Be strong, be strong, be strong

Worship on the Lord’s Day
Remembrance Sunday, 06 November 2022 10:00 am
The Sacrament of Holy Communion
Online & Onsite (Mixed Presence) Gathering as a Worshipping Community
Led by the Rev. Brad Childs
Music Director: Binu Kapadia           Vocalist: Glynnis McCrostie
Elder: Heather Tansem

We gather to worship God

Music prelude

Greeting
L: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
P: and also with you.

Lighting of the Christ candle

Welcome and announcements

Remembrance Sunday Liturgy

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.     
– John McCrae

Prayer:  O God, we remember . . .

We remember today that you are the giver of every good gift, and one of your gifts is peace. You have blessed us with freedom, and you have met all our needs.

O God, help us never to forget your gifts.

We remember those who gave their lives in two world wars, the Korean War and other countless conflicts.

O God, help us never to forget the price paid.

Lord Jesus Christ, you said that people have no greater love than to lay down their life for their friends.

Today we remember that you alone are the source of peace and justice. We pray with all our hearts for peace in our times. Bring true peace to those places where conflicts continue to smolder.

O God, bring an end to hatred and senseless violence, and give peace in our time that lasts long after we are gone.

We remember, God, that homes and workplaces, schools and streets are not always places of peace. Yet you have offered us the way of peace through the love of Jesus Christ.

O God, help us to accept your offer and to find another way, the way of Love, the way of the healer and great physician – the way of Jesus Your son.

We hold up before you, all those who work for peace: For you have said, “Blessed are the peacekeepers.”

Our God, help us to be peacemakers in our homes, our churches, our communities and our world. Like the Psalmist Lord we say…

. . . may we ever pray: Lord God of Hosts;

be with us yet,

… lest we forget. Lest we forget. Amen.

VIDEO: “Has anybody seen my soldier?” https://www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/corporate/video/leadership/soldier-remembrance.html

Leader:    Each day, a bugle was sounded in military camps to begin and end the day; in the evening this was called the “last post” and was also sounded for those who had died. We will now hear the “Last Post” and have a minute’s silence to remember.

Last Post

Silence

The Act of Remembrance

“They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old, Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun, and in the morning. We will remember them.”

All Present: “We will remember them.”

Silence

Reveille

Call to Worship
L: On this day of memories, we gather to sing and to pray;
P: we remember the past and look to the future.
L: On this day when the guns and cannons fell silent,
P: we come before you, God, seeking your peace.
L: On this day of hope in the face of terror,
P: we come before you, God, believing in your promise.
L: Let us worship God together, in peace.

Opening praise: Great are you, Lord

Prayers of approach and confession

God, our Creator and Redeemer, we gather in your presence at this solemn time, aware of how much war has cost the world you love.

In spite of fighting between nations and neighbours, you have come to us in Jesus Christ, carrying no sword, calling us to serve as peace makers.

In this time of worship, renew in us the hope that you will turn our swords into ploughshares, and lead the world from the study of war to the promise of peace with justice for all your peoples.

God of mercy, we confess that the world around us is in a mess.

Countries turn arguments over territory into threats of terror.

Old enemies stir up conflict within their tribes and nations.

The threat of violence keeps us all on edge.

Forgive us for not learning from past conflicts what leads to peace with justice. Help us to seek peace, foster peace, and be at peace. Amen.

Response: Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!

Assurance of God’s grace

The prophet Micah reminds us that God requires of us three things: to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God.

To all who turn away from hostility and seek reconciliation in kindness and humility, God offers forgiveness and peace.

The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

Song: As the deer pants for the water … (27)

We listen for the voice of God

Scripture readings (NRSV): Luke 20:27-38 and Haggai 2:1-9

Response: Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit …

Message: “Be strong, be strong, and be strong”

January 6, 1850 was a bitterly cold day in Colchester, England. A hard biting blizzard was keeping most worshipers at home. At the Primitive Methodist Chapel on Artillery Street only about a dozen showed up. When it became apparent that even the minister would not arrive, a very drab and unpleasant-looking man rose and spoke quite quickly from Isaiah 45:22. He prayed and then the congregation quickly dispersed, thinking the day’s service a bit of a loss. But we’ll come back to that.

Haggai was the first prophet to write following the captivity in Babylon. If you’ve never read a whole book of the bible in one sitting and you’d like to scratch that one off your bucket list then I’d encourage you to read the book of Haggai this evening. It’s only about a page and a half long and as an added benefit there’s very little guilt involved.

Haggai is Hebrew for “my festival” actually. And he sort of lives up to that name. Haggai is certainly the least intense or as one commentator put it “the least scary” of all the prophets. Mostly of course that’s true because instead of warning people that something bad is about to come (like the prophet who warned of a coming judgement), Haggai wrote this sermon after the return home. And he wrote to encourage people.

In a way it’s an odd scene though. See the Jewish people had been in captivity for 70 years when the Persians finally took full control over Babylon and decided to allow the Jewish people to return to their homeland. But it had been 70 years! Most of the people had moved on, built homes and businesses, got married had families… and to be honest – most of the people taken away into captivity had died. They didn’t have a very long life expectancy and remember it’s been 70 years.

But there they were, a small group of people, who had grown up on stories about the homeland and the grandeur of Solomon’s Temple (where God himself was said to sit on a thrown). Children and grandchildren had been regaled around the campfire with story after story about the good old days and the way it used to be.

But in 520BC when Zerubbabel was put in charge of the Jewish nation and the people were allowed to return to their homes, almost nobody went back.

In fact there were so few of them that they began to refer to themselves as “the remnant”. Even Haggai, the person who wrote this book, had never set foot on Judean soil. He’d never seen the temple. They were all just stories. He was born in captivity – a refugee. Almost everyone was.

Can you imagine the optimism they must have had?  Especially Haggai (the man’s name was “party” after all). And it sort of appears that that’s what they all expected. Haggai was about to go blazing off into the uncharted territory in a land of his fathers, the land of milk and honey; the land bed time stories; the land of his dreams. They all were. But that’s not how life works.

When Haggai and the remnant got to the city, their homecoming was a bittersweet experience at best. The “impenetrable gates” had been pulled down to the ground. The once stately homes of their grandparents were in shambles if they remained at all, their belongings had been stolen or broken long ago; the aqueducts that once made for a lavish garden… were destroyed. They returned to a city that still lay in ruins and the only “true” temple (where they could meet their God) still lay just as the Psalmist reported, “[torn] down to its foundation”; “not one stone upon another.”

And yet what else were they supposed to do. They longed to see it all just as it once was. And so they set to rebuild and restore what had been taken from them. They set about a monumental task. And they got to work on the city walls. And they got the water flowing again. And they began to rebuild the temple. But there was a small problem. They weren’t a giant group of people, wealthy enough to build a temple just like the old one, and they knew it. They were the remnant. Like one little boy by himself trying to build a whole house.

The Jews who returned from exile weren’t nearly wealthy enough to invest the kind of money and resources into the rebuilding effort. And they had homes to build as well and businesses to start and fields to plant. And so the Temple they managed to begin building was fairly inferior compared to the one of Solomon’s day, the one of their dreams. It could be functional… but it was nowhere near as extravagant as the 1st temple.

And so God sent his word to the people through the prophet Haggai saying “Speak to Zerubbabel son of She-al-tiel, governor of Judah, to Joshua son of Joz-a-dak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people. Ask them,  ‘Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing?” And at that, the oldest men and women among the people must have been devastated. It did look like nothing.

In fact Ezra tells us in his book that “…many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid…” Ezra 3:12a For it was like nothing.

The original temple was built at the height of King Solomon’s glory at the wealthiest time in Israel’s history. It had taken 183,000 laborers 7 years to build. It was built using the resources King David had set aside for its construction… but it was also financed by taxes imposed by King Solomon during his reign. Separate sources claim that Solomon’s temple was built using over 663 thousand lbs of silver and somewhere around 567 thousand lbs of gold. That’s not to mention all the other precious stones, and expensive woods, and other materials described as being used in its construction. How on earth could just a small “remnant” of a kingdom ever build anything like that ever again?

But God continues. Haggai writes, “But now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ declares the Lord. ‘Be strong, Joshua son of Joz-a-dak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the Lord, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.’”

Now for us maybe that’s just a simple statement. We’ve all grown up believing that God is always accessible somehow. But for the original audience that was a crazy thing to hear. For them, God sat upon the “mercy seat” / “the arc of the covenant” inside the holy of holies, inside the inner most room, inside Solomon’s Temple. That is how one comes to meet with God. But they were looking at Solomon’s Temple and it was rubble with no arc of the covenant in sight. But hear God says to them, “Do not fear” and “my Spirit remains among you.”

In his book Victory in the Valleys Charles Allen tells the story of his 5-year old son. Johnny was in the kitchen as his mother made supper. She asked him to go into the pantry and get her a can of tomato soup, but he didn’t want to go in alone. “Uh mom, I don’t wanna go” said little Johnny. “Excuses me?” said his mother, only to see him standing there with eyes the size of dinner plates; obviously in fear of the dark room. Immediately Johnny’s mothers’ heart sank. She became sympathetic. “Why not?” she said as she came down to his level. “It’s dark in there” said the boy “and I’m scared.” Hoping to calm him down she spoke softly and said those words every parent utters from time to time, “Don’t worry; there is nothing to be afraid of.” And so she asked again softly.

“Please get me a can of tomato soup.” But… “Uh uh, I’m scared” the child persisted. By now, even with her hands covered in flower and dough, it would have been easier for her to get the can herself. But instead; hoping to teach the boy a lesson about faith she finally said, “Johnny, It’s OK–Jesus will be in there with you.” And so slowly and hesitantly little Johnny walked over to the cupboard door and even slower yet opened it just enough to peer inside. He put his right eye up to the crack; saw that it was dark… and said: “Pssst. Jesus, hand me that can of tomato soup?” (Charles Allen, Victory in the Valleys.)

The truth is, it’s easy to say “whatever happens I believe God is with me”, but it’s a lot harder to live out, when things get scary, or things seem too big for us to handle. We face obstacles every day. Real obstacles. Life can be hard to handle. Not to mention death. Ironically enough, when things seem too big for us to handle that just happens to be the perfect time for God to help. Often, like any child, we all need to hear some things more than once before they sink in.

God said three times to be people. “Be Strong”. To the governor of Judea, a descendent of King David he calls out, “be strong Zerubbabel” To the son of the last High Priest of the people he says “be strong Joshua”. And finally he tells everyone / the remnant “be strong all you people of this land”, “and work. For I am with you.”

Just think about that for a second. How often have we been bogged down in the past? How much more time do we spend thinking about “the-good-old-days” than we do focusing on what needs to be built in the here and now. How often do we do that in our private lives and how often do we do that as a congregation? How often have we let things stand in our way because they seem insurmountable? How often do we stave off doing something worthwhile because it’s never been tried before or it’s seen as too little; too late, like a drop in a bucket, like we’re all alone in our work?

I read a great quote this week. It was by an unknown author. It is: “Nothing will bring a quicker death to a church than the memories of yesteryear.” I agree and disagree both I guess. Our past is not an anchor that holds us down. It’s not something to emulate exactly or point back to as an example of what to do now either. But it is something to inform. It’s something to inspire. It’s something to challenge us. There is nothing wrong with remembering the “former glory of this house” as long as you’re still building the new one. And with God, nothing is insurmountable? Doing something new and rebuilding what’s been lost is always worth doing. And yes, Everything is just a drop in the bucket. And yet with enough drops – the bucket won’t only fill up, but it will overflow.

We have nothing to fear, we’re not alone and God’s not only called us to “be strong” in our building up of his Church, but God also gives us the strength to do what is necessary to fulfill the mission He has given us.

In Haggai God calms the people and brings them from their place of sorrow and inspires them to keep building. To a remnant with too little money to complete the job and too few people to build, God says, ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘All The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”

Haggi pounds it home. He says God says this! Do you doubt God. In 5 verses he tells us this is God’s message 8 times!

4But now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ declares the Lord. ‘Be strong, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the Lord, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the Lord Almighty. 5 ‘This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.’ 6 “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. 7 I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty. 8 ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty. 9 ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”

God says through Haggai, don’t worry so much. Your job is not to worry about the future. The future is up to Me. Be practical yes, work, yes, proclaim the Lord yes. But don’t worry about the people, don’t worry about the money, it’s all mine anyway. I’ll take care of the people. I’ll take care of the money. You just keep doing what you’ve been doing. You keep building my Church; one brick at a time, and I’ll take care of the rest.

I can’t tell you how often people ask me about the decline of Christendom or want to know what I think about the so called “missing generation” from churches. And to be honest there are important realities that Christian leaders need to be working on. But ultimately there is nothing to worry about. This is God’s Church after all. The one who planted the universe and shakes the mountains does not need our help. He just loves our faithfulness. The future is not our worry about. God knows the design, we just need to Be Strong and Keep bringing our bricks.

When the small congregation of that old chapel dispersed that Sunday long ago, they left not realizing that a 15year old boy had ducked into the room just to escape the snowstorm. He stood in the back and “overheard” a three minute message from the book of Isaiah and some words from Matthew’s gospel. And he was amazed. That day he determined to become of follower of this Jesus fellow he had just heard about.

Years later that boy, Charles Spurgeon, (perhaps the world’s most famous preacher of his generation; who spoke to just under 24,000 people in London without the aid of a microphone) wrote these words: “Don’t hold back because you cannot preach in St. Paul’s; be content to talk to one or two in a cottage. You may cook in small pots as well as in big ones. Little pigeons can carry grand messages. Even a little dog can bark at a thief; wake up the master, save the house… Do what you do right; thoroughly, pray over everything heartily and leave the results to God.”

Whatever it is in this church, in your life, or in your mind, that has you scared, broke, stressed, thinking small, or feeling like you have nothing to give, feeling like the remnant – hear these words of God and be encouraged. “I will fill this house with glory,’ ‘All The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty. “Be strong” he says to the Leaders. “Be strong” he says to the Ministers. “Be strong” he says to all of you. Amen.

Song: Make me a channel of your peace (740)

We respond to serve God

Reflection on giving: On Remembrance Day, we will mark the costly offering of life for the sake of others. What we offer today is just a small gift, something that does not cost us so much. But we can also offer ourselves to make a difference for the sake of others in Christ’s name.

God of justice and generosity, when we consider that Christ gave his very life for our sakes, we are humbled to offer what our gifts. We are also humbled by the memory of those who gave up their youth, their families, and their very lives in conflict so that justice and truth would prevail. Bless our small gifts with the possibilities your Spirit can create, so that justice and truth continue to prevail in the world you love, for the sake of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Prayer of gratitude

Loving God, in and out of season,  in times of poverty and prosperity, in times of sorrow and joy, in times of war and in times of peace, you have been present with your people.

As we gather again at this time of remembrance, we recall those who gave their lives in war so that others might live in freedom and peace.

May they dwell in peace in your eternal presence.

We remember those whose bodies, minds, and souls are scarred by war

and whose lives will forever bear the wounds of trauma, violence and loss.

(Keep a brief silence)

We remember the continuing courage and sacrifice of the women and men

who serve in the Canadian Armed Forces and their families.

(Keep a brief silence)

We remember all those innocents who have been caught up in the world’s power struggles, those who have lost their homes and livelihoods, those who now seek safe refuge in other countries, and children who have no sense of security or hope for the future.

(Keep a brief silence)

We remember those who make and keep peace here and around the world and offer you thanks for those who work to shape just laws and tend the common good.

(Keep a brief silence)

We remember God’s grace and care in time of need, conflict or crisis,

whether between nations, within families, at the workplace or among friends.

(Keep a brief silence)

Let there be peace, Lord, and let it begin with us, with each of us.

Transitional music

The Sacrament of Holy Communion

Invitation

Jesus said: Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Song: Let us break bread together … (548)

We affirm our faith: The Apostles Creed (539)

The Lord’s Prayer (sung – 469)

Communion Prayer

It is right and our greatest joy, Gracious and Loving God, to give you thanks and praise for your works are great and your ways are just and they are true.

At your loving word all things were made and the beauty of creation was called from chaos.

Through your word, you formed us in your image and gave us life.

By your word, you called us to love and to serve you and to live in peace with you and all that you have made.

Though we turn from you, you do not turn from us.

Though we are captive, you liberate us and give us freedom.

Though we are confused and stray from you, you give us faith to go in search of understanding.

Though we are tempted to find easy and false comfort in idols, the truth of your presence draws us into deeper communion with you and each other.

We praise you and give you thanks for sending your loving and beloved son into the world.

Conceived by the Holy Spirit, he brings new life.

Born of Mary’s flesh he knew joy, pain, love, and loss.

Touching the sick, he heals us.

Breaking bread and sharing the cup with those on the margins, proclaimed the good news of your kingdom.

Dying on the cross, he is with us in our suffering.

Rising from the grave, he brings us to him and gives us life everlasting

In him, you have reconciled us and you lead us out of fantasy into truth, out of solitude into relationship, out of death into life.

Remembering these things, we gather at his invitation to break bread and share the cup

Gracious and giving God, pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered around your holy table, and on these gifts of bread and wine, that they may be for us the body and the blood of Christ, and that we, being nourished by them, may be for the world the body of Christ, made strong, made new, and redeemed by his blood.

And now through Christ, with Christ, in Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, and with all who stand before you in earth and heaven, we worship and adore you, now and forever. Amen.

Sharing of the bread and wine

The Lord Jesus, on the night of his arrest, took bread, and after giving thanks to God, he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying:
“Take, eat. This is my body, given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

In the same way he took the cup, saying: “This cup is the new covenant sealed in my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this in remembrance of me.

“Every time you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim the saving death of the risen Lord, until he comes.”

Song: One bread, one body (540)

The prayer after Communion

Rejoicing in the communion of saints, we praise your name, most holy God.

We give you thanks for all your servants who lived for you, departed in the faith, and are now at peace with you.

We thank you for all saints of every age and especially those who have been dear to us, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters in the faith

who have led us to you.

Believing that we are still at one with them we pray that we may follow their faith and example until that time when we feast with them in your heavenly kingdom.

Hear us heavenly Father, for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Hymn: Now from this table let us rise (556)

Sending out with God’s blessing

Jesus called us to be peacemakers. So pray for peace. Work for peace. Trust that peace is possible through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

And may the peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, and the blessing of God, Source, Saviour and Spirit of Life, be with you now and always. Amen.

Response: Go forth into this world

Music postlude

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Numbers in brackets after a song/hymn indicate that it is from the 1997 Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Those and other songs are being used in accordance with the specified licenses with One Licence and CLC.

The Rev. Brad Childs retains the copyright (© 2022) on all original material presented by him. As far as Brad Childs is aware, all of the material presented that has not been attributed to others is his own creation or is in the public domain. Unacknowledged use of copyrighted material is unintentional and will be corrected immediately upon notification being received.

Posted in Recent Sermons.