CALL TO WORSHIP:
ONE: Christ is calling you as disciples.
ALL: Lord, Jesus, let us follow you faithfully.
ONE: You will be led into fields of mission and service. ALL: Lord Jesus, where you lead us, we will go.
ONE: Listen for Christ's call to you.
OPENING PRAYER & THE LORD'S PRAYER: Lord Jesus, You call us to follow You as disciples. Help us to respond wholeheartedly without counting the cost. You invite us to proclaim Your gospel of hope and salvation here at home and to all the world and its peoples. Teach us to be faithful in word and in action.
Lord, You have given us every spiritual and material blessing. Show us how to share our gifts with others, and inspire us always to follow Your example of generous self-giving. Teach us to give with a joyous and grateful heart that we may provide hope, consolation, and pastoral care to Your people thereby giving glory and honour to Your holy name. Now in the words you gave us: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
PRAYER FOR LENT: Father, through our observance of Lent, help us to understand the meaning of Your Son's death and resurrection, and teach us to reflect it in our lives. Grant this through our Lord, Jesus Christ, Your Son, who and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, or?God, forever and ever. Amen.
Offertory Prayer: We give You this offering today and with it we worship You and give our whole selves to You. Please take it and use it for Your kingdom and Your glory. May it be a great blessing to many. We ask this in the powerful name of Jesus. Amen.
SCRIPTURE READING: Luke 9:57-62 The Cost Of Following Jesus
They were all going along the road. Someone said to Jesus, "I will follow You any place You go." Jesus answered, "The foxes have holes to live in. The birds have nests to live in. But the Son of Man has no place to rest His head."
Jesus said to another man, "Follow me!" But the man said, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." But Jesus said to him, "Let the people who are dead bury their own dead! You must go and tell about the kingdom of God."
Another man said, "I will follow You, Lord, but first let me go and say goodbye to my family." Jesus said, "“No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
Symbols of the Apostles
Christianity is a worldwide religious tradition with diverse representations, beliefs and practices, but the common thread is Jesus. For many years the stories of Jesus, His teachings, and the disciples, were told by word of mouth. It was only after the death of Jesus that the first stories were written.
However, only the well educated were able to read and write and this trend continued for centuries. It wasn't until the 20th Century that the common person had the privilege of education.
So symbols were used to depict certain events and people. Stained glass windows in churches were designed so the common people could depict the Bible stories through the pictures and symbols. This morning we'll talk a little about the symbols representing each of the apostles.
Simon Peter was an unlikely candidate to lead a religious revolution, but at the moment Jesus called him as a disciple, the life of Peter the fisherman changed dramatically. He became not only the most prominent of Jesus' disciples, but later, he became the leader and principal spokesman of the new Christian church. Peter preached to the Jews and was crucified head downwards in Rome in AD 68. The symbol for Peter is the crossed keys. They symbolize the keys of heaven entrusted to Simon Peter. In Matthew 16:19, Jesus says to Peter, "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
John and his brother James were among the first disciples called by Jesus. Though his brother James was the first apostle to be martyred, John continued for a long time as a prominent leader in the early Christian church. John preached in Asia Minor. He lived in Epheus and wrote five (5) books of the Bible. He died about AD 100. Legend has it that an attempt was made on John's life by placing poison in his chalice. Actually, he was the only one of the twelve to reach a ripe old age and die a natural death. His symbol is a chalice and snake.
Philip is depicted in the Gospel of John as a loyal and earnest follower of Jesus. Philip preached in Palestine and Asia Minor, where he was stoned to death by the priests of the serpent-worshippers. His symbol is two loaves of bread, often in a basket. The basket refers to the feeding of the multitude about which he was much concerned. Philip gave up his life for Jesus who is the Bread of Life.
Thomas is best known for his response to the resurrection of Jesus. He had trouble believing Jesus had risen and he wanted proof, thus giving him the name "Doubting Thomas." He preached in Syria, Persia and India. He was killed by a shower of arrows while he was praying. His symbol includes a carpenter's square. Tradition recounts how he erected a church in India while carrying on his ministry there. The arrow in the symbol tells the story of a painful but brave death.
According to the Gospel of John, Andrew was the first person to become a disciple of Jesus. Not a lot is known about his ministry, but it is believed that Andrew preached in Greece, Russia and Asia Minor. He was crucified at Patrae on the cross which is used as his symbol.
There is little known of James the Less. He may have preached in Egypt. It is said that he was sawn to death after being stoned.
Nothing is known of Bartholomew's work. The Bible and flaying knife are his symbol. Flaying knives were used to skin fish, as well as people. Bartholomew had a firm faith in the Word of God which he freely preached. He met his martyrdom by being flayed alive.
Simon identified himself as a zealot. Simon and Jude went together. It is said that they were two of the shepherds who came to Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus. Both Simon and Jude were martyred in Persia on a missionary journey. A relentless fisher of men through the power of the Gospel, Simon is symbolized by a fish, often lying on a Bible.
James the Elder was the first apostle to be killed. He was beheaded by Herod in AD 44. A pilgrim's staff and wallet show he was a traveller.
Jude most likely had become a travelling missionary after the resurrection, spreading the gospel throughout Palestine and beyond. Jude, also known as Thaddeus, is supposed to have preached in Assyria and Persia. It is said that he was clubbed to death by Persians, about AD 80. A ship with a cross on the sails pictures heroic Jude on missionary expeditions accompanied by his friend Simon.
Matthew's writings emphasize Jesus as one who taught with great authority, so much so, that his listeners were astounded. Matthew preached and died in Ethiopia. The three money bags show that he was a tax collector. He was killed by an axe.
Apart from being identified as the one who betrayed Jesus, Judas Iscariot plays no distinguishable role in the New Testament. Judas' symbol is a blank shield of yellow. He killed himself after betraying Jesus. There are two accounts of his death. According to Matthew, he repented, confessed his sin, tried to return the money and then hanged himself. But in the Book of Acts, Judas is said to have fallen headlong and "burst open in the middle and all of his bowels gushed out."
After the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, the disciples drew lots to determine who would replace Judas Iscariot. The lot fell on Matthias. He was well versed in the Scriptures. His symbol is a Bible. After dauntless work as a missionary in Judea, he was beheaded with a scimitar which is a short sword with a curved blade that widens toward the point. The scimitar is the symbol of Matthias.
This is just an overview of the symbols and the apostles. I'm sure we could easily spend the next 12 or 13 weeks talking about each disciple. But their stories are readily found in the Bible. Take a little time and find out more about these brave and devoted men.
What Jesus taught His disciples and all His followers is that love is the greatest thing in the world. He taught that to be humble is to be great and that to give is more blessed than to receive. And He also taught that to minister to others, instead of asking others for service, is the greatest and noblest mark of the Master's disciples.
Let us pray: Eternal God, You have shown Yourself to us as a God of steadfast love and fidelity. You gave us Jesus that we might know Your endless love. We come to You as a community of disciples. May our hearts be consumed by Your marvelous love, and in turn, may we become faithful disciples of Jesus.
Father, we also pray that You will bless all our endeavours, especially for the Annual Meeting following this morning's service. Guide us in our discussions. Enlighten our minds in every decision that we make. Bless our plans and projects, so that we may achieve our objectives as Your disciples and for Your greater glory. All this we ask in Jesus' name. Amen
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