AS YOU COME TO HIM, THE LIVING STONE – REJECTED BY MEN BUT CHOSEN BY GOD AND PRECIOUS TO HIM – YOU ALSO, LIKE LIVING STONES, ARE BEING BUILT INTO A SPIRITUAL HOUSE TO BE A HOLY PRIESTHOOD (1 Peter 2:4-5a)
THIS IS GOD’S HOLY HOUSE, AND HE IS HERE TODAY; HE HEARS EACH SONG OF PRAISE; AND LISTENS WHILE WE PRAY (Church Hymnary, 18)
WECOME TO OUR SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP!
OPENING HYMN (CH – 420)
THE CHURCH’S ONE FOUNDATION is Jesus Christ her Lord: she is His new creation by water and the word; from heaven He came and sought her to be His holy bride; with His own blood He bought her, and for her life He died.
Elect from every nation, yet one o’er all the earth, her charter of salvation One Lord, one faith, one birth: One Holy Name she blesses, partakes one holy food, and to one hope she presses, with every grace endued.
‘Mid toil and tribulation, and tumult of her war, she waits the consummation of peace for evermore, till with the vision glorious her longing eyes are blest, and the great Church victorious shall be the Church at rest.
Yet she on earth hath union with God the Three in One, and mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won. O happy ones and holy! Lord, give us grace that we, like them, the meek and lowly, on high may dwell with Thee.
LET US PRAY:
FATHER GOD, we come to You with empty hands to receive from You. We come with heavy hearts, that You might carry our burden. We come with our hopes and fears, our joys and our sorrows. We come as we are, longing to be renewed into Your likeness. We come in the name of Jesus, because He first came to us. Father, we come to You in confidence. By Your grace we have become Your children; conceived by Your love, born through faith in Christ. We come to You to be reminded all over again who You are, to be ready to stand for Your truth and Your mercy. We have come because You have called us to be changed and challenged to respond to the message of Your Word with confession and good deeds. We lift to You, Lord, our hands, our voices, and our souls in grateful Sunday morning worship as the Spiritual Temple of our Almighty Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Holy Trinity, One Eternal God.
OLD TESTAMENT READING: – PSALM 127: 1-2.
A song of ascents. Of Solomon.
UNLESS THE LORD BUILDS THE HOUSE, ITS BUILDERS LABOUR IN VAIN. UNLESS THE LORD WATCHES OVER THE CITY, THE WATCHMEN STAND GUARD IN VAIN. IN VAIN YOU RISE EARLY AND STAY UP LATE, TOILING FOR FOOD TO EAT – FOR HE GRANTS SLEEP TO THOSE HE LOVES.
NEW TESTAMENT READING: – 1 CORINTHIANS 3: 16-17.
DON’T YOU KNOW THAT YOU YOURSELVES ARE GOD’S TEMPLE AND THAT GOD’S SPIRIT LIVES IN YOU? IF ANYONE DESTROYS GOD’S TEMPLE, GOD WILL DESTROY HIM; FOR GOD’S TEMPLE IS SACRED, AND YOU ARE THAT TEMPLE.
What a joy and spiritual uplifting it was to worship together again in our church. Re-opening it last Sunday, after six month of pandemic-lockdown, it has been revealed again, how important it is for us – Christians – to come together regularly, to listen to God’s message from the Bible, praying and praising Him in our common way. As we come to worship God – being strengthened with power through the Holy Spirit in our inner being, so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith (Ephesians 3:16b), our lives become “God’s living temple”, confirmed by Jesus’ promise: – surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20b). This is God’s Word, – I want to share with you this morning.
- – The central message of Psalm 127 is that without God it’s not worth it, but if we give God a place in our lives, we can rest in His blessing. King Solomon – to whom the Psalm is attributed – introduces this idea through two parallel images: the building of a house ( the Temple) and the guarding of a city (Jerusalem). Psalm 127 had a melody and would have been sung as a song. Today Jews recite this psalm as part of a thanksgiving service, and at the birth of a child. The psalmist warns against an attitude of self-sufficiency. God wants us to find blessing and fulfilment in our whole life, but it will come only when we put Him at the centre. Whatever happens, without God, whatever we do will be empty, frustrating, useless … in vain, as the Psalmist says. Two kinds of work are mentioned here: building and then guarding or maintaining. Basically, what Solomon says, is to not start anything without God. In fact he repeats one of his great teachings from another book of the Bible: – Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed (Proverbs 16:3). Whatever we attempt in life, should be committed to God from the very beginning, because if God is not in it, then God’s blessing will not be on it. God may then frustrate our plans, or simply choose to frustrate us. But either way, unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labour in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. If we want God’s blessing and provision in our lives, we must not only start with God, but we also have to continue with God. The “spiritual inner chamber” where God dwells through faith in Christ within us, has to be always used and protected as God’s Temple, living with the Lord and walking with Him all the days of our lives, as we so often confess.
The Great Wall of China was built to defend China from outside invaders. The wall is over 4,000 miles long and over 20 feet high. Its width ranges from 12 to 40 feet in places. Having the privilege to see and walk on it with my wife, I can tell you that it really looks as secure as it can get. But the Mongols still got into China. They didn’t breach the walls; they simply bribed the guards. All the evil of this world keeps on trying to bribe us to give up our faithful, godly defence. We might be tempted to believe that we can protect ourselves against everything, but it does not matter how many medical “watchmen” we have, even a tiny, invisible VIRUS is capable of conquering and destroying us, and even the whole of humanity. If we leave God out of it, the watchmen stand guard in vain.
At one of my early visits to Skye, my late friend and predecessor, John Ferguson, proudly showed me around the newly built Church Hall. Asking, what its name – Togamaid – means, I was told: – Let us build, and it is in Gaelic. Then John continued, that it is all about the continuous build-up of faith, as St Columba used to build Christianity and churches throughout the Island by his preaching about Christ, “the Crucified”. Roddy Beaton is right – we should use more often our Church Hall’s name, Togamaid, to be reminded to build always on our faith. God wants us to trust Him rather than worry. Therefore we have to avoid two things, regarding our TRUST IN GOD: – trying to do it all by ourselves or expecting God to do it all for us. Trusting in God is simple:- No prayer without work; no work without prayer! The Lord will keep you from all harm – He will watch over your life; …over your coming and going both now and for evermore,- says Psalm 121. What we often don’t realise is that – as part of His PROVIDENCE – God originally created man to be absolutely sinless – HOLY – that we were created to be vessels, to be filled with God’s SPIRIT, so that God Himself would live in us. Falling in sin we’ve lost this honour but through FAITH IN CHRIST we are given the possibility to have God living in us as in His Temple. This is why Paul asks: – Don’t you know that yourselves are God’s Temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you.
- – To understand why and how WE ARE GOD’S TEMPLE, we have to look back to the Old Testament to see the way in which God made His dwelling in HIS TEMPLE. The first temple wasn’t called a temple, but a tabernacle. It was a tent, a kind of mobile temple. It could be taken down and set up again as God moved from place to place with His people during Exodus. Moses was the chosen one who had built the tabernacle, and we are told that he spoke with God, face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. When the Lord came into the tabernacle, and later the Temple of Jerusalem, a holy cloud of God’s Spirit instantly covered the whole place and made it inaccessible for anybody else. So God had to find another way to be accessible: – the Father declares that His riches are all bound in His Son. All God’s love and mercy and grace towards us are to be found in Jesus, the Son. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you,- Jesus said in John 16:15. This is the one and only foundation of our faith, that He intends to dwell in us by His Holy Spirit, offering us a wonderful Re-formation. But remember: It is always God who initiates, not man.
Hymn 151 from Mission Praise describes how God is building the Church to be His Temple: – For I’m building a people of power and I’m making a people of praise, that will move through this land by My Spirit, and will glorify My precious name. CHORUS: – Build Your Church, Lord, make us strong, Lord, join our hearts, Lord, through Your Son; make us one, Lord, in Your Body, in the Kingdom of Your Son. (Chorus should be sung twice). God is who initiates the building of His Temple; we just join Him through our prayers.
3.– IF ANYONE DESTROYS GOD’S TEMPLE, GOD WILL DESTROY HIM. There is a warning and there is an encouragement here. The warning is this: – we were created to be vessels for God’s Spirit to live in us. Whether we are Christian or not, God’s intention is to use everyone. As long as some remain apart from God, they are not a fit vessel , so the warning is that there is a day coming when the Lord Jesus Christ will come to judge. To get rid of our SIN, we must faithfully accept the only available treatment that came at the cost of God’s Son. It is CRUCIAL to believe that Jesus Christ came to shed His blood for us on the Cross, to purify us from our sins and enabling us to stand pure and spotless on the Day of Judgement. The encouragement is that God pours out His Holy Spirit on those who believe in Him, never letting us remain as sinful as we are, because God’s holiness requires the purity of the people (the Temple) in whom He dwells.
- – GOD’S TEMPLE IS SACRED, AND YOU ARE THAT TEMPLE. It was made clear in the Scriptures that God’s intention was for His Temple to be holy and undefiled. Everything that has to be removed in order to have the temple made holy: – PURIFIED, – God will do. This is why the gospels describe in detail how Jesus entered Jerusalem to cleansed the temple. Considering ourselves as God’s temple, this is much more than simply saying that we have been forgiven. It is to be counted righteous and not guilty through Christ, THE JUDGE. In one word: purified. As a result of this Divine initiative , like living stones we are built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ…and – The one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame (1 Peter 2: 5-6). And all these are done by: – The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth who does not live in temples built by human hands …. as if he needed anything, because he Himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. (Acts 17: 24-25)
LET US PRAY:
GRACIOUS LORD, reach out to our world, just as You did to so many during Your earthly ministry. Minister to us in our brokenness: our hurts and fears, our weakness of will, our pride, greed and stubbornness – so much that undermines life and devalues our humanity. Minister to all who need You: the sick and suffering, the physically and mentally disabled, the terminally ill, the vulnerable and poor. In this frightening time of Pandemic so many are crying out for help, hope, strength and support. Where there is pain and suffering, grant relief, and comfort those many who mourn today. Through Your healing touch, grant true wholeness deep within. You live in us through our faith in Christ and by the power of Your Holy Spirit we are transformed into Your Temple. We are not dead-, but living-stones in Your hands. Build us up, Lord, even as we worship You here this morning, and never leave Your temples. Be with our world, as millions of people are losing their health and lives due to the Coronavirus Pandemic; guide and help those in charge of leadership, healing, caring and science to be able finally to contain the virus. Bless Your Christian Church Universal in all its branches, be with our Church of Scotland in all its presbyteries and congregations. Bless and uphold all Your children both here in our parish, and all over in the world: young and old, all those in nurseries, schools and universities, as well as who are living in care-homes, enjoying their retirement or working. Support and guard our loved-ones wherever they are, and all those whom we name now quietly in our hearts . . . Gracious Lord God, bring true healing to us and to all and show us how in turn we can remain Your Holy Temple, by worshipping You both now and forevermore, through Jesus Christ, our Lord . AMEN.
THE LORD’S PRAYER: – OUR FATHER, WHO ART IN HEAVEN …
CLOSING HYMN (CH 437):
LOVE DIVINE, ALL LOVES EXCELLING, joy of heaven, to earth come down, fix in us Thy humble dwelling, all Thy faithful mercies crown. Jesus, Thou art all compassion, pure, unbounded love Thou art; visit us with Thy salvation, enter every trembling heart.
Breathe, oh, breathe Thy living Spirit into every troubled breast! Let us all in Thee inherit, let us find Thy promised rest; take away the love of sinning, Alpha and Omega be; end of faith, as its beginning, set our hearts at liberty.
Come, Almighty to deliver, let us all Thy life receive; suddenly return, and never, never more Thy temples leave. Thee we would be always blessing, serve Thee as Thy hosts above, pray, and praise Thee, without ceasing, glory in Thy perfect love.
Finish, then Thy new creation; pure and spotless let us be; let us see Thy great salvation, perfectly restored in Thee, changed from glory into glory, till in heaven we take our place, till we cast our crowns before Thee, lost in wonder, love, and praise.
MAY THE GRACE OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, AND THE LOVE OF GOD, AND THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE HOLY SPIRIT BE WITH YOU ALL. (2 Corinthians 13: 14) AMEN.