I Will Not Leave You Alone

CALL TO WORSHIP: Come, let us worship God. What kind of God do we worship? Our God is not far distant, but is very near. Our God is the Father of us all. Our God longs for us to want to know Him. This is the kind of God whom we worship. Come, let us worship God.

Gracious and loving God, we know that You always keep Your promises. Through Jesus, You promised the gift of Your Holy Spirit, to be sent to all who put their trust in You. We come now to claim that promise. We know that by Your Spirit You are with us all the time. Help us to make this the time, for You to speak to us  in whatever way that You choose. Make us ready to hear You through songs, prayers, stories, and music.

Make us ready to feel Your presence in silence, and in the smiles of those around us. Guide and direct us in all that we do, and show Yourself to us in unexpected as well as in familiar ways.  This we ask in the name of Jesus. Amen 

HYMN 55: IMMORTAL, INVISIBLE, GOD ONLY WISE-StF

PRAYER OF ADORATION:

Let the whole world bless our God and loudly sing his praises.

Our God made the world and everything in it. He’s the Lord of heaven and earth. He doesn’t need churches or houses to live in. He doesn’t need anything. He’s the one who supplies our needs.

Let the whole world bless our God and loudly sing His praises.

He gives life and breath to everything. All life began through Him and we are His children. Even though we sometimes go through difficult times, He never forgets about us. He hears us when we cry for help.

Let the whole world bless our God and loudly sing His praises.

He wants people to seek for Him and to find Him, discovering, when we do, that God is close to each one of us, and has been seeking for us all along.

Let the whole world bless our God and loudly sing His praises. Amen

TALK FOR ALL: SHOWING YOUR LOVE  (John 14:15-21)

 Raise your hand if you have a pet that you love. (Oh what a lucky group of pets! I have one that I love too!)

Now, if I came over to your house and watched you together, how could I tell that you love your pet? What kind of things do you do to show your love? (Solicit children’s answers: petting, feeding, grooming, bathing, walking, etc.)

Wow! You sure do love those pets. I can tell, because loving isn’t something you can just SAY you do. Loving is something you SHOW you do. It’s a way you act toward someone or something.

So let me ask you a question: How can we show our love to God?

That’s a little bit harder question, isn’t it? We can’t show God our love in exactly the same ways – but we can show him our love. Do you have any ideas about how? (Again solicit children’s ideas.)

In today’s Gospel story, Jesus tells his disciples that, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” The commandments are God’s special rules.

Jesus says that it’s not enough to just tell God we love him. Instead, we have to show God our love by DOING the right things – just like you show your love to your pets and your parents and your friends.

Quickly – make a plan in your brain for a way that you’re going to show God that you love him this week! Do you have it in there? Good!

Will you pray with me?

Dear God, we tell you we love you every day – but we know that we need to show our love too. Watch over us this week and help us to make loving decisions every day. Amen.

HYMN 274: JESUS CHRIST, I THINK UPON YOUR SACRIFICE-StF

PRAYER OF CONFESSION AND THANKSGIVING

Generous and loving God, You give us so many precious gifts, and You want us to share them with others. The Bible tells us that we should be ready to share the good news of Jesus with anyone who might ask about it, but we confess that sometimes we find this very hard.

We do not always go to the people that You want us to speak to. You give us chances to speak about Jesus and we talk about other things. We grumble instead of sharing Your blessings with others. Forgive us when our generosity does not mirror yours.

Thank you Lord for the forgiveness which You freely offer to all who are truly sorry. Remind us again of Your love over-flowing to us in Jesus, and show us how we can offer this love to others. In His name we pray. Amen

READING: JOHN 14: 15-21

SERMON: “I WILL NOT LEAVE YOU ALONE”

“I will not leave you alone.” At some point we all want or even need to hear these words. They speak directly to some of our greatest fears and challenges; abandonment and isolation, loneliness, vulnerability. They remind us that we are not destined to walk this earth without an identity or direction. We do not stand alone.

To be sure there are seasons of life, moments, when the transitions, changes, and tragedies can leave us feeling as orphans. Whether spoken or unspoken the questions begin. What will I do now? Where do I go? What happens next? Who will love, nurture, and guide me? Who stands on my side? What will become of me? Those are the orphan’s questions. Those are the questions I imagine running through the heads and hearts of the disciples into the gospel reading today.

It is the last supper. Disciples have been fed, feet have been washed, and the betrayer has left. It is night, dark, and Jesus announces he is leaving. The one for whom they left everything now says he is leaving. “We do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” “Show us the Father.” More orphan questions.

I am sure our boys felt the same way the day we told them that I would be moving to Cambridge for two academic years of Theological training. They asked “What will we do? What will happen to us?” The youngest (cheekiest) asked, “Who will be sending our allowance”? The feeling of being alone or an orphan is real. Certainly the orphan’s questions are buried deep within the death and destruction that blew through Joplin, Missouri. “Are we left alone? Nothing but content for the evening news? How do we move forward and rebuild? Who will go with us? What’s next?”

Anyone who has ever loved and lost – a spouse, a child, a friend, security, hope – knows the orphan’s questions.

We fear becoming orphaned. That fear points to the deeper reality that by ourselves we are not enough. It is not, however, because we are deficient. It is rather because we were never intended or created to be self-sufficient. We were never intended to stand alone as individuals. We were created to love and be loved, to live in relationship as persons giving themselves to each other, to dwell, abide, and remain within each other even as the Father is in Jesus and Jesus is in the Father; the antithesis of being orphaned.

“I will not leave you alone.” That is the promise. Regardless of the circumstances of our lives, storms, death, separation, we have never been and will never be orphaned by God. How strange that must have sounded to the disciples. In the same conversation Jesus tells them that he is leaving and coming. Leaving and coming sure sound like opposites. If we are not careful we will get struck trying to reconcile or figure this out. It is not, however, something to figure out. It is rather a means to see and live in a different way. It is the same thing I tried to teach our sons when, every time I text, emailed or spoke with any of them, I would say, “Even though we are apart I will never leave you.”

Leaving and coming. Absence and Presenc. These must be held in tension, not as mutually exclusive. That is what Jesus has set before us in today’s gospel. That tension confronts us with the question of whether Jesus, for us, is a past memory or a present reality, a sentimental story that makes us feel good or a living experience that challenges, guides, and nurtures our life.

According to Jesus the answer to that question is determined by love that is revealed and fulfilled in keeping his commandments. The commandment to love our neighbour as ourselves, to love our enemies, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Whose feet do we wash and whose feet to ignore? What are the boundaries of love?

Do we keep the commandments? Is our love growing, expanding, transformative of ourselves and the world? If so Jesus is probably for us a present reality and we know the fulfilment of his promise that we are not left alone. If, however, we are not loving so much. If we remain self-enclosed and isolated we relegate ourselves and each other to the orphanages of this world. Jesus’ promise is still real and he remains faithful we simply have not claimed it for ourselves. Keeping the commandments is our access to Jesus’ promise that we will not be left alone. Keeping the commandments does not make Jesus present to us. It makes us present to the already ongoing reality of Jesus’ presence. The commandments do not earn us Jesus’ love they reveal our love for him, a love that originates in his abiding love and presence within us.

Every time we expand the boundaries of our love we push back the orphanages of this world creating space within us where the Father and Jesus make their home.

“I will not leave you alone.” Over and over, day after day, regardless of what is happening in our lives that is Jesus’ promise. We have not been abandoned. Do not abandon yourselves or others to the orphanages of this world. Love with all that you are and that you have even as the Father and Jesus love us with all that they are and that they have.

HYMN 566: TAKE MY LIFE AND LET IT BE-StF

PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION: Today, Lord, we have heard about Paul, who used a new place and the things around him to tell Your story in a different ways. We pray today for all who seek to tell the story of Jesus.

Lord, our hope is in You. May others know the hope that You can bring.

We pray for preachers and ministers, leading services week by week. It must be hard for them to bring the story of Your love in new and interesting ways. Help them not to rely on their experience alone, but to be ready for the new things that You want to do through Your Spirit.

Lord, our hope is in You. May others know the hope that You can bring.

We pray for those going into schools, telling the story of Jesus in assemblies or in class rooms. Help them to remember that You are just as much with them in schools as You are in church. Be with junior church leaders and all who work with children’s And Young people’s groups. Help them to know that they are part of the wider church, and that we are praying for them.

Lord, our hope is in You. May others know the hope that You can bring.

We pray for those telling stories of Jesus to adults who have never heard them, either in this country or far away. We pray too for those who bring the good news of Jesus through music, poetry, painting, or other art work. Speak through their skills and abilities, helping them to make the stories come alive, just as Jesus did.

Lord, our hope is in You. May others know the hope that You can bring.

We pray now for ourselves. First, we remember that we each have a story, the story of how we met Jesus, and of what He has done for us. Help us to think about that story, and be ready to share it if You call us to do so. Each of us has different skills and abilities. You may not be calling us to share Jesus in the same way as those who are sitting around us. We pray for those who are next to us in our neighbourhoods. Help them to use the skills that they have to tell the story of Jesus to those they meet. And help us to remember that someone has been praying that prayer for us.

Lord, our hope is in You. May others know the hope that You can bring. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

HYMN 503: LOVE DIVINE, ALL LOVES EXCELLING-StF