My help comes from you (Psalm 121)

Worship on the Lord’s Day
10:00 am, 16 October 2022
Online & Onsite (Mixed Presence) Gathering  as a Worshipping Community
Led by the Rev Brad Childs
Music director: Binu Kapadia     Today’s Pianist: Karen Epp:
Vocalist: Linda Farrah-Basford
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
Silent preparation for worship

Call to Worship
L: God promises us justice,
P: and teaches us persistence.
L: God promises us compassion,
P: and teaches us not to lose heart.
L: God promises to be with us
P: and teaches us to tend to each other.
L: So let us worship our God of comfort and challenge,
P: We will offer prayers and praise to our God of hope and healing.

Opening praise: I lift my eyes up

Prayers of approach and confession

Creator, Christ and Holy Spirit, you breathe life into all things and nourish your whole creation.

You are a rock and refuge for your people, for you are trustworthy in all things.

Your desire for peace with justice can never be defeated.

You alone can bring life out of death, and restore wholeness to broken lives, so we praise you and rejoice in the hope you offer.

For your love is the power at work in every situation, seeking goodness and revealing truth, a love that will never let us go.

In our time of worship, we offer you our love and loyalty through Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.

God of our hopes and our hearts, You provide the gift of faith but we lose heart quickly.

Troubles weaken our trust and disappointments eat away at our commitment.

Forgive us and create in us clean hearts and in your love, give us peace and perseverance.

Response: I waited, I waited on you Lord

Assurance of God’s forgiveness

Remember the promise Paul declares:

“What will separate us from the love of Christ? Hardship? Distress? Peril or sword?

No, the world may rage in wars, the rulers may be corrupt, the governments will rise and fall, mountain may fall into the see – But God is still there and His Love endures forever.

Absolutely nothing, Neither death nor life, nor things present nor things to come

can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.”

We cannot earn forgiveness.

But it’s pointless to try and earn what we already have.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

We listen for the voice of God

Children’s time

Gradual: Open my eyes (445)

Story: Einstein’s chauffeur

I heard this story earlier this week by a famous theoretical physicist.

He said, many years ago when Dr. Albert Einstein was making the rounds doing speaking engagements all around the world, he found himself no longer enjoying public speaking. Instead, he said he wanted to be in the lab working on something new.

One night as they were driving to yet another dinner presentation, Einstein mentioned to his driver (a man of about the same age and size as himself) that he was tired of making speeches.

I have an idea, Said the driver. I’ve heard you give this speech so many times, I bet I could give it for you.

Einstein laughed and said, Why not. Let’s do it!

When they arrived at dinner, Einstein done dht edrivers cap and jacket and sat in the back of the room to watch what would happen.

The driver gave a beautiful rendition of Einstein’s speech and even expertly answered a few questions after his speech. He had heard almost every question and knew almost every common answer Einstein would give. It was amazing.

Then a supremely pompous professor asked an extremely difficult question. He was rude and arrogant about it. And it seemed like he was trying to start an argument with the great scientist. He wanted to try and embarrass Dr. Einstein.

The driver had never heard this kind of question. But without skipping a beat and feeling under attack, he just said, “Sir, the answer to that question is so simple that even my driver could answer it for me.” And so he did.

God honors humility. We need to surrender our pride and submit our lives to Him and not be so worried about how important we look. In Psalm 25:9 it says, The Lord guides the words of the humble, for what is right and teaches them his ways.

There may be times in life when you feel like you are the smartest, best looking, most important person in the room. And hey, maybe you are. But arrogance and pride eventually make us all fall down on our faces.

God is right – it pays to be humble.

Prayer

The Lord’s Prayer (535)

Song: Open our eyes (500)

Today’s Message

Scripture readings: Psalm 121

Response: Jesus remember me

Message: “My help comes from you”

It may be helpful today if you open up your bibles or turn over to page 571 in the pew bible. That’s Psalm 121 and it’s on page 571 in the pew bible.

The Oneida tribe of what is now central Wisconsin had a very intriguing practice for training young braves. Around the age of 13 when the moon was at its smallest, after learning to hunt, and scout, to fish, and to survive off of the land, a boy was put to one final test. With a dark cloth tied over his eyes he would be lead out into the forest to spend the night alone and at the mercy of the animals. Until this point, he had never been away from the security of the family. He had never been separated from the tribe. But on this night, he was blindfolded and taken on a long march. He would be led around for several miles.

There, he was left in the cold of night at the mercy of the wilderness and weather. In the middle of the thick woods he would be terrified! Every time a twig snapped, or the wind blew through the trees, he just knew that some wild animal had come to devour him. He would be terrified never knowing what might happen next.

Sometimes called “Songs of Degrees” “Gradual Psalms” or even “Pilgrim Psalms” – Psalm 121 is a part of a larger collection of music which was preformed as the people traveled the roads up to Jerusalem. Although we often do not think of it when reading the scriptures, Geography is actually quite important. Jerusalem is 2600 feet above sea level and so no matter where in the surrounding area you came from, you would always be described as going “up” to Jerusalem.

Besides this, Jerusalem was thought to be the center of the universe and so even if it had been a low section of land; even if you came from the North, or from higher ground the Israelites would speak about going “up” to Jerusalem. In addition to this, Jerusalem is surrounded by three different valleys.  Because of these valleys the pilgrim-travelers would have to cross at least one of these valleys on the way to Jerusalem no matter which way they came.

If you look to the top of this Psalm in the pew bibles you’ll see a small notation. Most bibles will say the word “ascents” or “a song of ascents” or something very similar. In fact this kind of notation can be found on all of the Psalms in this section beginning from Psalm 120 and ending with Psalm 134. That’s 15 Psalms. This is important because these psalms are grouped together due a common theme – Worship. And just where did the people worship?

Well they all the way to the Temple. After reaching the holy city some scholars have suggested that these 15 psalms were also recited upon reaching the Temple steps. The implication here being that the people would pause and sing one of the 15 songs of ascents on each of the Temples 15 steps. But no matter what the reasons originally were for Psalm 121 or how it was originally used, it is hard to deny its importance for us even today.

Now a common element of many funeral services this psalm still holds a special place in the hearts of modern worshipers. It is often reserved for special. In reading Psalm 121 here today we are joining with worshipers that have sung this song for the last 3000 years. We are sharing in a history and a heritage far beyond our own memories or culture.

Three times a year the nation of Israel was called up to Jerusalem to celebrate. (Feast of Unleavened Bread, Harvest of Weeks, and the Feast of Booths). Faithful pilgrims from scattered communities all over the known world would make their way to the Temple to worship their God. For some the journey would only be a day or two; for others it could mean weeks of walking.

While on their travels the people would sing. The Psalms were memorized; known to the people much in the same way that we all know the words to Jesus loves me. The closer the people came to Jerusalem the more people that joined them and the louder the singing would become. Like a family on a long car ride, the people would sing. But these psalms were not just for entertainment. They were deeply meaningful and an expression of some the people’s greatest fears.

This was long before “CAA” would come and change your tires or bring you extra fuel. The roads were dangerous. The miles were long, the ground hard beneath their feet. The travelers were quite vulnerable. The people had reason to fear. They faced danger at every turn.

We are talking about a time with few securities. A time when infections could not be healed, when heat stroke would result in death or a broken ankle could be permanently crippling. This was not a time of comfort. It was a moment in the trenches. If you came into town from the North you had to pass through Meshech. If you came through the southeast pass you would have to pass through Kedar. Neither of these peoples cared much for Israel and attaches along these roads were frequent and violent.

The road was hard and dangerous and so the people would sing this song (Psalm 121): a reminder to each other of how God protects His people times in danger. A reminder that no matter what may happen in life, that God is with you. It is a reminder of who cares for us and who is with us on our journey.

In the beginning of the song it says that the people look up to the mountains (this could mean either the pagan temples atop the High places or it could be the mountains surrounding Jerusalem itself – this is the kind of thing that theologians love to debate but which ultimately makes no difference).

The mountains are not the people’s guardians. They look up and ask, “where does my help come from?” and then the people immediately answer themselves… “My help comes from the Lord” (NOT the mountain or holy places but to The one who made the mountains) “The maker of Heaven and Earth”. At a time when to slip and fall could be deadly they said, “He will not allow your foot to slip”.

In the 18th chapter of 1 Kings there is a story that I really love. In the story the god Ba’al is pitted against the Lord. Elijah sets up this little test. The people make two altars and each group prayers to their own god to see whose god will answer them first. The story is told in a fairly comical way. After countless efforts, the priests of Ba’al have failed to contact their god, Elijah gives them a little jab. He insults them. In verse 7 it says, “It came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, “Call out with a loud voice, for surely Ba’al is real god; maybe he is busy or gone aside, or is on a journey (which actually implies that he’s on the toilet) or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened.”

It seems such a strange thing to say… “Maybe your prayers didn’t get answered because your god was taking an afternoon nap”… but that was actually a very common concern for some people at this time. Here the nation of Israel declares of their God, “He who watches over Us will not sleep”. He never sleeps nor slumbers.

As fate would have it, the word used for “slumbers” here is usually applied to military language. It appears when a watchman or a guard is told to be alert. A soldier on watch is told not to “slumber” meaning that he cannot fall asleep on watch. The people sing that the God of Israel will not dose off on duty. He is not asleep on the job! He will always hear you. He is aware of every step you take in your life and supports you when your foot would “slip”.

When the sun beat down on them and heat stroke threatened their very lives they sang, “The Lord is your shadow”. This word also holds two meanings. It means both your own shadow and also something that provides you shade. He follows behind your every move like a shadow and protects you from above (giving you shade); No matter where the world might throw you, He is at your side. He will watch over your coming and your going.

I find the language here to be amazingly beautiful. Not only is God with you at all times, but he is your shade (above you) your shadow (below you) at your right hand (at your side) and in your coming (in front of you) and your going (behind you).

The people sang “The Lord will watch over you”, “both now and forever”.

Although it is often translated differently, the Hebrew text of this passage contains the word Sha-mar 6 times in only 2 sentences. It is translated, guard, or keeper, or guardian, or watch as well as many other things. But it is all really just one word. It says:

“v. 3: he who keeps you will not slumber;
v. 4: he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
v. 5: The Lord is your keeper.
v. 7: The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your soul.
v. 8: the Lord will keep your going out and your coming in, both now and forevermore”

Back in the forest with the young brave; after what seemed like an eternity (cold and alone in the dark), dawn would break and as the first rays of sunlight entered the interior of the forest the young boy would finally be allowed to remove his blindfold… He had made it.

Looking around, the boy saw flowers, trees, and then a clear path, leading directly back to his village – only a few short feet away. Then, surprised, he saw a man standing only a short distance from his feet armed with a bow and arrow; ready to protect the child at a moments notice. It would be his father. He would have been there all night watching over his child; protecting him at all times.

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?

2 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;

4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade and at your right hand;

6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

7 The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your soul;

8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

Like the children of Israel we too walk along many dangerous roads in our lives. Often we find ourselves standing in the forest, blinded from seeing our father, ever present. And though we face pain and troubles in this world; though we have seen sorrow, struggle and grief our help comes from above: from a father that is standing in the forest with us. From a father that is above and below us, standing at our side, following behind us and leading us on our way.

May the Lord bless you and keep you, this day and everyday. -Amen

Song: Nearer my God to Thee

We respond to serve God

Reflection on giving: We have been giving faithfully since the beginning of the pandemic and we are committed to continuing the ministry and mission that define Dayspring – using the various ways described on the screen and in Dayspring Weekly News. Thank you all for your support of our shared vision and mission. For those in the sanctuary, if you have offering envelopes with you, simply put them in the offering plate at the back of the sanctuary as you leave the service today.

Prayer of gratitude

God of life,

You open our eyes on the world you love and show us your presence and your purpose.

We praise you by our talents and time with our prayers and with our devotion to Your Bride the church.

Bless our gifts for your purposes and led us to use whatever is offered for the building of your kingdom.

Prayer for others and ourselves

Lord now we also pray for our world.

We see the beauty and wonder throughout creation and feel the love and compassion you offer through friend and stranger. By your instruction we live in peace.

For all these gifts we give you thanks.

We pray for those who cannot recognize these gifts in their lives.

Open their eyes to your presence and our companionship so that they may know your steadfast love.

God who listens, hear our prayer, and in your mercy, answer.

God of justice, You open our eyes on the world and its anxiety and show us struggle and conflict.

We see the burdens many carry in these stressful times.

Today we pray for those whose businesses are struggling;

for producers unsure they will receive a fair return;

for workers uncertain about their job prospects;

and for families weighed down by rising costs.

Open their eyes to new possibilities and open our eyes to ways we can support them,

God who listens, hear our prayer, and in your mercy, answer.

God of compassion, You open our eyes on the world in pain and show us suffering and despair.

We see all the challenges in health care and tired professionals stretched beyond their limits.

Renew their strength of purpose.

We pray for communities struggling with chronic hunger as well as the shifting reality of the pandemic, and for all who face difficult diagnoses, painful illness, or delays in treatment.

Open their eyes to your mercy and open our eyes to ways we can offer support.

God who listens, hear our prayer, and in your mercy, answer.

God of wisdom, You open our eyes on the world out of balance and show us its many complexities.

We see old animosities and fresh upheavals that put innocent lives at risk.

We pray for the millions displaced by current conflicts and natural disasters, and pray that leaders in every country and community will attend to the suffering of their people with mercy and justice.

Especially this morning we pray for the people of Venezuela now being bussed over the borders back to Mexico and for their families.

We pray for those who face drones and dropped bombs in Ukraine and for the civilians caught in someone else’s war.

For farmers in India and for those lost in the coal mines of Turkey.

We pray for the women of Iran and for peaceful but effective protests for basic rights, recognition and safety.

We pray for victims and families in California and Illinois and for what is soon to come following “bail reforms” this January.

We pray for those in Raleigh following a mass shooting and those in Stockton who faced such tremendous fears.

For small business and those affected by hurricane Ian across the East coast.

God who listens, hear our prayer, and in your mercy, answer.

Lord we ask that you be with our students.

Equip all those who prepare for ministry in our Colleges with the knowledge and commitment needed to serve in complicated times.

But also be with our younger students all across the country doing school in their work as they seek out their purposes and their passion.

Inspire the young to make a better world than the one they inherited and give them energy where it wanes.

Open all our eyes to creative solutions for situations which break Your heart and ours.

God who listens, hear our prayer, and in your mercy, answer.

Lord be with us and help us to see you doing just that.

God who listens, hear our prayer, and in your mercy, answer.

Amen.

Song: To God be the glory (350)

Sending out with God’s blessing

Christ be with, Christ before you, Christ behind you, Christ within you, Christ beneath you, Christ above you, Christ around you, Christ where you lie, Christ where you sit, Christ where you arise, Christ in the heart of every person who thinks of you, Christ on the mouth of every person who speaks of you, Christ in every eye that sees you, Christ in every ear that hears you…
Christ our Lord; our Saviour, forever with you.

And now may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of Father and the

community of the Holy Spirit, be with you and those you love both now and forever

Response: God to enfold you

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 specifications of Dayspring licensing with One Licence (3095377 and CLC (A735555).

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.