CALL TO WORSHIP:
ONE: The darkness is gone
ALL: Bright light floats into this new day of hope.
ONE: Those who went to the tomb received good news.
ALL: Christ was not there!
ONE: Christ is risen in our hearts and in our spirits.
ALL: Christ is risen from the dead! Alleluia!
WELCOME: Greetings and peace from our Lord, Jesus Christ! He is Risen! He is Risen
indeed! Welcome to all who have come to celebrate with us this Easter morning. We are
thankful that you are here at Rockburn Presbyterian Church to celebrate the resurrection
of our Lord and Saviour. This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us be glad and rejoice
OPENING HYMN: Jesus Christ Is Risen Today
OPENING PRAYER & THE LORD'S PRAYER:
Loving, Powerful God, joy floods over our souls on this day! Christ is risen! Fear is vanquished! Open our hearts and our spirits to receive fully the joy which has been given for us! Let us celebrate the victory of Christ and the hope for the future. Lord, help us to live in the hope and grace of Easter Sunday every day. Christ is Risen: the world below lies desolate. Christ is Risen: the spirits of evil are fallen. Christ is Risen: the angels of God are rejoicing. Christ is Risen: the tombs of the dead are empty. Christ is Risen indeed from the dead. Glory and power are His forever and ever. And because He lives, we 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.
EASTER CANDLE LITURGY:
ANTHEM: Above All
SCRIPTURE READINGS: I Corinthians 15:1-11
I Thessalonians 4:13-18
A PRAYER OF HOPE, JOY, LOVE AND LIFE: This prayer was written by Halley Gerth.
Dear Lord, thank You for the gift of hope You gave us on Easter morning. Because of You we know that no problem is too difficult, and even death does not have power over us.
Thank You for the gift of Joy You gave us when You were resurrected. Because of You we know that no matter how challenging life may be, in the end we will rejoice again. Thank You for the gift of Love You gave us when You laid down Your life. Because of You we know that there is no sin too great to separate us and we are incredibly valuable to You
Thank You for the gift o Life You gave us when You left the tomb. Because of Easter we know the world is just the beginning and we will spend forever in heaven with You.
We celebrate You, Jesus, with hearts full of praise and gratitude for who You are and all You've done for us! Amen.
The greatest offering comes from God, whose love is unending. Our ministry is to spread the Good News that Jesus Christ is alive. Our offerings help us to share the News, so that people who are longing for a living God, may come to know Jesus.
Give, that we might share the Great News with our words, our ministry and our lives. We give in the name of the Risen Lord! Offering Received:
God of all ages, You have emptied the tomb and set us free from our burdens. Hope has overshadowed fear. Faith has gained victory over doubt. Today, we recommit to offering comfort, hope and faith as your generous disciples to others who are driven by fear, neglect and doubt. We offer these gifts in honour of Your Easter promise. Alleluia and Amen.
HYMN: The Day Of Resurrection
A NEW CREED:
This is a creed that is an affirmation of faith based on a contemporary
view of Christianity. Let's say it together:
We believe in God, the power of life, love and being that flows through the universe. We believe in Jesus, who revealed the Good News of our connectedness with God and with all people, who was compassionate and stood up for justice, even if it meant losing His life, and who gave people an experience of God by demonstrating this power of life, love, hope and being.
Through His words and example, we believe that we, too, have this power and the capacity to give people an experience of God by living life fully, loving with our whole heart and striving to be all we can be. We believe in the communion of saints, who are a people walking together, engaged in the search for meaning and the quest to be connected with the Source and Sustainer of all that exists.
MEDITATION: The Hope Of Easter
Welcome to Rockburn. This is the best place you can be on this
Resurrection Sunday. This is exactly where God wants you to be this morning. We are all gathered here together on the most important day of the Christian year.
Those of us who are here this morning are filled joy and hope as we
celebrate the Risen Christ. But there are a lot of people who are looking for joy and hope in this world today. Unfortunately, most never ask the question, can we find hope in the Bible? Did you know that the word hope is mentioned 129 times in 121 verses in the Bible? The Bible is very specific about the definition of the word hope. In the New Testament most of the verses refer to hope as salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
It is made clear that Jesus is our hope, as He is the Word of God. I Peter 1:3 says; "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead."
In the period of Lent leading up to this most miraculous day we talked
about renewal and reflected on the trials and tribulations that faced our Lord.
Throughout the whole time Jesus was preparing us for the hope of new life — a rebirth that would guide us and comfort us so that we might reach the kingdom of God. The center of our faith is knowing that God is in each and every one of us.
We followed Jesus to the cross and now we are here, celebrating the Risen
Christ. The resurrection of Jesus changed the world. All the sins of every single person were paid for by Jesus Christ when He died on the cross. Today is a day of life — a day of hope.
There have been so many disturbing stories in the news in recent weeks
and months. Stories of terrorism, white nationalism, natural disasters, plane crashes, and the list goes on. When we hear this kind of news we have to ask ourselves, "What kind of world do we live in?" We watch the news and can't help but ask that question. On the other hand, when we watch a beautiful sunset, or see a child playing, or take a walk and see the flowers blooming and hear the birds singing, the question, "What kind of a world do we live in?" has a totallydifferent meaning.
The world of war, persecution, famine, racism does exist. I have heard it
referred to as a 'Good Friday' world. Jesus was tortured and crucified on Good Friday, but He rose again on Easter morning, bringing hope to His followers.
The story of the empty cross and the empty tomb is a source of hope and joy for Christians around the world. All our hope as Christians is based on the Resurrection. The Apostle Paul said, "And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins." John tells the story of the Resurrection from the point of view of somebody who was actually at the empty tomb, and as somebody who actually saw the Risen Christ. John's words are still heard today.
We hear him saying to us, along with Mary Magdalene, "I have seen the Lord!"
And now there is no doubt — we have a hope and a future.
Let's listen to the story of Jesus' resurrection:
The women who had seen where Jesus was laid had gone home that sad evening to prepare more spices and ointments for the body of Jesus, because in the fading day it had been hastily prepared by Joseph and Nicodemus.
Now early in the morning they came, bringing their precious spices. They didn't know that Pilate and the Jews had sealed the tomb and set a guard of soldiers there. As they came through the darkness, they said to one another, "Who shall roll away the stone from the door of the tomb?"
But one of them came before them. Mary Magdalene, alone, but unafraid, approached the place just after the angel of God had rolled away the stone and the Master had come forth in glory. The Roman soldiers, white and trembling, had fled from the scene. All was still when Mary came.
(Verse 1 of "In The Garden")
In the early dawn, Mary Magdalene saw that the stone was rolled away from the door of the tomb. In great fear she turned and ran to find the disciples.
She found Peter and John, and she said to them breathlessly, :They have taken the Master out of the tomb, and where they have taken Him I do not know."
At once Peter and John started running toward the tomb. Meanwhile the other women came to the tomb and found the stone rolled back from the door.
They ventured in, but found no body of Jesus where they had seen Him laid two days before. They didn't know what to think.
But suddenly there stood by them two angels in dazzling white. They were frightened, but the angel said to them, "Why do you look among the dead for Him who is alive? Remember what He told you while He was still in Galilee, He must suffer death, but that He would rise the third day?"
Then they remembered, and leaving the angels, they fled back to the city.
They found the disciples, with others of the company, and they said to them, "The Lord is risen!" And they told them what they had seen and heard. But the disciples didn't believe them.
Peter and John, however, were running as fast as they could to the tomb.
John outran Peter, and came to the open door, and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying there folded; but he didn't go in. Peter, coming up, passed him and entered. John then joined him, and they stood looking in wonder and awe.
Then they remembered what Jesus had told them, and they believed. And they ent back home.
Mary had followed them, but she could not go so fast as they. And now she stood alone at the mouth of the tomb. She wept. Stooping down, she looked in.
And there through her tears she saw two angels in white, one sitting where Jesus' head had lain, and the other at the place of His feet. And they said to her, "Why are you weeping?" She answered, "They have taken my Master away, and don't know where they have laid Him."
(Verse a of "In The Garden")
Mary turned around and saw Jesus standing there. But she didn't know it was Jesus. He said to her, "Why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?"
She thought it was the gardener, and she said, "If it was You, Sir, who
carried Him away, tell me where You have put Him, and I will take Him away."
"Mary!" said Jesus. She turned and said, "Master!" and fell at His feet. But He said to her: "Do not detain Me; for I have not yet gone up to My Father. But go and tell my brethren I am going up to My Father and your Father, My God and your God."
Then He disappeared.
(Verse 3 of "In The Garden")
The Resurrection reminds us of our union with Christ. The Resurrection is central to the message of the Gospel. The Resurrection gives hope beyond this life. The Resurrection joins us to an eternal kingdom. The Resurrection motivates us to live a godly life by fixing our hope on the future in Christ. The Resurrection affirms an immortal life in God's presence. The Resurrection declares the ultimate triumph of Jesus over sin and death.
If we nurture our Christian lives in hope, we can be prepared for what
comes by living in the hope that is ours in Jesus Christ.
Billy Graham spoke of the hope of the resurrection. He said: "There is hope that mistakes and sins can be forgiven. There is hope that we can have joy, peace, assurance and security in the midst of the despair of today's world. There is hope that Christ will come again. There is hope that there will come a day when the kingdom of God will reign and triumph. Our hope is not in our own ability, or in our goodness, or in our physical strength. Our hope is instilled in us by the resurrection of Christ. Eternal life is yours if you believe in Jesus Christ and invite Him into your life."
Let us pray: Our Father, we thank You this morning for the triumphant
Christ and His glorious victory over death. The resurrection of Your Son has given us new life and renewed hope. May the hope and joy of Easter, and all the blessings of Easter, be with us this day and all the days to come. Amen.
Palm Sunday (Luke 19: 28-40) The Path to the Kingdom
We have spent the last several weeks, through our Lenten journey, listening to Jesus' words as he preaches the Sermon on the Mount. This morning, as we observe Palm Sunday and Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, we come to the final portion of his great sermon.
So as we hear these closing remarks from Jesus this morning, our task is to figure out how this all fits together; how Jesus' preaching on the mountainside relates to his final march to the cross, and where we stand in the midst of this great kingdom which Jesus established through his life, death, and resurrection.
This period of the Christian year places a large focus on one of Jesus' most important orations: The Sermon on the Mount . In it, Jesus advises us on the ways of the kingdom: What it truly means to be blessed and to share that blessedness as we live as salt and light in the world.
His words help us consider the call to perfection and the radical love that it requires, and the humble practices that keep us focused on the Lord of our lives.
This is a lot to take in, and as we consider all these lessons of this greatest Sermon, we should place it all in the context of the events that happened on this week roughly 2000 years ago. It was on this very day so long ago, that the gospels tell us Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem.
This was the beginning of the end of his ministry. For three years, he had traveled all over the Galilean countryside. He had devoted himself to teaching about God's Kingdom and offering a glimpse of it through healing, forgiving, and serving. He had touched people with the good news of God's love, and had given them renewed hope that God was yet upholding his promises.
And now those people are praising Jesus, the Son of David. As he entered Jerusalem, he was hailed as King and treated as royalty, with people spreading palm branches, and even their own clothes, before him.
But this is where Jesus' words in the Sermon on the Mount become so crucial. Those people who had watched Jesus' ministry unfold, some of whom may have even heard him as he preached on the mountainside; those people who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem with great fanfare...these are the same people who in just a few days will be judging Jesus.
But they don't just judge him, they also condemn him! And yet, here in the ending of his great sermon, Jesus could not be clearer, "Do not judge." he says. "Don't worry about the speck in your neighbor's eye until you have taken care of the plank in your own eye."
I think Jesus understood that humans would judge one another. He saw how we set ourselves up as moral guardians and critics of one another. When Jesus tells us not to judge, I don't think he means that we shouldn't have high standards of behavior for ourselves and our world, but that the temptation to look down on others for their moral failings is itself a temptation to play god, and thus to lose touch with the true Lord of our lives.
And I also think Jesus knew he would fall victim to human judgment in the vilest way. But therein lies both the mystery and the greatness of what happened on this week so long ago; Jesus takes human sin and self-righteousness, he exposes them for what they are, he deals with them in a violent death on the cross, and yet allows mercy to triumph over all! But that mercy is empty if we continue to act like we are the supreme judge, if we refuse to acknowledge God for who he is, the merciful judge of all. And how different would our lives be if we lived without rendering judgment on others and instead made our sole focus bearing witness to God's mercy?
Ultimately, that's what this whole sermon has been about; the transformation that occurs in our lives because we follow Jesus, because we imitate his love and his mercy, because we bear witness to all that he is and does. Being a disciple, being a Christian means far more than simply affirming that Jesus is a great prophet or teacher. Being a believer means that we do more than just call Jesus "Lord." Being a Christian means that Jesus really is the Lord of our lives!
You know, 2,000 years ago, when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey, the crowds that had followed him for so long came with him. They rejoiced to see this king entering his great city, and they cried out, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest!" It sounds a lot like those folks that Jesus talks about here at the very end of his sermon, doesn't? "Not everybody who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will get into the kingdom of heaven. Only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven will enter."
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, it was the last leg on his way to the kingdom, and he was surrounded by people who were saying, "Lord, Lord!" And again, at the end of the week, they cried out Jesus' name over and over again when Pilate gave them the choice of who would be crucified.
Following Jesus on the way to the kingdom requires much more than just saying his name. It is so easy to fall into this temptation to call Jesus "Lord" without actually obeying him; to hear his words without actually acting on them.
Do you see that? This is the point that Jesus is driving home as he draws his sermon to a close. Being a part of God's kingdom is a whole way of life. It is not just another thing to do, one check on a long list; it is a response to God who shows us how to live through the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It is affirmation in Christ our Lord, but it is also faith; it is following all of Jesus' instructions from the Sermon on the Mount, and as Jesus tells us so plainly, it is doing the will of the Father.
So what is the will of the Father, what is the ultimate way to the kingdom? It's what we've been talking about for the past few weeks, all these things that we have learned from Jesus as we have listened to him preach the Sermon on the Mount. It is the way of faithful endurance that follows Jesus in every step, even when it involves suffering.
And in case we have forgotten, he reminds us one more time right here at the end of the sermon. Jesus' teachings, demanding though they are, offer the only path to true life. So what is required? "Ask...seek...knock..." Have faith in God to provide for what you need, seek him above all else in prayer, do not worry about the troubles of this world, but know that God will take care of you. Yet even more than that, treat others just the way you want to be treated.
We serve others because we are grateful to God who loves us. And in that love, we are reminded that this life is not all about us. It is about what God is up to in this world, building his kingdom, and calling each of us to be a part of that as we share his love with others. "On this hang all the law and the prophets."
"Don't judge, so that you won't be judged."
Love your neighbors, but love your enemies, too. Remember this: 2,000 years ago, Jesus was revealed as a king, not because crowds of people followed him around and hailed him as king, but because he hung on a cross and died out of love for all people, and especially those who put him there.
That is the way of the kingdom: Not empty prayers and praises, not selfish seeking, but pure love lived out in our lives every single day.
(Palm Sunday Prayer)
God of transformation, we are reminded this day that Jesus' ride into Jerusalem was more than a show, more than a simple provocation, more than the beginning of a cute celebration. It was a signal that things are changing, an unmistakably potent message to the powers that be that the world as we know it is becoming the world as it should be. It was a radical act of defiance directed against those in his day who wielded power through violence, oppression, and tyranny.
It is no less radical, and no less tame, for those who do the same today. This simple ride reminds us — and tells the whole world — that you are indeed coming to make all things new. You are coming to turn weapons of war into instruments of peace. You are coming to release those who find themselves in all manners of bondage: chains injustice; chains of addiction; chains of conformity and apathy.
You are coming to provide for the poor: food for the hungry and shelter for the homeless. You are coming to assure the dignity and equality of all who are marginalized or oppressed. You are coming to end violence and divisions, to provide safe communities and opportunities for education. You are coming to offer healing and wholeness, comfort, consolation, and hope. You are coming to transform all that we know. You are coming to save us.
But like humble Jesus riding into town on a lowly colt, you aren't coming in grandeur, you aren't coming with thunder and lightning, you aren't making an epic entrance. You're coming through the mystery of love incarnate, through your church empowered by your Spirit, through lives transformed and inspired, through ordinary people like us, blessed by you to do extraordinary things.
Come, gracious God into a world that longs for change, a world that needs your love, a world full of your own children, a world ripe with hope and potential. Blessed are those who come in your name, 0 God.
We have come.
We will go.
Today, we have a celebration!
We celebrate the Baptism of Hollianna Lewis Neverett
Proud Parents: Emma Langlois & Jordan Neverett
Godparents: Diane Lewis & Kristopher Neverett
Grandparents: Yvonne Langlois & Michel Langlois
Karen & Harry Neverett
Minister: Rev. Randy Barrington
Scripture Reading: Lamentations 3:21-26
Love in Action
“The church needs to understand this-we aren’t called to attend services once a week and sing a few songs, try our best, pay our tithes and our taxes and go to heaven when we die...that’s not the gospel”. I read these words in a book I purchased entitled “A Little History of Religion”.
So what are we called for?
We have recently celebrated Valentine’s Day, the special day meant to be all about love. So I thought it would be interesting to look at the “concept” of love in light of the Bibles teachings.
Has anyone read the books The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell? Have you seen the TV series The Durrell’s in Corfu? The one son who is the writer is the author of that series. Essentially all 4 books of the Alexandria Quartet tell the same story but from the differing perspectives of the various main characters. It is meant to be an exploration of the kinds of love. However through all the portraits of the characters and the various relationships and inter-relationships they experience, he never touches on the love of God. Just human love, in all its forms.
But - is love actually a human trait? We like to say, “just be human” or “treat someone with humanity” and with that we mean that we should treat one another with goodness, respect and selflessness. Unfortunately we can look anywhere in human history and around us in the present time and we can see that it is definitely not working. Indeed some of the most hateful behaviour is exhibited in the area of religious disagreement. The author of the book I mentioned “A Little History of Religion”, suggests that the reason religious war is worse than any other, is that both parties believe the authority for their position comes from a higher power, giving a sense of righteousness, the right to be right. When we are convinced we are right on moral or ethical grounds, we believe we have not only the right, but the duty, to fight. Or to kill, as is evidenced in the news this week. A horrific attack on other humans for what?
There are wars and wars and wars. Human hate and greedy selfishness everywhere. Even Greece and Macedonia are fighting over the name of the country of Macedonia. Greece believes it owns the name Macedonia which is the name of the northernmost province of Greece, and holds the position that the country to the north of them doesn’t have rights to it. So it seems it is worth a fight. Thankfully that fight stayed off the literal battefield.
When we look around us in our own everyday lives, it can seem that somehow the spoken and unspoken rules of civility and respect are no longer the ultimate guide to human social behaviour. It doesn't take much to unleash it. Full on personal attack at any given opportunity. And Canada is of course not immune.
No, as much as we want to believe it, it doesn’t seem innately human to love.
In Romans 3:13 Paul writes: “There is no one righteous, not even one: there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless, there is no one who does good not even one. Their throats are open graves: their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips, Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness, their feet are swift to shed blood, ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know. There is no fear of God before their eyes”.
Whoa. Picture these words put into a painting. It’s stuff horror films are made of actually. These are extreme words, ones we don’t want to believe. And, we say: aren’t humans essentially good? Aren’t we born good, and get taught badness? Nature and nurture? Not according to God’s word, no.
We know though that humans can do good, that in so much of life on earth, goodness prevails, good works that care for others are performed all over the globe. Small or even large acts of charity and love that can transform one or many lives… It’s just a fact.
There are a lot of people who do not even believe there IS a God, let alone believe that God is responsible, as God says He is, for giving us the gift of love, the gift of Himself. Why is it then that those people can also experience love and all its attributes, such as kindness, gentleness selflessness etc? There are countless people who do good, and innumerable charitable organizations around us in all the world, selflessly working to serve others, to show love and compassion to those less fortunate, giving not only of themselves but of their money and other resources. And not all of them are Christian groups.
So if we humans - even those who completely reject the idea of God - can love, experience love, practice love, where does it come from then? Especially when Paul emphatically tells us how totally hopeless we are, with no good in us at all?
The Bible teaches us that God’s spirit created the world. His spirit hovered over the void and brought life into what was nothing.
Things went wrong fairly quickly however. In the first generation of humans, Adam and Eve decided they knew better than God, in the second generation their son Cain committed murder of his brother, and humans just went from bad to worse, until God intervened with the flood. He chose Noah because Noah believed and obeyed God so God was able to use him to help clean things up. Some time afterward when the flood ended and things dried up again, God chose a small tribe of people to perform sacrifices on behalf of all humanity. This was in preparation for the coming of Jesus, the ultimate and final sacrifice. So Jesus, the Son of God, was born, lived and taught wherever he went. And when Jesus was crucified and taken up to heaven the disciples were pretty distraught as they were afraid of being without Gods guidance. But Jesus said “Don’t worry - after I leave, my Father will send His SPIRIT to dwell amongst you on the earth”.
So now God’s Spirit is on the earth, and ALL humanity and in fact the Earth itself is affected by the Spirit of God, the Spirit of love. So the spirit of Love actually dwells among all of us on the earth at this time. Every human’s ability to love and not hate comes from this presence of the spirit of God. Whether we know it or believe it or not.
Gal 5:22 says the fruit of the SPIRIT of God is love. (also joy, peace, goodness, kindness, patience, faithfulness, self-control etc).
Let’s look to the Bible for some definitions of Love.
The most well-known passage is 1 Corinthians 13. There we read that:
Love is patient
Love is kind
Love does not envy
Love does not boast
Love is not proud
Love is not rude
Love is not self-seeking
Love is not easily angered
Love doesn’t keep a record of wrongs (in other words love doesn’t hold a grudge)
Love rejoices with the truth
Love always protects
Love always trusts
Love always hopes
Love always perseveres, or doesn’t give up
Love never fails
All of these attributes can be summed up in Jesus’ words “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul and mind, and neighbour as yourself”
Love also also means don’t judge one another. We humans are really good at judging one another. There are SO many opportunities in a day to judge or NOT judge others. I recently flew to Vancouver to visit a friend. I took my laptop along to work on this message. I was pretty tired as I got up at 3:30am and drove to the airport. Once settled in the plane, I almost immediately fell asleep, you know how it is when sitting up, your head kind of falls forward, or your mouth falls open…well I did that then realized I could lean my seat back for more comfort while sleeping. As soon as I put my seat back the person behind me made a sort of huffing sound and pushed his knees into my back. So. Did I think, “oh I am so sorry for disturbing you, I know it must be uncomfortable for you back there etc etc”. No. I thought “ if you wanted more legroom you should have paid for the premium seats, so get over yourself”. So much for kindness and not judging! Fail.
We have 5 children. Every morning as they were growing up, we would have breakfast together before the school bus came, and I would read a Bible passage and discuss how it could possibly apply to their everyday life at school. When Jesus said Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and might, and your neighbour as yourself, He basically said everything necessary to manage our everyday lives. The one lesson we taught the kids was to “Be Kind” which to me sums up exactly what Jesus is saying. So we would think out scenarios at school or wherever there was interaction with others, and discuss how to apply the “Be Kind” message, including with one another.
One day an amusing thing happened. George and I decided one Sunday afternoon to escape for a few hours on our own. so we gave the kids their instructions, like get your homework done, practice your piano lesson, check the sick cow in the pen, etc. When we were about to leave I asked the usual “And what is the family rule?” Of course they all rolled their eyes and chanted “Be Kind”, but just as we were going out the door, George turned and said “and no french fries!” The kids were completely baffled (as they often were by their Dad’s rather abstract thought patterns) as it would have never occurred to them in a hundred years to make french fries..then he told them a story that happened in his North Yorkshire village. A family had a fish and chips shop, and one day the mom had to go to work, but the kids, (all boys) wanted to watch a football game on TV so stayed home. At one point they decided to make some chips, or french fries, so put a pot of oil to heat on the stove. Well I think you can guess what happened. In the excitement of the game they forgot the oil on the stove and burned down the house. So now we have a revised family rule…be kind, and don’t make french fries..
So how is the Spirit of Love working now on our planet?
Love is a FORCE. We usually think of Love as a sort of touchy-feely thing, but God says in Heb.1:2-3 “But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, (that nature which we know is Love-my words) and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” So it follows then, that when Love, or the Spirit of God, is removed from the world, the world will actually cease to be “upheld”. Doesn’t sound good.
Lam 3:22 tells us that “because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed” which again, begs the question, what would happen WITHOUT the love of God?? I am afraid to imagine the world once the spirit of God has been removed, as the Bible teaches it one day will be. All those dystopian stories and movies will become the reality. Think back to the scripture we looked at earlier-all the horrifying attributes. They will rule.
God’s love is long-lasting. In Deut 7:9 …we are told that if we serve God, His love will be with us for a thousand generations. If you consider 1 generation is maybe 30-35 years, that is 35,000 years.
It is encouraging to know God’s love is not short-term, or for just one generation or for certain people only. Also that He is patient and not inclined to remove His Spirit anytime soon, though that date is known only to God.
Love has POWER: 2 Tim. 1:7 “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline”. I don’t think we realize the power of God that exists in us through His spirit. In fact, that power is available to help us enact the love of God in our everyday lives.
1 John 3:11,16,18 “we should love one another, Christ laid down his life, do not love with words, but with actions and truth”. How do we love with an “action”?
I think we know in our hearts what a love action looks like. If we look around us this morning, just sitting here, think of all the acts of love that have occurred just to bring us here today. Someone who made your coffee, or made sure there was bread or porridge in the house for your breakfast. Or went out early to warm up the car or shovel the walk. Or the acts of service that benefit you and me. Someone who made sure the furnace was working and the snow was cleared from the front step. A grandparent who made sure your parents went to church as they grew up, who spent time teaching you the word of God. Or a kind and supportive word that was spoken maybe even 20 or 50 years ago that affected your life. A donation, however small, that helped create a place for the lost to find shelter. Love is everywhere though we don’t always recognize it.
In early February I went to BC to visit my friend Blazenka. She and her family emigrated from Croatia, worked very hard to succeed in the new world. Her physiotherapist credentials were not recognized in Canada, so she went back to university, achieving another degree, while raising 2 children and working 3 jobs. Her daughter, who now has her masters degree in physiotherapy, was, at the age of 14, my first employee in the cheese business we had, and Blazenka dragged her massage table to my house sometimes twice a week to use her skills to relieve some of the muscle pain I had from lifting those heavy cheeses. In October, at the age of 54, my friend was diagnosed with colon cancer, which had already metastasized into her liver and lungs.
We had a good visit. I told her I was working on a message for our church. She said, “Debra you tell them that there is nothing more important than love. Nothing is worth anything, not work or striving for success, not things or money, nothing, except love. Love of and for your family, friends, and for others. She said, “be sure to tell them that from me”. My beautiful friend died 12 days later. The house she lived in will be lived in by others, her special presence no longer with us, her belongings dispersed. So what is left of her? The love she showed others, her legacy of service and goodwill; those will remain in the hearts and lives of those who knew her, and those seeds of love will grow and spread. That’s how it works.
Being kind tells the person on the receiving end of kindness that they are worthy of love. Even that thought can change a person’s day or even life, who knows? Stewart told us a few weeks ago that we are thoroughly and brilliantly loved. So what are we going to do with that? It’s not enough to just wriggle in delight because we are so well loved. Whenever and wherever we are in our day, in any and all circumstances, we have the opportunity to apply the command to love. To Be Kind.
Also did you know that an act of kindness is an act of love not only to the recipient but also to ourselves? Seems selfish, but in a good way. Being kind makes us feel good, gives us a sense of being more, a sense of having a purpose bigger than daily life. It opens our hearts to more love, and is good for our own health too!
The church needs to understand this-we aren’t called to attend services once a week and sing a few songs, try our best, pay our tithes and our taxes and go to heaven when we die...that’s not the gospel. We are called to love one another.
Christ showed us the way by giving Himself for us, and calls us simply to follow His example and love one another. Be kind.
CALL TO WORSHIP:
ONE: Christ is calling you as disciples.
ALL: Lord, Jesus, let us follow you faithfully.
ONE: You will be led into fields of mission and service. ALL: Lord Jesus, where you lead us, we will go.
ONE: Listen for Christ's call to you.
OPENING PRAYER & THE LORD'S PRAYER: Lord Jesus, You call us to follow You as disciples. Help us to respond wholeheartedly without counting the cost. You invite us to proclaim Your gospel of hope and salvation here at home and to all the world and its peoples. Teach us to be faithful in word and in action.
Lord, You have given us every spiritual and material blessing. Show us how to share our gifts with others, and inspire us always to follow Your example of generous self-giving. Teach us to give with a joyous and grateful heart that we may provide hope, consolation, and pastoral care to Your people thereby giving glory and honour to Your holy name. Now in the words you gave us: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
PRAYER FOR LENT: Father, through our observance of Lent, help us to understand the meaning of Your Son's death and resurrection, and teach us to reflect it in our lives. Grant this through our Lord, Jesus Christ, Your Son, who and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, or?God, forever and ever. Amen.
Offertory Prayer: We give You this offering today and with it we worship You and give our whole selves to You. Please take it and use it for Your kingdom and Your glory. May it be a great blessing to many. We ask this in the powerful name of Jesus. Amen.
SCRIPTURE READING: Luke 9:57-62 The Cost Of Following Jesus
They were all going along the road. Someone said to Jesus, "I will follow You any place You go." Jesus answered, "The foxes have holes to live in. The birds have nests to live in. But the Son of Man has no place to rest His head."
Jesus said to another man, "Follow me!" But the man said, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." But Jesus said to him, "Let the people who are dead bury their own dead! You must go and tell about the kingdom of God."
Another man said, "I will follow You, Lord, but first let me go and say goodbye to my family." Jesus said, "“No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
Symbols of the Apostles
Christianity is a worldwide religious tradition with diverse representations, beliefs and practices, but the common thread is Jesus. For many years the stories of Jesus, His teachings, and the disciples, were told by word of mouth. It was only after the death of Jesus that the first stories were written.
However, only the well educated were able to read and write and this trend continued for centuries. It wasn't until the 20th Century that the common person had the privilege of education.
So symbols were used to depict certain events and people. Stained glass windows in churches were designed so the common people could depict the Bible stories through the pictures and symbols. This morning we'll talk a little about the symbols representing each of the apostles.
Simon Peter was an unlikely candidate to lead a religious revolution, but at the moment Jesus called him as a disciple, the life of Peter the fisherman changed dramatically. He became not only the most prominent of Jesus' disciples, but later, he became the leader and principal spokesman of the new Christian church. Peter preached to the Jews and was crucified head downwards in Rome in AD 68. The symbol for Peter is the crossed keys. They symbolize the keys of heaven entrusted to Simon Peter. In Matthew 16:19, Jesus says to Peter, "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
John and his brother James were among the first disciples called by Jesus. Though his brother James was the first apostle to be martyred, John continued for a long time as a prominent leader in the early Christian church. John preached in Asia Minor. He lived in Epheus and wrote five (5) books of the Bible. He died about AD 100. Legend has it that an attempt was made on John's life by placing poison in his chalice. Actually, he was the only one of the twelve to reach a ripe old age and die a natural death. His symbol is a chalice and snake.
Philip is depicted in the Gospel of John as a loyal and earnest follower of Jesus. Philip preached in Palestine and Asia Minor, where he was stoned to death by the priests of the serpent-worshippers. His symbol is two loaves of bread, often in a basket. The basket refers to the feeding of the multitude about which he was much concerned. Philip gave up his life for Jesus who is the Bread of Life.
Thomas is best known for his response to the resurrection of Jesus. He had trouble believing Jesus had risen and he wanted proof, thus giving him the name "Doubting Thomas." He preached in Syria, Persia and India. He was killed by a shower of arrows while he was praying. His symbol includes a carpenter's square. Tradition recounts how he erected a church in India while carrying on his ministry there. The arrow in the symbol tells the story of a painful but brave death.
According to the Gospel of John, Andrew was the first person to become a disciple of Jesus. Not a lot is known about his ministry, but it is believed that Andrew preached in Greece, Russia and Asia Minor. He was crucified at Patrae on the cross which is used as his symbol.
There is little known of James the Less. He may have preached in Egypt. It is said that he was sawn to death after being stoned.
Nothing is known of Bartholomew's work. The Bible and flaying knife are his symbol. Flaying knives were used to skin fish, as well as people. Bartholomew had a firm faith in the Word of God which he freely preached. He met his martyrdom by being flayed alive.
Simon identified himself as a zealot. Simon and Jude went together. It is said that they were two of the shepherds who came to Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus. Both Simon and Jude were martyred in Persia on a missionary journey. A relentless fisher of men through the power of the Gospel, Simon is symbolized by a fish, often lying on a Bible.
James the Elder was the first apostle to be killed. He was beheaded by Herod in AD 44. A pilgrim's staff and wallet show he was a traveller.
Jude most likely had become a travelling missionary after the resurrection, spreading the gospel throughout Palestine and beyond. Jude, also known as Thaddeus, is supposed to have preached in Assyria and Persia. It is said that he was clubbed to death by Persians, about AD 80. A ship with a cross on the sails pictures heroic Jude on missionary expeditions accompanied by his friend Simon.
Matthew's writings emphasize Jesus as one who taught with great authority, so much so, that his listeners were astounded. Matthew preached and died in Ethiopia. The three money bags show that he was a tax collector. He was killed by an axe.
Apart from being identified as the one who betrayed Jesus, Judas Iscariot plays no distinguishable role in the New Testament. Judas' symbol is a blank shield of yellow. He killed himself after betraying Jesus. There are two accounts of his death. According to Matthew, he repented, confessed his sin, tried to return the money and then hanged himself. But in the Book of Acts, Judas is said to have fallen headlong and "burst open in the middle and all of his bowels gushed out."
After the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, the disciples drew lots to determine who would replace Judas Iscariot. The lot fell on Matthias. He was well versed in the Scriptures. His symbol is a Bible. After dauntless work as a missionary in Judea, he was beheaded with a scimitar which is a short sword with a curved blade that widens toward the point. The scimitar is the symbol of Matthias.
This is just an overview of the symbols and the apostles. I'm sure we could easily spend the next 12 or 13 weeks talking about each disciple. But their stories are readily found in the Bible. Take a little time and find out more about these brave and devoted men.
What Jesus taught His disciples and all His followers is that love is the greatest thing in the world. He taught that to be humble is to be great and that to give is more blessed than to receive. And He also taught that to minister to others, instead of asking others for service, is the greatest and noblest mark of the Master's disciples.
Let us pray: Eternal God, You have shown Yourself to us as a God of steadfast love and fidelity. You gave us Jesus that we might know Your endless love. We come to You as a community of disciples. May our hearts be consumed by Your marvelous love, and in turn, may we become faithful disciples of Jesus.
Father, we also pray that You will bless all our endeavours, especially for the Annual Meeting following this morning's service. Guide us in our discussions. Enlighten our minds in every decision that we make. Bless our plans and projects, so that we may achieve our objectives as Your disciples and for Your greater glory. All this we ask in Jesus' name. Amen
Modern Christians love the Beatitudes. The poetic beauty of Jesus' opening to his Sermon on the Mount has captured our attention and inspired awe for so many. We learn about the Beatitudes as we grow up in church, we sing songs about them, there are probably many of us that could recite at least a few of them from memory. But the truth of the matter is that when Jesus sat down on a hillside in Galilee thousands of years ago and began preaching, his words would have come as a great shock to the crowds listening around him.
The Beatitudes seem to have lost their shock value in the modern world, though really they should seem as shocking to us today as they did do those first crowds so long ago. For those who had been struggling through life, Jesus is bringing shocking news that now they will be blessed. While those who have been relatively comfortable in life are now hearing that perhaps their life is not as blessed as they thought. But no matter from what perspective or time period you hear the
Beatitudes, the most important thing is to understand what Jesus is teaching through these announcements of blessing.
You see, these are not prophecies about the way things will be in some yet to be determined future. Nor is Jesus here speaking new commandments that must be followed by all people. These are not even conditions for being included or incorporated into the kingdom of God. Rather, Jesus is stating here the reality of God's kingdom as it is. Through these Beatitudes, Jesus assures the community that while life may be difficult now, those who faithfully endure will be blessed through God's kingdom.
A parable is told of a farmer who owned an old mule. The mule fell into the farmer's well. The farmer heard the mule "braying", or whatever mules do when they fall into wells. After carefully assessing the situation, the farmer sympathized with the mule, but decided that neither the mule nor the well were worth the trouble of saving. He would have to rent a crane, and the old well was dried up anyway. So instead of going to such trouble, the farmer called his neighbors together and told them what had happened. He then enlisted the neighbors to help haul dirt to bury the old mule in the well and put him out of his misery.
As you can imagine, initially, the old mule was hysterical! But as the farmer and his neighbors continued shoveling and the dirt hit his back, a thought struck the animal. It suddenly dawned on him that every time a shovel load of dirt landed on his back, he should shake it off and step up! So this he did blow after blow. "Shake it off and step up...shake it off and step up...shake it off and step up!" he repeated to encourage himself. No matter how painful the blows, or distressing the situation seemed the old mule fought "panic" and just kept right on shaking if off and stepping up! It was not long before the old mule, battered and exhausted, stepped triumphantly over the wall of that well! What seemed like it would bury him, actually blessed him, all because of the manner in which he handled that dirt being shoveled into the well.
That's life! If we face our problems, respond to them positively, and refuse to give in to panic, bitterness or self-pity, the adversities that come along to bury us usually have within them the potential to benefit and bless us!
Most of the people standing around listening to Jesus as he began to preach were probably feeling a lot like that mule. They would have felt like an entire village was throwing dirt on their back. Many would have been struggling through life, just trying to make ends meet. They would have felt like all their efforts were getting them nowhere and it was just one struggle after another. Then, for those listening to Jesus who felt that they were not poor in spirit, or mourning, or meek, or any of the other traits Jesus mentioned; they would have believed that they were doomed. There probably would have been a sense of panic among such people. What do I need to do to get out of this mess?!? What do I need to do to be blessed?!? I've got to get busy or I am going to be buried alive!
Jesus words might have caused great panic among those listening to him, but it turns out that he was speaking exactly the words they needed to hear. These "blessings," the "wonderful news" that he's announcing, are not saying "try hard to live like this." Nor is Jesus suggesting that these are simply timeless truths about the way the world is, about human behavior. If he was saying that, he was wrong because mourners often go uncomforted, the meek don't inherit the earth, those who long for justice often take that longing to the grave. This is an upside down world, or perhaps a right-way up world; and Jesus is now saying that with his work it's starting to come true. Jesus is saying it may feel like you're at the bottom of a well with dirt being heaped upon you, but it turns out that dirt is a real blessing. It turns out that dirt you thought was going to be the death of you is actually going to bring you life! That's why Jesus' words here are gospel, good news, not just good advice! This is something important for us to realize as we read the Beatitudes. Our 21st century busy-body minds are trained to believe that at least some work is required for any good outcome. So when we read the Beatitudes, our interpretation tells us that if we want to be blessed, we have to do those things that Jesus mentions. We have to be poor in spirit, we have to mourn, we have to be meek and merciful, we have to be pure in heart, we have to be peacemakers, and we have to be persecuted for righteousness' sake.
But the Beatitudes are not direct calls to action; rather, the Beatitudes are promises. We do not have to do anything, we just have to be in God's presence. We do not have to rig up any elaborate system to extract ourselves from whatever mess we may find ourselves in, we just have to recognize that through Jesus Christ, God is blessing us in ways that we couldn't even imagine. And we have to realize that Christ blesses us simply because that is the way of God's kingdom; extravagant love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, and life offered freely and willingly to all who will recognize the blessings that are right before us.
The good news of God's kingdom is that to know it's blessings, we do not have to do anything, we just have to be. How often have we gotten into trouble because we got too focused on getting something done? I think we tend to do that a lot these days, and often it causes trouble. Maybe because we're not spending enough time at home or with family. Maybe we mess things up because in the midst of getting one thing done, we forget about something else that needs to be done. It can really be a problem if we get too focused on the doing of Christianity, and forget about the simple being. We just need to be in Christ's presence. It is when we allow ourselves to slip out of Christ's presence that things become problematic; that dirt starts to pile up on our backs rather than becoming the stepping stone that will free us.
Jesus' words in the opening of the sermon on the mount describe those who find their being in the eternal God. The message of the Beatitudes is that it's what we are that really counts, not what we possess or have done. And all these characteristics Jesus describes are a result of our being in Christ. When we really start taking just a quick little look at these promises of the kingdom of God, and also the descriptions of those who receive the promises, we find that we begin to get a sneak peek into God's kingdom. And we also begin to realize that God's kingdom is the polar opposite of what the world has stamped down as accepted standards.
Jesus Christ is revolutionary, and if we are to truly follow Christ, we are going to have to be revolutionary as well! And as much as we need to be comforted and filled, as much as we want blessings and mercy, as much as we yearn to be the precious children of God; is it worth the cost? The Beatitudes show us that for Jesus, righteousness is more than the sum of any commandments; it is a total change of attitude and mind. And when we allow ourselves to be in Christ's presence, we are transformed. Those who are praised in the Gospels are men and women of humility, love, trust, fidelity, and courage. They are not yet perfect, but they are converted and their interests and desires are turned in the direction of the kingdom of God. Is this a description of us as well?
One preacher has summarized the Beatitudes very simply. He says, "You are loved. Go, therefore, and act like it!" Only then will we know the full measure of the blessings of God's kingdom! May it be so—for you and for me. Amen.
Almighty and eternal God, ruler of all things in heaven and earth: hear the prayers of your people, strengthen us to do your will and to serve you in the world in ways that bring about your reign of grace, reconciliation, peace, and healing.
Hear us, as we pray for those in poor spirit, who feel empty inside and who dread the day.
Hear us, as we pray for those who mourn and grieve, who ache with loss for someone much loved.
Hear us, as we pray for the meek, who do not grasp or shout or demand to be first in line.
Hear us, as we pray for those who hunger for justice, who toil to bring
Hear us, as we pray for all who are merciful, who have learned to forgive even those who have caused them pain.
Hear us, as we pray for all who are pure in heart, in whom there is no vengefulness, but only love.
Hear us, as we pray for the peacemakers, the ones who, by their words and deeds, can change the world.
Hear us, as we pray for those who are persecuted, and keep them safe from those who would hurt them.
Why Teach In Parables?
The stories Jesus taught were meant to teach a lesson and that’s what a parable is. It may be about something that actually happened or it may be a made up story, but every person in a parable stands for something else, and everything that happens is to be understood according to what the lesson means.
Jesus liked to teach in parables for three reasons. First, everybody likes to hear a story and so a parable will be listened to by young and old alike. Secondly, Jesus could hide His true meaning from His enemies in a parable. Since everyone has to tell for himself what a parable means, no one could say that Jesus said ‘such and such’ specifically. Thirdly, since a story stays in your mind better than a saying or a lecture, it would stay in the minds of the listeners for a very long time. Think about it, even today the parables of Jesus have a fresh meaning to us just as when they were spoken to the people two thousand years ago.
Sometimes the disciples asked Jesus to interpret a parable because they didn’t get its meaning. He would explain it, but He always told them they should learn how to interpret the stories for themselves. He told them that they could only do that if they gave themselves wholly to God and let His Spirit shine the light of His understanding upon it. And this is what we, too, must do. We must open our minds to God and let His Holy Spirit guide us.
`The parables of Jesus always had to do with common, every day things. Either they were about nature, which lies all around us, or they were about the different interactions with one another, about men, women and children. If we learn them thoroughly and think about them as we go about our everyday life, we’ll be taught by Jesus as much today as when He lived and talked with His disciples in Judea and Galilee.
We have plenty of parables to choose from. The Gospel of Luke contains the largest number of them – 24, and 18 of those are unique to Luke. The Gospel of Matthew has 23, and 11 of those are unique to Matthew. And the Gospel of Mark has 8 parables with 2 unique to Mark.
Basically, there are 7 themes to the parables: parables about God’s mercy and grace, God’s severity and wrath, the importance of obedience, God looking into our hearts, the importance of the kingdom of God, a spiritual kingdom for all and a kingdom where the weak become strong.
The parable this morning teaches us about the importance of obedience to God. It is about a sower who distributed seed which fell upon different kinds of ground. Jesus explains the meaning of the parable after He tells it.
Let’s go back 2000 years and look at a day in Jesus’ life. Jesus had a lot of work to do every day. So many people anxiously awaited to hear His stories. The sick were waiting to be healed. He was often tired and had a hard time finding a place to rest. He spent His night in prayer, on the mountain, in the garden, under the stars, talking with His heavenly Father. And it was from these times of prayer that He drew more strength and more love for the poor people who were so needy and who were so wrong in their thinking. But Jesus wanted time to rest, too, in the sunlight and the woods and on the hills.
So one morning He started out toward the lake. However, as He walked along, the local people saw Him, and a great crowd soon pressed around Him. There were sick people, and Jesus cured them. There were questions to answer and lessons to teach. But the people crowded against Jesus so tightly that He had no room, and He couldn’t see them all very well. So Jesus got into the disciples’ boat and asked to be rowed out a little way from the shore. The disciples did as they were asked and held the boat there, while Jesus sat and talked to the people.
Once Jesus was out on the water, He was able to see all the people, and He could see beyond the crowd up on the hills that rose a little way behind. As He looked up on the hill He spotted a farmer sowing his wheat. The man had a bag of seed hanging around his neck, and as he walked the field, he took a fistful of seed and slung it in a broad, sweeping motion, allowing the seed to fall evenly. After the seed was strewn, the farmer took a bushy branch and dragged it over the ground to cover the seed with earth.
While the farmer has been doing all this, some birds have found their breakfast in the seed, and he hurries to cover it so that the birds can’t eat it. No doubt when Jesus was a boy, he had seen many a field sowed in this way, and maybe He had even helped to sow a field or two. Jesus had lived in a carpenter’s home in the village, but He was a friendly kid, and He knew quite a few farmers. Because He was such a cheerful boy the people of His village were always glad when He came around, and they often let Him help them.
Now, as Jesus looked up from the boat and saw the farmer swinging along, casting his seed, probably a scene of His boyhood came into His mind, and He could see the field with the hard path running through it and a rocky patch and the corners where the brush had been left. He could see the birds following in the farmer’s track. And Jesus made a story from it all, while the people listened and could see the very same thing Jesus was talking about.
This is the story Jesus told. A sower went out to sow his seed, and as he was sowing, some of the seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it all up. Some seed fell on the rocky ground where there wasn’t very much soil. That seed sprang up at once because the soil wasn’t deep. But when the sun came up it was scorched and soon withered away because there was no root. Some of the seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked out the seedlings. However, some of the seed fell on good soil and some of it yielded a hundredfold, some sixtyfold and some thirtyfold.
What exactly does this parable mean? There may have been a young boy or girl in the crowd with their parents, listening to the charming young teacher from Nazareth. They listened intently to His story but they couldn’t quite understand it fully, so they ask their parents. Perhaps the parents weren’t quite sure of the meaning either. If they were wise parents and knew the Scriptures, they would have been able to put the story and the Bible together. We can often find in the Scriptures the secret of the lessons Jesus taught from nature. It’s a good thing to try.
The disciples were not yet used to this kind of teaching. Most of them were rough fishermen, who had not yet studied the Scriptures very much. But by listening to the teachings of Jesus, they would come to know the Scriptures very well, and they would be able to understand the parables of Jesus. But on the day Jesus told the story of the sower, they were perplexed, and perhaps a little annoyed because they couldn’t understand what Jesus was trying to tell them. So they went to Him and asked, “Why do You teach in parables?”
Jesus tried to ease their concern by answering, “You may know the secret of the kingdom of heaven, but they do not, I have to teach them in parables because they could not understand the truth if I were to tell it in plain words, just as the prophets foretold. But blessed are your eyes and ears, for they see and hear what the prophets longed to know.”
“Don’t you understand this parable? You must listen closely and set your minds to thinking when I tell a parable. And the better you know the Scriptures, the better you will be able to interpret it.” And Jesus continued, saying, “I’ll explain it to you. Listen carefully. What the sower sows is the word of God. The ones by the hard path are those who hear, and then the devil comes and carries the message away from their hearts. The ones on the rocky ground are tose who receive the message joyfully when they first hear it, but it takes no real hold. They believe for a little while, and then in the time of trouble they draw back.
And what falls among the thorns means those who listen and pass on, and the worries and riches and the pleasures of life creep in and choke out the message, and it yields nothing. But the seed in the good soil means those who listen to the message and keep it in good and true hearts, and yield much seed to give to others. Some of them are the best and truest, who yield a hundred times as much. Some others may not be quite so gifted, but they give all they have, and they make sixty times as much. Some, perhaps, are very common people, but they have good hearts, and they yield thirty times what they received. They are all good ground.”
The disciples thought and thought and thought as the word of God fell upon their ears. And I don’t doubt that the boy and the girl whom their parents helped to understand, thought and thought as well. So they all took the seed into good ground, and yielded a bountiful harvest.
The crowd was the field. There were hard hearts there, in which the seed did not bury itself at all, and it was soon taken away. There were minds too shallow to think very deeply. And when persecution came, they had no root, and the word withered away. There were souls filled with cares and pleasures, who let these things choke out the good words of Jesus. But, and this is the best part of all, there were men and women and boys and girls who were good ground, and they yielded fruit in their lives and kept the word of God in their hearts.
To briefly summarize the point of this parable: A person’s willingness to receive God’s Word depends on the goodness and purity of his heart. It can also be said that salvation is more than just a superficial hearing of the gospel. Someone who is truly saved will go on to prove it. It is the faith, belief and acceptance of your heart that can lead you closer to God. God’s word is accessible to everyone, but the ability to understand, keep and live by it is not the same in all people.
By reading the Scriptures and accepting the Word of God, we will have the nourishment of the good soil to make us fruitful in our lives.
Sowing the seed on the hard path, or where the rocks are found, Sowing the seed in the brier patch, sowing it in good ground. Dear Sower, I pledge You on my part, To give You good soil in my garden heart.
Christ’s parables became an important part of the scriptures. They were meant to be retold. These stories have provided insights that allow us to embrace the kingdom of heaven and eternal life, and show us the divinity of Jesus Christ.
Let us pray together: Heavenly Father, thank You for Your guidance. Forgive us for getting ahead of Your plans, and help us know when to stop and listen for Your direction. Your ways are perfect, Lord. Thank You for offering gentle grace. Help us live today in a way that brings honour to Your name. Let us choose to talk with You each day and to hear You when You speak to us. Thank You Lord for all You have done for us. This we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen
Romans chapter 1 verse 16 to 17.
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, For it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith
to faith, as it is written. "But the just shall live by faith"...
This was the verse that Martin Luther was convicted by. The just shall live by faith" that is faith in the gospel!
It is what brought about the whole Protestant Reformation.
This quote. The just shall live by faith. Is found in the Old Testament in the book of Habakkuk. Chapter 2 verse 4,,,, and the context is this.. Try to picture it.
Habakkuk has questions for God, or a complaint if you will. And I think we can all relate. The question is basically this... Why oh Lord do you not hear and not answer my complaints, why do you not judge Judah?
chapter 1 verse 2-4
He looked around and he saw Judah filled with sin. Do something Lord!.
We look around and see world filled with sin. Violence etc. And we say, Lord do something!
The, Lord's answer was.... I will send Babylon to destroy Judah. 1 verse 5-11
Habakkuk has another question, and now another complaint. Why?
How can you allow Babylon, a more sinful nation then us to judge us??? 1 verse 12-21
The Lord responds, Babylon will be judged as well. 2 verse 2-20
Habakkuk's final response,,,, I will trust the Lord! I will praise him! I will write a song.
Recounting all the deeds and the powerful things that the Lord has done throughout,all the generations!
3 verse 1-19
What is the purpose of this message?
It is a Jesus came to earth born of a virgin. The sinless son of God, died on the cross and his blood paid the penalty for our sin.
That he rose from the grave on the third day according to the Scriptures, proving himself to be the son of God.
And that he will return again to judge the earth and set up is eternal Kingdom!
How is the gospel appropriated?. That just shall live by faith!.
This is what all who call themselves christians "believe" Romans chapter 1 VS 18 to 25.
So now, let us ask ourselves..... Salvation! ,,,,,Salvation from what? Is it not from the wrath to come?
Every human being who rejects Christ will be judged.
But some may say, What of those who know not Christ?
God is infinite in His knowledge, and He is righteous, God will judge all for rejecting the revelation given to us in our Conscience through His creation. And for stifling the regenerative work of the Spirit in our hearts
But careful, Remember God is the judge„ not us!
Chapter, 1 verse 21-27 reveal seven ways in which human beings, all human beings. Can Reject the Gospel.
1. Irelegious = refusal to glorify God.
That God himself loves us all! And that He has provided a way out...
God's perfect requirements were met in his perfect Son when He willingly went to the cross. For You and I. That is the "gospel" and I am not ashamed of it. How do we relate to the Gospel?
What do we do when the difficult questions come up? Example, suffering, injustice, disaster, hard ache, sickness etc.
Sooner or later, we all have questions, have complaints for God, just like Habakkuk did. And that's OK, even normal. But don't stop there! Keep seeking., And find the only comfort that there is. In the gospel. In
Let us just as Habakkuk , and just as Paul exhorts us too, remind ourselves of these things.
Paul put it this way.. stir up by way of reminder. What things? Of the awesome deeds that God has done.
His creation. The miracles he did to rescue his people. To call out of people to himself. To call the church, His bride. We can go on all day of all the awesome things that God has done, and is doing. We sing of them every Sunday morning at church.
Horror of horrors if they are just platitudes, or nice poems, catchy melodies, comforting ideas,,,,but not true.
We pray and find ourselves pleading with God... Why? Because God the father.
The creator of this universe.
Has planted eternity in your hearts. No matter how hard we try to look away, we can't help but say. I believe!
Let us build on our FAITH ... And share this beautiful GOSPEL. This "good news".
I just want to close with a quote that Darlene found on Facebook.
It is by the late Antonin Sclalia... One of the judges who sat on the Supreme Court who passed away a while back.
And it goes like this.
" God assumed from the beginning that the wise of the world would view Christians as fools... And he is not been disappointed. If I have brought any message today, it is this, have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity. Before for Christ. And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world"
I grew up on the Saskatchewan prairies but when we went to the city we usually went to Calgary, at that time about a 5-hour drive away where we had relatives, and where my parents had both worked in their youth. When I ﬁnished High school, I went to Bible School in Calgary.
It was the Berean Bible school, which had developed from the Calgary Prophetic Bible Institute founded by William Aberhart, who went on to become the premier of Alberta. The ﬁrst graduate from that original school was Ernest Manning, who also went on to the premiership of Alberta, and then to become Senator Manning, and then more recent history has names like Preston Manning, the Reform Party, and now the new conservative party. Etc Etc
It was a good school, and I later would come to greatly appreciate the value of the Bible education I received there.
I am mentioning Bible School, because there especially, one topic that was much discussed was ﬁnding the will of God for your life. Of course a Bible school is there to train future missionaries, pastors and music leaders etc, so there was great attention directed to fnding where one fit in. I recall some agonizing times, seeking God and waiting for a heavenly revelation of exactly how my life should be spent. An aunt and uncle lived in Calgary, and often on weekends I would visit for a while. This topic often came up for discussion, as I suppose I hoped that maybe someone (other than myself) might have some sort of insight into how I was to continue my life “in God’s service” so to speak. And then of course, armed with this new directive, I would head out, and all would be set. Simple really, right? Well I never did get that ﬂash of light from Heaven, nor dream that special dream of needy children in Africa, or hear the voice calling me to certain works with clear directions for my future.
But I did learn more about knowing the will of God. For a Christian who is convinced God’s way is the best way, and who wishes to live a life pleasing to God, this is an important topic. We have one life to live and we want to live it in a way that is not merely acceptable to God, but also honouring Him, and furthering His work on this Earth.
We can always simply follow the directive of Paul, who in Romans 12:1-2 wrote that we would easily be able to ﬁnd what the will of God is for our lives by offering ourselves as living sacriﬁces, not conforming to the pattern of this world, and renewing our minds. He says that’s the way to know the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
Well that sounds very spiritual and only slightly daunting for that young person wondering what kind of career or life’s work one should seek, which direction to take to know the perfect will of God for one’s life. How to be a living sacriﬁce? How to renew your mind? It’s a jungle out there!
Here on the ground my thoughts are: should I study accounting, should I take over the family farm, should I follow my heart and become an artist, what does God want me to do?? How can I ﬁnd His plan for my life?
Life is absolutely full of decisions, big ones and small ones. One of the most exhausting things to do is to move house. It’s not so much the packing of boxes and wrapping of china etc, it’s more the making a decision about every little thing in the house: what to pack, what is “not worth it” what has nostalgic value, what is junk. etc etc. . When I packed to leave Switzerland I remember wondering if I should pack the coat hangers, or would the space they take up be more effectively used by something more valuable. Would it cost more to ship them, or just buy
new ones in Canada?? Gosh! Coat hangers! Decision making is tiring. We want to do the right, the best thing.
However we know that even a small decision could change the direction of a person’s life.
That’s not an easy responsibility to carry!
We hear and learn that a ﬁrst step leads to the second step, and ultimately takes us down the path that we have knowingly or unknowingly chosen.
George and I have 5 children. The first 4 were pretty close in age, so we had a house full of teenagers. It was a busy time, intense, as many of you can perhaps identify with. We believed in keeping communication as open as possible with our kids, to help them make some of those big
and small decisions.
One of our daughters once said (at the age of around 15 or 16) that she wished her life wasn’t so “sheltered”. I still don’t know exactly what she wanted to change but anyway I said, okay, but what you need to know is, girls whose lives aren’t sheltered often end up pregnant and boys often end up in car accidents. To say nothing of the drug scourge currently plaguing our society. Am I right?
The problem is, one decision, one step, leads you down a path. And quite often there is no going back. I have in fact a niece who decided the life of a pastor’s daughter was way too sheltered for her, took off from home as soon as she ﬁnished high school, met a guy who turned out to be a meth-head, became pregnant. Now she’s a single mom with a deadbeat for a dad to her 10-year-old son. When he’s not in jail, he’s in recovery.
The good news is, her parents and family, rather than reject her for her waywardness, surrounded her with love and support and are doing a huge part in inﬂuencing the boy for a different life. That ﬁrst decision leads to the second decision, and all too often the next one can be taken from us, is no longer ours to make.
Often there’s no going back.
But I digress.
How do we know what is the right decision to make for our lives? Is that really the question we should be asking ourselves?
Let’s look at the words of Jesus for help here. What does He say is His will for our lives, His commands.
- Matt 28:19 go ye therefore into all the world and preach the gospel
- Matt 5:16 let your light so shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven.
- Matt 22:37-39 love the lord your God with all your mind heart and soul, and your neighbour as yourself
- Mark 9:35-37 If anyone wants to be the ﬁrst, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.
He took a little child in his arms, and said, Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me, but the One who sent me, In other words, serving others is serving God, welcoming Him into your life.
- Acts 17:30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent
- 1 Thess 5:18 Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this isGod’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
- 1 John 3:23 And this is His command, to believe in the name of his son Jesus Christ and to love one another as he commanded us
- 2 John 6 And this is love, that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heardfrom the beginning, His command is that we walk in love
So far I am not finding anything about a specific job or career, or help with a decision for a big purchase or change of direction in life. Except for the disciples who were called to follow Jesus and be fishers of men, and for Saul, later Paul, who experienced a vision on the road to Damascus telling him to go do a specific work, and a couple of special people who had a role to play in God’s kingdom, it is not recorded that God told many to go do a certain job. He does however mention using people in many walks of life for His work. It would seem therefore that Jesus isn’t so concerned about what we decide to do for a living, but rather concerned about how we live our lives while we are doing our chosen jobs, or leading the life we are in at themoment. We can be a lawyer, and live by God’s rules. We can be a farmer, and treat our land and animals with the respect they deserve as a creation of God; we can consciously foster good relationships with our neighbours, families and colleagues.
In fact in the passage we read in Romans 12:6-8, Paul outlines that we all have different strengths and abilities, and he advises us to use our innate abilities. So he’s saying, “go do what you're good at, just honour God in all you do, and remember you are no more nor less important than the next person”.
Still, all those decisions, big and small, can feel quite onerous. When it came time to decide whether to remain in Switzerland or return to Canada (where I had not lived for at least 10 years) I didn’t really know what I should do, stay or move back to Canada. We lived in a small village, there was a good village school, just 10 kids from Grade 1-9, I could speak the language and felt integrated in the community and our church. My sister came to stay with me at the time, and she said, in true sister-fashion, “don’t be stupid, you are coming back to Canada”.
I ended up agreeing with her, especially after I got a phone call from a village farm woman whose son had lost his wife, and who had a 2-year old baby that had been sent to live with relatives. She basically told me I should marry her son, so her grandchild could come back to live with them, and my girls would have a father! An intriguing proposition.
So my 2 young daughters and I returned to Canada and moved to BC to the same town as my sister and family. We set up a home and all was well, until we had been there about 9 months.
Then my daughters started to get homesick for Switzerland. They would cry and moan, and blame me for taking them away. I became very distressed and began to worry that my decision had been the wrong one. Life turned quite bleak, and quickly.
Around that time, another of my aunts, who with her husband and family had been missionaries in Ethiopia for over 20 years, came to visit on her way to a speaking engagement. I told her ofmy concerns and that I was really worried I had not done what was God’s will, not only for my life but for my daughters. I felt the responsibility for their future keenly.
First of all she told me it was very common, in her context as a missionary, that the 9-month mark is when things get difﬁcult, doubts set in and homesickness is a big problem.
And then she said the life-changing words: Do you want to be in God’s will? I said yes, I do. She said, “Then you're in it”. Just like that. She said God is big enough to hear your heart and watch over you.
I couldn't believe it, it was so simple. Basically, to get this straight, by doubting I was in God’s will, I was actually not believing God is God, and really, in so doing, I made myself God. By not believing what He said, I was essentially saying, I know better than God. Let’s let that sink in.
This is essentially the original sin, all the way back to Adam and Eve, who said we don’t believe you that the fruit isn’t good to eat, so we are going to eat it.
Because what does His word say?: that when we surrender our will to His will, He keeps His side of the bargain. God is far far bigger than we can imagine and than we can actually believe.
We can’t comprehend Him. We can’t comprehend that we can leave ourselves in His hands and he will look after us. Prov 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He SHALL direct thy paths. The word SHALL is signiﬁcant. It means it is going to happen, not that He wants it to happen, it means it is going to happen. Basically it has to do with believing how big God is. He will be the director of our paths. We just have to trust Him completely.
Signiﬁcantly, it does not say Trust in Lord with all your heart and he will tell you to become an accountant. Maybe it IS your path to become an accountant, but I think more what the Bible is telling us here is that our God wants us to live lives surrendered to Him, so that He can be our guide, through all the daily decision making, always there with us, being our shepherd. We can call on Him, and know he hears us, and we can hear His voice. That is the way we in our turn can be the light he calls us to be, we can be the one whom our neighbours when they see us living our daily lives, see God the Father.
I like to think of God in the parent role. He does tell us so often that He is our Father. He tells us we can trust Him. We ask for His guidance, we believe He is there guiding us. We make the ecision which is facing us. Whether it turns out that it is a “wrong” decision, or a “right” decision
doesn’t matter, unless we are knowingly disobeying God’s law, or the law of our land in our action. Ultimately and wonderfully, if nothing else, our so-called “wrong” decisions can drive us into God’s arms, and turn out for that reason to have been the “right” ones.
We are in God’s will because we have told Him we want to be there. We have confessed to Him our need for Him, our reliance and trust, and we can then let Him worry about it.
How can we be sure we are living the surrendered life? The Bible passages we have looked at this morning, and many many more teach us how to do that. One thing we humans are good at though is taking back the authority that we have just given to God. We can be pretty hopeless at meaning and doing what we say.
I think it is helpful every morning when one wakes up to simply and honestly say “Good morning God, today i surrender myself to you. May your will be done in my life today”. Then simply trust that he takes you at your word, and you ﬁnd yourself in that peaceful joyful place, in the centre of His will.
MAY GOD HIMSELF, THE GOD OF PEACE, SANCTIFY YOU THROUGH AND THROUGH.
MAY YOUR WHOLE SPIRIT, SOUL AND BODY BE KEPT BLAMELESS AT THE COMING OF
OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. THE ONE WHO CALLS YOU IS FAITHFUL AND HE WILL DO IT
Hearing the Voice of God Rockburn Church Dec 16/18
Luke 1:5-20, 27-38
In a mother's womb were two babies. One asked the other: "Do you believe in life after delivery?"
The other replied, "Of course. There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later."
"Nonsense," said the first. "There is no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?"
The second said, "I don't know, but I think there will be more light than here. And maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths. Maybe we will have other senses that we can't understand now."
The first replied, "How absurd. Walking is impossible. And eating with our mouths? Ridiculous! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need. But the umbilical cord is so short, so there's no way there can be life after delivery. Logically it's just impossible"
The second insisted, "Well I think there is something and maybe it's different than it is here. Maybe we won't need the umbilical cord anymore."
The first replied, "Nonsense. And anyway, if there is life, then why has no one ever come back from there? Delivery is the end of life, and after delivery, there is nothing but darkness and silence and oblivion. It takes us nowhere."
"Well, I don't know," said the second, "but certainly we will meet Mother and she will take care of us."
The first replied "Mother? You actually believe in Mother? What a joke. If Mother exists then where is She now?"
The second said, "She is all around us. We are surrounded by her. We are of Her. It is in Her that we live. Without Her, this world of ours could not exist."
Said the first: "Well I don't see Her, so it is only logical that She doesn't exist."
To which the second replied, "Sometimes, when you're in silence and you focus and listen, you can perceive Her presence, and you can hear Her loving voice, calling down from above."
This little illustration I think shines a light on the fact that humans long to know God but have difficulty connecting with Him. We need God, and whether we are aware of it or not, we want God.
But we have trouble believing in Him. In this age of reason and science, it is hard to convince ourselves that God even exists, let alone hope to hear His voice in our lives. We strain to listen, we try to feel, but often we just can't connect. It can feel like there's a wall or at least one of those blackout curtains hung up between earth and heaven. We have sayings: "seeing is believing" or "a picture is worth a thousand words". Basically we don't believe what we can't see with our own eyes.
But somehow we sense there's more, that there's something more beyond our ability to see. So we pray and pray, and ask God for his leading and direction. But so often we feel we can't hear his voice and don't know which direction to take. Sometimes, we give up and decide since we can't seem to break through, that God, if He is even there, doesn't care, and it doesn't matter. Still, in our innermost parts, we really know that we need to know God.
God SAYS he speaks to us and that we CAN hear His voice. So how then, and what does that look like? How does God make His voice heard anyway?
We read often in the Bible of people who heard God's voice, and were directed by Him. It seems God speaks to His people in various ways. One way is by sending an angel, or a messenger, to relay His messages, to speak for Him. In the last years a sort of angel worship cult has grown up. People are hungry for spiritual things and wish to be directed or led by someone or something with more knowledge or insight or with more authority than ourselves, we ordinary humans. The mystical is very popular. I am actually really baffled by this..1 know people who say the Bible is a myth and they could never believe it, and treat you like a relic of some unenlightened age, yet are willing to believe that there is a spirit in a stone or metal carving or will believe that the chanting of a so-called Holy person can give insight and direction in life. Or follow and believe a so-called "spiritual guide" who "channels" a being from "the other side". Yes, humans do want to hear God's voice. (and for the record, God has told us to NOT worship angels, that they are messengers only. Real angels will always point to Jesus, false ones will direct you to worship them).
At this time of the year we are celebrating Advent, the season leading to the birth of Jesus. Let's Have a look at the people that were involved in God's plan to save mankind by sending His own Son as a sacrifice: Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, Zachariah.
Luke 1:5-20, 27-35
Zechariah: he was just working in the temple. It was his turn to light the candles, and get the incense burning. A simple but faithful man doing his job. The whole congregation was just outside this room of the temple, worshiping and basically doing church at the time. Zecharias was alone in the inner room. So, suddenly an angel, but not just any angel - GABRIEL a big-shot angel— is suddenly standing there and says "I have been sent by God to speak to you and tell you that your wife will have a baby, and that baby will tell the world about the Messiah".
So what does our faithful religious man in the church say? He's like "well that's impossible because my wife and I are old and theres no way we can have a baby". Basically he didn't believe the voice he heard. As a result of his unbelief, Gabriel told him was not going to be able to speak again until the baby was born ao as not to have Zacharias run out and tell everyone was a crazy experience he had just had. He was "struck dumb", so he couldn't talk down God's plan (at least that's how it looks here).
Mary: so 6 months or so later, Gabriel heads over to Nazareth, where Mary is minding her own business, likely looking forward to her marriage to the local carpenter, maybe working on her dowry linens, knitting socks, shelling peas, or cooking or who knows. Again God speaks to Mary through Gabriel ,and tells her His plan for her. Notice Mary's response is different to that of Zachariah.
She says "Okay, so how is this all going to work then?" Mary remained open to God's plan for her life, even though the idea that she should be pregnant - by the spirit of God mind you- outside of wedlock was pretty incredible and besides, a very unacceptable thing in society. But Mary was a young woman who knew God. She knew His voice when she heard it. So she was okay with the whole crazy idea. She trusted Him. She said, Okay, bring it on!
Then Joseph: the hardworking carpenter who had arranged to become engaged to Mary. In Matthew's gospel we read that he had a dream where an angel of God appeared and SPOKE to him telling him not to be worried about getting married to Mary (who was pregnant out of wedlock) but that he would be helping fulfill the plan of God. Joseph had secretly been planning to dissolve the engagement but when he heard this he changed his mind. His reaction was similar to Mary's. He obviously felt certain enough that it was the voice of God he had heard, because what did he do? He said, okay I'll do as you say. He went ahead and married his pregnant fiancee, in spite of the social stigma and consequences of the times. He trusted God.
Both Mary and Joseph heard the voice of God and recognized it.
How did they know it was the voice of God? And not some other entity? Or just a weird dream or something? I mean the whole things was totally crazy!
Let's go and see what Jesus says about hearing His voice.
John 10:27: My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me. He doesn't say my sheep listen for my voice, he says they HEAR my voice. So.
Let's look quickly at what a sheep is like: many of you will have had, or do have sheep so do kind of know their character. Sheep love to be in their group. They feel stressed and afraid if they become separated or alone. They need leadership and they know it. Well-I am not sure what a sheep knows!! But at any rate it makes them feel safe. They know who is in charge and they know that voice and know that its the voice to obey. They want to obey it. It makes them feel safe. Sheep don't possess a lot of weapons of self-defense. They can run away, but not that fast, they stamp their feet, but it's not frightening. They need help. And the leader knows that the sheep need him to lead. We are actually looking at a relationship, a relationship that works. The sheep and the shepherd. Which we are often compared to. We are the sheep who need to hear the voice of the shepherd. He says we hear his voice.
Let's look at the times when God lets us hear His audible voice.
It seems that from the accounts we read about in the Bible, God spoke to His people in a clearly audible voice when they needed Him most, or when He most needed them to hear Him. When they were in a very serious situation or when big things were about to happen. In the case of Mary and Joseph, God was enacting His big plan of redemption that he had been working on since the very beginning of time, and which required the special involvement of His people. He spoke to them clearly, letting them know what was happening, and that they were an important part of it.
God speaks to His people when they find themselves without any recourse left, with nowhere to go. At the end of their tether so to speak. Many of us have had times in life when we finally reached the bottom or the end of our human resources, where we cried out to God, and He heard and spoke. King David writes about this in the Psalms, how he cries out to God in his distress, and how God answers him. You can read in the psalms HOW David did this, reminding God how hopelessly lost he was without God and how God is his only rescuer, his strength and his true salvation, and surrendering himself to God.
When my husband died in Switzerland, my whole world as I knew it came crashing down, spinning out of control. It was almost like a state of shock, and I didn't know how life was going to go on. My husband was lying in a hospital bed in a coma, and I had 2 small children at home. They were 3 and 6. We lived in a small village up on the side of the hill in the alps, about an hours drive by car to the university hospital in the city. I had gone every day for the previous few days once or even twice a day to the hospital, spent time consulting with the doctors, praying and reading the bible out loud to my husband as he lay comatose. I was frankly exhausted.
That day I knew just couldn't do it again, my children were in distress and I just couldn't leave them again with friends for the several hours it would take. They needed me. But my husband lay dying. I cried out to God where I stood in the kitchen and said "Lord I just can't do it"! At that moment, a clear voice said to me "Don't worry, I am with him." I can't say how the voice sounded, it just was. Immediately I felt relief! I knew then that the only One in the whole universe who needed to be there, was there, and I could relax.
And that night my husband died. The only day I wasn't there.
I am thankful to this day that Jesus told me He was with him. I believe He let me know so i wouldn't have to feel guilty, so that over the years I could focus on caring for the little girls without that extra burden of guilt. Not only that, perhaps my husband needed that time alone with God, without me there, to finish up what he needed to do before he left this earth. That is Love for you. Christ's love, not just in the act of the crucifixion, but in everyday occurrences. He let me hear His voice, because I needed it. He knows His sheep, and they know His voice. He knows they need Him.
Also, it seems God speaks to His people when they ask to hear His voice. I don't mean a vague, "Oh Lord let me hear your voice", but perhaps when we simply ask a direct question, and wait for Him to speak. I think so often when we pray, we just keep on talking and talking, as if it's the exercise of talking that is important. Maybe we should practice listening too.
In BC our church Mountainview Community church, was without a pastor and during the process of the search for a new one, a church member with a local business made a room available for specific prayer regarding the finding of a new pastor. I decided to take the time and go too to the room and pray.
I sat down on the comfy chair there, leaned back and after a moment simply said " Lord, what do you want us to do?". Then I just sat there and waited. I really didn't have anything else to say, we had had countless prayer meetings asking for God's guidance and leading. As clearly as could be, a "voice" came to me and said "I want my people to love me". Very simple want my people to love me. Matt 22:37-39. Jesus actually told his followers and all seekers who would ever come after, almost 2000 years ago, that this was what He wanted, what we needed to know and do. Why did I hear that voice that day? I think it was because I simply asked, and then just waited to hear the answer. I didn't have any idea what to do, or what God wanted for our church. So I just asked. That experience showed me again that following God is actually pretty simple. Like a sheep, we just need to pay attention and do what the shepherd says. Which is love Him with all our heart, soul and mind, and our neighbour as ourselves. He's actually told us many times what He wants.
So how do we hear God's voice today?
When we pray about something, the answer can come in various ways. Perhaps a sense of peace about a decision (George and I re the cheese plant), a friend who confirms something you had been thinking, or an inner impulse that leads you to the solution you had been praying for.
According to these few examples of Biblical events we have looked at today,
He has given us simple instructions: Mary and Joseph lived lives completely surrendered to God. They trusted Him completely, even so far as to going along with a preposterous plan. They knew His voice, because they were His sheep.
And Jesus Himself said simply: This is it: Love Me, Love your neighbour. With everything you have, everything you are. And what follows? He will be our Shepherd, and we will hear His voice. His voice of leadership, His voice of comfort, His voice of love. Amen
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
And may the JOY of the Lord, that we celebrate this Advent Sunday, be your strength as we go from this place. Amen
Today we are going to take a look at the life of John the Baptist. His parents, his ministry. And a bit of his eccentricities And we're going to do it a little differently, we're going to read through the passage of Luke.
And let it unfold as a "seven act play"
Before the opening scene, I want us to use our imagination. So I'd like to paint if you will the background of the set.. We start with John's parents. His father Zachariah, and his mother Elizabeth. it's in the hill country of Judah. The people of Israel are waiting, and expecting their messiah anytime.
Luke is the one who has undertaken to compile or take in account all that is going on. He is a doctor and he is investigating all these claims.
Vs 5 of Ch 1
In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest name Zachariah, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.
Now let's stop there, ... We can quickly read over that one little line. Of the daughters of Aaron. What we have here is the priestly line, they were direct descendants of the priestly line since the time of Moses.
They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. 7 but they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced years.
Now let's stop here,.... As we read on, I want us all to look for the miracles that are happening as the rest of scripture unfolds. And it's very much like Abraham and Sarah. God is about to do something special, He is implicating Himself in the affairs of mankind.
Act one scene one
Vs 8 , Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, 8 . according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.. 10, and the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering. 11 , And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the alter of incense. l 2 , Zachariah was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him.
Zachariah is at the temple doing his duties. He is a righteous man, but we have to realize, we look at the Bible now we see all the stories of angels, we tell each other these stories of Christmas what not, and we have a nostalgic, yet somewhat separated romantic , beautiful view of it. Our angels are usually kids with towels on their heads acting in plays and being cute and cuddly and harmless.
But for Zachariah, this was real, and it was terrifying. It's not every day that an angel appears to people! And I can pretty much guarantee, we would all have the same reaction if we had that encounter.
Let's continue on.
Vs 13 But The angel said to him, do not be afraid, Zachariah for your petition has been hurt, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. 14 You Will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet and his mothers womb..
Stop! Mark that in your memory.
Filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mothers womb...
16. And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. 17. It is he who will go as a forerunner before him in the spirit and the power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and disobedient to the attitudes of the righteous so as to make ready to people prepared for the Lord.
Vs 18. Zachariah said to the angel, how will I know this for certain? For I am an Old man and my wife is advanced in years.
Stop! Can't you feel for Zacharias? I sure can... Here's where he stumbled, he's afraid and he began to doubt and question the messenger, question the possibility. Not trust.
Lessons to be learned?
Fear and doubt and and and trusting heart can plague us. And they can hold back the blessings that God has for us.
19 . And the angel answered and said to him, I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20. And behold, you shall be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in there proper time. 21. The people were waiting for Zachariah's, and were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22. When he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple, and he kept making signs to them and remained mute.
Fast forward, verse 36. We are purposely gloss over there foretelling of the birth of Jesus to Mary. Because this is about John, it's about the one that will point the way to Jesus. And tell the people. People get ready.
So basically it's The angel Gabriel again. Appeared to Mary and telling her about her Son. And the virgin birth, yet Another miracle. God is doing something, He is implicating himself in the affairs of men, implicating himself in the person of Jesus in a real historical context.
Then we have the Angel appearing to Mary
And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also can see the sun in our old age and she who is called Baron is now in our six month 37 for nothing will be impossible with God. 38.And Mary said, behold the bond slave of the Lord, may it be done to me according to your word and to the Angel departed from her.
In contrast, rather than Mary being full of fear doubt and disbelief She is excepting, and trusting. She still had questions , How can that be when I know you're man'?
Mary visits Elizabeth, pay attention to the subtle miracles.
39. Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to the city of Judah, 40 and entered the house and Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth.
41 When Elizabeth heard Mary is greeting, the baby leaped in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Stop, notice how Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit
Let's continue on and again Pay attention to the subtleties.
42 and she cried out with a loud voice and said, "blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 and how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me
Stop and think mother of my Lord?
57 . Now the time is come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she gave birth to her son. 58 her neighbours and her relatives heard that the Lord had displayed his great mercy toward her, and they were rejoicing with her. 59 and it happened on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to call him Zacharias, after his father. 60 but his mother answered and said, no indeed but he shall be called John. 61 and they said to her, there is no one among your relatives who is called by that name.. 62. And they made signs to his father, as to why he wanted him called. 63 and asked for a tablet and wrote as follows, "his name is John." And they were all astonished. 64 And at once his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he began to speak in praise of God. 65
Notice their reaction
Fear came on all those living around them, and all these matters were being talked about and all the hill country of Judea. 66 all who heard them kept them in mind, saying, what then will this child turn out to be? For the hand of the Lord was certainly with him.
67 and his father Zachariah was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied saying. 68 Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited us and accomplished redemption for his people. 69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David His servant. 70 As He spoke by the mouth of His Holy prophets from of old. 71 . Salvation from our enemies, and from the hands of all who hate us. 72 to show mercy towards our fathers, and to remember His holy covenant. 73 . The oath which he swore to Abraham our father, 74 To grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear. 75. In holiness and righteousness before Him all our days. 76 . And you, child, will be called the prophet of the most high. Or you will go on before the Lord prepare his ways. 77 . To give his people the knowledge of salvation buy the forgiveness of their sins. 78 because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the sunrise from on high will visit us, 79 to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
John grew up???, became strong and,??? Huh,???
80 . And the child continue to grow and become strong in spirit, and he lived in the desert until the day of is public appearance to Israel...
Scene 6 .. Fast forward 30 years
Chapter 3 , Vs 7-9 . So we began saying to the crowd who were going out to be baptized by him, " you brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?"
Stop! Why is John talking like that? You're not gonna win many converts speaking like that!
Matthew chapter 3 vs 7 clarifies who we was speaking to. That is the Pharisees, the religious leaders that were looking to stifle, and stop any opposition.
So just to clarify, John grows up become strong and full of the Holy Spirit. And then he moves out to the desert, dresses and camels here tunic and eats grasshoppers.... huh?
That was me I'd be saying, not exactly what I signed up for
Vs 8 . Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourself, "we have Abraham for our father,' . For I say to you that from the stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. 9 .indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."
Then in verse 10 to 14 John gives them the To do and the Not a lot to do list...
Into crowds were questioning him, saying, and what shall we do?. 11 and he answered and said to Them, the man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and he has food is to do likewise. 12 and some tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, teacher what shall we do? 13 and he said to them, collect no more than what you have been ordered to. 14 some soldiers were questioning him, saying, and what about us? What shall we do? And he answered them, do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages..
Then people begin to question him if he was the Messiah.
15 now while the people were in a state of expectation and all were wondering in their hearts about John, as to whether he was the Christ. 16 . John answered and said to them all, as for me, I baptize you with water, but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the throng of his sandals, He Will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
Then we see the Christ coming to John the Baptist to be baptized. Verse 21 and 22
Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized and while He was praying Heaven was opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in. bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, You are My beloved Son, in You 1 am well-pleased..
John points to Jesus messiah king of kings lord of lords
Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
Friends, technology is a wonderful thing. And in this technological age, we have developed many new and wonderful forms of communications. The Internet, the facebook and the twitter, iPhones and smartwatches, smarthouses, smart everythings.... But none, friends, nary a one can hold a candle to that greatest "old school" communication device
The bumper sticker.
It's subversive: You hardly see them. They worm their way into your subconscious and, before you know it.... Boom! You're aware that the kid in the car in front of you is an honor student at the local high school.....
And the bumper sticker is a great theological tool: You're minding your own business, driving down the road, when all of a sudden your under-brain fixes on the bumper sticker on the car in front of you spouting some profound theological message.
And all of a sudden the message hits you:
Hey.... That guy brakes for Jesus!
Well look at that.... That car is powered by Jesus!
A personal favorite: Honk if you love Jesus, text if you want to meet him.
And here, friends, is my gentle segue into Advent, because some of the best of those bumper stickers have a very Advent-y message:
"In case of rapture, this car will be unmanned."
Or the slightly wittier: "Come the rapture, can I have your car?"
The return of Christ. The second coming. Apocalypticism. The End Times. Merry Christmas!
These are just the words that come to mind during this time of the Christmas season, aren't they? No?
A brood of vipers.
Chaff thrown into a raging fire.
These are the images that come to mind just before Christmas, right? No? Well, welcome to Advent.
You might think that the images of Christ's return and the images of the Christmas story have nothing in common and are even out of place during this time of the year. But think about it for a second. The two ideas share a very common theme...the advent of Christ into our world.
The first advent, or "coming" as the word means, was about Christ's birth and his coming to the earth. The second advent, is about Christ coming to the earth also to give his people and kingdom a new birth.
It makes all kinds of sense that we prepare our hearts and minds for this coming, this advent. Life's not all about trees and parcels and frankincense! This time of year is not just about getting all the gifts bought for our friends and family. It's about getting ready for this coming of Christ.
There's a comedy movie that came out a few years ago called Talladega Nights, in which Will Ferrell plays a racecar driver named Ricky Bobby.
The film is a spoof of NASCAR racing culture, and in one memorable scene, Ricky and his family are at the table getting ready to eat. And when he asks the blessing, he prays to "the little baby Jesus." But in the middle of his prayer in which he returns thanks for the bountiful harvest from dominoes pizza and taco bell, his wife interrupts him and tells him how she doesn't like the fact that he always prays to the baby Jesus. She says, "Jesus did grow up, you know? You don't always have to call him baby!" To which Ricky Bobby responds, "I like the Christmas Jesus best and I'm the one saying grace. When you say grace you can pray to grownup Jesus or teenage Jesus or bearded Jesus or whichever Jesus you like."
Now, while no one is ever going to call Talladega Nights a cinematic classic, there is an important message here: I think we all like the Christmas Jesus best. I mean, who among us doesn't prefer the tiny infant Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes lying away in some manger to the Jesus that comes near us riding on the clouds ushering in his kingdom, coming upon the world like a trap?
The story from Luke's gospel this morning is not a story of Christmas Jesus. It is a story of Advent Jesus. It is a story full of troubling and even confusing imagery. It's the Lucan parallel of the message from Mark we read last I was here. Not a stone left standing in the temple, "Keep calm and carry on...." remember?
There are certainly no cute little fuzzy sheep or shepherds watching their flocks by night in this lesson from Luke. Christmas trees are replaced by fig trees getting ready for the upcoming harvest.
The forecast for a white Christmas is replaced by roaring waves and ominous signs in the sky. The eager anticipation that comes on Christmas morning before we open our presents is replaced by fear and foreboding and fainting.
The first coming of Christ is much easier for us to imagine—a perfect child being born into an imperfect situation. We can wrap our minds around that kind of story. But the second coming, that's a much more difficult thing for us to embrace.
Our text from Luke this morning can be a little confusing and hard to understand. And there is a billion dollar industry behind writing fiction around these words of Jesus and theorizing about the specifics of his return. It is easy to get caught up into this craze of knowing when this time will be and plotting out a timeline for the return of grown-up Jesus.
But there's no real need to worry about these things. If you remember, Jesus tells us that even the angels in heaven don't know when the second coming will be. Jesus says that he doesn't even know, but that only the Father knows.
And as we discussed in my last message, we don't really need to concern ourselves too much with the confusing part(s) of this lesson. Jesus left us explicitly clear instructions about the things we need to worry about (you remember: kindness, love, generosity) and also explicitly told us that we weren't meant to know or to worry about the end times. And so his words about the subject of those end times are more poetic; more obtuse. And friends, if you don't understand every sentence in the Bible, good...that means you are human.
I think the main thing we should try to remember about this story this morning comes in verse 34. "Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap."
Mark Twain once said that it wasn't the parts of the Bible that he didn't understand that bothered him, but the parts that he understood all too clearly.
It isn't those places in the Bible that confuse me that I worry about. It's the places in the Bible that I understand all too well that I hold with me: love your neighbor, turn the other cheek, come... follow me. Those are the sections I worry about.
And still, Jesus is coming. So we watch, and wait. And the waiting is hard, sometimes, isn't it?
Advent isn't about Christmas, Advent isn't about judgment. Advent is about being prepared and then waiting...And perhaps waiting for a long, long time. Can you think of anything less like the world we live in?
Our modern world would have us rush right out to deck our halls and jingle our bells. And here's the hardest things we are asked to do: During this time of wrapping paper and shopping lists, Santa Claus and black Fridays and Cyber Mondays, we're told that we need to stop.
We're told we need to stop and be still and quiet and to seek the Lord who once came to us as a baby. Christmas has exploded all around us, but in the midst of that, we wait. In our church, and out in the world we're are singing the carols and planning our big plans for Christmas.
And there's nothing wrong with that. As long as we remember that we are waiting. We wait because there is something far more important than wrapping, and tinsel and colored lights.
God came to Abraham and told him that he would be the father of a great nation and he waited.
God promised his children that they would have a land of their own and they waited.
The prophets told the Jews that the Messiah would come and
The archangel told Mary she would bear the Son of God and she waited.
Christ told us that he would come again and we wait.
That is what this season is all about. It reminds us that we are waiting. It reminds us what we are waiting on. It reminds us why we are waiting.
Advent hymns and readings and lessons are about this waiting and this preparation. They tell us that this is the time for us to wake up from our sleep. They tell us that, though the night is deep and dark, the day is drawing nearer.
And if we are to live in the light — and Advent is all about the coming of the light — then we are need to put aside all the potential for darkness that our modern world tries to force upon us.
It is time for us to wake up, and stay awake, as we wait for our coming Christ! It's time to be ready!
And all of this reminds me of another bumper sticker I saw this week (and the impetus behind this message).
I was stuck in Montreal traffic on my way to a gig. I was sitting, grumbling on Autoroute 40, when a small car merged directly in front of mine on the highway. On its bumper was a sticker I had to read twice. Fortunately... I had the time.
Despite the fact that it was hard to understand at first, it became remarkably clear and simple to me once I just looked at what it said.
It read: "Jesus is coming soon!" And underneath were the letters R U and an E? Rue, I thought? This fellow rues the fact that Jesus is coming?
Then of course, I noticed that the E was red. Which, in typical bumper-sticker vernacular, means R, U, red-E.
Are you ready?
Jesus is coming. Are you ready?
Gotta love those bumper stickers.
So, are we? Are we ready for the return of Jesus? I'm not just talking here about the time we celebrate baby Jesus, Christmas Jesus.
I am talking about grown-up Jesus, Advent Jesus? Are you ready for his return? We don't know when, but we know how to wait: By helping make the world the Kingdom he wants it to be.
Come, thou Long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us, (Slow) let us find our rest in thee.
Amen and Amen.
Today, we are very pleased to have Rev. Randy Barrington lead us in worship and serve us The Lord’s Supper. Thank You Randy!
CALL TO WORSHIP
(congregation reads words printed in bold)
God calls us to a feast!
The table is set, and we will come to sit at Christ’s table.
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.
The table is set, so come let us worship God together!
WE PREPARE FOR HOLY COMMUNION
COMMUNION HYMN: # 543 “Here O My Lord” vs 1-3
Here, O my Lord, I see Thee face to face;
Here would we touch and handle things unseen;
Here grasp with firmer hand eternal grace
And all my weariness upon Thee lean.
2 Here would I feed upon the bread of God,
Here drink with Thee the royal wine of heaven;
Here would I lay aside each earthly load,
Here taste afresh the calm of sin forgiven.
3 This is the hour of banquet and of song;
This is the heavenly table spread for me;
Here let me feast, and feasting, still prolong
The brief, bright hour of fellowship with Thee.
THE GREAT PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING
THE GREAT PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING
One: The Lord is with you.
All: And also with you.
One: Lift up your hearts.
All: We lift them up to the Lord.
One: Let us given thanks to the Lord, our God.
All: It is right to give our thanks and praise.
One: Eternal God, you loved us long before we knew or loved you; and in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ you show us that nothing can destroy your love or separate us from it. You have empowered the Church at Pentecost with the unsettling gift of Holy Spirit, both comforting and convicting.
All: So, with all our hearts, we thank you, and we renew our covenant and our commitment to recognize your presence at every turn, and to grow in your love.
One: Now into our communion, and into your eternal loving kindness we offer the prayers we have named:
for each other,
for our families,
for your Church where we serve and love others,
for every person with whom we will have contact this week,
for our beautiful and broken world of nations and peoples,
All: Thank you for hearing us. Thank you for speaking to us. Thank you for your abiding presence in every breath of all creation and beyond. Amen.
BLESSING OF THE BREAD AND CUP
On the night before he died, Jesus had a meal with his friends. While they were eating, he took bread, gave thanks to you, broke it and said, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in memory of me.”
After supper he took the cup and said, “This cup is God’s new covenant, sealed with my blood. Whenever you drink it, do it in memory of me.
When Jesus took bread and wine, he gave new meaning to commonplace things. So come now, Holy Spirit, pour your goodness into these gifts of bread and cup, and into us your people, that these common elements, and we ordinary persons might become Christ’s body, your gift for the healing of the world. Amen.
These are the gifts of God for the people of God. Come, for all is ready.
CELEBRATION OF THE LORD’S SUPPER
PRAYER AFTER COMMUNION
COMMUNION HYMN: # 543 “Here O My Lord” vs 4,5
Today, we so very pleased to have Rev. Randy Barrington lead us in worship and serve us The Lord’s Supper. Thank You Randy!
We also welcome special guest Anna Kiraly today…as part of her, Religion 409 Class – “Methodology and the Study of Religion” at Concordia University, Anna has chosen Rockburn Church for her mini Thesis. We are very pleased to support you Anna!
Rockburn Canadian Food Grains Bank Fundraiser is under way…let’s see Gus move up the chart.
Thanks to everyone who prepared and sent Samaritan’s Purse Shoeboxes.
The Military Whist we hosted last Monday evening was a great success…
Today, we so very pleased to have Rev. Randy Barrington lead us in worship and serve us The Lord’s Supper. Thank You Randy!
We also welcome special guest Anna Kiraly today…as part of her, Religion 409 Class – “Methodology and the Study of Religion” at Concordia University, Anna has chosen Rockburn Church for her mini Thesis. We are very pleased to support you Anna!
Rockburn Canadian Food Grains Bank Fundraiser is under way…let’s see Gus move up the chart.
Thanks to everyone who prepared and sent Samaritan’s Purse Shoeboxes.
The Military Whist we hosted last Monday evening was a great success…
Today, 0 Lord, we offer you our sacrifice of time, energy, and love, knowing full well they are mere tokens of the awesome faith you inspire within us. Accept these gifts, that they may continue the good work in Christ — in our church, in our community, and in the world. Blessed be the name of the Lord!
There is fear 0 God, and there is uncertainty in many human hearts—even in our hearts today—and for some—every day. There is aimlessness in the hearts of others— senseless excitements about the details of the end of time, bout the signs that are around us, for us to read and to understand—and yet they have no peace in this knowing and often argue about the meaning of things with others instead of breathing in the strength of earth and sky and breathing out love and compassion upon their own selves and the self of the world around them—the world you have made.
0 Great God, you know about Fear, Aimlessness, Senseless excitements, and deep depressions of the soul. You understand the afflictions of the lonely— of those who have no one to draw were abundantly clear. When disasters hit, Jesus' followers should get to work and leave the end time prognostication to God alone.
Message : “Keep calm and carry on.”
A priest and a pastor are standing by the side of a road holding up a sign that reads "The end is near! Turn around now before it's too late!"
A passing driver yells, "You guys are nuts!" and speeds past them. From around the curve, they hear screeching tires—then a big splash.
The priest turns to the pastor and says, "Do you think we should just put up a sign that says 'Bridge Out' instead?"
We've all seen the cartoons of the bearded, crazed man atop his soap box, wearing a sandwich board that informs us that `The End is near!!!'
People have been prophesying the end of the world for thousands of years.
And there are still many examples today....
Remember the Year 2000 crisis? For months leading up to the calendar flipping from 1999 to 2000, we were told that all the computers on the planet would fail, planes would fall from the sky, power grids would fail and the world would be hurled into eternal darkness.
A host of 'New Age' scientists' (and please note that ! have both those terms inside quote marks) spent the better part of the new millennium telling us that the end of the Mayan Long Count calendar in December 2012 signaled with absolute certainty that the Earth was to perish in a massive black hole in the center of the galaxy.
Good old David Meade, the pseudonym (which means, aside from a few other definitions, someone too embarrassed by their own blather and nonsense to give their real name) of an American doomsday-crier, made all kinds of headlines last year when he informed us that, following a lifetime of study and research he had determined that the here-to-for hidden planet Nibiru would suddenly appear in the heavens and crash into the earth, putting an end to all life.
That was to happen on September 23rd, 2017. And then it was to happen in December of 2017. And then March of 2018.
Currently, Mr. Meade's apocalypse is due on an unspecified date between May and December of this year. Brothers and Sisters, keep awake!
Today's Gospel reading from Mark is a bit of a tough one, if we choose to interpret it literally. Following a day of teaching in Herod's Temple in Jerusalem, he and his disciples leave the city to rest. As they do, the disciples comment on the beauty of the temple. Jesus wastes no time in informing them that it would soon come crashing to the ground. And, once clear of the city, proceeds to talk about the coming end of days.
Mark 13 is commonly referred to as the 'Little Apocalypse'. Today's reading focuses on the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, and further along in the chapter Jesus speaks specifically about how it will be in the end times, when God's judgement is brought down upon the world.
And it seems like no matter what the tragedy these days, someone is always more than willing to get out into the media and attempt to connect it to God's judgment. The California wildfires are God's wrath against the liberal Californian culture.
The spate of mass shootings across the United States are not the result of ridiculously lax gun controls and very human prejudice, but rather God's judgement of a faithless Country.
This instinct to interpret current times through the broader lens of God's judgment is not new. Examples appear throughout the Bible. For those who believe God's Spirit does work in the world through signs and miracles, such tragedies can function as intellectual puzzles, but they should never stop us from responding with heart, head and hands.
Jesus spoke often about the end times and certainly not in ways supported by a modern scientific worldview. For Jesus, the belief that God controls history was fundamental to his perspective.
Not long before his arrest, Jesus was with the disciples in the temple. As they came out, one of the disciples exclaimed his awe of the structure. "Look, Teacher, what large stones and large buildings!" he said. Indeed, ancient historians wrote that the temple in Jerusalem was magnificent. If its massive size was not impressive enough, much of it was covered in gold.
Jesus' response must have caught the disciples off guard: "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down".
The disciples too must have been in a mood to discuss the end times because next, when Jesus was sitting opposite the temple on the Mount of Olives, some of them asked for further explanation. "When?" they wondered aloud, "What will be the sign?" Jesus responds in his trademark roundabout way.
Jesus warns of those that would lead them astray. He tells them not to be alarmed by "wars and rumors of wars" which, if you ask me, are some of the most alarming prospects imaginable.
A more troubling time would be coming, Jesus explains. it will include war, earthquakes and famines. But they are not to be afraid since, "This is but the beginning of the birth pangs" (Mark 13:8).
Jesus' response is the first century equivalent of the famous propaganda poster produced by the British government during World War II that boldly proclaimed, "Keep Calm and Carry On."
Now, if any of you have spent any time at all on the Facebook or the Twitter these days, you've seen the many, many, many revisionist versions of this iconic poster from WW2 Blitz-era England. "Keep Calm and Grow a Beard"................................................. "Keep Calm and Use the Force".... Or even "Keep Calm and Avoid Zombies".
But the original message behind this poster was to persevere. Perseverance through adversity, through calamity and through terror.
Like the disciples, something makes us want to know every detail about when and how our future — and God's ultimate justice — will take place. Certainly, knowing the severity and destination of future superstorms will help save lives, but the disciples were longing for more. They wanted a blueprint. Perhaps they hoped for a way to save themselves as they interpreted the signs of the time.
In this passage from Mark, Jesus uses language and terms common in other biblical books to help reveal what is currently hidden to the disciples. It was common, around Jesus' time, to mix visions, symbols and dreams to disclose a future more important than the present reality.
Mark 13:1-8, and similar passages in Daniel and Revelation, long for a future in which oppression is a thing of the past, but they should not be read as an end time recipe book with detailed step-by-step instructions. The coming times are sometimes described in vague, rough, violent terms, but the ultimate end is full of God's justice and peace.
Trust in God means living a life expectant and hopeful for Christ's return; it need not be consumed by explaining every world affair in terms of God's super-plan.
Discipleship calls for a faith in which ultimately, despite our present struggle, God's love is sovereign. We need not micromanage the signs of God's judgment. Instead, we are called to manage our lives and conform them to God's vision of justice, love and peace.
Believers today take many different approaches to waiting (and interpreting) the end times. Some read into the Bible explanations that simply are not there, mislabeling natural catastrophes and man-made calamities, and causing more hurt and confusion in the process.
Note that in this passage, Jesus does not suggest interpretation of the troubles ahead will be easy. In fact, he warns of exactly this danger of overly-clear explanation. Many will come in his name, Jesus cautions, but they are not he. Since we are so prone to confusion, Jesus explicitly advises against alarm and overreaction.
The faithful response to disaster is not pointing a finger, or making shocking headline-grabbing accusations, but service to God and neighbor. Sadly, we know too that one day there will be another storm, another shooting, another earthquake.
We must break the cycle of interpreting these events in ways Jesus specifically warned against, and instead, follow the one who healed at every opportunity, who urged care for those without food and shelter, who loved beyond all love even in the most desperate of times.
Keep awake! Trust in God. Keep calm, and carry on.
For the Faithful Who Have Answered
For the faithful who have answered when they heard your call to serve,
For the many ways you led them testing will and stretching nerve, For their work and for their witness as they strove against the odds, For their courage and obedience we give thanks and praise, 0 Go.
Many eyes have glimpsed the promise, many hearts have yearned to see.
Many ears have heard you calling us to greater liberty.
Some have fallen in the struggle, others still are fighting on.
You are not ashamed to own us. We give thanks and praise, 0 God.
For this cloud of faithful witness, for the common life we share, For the work of peace and justice, for the gospel that we bear, For the vision that our homeland is your love- deep, high, and broad
For the different roads we travel we give thanks and praise, 0 God.
Words written by Sylvia Dunstan
Let There be Peace on Earth
Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me;
Let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be. With God our creator, children all are we;
Let us walk with each other in perfect harmony,
Let peace begin with me, let this be the moment now, With ev'ry step I take let this be my solemn vow:
To take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally. Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.
(repeat whole song)
Words by By Miller and Jill Jackson
0 God our Help in Ages Past
0 God our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, Our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home.
Under the shadow of thy throne thy saints have dwelt secure; Sufficient is thine arm alone, and our defense is sure.
Before the hills in order stood, or earth received its frame, From everlasting thou art God, to endless years the same.
A thousand ages in thy sight are like an evening gone,
Short as the watch that ends the night before the rising sun.
Time like an ever-rolling stream soon bears us all away; We fly forgotten, as a dream dies at the opening day.
0 God our help in ages past, our hope for years to come,
Be thou our guard while troubles last, and our eternal home.
Words by Isaac Watts
Let There Be Light
Let there be light, let there be understanding,
Let all the nations gather, let them be face to face;
Open our lips, open our minds to ponder, open the door od concord opening into grace;
Perish the sword, perish the angry judgement,
Perish the bombs and hunger, perish the fight for gain;
Hallow our love, hallow the deaths of martyrs, Hallow their holy freedom, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come, your spirit turn to language, Your people speak together, your spirit never fade;
Let there be light, open our hearts to wonder,
Perish the way of terror, hallow the world God made.
Words by Frances Wheeler Davi!
Go now In love and show you believe, Reach out to others so all the world can see. God will be there, watching from above.
Go now in peace, in faith, and In love.
Welcome to our service today. We are delighted to welcome members of other community churches, of the Legion, and other community members who have gathered to commemorate the loot" anniversary of the armistice that ended the First World War.
The commemorations will continue this afternoon in Ormstown on Church Street with the Cenotaph service, beginning about 1:30pm.
Also, at the end of the day, many churches in the region and around the country will be ringing their bells at sunset, 4:15-5pm. They will ring 100 times to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the armistice tha..:: ended the First World War.
St Paul's UCW will be meeting Wednesday, November 14th at 1pm in the hall. All are welcome.
Please don't forget the great need of food in impoverished nations by supporting the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, please put envelopes in
the collection plate.
Barbara will be preparing a newsletter for next Sunday. If you wish to have an event included, for the church or the community, please let her know by Thursday at noon. You can call 450-829-3855 or send a message to email@example.com.
Franklin UCW will be holding its Christmas Dinner Wednesday, December 5th at noon. Please contact Joyce Patenaude at 450-2643579 by November 26th if you wish to attend.
ARMISTICE: 100 YEARS
Remembrance Day is a day for all Canadians to remember the men and women who served and sacrificed for our country. It is a day we encourage every individual, young and old, to pause, to give thanks, and to remember.
La ceremonie du souvenir a joue un rOle majeur depuis 1931, lorsque chaque armee, a la onzieme heure du onzieme jour du onzieme mois, nous nous rassemblons dans les pares commemoratifs, les salles communautaires, les lieux de travail, les ecoles, les maisons et les eglises pour etre en P honneur de tous ceux qui sont tombees. Together, we observe a moment of silence to mark the sacrifice of the many who have fallen in the service of their country, and to acknowledge the courage of those who still serve.
The Royal Canadian Legion was born from the ashes of World War 1. This day, November 11, 2018, marks 100 years since the signing of the armistice that officially ended. WWI. En hommage a tous les Canadiens qui ont servi dans cette terrible guerre, la filial 196 est fiere de faire partie de ce service ecumenique special. Nous remercions le reverend Barbara Bryce de nous avoir inclus dans ce service.
Today, we take a moment to stop, to remember and to feel the joy that peace brought after so much death and destruction. Close to 61,000 Canadians were killed during the war and another 172,000 were wounded. If we are to remember those who fought, we need to drive home the message of the horror of war and its effects on the society that wages it. To this end, I would like to share a couple of stories with you this morning.
As the war wound down, the focus turned to liberating France and Belgium from the retreating Germans. The period from August 8 to November 11, 1918 was called Canada's Hundred Days. The Canadian troops spearheaded an advance from Amiens.
The final destination of Canadian troops was the city of Mons in Belgium. The troops pushed into the city and were engaged in house to house fighting when the armistice was declared.
Canadian soldier George Price holds the sad distinction of being the last Canadian and the last Commonwealth soldier to die in the war. A total of 10,000 men were killed, wounded or listed as missing from all participating armies on the last day of the war.
Private Price was a native of Port Williams, Nova Scotia. He then moved to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan and joined the army there in October 1917.
"George was facing me," fellow soldier Art Goodworthy said. "And I was saying something to him when all of a sudden BANG! He fell into my arms. I could have cried. It was not an accidental shot. It was a sniper from way up the end of the street." Goodworthy said his Captain was stunned when he got the news and kept repeating, "But the war is over. The war is over."
The mayor of Mons is said to have written the following of the Canadian entry into his city.
"At five in the morning of the 11th, I saw the shadow of a man and the gleam of a bayonet advancing stealthily along that farther wall, near the Café des Princes. Then another shadow, and another. They crept across the square, keeping very low, and dashed north toward the German lines. I knew this was liberation. Then above the roar of artillery, I heard music, beautiful music. It was a.-,though the angels of Mons were playing. And then I recognized the song. It was 0 Canada. This was the signal. The whole population rushed into the square, singing and dancing, although the battle still sounded half a mile away."
My last story is in remembrance of the last two Canadian WWI veterans. Clare Laking was 18 when he defied his father's wishes and left the family farm to enlist. He arrived in France just after Vimy Ridge, serving as a signaller who ran telephone wire along the trenches. Though he was wounded by a German shell, he believe, he was the only farm boy from his area to return home alive. Clare Laking died on November 26, 2005, at the age of 106.
John Babcock was born on an Ontario farm in 1900. He enlisted to join the war at the tender age of 16. He lied about his age but 'found out and sent to the Boys Battalion. He never saw the front lines. He died at the age of 109 in February, 2010. These two men were the last of 600,000 Canadians who fought in the Great War.
Et nous n'oublier que les femmes canadiennes ont joue un role important dans la premiere guerre mondiale. Quelque deux milles infirmieres se sant enrolees dans le corps expeditionnaire canadien, et un autre mine a travaille pour le RAF. Plus de trente milles femmes travaillaient dans des usines de munitions, et des milliers d'autres ont pris du travail dans les bureaux du gouvernement, les banques, les fermes et les usines.
We, the members of the Royal Canadian Legion, and all Canadians, have been handed the torch of remembrance by our fallen comrades to hold it high and to never forget the sacrifices made in the name of Canada and for Canadians.
Nous nous souviendrons d'eux.
Lord God of hosts, be with us yet, Lest We forget. Lest We forget.
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Do not copy without their authorization.