Rev. Steve Hundley delivered the prayers and inspirational message below by way of ZOOM to a “screenfull” of appreciative worshipers this morning.
Fran McNeill selected the songs. I am pleased to share parts of this service with you today.
Come, let us worship!
Call to Worship:Psalm 116: 12-13
God invites us into His healing presence with these words: “I am the Lord, who heals you.”
Diseased, depressed, dysfunctional, defeated, we come hungering for health that only God can provide.
God calls us to bring open eyes, hearing ears, and tender hearts turned towards Him, the Great Physician.
We worship our God with faith and expectation.
Come and sing along!
O God, our Rock, our refuge, our resting place, we come to You out of another week of mostly sheltering in place. We come out of our desire to find some meaning in this strange, unusual, and frightening time. We come out of our desire to meet You and know You as the center of our being. We gather in spirit and in the security of Your love. Fill our hearts and prepare us for service and for the living of these days. Amen.
A Children’s Message for Adults, too! (a true story)
When we were teenagers, my brother bought an old wooden canoe with the intent of restoring it. Ridge spent one entire summer re-conditioning it. He stripped the wooden ribs and re-varnished the interior. He “re-fiberglassed” the outside and even painted it to resemble an Indian birch bark canoe.
For its maiden voyage we decided to take it out on the James River for a day of fishing. After what turned out to be a banner day of catching a passel of smallmouth bass and sun perch, we reached the designated take-out point. Pulling the front of the canoe up on the shore, we jumped on my brother’s motorcycle that we had left there and headed back up river to retrieve the pickup truck.
When we drove back to get the canoe, it was nowhere to be found. Searching the river bank, we spotted it floating off downstream. Running along the bank and crashing through the underbrush, we were able to draw even with it. Grabbing the longest tree branch we could find, we strained to reach out to it, but with every attempt, it moved further out into the main current of the river, gaining speed as it drifted away.
Then came the moment of truth! It was clear that one of us would have to strip down and swim after the canoe. Looking at each other, we knew who it would be. HEY, IT WAS NOT MY CANOE! Don’t look at me like that! If I had offered to strip down and drive into the icy water to recue “his” canoe, he would not have learned anything about the responsibility of ownership. I did, however, cheer him on as he dove into the frigid water.
There is no greater blessing in life than to have someone who is willing to strip down and dive into the dark and icy waters of this world; particularly when what is disappearing down the river happens to be us. especially during this life-altering virus outbreak. Yes, we belong to Jesus, who has redeemed us with His life on the cross. Like my brother who was willing to dive into the icy waters to save his canoe, Jesus said: “I am the Good Shepherd, and I lay down my life for my sheep.”
SONG: Shepherd Me O God Sm 2058
Prayer for Illumination:
Lord, open our hearts and minds by the power of Your Holy Spirit, that we may hear Your Word with joy. Amen.
O Lord, our Shepherd, who leads us by still waters and into green pastures, we thank You for the times in our lives when life is strong, good, affirming and everything happens for the best. Teach us to remember, though, that You are with us at all times, even in the midst of this ongoing pandemic when the waters are not still and the pastures are not green, when our days are fraught with danger and difficulty and we eat our bread in the presence of a silent killer called COVID 19.
Remind us that Your loving kindness surpasses even this and Your faithfulness is to all generations. Help us to recall Your undying love for us in these days of adversity and disappointment, so that even this misfortune may but strengthen our sense of Your presence and encourage us in faith.
Though we are still sheltering in place, O Lord, we continue to pray for each other. Hear our individual prayers as we lift up to You all those we love who need your comfort and strength and healing today.
In Jesus name, Amen.
Go now – and bee the heart, ears, and hands of love. Thanks for joining us in worship today. God bless you!
For God did not give us A spirit of cowardice, But rather a spirit of power and of love and self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7
Do we have enough self-discipline To take advantage of this time – This time to just BE and just LOVE And make the world a better place?
Ann Weems, in Putting the Amazing Back in Grace, wrote: “Remember, you’re in charge of remembering that God is in charge, and that’s a big job that will last a lifetime.”
God’s got this!! Have a peace-filled Sunday, my friends.
Oh, and in case you, like us, missed church today, here is the sermon for today that our pastor, Rev. Steve Hundley sent out via e-mail.
Find a comfortable chair, grab a cup o’ tea or coffee, and augment your Sunday with a worshipful, inspiring message:
INSTRUCTIONS FOR LIFE
Read Psalm 23
Not long after becoming the pastor of three small churches in the mountains of Virginia, I was asked to give the Baccalaureate Address to the graduating class of Bath County High School. It used to be, at least in the Bible Belt where I grew up, that local high schools have both a Baccalaureate and Graduation ceremony. The Baccalaureate was held one evening, a day or two before the actual Graduation Commencement. And it was tradition to invite a religious leader in the community to speak. However, I’m not sure that the message I delivered was what the school administration, or even the students, had in mind.
In most cases, the message given would be a positive one meant to motivate the students to go out and change the world, such as: “You are God’s ambassadors, the hope for a broken world!” Or: If you can imagine it, you can achieve it; if you can dream it, you can become it.” Or, perhaps: “Shoot for the Moon, for even if you miss, you’ll find yourself among the stars!” Most Baccalaureate, as well as, Commencement speakers would have them believe that they can be and do anything they set their minds to, (but with God’s help, of course).
I, however, felt that it was my duty to inform them that they were nothing but a bunch of “harebrained” sheep. I saw that! You raised your eyebrows, didn’t you? (Note from JanBeek, see the picture of sheep I put at the end of this sermon!)
Yet, that is what the Bible says. Yes, as much as we would like to think of ourselves as having the heart of a lion, we share more in common with sheep.
You see, like sheep, we tend to stray easily and lose our way. I’ve have been told that if one sheep spooks and tears off in one direction, all the others will follow. Imagine a bunch of sheep running up a hill. Suddenly the one in front makes a sudden left turn, and all the others, with no questions asked, mindlessly follow. If the one leading heads right off a cliff, tumbling to its death, all the others follow right off the cliff as well. But, you say, “We’re not like that!”
I heard recently about a young married couple. The wife bought a country ham to cook for her husband’s family who were coming over for dinner. Before putting it in a pot to bake it, she cut both ends off. “Why did you do that,” her husband asked. “I did it because that is the waymy mother always did it,” she said. Calling her mother on the phone, she asked: “Mom, why do we cut the ends off a ham before cooking it?” “I don’t know. I do it because it is the way my mother always did it.” Calling up her grandmother, she asked, “Grandmother, why do we cut the ends off a ham before baking it?” “I don’t know why you and your mother do it, but I always did it because it wouldn’t fit in my small baking pan.”
Yes, if one sheep spooks and tears off, all the others will follow. Still, you say, “We are smarter than that!” (Try to find a roll of toilet paper, or a bottle of hand sanitizer these days. Just saying.)
Attending a Montana State University lecture not long ago, the speaker, a journalist professor, pointed out just how partisan our country has become. He said that we have lost the will, and therefore, the ability to listen and dialogue with those who disagree with us. “We only listen to those news networks that confirm what we believe to be true,” he said. “We socialize with those who believe like us. In other words, we are like sheep who follow blindly our own flock.” Oh, by the way, did you know that a flock of sheep are called a “MOB?” Google it.
Secondly, sheep not only tend to follow their “mob”, they are also fragile creatures. Ken Davis, a comedian, tells of growing up on a sheep farm. He said there was an old ram on their farm that loved to sneak up behind him and butt him when he wasn’t looking. He hated that old ram. One day he spotted the old bruiser coming around the back of the barn. Determined to get back at that old ram, he looked around for something to hit him with. With nothing in sight and ram rounding the corner, Ken jumped out and hollered: “BOO!” It was all he could think to do.
“Startled,” Ken said, “that old ram just keeled over AND DIED!”
Later, his father confronted him, “Son, you hit that sheep, didn’t you?”
“No dad, I said, BOO! and it just died!”
A crack of thunder is all it takes to scare a sheep literally to death. As much as we like to think of ourselves as indestructible, this present pandemic and the fact you are reading this sermon in your own home, shows just how fragile we are. Our Lord Jesus said: “When you pray, say, ‘Our Father, who art in heaven…give us this day our daily bread…and, deliver us from evil’.”
Yes, we are like sheep who are in need of a Shepherd. We need help. Going it alone, depending on our own wiles, spells certain disaster. I remember one sheep herder/shepherd telling of turning his flock loose one night in the mountains to graze alone on their own. He knew it was a risk, because sheep cannot defend themselves, much less outrun, even the slowest predators. Sheep tend to go astray, grazing along without looking where they are going.
He did, however, leave them in the care of his trusty sheep dog. Locating them the next morning, he discovered that they had wandered into a rather rugged mountain park. Being the rather clumsy animals that they are, more than a few of them had managed to fall over while feeding on the uneven ground. He found sheep scattered around the meadow upside down on their backs unable to get up. He said: “I had to go around picking up sheep and placing them back on their feet.
The Prophet Isaiah warns the Israelites of the danger of going it alone. “See, the Lord’s arm is not too short to save … to pick you up when you have fallen.” (Isaiah 59:1)
While I doubt that anyone was prepared for me to compare the graduating class of Bath County High School to a “flock”, or should I say “mob” of sheep…the foolish notion that the future of the world rested on their shoulders is categorically untrue! The longer I live, the more I am convinced that what we need to make it in this world is not popularity and success, not financial wealth or even personal happiness.
What we need is Christ, the Good Shepherd, to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves and instruct us in the proper order of our lives. For, “The Lord is our Shepherd, we shall not want. He makes us lie down in green pastures; he leads us beside still waters; it is our Shepherd who restores our souls, who leads us in right paths. Even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we fear not evil…”
Notice how Psalm 23 reverses the order of how we tend to live our lives. It is our tendency to approach life head on, burning ourselves out. And then, turn back to God in search of rest and soul-restoration after a week of chasing the illusive American dream. Yet, notice that this Psalm reverses the order. First, there is the Shepherd who provides what we need most, rest and soul restoration. Only then is it possible to find meaning and purpose in God’s emerging kingdom or face dark valleys.
This is the blessing Jesus wanted Martha to see when she was burning herself out by busying herself in the kitchen. Jesus said to her: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part…” (Luke 10:41-42).
Notice how the New Testament church began in Acts 2:46-47: “They followed a daily discipline of busying themselves with programs and activities, burning themselves out, so that people liked what they saw and everyday their numbers grew…” ??? NO! NO! NO!
It says: “They followed a daily discipline of worship in the temple, followed by meals together in their homes, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Everyday their numbers grew as God added those who were saved.”
Yes, Genesis tells us that “God created the world and on the seventh day, and then He rested.” That’s true, but WE ARE NOT GOD! Christ died for our sins, our weaknesses, and on the first day of the week He arose from the dead! So, we begin with rest, worship, and spiritual recreation before facing the challenges of daily living and serving our God.
We are His sheep, who find our rest in the arms of the Good Shepherd, so that He might equip us for the facing of this hour even as we face this dark valley of the shadow of death. For we are not alone, for God in Christ is with us. Amen.
Read Psalm 23 again.
In what new and unique way have you felt God’s comforting presence?
See ya tomorrow. Thanks for visiting JanBeek and for hangin’ in there together. Have a beautiful Sunday. Together, in FAITH, we shall overcome!!
We’re so grateful that our granddaughter, Faith, married into this beautiful McSparron family! Such a gift to the Beekmans to extend our hearts into Kutztown, PA!! This is a sweet, quaint college town.
Their house was designed by Allen & Lisa and built by the McSparron boys & dad.
Such fun to have Lisa’s heritage also be in Switzerland where our DeDe and her family lives.
After a delicious breakfast topped off by the wonderful pear dessert left from last night, we went “hunting and gathering” in the gorgeous countryside.
As you can see, we are busy “hunting & gathering” in a variety of places.
I have an affection for Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life. It has so many words of wisdom – and it helped me as I was trying to define my purpose for living. I had recently suffered a burst appendix and had almost died. Prayer, God’s grace, a skillful ambulance driver, and a careful surgeon gave me back my life. I looked earnestly for clues about how I might live purposely for God to thank Him for my survival.
This book of Daily Inspirations is a complement to The Purpose Driven Life. I used it as a devotional and as a journal, writing in the margins and at the top and bottom of the pages each day.
But recently I read a quote by Marjorie J. Thompson in her book, Soul Feast.
Thompson wrote, “I admit I do not care for the language of ‘driven-ness’ in recently popular books and seminars…” She went on to explain “… it is significant that the Bible likens us to sheep, not cattle.”
Giving overtime thought to Marjorie J. Thompson’s quote I wrote the following Haiku:
Live from a posture Of profound trust and deep love Be sheep, not cattle
My husband and I had a deep conversation about life and death, purpose and the difference between being led and being driven. When I am weary, Jesus leads me beside still waters. He refreshes my soul.
Cowboys here in Montana drive their cattle to the next pasture and farmers in Switzerland drive their cows in the springtime up to fresh grass from the lower meadows where the beautiful animals have spent the winters.
But Bob’s point as my hubby discussed the difference between being driven and led, was that cattlemen drive their cattle for the same reason shepherds lead their sheep. They have their best interests at heart. (Well, they may be driving them to market!)
There is a connotation to the word “driven” in our American culture. It seems to imply push-push-push, a relentless effort toward getting to the top.
Hope for the Flowers
I was reminded of a book for adults and others (including caterpillars who can read) titled, Hope for the Flowers, by Trina Paulus. It was copyrighted in 1973, but it is as pertinent today as it was then (and it still is available on Amazon.com).
As I recall the story, the caterpillars in this clever little tale are climbing over the top of each other, creating a “caterpillar pillar.” One little creeper is on the outside edge, getting tired of the climb, wondering if it’s worth it. She asks a fellow climber as she looks at the daunting distance to the top, “What’s up there, anyway?”
“Just other caterpillars pushing each other off so they can be on top,” her climbing companion explained as one of the fuzzy creatures came tumbling down and crashed to the ground.
(How sad, huh? I am fascinated by these wonderful creations and their metamorphosis.)
Right about then the disillusioned climber caught the eye of a beautiful butterfly cruising by. “Climb on down,” he encouraged. “Spin yourself a chrysalis, rest inside, and eventually you will emerge a butterfly like I did. Then you can join me.”
(Of course those quotes are from my memory, not the actual book. I loaned it out to someone…. don’t remember who… but I have ordered a new one. Hope for the Flowers is a terrific book to have on hand as a reminder of my journey!)
Moving Down the Administrative Ladder
I discovered this beautiful, child-like, but profound, paperback when I was working as a curriculum coordinator in the district office at a school district in central California. My office was waaay too far from the children. I had been an elementary teacher for over 20 years and the principal of a K-6 school with over a thousand students for nearly a decade. The “caterpillar pillar” (that ambitious climb to greater “success”) led me to the district office. I knew after only about three weeks that it was not where I belonged.
I stuck it out for two years. Did the best job I knew how. Wore at least a half a dozen hats (Federal Programs director, language arts and music coordinator, in-service leader for new teachers, mentor for new principals, etc.) I learned a lot, and am glad I did it,but generally, I was not happy. My love & my gift was teaching children and helping “my staff” grow to be their best selves. I loved the interaction with the students, the teachers, and the parents.
As I climbed back down the “pillar” and announced that I was going back UP to the classroom (as soon as I rested a year and earned my butterfly wings), I was told, “What are you doing? That’s the wrong direction!”
Some warned, “You can’t go back down! People will think you’ve been demoted!”
“Yes, I can,” I insisted. I slid into my chrysalis, listened to The Voice of Reasonand Transformation, rested, and devoted more time to my family, myself and my God.
I emerged a happy butterfly and was led back UP to a group of first graders. At the end of that year I led them on to second grade. What joy! I still hear from some of those children twenty years later. Several of them are my Facebook friends!