Sunday (Zoom from the sanctuary) message: Seeking wisdom on our Lenten journey – through the eyes of the letter of James

Worship on the Lord’s Day

 

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

Introduction — Nesta

Video Presentation — Stephen Ministry

Silent preparation for worship

Opening words:

L: Our help is in the name of the Lord,
who made heaven and earth
P: God’s steadfast love endures forever
L:  Lift up your hearts!
P: We lift them up to the Lord!

Opening praise: Forever God is faithful

Give thanks to the Lord our God and King
His love endures forever, For He is good, He is above all things His love endures forever
Sing praise, sing praise

With a mighty hand and outstretched arm
His love endures forever For the life that’s been reborn His love endures forever
Sing praise, sing praise; sing praise, sing praise

Forever God is faithful, forever God is strong
Forever God is with us, forever and ever; forever

From the rising to the setting sun his love endures forever, by the grace of God we will carry on, his love endures forever.
Sing praise, sing praise; sing praise, sing praise

Forever God is faithful, forever God is strong
Forever God is with us, forever and ever; forever

Songwriter: Chris Tomlin © Universal Music Publishing Group. Reprinted with permission under CCLI, License #3095377​. All rights reserved. Permission to stream the music in this service obtained from CCLI

Call to worship:

L: Come, all who desire to know God.
P: Come, all who yearn to see Jesus.
L: Come, all who thirst for the Spirit.
P: God is in our midst this day.
L: So let us praise God’s holy name.
P: We will worship God with heart,
    mind, strength and soul,
    and declare God’s goodness to us.

Prayers of approach, for guidance, and of confession:

Creating God,
Loving Son,
Guiding Spiri
With springtime sun and the promise of new life, You wake us from our slumbers. We glorify your name for You are faithful to us through every season of the year and every season of life. We are grateful for your patience and persistence, drawing near to us even through the times we cannot draw near each other. Your promise of hope in Jesus Christ, drawing life out of the grip of death, means so much to us. Even as his cross looms on the horizon in this season of Lent, we praise You for Jesus’ courage and compassion which bring renewal to us in the midst of our challenges. We praise You, dear Lord, for the love that never lets us go.

Loving Lord, by the power of your Spirit, open our hearts to receive and understand your Word, speaking through the scriptures. Teach us your wisdom and reveal your truth for our lives and our times, through Jesus Christ, the Living Word.

Jesus, our friend and Saviour, as we ponder your sacrifice, we recognize the self-centred ways in which we lead our lives. You entrust us with the task of sharing your love in this world, yet we often we fall short. We get lost in our own plans and worries and neglect to show love, even to those right beside us. We find some people too difficult to care for. We think some people unworthy of your love and ours. Our own needs seem insurmountable and we cannot reach out to someone else. Forgive us, Lord Jesus. Renew a right spirit within us, so that we find the courage to go on and the compassion to reach out in your name. Amen.

Response: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God

Assurance of God’s forgiveness:

Jesus said, come to me all you who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Friends, trust that peace and forgiveness are God’s gifts to you this day. Be renewed by the power of the Spirit that moves with you into each new day.

Response: Be still and know

 

We listen for the voice of God

 

Children’s time   

Solo: Create in me a clean heart   Psalm 51:10-12 Arr. © Maranatha! Music
License #A735555​. All rights reserved. Permission to stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE

Scripture readings: 

James 1:2-8, 4:13-17, 5:7-11 and John 12:20-33 – New Testament (New Revised Standard Version)

James 1:2-8

Faith and Wisdom

My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.

If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; 7, 8 for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.

James 4:13-17

Boasting about Tomorrow

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.” 14 Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. 17 Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin.

James 5:7-11

Patience in Suffering

Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! 10 As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Indeed we call blessed those who showed endurance. You have heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

John 12:20-33

Some Greeks Wish to See Jesus

20 Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

Jesus Speaks about His Death

27 “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

Response: Behold the Lamb of God            

Message:

“Seeking wisdom on our Lenten journey – through the eyes of the Letter of James”

While some are able to take these days and months of the pandemic in their stride, it isn’t equally easy for all to live before God in wise ways. At one time or another this past year, all of us have faced challenging situations that have been confusing and discouraging.

Quite often, even mostly, one would want to look at what we as individuals can do to see clearly what we need to do. This was the church reformer, Martin Luther’s objection to the Letter of James in the Bible. Unfortunately, he had said that the Letter of James was a “right strawy epistle” because he saw too little Gospel substance in the letter.

However, looking more closely at James, it becomes possible to see God in this epistle or letter.

Right in the first part we read, we see how James actually encourages us to see something worthwhile in going through all sorts of trials. I’m suspecting that many of us can see how our lives have lately been a trial of sorts. In fact, the advice we get is to consider it nothing but joy. And if we need wisdom, seek it from God. Wisdom is a gift from God and needs to be sought in prayer. God gives wisdom to us all “generously and ungrudgingly”, during our time of asking and praying.

You’ve probably had times in your life that when you look back on it you say, “I never want to go through that again. But I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.” What is that time for you? What happened? Did that time bring you closer to God to seek God’s wisdom in prayer? As difficult or painful as that experience was, it bore much fruit. You were changed and your life was renewed. This ties closely with Jesus’ path on the way to his crucifixion. It was one of those times when you were the grain of wheat that fell into the earth and died, as Jesus described it in our passage from John 12. New experiences of growth come out of the otherwise tough times experienced as a sheer loss.

Then there are small things that happen to us. Think of health regulations that might seem a little unreasonable. How do we approach that? Do I read what the popular opinion is, or do I turn to God in prayer to know the right course of action? Ask the Lord in faith, and don’t doubt about the outcome.

The next passage that comes into play is the one from chapter 4 about the tendency we often have, and that is to speak with way too much confidence about our plans for tomorrow. Does this mean that we shouldn’t plan ahead? Could we say that planning ahead is highly important? I think so, it is only the attitude of thinking we have full control over our future. Let’s think about how close this notion has become a reality. Who would have guessed correctly, say, eighteen months ago, if you had to guess where you would be right now?

A curve-ball has been thrown into all kinds of planning we might have had. This is where the clear wisdom of the letter of James comes in, telling us that we should rather be saying “If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.” We just do not even know what tomorrow will bring. As Woody Allen said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him about your plans.” It comes from an old Yiddish proverb “We plan, God laughs.” Of course, God isn’t waiting for us to plan something, only to upend everything. That would be a very evil God. However, our lives are ultimately in God’s hands. We can’t plan our lives separately from God.

The plans God had for Jesus, we learn from Scriptures, were clear to Jesus, even though Jesus didn’t always easily embrace his Father’s ultimate plan with Him. Jesus knew ahead of time that He would suffer. The Lenten journey of Jesus was indeed one of suffering, and the suffering was for the sake of us as a humanity. It was for the sake of all who follow Him.

The third passage from James 5 that we read encourages us to be patient when our lives are struck with hardship or suffering. Are we ready to suffer if this type of path comes our way? Or would it be nicer to skip the suffering? Jesus Himself would have preferred to skip the suffering. The original word for patient could be described as long-suffering, but another word could be endurance or perseverance.

These qualities aren’t found easily and the only way we can be equipped for them is to receive them from God. God puts endurance, perseverance or patience into our lives, sometimes by maturing us, or by shaping us through many forms of difficulties. We might call it the school of life. Or simply God’s school of life with us.

What are a few wise things we learned from the Epistle of James? It seems that perseverance and even a joyful approach to adversity is the way to go, seeking wisdom from God in prayer. Plan ahead, but don’t think it’s all in your hands. Our lives depend on God’s plan for us. Our endurance would ultimately pay off, even if the path is paved with hardships. The Lord is compassionate and full of mercy.

A mother once approached Napoleon seeking a pardon for her son. The emperor replied that the young man had committed a certain offence twice and justice demanded death.

“But I don’t ask for justice,” the mother explained. “I plead for mercy.”

“But your son does not deserve mercy,” Napoleon replied.

“Sir,” the woman cried, “it would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is all I ask for.”

“Well, then,” the emperor said, “I will have mercy.” And he spared the woman’s son. [i]

Let us also trust the Lord for mercy as we journey further along the Lenten path. Amen

Song: Those who wait on the Lord          662:1, 2, 3, 6

Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall rise upon wings as eagles;
they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint: help us, Lord; help us, Lord, in your way.

Those who serve the suffering world shall renew their strength; they shall rise upon wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint: help us, Lord; help us, Lord, in your way.

Those who live the risen life shall renew their strength; they shall rise upon wings as eagles;
they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint: help us, Lord; help us, Lord, in your way.

Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall rise upon wings as eagles;
they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint: help us, Lord; help us, Lord, in your way.

Words: trad., public domain
arr. J. Bell; © WGRG Iona Community, GIA Publications Inc.
Reprinted with permission under ONE LICENSE, License #A735555​. All rights reserved. Permission to stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE

 

We respond to serve God

 

Prayer of gratitude:

Lord, we thank You for your wisdom. So regularly our insights are limited and these are times during which we ask for wisdom and clarity as we move forward, one day at a time. Thank You that You give the wisdom we need generously and ungrudgingly. Thank You for your faithful turning of seasons. It is a stark reminder of how You are ultimately in control. Spring assures us of your loving presence, despite our human weakness.

Our thanks and glory go to You alone! Amen

Response: Praise God from whom all blessings flow

Reflection on giving

Song: We lay our broken world               202:1, 3, 5, 6

We lay our broken world in sorrow at your feet,
haunted by hunger, war and fear, oppressed by power and hate.

We bring our broken towns, our neighbours hurt and bruised; you show us how old pain and wounds for new life can be used.

We bring our broken selves, confused and closed and tired; then through your gift of healing grace new purpose is inspired.

O Spirit, on us breathe with life and strength anew; find in us love, and hope, and trust, and lift us up to you.

Words: Anna Briggs © Iona Community (Scotland) used by permission of GIA Publication, Inc
Music: Kenneth Finlay © Broomhill Church of Scotland, Glasgow. License #A735555. All rights reserved, Permission to stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE

Heinrich encourages folks to accept random Breakout Room assignment as a way of fostering community and care for each other.

Sending out with God’s blessing:

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” (2 Corinthians 13:13)

Response: God to enfold you

(Zoom breakout rooms)


[i] Palau, L. (2021, March 20). Mercy. Sermon illustrations. http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/m/mercy.htm


Fifth Sunday in Lent

10:00 am March 21, 2021

led by Rev. Heinrich Grosskopf

Elder: Nick Nation

children’s time: Peter Eerkes

vocalist: Lynn Vaughan


Copyright 2021 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church
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