Message for 5/24 “Endurance”

The church is open again on Sunday 5/24 11 am for a worship service. Bring your mask if you have one, or we can provide. For those joining us from home, the following is a recording and text of the sermon.

24 May 2020 Sunday Message

       “Endurance; Memorialized by Prayer, and Service”

Today, as we begin our worship service, we show our reverence for all those God has placed in our lives that have made a difference in our own individual lives. These are the people who have given to you and I, and the memorial goes beyond those who have served in the military. They are all the first responders, our incredible health providers, our dedicated public servants. It’s that person in your neighborhood who is always there when you need them, and the family that have gone before us creating the life we enjoy today, and have retired for the evening awaiting the great reunion in the morning. This weekend all of us in this land are one people as we come to say thank you to a God who has blessed us richly.

Call to Worship; Psalm 116: 12-16

12 What shall I return to the Lord
for all his goodness to me?

13 I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the Lord.
14 I will fulfill my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people.

15 Precious in the sight of the Lord
is the death of his faithful servants.
16 Truly I am your servant, Lord;
I serve you just as my mother did;
you have freed me from my chains.

Tithe, Offering, and Intercession Prayers; Father before the words come out of my mouth, you know the hearts of every one of us. You have been there- loving us through our times of disgusting sin, our self-loathing for missing the mark in you, and our repentance. You have shown us the way to the green pastures and still waters, picked us up when we stumbled, and sought us out when we were lost in a world of misery. Father today we pray for your forgiveness, and for the welfare of all of the people we carry in our hearts, as we seek your blessing to serve and love, your creation. Lord Father, we pray that you accept our gift of our very selves on this day of your creation.                                                              Amen!

Scripture Reading: Matthew 26:36–42

36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

Message: Endurance; Memorialized by Prayer, & Service

Introduction:

I looked around and what did I see, miracle after miracle by God’s grace had come upon you and me. It had come to: nurture, teach, reach, build, and yeah save me, in spite of me. The lowest of the low, and I’m not alone. The good news of the Gospel tells us that, all of us are offered the gift of gifts. Salvation! Sadly, too few take the offer or dither away opportunity that is offered freely. Meaning, salvation is yours for the asking, and today’s message is about holding on to that gift in the midst of adversity.

Normally, we read and study Matthew 26 for Easter services each year, but every day our friends and loved one survive in the midst of our adversities, it is Easter all over again, on this Memorial Day weekend.

       Yes, today I would like to look at our own adversities that we individually and as a congregation are working through right now, in comparison to the real and intense adversity and affliction experienced by our Lord; creator, saviour, and redeemer, Jesus Christ at Gethsemane. We do this in the hopes that our own walks in the Lord in some small way may , mirror His and those we think about this weekend.

I would like to explore with you, how each of us can experience endurance through calls from the Lord. Calls for action on our part, not unlike the callings our own Lord must have experienced in the midst of His adversity.

  1. There is a universal calling
  2. A calling to be in prayerful communication with God
  3. A drive to go a little farther
  4. A call to be alone with the Lord
  5. A demand for a total surrender to God’s will
  6. A call for determined service

1). The universal calling; of the Lord goes way back to the creation of all things, and we get a sense of this from the Gospel of John 1:1-5

 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made In him was life and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Going backwards through this passage, the universal calling of you and I is illustrated by the fact that we are light in a dark world and have a purpose in serving our Lord through service of other people in this life. In other words, our calling is tied up into the greater calling of Jesus, which is the divine plan of God from the beginning, and our light in Him sustains us!

Moving from creation to renewal, it would seem that through all of the Lord’s earthly ministry he heard the call of His and our destiny, through His sacrifice at the cross. It would mean life for us, and sacrifice for Him to save you and I. Scripture doesn’t reveal a point in time when it is apparent that he became aware that the cross and sacrifice lay ahead. It seems that he had always known.

Side note: (Be aware what I’m about to say is speculation and one can only guess about some things unclear until we are glorified in Him. What we cannot do is take our speculation and turn it into Dogma. That is when we get into trouble, and why we stick to scripture for our navigation towards our Lord.)

It seems like, as Jesus neared the end of his conventional earthly ministry, he seemed to hear more loudly and clearly the call of the cross. As we gather around the Lord’s Table, we too can hear the call of that sacrifice all over again. The call of what is about to happen to confirm all the things that in scripture had already happened. The call of this redemption encompasses our next topic:

2). A call to be in prayerful communication with God;

Matt. 26:36 “Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray’”. Gethsemane is Hebrew gat shemanim, “oil press” and it’s appropriate when we think of deep prayerful times in life when we take the challenges of this life directly to the Lord. The stuff that is opened up? Pent up rage and furry is like the stuff being squeezed out by a press; oily, painful, and ready to be burned.

There is a catholic term called Extreme Unction the administration of holy oil for the very sick. On that evening; our Lord at the garden of all oil presses experienced an extremely deep oily stress and pain at this time of sacrifice for all of us sick people. The ongoing dialogue that comes from a relationship in the Lord is universally equipped to provide us endurance, and instead of continual unction and pain, repentance and life in Him.

Our Lord lived a life in prayer so that conversation with God was natural and would aid in the greatest of His challenges and temptations. The closer Christ came to the cross, the redemption of humanity, the more he must have felt the need for prayer. He prayed for himself, for God’s will to be done, and for the salvation of humankind. Knowing what would accompany the cross and what rested beyond it, he encouraged Peter to pray Matt. 26:41. But Peter did not heed the call to prayer, and his humiliating denial of Christ three times before the Cock crowed followed.

It is important to note; we can never face all of the pressures of life alone, and the temptations life holds without a daily routine, a life in prayer. Or perhaps better said, a prayerful life in your personal relationship in the Lord. This is a process that gets better with practice, and doesn’t have to be like anyone else’s prayer or prayer-life, because it’s your relationship with the Lord we are talking about and no one else’s. This is the tool, and conversation with the Lord, leads us to places we would never contemplate on our own.

It is Prayer that guided the Lord through the greatest of adversity, pain, hardship so great, we now call this the Passion of Christ. This endurance of the Lord who is accompanied by a prayerful connection to God, is the perfect example for us in our comparatively small lives of affliction and pain. Which leads us to: …

3). A call to go a little farther in our walk in the Lord

“And he went a little farther” Matt. 26:39. Our faithwalk always calls us to go a little further than the rank-and-file Christian will go. Being a Christian of the working day calls us to go a little further with the Lord than we have ever gone before. This can become our new reality as we continue go to that undiscovered country in our lives that place called grace.

That is; following Him, imitating Him, serving Him, through service of others, before ourselves.

As we look at the sacrifice on the cross and see Christ’s dying for us, how can we be content to stay where we are in this life? No. Our Lord’s sacrifice leads us on. Even as we forge a path individually with Christ, and follow:

4). A call to go it alone

We know from Matt. 26:38–39 38Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

The disciples went with Christ to the garden. Peter, James, and John went still a little farther with him. But those last lonely steps he made all alone, and then collapsed into prayer.

It is said; “there will be some in this life who will go with you part of the way. Others will go with you most of the way. But if you are going all of the way into the will of God, you had better be prepared to make those last steps all alone.”

If you can reflect on the fact that in reality, your Lord is really there with you (always has been, and only Christ was truly separated for a while) and then it comes to mind; you are not alone it only seemed so at the darkest time.

Are you feeling all alone in a world that doesn’t seemed to care about or even notice you? Or perhaps you are buried in conflict and despair from contention. Regardless of who you are and what you have done, there is someone who has been there with you all along the way.

If you are thinking there is just no way God could love a screw-up or a misfit like you, with very little productive to show for your time so far here on earth. Or, perhaps you have discovered loneliness because you would not follow the crowd as it sought to degrade God, itself, and others with an ever-newer ways to sin: you are not alone!

In fact, many times as we come through this loneliness our own personal Garden of the oil press, we realize that there were others there with us to encourage us all along our walk, but our despair overwhelmed our ability to see anything correctly. That’s what the Adversary does so well at times in our self-imposed isolation; He fuels our doubts and fears. Well shed that oily sin your swith repentance to Him that can forgive and heal, and leave that oily mess to fuel the fires of Hell.

It’s amazing how my vision improves when I answer:

5). A call for a total surrender to God’s will; as defined in Matt. 26:39 that says it all: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Christ was saying, “If there is any other way for people to be saved than by my death on the cross, save them that other way. Nevertheless, if not, your will be done.” He was saying, “More than me wanting to live, I want your will to be done.”

When God’s will be done, we have real life ahead of us eternally, instead of passing life in the shallow end of the pool afraid of the deep end and the mature things in life. When God’s will is done, I am finished with excuses, I am done with dithering, I am putting away childish things and trading them in for the meat of the Bible and growing deep the roots of service for others, through:

Loving God with all of my heart sole and might, and loving my neighbor as myself. That means I am no longer trying to meet old rules and standards. No. Now God has my heart and I am all in, and I am beginning to understand that all of this has been about a relationship, a life dedicated to the Lord all along.

The call of the sacrifice like that of the cross, is a call for total surrender to God’s will. Dwarfing all of the battles that you and I are called to learn and grow from in this incubator life of ours. If you hear that call and respond as Christ would have you reply, you will also say, “God, more than my wanting to live, I want your will to be done in my life.” That is real surrender! From a mature person in their faith walk, and its when real living begins for you and me!

6). A call for determined service

Once again, we return to our passage in Matt. 26:40–41 40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

The cross of Christ calls, and it is the calling for sacrifice from each of us to experience victory in our lives through persistent vigilance and prayer. Unlike the disciples who did not persist and failed Christ in his greatest hour of need, each of us are called to “watch and pray”, and at times actually act, knowing all the while that although “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Diligence in and with my relationship in the Lord takes me beyond the written rules and guidelines in life. To a new kind of dedication that creates in someone an attitude of being all-in, and a service ethic of compassion. It rises us beyond the constraints of quotas, rules, and percentages of the Old Covenant into a life constantly challenging us to listen, obey, and follow our Lord, through: Prayer, Worship, and Service, creating a lasting Endurance in Him.

No, now, I am looking to help others where I can like the good shepherd look for the lost, and in our case not as a know it all, but just offering care and assistance in getting out of the darkness. This is in spite of our weak flesh; we flourish and grow when we are following our Lord through service to others.

Invariably this will lead to some obvious questions, and here are some random ideas on my part, but everything to follow must be based in prayer in the Lord for guidance from His Spirit;

  1. What if someone doesn’t want to hear the Good News?
    1. That is not in our control. We are called to share humbly our good news, love, and pray for people regardless of their answer. And to keep caring for the person that God will provide. No strings attached!
  2. What if people mock me for wanting to share what I have?
    1. The Good News comes in many ways, but first and foremost with our sincerity of living and caring.
    2. Some people are not ready for the meat of the Gospel yet, but are ready for a kind face and a sincere person. Sometimes people mock out of fear. I am more afraid of letting my Lord and my family in this room down!
  3. What if someone just wants to debate me and trip me up?
    1. You don’t have to play. We are called to love to feed, clothe, care, and love others.
    2. Not everyone is called to be a debater or match wits. Sometimes what is really called for is to listen and then talk about the joy you have found in the Lord and your family of choice, those of us serving with you worshipping with you, loving you, in this room.
    3. And perhaps a better question to ask yourself; If you haven’t found joy, what are you trying to share?

If someone is sincere in their search for discovery, they will be glad to search with us to find answers, and thankfully we have scripture as authority, and faith family members as resources. The Lord provides all of the tools we need for endurance.

I also believe God is not calling all of us to get up on a soap box to billow scripture passages, but to be an example that can sow the seeds of a future harvests. People want the joy that you have found, and what keeps you going in times of adversity, and I need to be prepared to talk my faithwalk and why I believe, as we feed and clothe those in need physically and spiritually.

I am reminded of our Call to Worship today, and how we might personalize where the Psalmist describes fulfilling our vows to God in front of the world. Not by drama, but by letting the Lord change our lives by dying to our sin and freeing our chains of sinful habits so that we may serve the Lord, and live in Him, from Psalm 116:

14 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.

15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants.

16 Truly I am your servant, LORD; I serve you just as my mother did;

   you have freed me from my chains.

In closing; My chains are freed when I have given myself over to the one who frees me of all addictions, and through my death to sin and its obsessions, I gain the endurance to live forever in the one who created every part of me. May you find your path this week, and enjoy your walk in the Lord richly.                      Amen!

Benediction based on Isaiah 61:1-3

May the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord be upon you,
because the Lord has anointed you
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent you to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
May you be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.