Worship at Home, May 24 – ‘Christian Mindfulness’

Welcome to this online resource to help us share worship together. More information is available in the weekly Bulletin. Today’s service plan focuses on meditation and mindfulness, using Psalm 119, among other scriptures.

Celebration of Ministry

Please submit a prayer (you have composed) for our Prayer Booklet. You can drop it off on paper on weekday mornings, mail it, or email it to us.

Some of the Deacons (and Pastor) got to meet this past week (online, via Zoom) and talked about things including these: weekly worship plans, anniversary guest speaker, plan for ‘re-opening’ in the future.

We have not been together for ten weeks. We have not been able to celebrate one another’s birthdays! Happy Birthday to all you born in April and May, such as Dwight, Edna, Sonny, Terry, Carolyn, Bev, Angela, Myra, Linda C., Lexi, Joyce L, Murray, Diane H., Mason and MacKenna. God bless you all.

Next Sunday is Christian PENTECOST! We shall celebrate the Gift of God the Holy Spirit with us.

Worship Welcome Psalm 119:169-176 – Rob & Sara Wilkinson

169 Let my cry come before you, O Lord;
give me understanding according to your word.
170 Let my supplication come before you;
deliver me according to your promise.
171 My lips will pour forth praise,
because you teach me your statutes.
172 My tongue will sing of your promise,
for all your commandments are right.
173 Let your hand be ready to help me,
for I have chosen your precepts.
174 I long for your salvation, O Lord,
and your law is my delight.
175 Let me live that I may praise you,
and let your ordinances help me.
176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek out your servant,
for I do not forget your commandments.

Silence for about 20 seconds.

Psalm 119:18 Open my eyes, so that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.

Hymn 557 Open My Eyes, That I May See

Prayer Silently now, I wait for You, ready, my God, your will to do; open my heart, illumine me, Spirit Divine! Mighty Master, we share the same praises with You today, though we are apart. We give thanks for what is possible, in these days. With hymns ancient and modern we praise You. With the longest chapter in the Bible, we pray to and with You. With the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts we put ourselves in Your hands. Guide our worship today, in Jesus’ name. AMEN.

Psalm 119:105 Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Silence for about 40 seconds.

Song Thy Word

Children’s Time

Offering The offering bottle at the back of the pews collects funds for Canadian Baptist Ministries, for our relief and development work in the world. Of course, you can designate offerings for this ministry on your envelope from time to time. (This fund was formerly called The Sharing Way.)

Solo: ‘Rainbow’ – Sharon Marshall

Scripture Psalm 119:145-152 – Sara & Rob Wilkinson

145 With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O Lord.
I will keep your statutes.
146 I cry to you; save me,
that I may observe your decrees.
147 I rise before dawn and cry for help;
I put my hope in your words.
148 My eyes are awake before each watch of the night,
that I may meditate on your promise.
149 In your steadfast love hear my voice;
O Lord, in your justice preserve my life.
150 Those who persecute me with evil purpose draw near;
they are far from your law.
151 Yet you are near, O Lord,
and all your commandments are true.
152 Long ago I learned from your decrees
that you have established them forever.

Silence for about 60 seconds.

Sermon: Christian Mindfulness – Jeff White

Last year, this question was posed by a reader to Focus On the Family, the well-known and very large American ministry organization:

What is mindfulness? Some say it’s a positive form of meditation — and so I thought it might help me manage stress. But others believe it can negatively impact mental and spiritual health. As a Christian, I want to be sure I don’t go down a wrong path.

It is so good to ask questions about the many spiritual practices that we hear about, in our day and age. ‘Mindfulness’ is but one, and I think a very popular concept, right now. The short answer – and it’s pretty good – that Focus On the Family gave was this:

Generally speaking, mindfulness is a technique of deliberately focusing your attention on the present. You don’t let yourself be distracted by other thoughts constantly running through your head; you clear “noise” from your mind.

Mindfulness (some use the word grounding) is characterized by meditation and relaxation techniques. The idea is to become more self-aware. You pay attention to thoughts, feelings, and sensations in that moment — without purposefully deciding whether they’re good or bad, and without becoming overwhelmed or overly reactive. In short, you tune in to what’s real right now.

The FOTF writer concludes: Like anything, mindfulness can be misused. However, it doesn’t automatically contradict the Christian faith. We just need to make sure we approach it in a wise, biblical way.

The trend in our culture to be healthier by being ‘mindful’ is a good trend, in a sense. People are facing the fact that many of us could stand to live more in the moment, and deal with the anxieties and worries we keep in our minds, which are rooted in the past and the future. In what we call His ‘Sermon on the Mount,’ Jesus speaks about worry at some length. 

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

…27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?

…33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Mtt 6)

So, to strive for the Kingdom can include a few parts. We strive for the King – to know and serve Christ. We strive to know what God is active doing, around us, and join in to do our part. We also can strive to know ourselves, as citizens of the Kingdom. Philippians 3:20 tells believers “our citizenship is in heaven.”

To be mindful, to live in the present moment, is graciously possible with our Saviour. Jesus is not only inspiring, He becomes our instructor. 

I remember well, a decade ago, how a friend looked at Holy Week with thoughts of how amazing Jesus was. In this way: knowing what was to happen to Him, He went through each day of that week before His death so calmly. Back and forth Jesus went, into Jerusalem, and back out to Bethany. Into the Temple and out. Teaching, healing, getting ready for the Passover with His close companions. Jesus was living in the moment, yet was prepared for His future.

Prayer and meditation were built-in parts of the devotional life of Jews, back then, of course. We notice Christ taking the disciples away to quiet places for prayer – surely they were long, extended periods of time. Jesus’ hours in the Garden of Gethsemane are so memorable. On the edge of terrible suffering, quiet time was necessary.

And there are all the moments before the culmination. For instance, before He chose the twelve disciples, He went away, all night, for prayer. (Luke 6:12-13)

Prayer, meditation, solitude, silence – all these elements of our walk with God, are so important, and all take time. More time than I give them, I know that anyway! Every few years I make an attempt, for a season, at Christian meditation. Silence. Not praying a bunch of words. Trying to be quiet, silent, in my thoughts. Trying to sit before God, and listen. And just be. Be still and know that God is God. (Psalm 46) 

For two millenia now, Christians have worked on ways of being present to Christ through meditation. There are many paths and teachings. A couple of the most helpful writers about this, for me, have been Dallas Willard and Martin Laird. There are many other good ones. 

Willard was a Baptist teacher who wrote more about how spiritual discipline works, and less about the how to of these things. He pointed out to me how important solitude and silence are in our lives with Jesus. He says,

In silence we close off our souls from “sounds,” whether those sounds be noise, music, or words. Total silence is rare, and what we today call “quiet” usually only amounts to a little less noise. Many people have never experienced silence and do not even know that they do not know what it is. Our households and offices are filled with the whirring, buzzing, murmuring, chattering, and whining of the multiple contraptions that are supposed to make life easier. 

Have you ever heard the sound of silence? 

I have fond childhood memories of annual trips to southern Ontario, to visit grandparents and other family. There were, of course, excursions to the sights to see in the GTA. A lover of all things science, I looked forward to visiting the Science Centre in Toronto. I guess the Discovery Centre in Halifax is like this? I have not been there. 

At the Science Centre (around 1980 anyway) one very cool exhibit was a soundproof room. The walls of the room and the hallway leading in were lined with black, foamy, corrugated material that absorbed sound. Enter, be still and quiet, and one heard nothing. Nothing! For the first time in my life I ‘heard’ nothing. 

To practice mindfulness, as a Christian, is to find silence. Silence for our thoughts and feelings inside. And there, we may offer ourselves to the Holy One as we never have before. Isaiah 30:15 says, For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. But you refused…

Leading up to this sermon today, I suggested to you all that we work our way through Psalm 119. 22 days of Psalm 119: it has 22 sections of eight verses each. Each section, in the ancient Hebrew language, begins with the same letter of that alphabet. Every one of the 176 verses includes a word that means law, word, commandment. This long Psalm must be the result of an inspired time of meditation upon the fullness of the Old Testament, which was enjoyed and appreciated by the composer of this Psalm. Imagine this task of writing a long, alphabetic poem about obeying God’s word. For us in English it could be 208 lines long!

Reflect now on this. If you spent time on Psalm 119 each day (or most days), what did you discover? What was your experience of God? What did you learn or see in yourself? (Remember, we learn so much from our failures.) 

Psalm 119 is so repetitious, eh? So many mindfulness and meditation practices use repetition, to keep a person focused, to quiet the mind and the thoughts, to get deeper into our souls. 

Now, I must admit that I have yet to be clear about what ‘meditation’ means. I have actually used it in a couple ways. It means a few things to us. 

Usually, among Baptists and others, I find we call a short sermon or devotional talk ‘a meditation.’ And that’s fine. One has mulled a scripture over, pondered it, prayed, and then talks about it. You see in a plan for a church service ‘Meditation,’ and it means a talk by a preacher.

The ‘meditation’ I am speaking of today is a form of prayer. Well, this comes in many forms. There is praying that is thinking over a scripture for an extended period of time (what we did with Psalm 119 for 22 days). There is guided meditation, when one person suggests thoughts and images for a group to follow in their imaginations. And there is silent meditation, which seeks to quiet the thoughts and distractions of the mind, and simply be quiet inside. I guess you could tell that has been my focus today. 

Like the soundproof room at the Science Centre, I seek the soundproof room of my inner life with God. I recommend it to you also. Seek the quiet path. Silent prayer. Meditation. Contemplation. Whatever you want to call it. Such times are sabbath moments for us, little times of rest for our souls. 

Any technique we find that the Spirit helps us use is a blessing. And the habits we form are simply tools. Martin Laid puts it this way:

A gardener for example, does not actually grow plants. The gardener practices finely honed skills, such as cultivating soil, watering, feeding, weeding, pruning. But there is nothing the gardener can do to make the plants grow. However, if the gardener does not do what a gardener is supposed to do, the plants are not as likely to flourish. In fact they might not grow at all… The skills are necessary but by themselves insufficient. 

(Martin Laird, Into the Silent Land, 2006, p. 54)

It is God who is sufficient, and who appreciates and will bless our efforts. Our efforts to “be still and know.”

Psalm 119: 148 My eyes are awake before each watch of the night, that I may meditate upon your promise. 151 …you are near, O LORD.Whether we meditate and become ‘mindful’ in the middle of the night, or we find times during the day that work for us, let us quiet ourselves. Let us teach one another (testify to) the methods that we have found helpful. Let us receive the gracious promises of Jesus, who said, 28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11)

PRAYERS of the People
We all have many people for whom we pray today. We have many things we know about in the world that concern us. We have ourselves and our walk with God, in this strange time, to talk about.
Take time to bring all these people and events to mind, in the name of Jesus.
Then, let us simply be quiet, in prayer. Stay away from words and names and lists, for about a minute and a half. Then, have some closing thoughts for prayer…

SILENCE for 90 seconds (OK, in the recording, I took about two minutes.)

Finally, we know we are Your beloved ones.
We think about whatever is true.
We think about whatever is honourable.
We think about whatever is just.
We think about whatever is pure.
We think about whatever is pleasing.
We think about whatever is commendable.
We think about whatever is excellent.
We think about whatever is worthy of praise.
Help us to do the things we have learned and received and heard from Your guides in our lives.
God of peace, be with us.
AMEN.

Psalm 119:10 With my whole heart I seek thee; let me not wander from thy commandments!

Hymn 45 Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Benediction (using Psalm 119:76-77)

Let God’s steadfast love become your comfort,
let God’s mercy come to you, that you may live,
and let God’s law become your delight;
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. AMEN.

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