PROCESSIONAL: Thy Word
CALL TO WORSHIP:
ONE: We've come to worship God who makes streams flow from rock.
ALL: Who turns the parched earth into springs of water.
ONE: Who sends the rain from heaven
ALL: and makes the wilderness blossom and flourish.
ONE: As the deer thirsts for flowing streams, so we thirst for You, 0 God.
ALL: Come, let's worship our life-giving God, who pours our living water on all who thirst.
OPENING PRAYER & THE LORD'S PRAYER: In the dry wilderness of our lives, in the days of heat and thirst, You offer us living water. When we begin to doubt Your presence, and grumble that Your love is unreliable, You offer us living water. When life's regrets and the bad choices we have made leave us feeling excluded and unworthy, you offer us living water. When circumstances, or the inhumanity of others have left us alone and wounded, you offer us living water.
We thank You and praise You, 0 God, that however we may thirst,
whatever we may need to satisfy our souls, you offer it freely and abundantly in Christ. So we drink deep of the living water and, as we draw from Your wells, we seek to pass the cup to others who, like us, are thirsty for Your grace. And now, as Jesus taught us, let us pray together: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
SCRIPTURE READINGS: Isaiah 12
Offertory Prayer: God is our source, our unending supply. With these gifts we carry our gratitude into action. God's blessings flow through us
and fill our world. We give and we live with absolute joy. Amen.
SPECIAL MUSIC: Therefore With Joy Shall Ye Draw Water — Nancy & Gord
MEDITATION: Living Water
We have all heard the pearls of wisdom found in sayings, such as "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush," or "Take time to smell the roses," and "Silence is golden." There is one saying in particular that is relevant to this morning's subject: "You will never miss the water until the well runs dry."
Living in Ormstown, we know about being without water. The infrastructure is old and pipes are always breaking. The water is often brown and slimy, undrinkable and not suitable for bathing, doing laundry or washing the dishes.
When dirt gets in the water, it is no longer pure and good to drink.
When there is no water readily available, it is very upsetting. Imagine the people living in places where there are droughts with no hope of water coming any time soon. We complain if we're without for a day or two, but there are others in this world who are dying from lack of clean water.
We all know that a well is a deep hole or shaft sunk into the ground to obtain water. A cistern is a reservoir, tank or container of some kind designed for storing or holding water. Water is a necessary part of life. We drink it, we use it to bathe, to clean our clothes, dishes and other items. We need water in order to make things grow. Water is very valuable to us all.
Over 2000 years ago, people were asking and wondering what God did for people. So God sent Jesus Christ to try to explain to them and answer their questions about God. One of the things Christ said was, "I am the living water."
What was Jesus telling us when He said that?
Many people believe that Jesus actually is the living water. But Jesus
Himself intended the phrase to mean the Holy Spirit who lives in believers and seals them for salvation. It's the ministry of the Spirit, flowing out of a heart redeemed by God that blesses believers and brings life and light to the world.
God wants us to have the means to refresh ourselves when we get tired
or overwhelmed. We use water to cool ourselves when we get too hot, and to warm ourselves when we get too cold. We use water to irrigate the land to help make things grow. We use water to keep our body and other things clean.
Water does all these things. God wants to help the world grow to be good, strong, wholesome people. And what helps things grow? Water.
I wonder how we would feel if all of a sudden God took all things
Christian out of this world. Things like churches, schools, hospitals, peace, love and kindness. There are so many good things in this world, but we must never substitute them for God, anymore than we would substitute anything for water.
Perfume is a good thing — it has a nice, sweet smell. But if you tried to
clean your face with it every day, it would only make your face sore. If you were to drink perfume, it would make you sick, or perhaps even kill you. If you were to spray the garden with perfume, it would kill the plants, flowers and grass — not because perfume is bad, but because perfume is not used for these things — water is.
That's much the way it is with Christ and religion. Religion is the thing with which God has provided us so we may cleanse our lives and refresh and strengthen ourselves. Let's not use substitutes and let's not let the well become filled with dirt or let it run dry.
There are six ways we can drink of the living water. These six ways are
given in the scripture we read this morning from Isaiah 12:3-6. We can drink the living water by thanking God. We can thank Him for anything and everything. Every time we utter thanks to Him, we drink the living water. It's like taking a drink from a refreshing well. We are watered and revived.
The next way to drink is to call upon the Lord's name. We can call on His name throughout the day just by saying "Oh Lord" or "Lord, I love You." Each time we call His name out loud, we drink of the living water. We can also drink by making Christ's deeds known among people.
Perhaps we feel parched because we haven't talked to anyone about Christ. But when we do, we are taking a drink and are watered and refreshed by the living water.
We can also tell people that Christ's name is exalted. Even our own
personal exalting of Jesus' name when seen or heard by others, will remind them that His is the highest name. When we tell others that Jesus is Lord, we drink living water from the well of Salvation.
Opening our mouth and singing hymns to the Lord is one of the best ways to drink from the Fountain of Living Water. As we sing, the fountain begins to well up in us, even to the point of overflowing. The more we sing with our hearts to the Lord, the more watered and refreshed we'll be.
We can drink the water of life by crying out and giving a ringing shout. We can cry out to praise and thank the Lord. "Praise the Lord. You are so good.
I love You, Lord Jesus!" When we cry out like this to the Lord, we get saved from all the thoughts in our mind and take a deep drink of the life-giving Spirit as the water of life.
You can practice these six ways to drink every day. Whenever you feel
spiritually parched, you can try thanking God, calling on His name, speaking about Christ to someone, telling another that Jesus is Lord and that His name is the highest, and singing with your heart to the Lord, or crying out and giving a ringing shout.
Let us pray: The well is so deep and the water is so far away from our
parched hands, our parched throats and our parched souls. Drawing,
consuming, repeated drawing, repeated thirsting, drawing again! God, only You can break this cycle of filling our souls with things that can never fully satisfy. Lead us to the living water of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, and quench the thirsting of our souls. Amen.
If a spring has not been opened in a soul, a spring of living water from God's own Son, no waters can flow and there is no life in you.
BENEDICTION & CHORAL AMEN: Drink deeply of the waters of Salvation and quench your thirst for truth, for the Lord is with you. Go in God's peace and bring good news to all you meet.
" If a spring has not been opened in a soul, a spring of living water from God's own Son, no waters can flow and there is no life in you." G.V. Wigram
As there has been cancellation due to weather, here is the whole series so you can follow:
Lenten Candle Lighting Liturgy
First Sunday: Seeds In this season of Lent we reflect on our journey of faith with Christ, remembering our Jesus’ sacrifice, that he is the Bread of the World. We remember how Jesus faced temptation in the wilderness, and the temptations we face to look for sustenance elsewhere. We are reminded that through Christ our needs are fulfilled.
We light this candle on this first Sunday of Lent, remembering Christ’s perseverance and praying for Christ’s strength in our lives.
(light the first candle)
Prayer: As the days lengthen and we begin to plant seeds for the future harvest, may we remember how Christ became broken for us, and that through Christ we will hunger no more. In the name of Christ, with whom we journey towards the cross, we pray. Amen
Second Sunday: Earth In this season of Lent we reflect on our journey of faith with Christ, remembering that Christ has offered us new life here on earth, that God so loved the world that he sent his Son, so that the world might be saved through him. While we await the heavenly kingdom, we prepare for God’s reign on earth.
We light this candle on this second Sunday of Lent, remembering God’s assurance of new life through the signs of spring in the earth.
(light the second candle)
Prayer: As the days lengthen and bulbs are preparing deep in the earth, dear God, may we be ready for what you are preparing to grow in us. Nourish us so that we might bear spiritual fruit. In the name of Christ, with whom we journey towards the cross, we pray. Amen.
Third Sunday: Water In this season of Lent we reflect on our journey of faith with Christ, remembering all the ways God throughout history has delivered the people, through the Red Sea, crossing the river Jordan, and through the waters of our rebirth at our baptism. We know Christ is the spring of living water, and through Christ we will never thirst again for eternal life.
We light this candle on this third Sunday of Lent, remembering God’s love for us through his son Jesus the Christ, that we might have new life in him.
(light the third candle)
Prayer: As the days lengthen and the rivers fill with spring waters, dear God, may we be filled with your love. Let wellsprings of living water spring up in us. In the name of Christ, with whom we journey towards the cross, we pray. Amen.
Fourth Sunday: Sand (or Mud) In this season of Lent we reflect on our journey of faith with Christ, remembering that life was brought forth from the ground in our creation, and that new life for one man was created when Jesus took mud from the ground and made a blind man see. As his eyes were opened for the first time, so our eyes are opened to the need for hope and healing in our world. We light this candle on this fourth Sunday of Lent, remembering God’s promise for all of us, new life here on earth, and eternal life hereafter.
(light the fourth candle)
Prayer: As the days lengthen, dear God, may we remember that it is you who gives us new life on earth, that we might know your love and peace, and share your love with the world. In the name of Christ, with whom we journey towards the cross, we pray. Amen.
Fifth Sunday: Stone In this season of Lent we reflect on our journey of faith with Christ, remembering that death no longer has a hold on us. Through Christ we are freed from the cold stone of the tomb and know the warm embrace of the light of life.
We light this candle on this fifth Sunday of Lent, remembering God’s redeeming grace, and that new life comes out of death. We remember the former covenant written on stone, and the new covenant, written on our hearts, that we are God’s children, and God’s promise is life forevermore.
(light the fifth candle)
Prayer: As the days lengthen, dear God, may we remember that spring comes only after a long winter, that new life, eternal life, comes only after passing through death. In the name of Christ, with whom we journey towards the cross, we pray. Amen.
Palm Sunday: Wood In this season of Lent we reflect on our journey of faith with Christ, remembering that long ago God planted the Tree of Life, and yet it is on a tree that Christ is crucified. We are again reminded that life comes out of death, and we are promised that death does not have the final word.
We light this candle on this Palm Sunday, the last Sunday of Lent, remembering God’s faithfulness through the cross upon which our Lord was crucified, that death will be no more, mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for Christ triumphs over death.
(light the sixth candle)
Prayer: As the days lengthen, dear God, may we remember that you are the one who calls life out of death, that you are the Lord of our lives. In the name of Christ, may we have the strength found in him to journey towards the cross. Amen
Call to Worship
S.- Lent calls us to journey, this and every day, following Jesus
wherever he leads us.
P. - Lent calls us to journey: to the place where God covenants with
us, to receive the new names we are given.
S. - Lent calls us to worship together, to tell future generations the
P. - Lent calls us to practice justice, to bring God's hope to all people.
S.- Lent calls us to faithful living, to trust the One who gives us life.
P.- Lent calls each of us to take up our cross, to trust the One who
bears it with us.
S.- Lent calls us to journey with God.
P. - Let us worship God, who walks with us, this and every day.
We've come again to the beginning of the season of Lent. It
began a few days ago with Ash Wednesday, and we'll walk this
sombre and sometimes lonely road all the way to Easter.
And, as Lent begins, we are reminded of Christ's call to deny
ourselves, to take up our own cross, and to follow in the steps
of Jesus. It's a difficult thing, this call to discipleship, and it
comes as we find Jesus and his disciples on their way to
Jerusalem and his inevitable death.
Lent is the quiet time of preparation leading up to the passion
and joy of Easter. It's a time when we followers of Christ reflect
upon our own shortcomings and find ways to grow in our
relationships with God. It's a time when we make decisions to
put life's distractions aside so that we can direct our focus to
our relationship with Christ.
So today we begin our Lenten journey, along the roads that
Christ traveled towards Jerusalem. We will pause with him as
he preaches. We'll wait with him while he teaches. We'll watch
as he heals, and as he performs miracles. We will focus our
energies on this journey that we walk with him, as we deny
ourselves and take up our own crosses, all the while
remembering that Easter is coming, and that the promise of
Easter makes this a journey of hope.
But, here we are at the beginning of the road, and our first stop
is in Judea. We stop here for a moment to watch Jesus teach,
and then lift some children into his arms.
And there, friends, is a great opportunity for a nice neat
segue.... For whenever a road trip and children are mentioned
in the same breath, the inevitable question pops into our brain:
"Are we there yet?"
As absolutely ANNOYING that question can be when you're
cooped up in a car for hours and hours and it's hot, and the kids
are fighting, and the radio's too loud, and every little thing is
driving you CRAZY and Wait What was I talking about?
Are we there yet? It's a good question to ask, in this very
specific circumstance. Unlike the disciples accompanying Jesus
on his journey, we have the benefit of perspective. We know
how the journey is going to turn out. We know that the tomb
will wind up empty. And that's wonderful. And we'll welcome
that day with Hosannas and Alleluias and rejoicing. But,
because we happen to know how the journey ends, we tend to
forget about the hard road we walked to get there. To look at it
another way: We focus on eternal life with God, and sometimes
we tend to forget how we are called to live now. It's easy to
feel like we've arrived at the destination, that we are "there". A
wise person once remarked: "You're never THERE. You're
always HERE. And HERE is at the beginning of a long road. HERE
is where we are called to deny ourselves, to pick up our own
cross, and to follow Christ.
So let's take a little time today to think about some of the
things that hinder us from doing these things, and from
developing our relationship with God. What are some of the
things that get in our way of our relationship with Christ.
When the little children in today's reading started making their
way towards Jesus, who exactly tried to keep them away? It
was his own disciples, wasn't it?
We have to keep something in mind here: Jesus was on his way
to the cross, and HE knew it. That shadow must have always
been close to his mind. But, even though he knew the hardships
he was bound to face, he still took time to teach, and to spend
a few moments with these children. He had time to take them
in his arms, and he had the heart to share a smile with them,
and perhaps play for a while.
But his disciples wanted to keep these kids away. Not because
they were mean, or anything, but they felt it was their job to
protect Jesus. Jesus had not shared the exact knowledge of
what was coming with them, but they knew quite clearly that
tragedy did lie ahead, and they knew that he carried a heavy
burden. They simply didn't want Jesus to feel bothered. They
couldn't imaging that he actually wanted all these kids around
him. But Jesus said: "Let the children come to me."
And the lesson that followed, about Children and the Kingdom
of God, is a great way to answer our Question: What are the
things that hinder us from journeying with Christ?
esus is ALWAYS ready to receive us into his presence, but
sometimes things get in the way... Sometimes our good
intentions get in the way, like the Disciples who tried to stop
Think about those children; about children in general: Children
possess many traits that make them an ideal example of people
worthy of the Kingdom.
First, think about a child's humility. With few exceptions, most
kids are embarrassed to be the centre of attention. Young
children generally don't strive for pride or prestige; they
haven't yet learned self-importance.
Children are also obedient. Ok, wait, wait I'm just now
thinking about my own kids and how that's patently not true.
Ok, kids are not always obedient, but I like to think that a kid's
NATURAL instinct is to obey their elders, at least for the first
few years. Let's put this one aside for now.
Children are trusting. This one is easier. Young kids recognize
that they need guidance and help, and they trust people who
they believe know better. A child's trust can be seen in the
child's confidence in other people. It's almost unique to young
children that they do not naturally expect any person to be bad.
I enjoy watching the TV show, "Big Bang Theory." There's one
episode where the main character, Sheldon, a brilliant
theoretical physicist with absolutely no social skills, is trying to
learn how to make friends. His efforts land him in a bookstore
where he has gone to find a book about how to make friends.
The salesperson in the bookstore directs Sheldon to the
children's section, where Sheldon picks out an appropriate
book, "Stew the Cockatoo is New at the Zoo," sits down in one
of the child-sized chairs, and proceeds to pick up a conversation
with a young girl sitting across the table. The girl talks openly
with Sheldon, clearly thinking nothing about the fact that this
adult is sitting here reading a child's book, nor about the fact
that Sheldon wants to be the girl's friend. The child has not yet
learned to suspect the world. She still believes the best about
Children also have short memories. I KNOW this one is true,
because every time I ask Quinn to do the dishes or clean his
room, it takes him exactly NO TIME AT ALL to forget
completely. But what I actually mean here is that kids haven't
yet learned to bear grudges or to nourish bitterness. Even when
they're subjected to unjust treatment, the kid can forget, and
forget so completely that forgiveness is unnecessary.
All these traits.... Humility, obedience, trust. These are the traits
of people who take the journey with Christ and grow as his
disciples. When we find our relationship with Christ strained or
distant, when we find it's hard to walk along that road, it's
usually because we have lost some of these traits. Instead of
being humble, we are egotistical. Instead of being obedient, we
are stubborn. We hold grudges. We blame. When called down a
path towards forgiveness, we hold onto hatred and we cast
Friends, we cannot know the Kingdom if we do not live by the
ideals of the Kingdom. We cannot walk with Christ if we are not
willing to follow his ways. Christ told his disciples, told all of us,
that we must deny ourselves, we must take up the cross. He
knows the way won't be easy. He knows the road is going to be
hard. He has seen what's coming. But he also knows that it's
the only way into the Kingdom.
And it's the path that we need to follow. The journey beside
Christ follows a different path, a road that requires us to
sometimes make the hard choice to put aside flaws in our
characters that keep us from Him. It's a path that sometimes
may lead us in a different direction from some of our friends,
family or others in our lives. A family member might get in the
way if they are skeptical about religion. A friend who doesn't
believe in church might encourage us towards other uses of our
time. Maybe our colleagues might think we should work all the
time, at the expense of family and worship. The list could go on
and on. We normally think of peer pressure as a problem for
teens, but let me tell you friends, it's a perpetual problem for
each and every one of us. The influences of people that we
know and see every day can very easily block our road to hope.
Now, I'm going out on the proverbial limb here, there being so
many apple experts here today, but I learned something
interesting this week about fruit trees. Sometimes, fruit trees
put so much energy into growing up that little or no energy is
invested in bearing fruit. Do you know the solution to this
problem? It's called scoring. The farmers will take a knife, and
they make a deep cut in the trunk of the tree near the ground.
While severe, this wound always produces change, and
depending on the time of year that the tree is scored, positive
change results. And to you experts out there, even if I'm
completely wrong, just go with me for now, would you?
I don't think any of us would deny the fact that when it comes
to our relationship with Christ, we could all bear more fruit.
None of us are "there" yet. There are all places where we could
make a few good cuts in our own lives so that we might grow in
our life with Christ. It can be an act of denial, it requires a
change of life, and it is sometimes even painful. But it is the call
of Christ to all people, "deny yourself, take up your cross, and
I know some of this seems sombre and sad, but what do you
want... It's Lent! But seriously, we NEED to remember that the
call to follow Christ is a call to a life of abundance. The Lenten
road we're starting this morning is ultimately a journey of
hope! Though all these trials we are to walk, through the
denials, and beneath the weight of the cross, we have before us
not only hope, but also the promise of eternal life with God.
This Lenten season we, as Christians, are tasked to examine our
lives. We need to find the roadblocks that keep us from walking
alongside Christ. We need to humbly acknowledge our
shortcomings and our weaknesses.
Like children, we need to be less egotistical, more humble. Less
stubborn, more obedient. Less doubtful, more trusting. Bit by
bit, piece by piece, step by step. And we can always trust that,
like those children, Christ is always waiting to welcome us into
The Road to Happy-ness
The preamble to the US Declaration of Independence says the following:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The pursuit of happiness sets a person on a journey, and this journey takes place on a road, the road to happiness. It is a journey that we all take part in throughout our lives, whether we consciously do so or whether our life circumstances dictate it to us. The Declaration of Independence states that the pursuit of happiness is a basic human right. A right that we all, man, woman, and child not only claim as a right, but claim as a desirable right.
As an example of this journey, a recent movie was made starring Will Smith, called The Pursuit of Happyness. It relates the real life story of a man, Chris Gardner, and his son, and how they lived homeless for a year until, through perseverance and hard work, Mr. Gardner achieved success. Note that the word Happyness in the movie is spelt with a ‘y’, not the usual ‘I’. The reason for this is that Mr. Gardner’s son goes to a kindergarten where some 5-year-old child spelt the word this way.
When I saw this, I was struck by a flash of insight which I sometimes get and which bothers me enough to think it through. I wonder why this bothers me until I realize, it’s another one of those God whispers we sometimes hear. We all get them, these whispers from God, but we don’t all pay attention to them, or we don’t always pay attention to them.
So, what did I come up with in my thoughts? Something that we instinctively realize as a part of our spiritual faith. How many times have you heard the expression, ‘Money doesn’t buy happiness?’ Not only do we hear it almost daily, we see examples of it in our own lives and in the lives of others. You see it even in the habits of our children. Christmas gift-giving has come and gone, like it does every year. Some children rip into their gifts, check them out for a few seconds, then go on to the next one. A few weeks later, they often are already tired of these colourful plastic toys and sometimes don’t play with them much longer. It isn’t that they didn’t like what they got. It’s maybe that they got too much at once.
It is the same for us. Look at some Hollywood stars or millionaire athletes and rock stars. How many of them live a life of glitz and glut? How many of them take to drugs and over-abundance of Material pleasures? How many of them turn the road to happiness into the road to suicide? And why? I think of Whitney Houston as one example. She had so much, so much fame, so much fortune, so much talent that she displayed to the world, and so much more she might have shared. Yet, she cast it all away. Why?
I think the big reason why people keep chasing happiness and not finding it is because it always seems to be beyond their reach. You know, the grass is always greener on the other side. We seem too often to be looking for happy-ness with a ‘y’, a series of happy events that are never enough in themselves. Happy-ness with a ‘y’ is a short-term thing. That new dress, that new tv, that new car…I regard these all as happy-ness with a ‘y’, an immature, incomplete, kindergarten happy-ness. These are not happiness with an ‘I’, a complete happiness that we can take with us for the rest of our lives.
These 2 levels of happiness can even extend to out personal relationships, to our friends and partners. When we are dissatisfied with one, when we turn our backs on one, they become happy-ness with a ‘y’. When we endure with the people we know, the people we love, we build long-term relationships, we build happiness with an ‘I’. How do we describe these? How do we keep our happiness long-term? I read recently that the key to enjoying our lives is to be content with what God has given us. When we think about it, He has given us so much, it should be easy to find contentment in His gifts.
I remember a friend of mine some years ago complaining to me about his partner. These are people who had been married for over ten years. They had nice kids, material goods, they had no reason that I could see for being unhappy. So, I asked him a question, “Do you think that she may also find fault with you, and does she dwell on it?” He didn’t know. He had never thought about her feelings and what she thought about their relationship. So, I asked him, “Do you think your partner is basically the same person that she was when you fell in love with her? And is there no way you can do for her what you used to do in the past? When did you last buy her flowers? When did you last say, “I love you?”
I left it as a pregnant question. Contentment is an elusive thing, but certainly not out of reach if you don’t let negative thoughts drag you down.
This Sunday is called Transfiguration Sunday, a celebration of that day when Jesus took three of his disciples up on a mountain top and revealed the power of God to them. To me, it was a clear sign that God’s message to us is that happiness when found in the Lord is a picture so beautiful, so complete, and so utterly beyond description that we can only accept it unconditionally and revel in it unquestionably. As scripture says, “He was transfigured before them.” In other words he became someone who was touched by the divine. No longer seeing Him as a mortal being, “His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.”
Do we need to be transfigured like Jesus to find happiness? Let me quote an ancient Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu – “
“He who is contented is rich.”
Finding contentment in our lives is finding the road to happiness. Here is what one writer, Leo Babauta, had to say about it:
“There has been little in my life that has made as much an impact as learning to be content — with my life, where I am, what I’m doing, what I have, who I’m with, who I am.
This little trick changes everything.
Let’s take a look at my life before contentedness:
I was addicted to junk food and fast food, and overweight and unhealthy. I bought too many things on impulse, owned too much clutter, and was deeply in debt and struggling to make it to the next payday. I was unhappy with who I was, wanted desperately to change, tried a thousand different programs and books. I was always worried I was missing out on exciting things, and wanted so much to be out doing the fun things everyone else was doing. I was always changing the way I did things, because it seemed everyone else had a better system or tools. I strove to meet goals, because they would get me to a better life.
And as I learned to be content, here was what changed:
I learned to be happy with healthier food, with less food, and my health improved and waistline shrunk. I relied on a good book, spending time with people I loved, going for a nice run … and my debt began to be reduced as I learned I didn’t need to spend money to enjoy myself. I learned to be happier with who I was, and what I was doing, and so no longer needed self-improvement books and programs, no longer needed to try all kinds of new systems and tools. I became happy with myself, with those around me, and with what I had — and so didn’t need to strive to change everything. Letting go of goals helped me to simplify things so I had less to worry about, less to do.
That’s just the start. There is no way to account for the tremendous change that happens when you learn to accept who you are, when you tell yourself you are perfect just as you are, just as God made you, when you love yourself and everything about yourself. You stop criticizing yourself, you are happier, you are a better person to be around, and you can now help others and work without the insecurities you had before.”
Another writer, Joshua Becker, says this:
1. Become grateful. It is impossible to develop contentment without gratitude – they are inseparable. And a grateful person is one who has learned to focus on the good things in their life, not the things that they lack. When you begin to question what you have to be grateful for, just start making a list – a literal list of all the good things in your life. Don’t worry about finishing, you don’t need to. The simple discipline of beginning the exercise will undoubtedly shift your focus back to the many good things you already have.
2. Take control of your attitude. A person who lacks contentment in their life will often engage in “when and then thinking” – “when i get _______, then i will be happy.” Instead take control of your own life. Remember, your happiness is not reliant on the acquisition of any possession. Your happiness is based solely on your decision to be happy – and this may be one of the most important life lessons you can ever learn.
3. Break the habit of satisfying discontentment with acquisitions. For many of us, it has been ingrained into our lives that the proper way to diffuse discontent is to purchase the outward item that is seemingly causing the discontentment. Almost no energy is spent determining the true root of the discontent. Are you dissatisfied with your wardrobe? Go buy new clothes. Not content with your vehicle? Go buy a new one. We have gotten into the habit of satisfying our discontent by simply spending more money. We must break that habit. Understand that material possessions will never fully satisfy the desires of your heart (that’s why discontent always returns). The next time you recognize discontentment surfacing in your life, refuse to give into that bad habit. Instead, commit to better understand yourself and why the lack of that item is causing discontent. Only after you intentionally break this habit will true contentment begin to surface.
4. Stop comparing yourself to others. Comparing your life with someone else’s will always lead to discontentment. There will always be people who “appear” to be better off than you and seemingly living the perfect life. But be advised, we always compare the worst of what we know about ourselves to the best assumptions that we make about others. Their life is never as perfect as your mind makes it out to be. You are unique. You are special. And it’s always better that way.
5. Help others. When you begin helping others, sharing your talents, time and money, you will find yourself learning to be content. The practice will give you a finer appreciation for what you own, who you are, and what you have to offer.
6. Be content with what you have, never with what you are. Never stop learning, growing, or discovering. Take pride in your personhood and the progress that you have made, but never become so content that you cannot find room for improvement. Contentment is not the same as complacency. As soon as you stop growing, you start dying.
To me, lasting happiness is found in these things:
The person who agreed to share her life with me.
The three sons we were gifted with by God.
The pleasure of living daily in a blessed land like the Chateauguay Valley.
The good friends we have made here and the blessings of a friendly church family.
The opportunity to give back to God by giving of ourselves some of the time and talent He has blessed us with.
Let us Pray:
Dear God, I pray for happiness.
I pray that I have a cheerful heart.
I pray that others are drawn to my happy smile, my positive attitude, and my face that shines with joy.
Dear God, I know that you have created me and everyone else to be happy, to find joy and laughter in the different stages and experiences of life.
I pray that I express You in my expression of joy.
A cheerful heart is a continual feast.
My outlook is positive, and I feel happy.
My life is a banquet of uplifting experiences.
I feel so good as I release the joy of God from within.
I express God's eternal, loving presence within me.
I pray, daily, that my cheerful heart up lifts me, and brings joy to everyone around me.
In Jesus Christ's name� Amen
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Webmaster's note: To see the second part of this message please go to April 29th!
Call to Worship
K. : The buzz of the world interrupts our lives and fills our ears
All: Call us into Your way of life, O God
K.: The complaints of others settle in our mind and cloud our vision
All: Lead us into Your vision of life, O God
K. : The cries of the poor, the oppressed and the outcast pierce our hearts.
All: Guide us in Your example of living for others, O God
K. : Fill our hearts, fill our eyes, fill our ears with Your love, O God
All: Let us be Your hands and feet in the world, O God.
All: Let us worship You together.
PROCESSIONAL: Thy Word
CALL TO WORSHIP:
ONE: Every week we re-enact the story of God's boundless love and celebrate the reality of God's presence.
ALL: Such a God! Our God is good! God is with us forever!
ONE: The light coming from our candles reminds us that God's light shines into the dark places in our lives and our world, lighting our path and illuminating our minds.
ALL: Such a God! Our God is good. God is with us forever!
ONE: Every week our ears and hearts are filled by the music of our band and the song of our choir, a reminder of how God gifts us with talents that can glorify God.
ALL: Such a God! Our God is good! God is with us forever!
ONE: Now look at the most important part of the church — us, the people. It is here that God is most alive, weaving us into a community of faith, teaching us how to live, challenging us to do far more abundantly than we could imagine by ourselves.
ALL: Such a God! Our God is good! God is with us forever!
OPENING PRAYER: Lord, You are an awesome God, and You love us very much. Thank you for sending Jesus and calling us together to celebrate His work. Please take away the road blocks that stop us from coming into Your presence, and fill in the pot holes that slow us down and make the way bumpy. Help us to worship You this morning. Amen.
ANNOUNCEMENTS, BIRTHDAYS & ANNIVERSARIES:
PRAYER OF PRAISE & THE LORD'S PRAYER: Thank you Lord for the opportunity of worship, for the freedom to be amongst Your family meeting together in Your house, and in the warmth of Your embrace. Thank you that in worship we can put aside the uncertainties of this world and rest upon the certainties of Your kingdom, for Your promises are not changeable as those of a politician might be, but immovable and eternal. Thank you that we can bring to Your feet all the hurts and fears that trouble us, and leave them there, knowing that Your strength and assurance are all that we require. Thank you that as we draw near in worship, we are transported from a world of concerns and fears, to a place where we can be at peace in Your presence, find healing, wholeness and refreshment. Thank you Lord for the opportunity of worship.
And in the words Jesus taught us, let us pray together: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
PRESENTATION OF OFFERING: Offering Received:
Living God, Your love for us is so unfathomable. Open our ears to the cries of Your neediest children. Open our eyes to see human injustice. Open our minds to think about compassion in all circumstances. Continue to increase our willingness to give so that we may lead lives fully focused on ministry to others. We give these offerings in gratitude for Your guidance and love. Amen.
HYMN: #103 0 Lord, Thou Art My God
MEDITATION: It Pays To Advertise
This morning we read responsively the first 13 verses of Psalm 145. It's a
song of David — a song of praise. Perhaps you're wondering what the
connection between Psalm 145 and the title of this meditation is. I hope it will all become clear and you will see the connection of this Psalm and the words "it pays to advertise."
I grew up with the King James version of the Bible. It's what I used to
memorize the weekly verses designated by my Sunday School teacher. When I was still in Elementary School i really didn't understand all that I read and memorized, but as I matured, the cloud of misunderstanding and confusion started to dissipate and the passages began to make sense. Here in Rockburn we chose the New International Version for our pew Bibles. This version is written in a modern text and is more easily understood.
It's the version we read this morning. However, I'm going to reread the first 13 verses of the Psalm in an even more easily understood text in order to discover exactly the point David was trying to put across.
"Always I will praise you, my God and my king, and I will bless your name.
Bless you, 1 will say every day and I will always praise your name. Clearly the Lord is great and we can never praise him enough. We will never know how great he really is! Down from father to son people will say what wonderful things you have done. They will tell each other how powerful you are. Everyone is talking about your glory and your beauty. I will keep thinking about the wonderful things that you do. Famous are the things that you have done. People talk about them. I also will say what great things you do. Good things are what everybody remembers about you. They all sing about how kind you are. How full of grace and mercy is the Lord. He is slow to become angry and is full of kind love.
It is the Lord that is kind to everybody. He shows his mercy to everything that he has made. Joining together, everything that you have made will praise you, Lord. Your saints will bless you. Kingdom of glory is where you rule. People talk about it and about how powerful you are.
Let everybody know the powerful things that you have done, and the
glory and beauty of your kingdom. Many years, even for always, will your kingdom remain. You will always rule over it."
These verses show us how awesome God is. Everything we think, say or
do leads us to the discovery that God is truly an awesome God. Whenever a sermon is preached or a hymn is sung, it always is for the glory of God. What's the use of a tongue if it doesn't speak or sing the glory of God's kingdom?
Verse 4 of the Psalm says: "Down from father to son people will say what wonderful things you have done. They will tell each other how powerful you are." God is not only awesome, but he is powerful, and those aren't the only attributes of God.
God is admirable and praiseworthy. God is wisdom, Infinitude, Trinity and Holiness. God is Just, God is Sovereignty and God is Faithfulness. All of these attributes of God must be passed on to future generations, and they must be passed on to anyone who hasn't found God and His amazing grace.
Isaiah 40:31 says "But those who hope in the Lord will renew their
strength. They will soar on wings like eagles." This verse reminds me of a
children's message I heard while on vacation a couple of years ago. It was about God wanting to recharge us when we're out of power. The pastor held up a cell phone and told the kids that it was dead. He explained that he was on the phone with a friend who had a difficult problem, and they talked for such a long time that his cell phone died. He couldn't call anyone or receive any calls, and so now he had to recharge his cell phone. He explained that our souls are a little like his cell phone. Sometimes life brings trials and tribulations which can take a lot out of us, making us feel rundown. We can get to feeling so tired or depressed that we just want to curl up and sleep for a year. So what we need is a recharge.
The pastor's point was that all of us are like his cell phone. When we're
starting to feel worn out or depressed by life's struggles, that's when we really need to plug into God the most. We plug in by praying, by reading our Bible, by going to church — these are the things that will recharge us!
It takes a while to recharge, but if we're patient, if we're faithful to the
Lord and if we pray, we will find that our lives will most certainly have been recharged!
Sometimes, when you need to recharge, relaxing with a newspaper,
magazine, or even browsing on the Internet or watching TV can get our minds off our problems. But interspersed with the news and the articles and stories are pages, paragraphs, pictures and pop-ups telling me what toothpaste will make my teeth whiter. There are ads that tell us the wonders of probiotics, prebiotics and Omega 3, and if we don't get these products we will not be healthy and fit. We can buy shoes for only $39.99 a pair. We can call a 1-800 number and get our meals for a week delivered to our door. And the list goes on and on and on.
There are want ads — people looking for mechanics, accountants, baby-
sitters or a place to rent or buy. There are ads for people looking for lost dogs or cats. There are ads for people looking for love. All of these advertisements are in the papers, magazines, Internet, radio and television because the people who place them are looking for more business. They spend the money to advertise in the hope that they will make more money — it pays to advertise!
So if it pays a businessman to advertise, I wonder whether we could
follow his example? What do we have in this church that is worth advertising?
If you were to start a headline advertisement for Rockburn Presbyterian
Church, what would you select — our singing, our band, our good fellowship, our efficiency, our cordiality — what?
I wonder, too, what we would have on that "Want" page! Would it be,
"Lost — sixty minutes every Sunday morning," or "Wanted — young people," or "Strayed — our enthusiasm," or could we advertise, "Found —away to better living," or "exchange — for your spare time a chance for better development," or "Free — a bit of encouragement and a cure for the blues."
You know you can only advertise what you have in stock. It's poor
business, very poor business, to advertise what you don't have and then try to substitute something else. But we have everything we need to advertise and it's always it stock — we have God. We have God's love and His grace and His Word. We have the faith to go out and share our knowledge of God with those who have not found Him yet.
A market research interviewer was surveying people in the grocery store
after they picked up their bread. One man picked up a loaf of Wonder Bread, and the interviewer asked him, "Sir, would you be willing to answer a couple of questions about your choice of bread?" The man responded, "I'd be happy to."
"Fine," the interviewer said. "The question I'd like to ask you is this: Do you feel that your choice of Wonder Bread has been at all influenced by their advertising campaign?" The fellow looked shocked and said, "Of course not. I'm not influenced by that sort of thing at all!" "Well then," he said, "could you tell me just why you did choose Wonder Bread?" The man replied, "Of course I can. It's because it builds strong bodies in eight ways!"
Whether you realize it or not, advertising gets through to people in one
way or another. We have so much to share. Our relationship with God is important to use. Remember what Isaiah said, "Let everybody know the powerful things that you have done, and the glory and the beauty of your kingdom." This is something we can advertise, because it's always in stock, and it pays to advertise!
Let us pray: Heavenly Father, as we come to the end of our time together,
we thank you for what has been accomplished here today. May the matters discussed serve as a catalyst to move us forward and cause us to advance and see growth in all areas of our lives. Help us to take this moment of worship and connection with you into the week ahead. May we carry Your love in our hearts always. Amen.
ADVENT 2 – Peace Candle
The candle of this second week of Advent is a candle of Peace. Today the flame of this candle reminds us of the peace that Jesus brings into this world and his presence with us. (Candle is lit)
We pray together:
We thank you Jesus that you want to bring peace and freedom into every life. We thank you for the peace you have brought to us. We bring to you now prayers of peace for the people and places on our hearts this morning. Trusting in your powerful name. Amen.
ADVENT 1 – Hope Candle
We come together in the midst of a busy season to take a breath. To breathe in together the life that God gives us, to listen to the beat of God’s heart and the blessings and lessons this season brings to us. Each week of Advent we light the candles in this Advent Wreath. With its light comes our prayers.
The candle of the first week is a candle of Hope. Today the flame of this candle reminds us of the hope that came to the world when Jesus was born and His presence with us. (Candle is lit)
We pray together:
We thank you Jesus that you want to bring fullness and hope into every life. We thank you for the hope you have brought to us. We bring to you now prayers of hope for the people and places on our hearts this morning. Trusting your powerful name. Amen.
A story is told of a very wise turtle that wanted to spend the winter in Florida, but he knew he could never walk that far. So this very wise turtle convinced a couple of geese to help him, each taking one end of a piece of rope, while he clamped his vise-like jaws in the center. The flight went fine until someone on the ground looked up in admiration and asked, "Who in the world thought of that?" Unable to resist the chance to take credit, the turtle opened his mouth to shout, "I did--"
It's so tempting to take credit for the good things we do. I mean... I learned early on in my marriage... that if I was going to do the dishes, to do it when Lisa could see me doing it. You see... doing the dishes may indeed be a very good thing, but it helps to be seen doing it!
I know there are exceptions, but generally speaking... it goes against our nature to do things without getting the credit. Sure we'll help someone out, sure we'll lend that hand... but normally we want people to know that we did it. We want that glory... we want that warm feeling of someone REALLY appreciating us... we want people to KNOW just how good we are.
Maybe even worse yet, we may begin to keep track in our head. OK... I did this for so and so... now they are going to owe me something, and someday I will collect! Or if nothing else, someone will see my good deed and decide to reward me for my kindness. We begin to feel entitled... to have our good deeds noticed and rewarded.
Everybody wants to impress others, want to be seen as successful, or better than others. They want the newest car, biggest house, nicest clothes, or the most land. They want to be the head honcho. This desire to be first or be the best or be admired has another name: pride. God tells us what He thinks about people who want to be first. The "first will be last and the last will be first."
Just like many people today, the Pharisees wanted others to see them as special and treat them as though they are closer to God than anyone else. They wanted others to be impressed with their piety and holiness. They were chest thumpers who said, "Hey, look at me! Look at how important I am! See how broad my phylacteries are and how long my fringes are?"
Now, phylacteries were small leather boxes containing portions of God's Word and they were worn by Jews who interpreted literally the instructions to fasten God's Word on their hands and forehead. And Moses, in Numbers 15, had instructed the children of Israel to put fringes on their garments to remember, not only the law in general, but also the smaller parts of the rites and ceremonies belonging to it.
So the Pharisees made their phylacteries broad, that is, they put more writing on them or made the letters larger and thus more visible, to appear more holy. And they made their fringes longer to show how much more they followed the finer points of the law, therefore making them "holier than thou".
I'm sure they didn't like it one bit when Jesus pointed out how these men dressed to draw attention to themselves to put themselves on a higher level than others. They wanted to appear religious without actually being religious. "...for they do not practice what they teach." Their philosophy was, "Do as I say, not as I do."
These men thought they were important to God, they thought they were important to men, but they were just a bunch of hypocrites.
A man, returning from a business trip, was met at the airport by his wife. They walked from the gate together and were standing waiting for the baggage to be unloaded. An extremely attractive stewardess walked by. Suddenly, the man came to life. Beaming, he said to the stewardess, "1 hope we can fly together again, Miss Jones."
His wife asked, "How come you knew the name of that stewardess?" The man replied smoothly, "Well dear, her name was posted up front in the plane, right under the names of the pilot and co-pilot." To which the wife replied, "Okay, so what were the names of the pilot and co-pilot?" " Ummm..."
The man's hypocrisy was uncovered. Jesus spent a great deal of time uncovering the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. He told his followers, "Do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice as they teach."
A hypocrite is someone who pretends to be something he/she isn't. I'm sure we all know people like that. I heard a story told of a man who, when asked by a minster why he didn't come to church with his family, replied, "Because the church is filled with hypocrites." To which the minister responded, "That's okay. There's always room for one more."
And I think if we take a minute, in all honesty with ourselves... we would find ourselves standing right next to the people Jesus is condemning more often than not. And maybe it's so that each one of us stands there, side by side with the Pharisees, with table-sized phylacteries strapped to our foreheads, receiving these chiding words from Jesus.
And, just for a bit of context: Just before Jesus begins speaking to the crowds here in the passage we read today, he had been asked by a lawyer in the crowd: "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" And Jesus answered him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind...and you shall love your neighbor as yourself." Then Jesus ends by saying, "On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
In essence, Jesus is saying, "Here it is; here is the root. When it comes to following God, this is what's most important. Sure there are plenty of laws and regulations, but when it all boils down, this is what matters." After answering the lawyer's question, Jesus then turns to the crowd and speaks the words we heard a few moments ago.
And basically, Jesus is telling his followers that the Pharisees are good in their devotion to God, and that what they teach is right, and good, and pure, but that when it comes to actual practice they're not so good; they're not focused on the root.They're caught up in the mundane. They're saying one thing and doing another, they're talking the talk, but not walking the walk.
They're not practicing what they preach: In short, the Pharisees have neglected the most important things, which Jesus describes as "love of God and neighbor."
Now, it is easy for us to read Jesus' words, to nod our heads in agreement, and to think to ourselves, "those awful Pharisees." But Jesus isn't trying to throw the Pharisees "under the bus," so to speak, if he was, he wouldn't have complemented their teaching at the beginning of the passage.
And so, we too must be careful about our rush to judgment. As with all of Jesus' teachings, we need to ask the question, "What is Jesus saying to me?" That's the question we always need to ask, and today we need to consider the possibility that, when it comes to our spiritual lives, we may be more like those Pharisees than we realize.
So friends... what should we do about it? How do we move from being the bad kind of Christian that Jesus condemns... to the good of Christian that Jesus calls us to be?
Well, it's right there in today's message: The heart of today's message from Jesus is about service! Not simply doing good things... but doing good works for the right reason!
We are all called to be disciples and to do good deeds but we are NOT to do them because we feel guilty... we are NOT to do them because we seek glory... we are NOT to do them because we are seeking reward. We need to be diligent to make sure our heart is in the right place. To make sure we are in a spot where everything we do is done to worship and glorify God. We need to be prepared to give greatly, and to do it in a way that puts all of the focus on WHY we are doing it; instead of putting the focus on WHO is doing it! We need to act in such a way that when we do great works... people see Christ... and not us.
A pompous-looking preacher was trying to impress upon a Sunday School the importance of living the Christian life. "Why do people call me a Christian?" the man asked. After a moment's pause, one child said, "Maybe it's because they don't know you."
A local church asked it's members to donate money for a new building. The building committee made one stipulation: no plaques or recognition of any kind would be placed in the building to honor the givers. The response was mediocre at best. When the committee withdrew their requirement and allowed for a memorial registry with a listing of donors, the money was easily raised. What had changed? At first, the building committee was appealing solely to people's charity and generosity. Later, they offered an appeal to their egos, and the egos won.
Of course these donors didn't want others to know that they never gave a penny till they found out there would be a plaque noting their "wonderful generosity". You see, hypocrites don't like being found out. They don't like others knowing the truth about them. They're more concerned with their appearance before people than God.
Pride and our egos cause us to become hypocrites. And that hurts us. And it hurts our relationships with others. We pretend to be somebody we're not because of pride. We try to hide who we really are. ("I don't have any problems! My life is perfect! I don't make mistakes! ) Our pride and egos won't allow us to be real. We're too ashamed to admit we're not better than everybody else.
Sure we may, like the Pharisees, be able to fool other men and be looked up to. But to what gain? That and two bucks will get you a cup of coffee. I'm more concerned, and I hope you are too, with being honest with God and pleasing Him more than other people.
We can't fool God. 1 Samuel 16:7 says, "..the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but te Lord looks on the heart." God sees through our pretending and posturing like a squeaky clean window. Our broad phylacteries and long fringes do not impress God. We need to be less concerned with titles, clothes, and who we can impress, and concentrate more on coming before God in humility, knowing that, without His grace, we are nothing. "All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted."
PROCESSIONAL: Presentation of Colours:
0 Canada/The Queen:
Depositing of Colours:
Act of Remembrance: Let us remember before God and commend to
His sure keeping those who have died for their country in war, those
whom we knew, and whose memory we reassure, and all who have lived and died in the service of mankind. During the minute of silence
remember not just the soldiers who died in the ft and 2nd World Wars,
but all soldiers. It's a time to close your eyes and think about the people
who are fighting in wars and conflicts right now, all over the world. Let us a pause in a minute of silence.
Minute of Silence:
Lament: They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn; at the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.
In Flanders Fields:
CALL TO WORSHIP: ONE: Let us begin our time of worship with a moment of remembrance
ALL: We remember fallen soldiers and the sacrifice they made for us.
ONE: Let us begin our time of worship with a moment of thanksgiving.
ALL: We thank God for brave men and women who have given their lives so that we may worship without fear.
ONE: Let us begin our time of worship with a moment to reflect, for
a moment is the least we can do for those who gave their eternity
ONE: In the rising of the sun and in its going down, we remember them.
ALL: In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter, we remember them.
ONE: in the opening of buds and in the rebirth of spring, we remember them.
ALL: In the blueness of the sky and in the warmth of summer, we remember them.
ONE: In the rustling of leaves and in the beauty of autumn, we remember them.
ALL: In the beginning of the year and when it ends, we remember them.
ONE: When we are weary and in need of strength, we remember them.
ALL: So long as we live, they too shall live, for they are now a part of us, as we remember
PRAYER: We are here to worship Almighty God, whose purposes are good and whose power sustains the world. As we give thanks for His great works, we remember those who have lived and died in His service and in the service of others. We pray for all who suffer through war and are in need. We ask for His help and blessing that we may do His will and that the whole world may acknowledge Him as Lord and King.
We ask this through Christ, our Lord, who taught us when we pray to say:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION: God of every nation, as we remember those who gave their life for our sake, let us be stirred to action in their memory. We confess that we have not done all that is possible to promote peace and justice in our world. We have not loved our neighbours, let alone our enemies. Forgive us for failing to live up to Your commandments. Empower us to work for Your Kingdom in this world, and welcome us by Your grace into that Kingdom.
God of peace, forgive us when we have participated in that which turns people against each other. Forgive us for fueling anger and harbouring vengeance, for not heeding Your call to love one another. Inspire us to never give up on the hope that Your life offers us, and the courage to see past war and destruction. Inspire us to live for the day when there will be peace worldwide. Amen.
Offertory Prayer: We sing "Praise God from whom all blessing flow" but sometimes we forget where our blessings come from. Remind us, Lord. Remind us each and every day that You are providing our blessings. Accept these gifts from Your grateful children, acknowledging Your many blessings. Amen
The definition of war: "a state of usually open and declared armed conflict between states or nations." War is never good. It's terrifying and leaves such horrific scars — scars that never fade.
I recently read a book to our two and half year old grand-daughter entitled "Tusk, Tusk" by David McKee. To my grand-daughter, it was just a cute little story with lots of colourful pictures, but it actually explores the themes of racism, prejudice and tolerance.
This is the story: "Once, all the elephants in the world were black or white. They loved all creatures, but they hated each other, and each kept to his own side of the jungle. One day the black elephants decided to kill all the white elephants, and the white elephants decided to kill all the black elephants. However, there were some peace-loving elephants from each side who went to live deep in the darkest part of the jungle. They were never seen again.
A great battle began between the black and white elephants. It went on
and on and on, until all the elephants were asleep. For years, no elephants were seen in the world. Then, one day, the grand children of the peace-loving elephants came out of the jungle. They were grey. Since then, the elephants have lived in peace."
This story, to older children, and even to us, as adults, is inspiring because it challenges us to live a life that makes a difference. There have probably been people in your past who have made a significant contribution in your life. Obviously our parents contributed, but others often make a difference too — a good friend, a teacher, a co-worker, a relative or a minister.
But as Christians, God has made the biggest difference in our lives. Do we repay God for all He has done for us? We should, and we can. However, this world is not the way we would like it to be. It's not the world God intended. We know this because of the day we celebrate today — Remembrance Day. This isthe day Canadians and others around the world remember and think about the men and women in the military who have died fighting to protect the country's citizens. We also think about the people who are currently in the Armed Forces, those who have died and are veterans. This is the day we honour all the men
and women who have served in the military and who have fought to defend our freedom.
Our calling, as Christians, is to be a person of peace. We must choose what is right in the eyes of God and follow His Word, and that, my friends, takes courage. It's those Christian men and women we celebrate today, Remembrance Day. They gave their lives for the benefit of all of us. They fought for the greater good and fought against the greater evil.
We enjoy a lot of freedom because of their sacrifices. We're free to come
to church and worship. We're free to choose what career we want. We're free to choose where we want to work and where we want to live. We're free to choose almost everything that affects our daily lives, including our religion.
You will hear the words "Lest we forget" or Never forget" said many times at Remembrance Day. We say these words so that we will always remember the sacrifice of the men and women who served and those who died to protect their country and families. But it's also so that we never forget the horrors of war. It's so we will ever strive to make sure it doesn't happen again.
The soldiers, sailors and airmen were also free to choose, and they chose
to fight for freedom — to keep their land, to keep their dignity and to keep their religious beliefs. At this point I would like to take a look back and read you some extracts from letters written between 1914-1918. These are some accounts and impressions from those who lived through the 'Great War.'
"We spent our second Christmas of the war Senlis. Strict orders had been
issued against any form of truce on the trench line. The Germans caught one of our men on patrol and we shelled them when they started singing carols. But it is a commentary on modern war that commanders should fear lest the soldiers on each side become friendly. Our soldiers have no quarrel with 'Fritz', save during the heat of battle, or in retaliation for some blow below the belt. If whole armies fraternized, politicians on both sides would be sore set to solve their problems. Yet it is possible that if there had been a truce for a fortnight on the whole trench line at any time after the Battle of the Somme, the war might have ended." (Colonel W.N. Nicholson, Suffolk Regiment, Highland Division)
"Last night a strange thought came to me. I was with a working party in the trenches. We had come up the communication trench, zig-zagged our way thither for a mile and half or more. Now this time of year the communication trench is a thing a beauty. On either side the piled earth has covered itself with vegetation, fresh thick grass, heavy growths of bunched white daisies interspersed with blood-red poppies. The daisies are, in fact, chamomile, so I am assured by one who is by way of being a botanical expert. Through chamomile and poppies we make our way back to reat and peace for a brief spell. Through chamomile and poppies are borne the wounded, their bandages of white splashed with scarlet, like the flowers themselves, and through chamomile and poppies passes the last sad procession when, over the line, death has suddenly shaken his dread spear." (2nd Lieutenant Ewart Richardson, 4th Battalion,
Prince of Wales Own Regiment)
"On the ninth all Batteries were relieved by the 42nd Divisional Artillery and orders were issued to march to Quievy to rejoin the Division. We moved on November 11th, Armistice Day, and we heard the announcement of the Armistice when we were still in the Foret de Mormal on a cheerless, dismal, cold misty day. There was no cheering or demonstration. We were all tired in body and mind, fresh from the tragic field of battle, and this momentous announcement was too vast in its consequences to be appreciated or accepted with wild excitement. We trekked out of the wood on this dreary day in silence. We read in the papers of the tremendous celebrations in London and Paris, but we could not bring ourselves to raise even a cheer. The only feeling we had was one of great relief. (Gunner B.O. Stokes, 13th Battery, New Zealand Field Artillery)
On Remembrance Day we hear the phrases "Lest We Forget" and "We Will Remember Them". These words should not be taken lightly. We must always remember — never forgetting the consequences of war, the injustice in the world, the hatred, the prejudice, the terror and the evil. We must always remember and continue to pray for peace in the world, forever upholding our faith in God.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet. Lest we forget. Lest we forget.
BENEDICTION: God, grant to the living, grace; to the departed, rest; to the Church, the
Queen, the Commonwealth, and all mankind, peace and concord; and to us and
all His servants, life everlasting. The blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and
Holy Spirit, come down upon you and remain with you always. Amen
THE FINAL INSPECTION
The soldier stood and faced God,
Which must always come to pass.
He hoped his shoes were shining,
Just as brightly as his brass.
"Step forward now, you soldier,
How shall I deal with you?
Have you always turned the other cheek?
To my Church have you been true?"
The soldier squared his soldiers and said,
"No, Lord, I guess I ain't.
Because those of us who carry guns,
Can't always be a saint.
I've had to work most Sundays,
And at times my talk was tough.
And sometimes I've been violent,
Because the world is awfully rough.
But, I never took a penny,
That wasn't mine to keep...
Though I worked a lot of overtime,
When the bills just got too steep.
And I never passed a cry for help,
Though at times I shook with fear.
And sometimes, God, forgive me,
I've wept unmanly tears.
I know I don't deserve a place,
Among the people here.
They never wanted me around,
Except to calm their fears.
If you've a place for me here, Lord,
It needn't be so grand.
I never expected or had too much,
But if you don't, I'll understand."
There was a silence all around the throne,
Where the saints had often trod.
As the soldier waited quietly,
For the judgement of his God.
"Step forward now, you soldier,
You've borne your burdens well.
Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,
You've done your time in Hell."
Author: Sgt Joshua Helterbran
CALL TO WORSHIP (responsive reading in bold)
Randy: God calls us to a feast!
The table is set, and we will come from east and west,
from north and south to sit at Christ’s table.
Randy: Compassion, love, and grace are poured out like fine wine.
We come to share our stories and Your story,
to share our hope and our pain,
to share our wisdom and our laughter.
Randy: The table is set, so come let us worship God together!
ALL TO WORSHIP:
ONE: God, our God, how glorious is Your name in all the earth!
ALL: Your glory is sung by all Your creation!
ONE: When we look to the heavens, the work of Your hands, the moon and the stars, we wonder- who are we that You care for us and for this world?
ALL: You are the God of life, crowning us with glory and honour to serve You all our days. 0 God, our God, how glorious is Your name in all the earth!
OPENING PRAYER: Be gracious to us today our Lord, for we are in need of Your mercy. We are often too quick to doubt and slow to pray. We are tempted to let go of faith when we need to hang on. We are discouraged by wrong when we need to be encouraged by Your Spirit. 0 God, we are thankful for the strength You give us to trust in You all the days of our lives. Amen.
Dear Lord, we offer our gifts to You, who claims us as children, who names us beloved, and who celebrates our presence. Use these gifts and our service to further Your kingdom. Thanks be to God. Amen
PRAYER & THE LORD'S PRAYER: (Choir sings 0 Lord, hear my prayer )
Lord God, You are the father of all people and we come before You today with our prayers, knowing that You will hear us, help us and guide us.
We have come together in the name of Christ to offer our praise and thanksgiving, to hear and receive God's holy Word, and to pray for the needs of the world. We come to seek the forgiveness of our sins, that by the power of the Holy Spirit, we may give ourselves to the service of God. As we rejoice in the gift of this new day, so may the light of Your presence, 0 God, set our hearts on fire with love for You, now and forever.
Gathering our prayers and praises into one, as our Saviour has taught us, so we pray: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever, Amen.
SCRIPTURE READING: 1 Samuel 2:1-10 (Page 41-8)
When Hannah, received the child Samuel she had begged God for, her first instinct is to praise the One who provided. She wants to thank Him for His greatness and His deliverance. Too often we pray before receiving, but forget to pray after God answers. Let this prayer, Hannah's prayer of praise, guide you in thanks.
EDITATION: Teach Me To Pray
A five year old girl was attending a formal wedding with her grandmother.
She had gone to Sunday school every week but she had never attended a formal church service. During the wedding, the minister said, "Let us pray." Each person bowed his or her head in prayer. The little girl looked around and saw all heads bowed and eyes turned toward the floor, and she whispered,
"Grandmother, what are they all looking for?"
That's the question: what are we all looking for when we pray? Prayer is
one of the most powerful privileges God has granted us. Prayer is a crucial and integral part of being a Christian. It's one of the most important things we can do. We need to know that even if all the world seems too busy, or when it seems like no one is listening to us, God is always there to hear our prayers and care about the things we do. We have a loving God with whom we can communicate, anytime, anywhere.
Just think about it — we can have a conversation with the creator of the entire universe! So how can we make our prayers the up close and personal interaction with God that we desire? Does anyone here like to talk on the phone? Do you Skype, email, message or text? Talking with people is important to us. We make sure we can communicate with others wherever and whenever we want. So if talking to other people is easy, and we do it all the time, why is it so hard spending time talking to God?
If you have a friend, you want to talk to him or her, and you want to hear what he or she has to say in return. Friends talk. They talk about all kinds of things. We're rarely too busy to communicate with our family and friends, so why do we say we're busy to talk with God? Or maybe it's because we don't see Him. Out of sight — out of mind. Or maybe it's because we just don't know how to talk to God. We might question whether He is really listening. Or maybe we think our problems are too small and inconsequential to bother God with.
Sometimes we wonder if God is really there, but trust me, He is. When we look around us and see all that has been created, we can't help but know that there is a God. In the past, and even now, people have pretended that God didn't exist. They wouldn't acknowledge Him as Creator or give thanks to Him for all that He had made. As a result, the Bible says, "Their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened."
I'm sure no one here wants anything like that to happen to us. And this gives us an excellent reason to pray. We're able to pray and give thanks to God for who He is and for all that He has done. If you don't pray already, perhaps a good way to start would be to pray and thank God when you notice something in nature that reminds you of who He is and what He has created.
If you stop and think about it, praying is really very easy. It's as simple as talking to someone you love. All you have to do is remember the 4 letters in the word TALK.
T: Take the time. Find time in your day to talk to God. Pray at the
same every day. Make it a habit, like brushing your teeth or taking a shower.
A: Ahhhhh Quiet! Find a quiet place. Turn off the TV, turn your music
off and find a way to escape. Sit out in your backyard, find a quiet corner or hide away in your bedroom if that's what it takes.
L: Learn from God's word. Read one verse a day. And if you're up for the
challenge, read one chapter a day. Try to understand what God is saying to you.
K: Keep a prayer plan. Write down praises, prayer requests or verses that
mean a lot to you. It's really easy. Take a look at your hand — you have 5 fingers, and there are 5 parts of prayer.
I'm going to pass around some jelly beans. I want each of you to take one jelly bean at random, but don't eat it until I tell you to. I went to a lot of trouble getting these jelly beans. I had to taste test several kinds before I made my final selection. And since it was a candy store, I also had to try several other kinds of candy and chocolates. So I hope you can appreciate the sacrifice I had to make.
Now, as they're passed around, let's think about when and why we are supposed to pray. As Christians, we are instructed to pray continually and to pray in every situation, especially if we are anxious about it. The reason for this is that prayer accomplishes things. Remember what Jesus said, "Whatever you ask in my name, the Father will give You." This means if you ask something which is in God's will for us, He will give it to us. We are also told if we pray with thanksgiving and present our requests to God, that the peace of God which passes all understanding, will keep our hearts and minds in Jesus Christ. This is a very great promise, and it gives us a good reason to begin praying in every situation. What would the world give for peace of mind?
Alright, does everyone have a jelly bean? No, don't eat it just yet. Before
you do, I want to let you know that all the jelly beans are not the same. Some are sweet, some are hot and spicy, some are sour and some taste like dark chocolate.
If you get a sweet tasting jelly bean, I want you to thank God for a sweet time in your life. If your jelly bean is sour or bitter, ask God to help you add sweetness to someone else's day. If you taste hot and spicy, ask God to keep you excited about serving Him. And if the flavour of your jelly bean is dark chocolate, pray for someone who is going through a difficult time. Now, let's all taste and pray.
This jelly bean tasting exercise is a demonstration of how easy it is to pray. There is always something or someone to pray for. We are so fortunate to know God and know that He loves us. By praying to Him, by praising Him and giving Him thanks, our lives will be filled with the love, grace and goodness of God.
Offering praise at the beginning of our prayers is a way to focus us on the blessings we've received, and serves as a brief worship before starting our conversation with God, the creator of all things. We serve a God who cares deeply for His creation and longs so very much to be in a relationship with each and every one of us. Prayer is absolutely necessary to that relationship because prayer is the way we can talk personally and intimately with God.
Let us pray together. You'll find the prayer on the back of your bulletin.
Heavenly Father, You have brought me to the beginning of a new day. As the world is renewed fresh and clean, so I ask you to renew my heart with Your strength and purpose. Forgive me the errors of yesterday and bless me to walk closer in Your ways today. This is the day I begin my life anew; shine through me so that every person I meet may feel Your presence in my soul. Take my hand, precious Lord, for I cannot make it by myself.
Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering or embarrassing
others. Give me the physical strength to bear the labours of this day. Direct my will, teach me to pray and pray in me. All this we ask in Jesus' name. Amen.
BENEDICTION & CHORAL AMEN: Loving God, we thank You for hearing our prayers, feeding us with Your word and encouraging us in our gathering today. Take us and use us to love and serve You and all people in the power of Your Spirit and in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”
― Søren Kierkegaard
What are some of the things that cause you worry and anxiety? I can tell you, every morning, I get out of bed and swear to myself that I'm not gonna pick up the newspaper.I'm not gonna switch on CNN. I'm not gonna even wonder what he's doing, or planning, or thinking today. And if you don't know who HE is, ask me later., and I promise I'll rant
about it for a couple of hours.
Each of us deals with worry in big and small ways at various points in our lives and for various reasons. There might be times when we are anxious about our health, or maybe our big worry is finances. Sometimes, when the hospital bills begin mounting, we worry about both at the same time. Or maybe we worry about our children. Are they healthy? Are they doing okay in school? Will they be able to care for me as get older? Then there are the smaller worries that fill our thoughts from day-to-day. When will I have time to get in touch with that friend that messaged me last week?
Will the recently completed project at work be acceptable to my boss or will I need to start all over again? Will I ever be able to get the house clean again?
We usually say, "Nothing is certain in this life but death and taxes." I think we could also say fairly, "Nothing is certain in this life but death, and taxes...and worry." I suspect we'd be tying if any of us said we never worry about anything. But how about this one: have you ever worried about being imprisoned and killed because of your faith? I'd almost be
willing to bet this is one matter that has never caused any of us anxiety. We are fortunate that we live in a country where, we are free to live out faith and practice our religion without fear of persecution. But this has not always been true, even as it is still not true in every country today. Almost 2,000 years ago when Paul wrote this letter to the Church in Philipi, it is believed he was imprisoned in Rome.
Early on in the letter, he speaks of his upcoming sentence, and he also shares his optimism in the face of death. Where we pick up this morning, Paul is urging the Philippians to always rejoice in the Lord, to be glad in every circumstance. Paul, imprisoned in Rome and facing a sentence of death is enthusiasticaly encouraging his brothers and sisters in Christ to always be glad and rejoice. And he's not talking about some simplr feeling of happiness within; when Paul says, "Rejoice!" He means get out and celebrate exuberantly, dance with reckless abandon, hug all your riends, neighbors, relatives, and even strangers! Be glad! Can you imagine? Can you imagine be so happy when there is so much to worry about? Clearly, Paul has a handle on something that frees him from anxiety, and today we are going to spend some time talking about what that is.
Now, there is the obvious reason for Paul's near exuberance in his letter written from a Roman prison, and that is simply his faith in the risen Christ. With the promise of life, who needs to fear death? Certainly, our faith should be so strong and sure that we do not worry about anything. But in all truthfulness, even when our faith is strong, we still worry, don't we? So let's dig a little deeper into Paul's instructions to the Philippians because in this case, faith is basically assumed. Paul has been to Philippi, he has shared the Good News, a community of believers in Jesus Christ has built up, and now Paul is checking in after being away from them for some time. We know he is talking to faithful people. And yet he also knows there are problems. There is some strife and disagreement among some of the Christians in Philippi, but Paul knows there is something greater here than a conflict between a few people. The Christians are worried, they are anxious, and so Paul says, "Don't be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers andpetitions, along with giving thanks!' Instead of worrying, Paul instructs, Christians should pray. That sounds pretty easy, doesn't it? Yet most of us know that praying instead of worryinE_Y is much easier said than done. So what I want to try and do today js help all of us think of ways we can improve our prayer practices in order to overcome worry and experience greater peace. Let me begin by saying that none of us are perfect, and we are all human. No matter how much we might pray and present our petitions to God with thanksgiving, there will still be times when things worry us. But even if we can just find that right way to connect with God's peace in anxious times, then we are at least moving in the right direction. So how do we use prayer to find peace?
As we begin to look for this answer, I'd like to ask a few questions, for your consideration:
Do you pray only at church?
Do you p! ay only before meals?
Do you pray a few times a week, but not every day?
Do you pray every single morning?
Do you pray each and every night?
Do you pray several times each day?
Every time, every single time you worry, do you stop and pray?
If you're like me, you probably just realized a few ways you could improve your prayer life. I mean, I'm pretty good at returning thanks before holiday meals and special dinners, but e certainly don't pray before every meat, I very often forget. And though i try to say a pray at least once a day, I would probably benefit from a more disciplined practice where I actually set aside time specifically to talk and listen
to God, rather than just squeezing in a few minutes wherever i can fit it each day. Prayer is like a lot of things; the more you practice it, the better you will be at it, and the more beneficial it will be in our iives. The youth director at a camp I once volunteered at said to us that, "Prayer is like underwear; nobody has to know when you're praying, just like nobody has to know if you're wearing underwear." His point was that we should pray without ceasing, that we should not be afraid to pray as we walked the halls at school, or practiced bail on the field with our teammates. If we develop such habits of prayer, then it certainly is much easier to turn to prayer when life gets chaotic and worry creeps in.
But you know; I've learned something about prayer as I've developed spiritually, and that is that prayer is as much about listening as it is about talking. think this is very important in particular when it comes to prayer as a source of peace. Let me explain what I mean. Talk is easy. It's a lot easier to go to God and tell God everything that is wrong in our lives and then to expect that because we have shared our need with God, God will fix the problem. But if what we want is peace, then we need to he willing to listen to the God of peace. We need to allow God to guide our hearts, minds, and lives. We need to push aside the busyness of our lives long enough to rest in God's presence and discern God's ways. We might not hear an audible voice, but God speaks to us in many ways, and we can "hear" God if we will close our mouths for a moment and open ourselves up to simply listening. Just the thought of it is peaceful to me, especially at this time in my life with my kids running about and filling my time and my ears, with the animals to take care of on the farm, with all my rock and roll gigs. I imagine myself finding a comfy chair, a glass of hot chocolate in hand, laying my head back, closing my eyes; no noise, no talk, just a simple, "Tell me what I need to know God," and then waiting. The scene might be a little different for you, but here's the thing, none of us are very good at this because we worry that if we sit down and don't "do" anything, then we are wasting time. But we're not. We need time for prayer every day. We need to share our hearts with God, and we need to allow God to speak peace into our lives. Time spent in such prayer is not wasted, not at all. And if we want peace in our lives, as Paul instructs, we need to pray. Think of it like this: what would your marriage be like if you never talked o your spouse? As I asked the kids earlier, what would school be like if the teachers never talked and we never asked questions? What would our family relationships be like if we just waved at each other in passing? We know that relationship without communication
is a recipe for disaster. So why would we expect our relationship with God to be any different? We have to keep the lines of communication with God open through regular prayer—at least every day, if not multiple times every day. If what we want is peace, then we have to share our burdens with God a t invite God in Christ Jesus to guide our lives toward peace.
Somehow, in the midst of persecution and impending death; Paul was able to find joy and peace. We are the very fortunate beneficiaries of Paul's instruction about how to experience the same peace in our lives. We have to make time for prayer. We have to be intentional about regularly connecting with God; sharing our sorrows, celebrating our victories, unloading our burdens, giving thanks for our blessings, and offering our worries. But we also have to take time in prayer to listen, so that God can talk back to us.
Communication is a two-way street, just as much as we open our mouths, we also need to open our ears. If we want to experience God's peace, then we need to allow the God of peace to guide us.
"Don't be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus."
May it be so.
The Gift of Prayer, The Power of Thanks, Sunday, Oct.8, 2017
Thanksgiving, a time for family, a time for prayer, a time for thanks, and a time for humour. So, to start it off, let’s open with a story….
A man in Huntingdon calls his son in Toronto the Saturday before Thanksgiving and says, I hate to ruin your weekend, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing; forty-five years of misery is enough.
The son is shocked, ”Pop, what are you talking about? You and Mom are inseparable.”
“No, son, we just can't do it any more," the father says. "We're tired of each other, and I don’t want to talk about it. It’s over. Call your sister in Halifax and tell her, too.”
Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone. "Like heck they're getting divorced," she shouts, "I'll take care of this,"
She calls Huntingdon immediately, and screams at her father, "You are NOT getting divorced. Don't do a single thing until I get there. I'm calling my brother back, and we'll both be there by tomorrow night. Until then, don't do a thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?" and hangs up.
The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife. "Okay," he says, "they're coming for Thanksgiving, and paying their own way.”
But to get to the heart of my message, The gift of prayer, The power of thanks…
Nowadays, you often hear comments that say prayer is a waste of time. We have prayed for 1000s of years, it is said, but we still kill. We still hate. We still can’t just get along.
When 50 people were killed recently in Las Vegas with hundreds more wounded, some responses called for everyone to pray. One person said, prayer is the one thing we can all do. And while there was general agreement in that caring thought, there were also those who scoffed at the notion that prayer does any good. These would say, Prayer is useless. We have to take action, not practice superstition. We have to get involved politically, organize, and put pressure on our elected leaders to change our laws and to demand results.”
To my way of thinking, there’s certainly nothing wrong with getting actively involved to bring about change designed to better our society. In fact, it should be done on some level by every able-bodied person. It certainly is not enough to leave everything up to the politicians, unless maybe you believe they can do no wrong.
So, what about prayer? Does it work? The bible basically says, in Matthew, whatever you ask of the Father in Jesus’ name, He will grant you. In order for that to be true, one important ingredient is needed. BELIEF. No, not that you have to believe that all prayers are answered, but I think you do have to believe in THE POSSIBILITY that all prayers are answered in some way. Now, if it is so, I will ask, do you believe all prayers will be answered exactly in the way you want them to be answered? Or, will answers from God be very different from what we would expect?
A little humorous question asks, “How do you make God laugh?” The answer, “Tell him your plans.”
The movie “Rudy,” shows what happens when a person prays with an expectation of a certain result. Rudy Ruettiger, was a young man who had a dream. He dreamed he would someday attend Notre Dame University and play football for the school team, nicknamed “The Fighting Irish.” With that goal in mind he packed his bags, said goodbye to his parents, and took a bus to South Bend, Indiana, home of Notre Dame.
Only two problems with Rudy’s plans. One, he didn’t have the marks to get into Notre Dame. So, he had to attend a junior college in order to get his grades up. He tried and tried, prayed and prayed, but after 3 semesters, he still hadn’t qualified. Unbeknownst to Rudy, he suffered from dyslexia, which made it difficult for him to grasp educational concepts. Once this was diagnosed, a great weight was lifted off his shoulders.
The second problem was that, even if he did get into Notre Dame, it was doubtful he could make the team. After all, he was only 5’6” tall, and weighed 160 lbs. Not exactly American college football material. But he still carried on with a firm resolve and a whole lot of prayer.
Notre Dame was a Catholic college, so Rudy found it convenient to pray in the school church. He did so often. One day, while he was there on his knees, a priest who knew him well saw him at prayer.
Here is the transcript from the movie which, by the way, is a real story about a real person. The dialogue is between Rudy and Fr. Cavanaugh, the priest.
Fr. Cavanaugh: “Rudy, are you appealing to a higher authority?”
Rudy: I'm desperate. If I don't get in next semester, it's over. Notre Dame doesn't accept senior transfers.
Father Cavanaugh: Well, you've done a hell of a job kid, chasing down your dream.
Rudy: Who cares what kind of job I did if it doesn't produce results? It doesn't mean anything.
Father Cavanaugh: I think you'll find that it will.
Rudy: Maybe I haven't prayed enough.
Father Cavanaugh: I don't think that's the problem. Praying is something we do in our time, the answers come in God's time.
Rudy: If I've done everything I possibly can, can you help me?
Father Cavanaugh: Son, in thirty-five years of religious study, I've come up with only two hard, incontrovertible facts; there is a God, and, I'm not Him.
Well, without giving you more story details because maybe you’ll want to see the movie yourself someday, suffice to say that in all of Notre Dame’s illustrious football history, Rudy Ruettiger was only one of two Fighting Irish alumni who were carried off the field after a game by his teammates on their shoulders, in praise. In the end, Rudy was the first of his 13 brothers and sisters who graduated from university, followed eventually by all his younger siblings. Did God answer Rudy’s prayers to play football for Notre Dame? I’d say emphatically yes, and so much more. But the key here in following up on prayer experience is, when your prayer is answered, pause and reflect. Recognize that it was your God who made the difference, not just yourself.
So, what do I mean when I call prayer, a gift from God? What I mean is that prayer allows us to communicate with Him at the most basic spiritual level. Prayer does not rely on any Tower of Babel language. We can use English, French, Spanish, Greek or any of the 6,909 living languages listed by The Ethnologue catalogue of world languages. Prayer is multilingual, as is God. I personally say two sets of prayers every night. One set is the prayers my mother taught me in Hungarian. The other set is prayers I learned over the years in English, including naturally, The Lord’s Prayer.
Prayer is our bridge to God. Formal or informal, memorized or not. Verbal or in silence.Through prayer we are reaching out. We are acknowledging that what we experience with our senses is not enough. It is not enough to see, hear, touch, taste or smell. It is not enough even to think, calculate and conclude. Prayer is the vehicle to belief. Without it, we are hobbling along in a 4-wheel carriage with one wheel missing or weak. With it, we are wheeling along smoothly, and our direction is true.
So, how does the power of thanks come into it? In my mind, thanking someone for something done for you is an acknowledgement that you have received a benefit that didn’t come entirely from your own resources or power. The power of thanks recognizes the duality of an accomplishment. The duality being you and someone else. One gives to another. One returns a gift to another. The power of this recognition, the power of admitting this other, is the admission that we are not alone. We admit that every time we thank another person, and every time we thank God.
The poet and Anglican cleric, John Donne, wrote these lines hundreds of years ago…..
“No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
Never ask for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee. You are not alone. You are a part of mankind. And as such, if a part of you is diminished, we are all diminished. And, as such, we are a part of God, and when we give thanks, we recognize the power of our relationship to God, and that recognition allows us to understand that together, in God, we can accomplish great things because we don’t have to rely solely on our own strengths, but the combined strength of us together, and together with God.
In yet another example from the world of football, a panel of sports prognosticators - a fancy word for sports tv analysts - were discussing various teams and players. One of them asked the question, “What makes Tom Brady tick?” For anyone who doesn’t know, Tom Brady is the 40-year-old quarterback of the New England Patriots who won the league championship last February, the Super Bowl. In fact, Brady has won 5 of them over 17 years, the only player ever to accomplish that.
Well, one of these experts tried to formulate an answer to, “What makes Tom Brady tick?” He said, “It’s almost as if he acknowledges that he has been given this immense power to compete and to excel, and his constant striving to use these gifts is his way of giving thanks.” This said by an ordinary tv sports guy, one who, I believe, has tapped into the power of thanks.”
And now, I will resort to a line by George Burns, that wonderful comedian:
“The secret of a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending, and to have the two as close together as possible.”
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
PROCESSIONAL: Thy Word (#496 — Blue Hymnal)
INTROIT: "Sing A New Song" (Choir)
OPENING PRAYER: Creator God, You have made us in Your image to reflect Your goodness. You have called us to use our gifts to build Your kingdom. Help us to focus on how to develop our creativity and, at the same time, to seek the wisdom to use our skills to Your glory, and for the building up of the people we serve. In the name of Christ and through the Holy Spirit, we pray. Amen.
CALL TO WORSHIP:
ONE: 0 give thanks to the Lord, call on His name, make known His deeds among the peoples.
ALL: Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; tell of all His wonderful works.
ONE: Come let us worship the Lord.
OPENING HYMN: #466 "Praise The Lord With The Sound Of Trumpet"
WELCOME: All who come to this sanctuary are welcome companions on this special musical day. You are invited to turn to those nearest you and greet them with words of peace and joy.
SPECIAL MUSIC: Norm Rennie & Rob Ireland "Let's Walk Along/Shoutin' On The Hills"
THE MUSICIANS PRAYER: Oh Lord, please bless the music which we share today, that itmight glorify Your name. May the talent that You have bestowed upon us be used only to serve You. Let this music be a witness to Your majesty and love, and remind us that You are always watching, and listening, from Your throne above. May Your presence and beauty be found in every note, and may the words that are sung reach the hearts of Your people so they will draw closer to You. May Your Spirit guide us through every measure so that we might be the instruments of Your peace, and proclaim Your glory with glad voices. Amen.
SPECIAL MUSIC: Kevin Harvey "Be Thou My Vision"
RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 96 (Page 934)
SPECIAL MUSIC: Quinn Burrows "The Midnight Special"
PRAYER & THE LORD'S PRAYER: Creator God, because You make all that draws forth our praise and the forms in which to express it, we praise You. Because You make artists of us all, awakening courage to look again at what is taken for granted, grace to share these insights
with others, vision to reveal the future already in being, we praise You. Because You form Your Word among us, and in Your great work embrace all human experience, even death itself, inspiring our resurrection song, we praise You. Lord, You have called us to worship You. We gladly gather. As we praise You, though, our own inadequacy reminds us of how we have broken our relationship with You. Because we have sinned against You, even our worship fails to be what it could. We often treat it as a show. We simply go through the motions, failing to recognize that You want to engage us deeply.
Renew us, we pray, according to Your steadfast love. Remind us of Your
covenant faithfulness and have mercy on us. Now let us pray together the prayer Jesus taught us: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever, Amen.
HYMN: #422 "Sing A New Song Unto The Lord"
SPECIAL MUSIC: Kim Graham "Hands"
ANNOUNCEMENTS, BIRTHDAYS & ANNIVERSARIES: (Betty)
SPECIAL MUSIC: Stewart Burrows "Jesus Met The Woman At The Well"
SCRIPTURE READING: 2 Peter 1:3-11 Page 1893
SPECIAL MUSIC: Yvonne Langlois "A Time To Gather"
PRAYER OF INTERCESSION: (Choir sings right before prayer- Take, 0 Take Me As I Am)
Creator God, You have made us in Your image to reflect Your goodness. You have called us to us our gifts to build Your kingdom. As we worship this day, we seek to reflect Your image in our daily routine. Help us not only to focus on how to develop our creativity, but also to seek the wisdom to use our skills to Your glory, and for the building up
of the people we serve. In the name of Christ and through the Holy Spirit we pray. Amen.
SPECIAL MUSIC: Diane Morrison "The Rose" annuled
HYMN: #412 "Come Let Us Sing"
OFFERING: This is the time where we make our love visible through the giving of our offerings. Let's give with cheerful hearts.
Offering Received: "Let's Just Praise" Choir
Offertory Hymn #79 (Blue Hymnal)
Generous God; over and over Your grace sustains us, over and over Your
Love provides for us, and over and over Your arm steadies us. We give You these gifts, with gratitude and joy, thankful that You are God over all. Amen
SPECIAL MUSIC: Howard Welburn "Gonna Build A Mountain"
MEDITATION: Using God's Gifts
USING GOD'S GIFTS
A church bulletin ran this notice; "Someone has taken the paper cutter
from the church office and we are in dire need of it. Please bear in mind that without the paper cutter, the sermons will get longer and longer." Well please don't worry, I haven't lost my paper cutter!
We're all here today because we love music. It's been wonderful hearing
everyone sing and the instruments being played. It's been said that music is food for the soul, and I agree. We sing when we're happy. We whistle or hum while we work. We clap our hands or stomp our feet when we hear a lively tune, and we sway to the rhythm of a lilting ballad. I Corinthians 7:7 says "Each man has his own gift from God," and we've enjoyed the musical gifts He has given today.
There's an old joke about a man who, when asked if he could play a violin, answered, "I don't know. I've never tried." This is psychologically a very wise reply. Those who have never tried to play a violin really don't know whether or not they can. Those who say too early in life, and too firmly, "No, I'm not at all musical," shut themselves off permanently from whole areas of life that may have proved rewarding.
Each of us has unknown possibilities, undiscovered potentialities. One big advantage of having an open self-concept rather than a rigid one, is that we will continue to expose ourselves to new experiences and therefore continue to discover more and more about ourselves as we grow older.
This afternoon we have listened to beautiful voices, and heard the sound of guitars, flutes, violins, a euphonium, a saxophone, drums and piano. I remember the first time I picked up my saxophone. I put the mouthpiece between my lips and blew. The most horrifying sound came out and I was convinced this was not the instrument for me. But after several tries and instruction from my Dad, the sound improved. And eventually, after a few weeks of practicing, I was part of the saxophone section in the Ormstown Band.
It's the same for any person wanting to play an instrument or sing. First, we need instruction, a teacher to show us what to do. Then we need to practice, practice, practice. That reminds me of four year Jimmy who was thrilled when he family got a piano. He immediately went to the instrument, got up on the bench and began pounding the keys. After a while he got down from the piano bench in total frustration. "It's no use," he cried. "Jesus Loves Me just isn't in that piano." The moral: You get out what you put in. After some instruction and practice, little Jimmy would be able to play Jesus Loves Me.
The same can be said for anything. You get out of worship what you put into it. You get out of discipleship what you put into it. You get out of prayer,faith, etc. What you put into it. All these things need practice, dedication, devotion and desire to always try to do better.
I want you to think with me, just for a moment, about life as a great
musical instrument and we are all required to play. There are so many people who don't know how to get any music out of this instrument of life. They find fault with life itself. They put the blame on God when they should be blaming themselves. It isn't life that is to blame and neither is it God, if we get no music. It's you and I.
If we want to get music out of life, we must have a teacher, and the world's greatest teacher is Jesus Christ. He gives us our lessons, but we must practice, practice, practice.
Are you getting music out of life? And if you are, what kind of music is it? Is Christ your teacher? Do you practice? When we let Christ teach us and when we follow his teachings and practice what 1-le has taught, our lives will be filled with the most beautiful music which we can share with others. That is our gift from God and we should use it every day.
Let us pray: Gracious and loving God, our souls are filled with the power and joy of Your song of Creation. Our hearts dance to the beat of Your rhythm as we raise our voices in response to Your call. Wrapped in the arms of Your sustaining Love, we offer our gift of music. In the presence of Your Holy Spirit, hearts are stilled to hear, minds are stirred to action and lives may be transformed.
We pray that all who listen will hear with understanding, and open
themselves to feel You presence through the joy in our voices and the passion in our hearts. We pray that all who listen will feel their spirits touched by the wonder of Your mystery, and add their own voices to our joyful noise.
SPECIAL MUSIC: Elisabeth Churchill "You Raise Me Up"
CLOSING HYMN: #410 "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore You"
CLOSING PRAYER: God of majesty, whom saints and angels delight to worship in heaven; be with Your servants who make art and music for Your people, that with joy we on earth may glimpse Your beauty and bring us to the fulfillment of that hope of perfection which will be ours as we stand before Your glory. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen. And now
BENEDICTION & CHORAL AMEN: May the blessing of God, the giver of every good and perfect gift, and of Christ, who summons us to service, and of the Holy Spirit who inspires generosity and love, be with us all.
"Music is the art of the prophets, the only art that can calm the agitations of the soul; it is
one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us."
- Martin Luther
Once upon a time in their marriage, a fellow, let's call him Jim,
did something feally stupid. His wife chewed him out for it.
He apologized, they made up.
However, from time to time, his wife would mention what he
"Honey," the fellow finally said one day, "why do you keep
bringing that up? I thought your policy was 'forgive and
"It is," said his wife. "I just don't want you to forget that I've
forgiven and forgotten."
"Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." Have you ever
given much thought to that line from the Lord's Prayer? I think
it's fair to say that most of the time, we pray this prayer
without thinking deeply about what we are saying. But today's
teaching from Jesus forces us to give serious thought to our
practice of forgiveness towards others, especially as it relates to
God's forgiveness towards us.
The lesson begins with Peter's question, "Lord, how many times
should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me?
Should I forgive as many as seven times?" Peter doesn't literally
mean saying, "I forgive you," seven times over. Throughout the
Bible, seven is considered the number that represents
perfection. So Peter is in essence asking, "If I forgive perfectly,
that should about take care of it, right?" But Jesus response is
not really affirmative. "Not just seven times," Jesus says,
"but...seventy-seven times." In other words, your forgiveness
must be better than perfect, it must be perfect perfection. And
then Jesus goes on to illustrate just what forgiveness should
look like through a parable, known as the "parable of the
Now, this parable is told to a first century audience, familiar
with the economy of that day and the value of talents and so
forth. Because we don't have a full knowledge of the value of
money and various denominations of money in that time, it's
hard for us to understand the immensity of what Jesus is
conveying here. So let me try and put this servant's debt in
perspective. In the first century Roman world, a talent was
equal to about fifteen years' pay for a laborer. Did you hear
that? It took roughly fifteen years for an average laborer to
earn just one talent! And now we have this king who has said
the servant owes him 10,000 times that; 150,000 years worth
of labor! So clearly, this is an absurd amount of money the
servant owed to the king. There really would have been no way
the laborer could have run up such a debt with his master.
Jesus is speaking in hyperbole here in order to convey
unquestionably that the servant owed his master a lot. But the
point is not the exact amount owed by the servant. Instead, the
point Jesus wants to make in this parable is the immensity of
the forgiveness offered by the king. Certainly, what the servant
owed the master was great, but what the master forgave was
Which is why it's so ironic that the servant immediately turns
around and does just the opposite! As soon as the servant has
left the king's presence, he runs across a fellow servant who
just happens to be in debt to him some 100 coins. Again, this is
most likely not a precise amount. But to give you an idea, let's
call the first servant's debt "the ocean," and let's call his fellow
servant's debt "a drop." What this fellow servant owed was
miniscule compared to the debt just forgiven by the king. Still,
though, the unforgiving servant did not show the same
generous forgiveness his master had shown him. In fact, he
offered no forgiveness at all. That's pretty unbelievable, isn't it?
Imagine how we would feel if we had been so generous with
someone, and they turned right around and attempted to take
something from someone else. We'd be pretty angry, wouldn't
we? And the king gets angry as well. When he gets word of his
unforgiving servant, he calls him back and punishes him. Now,
what we have to note here is that the servant is not being
punished because of the debt he owes his master. Instead, he is
being punished because he did not show the same generous
forgiveness the master had offered to him. Just think about
that for a minute, friends. We mess up a lot in our lives. We sin
against God and our neighbor. But if we go to God again and
again seeking God's forgiveness, then Christ tells us, the Father
will generously bestow that forgiveness. But, if we cannot in
turn offer the same generous forgiveness to those who have
sinned against us...well, it's only THEN that God's forgiveness
may not be so readily available. Do you see what I'm getting at?
One message of this passage is that God does not punish us for
the bad things we do; rather, God punishes us for the good
things we do NOT do, our failure to be generous with others as
God in Christ Jesus has been generous with us.
Clearly, forgiveness is serious business. And I do not in any way
want to diminish either the seriousness of our failures, nor the
extreme difficulty in forgiving those who have wronged us. If
we are to receive God's forgiveness, it requires that we repent
of our wrongdoing. This means we have to acknowledge that
we were wrong, we have to approach God in humility, and we
have to seek God's grace. In other words, we essentially turn
ourselves over to the mercy of God. Forgiveness is not just like
some Christmas present that a kindly grandfather gives to his
sulky grandchild, even though the grandchild has been
disrespectful and ungrateful the whole Christmas morning.
Forgiveness requires a change of our hearts, and it results in a
change of our lives.
In the same way, the forgiveness we share with others should
not be bestowed lightly. There are terrible, terrible things that
people do to one another in this world. Children are abandoned
or abused by their drug-addicted parents. Thieves rob us of our
material goods and our sense of security. Terrorists kill
innocent civilians in an effort to get some attention. People lie
to us, take advantage of us, and bully us. And many of us, no
doubt, have been on the receiving end of such hurt at times.
We know it is not easy to forgive, nor is it appropriate to just
flippantly forgive such harm. But if, in time, the person who has
wronged us seeks us out, acknowledges their wrongdoing, and
genuinely asks for our forgiveness, then Christ's message to us
this morning is that we should not withhold it. And if, even
then, we find it difficult to forgive the person who has hurt us,
then at the very least, we should pray to God to help us do
what needs to be done. Maybe even the prayer goes something
like this, "God, will you forgive this person for the hurt they
have caused me? And in turn, God, please help me to forgive
them as well."
Forgiveness is a hard road to walk, but it is the way to life and
life abundant. Forgiveness is the way of Jesus, the way of the
cross. And while revenge may seem to be much easier and
more desirable, it in fact is what leads to bondage and death!
Did you know that the Greek word for "forgive" means to "let
loose"? It's like a really tough knot that suddenly gives way and
becomes completely untied. It's like a dark bondage from which
there is sudden release. That's what it's like to be forgiven. And
that is what it is like to forgive as well!
Forgiveness means to release, to let go of the other, but
forgiveness is not denying or forgetting our hurt. When we
minimize what has happened to us, gloss over it, or tell
ourselves that it was not really that bad, we cannot really
Today, as every year at this time around September 11, we
remember those terrible attacks in New York City and
Washington DC, just a few hours south from us. This was a
major event, causing widespread heartbreak. Perhaps we knew
families hurt by the tragedy; perhaps we ourselves felt hurt by
these obscene acts. This was an event that rocked our world.
An event that changed our world. An event that had incredible,
life changing negative impacts on an entire world.
And perhaps we also remember other pains and the hurts,
fears and angers, not as far reaching, but that have nonetheless
changed our own lives in the last decade.
Forgiveness is only truly possible when we are able to
acknowledge the negative impact of another person's actions in
our lives. And what Christ teaches us is that once we have
acknowledged the hurt, we are to forgive the perpetrators. We
have to make a conscious choice to release those who have
wounded us from the sentence of our judgment, however
justified that judgment may be.
Often we do not really want to forgive someone or ask for their
forgiveness, even though we know we "should." One reason
may be a desire for revenge, and that is surely true for many
when we recall the events of 9/11, or other harmful or hateful
things. We want to get back at the people for what they have
done to us. We may want to return the hurt by inverting the
Golden Rule, "Do unto others as they have done unto us." We
may resist forgiving another because we think that the person
who hurt us ought to do or say something to mend the hurt, or
repay us for what we have experienced. We want to put
conditions on forgiveness, probably because it is so difficult.
But.... The great blessing of forgiveness is that it is a two-way
street, where both the one who is forgiven as well as the one
who forgives are set free. How can we, sinners saved by grace,
those who owe a great debt to God but who have had that debt
cancelled by Christ's shed blood on the cross, by God so loving
and forgiving us; how can we refuse to forgive others? Our
hearts are either open or closed to God's forgiveness. If they
are open, able and willing to forgive others, it shows that they
have truly and for real been open to receive God's love and
forgiveness gratefully and in such a way that saves our very
souls, changing us from the inside out! But if our hearts are
locked up to the love of God they will be locked up from
extending God's love to others. It's basically just a law of
There can be no doubt that this is a hard lesson for us to learn,
both in our thinking and in our acting. This lesson holds up a
mirror for us to see our tendency to withhold the very mercy
and forgiveness we have received.
Think about it, the ONLY righteous judge, Jesus, says from the
cross, "Forgive them." We, from our positions of self-
righteousness, cry out, "Pay me back what you owe!" The key
point of Jesus' words to Peter are that the way of life which
marks out the Christian life is forgiveness! Those who truly
understand the magnitude of God's mercy must may it forward
Not only does Jesus forgive us, but it is only through Jesus'
forgiveness that we, ourselves, can possibly forgive others. As
Jesus' words make clear, those of us who have been forgiven so
very, very much by God through Jesus Christ must take a good
look in the mirror. Those who have been forgiven, must forgive.
Every time we accuse someone else, we accuse ourselves.
Every time we forgive someone else, though, we pass on a drop
of water out of the bucketful that God has already given us.
God does not forgive our sins easily, nor does God expect us to
simply blow off the deep pain that others sometimes cause us.
But when we can acknowledge the cost of our own mistakes,
and let go of the pain and hurt that others have caused us, then
we will find ourselves free of a great burden. Forgiveness is life-
giving. It is an important part of the abundant life Christ has
promised to those who follow him. In fact, forgiveness is the
way of life that will mark out the new covenant community.
And it's not just that Jesus' disciples be forgiving people, but we
must together be a community of forgiveness. Still, there is a
deeper demand of this text, which is to forgive others as our
acceptance of God's forgiveness. "Forgive us our trespasses as
we forgive those who trespass against us." If we are not willing
to share the generous forgiveness that God has shared with us,
then we cannot expect that God will continually be so merciful.
Think of it like this: forgiveness is like the air in your lungs.
There's only room for you to inhale the next lungful when
you've just breathed out the previous one. If you insist on
withholding it, refusing to give someone else the kiss of life
they may desperately need, you won't be able to take any more
in yourself and you will suffocate very quickly. Like those lungs,
if our heart is open, able, and willing to forgive others, it will
also be open to receive God's love and forgiveness. But if it's
locked up to one, it will be locked up to the other.
We can allow ourselves to be robbed of life as we keep pain
and hurt locked up inside us, or we can let it go. The key to
letting it go is forgiveness; allowing ourselves to forgive and to
be forgiven. But grace will not operate if it's not embraced
wholeheartedly. There is a direct connection between God's
saving work on our behalf and the behavior that is expected of
the family of God. Our lives must make obvious who God is and
what God is like. So let us move and live in God's grace,
extending to others what has been so freely given to us.
Here is a question that was posed in the 4th chapter of Genesis. And it has been discussed by bible scholars, by students of the human condition, by writers and by students ever since.
It is the rather surly response to God who asks Cain where his brother, Abel, is. Of course, God knows where he is. He has been murdered by Cain. Not only that. Cain knows that God knows, so his attitude is, “Why ask me when you know full well what happened.”
Isn’t it strange how this story unfolds at the very beginning of the bible writings? Why so early? Why should there be a tale of intrigue and murder so soon after the Creation? Why, in fact, why was there a story of temptation, of giving in to temptation, of disobedience to the Creator God, and of God’s response to man’s disobedience? Wouldn’t you think it might have been more glorious to speak of God and his angels in all their glory, describe the beauty of heaven, and thank God for his great gifts?
I’ve thought of these things, as many of you probably also have. Taking a step back, a step away from individuals like Adam, Eve, Abel, Cain, Seth and so many more, I believe the writers of these early stories were simply trying to make sense of the world as we know it, not necessarily as we would like it to be.
We don’t live in a world without pain. We don’t live in a world without death. We don’t live in a world in which man is always unselfish and kind to his fellow man, his brothers and sisters. But recognizing the truths of our human failings, I also recognize the strong truth that we still look for solutions to our faults. There is an instinct within us that prompts us to search for the RIGHT way to do things. This also is what the bible stories constantly probe. Therefore, we have the question, “Am I My Brother’s Keeper?” And if the answer is YES, we must be able to answer WHY?
So, it is not simply a story of Cain and Abel. It is a story of jealousy, of hate, of aggression, and of the ultimate crime, that of murder. It is the beginning probe of ethics and of why such heinous crimes are not simple transgressions against God, not simply sins, but actions that result in a dysfunctional world, a world that does…not…work.
As a young man in high school, I loved sports of all kinds, mostly football and hockey, but also soccer and baseball. If you notice, all four of these sports are team events, not the classical individual Olympic events like track and field, but events that require several players working together toward a common goal. I had some pretty good coaches throughout high school and college, and my school, Loyola, won its fair share of championships. How was that accomplished? What our coaches taught us is that in order to WIN, certain basic disciplines must be applied.
But why bother with winning? Why bother with success? Why bother with our fellow men and women? And what is winning anyway? Why is it desirable? Isn’t it enough to just participate and have fun? Isn’t it enough to just do for ourselves?
Well, in my opinion, winning is just a word to describe the attainment of certain challenging goals. Yes, you can be a winner by simply doing the best you can. You can be a winner by achieving certain set personal individual goals. But to be a winning TEAM, you have to rise above your own individual world and include the world of your TEAMMATES. You have to not only do your best. You have to help your teammates to do their best. If one stumbles, another must immediately step up to take his place, to lend a hand. You must recognize what others’ strengths and weaknesses are. You must be willing to BE YOUR BROTHER’s KEEPER. If you do not, your team will fail, and repeated failure in the big world means an eventual failure of your society. You will eventually perish without winning.
Christ recognized this in his parable of the Good Samaritan. The interesting thing to me about that story is that the expert in the law - or lawyer - who challenged Jesus ended up by answering his own questions.
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[c]; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’[d]”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”
30 In reply, Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[e] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
So, you see, this lawyer had his answers already in his own soul. Jesus only asked him questions. The lawyer was instinctively able to provide the correct answers. In the same way, we instinctively know that we need to be our brother’s keepers. We have the answers in our own conscience. If we are able to think as TEAM players, not as selfish individuals. If we are able to see others as our own brothers and sisters, not as strangers to fear. If we do not allow prejudice and fear, but caring, be our guiding light. The essence of caring for others begins when we are very young. The essence of hatred and fear likewise begins at the same time. I don’t know if I’ve ever sung this little song to you here in Rockburn, so forgive me if you’ve heard it here before. It’s from South Pacific:
You’ve got to be taught to be afraid, of people whose eyes are ugly made
And people whose skins are a different shade, you’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear, you’ve got to be taught from year to year,
It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear, you’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late, before you are six or seven or eight
To hate all the people your relatives hate, you’ve got to be carefully taught,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
But in our modern world, we often fail to recognize how to be a good neighbour. We often fail to distinguish what it takes to be a good Samaritan. There’s a little story I read about a Scotsman named Jock:
Jock’s mother calls him from Aberdeen.
"How's the flat you're living in in London, Jock?" she asks.
"It's okay," he replies, "but the woman next door keeps screaming and crying all night and the guy on the other side keeps banging his head on the wall."
"Never you mind," says his mother, "don't you let them get to you, just ignore them."
"Aye, that I do," he says, “And I just keep playing my bagpipes.”
We all have trouble being good neighbours sometimes. When someone goes to cut you off on the road, you see him coming, you know exactly what he’s going to do, you have plenty of time to slow down and let him in, but do you? Or, do you speed up and try to keep him from getting in front of you? And when he flashes you his middle finger, do you feel sorry for what you did, or do you give him the finger right back again? I admit there have been times I have done exactly that.
The story of Cain and Abel is a story about a brother killing a brother. It is a shocking story, a cruel story, but it was an act fuelled by jealousy and murderous thought before it actually resulted in the taking of a life.
Luke 10 makes it clear that the thought comes before the deed:
21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
And Matthew makes clear that while it is a good thing to attend church and to offer sacrifice, it is even more important to settle your differences with your brothers and sisters.
Matt 5 23-24
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First, go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
You see, it’s easy to hold a grudge and to keep a wall of silence between you and your neighbour, friend, or family member. And, it’s easy to let your pride take over when, instead of making up over some differences, you decide to “never talk to him again.” It’s easier in the short run, perhaps, but sometimes such an attitude can become hardened, neither side gives way, and you may end by taking your differences to the grave. I can guarantee you that if that happens, you will be forever sorry, and too late to do anything about it. Better to make amends now while you can. Better to be ‘brothers’ again, even if you feel he or she was the wrong one. Go to him, knock on his door, and say, “Hey, bud! Look, I just want to say I’m sorry. Can we forget about all this and just be friends again?” I guarantee you won’t regret it. I know. I have been there. Better to be your brother’s keeper than to let the wound fester until your relationship is dead.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.