for bathing, doing laundry or washing the dishes.
When dirt gets in the water, it is no longer pure and good to drink.
When there is no water readily available, it is very upsetting. Imagine the people living in places where there are droughts with no hope of water coming any time soon. We complain if we're without for a day or two, but there are others in this world who are dying from lack of clean water.
We all know that a well is a deep hole or shaft sunk into the ground to obtain water. A cistern is a reservoir, tank or container of some kind designed for storing or holding water. Water is a necessary part of life. We drink it, we use it to bathe, to clean our clothes, dishes and other items. We need water in order to make things grow. Water is very valuable to us all.
Over 2000 years ago, people were asking and wondering what God did for people. So God sent Jesus Christ to try to explain to them and answer their questions about God. One of the things Christ said was, "I am the living water."
What was Jesus telling us when He said that?
Many people believe that Jesus actually is the living water. But Jesus
Himself intended the phrase to mean the Holy Spirit who lives in believers and seals them for salvation. It's the ministry of the Spirit, flowing out of a heart redeemed by God that blesses believers and brings life and light to the world.
God wants us to have the means to refresh ourselves when we get tired
or overwhelmed. We use water to cool ourselves when we get too hot, and to warm ourselves when we get too cold. We use water to irrigate the land to help make things grow. We use water to keep our body and other things clean.
Water does all these things. God wants to help the world grow to be good, strong, wholesome people. And what helps things grow? Water.
I wonder how we would feel if all of a sudden God took all things
Christian out of this world. Things like churches, schools, hospitals, peace, love and kindness. There are so many good things in this world, but we must never substitute them for God, anymore than we would substitute anything for water.
Perfume is a good thing — it has a nice, sweet smell. But if you tried to
clean your face with it every day, it would only make your face sore. If you were to drink perfume, it would make you sick, or perhaps even kill you. If you were to spray the garden with perfume, it would kill the plants, flowers and grass — not because perfume is bad, but because perfume is not used for these things — water is.
That's much the way it is with Christ and religion. Religion is the thing with which God has provided us so we may cleanse our lives and refresh and strengthen ourselves. Let's not use substitutes and let's not let the well become filled with dirt or let it run dry.
There are six ways we can drink of the living water. These six ways are
given in the scripture we read this morning from Isaiah 12:3-6. We can drink the living water by thanking God. We can thank Him for anything and everything. Every time we utter thanks to Him, we drink the living water. It's like taking a drink from a refreshing well. We are watered and revived.
The next way to drink is to call upon the Lord's name. We can call on His name throughout the day just by saying "Oh Lord" or "Lord, I love You." Each time we call His name out loud, we drink of the living water. We can also drink by making Christ's deeds known among people.
Perhaps we feel parched because we haven't talked to anyone about Christ. But when we do, we are taking a drink and are watered and refreshed by the living water.
We can also tell people that Christ's name is exalted. Even our own
personal exalting of Jesus' name when seen or heard by others, will remind them that His is the highest name. When we tell others that Jesus is Lord, we drink living water from the well of Salvation.
Opening our mouth and singing hymns to the Lord is one of the best ways to drink from the Fountain of Living Water. As we sing, the fountain begins to well up in us, even to the point of overflowing. The more we sing with our hearts to the Lord, the more watered and refreshed we'll be.
We can drink the water of life by crying out and giving a ringing shout. We can cry out to praise and thank the Lord. "Praise the Lord. You are so good.
I love You, Lord Jesus!" When we cry out like this to the Lord, we get saved from all the thoughts in our mind and take a deep drink of the life-giving Spirit as the water of life.
You can practice these six ways to drink every day. Whenever you feel
spiritually parched, you can try thanking God, calling on His name, speaking about Christ to someone, telling another that Jesus is Lord and that His name is the highest, and singing with your heart to the Lord, or crying out and giving a ringing shout.
Let us pray: The well is so deep and the water is so far away from our
parched hands, our parched throats and our parched souls. Drawing,
consuming, repeated drawing, repeated thirsting, drawing again! God, only You can break this cycle of filling our souls with things that can never fully satisfy. Lead us to the living water of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, and quench the thirsting of our souls. Amen.
If a spring has not been opened in a soul, a spring of living water from God's own Son, no waters can flow and there is no life in you.
BENEDICTION & CHORAL AMEN: Drink deeply of the waters of Salvation and quench your thirst for truth, for the Lord is with you. Go in God's peace and bring good news to all you meet.
" If a spring has not been opened in a soul, a spring of living water from God's own Son, no waters can flow and there is no life in you." G.V. Wigram
As there has been cancellation due to weather, here is the whole series so you can follow:
Lenten Candle Lighting Liturgy
First Sunday: Seeds In this season of Lent we reflect on our journey of faith with Christ, remembering our Jesus’ sacrifice, that he is the Bread of the World. We remember how Jesus faced temptation in the wilderness, and the temptations we face to look for sustenance elsewhere. We are reminded that through Christ our needs are fulfilled.
We light this candle on this first Sunday of Lent, remembering Christ’s perseverance and praying for Christ’s strength in our lives.
(light the first candle)
Prayer: As the days lengthen and we begin to plant seeds for the future harvest, may we remember how Christ became broken for us, and that through Christ we will hunger no more. In the name of Christ, with whom we journey towards the cross, we pray. Amen
Second Sunday: Earth In this season of Lent we reflect on our journey of faith with Christ, remembering that Christ has offered us new life here on earth, that God so loved the world that he sent his Son, so that the world might be saved through him. While we await the heavenly kingdom, we prepare for God’s reign on earth.
We light this candle on this second Sunday of Lent, remembering God’s assurance of new life through the signs of spring in the earth.
(light the second candle)
Prayer: As the days lengthen and bulbs are preparing deep in the earth, dear God, may we be ready for what you are preparing to grow in us. Nourish us so that we might bear spiritual fruit. In the name of Christ, with whom we journey towards the cross, we pray. Amen.
Third Sunday: Water In this season of Lent we reflect on our journey of faith with Christ, remembering all the ways God throughout history has delivered the people, through the Red Sea, crossing the river Jordan, and through the waters of our rebirth at our baptism. We know Christ is the spring of living water, and through Christ we will never thirst again for eternal life.
We light this candle on this third Sunday of Lent, remembering God’s love for us through his son Jesus the Christ, that we might have new life in him.
(light the third candle)
Prayer: As the days lengthen and the rivers fill with spring waters, dear God, may we be filled with your love. Let wellsprings of living water spring up in us. In the name of Christ, with whom we journey towards the cross, we pray. Amen.
Fourth Sunday: Sand (or Mud) In this season of Lent we reflect on our journey of faith with Christ, remembering that life was brought forth from the ground in our creation, and that new life for one man was created when Jesus took mud from the ground and made a blind man see. As his eyes were opened for the first time, so our eyes are opened to the need for hope and healing in our world. We light this candle on this fourth Sunday of Lent, remembering God’s promise for all of us, new life here on earth, and eternal life hereafter.
(light the fourth candle)
Prayer: As the days lengthen, dear God, may we remember that it is you who gives us new life on earth, that we might know your love and peace, and share your love with the world. In the name of Christ, with whom we journey towards the cross, we pray. Amen.
Fifth Sunday: Stone In this season of Lent we reflect on our journey of faith with Christ, remembering that death no longer has a hold on us. Through Christ we are freed from the cold stone of the tomb and know the warm embrace of the light of life.
We light this candle on this fifth Sunday of Lent, remembering God’s redeeming grace, and that new life comes out of death. We remember the former covenant written on stone, and the new covenant, written on our hearts, that we are God’s children, and God’s promise is life forevermore.
(light the fifth candle)
Prayer: As the days lengthen, dear God, may we remember that spring comes only after a long winter, that new life, eternal life, comes only after passing through death. In the name of Christ, with whom we journey towards the cross, we pray. Amen.
Palm Sunday: Wood In this season of Lent we reflect on our journey of faith with Christ, remembering that long ago God planted the Tree of Life, and yet it is on a tree that Christ is crucified. We are again reminded that life comes out of death, and we are promised that death does not have the final word.
We light this candle on this Palm Sunday, the last Sunday of Lent, remembering God’s faithfulness through the cross upon which our Lord was crucified, that death will be no more, mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for Christ triumphs over death.
(light the sixth candle)
Prayer: As the days lengthen, dear God, may we remember that you are the one who calls life out of death, that you are the Lord of our lives. In the name of Christ, may we have the strength found in him to journey towards the cross. Amen
Call to Worship
S.- Lent calls us to journey, this and every day, following Jesus
wherever he leads us.
P. - Lent calls us to journey: to the place where God covenants with
us, to receive the new names we are given.
S. - Lent calls us to worship together, to tell future generations the
P. - Lent calls us to practice justice, to bring God's hope to all people.
S.- Lent calls us to faithful living, to trust the One who gives us life.
P.- Lent calls each of us to take up our cross, to trust the One who
bears it with us.
S.- Lent calls us to journey with God.
P. - Let us worship God, who walks with us, this and every day.
We've come again to the beginning of the season of Lent. It
began a few days ago with Ash Wednesday, and we'll walk this
sombre and sometimes lonely road all the way to Easter.
And, as Lent begins, we are reminded of Christ's call to deny
ourselves, to take up our own cross, and to follow in the steps
of Jesus. It's a difficult thing, this call to discipleship, and it
comes as we find Jesus and his disciples on their way to
Jerusalem and his inevitable death.
Lent is the quiet time of preparation leading up to the passion
and joy of Easter. It's a time when we followers of Christ reflect
upon our own shortcomings and find ways to grow in our
relationships with God. It's a time when we make decisions to
put life's distractions aside so that we can direct our focus to
our relationship with Christ.
So today we begin our Lenten journey, along the roads that
Christ traveled towards Jerusalem. We will pause with him as
he preaches. We'll wait with him while he teaches. We'll watch
as he heals, and as he performs miracles. We will focus our
energies on this journey that we walk with him, as we deny
ourselves and take up our own crosses, all the while
remembering that Easter is coming, and that the promise of
Easter makes this a journey of hope.
But, here we are at the beginning of the road, and our first stop
is in Judea. We stop here for a moment to watch Jesus teach,
and then lift some children into his arms.
And there, friends, is a great opportunity for a nice neat
segue.... For whenever a road trip and children are mentioned
in the same breath, the inevitable question pops into our brain:
"Are we there yet?"
As absolutely ANNOYING that question can be when you're
cooped up in a car for hours and hours and it's hot, and the kids
are fighting, and the radio's too loud, and every little thing is
driving you CRAZY and Wait What was I talking about?
Are we there yet? It's a good question to ask, in this very
specific circumstance. Unlike the disciples accompanying Jesus
on his journey, we have the benefit of perspective. We know
how the journey is going to turn out. We know that the tomb
will wind up empty. And that's wonderful. And we'll welcome
that day with Hosannas and Alleluias and rejoicing. But,
because we happen to know how the journey ends, we tend to
forget about the hard road we walked to get there. To look at it
another way: We focus on eternal life with God, and sometimes
we tend to forget how we are called to live now. It's easy to
feel like we've arrived at the destination, that we are "there". A
wise person once remarked: "You're never THERE. You're
always HERE. And HERE is at the beginning of a long road. HERE
is where we are called to deny ourselves, to pick up our own
cross, and to follow Christ.
So let's take a little time today to think about some of the
things that hinder us from doing these things, and from
developing our relationship with God. What are some of the
things that get in our way of our relationship with Christ.
When the little children in today's reading started making their
way towards Jesus, who exactly tried to keep them away? It
was his own disciples, wasn't it?
We have to keep something in mind here: Jesus was on his way
to the cross, and HE knew it. That shadow must have always
been close to his mind. But, even though he knew the hardships
he was bound to face, he still took time to teach, and to spend
a few moments with these children. He had time to take them
in his arms, and he had the heart to share a smile with them,
and perhaps play for a while.
But his disciples wanted to keep these kids away. Not because
they were mean, or anything, but they felt it was their job to
protect Jesus. Jesus had not shared the exact knowledge of
what was coming with them, but they knew quite clearly that
tragedy did lie ahead, and they knew that he carried a heavy
burden. They simply didn't want Jesus to feel bothered. They
couldn't imaging that he actually wanted all these kids around
him. But Jesus said: "Let the children come to me."
And the lesson that followed, about Children and the Kingdom
of God, is a great way to answer our Question: What are the
things that hinder us from journeying with Christ?
esus is ALWAYS ready to receive us into his presence, but
sometimes things get in the way... Sometimes our good
intentions get in the way, like the Disciples who tried to stop
Think about those children; about children in general: Children
possess many traits that make them an ideal example of people
worthy of the Kingdom.
First, think about a child's humility. With few exceptions, most
kids are embarrassed to be the centre of attention. Young
children generally don't strive for pride or prestige; they
haven't yet learned self-importance.
Children are also obedient. Ok, wait, wait I'm just now
thinking about my own kids and how that's patently not true.
Ok, kids are not always obedient, but I like to think that a kid's
NATURAL instinct is to obey their elders, at least for the first
few years. Let's put this one aside for now.
Children are trusting. This one is easier. Young kids recognize
that they need guidance and help, and they trust people who
they believe know better. A child's trust can be seen in the
child's confidence in other people. It's almost unique to young
children that they do not naturally expect any person to be bad.
I enjoy watching the TV show, "Big Bang Theory." There's one
episode where the main character, Sheldon, a brilliant
theoretical physicist with absolutely no social skills, is trying to
learn how to make friends. His efforts land him in a bookstore
where he has gone to find a book about how to make friends.
The salesperson in the bookstore directs Sheldon to the
children's section, where Sheldon picks out an appropriate
book, "Stew the Cockatoo is New at the Zoo," sits down in one
of the child-sized chairs, and proceeds to pick up a conversation
with a young girl sitting across the table. The girl talks openly
with Sheldon, clearly thinking nothing about the fact that this
adult is sitting here reading a child's book, nor about the fact
that Sheldon wants to be the girl's friend. The child has not yet
learned to suspect the world. She still believes the best about
Children also have short memories. I KNOW this one is true,
because every time I ask Quinn to do the dishes or clean his
room, it takes him exactly NO TIME AT ALL to forget
completely. But what I actually mean here is that kids haven't
yet learned to bear grudges or to nourish bitterness. Even when
they're subjected to unjust treatment, the kid can forget, and
forget so completely that forgiveness is unnecessary.
All these traits.... Humility, obedience, trust. These are the traits
of people who take the journey with Christ and grow as his
disciples. When we find our relationship with Christ strained or
distant, when we find it's hard to walk along that road, it's
usually because we have lost some of these traits. Instead of
being humble, we are egotistical. Instead of being obedient, we
are stubborn. We hold grudges. We blame. When called down a
path towards forgiveness, we hold onto hatred and we cast
Friends, we cannot know the Kingdom if we do not live by the
ideals of the Kingdom. We cannot walk with Christ if we are not
willing to follow his ways. Christ told his disciples, told all of us,
that we must deny ourselves, we must take up the cross. He
knows the way won't be easy. He knows the road is going to be
hard. He has seen what's coming. But he also knows that it's
the only way into the Kingdom.
And it's the path that we need to follow. The journey beside
Christ follows a different path, a road that requires us to
sometimes make the hard choice to put aside flaws in our
characters that keep us from Him. It's a path that sometimes
may lead us in a different direction from some of our friends,
family or others in our lives. A family member might get in the
way if they are skeptical about religion. A friend who doesn't
believe in church might encourage us towards other uses of our
time. Maybe our colleagues might think we should work all the
time, at the expense of family and worship. The list could go on
and on. We normally think of peer pressure as a problem for
teens, but let me tell you friends, it's a perpetual problem for
each and every one of us. The influences of people that we
know and see every day can very easily block our road to hope.
Now, I'm going out on the proverbial limb here, there being so
many apple experts here today, but I learned something
interesting this week about fruit trees. Sometimes, fruit trees
put so much energy into growing up that little or no energy is
invested in bearing fruit. Do you know the solution to this
problem? It's called scoring. The farmers will take a knife, and
they make a deep cut in the trunk of the tree near the ground.
While severe, this wound always produces change, and
depending on the time of year that the tree is scored, positive
change results. And to you experts out there, even if I'm
completely wrong, just go with me for now, would you?
I don't think any of us would deny the fact that when it comes
to our relationship with Christ, we could all bear more fruit.
None of us are "there" yet. There are all places where we could
make a few good cuts in our own lives so that we might grow in
our life with Christ. It can be an act of denial, it requires a
change of life, and it is sometimes even painful. But it is the call
of Christ to all people, "deny yourself, take up your cross, and
I know some of this seems sombre and sad, but what do you
want... It's Lent! But seriously, we NEED to remember that the
call to follow Christ is a call to a life of abundance. The Lenten
road we're starting this morning is ultimately a journey of
hope! Though all these trials we are to walk, through the
denials, and beneath the weight of the cross, we have before us
not only hope, but also the promise of eternal life with God.
This Lenten season we, as Christians, are tasked to examine our
lives. We need to find the roadblocks that keep us from walking
alongside Christ. We need to humbly acknowledge our
shortcomings and our weaknesses.
Like children, we need to be less egotistical, more humble. Less
stubborn, more obedient. Less doubtful, more trusting. Bit by
bit, piece by piece, step by step. And we can always trust that,
like those children, Christ is always waiting to welcome us into
The Road to Happy-ness
The preamble to the US Declaration of Independence says the following:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The pursuit of happiness sets a person on a journey, and this journey takes place on a road, the road to happiness. It is a journey that we all take part in throughout our lives, whether we consciously do so or whether our life circumstances dictate it to us. The Declaration of Independence states that the pursuit of happiness is a basic human right. A right that we all, man, woman, and child not only claim as a right, but claim as a desirable right.
As an example of this journey, a recent movie was made starring Will Smith, called The Pursuit of Happyness. It relates the real life story of a man, Chris Gardner, and his son, and how they lived homeless for a year until, through perseverance and hard work, Mr. Gardner achieved success. Note that the word Happyness in the movie is spelt with a ‘y’, not the usual ‘I’. The reason for this is that Mr. Gardner’s son goes to a kindergarten where some 5-year-old child spelt the word this way.
When I saw this, I was struck by a flash of insight which I sometimes get and which bothers me enough to think it through. I wonder why this bothers me until I realize, it’s another one of those God whispers we sometimes hear. We all get them, these whispers from God, but we don’t all pay attention to them, or we don’t always pay attention to them.
So, what did I come up with in my thoughts? Something that we instinctively realize as a part of our spiritual faith. How many times have you heard the expression, ‘Money doesn’t buy happiness?’ Not only do we hear it almost daily, we see examples of it in our own lives and in the lives of others. You see it even in the habits of our children. Christmas gift-giving has come and gone, like it does every year. Some children rip into their gifts, check them out for a few seconds, then go on to the next one. A few weeks later, they often are already tired of these colourful plastic toys and sometimes don’t play with them much longer. It isn’t that they didn’t like what they got. It’s maybe that they got too much at once.
It is the same for us. Look at some Hollywood stars or millionaire athletes and rock stars. How many of them live a life of glitz and glut? How many of them take to drugs and over-abundance of Material pleasures? How many of them turn the road to happiness into the road to suicide? And why? I think of Whitney Houston as one example. She had so much, so much fame, so much fortune, so much talent that she displayed to the world, and so much more she might have shared. Yet, she cast it all away. Why?
I think the big reason why people keep chasing happiness and not finding it is because it always seems to be beyond their reach. You know, the grass is always greener on the other side. We seem too often to be looking for happy-ness with a ‘y’, a series of happy events that are never enough in themselves. Happy-ness with a ‘y’ is a short-term thing. That new dress, that new tv, that new car…I regard these all as happy-ness with a ‘y’, an immature, incomplete, kindergarten happy-ness. These are not happiness with an ‘I’, a complete happiness that we can take with us for the rest of our lives.
These 2 levels of happiness can even extend to out personal relationships, to our friends and partners. When we are dissatisfied with one, when we turn our backs on one, they become happy-ness with a ‘y’. When we endure with the people we know, the people we love, we build long-term relationships, we build happiness with an ‘I’. How do we describe these? How do we keep our happiness long-term? I read recently that the key to enjoying our lives is to be content with what God has given us. When we think about it, He has given us so much, it should be easy to find contentment in His gifts.
I remember a friend of mine some years ago complaining to me about his partner. These are people who had been married for over ten years. They had nice kids, material goods, they had no reason that I could see for being unhappy. So, I asked him a question, “Do you think that she may also find fault with you, and does she dwell on it?” He didn’t know. He had never thought about her feelings and what she thought about their relationship. So, I asked him, “Do you think your partner is basically the same person that she was when you fell in love with her? And is there no way you can do for her what you used to do in the past? When did you last buy her flowers? When did you last say, “I love you?”
I left it as a pregnant question. Contentment is an elusive thing, but certainly not out of reach if you don’t let negative thoughts drag you down.
This Sunday is called Transfiguration Sunday, a celebration of that day when Jesus took three of his disciples up on a mountain top and revealed the power of God to them. To me, it was a clear sign that God’s message to us is that happiness when found in the Lord is a picture so beautiful, so complete, and so utterly beyond description that we can only accept it unconditionally and revel in it unquestionably. As scripture says, “He was transfigured before them.” In other words he became someone who was touched by the divine. No longer seeing Him as a mortal being, “His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.”
Do we need to be transfigured like Jesus to find happiness? Let me quote an ancient Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu – “
“He who is contented is rich.”
Finding contentment in our lives is finding the road to happiness. Here is what one writer, Leo Babauta, had to say about it:
“There has been little in my life that has made as much an impact as learning to be content — with my life, where I am, what I’m doing, what I have, who I’m with, who I am.
This little trick changes everything.
Let’s take a look at my life before contentedness:
I was addicted to junk food and fast food, and overweight and unhealthy. I bought too many things on impulse, owned too much clutter, and was deeply in debt and struggling to make it to the next payday. I was unhappy with who I was, wanted desperately to change, tried a thousand different programs and books. I was always worried I was missing out on exciting things, and wanted so much to be out doing the fun things everyone else was doing. I was always changing the way I did things, because it seemed everyone else had a better system or tools. I strove to meet goals, because they would get me to a better life.
And as I learned to be content, here was what changed:
I learned to be happy with healthier food, with less food, and my health improved and waistline shrunk. I relied on a good book, spending time with people I loved, going for a nice run … and my debt began to be reduced as I learned I didn’t need to spend money to enjoy myself. I learned to be happier with who I was, and what I was doing, and so no longer needed self-improvement books and programs, no longer needed to try all kinds of new systems and tools. I became happy with myself, with those around me, and with what I had — and so didn’t need to strive to change everything. Letting go of goals helped me to simplify things so I had less to worry about, less to do.
That’s just the start. There is no way to account for the tremendous change that happens when you learn to accept who you are, when you tell yourself you are perfect just as you are, just as God made you, when you love yourself and everything about yourself. You stop criticizing yourself, you are happier, you are a better person to be around, and you can now help others and work without the insecurities you had before.”
Another writer, Joshua Becker, says this:
1. Become grateful. It is impossible to develop contentment without gratitude – they are inseparable. And a grateful person is one who has learned to focus on the good things in their life, not the things that they lack. When you begin to question what you have to be grateful for, just start making a list – a literal list of all the good things in your life. Don’t worry about finishing, you don’t need to. The simple discipline of beginning the exercise will undoubtedly shift your focus back to the many good things you already have.
2. Take control of your attitude. A person who lacks contentment in their life will often engage in “when and then thinking” – “when i get _______, then i will be happy.” Instead take control of your own life. Remember, your happiness is not reliant on the acquisition of any possession. Your happiness is based solely on your decision to be happy – and this may be one of the most important life lessons you can ever learn.
3. Break the habit of satisfying discontentment with acquisitions. For many of us, it has been ingrained into our lives that the proper way to diffuse discontent is to purchase the outward item that is seemingly causing the discontentment. Almost no energy is spent determining the true root of the discontent. Are you dissatisfied with your wardrobe? Go buy new clothes. Not content with your vehicle? Go buy a new one. We have gotten into the habit of satisfying our discontent by simply spending more money. We must break that habit. Understand that material possessions will never fully satisfy the desires of your heart (that’s why discontent always returns). The next time you recognize discontentment surfacing in your life, refuse to give into that bad habit. Instead, commit to better understand yourself and why the lack of that item is causing discontent. Only after you intentionally break this habit will true contentment begin to surface.
4. Stop comparing yourself to others. Comparing your life with someone else’s will always lead to discontentment. There will always be people who “appear” to be better off than you and seemingly living the perfect life. But be advised, we always compare the worst of what we know about ourselves to the best assumptions that we make about others. Their life is never as perfect as your mind makes it out to be. You are unique. You are special. And it’s always better that way.
5. Help others. When you begin helping others, sharing your talents, time and money, you will find yourself learning to be content. The practice will give you a finer appreciation for what you own, who you are, and what you have to offer.
6. Be content with what you have, never with what you are. Never stop learning, growing, or discovering. Take pride in your personhood and the progress that you have made, but never become so content that you cannot find room for improvement. Contentment is not the same as complacency. As soon as you stop growing, you start dying.
To me, lasting happiness is found in these things:
The person who agreed to share her life with me.
The three sons we were gifted with by God.
The pleasure of living daily in a blessed land like the Chateauguay Valley.
The good friends we have made here and the blessings of a friendly church family.
The opportunity to give back to God by giving of ourselves some of the time and talent He has blessed us with.
Let us Pray:
Dear God, I pray for happiness.
I pray that I have a cheerful heart.
I pray that others are drawn to my happy smile, my positive attitude, and my face that shines with joy.
Dear God, I know that you have created me and everyone else to be happy, to find joy and laughter in the different stages and experiences of life.
I pray that I express You in my expression of joy.
A cheerful heart is a continual feast.
My outlook is positive, and I feel happy.
My life is a banquet of uplifting experiences.
I feel so good as I release the joy of God from within.
I express God's eternal, loving presence within me.
I pray, daily, that my cheerful heart up lifts me, and brings joy to everyone around me.
In Jesus Christ's name� Amen
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Webmaster's note: To see the second part of this message please go to April 29th!
Call to Worship
K. : The buzz of the world interrupts our lives and fills our ears
All: Call us into Your way of life, O God
K.: The complaints of others settle in our mind and cloud our vision
All: Lead us into Your vision of life, O God
K. : The cries of the poor, the oppressed and the outcast pierce our hearts.
All: Guide us in Your example of living for others, O God
K. : Fill our hearts, fill our eyes, fill our ears with Your love, O God
All: Let us be Your hands and feet in the world, O God.
All: Let us worship You together.
PROCESSIONAL: Thy Word
CALL TO WORSHIP:
ONE: Every week we re-enact the story of God's boundless love and celebrate the reality of God's presence.
ALL: Such a God! Our God is good! God is with us forever!
ONE: The light coming from our candles reminds us that God's light shines into the dark places in our lives and our world, lighting our path and illuminating our minds.
ALL: Such a God! Our God is good. God is with us forever!
ONE: Every week our ears and hearts are filled by the music of our band and the song of our choir, a reminder of how God gifts us with talents that can glorify God.
ALL: Such a God! Our God is good! God is with us forever!
ONE: Now look at the most important part of the church — us, the people. It is here that God is most alive, weaving us into a community of faith, teaching us how to live, challenging us to do far more abundantly than we could imagine by ourselves.
ALL: Such a God! Our God is good! God is with us forever!
OPENING PRAYER: Lord, You are an awesome God, and You love us very much. Thank you for sending Jesus and calling us together to celebrate His work. Please take away the road blocks that stop us from coming into Your presence, and fill in the pot holes that slow us down and make the way bumpy. Help us to worship You this morning. Amen.
ANNOUNCEMENTS, BIRTHDAYS & ANNIVERSARIES:
PRAYER OF PRAISE & THE LORD'S PRAYER: Thank you Lord for the opportunity of worship, for the freedom to be amongst Your family meeting together in Your house, and in the warmth of Your embrace. Thank you that in worship we can put aside the uncertainties of this world and rest upon the certainties of Your kingdom, for Your promises are not changeable as those of a politician might be, but immovable and eternal. Thank you that we can bring to Your feet all the hurts and fears that trouble us, and leave them there, knowing that Your strength and assurance are all that we require. Thank you that as we draw near in worship, we are transported from a world of concerns and fears, to a place where we can be at peace in Your presence, find healing, wholeness and refreshment. Thank you Lord for the opportunity of worship.
And in the words Jesus taught us, let us pray together: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
PRESENTATION OF OFFERING: Offering Received:
Living God, Your love for us is so unfathomable. Open our ears to the cries of Your neediest children. Open our eyes to see human injustice. Open our minds to think about compassion in all circumstances. Continue to increase our willingness to give so that we may lead lives fully focused on ministry to others. We give these offerings in gratitude for Your guidance and love. Amen.
HYMN: #103 0 Lord, Thou Art My God
MEDITATION: It Pays To Advertise
This morning we read responsively the first 13 verses of Psalm 145. It's a
song of David — a song of praise. Perhaps you're wondering what the
connection between Psalm 145 and the title of this meditation is. I hope it will all become clear and you will see the connection of this Psalm and the words "it pays to advertise."
I grew up with the King James version of the Bible. It's what I used to
memorize the weekly verses designated by my Sunday School teacher. When I was still in Elementary School i really didn't understand all that I read and memorized, but as I matured, the cloud of misunderstanding and confusion started to dissipate and the passages began to make sense. Here in Rockburn we chose the New International Version for our pew Bibles. This version is written in a modern text and is more easily understood.
It's the version we read this morning. However, I'm going to reread the first 13 verses of the Psalm in an even more easily understood text in order to discover exactly the point David was trying to put across.
"Always I will praise you, my God and my king, and I will bless your name.
Bless you, 1 will say every day and I will always praise your name. Clearly the Lord is great and we can never praise him enough. We will never know how great he really is! Down from father to son people will say what wonderful things you have done. They will tell each other how powerful you are. Everyone is talking about your glory and your beauty. I will keep thinking about the wonderful things that you do. Famous are the things that you have done. People talk about them. I also will say what great things you do. Good things are what everybody remembers about you. They all sing about how kind you are. How full of grace and mercy is the Lord. He is slow to become angry and is full of kind love.
It is the Lord that is kind to everybody. He shows his mercy to everything that he has made. Joining together, everything that you have made will praise you, Lord. Your saints will bless you. Kingdom of glory is where you rule. People talk about it and about how powerful you are.
Let everybody know the powerful things that you have done, and the
glory and beauty of your kingdom. Many years, even for always, will your kingdom remain. You will always rule over it."
These verses show us how awesome God is. Everything we think, say or
do leads us to the discovery that God is truly an awesome God. Whenever a sermon is preached or a hymn is sung, it always is for the glory of God. What's the use of a tongue if it doesn't speak or sing the glory of God's kingdom?
Verse 4 of the Psalm says: "Down from father to son people will say what wonderful things you have done. They will tell each other how powerful you are." God is not only awesome, but he is powerful, and those aren't the only attributes of God.
God is admirable and praiseworthy. God is wisdom, Infinitude, Trinity and Holiness. God is Just, God is Sovereignty and God is Faithfulness. All of these attributes of God must be passed on to future generations, and they must be passed on to anyone who hasn't found God and His amazing grace.
Isaiah 40:31 says "But those who hope in the Lord will renew their
strength. They will soar on wings like eagles." This verse reminds me of a
children's message I heard while on vacation a couple of years ago. It was about God wanting to recharge us when we're out of power. The pastor held up a cell phone and told the kids that it was dead. He explained that he was on the phone with a friend who had a difficult problem, and they talked for such a long time that his cell phone died. He couldn't call anyone or receive any calls, and so now he had to recharge his cell phone. He explained that our souls are a little like his cell phone. Sometimes life brings trials and tribulations which can take a lot out of us, making us feel rundown. We can get to feeling so tired or depressed that we just want to curl up and sleep for a year. So what we need is a recharge.
The pastor's point was that all of us are like his cell phone. When we're
starting to feel worn out or depressed by life's struggles, that's when we really need to plug into God the most. We plug in by praying, by reading our Bible, by going to church — these are the things that will recharge us!
It takes a while to recharge, but if we're patient, if we're faithful to the
Lord and if we pray, we will find that our lives will most certainly have been recharged!
Sometimes, when you need to recharge, relaxing with a newspaper,
magazine, or even browsing on the Internet or watching TV can get our minds off our problems. But interspersed with the news and the articles and stories are pages, paragraphs, pictures and pop-ups telling me what toothpaste will make my teeth whiter. There are ads that tell us the wonders of probiotics, prebiotics and Omega 3, and if we don't get these products we will not be healthy and fit. We can buy shoes for only $39.99 a pair. We can call a 1-800 number and get our meals for a week delivered to our door. And the list goes on and on and on.
There are want ads — people looking for mechanics, accountants, baby-
sitters or a place to rent or buy. There are ads for people looking for lost dogs or cats. There are ads for people looking for love. All of these advertisements are in the papers, magazines, Internet, radio and television because the people who place them are looking for more business. They spend the money to advertise in the hope that they will make more money — it pays to advertise!
So if it pays a businessman to advertise, I wonder whether we could
follow his example? What do we have in this church that is worth advertising?
If you were to start a headline advertisement for Rockburn Presbyterian
Church, what would you select — our singing, our band, our good fellowship, our efficiency, our cordiality — what?
I wonder, too, what we would have on that "Want" page! Would it be,
"Lost — sixty minutes every Sunday morning," or "Wanted — young people," or "Strayed — our enthusiasm," or could we advertise, "Found —away to better living," or "exchange — for your spare time a chance for better development," or "Free — a bit of encouragement and a cure for the blues."
You know you can only advertise what you have in stock. It's poor
business, very poor business, to advertise what you don't have and then try to substitute something else. But we have everything we need to advertise and it's always it stock — we have God. We have God's love and His grace and His Word. We have the faith to go out and share our knowledge of God with those who have not found Him yet.
A market research interviewer was surveying people in the grocery store
after they picked up their bread. One man picked up a loaf of Wonder Bread, and the interviewer asked him, "Sir, would you be willing to answer a couple of questions about your choice of bread?" The man responded, "I'd be happy to."
"Fine," the interviewer said. "The question I'd like to ask you is this: Do you feel that your choice of Wonder Bread has been at all influenced by their advertising campaign?" The fellow looked shocked and said, "Of course not. I'm not influenced by that sort of thing at all!" "Well then," he said, "could you tell me just why you did choose Wonder Bread?" The man replied, "Of course I can. It's because it builds strong bodies in eight ways!"
Whether you realize it or not, advertising gets through to people in one
way or another. We have so much to share. Our relationship with God is important to use. Remember what Isaiah said, "Let everybody know the powerful things that you have done, and the glory and the beauty of your kingdom." This is something we can advertise, because it's always in stock, and it pays to advertise!
Let us pray: Heavenly Father, as we come to the end of our time together,
we thank you for what has been accomplished here today. May the matters discussed serve as a catalyst to move us forward and cause us to advance and see growth in all areas of our lives. Help us to take this moment of worship and connection with you into the week ahead. May we carry Your love in our hearts always. Amen.
ADVENT 2 – Peace Candle
The candle of this second week of Advent is a candle of Peace. Today the flame of this candle reminds us of the peace that Jesus brings into this world and his presence with us. (Candle is lit)
We pray together:
We thank you Jesus that you want to bring peace and freedom into every life. We thank you for the peace you have brought to us. We bring to you now prayers of peace for the people and places on our hearts this morning. Trusting in your powerful name. Amen.
ADVENT 1 – Hope Candle
We come together in the midst of a busy season to take a breath. To breathe in together the life that God gives us, to listen to the beat of God’s heart and the blessings and lessons this season brings to us. Each week of Advent we light the candles in this Advent Wreath. With its light comes our prayers.
The candle of the first week is a candle of Hope. Today the flame of this candle reminds us of the hope that came to the world when Jesus was born and His presence with us. (Candle is lit)
We pray together:
We thank you Jesus that you want to bring fullness and hope into every life. We thank you for the hope you have brought to us. We bring to you now prayers of hope for the people and places on our hearts this morning. Trusting your powerful name. Amen.
A story is told of a very wise turtle that wanted to spend the winter in Florida, but he knew he could never walk that far. So this very wise turtle convinced a couple of geese to help him, each taking one end of a piece of rope, while he clamped his vise-like jaws in the center. The flight went fine until someone on the ground looked up in admiration and asked, "Who in the world thought of that?" Unable to resist the chance to take credit, the turtle opened his mouth to shout, "I did--"
It's so tempting to take credit for the good things we do. I mean... I learned early on in my marriage... that if I was going to do the dishes, to do it when Lisa could see me doing it. You see... doing the dishes may indeed be a very good thing, but it helps to be seen doing it!
I know there are exceptions, but generally speaking... it goes against our nature to do things without getting the credit. Sure we'll help someone out, sure we'll lend that hand... but normally we want people to know that we did it. We want that glory... we want that warm feeling of someone REALLY appreciating us... we want people to KNOW just how good we are.
Maybe even worse yet, we may begin to keep track in our head. OK... I did this for so and so... now they are going to owe me something, and someday I will collect! Or if nothing else, someone will see my good deed and decide to reward me for my kindness. We begin to feel entitled... to have our good deeds noticed and rewarded.
Everybody wants to impress others, want to be seen as successful, or better than others. They want the newest car, biggest house, nicest clothes, or the most land. They want to be the head honcho. This desire to be first or be the best or be admired has another name: pride. God tells us what He thinks about people who want to be first. The "first will be last and the last will be first."
Just like many people today, the Pharisees wanted others to see them as special and treat them as though they are closer to God than anyone else. They wanted others to be impressed with their piety and holiness. They were chest thumpers who said, "Hey, look at me! Look at how important I am! See how broad my phylacteries are and how long my fringes are?"
Now, phylacteries were small leather boxes containing portions of God's Word and they were worn by Jews who interpreted literally the instructions to fasten God's Word on their hands and forehead. And Moses, in Numbers 15, had instructed the children of Israel to put fringes on their garments to remember, not only the law in general, but also the smaller parts of the rites and ceremonies belonging to it.
So the Pharisees made their phylacteries broad, that is, they put more writing on them or made the letters larger and thus more visible, to appear more holy. And they made their fringes longer to show how much more they followed the finer points of the law, therefore making them "holier than thou".
I'm sure they didn't like it one bit when Jesus pointed out how these men dressed to draw attention to themselves to put themselves on a higher level than others. They wanted to appear religious without actually being religious. "...for they do not practice what they teach." Their philosophy was, "Do as I say, not as I do."
These men thought they were important to God, they thought they were important to men, but they were just a bunch of hypocrites.
A man, returning from a business trip, was met at the airport by his wife. They walked from the gate together and were standing waiting for the baggage to be unloaded. An extremely attractive stewardess walked by. Suddenly, the man came to life. Beaming, he said to the stewardess, "1 hope we can fly together again, Miss Jones."
His wife asked, "How come you knew the name of that stewardess?" The man replied smoothly, "Well dear, her name was posted up front in the plane, right under the names of the pilot and co-pilot." To which the wife replied, "Okay, so what were the names of the pilot and co-pilot?" " Ummm..."
The man's hypocrisy was uncovered. Jesus spent a great deal of time uncovering the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. He told his followers, "Do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice as they teach."
A hypocrite is someone who pretends to be something he/she isn't. I'm sure we all know people like that. I heard a story told of a man who, when asked by a minster why he didn't come to church with his family, replied, "Because the church is filled with hypocrites." To which the minister responded, "That's okay. There's always room for one more."
And I think if we take a minute, in all honesty with ourselves... we would find ourselves standing right next to the people Jesus is condemning more often than not. And maybe it's so that each one of us stands there, side by side with the Pharisees, with table-sized phylacteries strapped to our foreheads, receiving these chiding words from Jesus.
And, just for a bit of context: Just before Jesus begins speaking to the crowds here in the passage we read today, he had been asked by a lawyer in the crowd: "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" And Jesus answered him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind...and you shall love your neighbor as yourself." Then Jesus ends by saying, "On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
In essence, Jesus is saying, "Here it is; here is the root. When it comes to following God, this is what's most important. Sure there are plenty of laws and regulations, but when it all boils down, this is what matters." After answering the lawyer's question, Jesus then turns to the crowd and speaks the words we heard a few moments ago.
And basically, Jesus is telling his followers that the Pharisees are good in their devotion to God, and that what they teach is right, and good, and pure, but that when it comes to actual practice they're not so good; they're not focused on the root.They're caught up in the mundane. They're saying one thing and doing another, they're talking the talk, but not walking the walk.
They're not practicing what they preach: In short, the Pharisees have neglected the most important things, which Jesus describes as "love of God and neighbor."
Now, it is easy for us to read Jesus' words, to nod our heads in agreement, and to think to ourselves, "those awful Pharisees." But Jesus isn't trying to throw the Pharisees "under the bus," so to speak, if he was, he wouldn't have complemented their teaching at the beginning of the passage.
And so, we too must be careful about our rush to judgment. As with all of Jesus' teachings, we need to ask the question, "What is Jesus saying to me?" That's the question we always need to ask, and today we need to consider the possibility that, when it comes to our spiritual lives, we may be more like those Pharisees than we realize.
So friends... what should we do about it? How do we move from being the bad kind of Christian that Jesus condemns... to the good of Christian that Jesus calls us to be?
Well, it's right there in today's message: The heart of today's message from Jesus is about service! Not simply doing good things... but doing good works for the right reason!
We are all called to be disciples and to do good deeds but we are NOT to do them because we feel guilty... we are NOT to do them because we seek glory... we are NOT to do them because we are seeking reward. We need to be diligent to make sure our heart is in the right place. To make sure we are in a spot where everything we do is done to worship and glorify God. We need to be prepared to give greatly, and to do it in a way that puts all of the focus on WHY we are doing it; instead of putting the focus on WHO is doing it! We need to act in such a way that when we do great works... people see Christ... and not us.
A pompous-looking preacher was trying to impress upon a Sunday School the importance of living the Christian life. "Why do people call me a Christian?" the man asked. After a moment's pause, one child said, "Maybe it's because they don't know you."
A local church asked it's members to donate money for a new building. The building committee made one stipulation: no plaques or recognition of any kind would be placed in the building to honor the givers. The response was mediocre at best. When the committee withdrew their requirement and allowed for a memorial registry with a listing of donors, the money was easily raised. What had changed? At first, the building committee was appealing solely to people's charity and generosity. Later, they offered an appeal to their egos, and the egos won.
Of course these donors didn't want others to know that they never gave a penny till they found out there would be a plaque noting their "wonderful generosity". You see, hypocrites don't like being found out. They don't like others knowing the truth about them. They're more concerned with their appearance before people than God.
Pride and our egos cause us to become hypocrites. And that hurts us. And it hurts our relationships with others. We pretend to be somebody we're not because of pride. We try to hide who we really are. ("I don't have any problems! My life is perfect! I don't make mistakes! ) Our pride and egos won't allow us to be real. We're too ashamed to admit we're not better than everybody else.
Sure we may, like the Pharisees, be able to fool other men and be looked up to. But to what gain? That and two bucks will get you a cup of coffee. I'm more concerned, and I hope you are too, with being honest with God and pleasing Him more than other people.
We can't fool God. 1 Samuel 16:7 says, "..the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but te Lord looks on the heart." God sees through our pretending and posturing like a squeaky clean window. Our broad phylacteries and long fringes do not impress God. We need to be less concerned with titles, clothes, and who we can impress, and concentrate more on coming before God in humility, knowing that, without His grace, we are nothing. "All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted."
PROCESSIONAL: Presentation of Colours:
0 Canada/The Queen:
Depositing of Colours:
Act of Remembrance: Let us remember before God and commend to
His sure keeping those who have died for their country in war, those
whom we knew, and whose memory we reassure, and all who have lived and died in the service of mankind. During the minute of silence
remember not just the soldiers who died in the ft and 2nd World Wars,
but all soldiers. It's a time to close your eyes and think about the people
who are fighting in wars and conflicts right now, all over the world. Let us a pause in a minute of silence.
Minute of Silence:
Lament: They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn; at the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.
In Flanders Fields:
CALL TO WORSHIP: ONE: Let us begin our time of worship with a moment of remembrance
ALL: We remember fallen soldiers and the sacrifice they made for us.
ONE: Let us begin our time of worship with a moment of thanksgiving.
ALL: We thank God for brave men and women who have given their lives so that we may worship without fear.
ONE: Let us begin our time of worship with a moment to reflect, for
a moment is the least we can do for those who gave their eternity
ONE: In the rising of the sun and in its going down, we remember them.
ALL: In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter, we remember them.
ONE: in the opening of buds and in the rebirth of spring, we remember them.
ALL: In the blueness of the sky and in the warmth of summer, we remember them.
ONE: In the rustling of leaves and in the beauty of autumn, we remember them.
ALL: In the beginning of the year and when it ends, we remember them.
ONE: When we are weary and in need of strength, we remember them.
ALL: So long as we live, they too shall live, for they are now a part of us, as we remember
PRAYER: We are here to worship Almighty God, whose purposes are good and whose power sustains the world. As we give thanks for His great works, we remember those who have lived and died in His service and in the service of others. We pray for all who suffer through war and are in need. We ask for His help and blessing that we may do His will and that the whole world may acknowledge Him as Lord and King.
We ask this through Christ, our Lord, who taught us when we pray to say:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION: God of every nation, as we remember those who gave their life for our sake, let us be stirred to action in their memory. We confess that we have not done all that is possible to promote peace and justice in our world. We have not loved our neighbours, let alone our enemies. Forgive us for failing to live up to Your commandments. Empower us to work for Your Kingdom in this world, and welcome us by Your grace into that Kingdom.
God of peace, forgive us when we have participated in that which turns people against each other. Forgive us for fueling anger and harbouring vengeance, for not heeding Your call to love one another. Inspire us to never give up on the hope that Your life offers us, and the courage to see past war and destruction. Inspire us to live for the day when there will be peace worldwide. Amen.
Offertory Prayer: We sing "Praise God from whom all blessing flow" but sometimes we forget where our blessings come from. Remind us, Lord. Remind us each and every day that You are providing our blessings. Accept these gifts from Your grateful children, acknowledging Your many blessings. Amen
The definition of war: "a state of usually open and declared armed conflict between states or nations." War is never good. It's terrifying and leaves such horrific scars — scars that never fade.
I recently read a book to our two and half year old grand-daughter entitled "Tusk, Tusk" by David McKee. To my grand-daughter, it was just a cute little story with lots of colourful pictures, but it actually explores the themes of racism, prejudice and tolerance.
This is the story: "Once, all the elephants in the world were black or white. They loved all creatures, but they hated each other, and each kept to his own side of the jungle. One day the black elephants decided to kill all the white elephants, and the white elephants decided to kill all the black elephants. However, there were some peace-loving elephants from each side who went to live deep in the darkest part of the jungle. They were never seen again.
A great battle began between the black and white elephants. It went on
and on and on, until all the elephants were asleep. For years, no elephants were seen in the world. Then, one day, the grand children of the peace-loving elephants came out of the jungle. They were grey. Since then, the elephants have lived in peace."
This story, to older children, and even to us, as adults, is inspiring because it challenges us to live a life that makes a difference. There have probably been people in your past who have made a significant contribution in your life. Obviously our parents contributed, but others often make a difference too — a good friend, a teacher, a co-worker, a relative or a minister.
But as Christians, God has made the biggest difference in our lives. Do we repay God for all He has done for us? We should, and we can. However, this world is not the way we would like it to be. It's not the world God intended. We know this because of the day we celebrate today — Remembrance Day. This isthe day Canadians and others around the world remember and think about the men and women in the military who have died fighting to protect the country's citizens. We also think about the people who are currently in the Armed Forces, those who have died and are veterans. This is the day we honour all the men
and women who have served in the military and who have fought to defend our freedom.
Our calling, as Christians, is to be a person of peace. We must choose what is right in the eyes of God and follow His Word, and that, my friends, takes courage. It's those Christian men and women we celebrate today, Remembrance Day. They gave their lives for the benefit of all of us. They fought for the greater good and fought against the greater evil.
We enjoy a lot of freedom because of their sacrifices. We're free to come
to church and worship. We're free to choose what career we want. We're free to choose where we want to work and where we want to live. We're free to choose almost everything that affects our daily lives, including our religion.
You will hear the words "Lest we forget" or Never forget" said many times at Remembrance Day. We say these words so that we will always remember the sacrifice of the men and women who served and those who died to protect their country and families. But it's also so that we never forget the horrors of war. It's so we will ever strive to make sure it doesn't happen again.
The soldiers, sailors and airmen were also free to choose, and they chose
to fight for freedom — to keep their land, to keep their dignity and to keep their religious beliefs. At this point I would like to take a look back and read you some extracts from letters written between 1914-1918. These are some accounts and impressions from those who lived through the 'Great War.'
"We spent our second Christmas of the war Senlis. Strict orders had been
issued against any form of truce on the trench line. The Germans caught one of our men on patrol and we shelled them when they started singing carols. But it is a commentary on modern war that commanders should fear lest the soldiers on each side become friendly. Our soldiers have no quarrel with 'Fritz', save during the heat of battle, or in retaliation for some blow below the belt. If whole armies fraternized, politicians on both sides would be sore set to solve their problems. Yet it is possible that if there had been a truce for a fortnight on the whole trench line at any time after the Battle of the Somme, the war might have ended." (Colonel W.N. Nicholson, Suffolk Regiment, Highland Division)
"Last night a strange thought came to me. I was with a working party in the trenches. We had come up the communication trench, zig-zagged our way thither for a mile and half or more. Now this time of year the communication trench is a thing a beauty. On either side the piled earth has covered itself with vegetation, fresh thick grass, heavy growths of bunched white daisies interspersed with blood-red poppies. The daisies are, in fact, chamomile, so I am assured by one who is by way of being a botanical expert. Through chamomile and poppies we make our way back to reat and peace for a brief spell. Through chamomile and poppies are borne the wounded, their bandages of white splashed with scarlet, like the flowers themselves, and through chamomile and poppies passes the last sad procession when, over the line, death has suddenly shaken his dread spear." (2nd Lieutenant Ewart Richardson, 4th Battalion,
Prince of Wales Own Regiment)
"On the ninth all Batteries were relieved by the 42nd Divisional Artillery and orders were issued to march to Quievy to rejoin the Division. We moved on November 11th, Armistice Day, and we heard the announcement of the Armistice when we were still in the Foret de Mormal on a cheerless, dismal, cold misty day. There was no cheering or demonstration. We were all tired in body and mind, fresh from the tragic field of battle, and this momentous announcement was too vast in its consequences to be appreciated or accepted with wild excitement. We trekked out of the wood on this dreary day in silence. We read in the papers of the tremendous celebrations in London and Paris, but we could not bring ourselves to raise even a cheer. The only feeling we had was one of great relief. (Gunner B.O. Stokes, 13th Battery, New Zealand Field Artillery)
On Remembrance Day we hear the phrases "Lest We Forget" and "We Will Remember Them". These words should not be taken lightly. We must always remember — never forgetting the consequences of war, the injustice in the world, the hatred, the prejudice, the terror and the evil. We must always remember and continue to pray for peace in the world, forever upholding our faith in God.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet. Lest we forget. Lest we forget.
BENEDICTION: God, grant to the living, grace; to the departed, rest; to the Church, the
Queen, the Commonwealth, and all mankind, peace and concord; and to us and
all His servants, life everlasting. The blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and
Holy Spirit, come down upon you and remain with you always. Amen
THE FINAL INSPECTION
The soldier stood and faced God,
Which must always come to pass.
He hoped his shoes were shining,
Just as brightly as his brass.
"Step forward now, you soldier,
How shall I deal with you?
Have you always turned the other cheek?
To my Church have you been true?"
The soldier squared his soldiers and said,
"No, Lord, I guess I ain't.
Because those of us who carry guns,
Can't always be a saint.
I've had to work most Sundays,
And at times my talk was tough.
And sometimes I've been violent,
Because the world is awfully rough.
But, I never took a penny,
That wasn't mine to keep...
Though I worked a lot of overtime,
When the bills just got too steep.
And I never passed a cry for help,
Though at times I shook with fear.
And sometimes, God, forgive me,
I've wept unmanly tears.
I know I don't deserve a place,
Among the people here.
They never wanted me around,
Except to calm their fears.
If you've a place for me here, Lord,
It needn't be so grand.
I never expected or had too much,
But if you don't, I'll understand."
There was a silence all around the throne,
Where the saints had often trod.
As the soldier waited quietly,
For the judgement of his God.
"Step forward now, you soldier,
You've borne your burdens well.
Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,
You've done your time in Hell."
Author: Sgt Joshua Helterbran
CALL TO WORSHIP (responsive reading in bold)
Randy: God calls us to a feast!
The table is set, and we will come from east and west,
from north and south to sit at Christ’s table.
Randy: Compassion, love, and grace are poured out like fine wine.
We come to share our stories and Your story,
to share our hope and our pain,
to share our wisdom and our laughter.
Randy: The table is set, so come let us worship God together!
ALL TO WORSHIP:
ONE: God, our God, how glorious is Your name in all the earth!
ALL: Your glory is sung by all Your creation!
ONE: When we look to the heavens, the work of Your hands, the moon and the stars, we wonder- who are we that You care for us and for this world?
ALL: You are the God of life, crowning us with glory and honour to serve You all our days. 0 God, our God, how glorious is Your name in all the earth!
OPENING PRAYER: Be gracious to us today our Lord, for we are in need of Your mercy. We are often too quick to doubt and slow to pray. We are tempted to let go of faith when we need to hang on. We are discouraged by wrong when we need to be encouraged by Your Spirit. 0 God, we are thankful for the strength You give us to trust in You all the days of our lives. Amen.
Dear Lord, we offer our gifts to You, who claims us as children, who names us beloved, and who celebrates our presence. Use these gifts and our service to further Your kingdom. Thanks be to God. Amen
PRAYER & THE LORD'S PRAYER: (Choir sings 0 Lord, hear my prayer )
Lord God, You are the father of all people and we come before You today with our prayers, knowing that You will hear us, help us and guide us.
We have come together in the name of Christ to offer our praise and thanksgiving, to hear and receive God's holy Word, and to pray for the needs of the world. We come to seek the forgiveness of our sins, that by the power of the Holy Spirit, we may give ourselves to the service of God. As we rejoice in the gift of this new day, so may the light of Your presence, 0 God, set our hearts on fire with love for You, now and forever.
Gathering our prayers and praises into one, as our Saviour has taught us, so we pray: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever, Amen.
SCRIPTURE READING: 1 Samuel 2:1-10 (Page 41-8)
When Hannah, received the child Samuel she had begged God for, her first instinct is to praise the One who provided. She wants to thank Him for His greatness and His deliverance. Too often we pray before receiving, but forget to pray after God answers. Let this prayer, Hannah's prayer of praise, guide you in thanks.
EDITATION: Teach Me To Pray
A five year old girl was attending a formal wedding with her grandmother.
She had gone to Sunday school every week but she had never attended a formal church service. During the wedding, the minister said, "Let us pray." Each person bowed his or her head in prayer. The little girl looked around and saw all heads bowed and eyes turned toward the floor, and she whispered,
"Grandmother, what are they all looking for?"
That's the question: what are we all looking for when we pray? Prayer is
one of the most powerful privileges God has granted us. Prayer is a crucial and integral part of being a Christian. It's one of the most important things we can do. We need to know that even if all the world seems too busy, or when it seems like no one is listening to us, God is always there to hear our prayers and care about the things we do. We have a loving God with whom we can communicate, anytime, anywhere.
Just think about it — we can have a conversation with the creator of the entire universe! So how can we make our prayers the up close and personal interaction with God that we desire? Does anyone here like to talk on the phone? Do you Skype, email, message or text? Talking with people is important to us. We make sure we can communicate with others wherever and whenever we want. So if talking to other people is easy, and we do it all the time, why is it so hard spending time talking to God?
If you have a friend, you want to talk to him or her, and you want to hear what he or she has to say in return. Friends talk. They talk about all kinds of things. We're rarely too busy to communicate with our family and friends, so why do we say we're busy to talk with God? Or maybe it's because we don't see Him. Out of sight — out of mind. Or maybe it's because we just don't know how to talk to God. We might question whether He is really listening. Or maybe we think our problems are too small and inconsequential to bother God with.
Sometimes we wonder if God is really there, but trust me, He is. When we look around us and see all that has been created, we can't help but know that there is a God. In the past, and even now, people have pretended that God didn't exist. They wouldn't acknowledge Him as Creator or give thanks to Him for all that He had made. As a result, the Bible says, "Their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened."
I'm sure no one here wants anything like that to happen to us. And this gives us an excellent reason to pray. We're able to pray and give thanks to God for who He is and for all that He has done. If you don't pray already, perhaps a good way to start would be to pray and thank God when you notice something in nature that reminds you of who He is and what He has created.
If you stop and think about it, praying is really very easy. It's as simple as talking to someone you love. All you have to do is remember the 4 letters in the word TALK.
T: Take the time. Find time in your day to talk to God. Pray at the
same every day. Make it a habit, like brushing your teeth or taking a shower.
A: Ahhhhh Quiet! Find a quiet place. Turn off the TV, turn your music
off and find a way to escape. Sit out in your backyard, find a quiet corner or hide away in your bedroom if that's what it takes.
L: Learn from God's word. Read one verse a day. And if you're up for the
challenge, read one chapter a day. Try to understand what God is saying to you.
K: Keep a prayer plan. Write down praises, prayer requests or verses that
mean a lot to you. It's really easy. Take a look at your hand — you have 5 fingers, and there are 5 parts of prayer.
I'm going to pass around some jelly beans. I want each of you to take one jelly bean at random, but don't eat it until I tell you to. I went to a lot of trouble getting these jelly beans. I had to taste test several kinds before I made my final selection. And since it was a candy store, I also had to try several other kinds of candy and chocolates. So I hope you can appreciate the sacrifice I had to make.
Now, as they're passed around, let's think about when and why we are supposed to pray. As Christians, we are instructed to pray continually and to pray in every situation, especially if we are anxious about it. The reason for this is that prayer accomplishes things. Remember what Jesus said, "Whatever you ask in my name, the Father will give You." This means if you ask something which is in God's will for us, He will give it to us. We are also told if we pray with thanksgiving and present our requests to God, that the peace of God which passes all understanding, will keep our hearts and minds in Jesus Christ. This is a very great promise, and it gives us a good reason to begin praying in every situation. What would the world give for peace of mind?
Alright, does everyone have a jelly bean? No, don't eat it just yet. Before
you do, I want to let you know that all the jelly beans are not the same. Some are sweet, some are hot and spicy, some are sour and some taste like dark chocolate.
If you get a sweet tasting jelly bean, I want you to thank God for a sweet time in your life. If your jelly bean is sour or bitter, ask God to help you add sweetness to someone else's day. If you taste hot and spicy, ask God to keep you excited about serving Him. And if the flavour of your jelly bean is dark chocolate, pray for someone who is going through a difficult time. Now, let's all taste and pray.
This jelly bean tasting exercise is a demonstration of how easy it is to pray. There is always something or someone to pray for. We are so fortunate to know God and know that He loves us. By praying to Him, by praising Him and giving Him thanks, our lives will be filled with the love, grace and goodness of God.
Offering praise at the beginning of our prayers is a way to focus us on the blessings we've received, and serves as a brief worship before starting our conversation with God, the creator of all things. We serve a God who cares deeply for His creation and longs so very much to be in a relationship with each and every one of us. Prayer is absolutely necessary to that relationship because prayer is the way we can talk personally and intimately with God.
Let us pray together. You'll find the prayer on the back of your bulletin.
Heavenly Father, You have brought me to the beginning of a new day. As the world is renewed fresh and clean, so I ask you to renew my heart with Your strength and purpose. Forgive me the errors of yesterday and bless me to walk closer in Your ways today. This is the day I begin my life anew; shine through me so that every person I meet may feel Your presence in my soul. Take my hand, precious Lord, for I cannot make it by myself.
Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering or embarrassing
others. Give me the physical strength to bear the labours of this day. Direct my will, teach me to pray and pray in me. All this we ask in Jesus' name. Amen.
BENEDICTION & CHORAL AMEN: Loving God, we thank You for hearing our prayers, feeding us with Your word and encouraging us in our gathering today. Take us and use us to love and serve You and all people in the power of Your Spirit and in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”
― Søren Kierkegaard
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