Living in the Promises of God

Jul 17, 2020 by

 

Preamble/Welcome:

Welcome to our third shared summer service at MacNeill Baptist Church. Next week we will worship together under the leadership of St. Cuthbert’s Presbyterian Church.  May God’s grace and peace be with each of you today, and may we become still in the Presence of God, as we listen to the prelude and prepare our hearts for worship.  

 

Prelude  Be still for the presence of the Lord

King’s Chamber Orchestra

 

 

Lighting of the Christ Candle

(you may wish to light one in your home)

 

 

 

Together, We Come to God

 

 

 

Call to Worship 

We gather to worship in the presence of God,

who loved us before we were born,

who knows us even better than we know ourselves.

God’s presence never leaves us,

God’s love for us never ceases.

The Holy One is here in our midst!

Thanks be to God!

~ adapted from Christine Longhurst, re-worship

 

 

Hymn # 749   Be still my soul

lyrics in video

 

 

Prayer of Approach

Infinite God, we enter into moments of stillness and feel Your presence

Awaken us with confidence like Jacob to know

You are in this place, and Your loving presence is steady.
Your grace is sure and Your blessing constant.
You walk with us, just as we walk with one another.
Fill us with your Spirit in this time of worship;

Open our minds and hearts,

so that we may see as you see and love as you love.

Inspire us with hope and restore our trust that you are always with us.

Amen.

 

 

Sung response

 

Text and music: © 2006, Barbara Bridge. Published by OCP. Reprinted with One License A-722822

 

 

God Speaks to Us

 

 

Old Testament Reading:  Genesis 28:10-19a

Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran.He  came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the LORD stood beside him and said, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place–and I did not know it!” And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called that place Bethel; but the name of the city was Luz at the first.

 

Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24

O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    O Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is so high that I cannot attain it.

Where can I go from your spirit?
    Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
    if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.

If I take the wings of the morning
    and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light around me become night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is as bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my thoughts.
See if there is any wicked way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

 

 

Musical Reflection  Still with Thee   

by Elaine Hagenberg

 

 

 

Epistle Reading:  Romans 8:18-39

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all day long;

   we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

 

Reflection:

 

The letter to the Romans contains some of Paul’s most comprehensive arguments about and for faith. There is a measured maturity in his descriptions, and in the eighth chapter, Paul is concluding his initial case about God’s righteousness and involvement in the world. “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us,” he writes, “for the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God.”

            These words are poetic, touching on something that I think many of us feel acutely in our daily lives: an eager longing for something better, some positive change, some good news about the state of the world around us. It goes without saying that for months now the news has been filled with stories that challenge this hope that Paul speaks of, that God’s glory will be greater than the daily suffering of many in our world.

            Our scripture passages deal with the idea of promise, a promise from God to be deeply involved in our lives, and a promise that God is indeed at work in this world. Yet if a brief glance at the world around us is any indication, it would seem as though the “sufferings of the present time” are winning out.

            So how do we, as people who place our hope in God, maintain that sense of hope in our own lives, even in the face of trial and trouble? It is a difficult question to answer, but it is one that each of our scriptures explore.

            The writer of Psalm 139 makes clear that he is facing a time of intense personal challenge. The psalmist sees this as a time of testing, a time when God feels farthest away, and yet in no uncertain terms, the writer stresses that God’s spirit is inescapable. “If I ascend to heaven, you are there. If I make my bed in Sheol [which was an ancient Jewish concept of the afterlife], you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me.”

            Both the afterlife and the sea were places of great mystery in Hebrew thinking. Of course, the afterlife continues to be such for us today, but for ancient Israel, the sea represented wide-open chaos and unpredictability. For the psalmist to assert God’s presence there meant that God was truly present in all circumstances. No matter what else happened, the writer trusted that God would be with him.              But this trust in God’s presence is not the only assertion we see developed in our readings. In Genesis 28, Jacob has left his family home and is setting forth on a long journey, a time when he, as a solo traveller would truly need God’s presence with him. He has a dream that has come to be known as Jacob’s Ladder, in which a connection is established between heaven and earth.

            This is a significant vision within the context of ancient religious theology. In many early religious traditions, heaven and earth were separated from one another by a fixed dome known as the firmament. This separation was largely impermeable, but the vision that Jacob has clearly establishes a direct relationship between God and God’s people. Though heaven and earth were separated in ancient Jewish thinking, this text asserts that God is actively involved in the lives of people on earth.

            At the end of the reading, God promises Jacob, “Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised for you.” God’s presence with us is not all that is promised: God is actively working to make good on those promises.

            In Romans, Paul speaks of one of the ways God is holding to these promises: the gift of the Holy Spirit. You and I are challenged and empowered to sow the seeds of God’s love and grace, and Paul sees this responsibility as a vital way in which God’s promises are enacted in our world.                 

            “We have the first fruits of the Spirit,” he writes. He goes on to say that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness, and intercedes for us.” Paul is clear that we too have responsibility in enacting God’s promises in our world. Anytime we exercise the fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control – we are enacting God’s promises to all people, promises of God’s constant presence, that we journey in life with the One who will keep us wherever we go.

            These promises find their fulfilment in Christ as well, as we believe and proclaim that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection ushered in a new relationship between God and humanity. Paul writes, “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come… nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Paul’s words are a return to and an echo of the understanding of the psalmist – the promise that God is with us, that God actively loves us.

            Friends, our world is filled with places of hurt, places of pain, and places of uncertainty, but God continues to create, to redeem, to sustain, and has given us the Spirit to intercede in places of trial. We are called, not only to recognize the ways in which God’s promises are being enacted in our world, but to participate in enacting those promises. We are meant to make a difference when and where we can, trusting that through God’s Spirit we have the resources within us to make a difference.

            We can see the work that God is doing in our world when we get away from the headlines. The still, small movement of the Spirit is present in our world no matter where we are, and is actively transforming it, one person, one place, one life at a time. Such work goes on quietly in our congregations. During this time of suspended in-person worship services, we see it in the continued donations of time, food, clothing and other resources for those within our community in need of benevolent care. We see it in phone calls, emails, cards, and other means of communication that connect us during some of the most difficult times of our lives, while maintaining physical distancing.

            And it comes in many other ways. All speak so clearly of the promise of God’s presence in our lives, and the way that God empowers ordinary, everyday people to do extraordinary things through the Spirit’s help.

            And of course, church is not the only place that God’s Spirit is at work. We experience the pushing and prodding of God’s Spirit in our lives beyond our congregations, and we find inspiration from the way God’s Spirit moves in the lives of others, and in the community around us.

            Friends, true strength comes from our ability to have hope – even in that which might be unseen – because of the power of the promises we have received through God’s Spirit, and then to act on that hope, believing that we have a role to play in keeping God’s promises to each one of us. May we trust in God’s constant presence in our lives, and may we each be a part of sharing that presence with others.

            Hope flowers when it is watered by communities of love, for through them Christ comes, light dawns and lives shattered by disruption find astonishingly that they will live again. Thanks be to God. Amen  

 

 

We Respond to God

 

 

Hymn of Response  # 587    Called as partners to Christ’s service 

Tune: BEECHER (as in hymnbook)  (lyrics in video)

 

 

The Offering of Gifts   Great is thy Faithfulness       

Faria and Friends

  

 

 

Sung Response  

 

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Praise God all creatures here below.

Praise God above ye heavenly hosts.

Creator, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Text: © 1989, Hope Publishing Company. Reprinted with One License A-722822

 

 

Prayers of the People  

 

Let us pray

Compassionate God, we thank you that you are not far from any one of us, that our faintest sigh is heard by you, that though we cannot see you with the outward eye we may commune with you in spirit and see you through the eyes of faith.

            Thank you for your overflowing love for all humankind, and indeed all Creation. We thank you for your grace, embodied in Jesus Christ, for your gospel of hope proclaimed through Jesus Christ, and for a new heart within us, which is Jesus Christ. Loving God, we thank you for your Spirit, whose living breath revives our own spirits.

            We bring to you now our prayers for others and for ourselves.

            We remember those feeling the ache of loss and bereavement. May they know that neither life nor death can separate us from your love which is in Christ Jesus.

            We pray for our families and our friends – may they know your love; may they know of your promise to be with them at every step of their lives. We pray for your healing presence in the lives of those who are ill, and those struggling to recover and return to health. We remember Jim and his family… Nancy, a friend in the community … Cheryl and Charles… and others whose names are upon our hearts at this time ….  let them feel comforted; let them know your peace.

            We ask that your Spirit of peace be felt in the troubled places of our world. We pray for those who struggle to find food and water and the basic necessities. We pray for the countless refugees in our world and the organizations that support them. May the day come soon when every nation will  seek justice and equality for all their citizens.

            We pray for the courage to affirm the innate worth of every person and to share in Christ’s ministry of love and reconciliation for all people. We pray that the church will be the inclusive community you desire.

            Teach us trust and respect for one another. Teach us faithfulness and patience. Open our eyes beyond our own needs to see the needs of others. Open our eyes, as well, to our kinship with the whole of creation and to our relatedness with all people around the world. May we be family with each other. Strengthen and inspire us that we may serve you, each other and the world you love so much.

            May your spirit of healing and wholeness prevail where hatred and anger scar family and friendship; where loved ones are missed; where a job is gone; where ambitions or dreams have vanished.   

            God, may we always be compassionate as we look upon the needs of others or look inwardly to our own needs.

            We offer our prayers in Jesus’ name. He taught his friends the meaning of prayer by 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 trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us and 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  # 736   For the healing of the nations  

Tune:  CWM RHONDDA (Guide  me, O thou great Redeemer) (lyrics in video)

 

 

 

Benediction

As you go forth into this new week, go with hope

And confidence that God is present with you.

May the peace of God,

the blessing of Jesus Christ,

and the presence of the Holy One

be with you, now and always.

AMEN

 

 

Sung Dismissal

 

Tune and Text © 1995, Desert Flower Music/Jim and Jean Strathdee. Reprinted with One License A-722822

 

 

Postlude   You do not walk alone     

by Elaine Hagenberg

This is the last Sunday service for which I will prepare music until Sept 6, so I (Leanne) want to leave you with a blessing. 

Go in peace.         

 

 

2020 07 19 MacNeill News and Notes 

 

With gratitude to Terry Dempsey for the message and pastoral prayer today; Leanne Tees for selecting our music; and Bev Leslie for making this service available on our website.

~Jennifer Nettleton, Coordinator of Worship

 

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