JESUS SAID: “LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND. THIS IS THE FIRST AND GREATEST COMMANDMENT. AND THE SECOND IS LIKE IT: LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOUR AS YOURSELF. ALL THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS HANG ON THESE TWO COMMANDMENTS”. (Matthew 22: 37-40)
WELCOME TO OUR SUNDAY MORNING WEB-WORSHIP.
OPENING HYMN (CH-13): – LIGHT OF THE ANXIOUS HEART, Jesus, Thou dost appear, to bid the gloom of guilt depart, and shed Thy sweetness here.
Joyous is he with whom, God’s Word, Thou dost abide, sweet Light of our eternal home, to fleshy sense denied.
Brightness of God above, unfathomable grace, Thy presence be a fount of love within Thy chosen place.
LET US PRAY:
FATHER GOD, we have so much to thank You for. Day after day You have blessed us, pouring out Your love into our lives, our families, and our congregation. Though we fail You, still You show mercy; though we go astray, Your love calls us back. Time and time again Your grace turns sorrow to joy, despair to hope, and death to life. Faithfully we come to praise You, to worship You, and to listen to Your Word. Receive, then, our worship, our praise, our thanksgiving and our humble prayers offered in the name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. AMEN.
OLD TESTAMENT READING: – PSALM 116: 1 – 9.
I LOVE THE LORD, FOR HE HEARD MY VOICE; HE HEARD MY CRY FOR MERCY. BECAUSE HE TURNED HIS EAR TO ME, I WILL CALL ON HIM AS LONG AS I LIVE. THE CORDS OF DEATH ENTANGLED ME, THE ANGUISH OF THE GRAVE CAME UPON ME; I WAS OVERCOME BY TROUBLE AND SORROW. THEN I CALLED ON THE NAME OF THE LORD: “O LORD, SAVE ME!” THE LORD IS GRCTIOUS AND RIGHTEOUS; OUR GOD IS FULL OF COMPASSION. THE LORD PROTECTS THE SIMPLE-HEARTED; WHEN I WAS IN GREAT NEED, HE SAVED ME. BE AT REST ONCE MORE, O MY SOUL, FOR THE LORD HAS BEEN GOOD TO YOU. FOR YOU, O LORD, HAVE DELIVERED MY SOUL FROM DEATH, MY EYES FROM TEARS, MY FEET FROM STUMBLING, THAT I MAY WALK BEFORE THE LORD IN THE LAND OF THE LIVING.
NEW TESTAMENT READING: – JOHN 21: 15 – 19.
WHEN THEY HAD FINISHED EATING, JESUS SAID TO SIMON PETER, “SIMON SON OF JOHN, DO YOU TRULY LOVE ME MORE THAN THESE?” “YES, LORD,” HE SAID, “YOU KNOW THAT I LOVE YOU.” JESUS SAID, “FEED MY LAMBS”. AGAIN JESUS SAID, “SIMON SON OF JOHN, DO YOU TRULY LOVE ME?” HE ANSWERED, “YES, LORD, YOU KNOW THAT I LOVE YOU.” JESUS SAID, “TAKE CARE OF MY SHEEP”. THE THIRD TIME HE SAID TO HIM, “SIMON SON OF JOHN, DO YOU LOVE ME?” PETER WAS HURT BECAUSE JESUS ASKED HIM THE THIRD TIME, “DO YOU LOVE ME?” HE SAID, “LORD, YOU KNOW ALL THINGS; YOU KNOW THAT I LOVE YOU”. JESUS SAID, “FEED MY SHEEP. I TELL YOU THE TRUTH, WHEN YOU WERE YOUNGER YOU DRESSED YOURSELF AND WENT WHERE YOU WANTED; BUT WHEN YOU ARE OLD YOU WILL STRETCH OUT YOUR HANDS, AND SOMEONE ELSE WILL DRESS YOU AND LEAD YOU WHERE YOU DO NOT WANT TO GO.” JESUS SAID THIS TO INDICATE THE KIND OF DEATH BY WHICH PETER WOULD GLORIFY GOD. THEN HE SAID TO HIM, “FOLLOW ME!”
One of the most personal questions ever asked is, – Do you love me? Our message last week from the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 5, brought us to the Lake of Gennesaret where, following a miraculous catch of fish, and Peter’s confession of sin, Jesus called him and his fellow fishermen to follow Him to fish for men, as His disciples. John describes another miraculous catch of fish ( 153 ) on the same lake, often called the Sea of Tiberias; but this time with the RISEN CHRIST. The fishing was followed by a Fish-Communion on the lakeshore and Jesus’ unexpected question to Peter, – Do you love me ? Even though this question was addressed to Simon Peter, it has personal meaning for us, as Christians. Some have called it Life’s greatest question. If taken seriously, it really causes us to take a close look at ourselves. We may well say that Jesus laid down here the definition of true religion, which consists in TOTAL COMMITMENT OF LIFE TO GOD.
In The Greatest Commandment, Jesus quoted to the Pharisees who wanted to test Him, Deuteronomy 6: 5, – Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. He combined this with Leviticus 19: 18, – Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord. After this the Pharisees had nothing more to say. William Barclay once said, The true basis of all democracy is in fact the love of God. Take away the love of God, and we can look at human nature and become pessimistic about those who cannot make progress; we can become callous to those who are cold and calculating in their actions. The love of humanity is firmly grounded in the love of God. To be truly religious is to love God and to love those whom God made in His own image; and to love God and other people, not with a vague sentimentality, but with that total commitment which issues in devotion to God and practical service of others. ( The Gospel of Matthew, volume 2, page 324 – 325 ).
Psalm 116 begins with the confession, I LOVE THE LORD. Then comes the reason why the Psalmist loves the Lord with all his heart, soul, and mind: – He heard my cry for mercy (v.2), – The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion (v.5), – The Lord protects the simple-hearted … and He saved me (v.6), – The Lord has been good to me (v.7), and – delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling (v.8). When the Psalmist considered God’s goodness, he exclaimed in praise, – I love the Lord! When we reflect on God’s goodness, it reminds us of a myriad of reasons why WE should really LOVE THE LORD, being reminded that God wants us even when others may not (John 3: 16), and He Himself is LOVE.
As soon as the fish were brought to shore, the disciples found the Risen Lord standing beside a fire He had prepared. They ate breakfast together. Then Jesus asked three times the question Peter had never been expecting, – Do you love me more than these? “More than these” had to mean something like, “Peter, now do you dare say that you love Me more than these other disciples do?” – “Do you love Me with a self-sacrificing love, the kind of love one has for God, a deep and intimate spiritual devotion?” Peter kept replying, “I love You as a friend; I have affection for You; I respect You.” This kind of love was simply not enough for Jesus. It was not the right kind. After asking His question the third time, I think Jesus must have slipped His hand into Peter’s hand; and there was that Scar, – the rough scar left by the Nail of the Cross; then said, – FOLLOW ME. That was how it had all started for Peter – the same command given beside the same waters. Three years before, while he was fishing, Peter had heard Jesus say, – Follow me, don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men (Luke 5; 10). Now at the end, Jesus gave Peter the ultimate command again. Shortly after, Peter was to enter into a whole new ministry. He would be of no use to God if he was still a man of Divided Devotions. If he was to be a Shepherd of Jesus’ Sheep, he had in truth to love the Lord with ALL his heart. Jesus had to be the first and the last and everything between.
When Jesus questioned Peter, He knew that if Peter did love Him, it would be revealed in Peter’s life. This is also true in our lives, for if we love Jesus, our lives will clearly reveal it.
OUR LIVES WILL REVEAL THE QUALITY OF OUR LOVE. It will reveal the intensity, and the extent of our involvement into our FAITH IN CHRIST. It is impossible to really believe and love the Lord, and not becoming whole-heartedly involved into the demanded way-of-life.
OUR LIVES WILL REVEAL THE EFFECT OF THE LOVE OF JESUS CHRIST. Love has its own way of affecting our personal lives as well as the lives of all those whom we love. To truly love Jesus is to have our hopes, dreams, and goals – even in the worst of the Covid-19 Coronavirus Pandemic situation– totally and positively affected by His promise: – SURELY I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS, TO THE VERY END OF THE AGE. Inevitably Jesus should have first place in the thinking of a Christian. This does not mean that we will think about nothing but Jesus. It means that Jesus will be the decisive factor of our wills. When Peter allowed Jesus first place, his thinking and acting was changed, and he became known as a man who had been with Jesus. Peter is known for his weak loyalty and devotion, but we should remember that more is said in the Bible about His extreme devotion and loyalty than his weakness. The difference was that Peter’s love caused him to give Christ first place always, even if it meant death.
OUR LIVES WILL REVEAL THE TRUE COMMITMENT FOR SERVICE. Jesus asked Peter, – Do you love me? And as Peter replied in the affirmative, Jesus told him, – Feed my lambs, and – Take care of my sheep! Jesus knew that if Peter’s love was real, he would serve Him. A person cannot love Jesus Christ without being willing to serve Him. Christians should not have to be drawn into God’s service. They should be willing to serve, and serve with joy. Out of love for Jesus Christ, millions across the centuries served faithfully in all circumstances – in and out of prison and concentration-camps, leprosy-missions, hospitals, and war-fields, in large cities and small villages, and whenever the opportunity came – at any time, any place, at any cost. Jesus’ threefold question to Peter about love cannot be restricted to the individual disciple only. From it, all of us must learn that the essence of Christianity is love, and the response to that love is service. Love doesn’t need to ask permission to do good things; it has done already. The Church, to the extent that it is truly Christ-like, loses its life in a ministry to others. The Christian Church should have no time to be concerned about itself, its image or prestige; it denies its Lord if becomes self-centred, counting its own achievements, admiring its own righteousness, orthodoxy or virtues. The Church should tend the flock of God being light and salt for all.
IT IS IN LOVING – NOT IN BEING LOVED, THAT THE HEART IS BLEST; IT IS IN GIVING – NOT IN SEEKING GIFTS, WE FIND OUR QUEST. IF YOU ARE HUNGRY, LACKING HEAVENLY FOOD, GIVE WITH CHEER. IF YOU ARE SAD, AIMING FOR COMFORT, STAY SORROW’S TEAR. WHATEVER BE YOUR LONGING AND YOUR NEED, THAT DO GIVE; SO SHALL YOUR SOUL BE FED, AND YOU INDEED SHALL TRULY LIVE. (Author Unknown)
LET US PRAY:
GRACIOUS LORD GOD, You are higher than our highest thoughts, but always close by our sides; greater than we can ever think or imagine, yet made known to us in Christ; more powerful than anything or anyone, but nurturing us as a mother tends her child; constantly at work in the lives of the nations, yet having a special concern for every one of us. If we ascend to heaven, You are there. If we settle at the far side of the sea, You are there. If we are covered in darkness, even in the darkness of Covid-Pandemic, there You are with us because the darkness is light to You. We marvel at Your love for us; receive our praise. You call us to live as Your people, a family testifying to Your grace through the love we show for one another and the unity we share. You call us to minister in Your name, to express Your care for all through word and deed. Gracious Lord, broken for us, broken by us, You owe us nothing, we owe You everything, for You gave Your all to set us free, and yet we still fail You, time after time, day after day. Forgive us, renew us and restore us for the worthiness of Your service. We pray for all who feel broken today – shattered by disappointment, tragedy and bereavement; overwhelmed by poverty, disease and deprivation – all those who have been broken in body, mind and spirit by the circumstances and events of this terrible pandemic. We pray for those who long for wholeness – delivery from physical pain, sickness and disease, freedom from fear, anxiety and depression, an answer to questions and spiritual longings, the opportunity to feel Your loving presence with them and their loved-ones. May Your love bring grace and hope; healing to the world and all of us within. We pray for Your Christian Church Universal in all its denominations, for each and every person bearing Your image. Be with our Church of Scotland in all its presbyteries and congregations, and with our own members and adherents, children and elderly in our fellowship. Comfort all those who mourn, and hear our prayers for all those whom we now name quietly in our hearts … Gracious God, hear our prayers through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.
THE LORD’S PRAYER: – OUR FATHER, WHO ART IN HEAVEN …
CLOSING HYMN (CH-93): – LOVING SHEPHERD OF THY SHEEP, keep me, Lord, in safety keep; nothing can Thy power withstand; none can pluck me from Thy hand.
Loving Shepherd, Thou didst give Thine own life that I might live; may I love Thee day by day, gladly Thy sweet will obey.
Loving Shepherd, ever near, teach me still Thy voice to hear; suffer not my feet to stray from the straight and narrow way.
Where Thou leadest may I go, walking in Thy steps below; then, before Thy Father’s throne, Jesus, claim me for Thine own.
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)