HUMBLE YOURSELVES…UNDER GOD’S MIGHTY HAND, THAT HE MAY LIFT YOU UP IN DUE TIME. CAST ALL YOUR ANXIETY ON HIM BECAUSE HE CARES FOR YOU. (1 Peter 5: 6-7)
WELCOME TO OUR SUNDAY WEB-WORSHIP!
Old Testament Reading: PROVERBS 3: 1 – 10.
TRUST IN THE LORD WITH ALL YOUR HEART AND LEAN NOT ON YOUR OWN UNDERSTANDING; IN ALL YOUR WAYS ACKNOWLEDGE HIM, AND HE WILL MAKE YOUR PATHS STRAIGHT. (Proverbs 3: 5-6)
New Testament Reading: MATTHEW 6: 25 – 34.
(Jesus said) – THEREFORE I TELL YOU, DO NOT WORRY ABOUT YOUR LIFE, WHAT YOU WILL EAT OR DRINK; OR ABOUT YOUR BODY, WHAT YOU WILL WEAR. IS NOT LIFE MORE IMPORTANT THAN FOOD, AND THE BODY MORE IMPORTANT THAN CLOTHES? LOOK AT THE BIRDS OF THE AIR; THEY DO NOT SOW OR REAP OR STORE AWAY IN BARNS, AND YET YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER FEEDS THEM. ARE YOU NOT MUCH MORE VALUABLE THAN THEY? WHO OF YOU BY WORRYING CAN ADD A SINGLE HOUR TO HIS LIFE? AND WHY DO YOU WORRY ABOUT CLOTHES? SEE HOW THE LILIES OF THE FIELD GROW. THEY DO NOT LABOUR OR SPIN. YET I TELL YOU THAT NOT EVEN SOLOMON IN ALL HIS SPLENDOUR WAS DRESSED LIKE ONE OF THESE. IF THAT IS HOW GOD CLOTHES THE GRASS OF THE FIELD, WHICH IS HERE TODAY AND TOMORROW IS THROWN INTO THE FIRE, WILL HE NOT MUCH MORE CLOTHE YOU, O YOU OF LITTLE FAITH? SO DO NOT WORRY, SAYING, “WHAT SHALL WE EAT?” OR “WHAT SHALL WE DRINK?” OR “WHAT SHALL WE WEAR?” FOR THE PAGANS RUN AFTER ALL THESE THINGS, AND YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER KNOWS THAT YOU NEED THEM. BUT SEEK FIRST HIS KINGDOM AND HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS, AND ALL THESE THINGS WILL BE GIVEN TO YOU AS WELL. THEREFORE DO NOT WORRY ABOUT TOMORROW, FOR TOMORROW WILL WORRY ABOUT ITSELF. EACH DAY HAS ENOUGH TROUBLE OF ITS OWN.
I love watching the birds in our garden, and the flowers, so much looked after by my wife. They fly and sing and bloom not only in those few nice, sunny days we enjoy in a year, but also in the cold rain, and gale, and hail, and snow. The seagull and the crow I feed are always around, as is the robin and the starlings. Even around Christmas I can find some flowers in the garden – please, don’t ask me their names! Neither the birds nor the flowers seem worried about anything; not even the Covid-19 Pandemic.
Make no mistake, and do not regard Jesus’ remark about birds and flowers as light-hearted. He wants to lead people out of the confinement of trouble into the spaciousness of God’s caring love. Most of His listeners were poor people who did not always know where their food and clothes WOULD come from. These are symbols of our day-to-day struggle for survival that include all the things we worry about. Jesus is concerned about the Father’s place in His children’s lives. Indeed, what is your relationship with the Father? How much and how far do you trust Him? Do you take Him at His Word? Faith is the sure knowledge that God holds our hand even in the most difficult of times.
Isn’t it true that in crisis situations, we often see exactly how much faith people have in God. They suddenly become more pious and attend church more regularly, require urgent prayers. And when they are not helped quickly enough, they suspect God of punishing them unfairly or not hearing them because He does not care at all. Remember Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount: – Do not call on God only in crisis. Learn to depend on Him every day of your life. Receive your daily bread from Him every day. Praise Him for every gift. Thank Him for THE clothes you put on every morning and for the food you eat day by day. Learn to put your life entirely in God’s hands so that you can be free of worry and anxiety about the future. Everything revolves around FAITH. Not faith as the opposite of responsibility, but faith as a way of life, a way of being responsible.
Anxiety or faith – what is your response when you are in trouble? Are you so overwhelmed by your troubles that it affects your whole way of life, or have you learned to leave it to God, to rely on Him and to believe that He provides? In the end, it is always a matter of faith. Those of little faith profess that they have a Heavenly Father, but they live like orphans. Their worries about food and clothing displace their faith. Those of little faith included the disciples who were nearly overcome by fear in the stormy sea, while Jesus slept peacefully in the boat. Those of little faith think that God is sleeping while they try hard to meet the impossible demands of life. Those of little faith included Peter trying to walk on the water until the first gust of wind reminded him of the force of gravity, the weakness of his humanity. Briefly, little faith is when we are overwhelmed by our own inability and shortcomings during difficult times. Nobody has the right to tell another person to not worry, because none of us can feel that in this regard we are the perfect disciples of Jesus.
Then, what should we do? Nothing? Accept everything with a helpless sigh, saying the well-known phrase: “- What will be will be”? Jesus does not advise us to sit back and do nothing. Faith is action, – He says. Faith implies an active searching and doing. So often, my birds must fight the elements to get to the birds-feeder and even beaten to the ground, our flowers amazingly survive the storms.
A Christian psychologist once said: – According to the Bible, there is nothing wrong with realistically acknowledging and trying to deal with the identifiable problems of life. To ignore danger is foolish and wrong. But it is also wrong, as well as unhealthy, to be immobilized by excessive worry. Such worry must be committed in prayer to God, who can release us from paralyzing fear or anxiety, and free us to deal realistically with the needs and welfare both of others and of ourselves. (Dr. Gary R. Collins, Christian Counseling, page 66.) Dr Collins also gives some general, common sense suggestions for those weighed down by fear, anxiety or worry, useful – I think – in our present Pandemic-driven situations. Here is some of his advice: – PROFESSIONAL HELP – consult your local minister or physician. – EXERCISE – regular walks, gardening or running can reduce stress. – WATCH LESS TELEVISION – and be more active, weather permitting. – TALK – to someone. Don’t hold all the anxiety inside. Share your worries with someone else – a friend, relative, pastor or counsellor – If fear and anxiety is an ongoing problem in your life, schedule a regular time to talk to someone. – BE MORE REALISTIC – Many people are worried and anxious about events that will never actually happen to them. Relax. Take life one day at a time. – LISTEN – to relaxing, soothing music, focus on God. – READ THE BIBLE – and – PRAY – Nobody can pray and worry at the same time – BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD, – says the Lord. (Psalm 46: 10)
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you. (2 Thessalonians 3: 16)
LET US PRAY:
GRACIOUS LORD GOD! You tell us not to worry, but it is hard not to, for so much in our lives can and does go wrong. As we look at the state of the world, at the prolonged Covid-19 Pandemic, the still rising death-toll, the real danger of local infection-clusters, the delay of a proper vaccine, Lord we feel more and more fearful, anxious and devastated. Beyond our concern for loved ones, the prospect of becoming infected as growing older, the safety of reopening our church for worship, we are terrified of the catastrophic explosion in Beirut, the loss of lives and livelihood there. In times of darkness, Lord, remind us that You will always be there with us, a refuge and strength in times of trouble. Help us to keep a sense of realism that faith offers no exemption from trouble, but also to never forget that You promise strength in times of need, peace in moments of turmoil and comfort in times of grief. We know that not every problem is resolved as we would wish, that healing is not always granted, that catastrophe can strike at any time and that death comes finally to us all. Teach us – we pray – that though commitment to You brings no immunity from life’s ills, no guarantee of a trouble-free path, You will be there to help, come what may, ready to strengthen, comfort, support and sustain. Lord, still the storms in our lives – of fear and anxiety, of sudden crises, of tragedy, trauma and trouble. Still the storms in our world – of threat of viral infection, of racial intolerance, of man-made and natural disaster, of hatred, bloodshed, and war. Through Your divine power, reach out wherever life brings turmoil and calm the waves, bring true and lasting peace, rest for our souls. We pray for the Christian Church Universal in all its branches, for our Church of Scotland in all its Presbyteries and Congregations. Be with all our members and adherents and bless our sisters and brothers from other Churches here in Portree, the Isle of Skye, Scotland and in the world. Bless those of other faiths or none and for everything – Gracious Lord God – You have done, You are doing or You will be doing, Your name be always glorified, and our lives blessed, through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.
THE LORD’S PRAYER: – OUR FATHER, WHO ART IN HEAVEN …
GOD, WHO MADE THE EARTH, the air, the sky, the sea, who gave the light its birth, careth for me.
God, who made the grass, the flower, the fruit, the tree, the day and night to pass, careth for me.
God, who made the sun, the moon, the stars, is He who, when life’s clouds come on, careth for me.
God, who made all things, on earth, in air, in sea, who changing seasons brings, careth for me.
God, who sent His Son to die on Calvary, He, if I lean on Him, will care for me.
DO NOT BE ANXIOUS ABOUT ANYTHING, BUT IN EVERYTHING, BY PRAYER AND PETITION, WITH THANKSGIVING, PRESENT YOUR REQUESTS TO GOD. AND THE PEACE OF GOD, WHICH TRANSCENDS ALL UNDERSTANDING, WILL GUARD YOUR HEARTS AND YOUR MINDS IN CHRIST JESUS… THE GRACE OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST BE WITH YOUR SPIRIT. AMEN (Philippians 4: 6-7, 23)