CALL TO WORSHIP:
ONE: God of grace, we come with all we have;
ALL: bodies, souls, minds; all here to worship You.
ONE: A world where enemies embrace, distinctions between friend and foe evaporating in the light of Your love.
ALL: We dedicate this hour of worship to You and to Your kingdom come.
OPENING PRAYER & THE LORD'S PRAYER: In peace, let us pray to the Lord: for all people of all faith traditions, that we may enjoy relationships built on mutual respect and trust. Lord, we pray. Renew your peace in our hearts, and give us the courage of faith in our daily lives. Lord, we pray. Free us from all prejudice and fear, deepen our understanding and love. Lord, we pray. Show us the way to bring Your love and compassion to the poor, the sick, the lonely, the unloved and the forgotten. Lord, we pray.
For those who seek to be bearers of friendship to young and old, across all ages and race barriers. Lord, we pray. For all who serve and protect our nation; for all who are currently in harm's way, may they be kept safe, wrapped in the mantle of Your love. Lord, we pray. For all parents and teachers, and all those entrusted with the care of children and young people. Lord, we pray. Forgive those who hurt us or distort our best intentions;
forgive us also and remedy our acts of injustice. Lord, we pray. Console those who are bereaved or in sorrow. Lord, we pray. Loving God, you care for us all and know all our needs. May we always rest in You love, as we continue to pray, saying: 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.
Offertory Prayer: Heavenly Father, You have provided us with a family, friends, a home and food to eat for each day. As You have been generous to us, we offer You these gifts as symbols of our utmost gratitude for Your kindness. Bless us, Father, with continued blessings. Forever in Your glory, Lord, in Jesus' name we pray. Amen
SPECIAL MUSIC: "Paul And Silas Bound In Jail" & "I Shall Not Be Moved" Hugh Wallis
SCRIPTURE READINGS: Exodus 28:1-5 — reading from the New King James Version Psalm 1 Page 843
PRAYER OF CONFESSION:
The life You give us in Christ is so very real, God. Who are we
to receive such goodness? Yes, we have come to church today, but we confess that we have not been all that faithful throughout the past week. There were moments when we acted in love, but more often our actions were powered by other motives. Forgive us, and help us to forgive ourselves.
We did remember You upon occasion, but too easily we forgot You amid the daily grind. Forgive us and help us to live in You. Every now and then an "Amen" did come out of us in word or action. But like the father who came to Jesus with his dying son, we more often cried out, "I believe, help my unbelief." Forgive us and empower us with Your Spirit.
Who are we to profess the life You freely give? Who are we to claim Your daily goodness? Who are we to receive Your healing presence? Thank you, Father God, for Your forgiveness. Thank you, Christ Jesus, for Your life. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for
Your power. We open ourselves to You, anew, today. Live now in us, we pray. In Jesus' name. Amen.
MEDITATION: Priestly Vestments
Back in the beginning, long before the time of Moses, each man was his own priest. It was each man's own responsibility to offer God sacrifices. Adam, Cain, Abel, Noah and Abram are among those men who showed their love and faith in God by offering sacrifices. Then, when we get to Exodus 12, we find, that in Egypt, it has become the head of the household who officiates these sacrifices. And then it evolved so that the head of each tribe was chosen for the position of the 'high priest.'
There are three different kinds of priests mentioned in the Bible. There were the sons of Levi who were priests doing the work of the Lord. Then there was the High Priest. Aaron was the first High Priest and his son succeeded him, and so followed generation after generation. Only one High Priest held the office at a time. The third priest mentioned in the Bible is the "Great High Priest", Jesus Christ. He isn't from the Levi family, nor was He a son of Aaron. He didn't inherit the position and He didn't pass it on to anyone. Our Lord, Jesus Christ, remains the Great High Priest.
Among the heathen nations, the priests were appointed by popular election, and inevitably, this meant that ambition alone rules their appointment. But God wasn't going to have any of that. He would only acknowledge those who were appointed by Him. To show that He, God, is the only one who can name a true priest, God commands Aaron and his sons to be separated from the other eleven tribes. God instructs Moses to make sure this is done.
Exodus 28:1: "Consecrate Aaron, your brother, and his sons Nadab, Abihu, Eleazer and Ithamer to be priests, to minister to me." This was a divine calling. It was not a position any person from any other tribe could simply apply for. No indeed! It was a position for the children of Levi only. Each person desiring the position had to prove he was a descendant of Aaron. Not only that, they had had to prove that they were pure and clean, without any bodily defect or blemish.
Leviticus, chapter 21, tells us exactly how rigorous this test was. It says: "No priest who is a leper or who has a running sore may eat the holy sacrifices until he is healed. And any priest who touches a dead person, or is defiled by a seminal emission, or who touches any reptile or other forbidden thing — that priest shall be defiled until evening and shall not eat of the holy sacraments until after he has bathed that evening and is purified again. Warn the priests to follow these instructions carefully, unless they be declared guilty and die for violating these rules. I am the Lord who sacrifices them."
As we can see, becoming a priest was a tremendously important calling. Only the highest standard was acceptable. The priests had only one function to fulfil, and that was to minister to God. They made sacrifices to Him, they were in charge of the altar and the sanctuary. They kept a fire on the altar, lighted candles and burned incense. They were responsible for conducting all the sacred services of worship in the tabernacle. They were also responsible for the religious instruction of all the people of the nation, imparting the knowledge of the Lord.
Now, let's go back to Aaron. The chapter in Exodus continues saying: "make special clothes for Aaron, to indicate his separation to God — beautiful garments that will lend dignity to his work. Instruct those to whom I have given special skill as tailors to make the garments that will set him apart from others, so that he may minister to me in the priest's office. This is the wardrobe they shall make: a chestpiece, an ephod (a sleeveless tunic reaching from the shoulders to below the knee), a robe, a checkered tunic, a turban and a sash. They shall also make special garments for Aaron's sons."
These external ornaments showed the want of those who are true and wholly spiritual. If a priest had been absolutely perfect, these accessories would have been superfluous. By having Aaron adorned in these priestly vestments, he was showing more than an angelic show of virtues. Aaron had already been defiled by his own corruption and therefore unworthy to appear in the presence of God. In order for him to become a peacemaker between God and the people, he had to discard his ordinary clothes and present himself as a new man. The holy garments were, first of all, supposed to hide all of his faults. Secondly, they were to represent the supreme purity and wondrous glory of God.
If we were to continue reading Exodus, we would come upon the cleansing of Aaron. This is the ceremony for Aaron and his sons as priests. Exodus 29:4: "Bathe Aaron and his sons there at the entrance. Then put Aaron's robes on him. Then take the anointing oil and pour it on his head. They will then be priests forever." The whole process of Aaron becoming High Priest took two chapters to describe.
Aaron and his sons had been especially chosen by God. They had been chosen above all the other tribes of Israel to serve God in the worship of His name. He had called them into His work. He adorned them and cleansed them in order to make them fit for the work and it was a privilege for them to serve Him. This holds true today, for every believer is born again by the work of God's grace, because we know God has taken away all our faults and blemishes. For all God has done for us, He expects us to obediently carry out His work.
When you're at an airport, or back in the day, a train or bus station, do you ever notice the luggage and carry-ons that people are carrying or pulling along behind them? Do you ever wonder how expensive they are? Are they hard to carry around? Do people ever get tired of looking after them? If they're so much trouble, why don't people just leave them at home? Well, of course they can't do that. There are items in those bags and cases which the owners are going to need. They carefully pack their bags and get everything ready before they leave.
Think about this: does someone who is going to the Yukon pack the same kind of clothing as the person who is headed for Arizona? Does the one who is going to Greenland pack the same clothing as the one who is bound for Africa? Does the one who is going to visit the royal court of a king or a queen take the same things as the one who is going to the harvest fields to work?
Now let's think about packing clothing for the soul, the part of us which never dies. Your soul is the real you, and you are packing your soul-clothing for a journey into a far country. There are two of these countries which your soul has an invitation to enter. God invites you to take the one we call heaven. The powers of evil invite you to enter the other, called hell.
The one invitation is the royal court of the King of heaven, and the other is to a dark prison. The time to pack your soul's travelling bag is now, before it starts on the journey. Just as you can easily tell by the things which are packed in a person's suitcase whether that person is heading toward the northlands or the southlands, for the harvest-fields or the king's court, so you can tell by the things which you pack into your life which way you are heading your soul.
Habits and characteristics are the clothing of the soul. Remember, your soul has an invitation to join a King's court. It may cost you something to get the right habits, because good habits, like good clothing, are expensive. You may get tired of looking after your luggage, but you'll need it later, so keep holding on to it.
Is the clothing for your soul ready to wear in heaven, or are you packing your life with the cheap, prison clothing of bad habits and weak principles? We don't want to be ashamed of the clothing we have provided for our soul to wear in eternity. Aaron made mistakes, but God chose him to wear the priestly vestments and honour His glory. God wants you to adorn the priestly vestments, too. He wants us to honour Him, live by His word, because when God saves you by His grace, He calls you into full-time service for Him.
BENEDICTION & CHORAL AMEN: Eternal God and Father, by whose power we are
created and by whose love we are redeemed; guide and strengthen us by Your Spirit, that we may give ourselves to Your service, and live this day in love to one another and to You, through Jesus Christ, Your Son,
"If most of us are ashamed of shabby clothes and shoddy furniture, let us be more ashamed of shabby ideas and shoddy philosophies. It would be a sad situation if the wrapper were better than the meat wrapped inside it."
- Albert Einstein