Destined In Love

CALL TO WORSHIP: Rejoice, O people! Shout in triumph! Look, your king is coming to you. Your king, righteous and victorious.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Lord, we are grateful that we can rest in Your presence. We remember Your command, that we should take a day during the week, and dedicate it to You. This is Your day, and this is Your time.

Help us to lay down all our busyness and concentrate on You. Speak to us in this hour of worship, so that we may return to our busy lives, refreshed and with a better sense of how You want us to live. For Jesus’ sake. Amen

HYMN 690: THE CHURCH IS ONE FOUNDATION-StF

PRAYER OF ADORATION: Gracious God, we come to You now, Conscious that You are the author of creation. The variety and beauty of this world astounds us. For making all things, and for giving us a place in Your world; we praise You Lord; We thank You for Your goodness.

For all that You have done throughout history; for your great power and mighty deeds, and for the ways in which You work through the humble and the meek; we praise You Lord; We thank You for Your goodness.

For the faithful way in which You keep Your promises; For Your slowness to anger, and Your never-failing love; for Your forgiveness offered to all who ask for it; We praise You Lord; We thank You for Your goodness.

For Your attention to detail; for the way in which You notice the needs of Your people seeing when they are shouldering heavy burdens, and bringing Your help; we praise You Lord; We thank You for Your goodness.

For the glory of Your kingdom, a kingdom that never passes away; and is above all other throne and powers; for Your presence throughout all generations; we praise You Lord; We thank You for Your goodness. Amen

TALK FOR ALL: WORTHY OF YOUR CALLING (Ephesians 4:1-16)

Today let’s talk about the word “worthy.” The dictionary tells us that “worthy” refers to something that has great value.

Have you ever been up early when the sun is just rising? As the sun comes up, it throws beautiful colours across the sky––pink and gold and purple. Do you think a sunrise is worthy to be a part of God’s creation?

Yes, a sunrise is breath-taking. How blessed we are to have sunrises. The same could be said of sunsets. They fill the sky with lovely colours as night approaches.

What about bees? They work hard, don’t they? The golden honey that drips from the honeycomb is sweet. They certainly are worthy to be a part of God’s creation.

One more example: Foxglove is a wildflower that grows abundantly in certain places. A powerful heart medication is made from this beautiful wildflower. The medication has saved people’s lives. The foxglove is definitely worthy to be a part of God’s creation.

In the Bible the apostle, Paul says this: “I therefore…beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called…”

You have been called to spread God’s love in the world. The sunrise shows God’s love through beauty, the bees by making delicious honey, and the foxglove provides medicine that heals.

You have great value. As you use your talents to share God’s love with others you “lead a life worthy” of that calling. You have an opportunity to share God’s love through the useful and helpful things you do. Whatever you do, think about making your life “worthy of the calling to which you have been called.”

HYMN 51: WILL YOU COME AND FOLLOW ME...- StF

PRAYER OF CONFESSION AND THANKSGIVING:  Loving Lord, we come to ask Your forgiveness, because we so easily fall into doing what is wrong. Often, we know what we ought to be doing, but we let the chance of doing good slip away, and do what is wrong instead.

Sometimes, it can even be as if we are watching another person saying horrible things, thinking unkind thoughts, wasting the chance of helping someone. We want You to be in charge in our lives, but we let other voices take charge instead. Forgive us Lord for all the ways in which we fail to be as You want us to be.

The Bible says, ‘Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.’ Thank You Lord that we know Jesus, and that through Him we can be forgiven. Help us all to commit our lives to You again, and to seek the help of Your Holy Spirit, so that we may lead lives that pleases You. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

READINGS: EPHESIANS 4: 1-16

HYMN 666: MASTER SPEAK YOUR SERVANT HEARTH-StF

SERMON: DESTINED IN LOVE (Ephesians 1:3-14)

The Christmas of 1990, our family made a trip to the maternal grandparents. Our mum planned the trip making sure that everything will be fine and securing a place large enough to accommodate 6 adults and 3 teenagers. My dad is the typical African man, who doesn’t want to spend many days with in-laws and to quote him “You’re just dragging us to this holiday”. Mum was determined for her family to spend Christmas holiday with her parents. We the younger ones had to obey without no comments. Mum’s eyes alone were telling us, don’t mess with me; you are all going for this holiday. The preparation started around July. So we were “destined” to go.

In this chapter Paul told the Church at Ephesus that that they were destined also, only he said they were “destined in love.” They were on a trip too, so to speak, a post-Christmas activity that required them to live a life of love. They had been selected and so designated because of who they were. The church at Ephesus was not like most churches. It was a church without conflict. There were no pressing issues or problems. In fact it was one of the Apostle Paul’s most successful missions. To be “destined in love” is to be people who are committed to making love their number one priority.

You may not be a fan of Beethoven. He wasn’t known for his social grace. Because of his deafness, he found conversation difficult and humiliating. When he heard of the death of a friend’s son, Beethoven hurried to the house, overcome with grief. He had no words of comfort to offer. But he saw a piano in the room. For the next half hour he played the piano, pouring out his emotions in the most eloquent way he could. When he finished playing he left. The friend later remarked that no one else’s visit had meant so much. (from More Stories for the Heart, by Alice Gray)

I had a conversation recently with a man who was telling me about Willow Creek Church in Chicago. They have over 5,000 worshipers on Sunday so they are building a larger sanctuary. He was impressed by the large numbers. Many are judging the economy on whether or not the stock market will go up this year. Many of you are judged on how productive you are in the workplace. Paul didn’t say we are destined to be “successful, prosperous or bigger.” Paul says we are destined to be people who love. Love is our aim and how loving we are is how we will be judged.

The church at Ephesus was a faithful church, a church Paul could count on. It was the “crown jewel” of the churches in Asia Minor. But, even the faithful need to be reminded of the essential elements of the faith now and then. They are after all, still human, capable of making mistakes and forgetting what they are about. Paul was attempting to raise the conscious level of the believers, and summarizing what it meant to be the true church of God.

The letter begins with a message about God’s grace. The message is mostly about what God does, not what the faithful do. Grace is a free gift, not something we have to earn or purchase. We are the beneficiaries of grace because what Christ did for us, not anything we did for ourselves.

When we arrived at out designation in Whitby for a 4 days holiday last summer, we stopped by the rental office to pick up our key. The clerk told us that our reservation was for 2020, not 2019. We had just travelled over many miles and were tired and eager to settle in our room. The thought of going to a motel or returning home was not in our plans. Needless to say we were a bit confused since we were certain we had indicated we wanted to stay there that season. The clerk, however was very gracious and said she would talk with the manager to see what they could do for us. Fortunately they were able to put us up for 3 of the 4 nights in a more expensive room. They also said they would not charge us the difference. As far as we were concerned the grace of God was upon us.

I believe Paul was reminding the folks at Ephesus that no matter how intentional we are about doing the right thing or how loving we are, we are still dependent on the grace of God. Often times our pride gets in the way. Unfortunately, society teaches us to be self reliant. We are taught to believe that being dependent on others is bad or even immoral. We are taught to be in control, make your own breaks, and take care of number one. The church at Ephesus was doing so well they were vulnerable to the idea that they didn’t need anyone else. The very fact that this letter was directed to them is a reminder that even the “most successful” still need to hear that they can’t always act alone.

Paul also spoke of forgiveness. Last year has ended. It is over, finished. We cannot turn the clock back and undo anything that was done. It is history. We have no choice but to live in 2020. The same is true for our failures, our mistakes, our sins. Because of God’s free grace we do not have to live with guilt, with shame, or with feelings of condemnation. We are forgiven. We can look to the year 2020 with a clean slate.

Speaking of football, Billy Graham once told a story about the 1929 Rose Bowl. Georgia Tech played the University of California that year. In the game a player recovered a fumble, but became confused and ran the wrong way. A teammate tackled him just before he would have scored a touchdown for the other team. At halftime all of the players went into the dressing room and sat down, wondering what the coach would say. The young man sat by himself, put a towel over his head and cried.

When the team was ready to go back onto the field for the second half, the coach stunned the team by announcing that all of the same players who started the first half would be starting the second, including the young many who ran the wrong way. The players headed back to the field except for the young man who would not budge. The coached called him to come but he said, “Coach, I can’t do it. I’ve ruined you. I’ve disgraced the University of California. I can’t face that crowd in the stadium again.” The coach put his hand on the player’s shoulder and said, “Get up and go back in. The game is only half over.”

Our lives are not over either. God forgives us for our mistakes even for the times we have gone in the wrong direction. Besides being persons who are forgiven, we are to be people who are united. Paul’s message also addresses the importance of being bound together, “to unite all things in him (Christ), things in heaven and things on earth.” God’s purpose for us as a church is to work as a team.

A colleague of mine became seriously ill the week of Easter. That meant he was unable to deliver the Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Sunrise service and Easter messages. He was not able to make his contribution to the monthly newsletter. During the same week there were two deaths in the church which meant someone else would have to officiate. The good news is that he has an associate pastor who could perform these duties in his absence. The associate pastor was hired just a few months prior. Not everyone in the church was in favour of hiring an associate pastor. Through that event the congregation discovered the wisdom of expanding their team of ministry.

There are times when we have to let go of our pride and allow others to do our work for us. I know that for my friend that was not easy. He had to make concessions and be a team player. Unity in the church is an essential element of our faith. The reason churches fail is because a small minority want their own way. Or, a church fails to connect with the larger community, thus preventing them from developing relationships beyond themselves. To be “destined in love” is to share together the mission and ministry of the church.

The Church at Ephesus could not stand alone. They needed this message to guard them from total self reliance. By reminding them that God’s grace was freely given they were reminded that one of the very reasons they were a faithful community was because of what God did, not what they did for themselves. People of faith are to live “to the praise of God’s glorious grace.” God wants us to live with a thankful heart, in praise for all God has done and is doing.

We are not a club. We are not a business. We are a community of believers who share one common denominator. We are all redeemed and “destined in love.” We are a gathering of people who are all different. We are a people who at sometimes or another “have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” But, the glue that holds us together is grace.

It is a costly gift, yet free to us. And although we feel unworthy we are still loved. We are not the church because we have performed well. We are not the church because we are respectable citizens. We are the church because we freely accept the grace of God and are free to pass it on.

HYMN 345: AND CAN IT BE-StF

PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION: Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

Let us pray.

Lord, as we remember those words of Jesus, we think of concerns that are a burden to us; things happening in the world that worry us, and people who are on our minds. In confidence that You hear our prayers, we bring all those concerns to You now.

We pray for our City Leicester, those who rule over nations. They have many decisions to make, and so much to think about. Help them to hand their burdens to You and to treat people in ways that pleases You.

Lord, You care for Your whole creation; Hear our prayer for those in need.

We pray for those whose work is physically hard. For those who toil under a hot sun; for those with heavy loads to carry; for those whose muscles ache at the end of the day. Give them times of rest and refreshment. Help us to offer them a word of thanks if we get the chance.

Lord, You care for Your whole creation; Hear our prayer for those in need.

We pray for those who are anxious about exam results; for those who are worrying about their future, at school, university, or in the work place. Help them to know that You love them, and that You are with them wherever they may go.

Lord, You care for Your whole creation; Hear our prayer for those in need.

We pray for those who are anxious about others; for those who are worried about the health of family members; for those who see loved ones making mistakes and who do not know how to help them find the right path. Take away the burden of their anxiety, and help them to put their trust in You.

Lord, You care for Your whole creation; Hear our prayer for those in need.

Lord, many of us carry burdens; some are known to those around us, whilst others are known to us alone. In a few moments of quiet, we share them with You. Lord, take control in every area of our lives. Give us faith to trust You for You know us better than we know ourselves and You know what is best for us.

Lord, You care for Your whole creation; Hear our prayer for those in need.

We ask all our prayers in the name of Jesus. Amen

The Lord’s Prayer

HYMN 662: HAVE YOU HEARD GOD’S VOICE-StF

BLESSINGS: Gracious God, we have given this hour to You. As we go, may we remember that all life is Yours, and that You are Lord of all. The blessings of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be upon us and remain with us always. Amen.