Getting first things first and keeping them there (click here)
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church
August 23rd, 2020
Lighting of The Christ Candle
ENTRY OF THE WORD
- This morning St. Andrew's welcomes John Hanna to the pulpit and prays that we all may be blessed as we are led in worship today.
- We remember Rev. Ena as she recovers from surgery under her eye and continues her stay cation; may she be refreshed and renewed in spirit, mind, body and soul.
- As of August 18th the total of the Loonie offerings for July and August to help with the travel costs of the Bokondji Family, has amounted to $327. Thank you for your generous support and may God bless the Bokondji's with a quick and safe move to Salmon Arm.
- Last week Maye Cann reported that the HOPE garden has produced just over 800 pounds of produce for The Second Harvest Food Bank. What a huge blessing this is and St. Andrew's is thankful for the hard work of our dedicated gardeners who have made this possible, thank you all!
- Sharing the Good News with Each Other: In only three years, the Presbyterian Connection newspaper has become a much-loved resource for the national denomination. The newspaper is distributed four times a year to churches and individuals across Canada. The mission of Presbyterian Connection is to equip leaders, connect congregations and missions, facilitate communication, and highlight denominational work. Sharing our successes and celebrating our ministries through stories, reflections, interviews, and articles not only keeps congregations and Presbyterians continually informed and connected, but also strengthens our denominational ties across the country. Support from Presbyterians Sharing helps to ensure this important ministry continues.
CALL TO WORSHIP: Psalm 103: 19-22
The Lord has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.
Praise the Lord, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
who obey his word.
Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts,
you his servants who do his will.
Praise the Lord, all his works
everywhere in his dominion.
Praise the Lord, my soul.
HYMN: #299 Holy, holy, holy (click the blue Hymn titles for YouTube music, sorry there may be advertising)
PRAYER of ADORATION
Eternal and ever-loving God,
Deep is our desire for what is true and enduring.
Deep is our need to see clearly.
Deep is our longing for you, O God.
In you we live and move and have our being.
You are the root of love,
the fountain of knowledge,
the source of wisdom,
the path of right living.
You are the beginning and end of all things.
Our thoughts cannot comprehend your mystery.
Lead our worship today, be present in our thoughts and prayers.
Be glorified in the hymns of praise, inspire us through both the written and the spoken word.
And so, we worship you in humble praise,
Holy God, ever three and ever one.
Although you satisfy our deepest desires, O God,
we together confess:
UNISON PRAYER OF CONFESSION
That we have often turned away from you.
We have sought meaning in shallow places.
We have clung to old hurts and familiar habits.
We have nursed anger and envy.
We have been self-absorbed and lacked compassion.
We have turned our backs on those in need.
Forgive what we have been, amend who we are,
and guide us toward what we may become according to your grace.
We pray this in the strong name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON Romans 1: 16-17
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
In Christ we are forgiven,
Thanks be to God
Please extend the peace of Christ to those around you in a proper, loving, socially distanced, wave. May the peace of Christ be with you!
HYMN: #704 Teach me, God, to wonder
Psalm 30 Responsive
A psalm. A song. For the dedication of the temple.[b] Of David.
1 I will exalt you, Lord,
for you lifted me out of the depths
and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
2 Lord my God, I called to you for help,
and you healed me.
3 You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead;
you spared me from going down to the pit.
4 Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people;
praise his holy name.
5 For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.
6 When I felt secure, I said,
“I will never be shaken.”
7 Lord, when you favored me,
you made my royal mountain[c] stand firm;
but when you hid your face,
I was dismayed.
8 To you, Lord, I called;
to the Lord I cried for mercy:
9 “What is gained if I am silenced,
if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it proclaim your faithfulness?
10 Hear, Lord, and be merciful to me;
Lord, be my help.”
11 You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
12 that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
Lord my God, I will praise you forever.
Genesis 1: 26-28; 31
26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God, he created them;
male and female, he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.
1 Corinthians 9: 24-10:13
The Need for Self-Discipline
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
Warnings From Israel’s History
10 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.
6 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.”[a] 8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. 9 We should not test Christ,[b] as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.
11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation[c] has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted[d] beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,[e] he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
The title of this morning’s sermon is “Getting first things first and keeping them there”. Having said that; there is nothing like a pandemic to cause everyone in the world to stop and think about what is, really important in life. Back in March when we were told to stay home and not travel; when everything was shut down, my first thoughts were; wow God is speaking to his creatures maybe people will find time to listen. My second thought was, I should have got a haircut last week.
In a sermon that Shirley preached early in June, she called what is currently going on in the world a “perfect storm”. As I read the scriptures for this sermon in the context of this year words like; “in one day twenty-three thousand, of them died” added a whole new relevance to the scriptures. I thought about the great need we have to fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith. It reminded me of the theme of a weekend retreat that I lead for our care group, some 20 years ago. As a matter of fact, I was cleaning out one of my drawers a few weeks ago and came across a couple of letters from that weekend, that I delivered to their rightful owners.
The theme for that retreat was “Getting first things first and keeping them there”. All the material for the weekend retreat was taken from a book entitled “A River in the Desert” by Ellen Shepard. In her book Ellen Shepard wrote: “On the sixth day, God created male and female in His image. We are reflections of all that happened before. God’s creativity is immense, and because we are made in His image, our spirits have no limit, nothing can exhaust our spiritual potential – not death, not divorce, not financial setbacks, not layoffs (not even a pandemic I might add). Our spirits have no limits nothing can exhaust our spiritual potential.”
“Run in such a way as to get the prize, do not run like a man running aimlessly.” That is the trap we fall into so easily isn’t it? We want to follow Jesus, we want to keep our eyes fixed on Him, then life happens. The phone rings, people need to be fed, meals don’t make themselves, you didn’t sleep well, everything hurts and it’s hard to move this morning. People need and you feel you just can’t deliver, you feel frustrated, you feel overcome, and the really bad thing is – you’re not even out of bed yet.
In the 1800’s Joseph Seriven wrote these words: “Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer. Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.” Paul says, “I do not fight like a man beating the air”. When we are in the midst, of feeling overcome, when we feel deep pain, that no one can understand, the words “take it to the Lord in prayer” can seem pretty trivial, pretty trite, can’t they? Yet we must understand that anything we do apart from taking it to the Lord in prayer, is like a man beating the air, no blow hits its mark.
Some things need our immediate attention, don’t they? For example, when I was woken up early in the morning by a fire call, I really didn’t have time to spend an hour or even a half an hour on my knees with God in prayer; yet I did have time to pray along the way and during the call. I must confess, I didn’t always pray along the way to calls, a lot of times I just reacted letting my training kick in as I responded to the call. That is how we often deal with life in general, isn’t it? We just react and let experience carry us through, often like a man beating the air. Are not we are called to pray continually about everything?
Many of us are pacifists, we do not like to fight and confront. All of us, I am sure, are thankful that we live in a country that is not at war. We live in a pretty good place; yet we would be foolish if we did not admit that there is a battle raging in our souls, the battle of wills, our will against God’s will. Often even when we set out to follow God’s will our own wills get in the way don’t they? We find that we conform to the world’s standards rather than God’s standard, we like the song says need to “Dare to be a Daniel” but all too often knowing it does not translate into doing it.
Janet and I fly a Canadian flag from a pole at the end of our sundeck. That is the standard of Canada; it tells all who see it that we are Canadians. When the Queen is in the palace her flag or standard flies on the flagpole on the highest point of the roof, so all can see she is present. If she is in her limo the standard flies on the car. Whose standard flies on the flagpole of your heart? Is it the world’s standard? Or is it God’s standard? Your baptism, His Holy Spirit.
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10: 4&5, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” He goes on to say; “We demolish arguments and every pretention that set itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
Okay how many strongholds have you and I demolished lately? How many arguments and pretenses set up against God have you and I demolished lately? Demolish, that is a very descriptive word, isn’t it? It evokes powerful images, images of a wrecking ball perhaps or images of a building imploding and collapsing in a pile of rubble. When something is demolished it is no more, it ceases to function, its power is gone. So, again I ask, how many strongholds, arguments and pretenses that are set up against the knowledge of God have you demolished lately?
I don’t know about you, but I tend to shrink back when it comes to arguments, pretenses, and strongholds that others set up against God. I don’t think that I have been a very effective Christian in that regard. In fact, if I am honest, I have to say that some of the greatest strongholds, pretenses, and arguments that are set up against the knowledge of God are found within my heart.
When I consider Paul I stand in awe, I wish I had his strength and his power. Paul an apostle, so full of wisdom and power, never lost for words, never without an answer. Paul, bold in his resolve to carry the gospel; always ready to fight the good fight having no fear. Yes, when I see Paul in my mind’s eye, I see him as a soldier fitted for battle, like a Roman soldier, the shield, the breastplate, the sword, the helmet.
Could this be the same Paul who says, “I come to you full of fear and trembling.” Or “I appeal to you, I Paul, who am timid when face to face with you, but bold when away.”
Paul says the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. He says in 2 Corinthians 6; “they are weapons of righteousness”. Let me just flip back to that image of Paul as a soldier fitted for battle, let me have a better look at him, maybe clean my glasses so I can see more clearly. Ah, yes I see he is wearing the belt of truth around his waist, I see the breastplate of righteousness in its place guarding his heart, I see his feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the Gospel of peace, and in addition to all of that I see that he has taken up the shield of faith to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Oh yes, he is wearing the helmet of salvation and in the other hand he has the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, sharper than any double-edged sword. It penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints, and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. As I look at Paul more clearly now, I see not just his strength, but I see the power of God, at work in and through him. Yes, I see God’s Spirit equipping and enabling Paul to run the race set before him.
Didn’t Ellen Sheppard say, “created in the image of God, our spirits have no limit; nothing can exhaust our spiritual potential. Not death, not divorce, not financial setbacks, not layoffs and I added not even a pandemic.
How does Paul get first things first and keep them there? Well he does not run aimlessly, nor does he fight like a man beating the air with his fists. What Paul tells us he does is this; “I beat my body and make it my slave, so that after I have preached to others I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” “I beat my body and make it my slave”, Matthew Henry on this says; “A Holy fear of himself was necessary to preserve the fidelity of an apostle; and how much more is it necessary to our preservation.”
Do you have a Holy fear of yourself? Do you beat your body and make it your slave? Beat my body, make it my slave, have a Holy fear of myself, I am not even sure what you mean or what you are asking. Well first off, we are not being asked to hate ourselves or to torture ourselves. We instead are being asked to love ourselves in the recognition of the truth, that we are loved by God. When we have a Holy fear of ourselves, we will see that we all have an ability to deny the truth, that God actually does love us, especially when we struggle to love ourselves. You know those strongholds, those arguments, those pretenses that deny the knowledge of God, we all have them. They are the lies we tell ourselves; they take on many forms and to believe them is to sin.
When we have a Holy fear of ourselves, we will recognize the sinful nature at work in our bodies. Paul calls on us, to live by the Spirit of God and in doing so we will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. We are at war, for the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. When we have a Holy fear of ourselves, we will as Paul says, “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
Have you ever been speaking to someone and hear them say, “oh, I should not have said that, I am sorry”? That is what taking captive every thought is; except it is better if it happens before the words are spoken. Check every word, every deed, every motive, to make sure it is pure, to make sure it is the truth, to make sure it is of the Spirit. That's pretty simple eh?
The acts of the sinful nature are pretty obvious, aren’t they? Sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealously, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissentions, factions and envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like. Paul warned the Galatians telling them; “those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Why did Paul put first things first and keep them there? He says he does these things so “that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” Paul reminds the Corinthians and us of the warnings from Israel’s history. He says the Israelites were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the same spiritual rock that accompanied them and that rock was Christ. Yet God was not pleased with all of them and as a result their bodies were scattered all over the desert. Many turned away and followed the desire of the sinful nature and they died. Do not take God’s grace for granted is a good piece of advice for us all.
I found a meditation called “The Gift” by an unknown author, you may have heard it yourself, but I would like to read it to you.
“I asked God to take away my pride, and God said No. He said it was not for him to take away but for me to give up.
I asked God to make my handicapped child whole and God said No. He said my spirit is whole, but my body is temporary.
I asked God to grant me patience, but God said No. He said Patience is a by-product of tribulation it is not granted it is earned.
I asked God to give me happiness and God said No. God said he gives me blessings; happiness is up to me.
I asked God to spare me pain, and God said No. God said suffering draws me apart from worldly cares and draws me closer to Him.
I asked God to make my spirit grow and God said No. God said I must grow on my own, but He would prune me and make me fruitful.
I asked God for all things that I might enjoy life, and God said No. God said he gives me life, that I may enjoy all things.
I asked God to help me love others as much as he loves me; and God said “ah, finally, you have the idea.”
Brothers and sisters; get first things first and keep them there and you will delight even as the psalmist did saying; “You turned my wailing into dancing, you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O Lord my God I will give you thanks forever.” Amen.
HYMN 487 Onward, Christian Soldiers
As Jesus’ followers, we have the privilege of taking part in the redeeming work God has begun in the world. Today we offer our gifts in anticipation that God will use them—and us—in that work! The offering will now be received.
For these gifts and all your bounty, dear Lord, we give you thanks and pray that you would use them and us for your glory and your kingdom. In Jesus name, Amen.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
O God in whom we live and move and have our being
We come to you in prayer as the summer season draws nearer to its close
And we prepare for an autumn filled with many changes:
We give you thanks for the occasions we have enjoyed this summer.
savouring the beauty of your creation right outside our doors,
Thank you for the chances we’ve had catch up with family and friends,
and whatever opportunities for travel, recreation & restoration have been possible. We recognize how blessed we are to live in Canada
and so, we are grateful for each moment in which we found rest and relaxation in the summer season.
Today we remember those for whom this summer has been difficult:
Those still isolated by the restrictions because of COVID-19.
Those who go hungry or face violence in forgotten corners of our own community and around the world.
Those whose businesses are struggling, who have to figure out how to be inviting and safe at the same time.
And those who are uncertain how to engage with friends and neighbours and still be wise and careful in this strange time of pandemic
(Keep silence for 10 seconds)
May each one find courage to face tomorrow in your company
O God, Jesus walked the road of suffering with so many in pain and grief
We remember those whose lives have faced crises this summer—
Through tragic death and unexpected loss,
Through critical illness or injury,
Through pain or problems that seem to have no end…
(Keep silence for 10 seconds)
Surround them with your comfort and compassion
O God, Jesus often faced many demands and the pressure from his critics,
So, we pray for all those who have not found rest this summer:
For leaders trying to figure out ways forward to care for their communities when there are no examples to follow.
For those whose jobs and responsibilities have changed, and every day presents a new challenge.
And we also remember all those who seek work in these uncertain economic times
(Keep silence for 10 seconds)
May they know your strength and assurance day by day
O God, we need the embrace of your presence, each in our own way.
Bring healing and peace to our lives and to this world you love.
Open our eyes and our hearts so that we may offer healing and peace
to those we encounter, in the name of Christ Jesus who taught us to pray together saying:
THE LORD’S PRAYER
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,
and the power, and the glory,
HYMN 651 Guide me, O thou great Redeemer
Now may the Love of God, the Grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and the Power and Peace of the Holy Spirit, go before us all, enabling us all, to get first things first and keep them there. Amen
Go now in peace. Never be afraid.
God will go with you each hour of ev’ry day.
Go now in faith, steadfast, strong and true.
Know He will guide you in all you do.
Go now in love, and show you believe.
Reach out to others so all the world can see.
God will be there, watching from above.
Go now in peace, in faith and in love.