Through all the ages (click here)
August 16, 2020
Lighting the Christ Candle
The Light of Christ has come among us!
Entry of the Bible.
- This morning we welcome and thank Janet Hanna for leading us in Worship today. May God bless and guide us all as we gather together in His Spirit, may God be glorified.
- PWS&D is asking us to help them provide relief to the people of Lebanon. The government will match what is donated between August 4 - August 24th. (if you want your donation matched, please give directly to PWS&D as time is short to get a check in the mail from the Church) To see more check the links in the "Recent Posts" to the right.
Call to Worship (Psalm 34: 1-3):
I will extoll the Lord at all times
His praise will always be on my lips.
My soul will boast in the Lord;
Let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the Lord with me;
Let us exalt his name together.
HYMN: #410 “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” (click the blue text for YouTube music, sorry there may be advertising)
Prayer of Invocation:
Almighty and eternal God, who is always present and available when your people gather to praise your name. Come Lord we pray, in this hour. Come in the quietness that only the silent will hear you. Come in the lowliness that only the humble will discern you. Come in such goodness and love that only the pure in heart will desire you. But first dear Lord, make us silent, make us humble, make us pure in heart.
Grant Lord, that thinking, we may think your thoughts; that speaking we may speak your word; that singing, we may sing your praise; that hearing we may hear your truth; and that willing we may make your will our own. We ask Heavenly Father that when this hour is done, we may leave this place secure in your presence with us, empowered by your love for us, emboldened by your Spirit within us. May we walk forth in your love and your peace that we may be willing servants for you to use in our world.
And so, Lord we come before you as your beloved children to bring our confession.
UNISON PRAYER OF CONFESSION:
Forgive us Lord that we are so unstable, that there is such little space between our loyalties and our desertions, that the lips which cry “Hosanna!” can so quickly clamour “Crucify!” for we are a stiff-necked and fickle people. We long to be close to you and yet constantly walk away, desiring our own way, wanting things to be done in our own time, craving the ease and pleasures promised by the world. We long to know you more yet are unwilling to make the time to read your Word and speak with you in prayer. We desire to have friends and family come to know and love you as we do yet are fearful of speaking out about your boundless grace and mercy. We want to be your servants in our community and our world yet do not go forth to serve. Forgive us Father. We pray that you will work with our hearts and our lips and our hands and feet so that your will would be done with us and through us. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon:
Paul wrote in his letter to the Colossians;
“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” While it is true that we have all sinned, it is a greater truth that we are forgiven through God’s love in Jesus Christ. To all who humbly seek the mercy of God I say, In Jesus Christ our sin is forgiven. Be at peace with God, with yourself and with one another.
Thanks be to God.
PASSING THE PEACE
May the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
HYMN: #371 “Love Divine, all Loves Excelling”
Psalm 33: 1-12 (New International Version) – Responsive
1 Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him.
2 Praise the LORD with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.
3 Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.
4 For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.
5 The LORD loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.
6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.
7 He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; he puts the deep into storehouses.
8 Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere him.
9 For he spoke, and it came to be, he commanded, and it stood firm.
10 The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.
11 But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.
12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance.
Deuteronomy 4: 32-40 (New International Version)
32 Ask now about the former days, long before your time, from the day God created human beings on the earth; ask from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything so great as this ever happened, or has anything like it ever been heard of? 33 Has any other people heard the voice of God[a] speaking out of fire, as you have, and lived? 34 Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?
35 You were shown these things so that you might know that the Lord is God; besides him there is no other. 36 From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you his great fire, and you heard his words from out of the fire. 37 Because he loved your ancestors and chose their descendants after them, he brought you out of Egypt by his Presence and his great strength, 38 to drive out before you nations greater and stronger than you and to bring you into their land to give it to you for your inheritance, as it is today.
39 Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. 40 Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the Lord your God gives you for all time.
Matthew 28: 16-20 (New International Version)
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
SERMON: “Through all the Ages”
My daughter Trish and I were talking about childhood memories and she confided to me that sometimes when she was little and wanted some attention, at night she would fake a nightmare so her father or I would come to her room and spend time comforting her “fears.” She was somewhat surprised when I told her I knew that sometimes her nightmares had not been real.
There are two truths to this story. (1) We will use whatever means we can to get attention when we want it, and (2) it is hard to hide a lie form someone who loves us and knows us well.
God is familiar with both of these issues. His people have been demanding signs and wonders from Him since the beginning of time. Desperately demanding His attention. Asking Him to prove over and over that He is with them and that He loves them. And, often at almost the same time, trying to hide their true selves from God.
It only takes a quick look at the Old Testament reading for today to see how God’s people constantly sought reassurance from Him. Even the passage we read in Deuteronomy tells of His continuous presence. “ASK NOW ABOUT FORMER DAYS. LONG BEFORE YOUR TIME, FROM THE DAY GOD CREATED MAN ON THE EARTH; AS FROM ONE END OF THE HEAVENS TO THE OTHER. HAS ANYTHING SO GREAT AS THIS EVER HAPPENED, OR HAS ANYTHING LIKE IT EVER BEEN HEARD OF?” And then Moses goes on to tell the Israelites about the awesome favour bestowed on them by God. “HAS ANY OTHER PEOPLE HEARD THE VOICE OF GOD?” as the Hebrew people had done when God spoke to Moses on the mountain and led them through the desert all those 40 years.
“HAS ANY GOD TAKEN ONE ENTIRE NATION FOR HIS OWN AND REMOVED THEM FROM WITHIN ANOTHER NATION, WITH MIRACLES AND WONDROUS SIGNS?” as God did when He led the Israelites up out of slavery in Egypt. “FROM HEAVEN HE MADE YOU HEAR HIS VOICE TO DISCIPLINE YOU. ON EARTH HE SHOWED YOU HIS GREAT FIRE AND YOU HEARD HIS WORDS FROM OUT OF THE FIRE.” Why? Why would God go to all that effort for a nation of people who grumbled and complained and even cursed him - turning away to worship false gods and not following his commandments? Why? Verse 37 explains, “BECAUSE HE LOVED YOUR FOREFATHERS AND CHOSE THEIR DESCENDENTS AFTER THEM…”
In Deuteronomy Moses was preparing the people for a re-consecration of God’s covenant with them before they entered the land that had been promised to their forefathers. They would need His power and presence to defeat the nations living in the land that God promised would be theirs. God wanted them to understand and remember that He had been with them all along and He would continue to be with them in the days, years, and generations ahead.
“HE BROUGHT YOU OUT OF EGYPT BY HIS PRESENCE AND HIS GREAT STRENGTH. ACKNOWLEDGE AND TAKE TO HEART THIS DAY THAT THE LORD IS GOD IN HEAVEN ABOVE AND ON THE EARTH BELOW. THERE IS NO OTHER.” God will not accept a fickle people. He demands completed acknowledgement that He is the only true God. He says of Himself, as recorded in the Ten Commandments, “YOU SHALL NOT BOW DOWN TO IDOLS OR WORSHIP THEM FOR I, THE LORD YOUR GOD AM A JEALOUS GOD.”
The active presence of God in our lives is contingent on His being the only God in our lives. It is important for all of us to teach our children to share. It is also important for us to be willing to share what we have. But God won’t share. We are His and His alone. Or we are alone. There are no other gods we can turn to. There is no one else we can rely on to guide us. All the other gods worshiped by the people of this world are man-created, man-made. God, and only God Almighty is the great I AM. He only is a true and awesome God. Anything else we try to put in His place – other religions, idols, power, friends, jobs, family, money, hobbies, sports – whatever, will ultimately leave us flat, frustrated and defeated. God’s presence is true. It is sustaining. In a very, very, uncertain world such as we are living in today, it is the only thing we can be sure of.
Jesus made the same point to his disciples before his ascension. “ALL AUTHORITY IN HEAVEN AND ON EARTH HAS BEEN GIVEN TO ME.” This should not have come as surprise to His disciples since Jesus’ sovereignty was foretold by the prophets for hundreds of years before his birth. Daniel 7: 13-14 says: IN MY VISION AT NIGHT I LOOKED, AND THERE BEFORE ME WAS ONE LIKE A SON OF MAN, COMING WITH THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN. HE APPROACHED THE ANCIENT OF DAYS AND WAS LET INTO HIS PRESENCE. HE WAS GIVEN AUTHORITY, GLORY AND SOVEREIGN POWER, ALL PEOPLES, NATIONS AND PERSONS OF EVERY LANGUAGE WORSHIPED HIM. HIS DOMINION IS AN EVERLASTING DOMINION THAT WILL NOT PASS AWAY, AND HIS KINGDOOM IS ONE THAT WILL NEVER BE DESTROYED.”
Jesus is God in human form. He was with God at the creation of the world and He was there when Moses led the Israelites to the promised land. Jesus said, “ANYONE WHO HAS SEEN ME HAS SEEN THE FATHER. I AM IN THE FATHER, AND THE FATHER IS IN ME.” He walked with his disciples as they spread the good news of his salvation bought for us on the cross. He has been with each of us “SINCE WE WERE CREATED IN OUR MOTHER’S WOMB. He has walked with us every day since we prayed for His forgiveness and asked Him to come into our lives. AND HE WILL ALWAYS BE THERE. He said to His disciples, “SURELY I WILL BE WITH YOU ALWAYS, TO THE VERY END OF THE AGE.”
God is willing to give us His attention. We need never fear that He will leave us. ‘I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU, NOR FORSAKE YOU,” He has promised. It is we who draw away from Him, it is never God who leaves us.
John and I had a friend years ago who had to face some very major tragedies in a relatively short period of time: personal health issues, the death of a child, serious, permanent injury to another child, plus all the accompanying financial, marital, and emotional stress that would come from these heartaches. There were times he was very bitter towards God. “What did He ever do for me?” he asked John one day.
“What has God given us? What has God given me? He felt that God owed him something, like good health or no major problems or anxieties. A lot of us feel that way, especially in the middle of those very trying times. It is true that He said in John 14:13, “YOU MAY ASK ME FOR ANYTHING IN MY NAME, AND I WILL DO IT,” but Jesus also said in Matthew 5:45, “HE CAUSES THE SUN TO RISE ON THE EVIL AND THE GOOD, AND SENDS RAIN ON THE RIGHTEOUS AND THE UNRIGHTEOUS.” God does not bring evil and pain upon people. Albert Einstein said, “God did not create evil. Just as darkness is the absence of light, evil is the absence of God.” The sin prevalent in the world brings it about by its very presence. God cannot be blamed for the bad we suffer. Good and bad just happen. They are a part of life. No one is any more deserving than another. One of my major pet peeve expressions “You deserve it.” (You have retired, that is great. You worked hard, you deserve it. You are going on a nice holiday, that is wonderful, you deserve it. You had a surprise gift given to you; you deserve it you do so much for others. It drives me crazy). What we all deserve is to be hung on a cross on Calvary’s hill as punishment for our sin. But Jesus did that for us, so now we have access to God’s unfailing love, His eternal presence, His never-ending grace.
No, we are not owed a good life because we are God’s people. In fact Jesus went so far as to tell his disciples that theirs would be a difficult ministry, a life of ridicule, hardship, and rejection because they were his followers. Should we, as the present day followers of Jesus expect anything else? Why should we think so? Nowhere in Scripture does it say God owes us blessings. God is not indebted to anyone. How can the creator of all things be indebted to the things He has made? No. We turn from God because we don’t get our own way. We bemoan that we don’t have the life that we believe is best for us. We don’t get enough attention, so we fake a nightmare.
God blesses us. He does not owe us. There is a difference. We should spend more time thanking Him for His blessed grace and less time asking Him for favours as if we are deserving of his attention. He has chosen us. He is the giver of life. We are only alive in His love and because of His care. We are only spiritually alive because of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. We owe him EVERYTHING. He deserves our attention. We don’t need to ask for His presence for He is always near.
And, just as I knew when Trish was faking a nightmare, God knows when we are faking our faith. We can’t hide from Him. God said in Isaiah 37:28, “BUT I KNOW WHERE YOU STAY AND WHEN YOU COME AND GO AND HOW YOU RAGE AGAINST ME.” We may attend bible study when we were able to do so and we faithfully, until recently, could sit in our chosen pew spot on Sunday. We perhaps even have the discipline of a daily devotional and prayer time. We can do all these things by a strength of will, without really knowing the One whom we are worshipping. We can fool our fellow church members, even our family members a lot of the time, but we cannot fool God. He knows our heart for He doesn’t only see the façade we show the world, He sees our very soul. David wrote in Psalm 139, “WHERE CAN I GO FROM YOUR SPIRIT? WHERE CAN I FLEE FROM YOUR PRESENCE? IF I SAY, ‘SURELY THE DARKNESS WILL HIDE ME…EVEN THE DARKNESS WILL NOT BE DARK TO YOU.” When we try to hide our hearts or our true thoughts and natures from God, we only succeed in moving farther and farther away from His sheltering, caring arms.
When Trish used to pretend she was having a nightmare she would always ask for the same story to be told to calm her down so she could sleep again. It was a story I had made up about walking on marshmallow clouds and all the wonderful things you could see from the sky as you walked along. It was her favourite bedtime story, but when she wanted attention late at night she would interrupt with questions. She didn’t really want to listen to the familiar story she wanted conversation, she wanted company. She wanted to spend time with me.
We are the same with God. When we don’t want to listen to His will for us, we ask questions. We ask for signs. We demand His blessing, so we know He cares. We don’t want to hear the familiar words of the Lord through the scriptures. We want something new and exciting. We want God to notice us and respond how WE want Him to. This demand for His love is not honest. It is for our benefit, not for His glory. He has been there all along. He has loved us all along. We just want something different. If the truth of our hearts is not revealed in our relationship with God it becomes a very one-sided pursuit. The more we ask of God, the further away He seems. And the colder we get, the more demanding we become, until we either give in to the Lord’s gentle prompting that we return to Him in truth, or we try run from His presence entirely, crying “Foul”. Trying to make everything out to be His fault – that He failed us. As one commentator put it, “Those, and only those, shall find God to their comfort, who seek him with all their heart.”
But God loves us too much to let us lie to Him for long. He wants the very best for us. He wants us to get to know Him. Better than we know our spouse or our parents or our children. He wants to be closer to us than our best friend. He wants our relationship to be so solid that the most trivial to the most despairing happening can be shared with Him. He loves to hear the thankful prayers of His children. His angels rejoice when we struggle through a difficult time and remain steadfast in the faith. The Lord has work for His people, He has made them promises. It is difficult for Him to fulfill those promises if we aren’t open to his leading.
Moses was preparing the Israelites for the leading of God as they entered the Promised Land. There were many nations they would have to overcome to get the land that God had promised them. Many were mightier and more numerous than the Hebrew nation They needed God. They needed His support, His presence, His truth. All God required of them was obedience. “KEEP MY DECREES AND COMMANDS, WHICH I AM GIVING YOU TODAY, SO THAT IT MAY GO WELL WITH YOU AND YOUR CHILDREN AFTER YOU AND THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG IN THE LAND THE LORD YOUR GOD WILL GIVE YOU FOR ALL TIME.”
God want us to follow Him. That is all He asks. Everything demanded of us in our faith follows from this one directive. The Great Commission Jesus gave his disciples encompasses complete obedeience and allegiance to God through Jesus Christ. “ALL AUTHORITY IN HEAVEN AND ON EARTH HAS BEEN GIVEN TO ME.” There is no other God whom we can serve. He has made us and we are His.
“THEREFOE,” He said, “GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES OF ALL NATIONS, BAPTIZING THEM IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER AND OF THE SON AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AND TEACHIG THEM TO OBEY EVERYTHING I HAVE COMMANDED YOU.” Teach them to love Me, he instructed us. Tell the world what I have done for them. Tell them that through me the chasm separating them from God has been bridged by my innocently shed blood. Tell them I have risen from the dead, that they are forgiven and can live with God in fellowhip and belonging forever. “AND SURELY”, Jesus concludes, “I WILL BE WITH YOU ALWAYS, TO THE VERY END OF THE AGE.” He will be with them. He is with us today. He will always be there for us. There is nothing we need try hide from Him. There is no shame too great for Him to understand and forgive. There is nothing we can say to drive him away. “I WILL BE WITH YOU.” His bodily presence may be gone from the earth, but his spiritual presence is with us forever. He is not some distant, far away benevolent father figure. God is present, down-to-earth, living among us, in the depths of our beings in the presence of the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ. His presence is constant. Always. That means all the days, every day. Sabbath days, week days, fair and foul days, joyful and heartbreaking days, summer and winter days, anxious and lonely days, and even COVID days. He is with us in the dark of the night when we fake a nightmare to get some comfort. And He is coming again, AND SURELY I WILL BE WITH YOU ALWAYS, TO THE VERY END OF THE AGE.” He will be with us today, tomorrow and for eternity. Throughout all the ages. Praise God for His faithful presence and His abiding love.
HYMN: #407 “Praise, my soul, the King of heaven”
With deep gratitude for the healing and freedom that Jesus offers, let us present our offerings to God. Through our gifts, may that healing, and freedom be shared in God’s world in Christ’s name.
PRAYER OF DEDICATION Accept these gifts, O Lord, and let them be the tokens of our love and loyalty. May their ministry be holy in your sight, and grant that those who use them in your name may also use them in your service. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
GATHERING PRAYER REQUESTS
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
God almighty, God eternal, God of mercy, God of love, God abiding ever in the universe you have created and ever watching over all of us. You, Lord, are all the life we have, all the strength and all the hope, all the light and all the peace.
Open our hearts Lord, open our hearts. Let your Spirit’s healing wind flow over us making us eager, but not anxious, troubled, but not dismayed, seeing often dimly but never wholly blind, and always sure that you can use our weakness to magnify your power. Living Christ, so many different people reached out to you in times of desperation with so many different needs. Yet you had compassion for them all. Lord Jesus, we know both struggle and joy in our lives, too.
This day we set before you our many different hopes and concerns. Help us to understand how frail we are, how fearful, how firmly fettered with the chains of pride and greed, of intolerance and impatience, how much we cling to the things of this world, instead of focusing on things eternal. Open our hearts Lord, open our hearts. Fill us with your compassion as we pray.
For all that we are and all that we do, all we wish we could do and all we long for…
We pray for everything we work for in our church and community, and everything we hope for in the face of so much change…
We pray for the choices we face in our country and community, in our homes and workplaces, and for all the responsibilities we bear in our different roles…
We pray for the troubles that weary us, the situations that puzzle us and the uncertainty that surrounds us…
We remember before you each situation that worries us and each person, we care about…
We come to you proud but not having reason to be proud. We come to you afraid but not knowing where to turn in search of confidence. We come to you aching with the weariness of trying to live nobly but conscious always that we have not lived as nobly as we should. We need you Lord. Each one of us needs you and for each of us we pray. Strengthen those who face difficulty or hardship in the coming week. Calm those who need to cling to your peace. Bless us with the joy that only knowing Christ as Saviour can give.
Living Christ, you are the Source of peace and new possibility for us all.
Help us trust in your grace for today and tomorrow. Fill us with the strength and hope we need to walk with you, united in your love.
Our eternal Father, who never forgets us; though we are living in time, remind us of the eternity from which we come and into which we shall go. Give our minds, we ask Lord, the ability to grasp eternal truths. Exalt our spirits above earth yet keep us faithful to the tasks at hand that You have give us to do.
For it is as your loyal followers we dare to pray the words you taught 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.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
For Thine is the kingdom
And the power, and the glory
Forever and ever. Amen
HYMN: #699 “All the way my Saviour Leads me”
BLESSING AND BENEDICTION
Benediction Song "Go Now in Love"