CALL TO WORSHIP:
ONE: True happiness comes from following God's way.
ALL: Our only delight comes in walking with Christ.
ONE: Let us praise our Maker by fixing our vision upon the Lord. ALL: We offer our praise through faithful action. Let us worship God.
PRAYER & THE LORD'S PRAYER:
0 God, whose Word is not just a one way conversation,
talk with us today and hear us as we pray. Free us, that we might listen for Your voice, and empower us to speak to You. For in Christ Jesus, You have called us into a friendship which influences all other relationships. Help us to see beauty where we might be tempted to see ugliness, in ourselves as well as others. May Your joy be found there as well. Recreate in us a new heart, 0 God, one that beats in time with Your own. And now, as Jesus taught: 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: Our Father, most merciful and gracious, of whose bounty we have all received, we pray You accept these offerings of Your people. Remember in love those who have given, and those for whom it is given. And so follow it with Your blessing that it may promote worship among men and women and advance the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns forever. Amen.
My Yoke Is Easy, My Burden Is Light Norm
THADEUS -- (enters hurriedly wearing shabby tunic and sandals, carrying Bible scrolls) I'm sorry I'm so late. But some wonderful things have been happening. (examines audience) Oh, it's happened again! I have never seen this room so full since I began preaching here three years ago!
Forgive me. Those of you who have never been in this church before have no idea who I am or why I'm here. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Thaddeus. I am a fisherman on the mainland. But I was appointed by Apostle Paul to preach the gospel to the people of these islands. For those of you who have never been here before, Paul is a Jew, like myself, but some of you may know him as Saul of Tarsus.
Anyway, I row out here to the three islands to preach every Sunday. Normally, this is my first of three stops. I usually arrive here first thing in the morning. I usually read a few passages from Bible scrolls like this one (holds up scroll), then I usually preach a message about what the passage means to us. Then, I get back into my row boat and row over to the (points) middle island about midday and repeat the process. Finally, in mid-afternoon, I row over to the far island (points) and repeat the process there.
Recently, however, Apostle Paul gave me this NEW scroll that he calls part of the NEW TESTAMENT. For the last three years I have been preaching on what we used to call the Holy Scriptures, but now because we have writings from apostles like Paul and some friends of Jesus, we call those old scrolls the Old Testament. The New Testament describes the life and times of Jesus and what it means to us today.
Anyway, I recently began to read and preach about this New Testament scroll. But when I came to today's passage, my mind was blank. After days of meditation and prayer about it, I had no idea what I was going to preach. Indeed, I didn't even know what my message would be this morning as I got into my boat and began to row over to this island. Let me read today's passage to you. It's a quote from Jesus himself recorded by his friend Matthew.
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
So, there I am in the boat and, as usual, Finehas and a few others were waiting on shore to help me pull my boat up on shore. But when I was still a couple of hundred yards offshore, the ever-changing winds in this channel became a cross wind, blowing me sideways. I struggled and struggled on the ores to keep my heading. But then all of a sudden my struggling became the message I was going to preach.
I stood up in the boat and turned around and waved good-bye to
the people standing on shore. Then I picked up the ores and threw them overboard and let the wind take me where it wanted to go. It blew me straight to the farthest island (points). When the people of that island saw me coming so early, they assumed that I was bringing important news, so the members of the church invited everybody on the island to come listen to me.
Now keep in mind, for the last three years, I have been preaching to the same small number of people at each church every Sunday. I have been doing everything I could think of to get more people to hear the good news of Christ. So, it seems that the moment I gave up struggling, the Lord took over and immediately did what I should have let him do all along.
Well, as it happened, the moment I stepped on shore at the far island, the wind in the channel changed directions again. So, when I finish there and I got into my boat and pushed off, the wind carried me directly to the middle island. Again, the Lord filled the church with curiosity seekers, but because they could see that the Lord was not the demanding task master that they thought him to be, many gave their lives over to Him.
Then again the wind shifted and carried me here, And yet again the Lord filled the church with people. And so again, I will tell you what I told the others. When I was in my boat, that cross wind reminded me that we Christians are to serve the same way we were saved, not by our own strength and struggle, but by the strength of the One who died for us. I'm not going to tell you to throw away the ores to your fishing boats. That message was just for me, because I thought I was supposed to build these churches by the sweat of my brow. (wipes forehead symbolically)
(looks offstage, smiles) Well, look there! It happened again! The wind shifted again! It looks like I'll have a tail-wind blowing me home to the mainland.
The message in this passage is clear. Give up the struggle. Give up trying to do it on your own. (reads) "My yoke is easy and my burden is light"
(waves exiting) Well, thanks for listening. I'll see you next week.
A Solid Bridge with Nancy Campbell
The central theme of the book of Galatians is justification by faith. Justification by faith is the foundation of the bridge that reconciles God and man, and without it, Christianity fails. There are other themes in Galatians including the inability of the law to justify, the believer's lethargic attitude to the law, that believers are Abraham's spiritual children and therefore blessed. It also shows that the law doesn't bring salvation, but rather it brings God's wrath. The just shall live by faith and believers are spiritually baptized to walk in the Spirit. And the final theme is the importance of believers bearing one another's burdens.
The apostle Paul wanted to persuade the Galatians to reject the false gospel they were being taught and to continue in the true gospel which Paul had taught. He wrote the Epistle to the Galatians to protest against the corruption of the gospel of Christ. In Chapter 2 he wrote, "For even before I was born God had chosen me to be His, and He called me —what kindness and grace to reveal His Son within me, so that I could go to the Gentiles and show them the Good News about Jesus." And Paul continued, "Listen to what I am saying, for I was telling you this in the very presence of God."
Paul was concerned because the people were not following the true gospel of Christ. In Chapter 3 he writes, "It is clear that no one can ever win God's favour by trying to keep the Jewish laws, because God has said that the only way we can be right in His sight is by faith
Paul was adamant that the Galatians know that faith is the most important thing, and in Chapter 5 he wrote, "When the Holy Spirit controls our lives He will provide this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control; and here there is no conflict with Jewish laws."
The result of justification by grace through faith is spiritual freedom. Paul pleaded to the Galatians to stand true to their freedom. Christian freedom is not an excuse to satisfy your basic needs and wants. It is meant for each person to love one another. Christian freedom doesn't shield you from life's trials and temptations. Paul tells us that the righteous shall live by faith.
Faith in Jesus Christ saves us from our sins. Salvation is a gift from God. Paul told the Galatians that righteousness can't be earned through good deeds or good behaviour, but that it is earned by truly believing in Christ, and by this faith you will be received by God. True Christian freedom comes from the gospel. The Holy Spirit works in us to bring us to Christ. Salvation is not achieved by our doing, but by God's. The Holy Spirit advises, guides and sanctions us to live the Christian life. God's love and peace flow through us because of the Holy Spirit.
Many people rarely feel the freedom and joy of life. They often have soiled consciences that fear the future, fear others and fear God. Paul tells of a new freedom, a freedom which opens the way of such sweeping fullness that anything compared to it is lifeless and bland.
Let's look again to what Paul said; "If a Christian is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help him back onto to the right path, remembering that the next time it might be one of you who is in the wrong. Share each other's troubles and problems and obey God's command. If anyone thinks he is too great to stoop to this, he is fooling himself. He is really a nobody. Let everyone be sure that he is doing his very best, for then he will have the personal satisfaction of work well done, and won't need to compare himself with someone else. Each of us must bear some faults and burdens of our own. For none of us is perfect!"
These are emphatic words from Paul, but he was trying to teach the Galatians, and us, that Christians shouldn't do what their natural desires want them to do. All Christians find out sooner or later that sin will test them, and that sin often wins. Most people don't deliberately set out to sin, but God is always ready for sinners to confess to Him. God wants sinners to help each other, not to judge one another.
Paul tells us to love others as we do ourselves. It's difficult to carry a heavy load by yourself. It feels much lighter when someone else is there to help. When you help others, you show them love.
But remember this, the helpers are not perfect. We need to be careful not to become too proud, because sin can also tempt those who help. Pride is never a good attribute. A Christian can easily feel superior when he sees another Christian in trouble. Paul reminds us that no one is better than anyone else. Christians should only compare themselves to God's standards and be thankful for the ways that God has helped them, and be happy with what they've achieved.
God has given gifts to everyone. He has given each one of us good works to do, and in the end, we each will have to give an account to God for our own actions. Every Christian is responsible for the way that he or she behaves.
How many of you have ever come to a bridge and on the bridge is a sign saying; "Unsafe for more than two-ton load" or something similar to that. The sign was put there to warn people that the bridge is not strong enough to hold a weight larger than two tons.
If I had a six-ton load of bricks on a truck and were to come to that two-ton bridge, wanting to cross, what would I do? I'd have to go to some place where there was a stronger bridge or try to find a way to ford the stream or river. Worst case, I'd have to unload and carry across two-tons at a time and then reload my truck before I could continue on my way.
Today bridges are made of steel and concrete. Older bridges are made of stone or wood. And not all bridges are the same size or shape. One thing is true of all bridges, they need to be strong. Tension and compression in a structure are distributed by various shapes. Triangles provide strengthening ability. Arches utilize compression to strengthen, and arches and domes provide weight-bearing ability. We, too, need specific things to keep our faith strong. We must remember that God is always there. He will never forget you. We should do a daily devotional which will keep us closer to God, even if we are struggling with our faith. And we should never be afraid to talk to someone. By talking through your issues and praying with someone to help guide you, they can offer insight into how they have worked through their own struggles.
When an engineer plans to build a bridge he needs to consider several things: traffic flow, size of loads, the width of the stream, river or ravine, pilings, strain and materials. If you think about it, peoples' characters are like bridges. Some of them are weak and give in easily to temptation, and some are strong. Some have such weak characters that they can't be trusted to carry the big loads — they're not safe. These people should have signs on them to warn others not to trust them too much. Some of their signs should say, "Not safe when we are tempted to lie," or "Not to be trusted if we are tempted to steal or talk behind someone's back." We all know people like that, people who can't really be trusted — so when you come to one of them you need to go around them, to be safe.
On the other hand, there are people with strong, trust-worthy characters which, like big bridges, don't need any sign at all. They can carry any load safely. They won't lie, or steal, or cheat, or sneak around, no matter how much they're tempted. They are like the engineer building a bridge. They have selected the best materials for their characters to use in work, in leisure, in companions and in family.
We don't want to be a bridge of little character, which must wear a sign to keep people from trusting us. We want to have a fine, strong character that needs no sign. Remember that one weak beam is enough to make a bridge unsafe.
Paul's letter to the Galatians is a reminder for us to be of good character, so that we are able to carry each other's burdens and to test our own actions. He advises us that we will reap eternal life. He closes his letter reminding us that the only thing that counts is a new creation in Christ. Be the solid bridge and keep a strong character "for each one should carry his own load." And if you ever have doubts, or are unsure of having a strong enough character, remember the words of Paul Simon; "Like a bridge over troubled water, I will ease your mind."
My horoscope for today says that 1 shouldn't be so practical that i forget to be pertinent. It also said to be generous with those around me this week. Generosity isn't always about money. A kind word, a pat on the back or a smile works wonders. A positive attitude is contagious. I think this is a good horoscope for all of us to follow — not just today, but everyday.