WELCOME to this post to share at home and worship there, while we are not meeting together in person. For a time, we will not be gathering. During this period our paper bulletin will be shorter and simpler. Here on this website post you can find music, prayer, scripture, sermon, and so forth. This Sunday, first of a month and first of the year, we will share communion separately, from home. Use a pre-filled cup from the Church, or your own bread and juice.
Any group of believers, gathered to worship God, is not an audience sitting back as spectators in the pews. Thus, this plan for service at home is not simply one video for you to sit back and watch. Use as many elements that are here – of text, audio and video – to worship the Holy One.
Psalm 66:1 Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth;
2 sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise.
3 Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
Because of your great power, your enemies cringe before you.
4 All the earth worships you;
they sing praises to you, sing praises to your name.”
5 Come and see what God has done:
he is awesome in his deeds among mortals.
PRAYER : Offer your own prayer to praise God, to give thanks, and to confess.
PRAYERS: (lyric by Gary Sadler & Lynn Deshazo )
We are a moment, You are forever
Lord of the Ages, God before time
We are a vapor, You are eternal
Love everlasting, reigning on high
For the year that is now past we praise and thank You. Amid the hardships have been lessons of love. In troubled times have come beautiful moments. With uncertainty has come Your guiding Spirit to show the way. Be near in 2022.
We are the broken, You are the healer
Jesus, Redeemer, Mighty to save
You are the love song we’ll sing forever
Bowing before You, blessing Your name
For healing and help we pray today, O God. Your goodness and blessing be upon ___ and ___ and ___. Especially we pray for Mike, who has been recovering in the Kentville Hospital, and for Doug who has been in and out of Digby and Yarmouth Hospitals…
And our prayers are for the whole world. We pray for people in the Kayah, Myanmar, where thirty-five people were killed in a military attack. We pray for people in West Kordofan, Sudan, where thirty-eight were killed when a defunct gold mine collapsed. We pray for people in Kabul, Afghanistan, where women gathered this week calling for “justice, justice” in protest of Taliban authorities.
Holy, holy, Lord God Almighty
Worthy is the Lamb Who was slain
Highest praises, honor and glory
Be unto Your name, be unto Your name AMEN.
SCRIPTURE John 1:35-51 – read by Angela Outhouse:
SERMON: Get to Know Me. Today is the second Sunday of Christmas, and the second day of a whole new year. For a third time, we have stopped meeting in person – this time not because we had to, but because so many people are reluctant to gather.
We begin a new year with a new Gospel to read as we tell the story of Jesus once again in worship; the Gospel of John. How different from the other three it is! How full of Jesus’ words, and glorious signs of His divinity. How different in style and how rich in detail.
I have not quite thought this through yet, but I wonder if our opening theme for the year will be getting to know Jesus. We may be guided to explore how we have done this in our lives, and what the next steps are. We may uncover what new methods we have for sharing Good News with the generations around us now. How can other people get to know what we know about Christ?
So, we have now celebrated the arrival of Him in the world, two millenia ago. Today, in John’s Gospel, we see young adult Jesus beginning His work. He starts the journey by recruiting disciples. Some of His recruits had been followers of John the Baptizer, Jesus’ cousin. This was what John’s work was for: to prepare for the actual Messiah, and to hand his apprentices over to the Christ.
Any story is a journey through time and space. We compared the story of these others with our own life stories. We find common events and experiences. Similar intervention by God. Our lives get interpreted by the Bible.
Today I also began a retelling of the classic Christian story ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress.’ Written hundreds of years ago by Baptist preacher John Bunyan, I’m using a new children’s version of this allegory. Perhaps Little Pilgrim’s Big Journey can help us adults follow the original book more easily. And here again we may have our own life stories interpreted. Pray that the Spirit of the Living God will open our minds and inspire our faithful actions.
Anyway, let us get back to John chapter one, and Nathanael, who caught my attention this past week. We learn very little about this follower of Jesus: all we have is a few scenes in these paragraphs. Before he meets Jesus Nathanael is skeptical about this new prophet, from a nearby small town. “Could anything good come from Nazareth?” he says. But when Jesus meets him, Christ declares Nathanael to be a man of faith ‘without guile’ or ‘without deceit,’ however we want to translate it.
As much as this Gospel story is about Nathanael, and Philip, and the others, getting to know this Jesus, I wondered this, the same thing Nathanael wondered: how did Jesus know what Nathanael was like? “Where did you get to know me?” he asks. And they have a short conversation about this.
Maybe you can remember times you got introduced to someone new, but your reputation preceded you. The stranger knew something about you already. Maybe you had friends in common. Or they just picked up quickly on who you are, what you’re like.
I think of a friend of mine who has a certain insight, an intuition of sorts, even almost what seems like a 6th sense. He used to tell me he gets a strong first impression from people. When he meets someone and shakes their hand, he knows. I think he meant he knows if he can trust them, he knows if he is going to like them, he picks up right away on the person’s personality.
I don’t have that gift. But sometimes I know when I meet someone who has this insight.
So there is something important, even impressive, when someone notices us and has some insight about us. When I realize someone truly sees me, understands me, is paying attention to me, it is touching and kind. So the Jesus and Nathanael scene got me wondering about how these two men got to know one another very quickly. And has that ever happened for me and Christ?
Yes, we get to know Jesus. It comes from our time with Him. John’s story of Christ has these scenes of Him gaining disciples: Andew, Simon Peter, Philip and Nathanel. They change their schedules – for three years! – and are apprenticed to the Master. They see what Jesus does, they have it explained to them, they start to help Jesus, they try going out on their own, they do it. They become trained in Kingdom living; it’s very practical work.
So many of you to whom I preach have had many years of your own apprenticeship to the Master. You have your own definite sense of who the Master is, what He is like, how He gets things done, and the qualities of His character. As He said, He is a Shepherd who knows the sheep, and the sheep know His voice. I don’t know about you, but I still find there is more and more to know about Christ. I keep wanting to go back, for instance, to Willard’s book about hearing the voice of God, and be reminded what to look for when I want to hear from God. As in human relationships, there can always be more knowing and growing with Jesus.
We also get to be known by Jesus, and this actually matters. “Where did you get to know me?” asked Nathanael. We can ask the same thing. ‘Where did You get to know me, Christ?’ And then, scenes from our life may come to mind – the things we did, the places we went, the moments that mattered – when the all-seeing God enjoyed our company, and cooperated with us.
I like that phrase in Psalm 149 (4) ‘For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with victory.’ Remember, and know that your God enjoys you.
In that amazing chapter, Romans 8, we can read (26) ‘… the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.’ And (34) ‘It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.’ I keep saying, I have this sense that the Trinity: Father Son and Holy Spirit, are busy talking about us among Themselves. You and I are on Their minds. We matter. Everyone matters. So, as Paul says in Romans 8(31) ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?’!
Our faith celebrates this Deity who we experience so personally. To be known by God is a gift of grace.
And we get to know ourselves better, through Jesus’ eyes, so to speak. Many of us learned from Christianity that God is all-seeing, and catches us in every mistake and bad deed. Psalm 19:12 prays: ‘But who can detect their errors? Clear me from hidden faults.’ But what if we remember that our Creator also knows every beautiful thing about us, moment by moment? We are told we are wonderfully made (Ps. 139:14) and in the New Testament that we were created for good works, all prepared for us to do in this life (Eph 2:10). We have this good news to tell: God sees the beauty and worth of you.
A song came to my mind, a Gaither song I learned as a kid in the Church.
I am a promise, I am a possibility,
I am a promise, with a capital P,
I am a great big bundle of potentiality!
And I am learning to hear God’s voice,
And I am trying to make the right choices
I’m a promise to be anything God wants me to be.
Whenever someone who knows and respects us tells us what they see in us, it has an impact. I shared some of these words with you a few weeks ago, from a social media post by a friend of ours. It was just a couple years ago that Jennifer wrote to all of us, who knew her, to tell us she had cancer. In the midst of it she said:
We live in a society where people think that individuality is a right and spend soooo many dollars on clothes, hobbies, tattoos, homes, anything and everything that can set them apart. But if we are all doing the same thing albeit in different ways, isn’t that more the same than different? If we could all only see how beautiful God has made each of us we could spend more time making a difference in the world with all he has given us. Friends! If you only could see you as I see each of you! You are beautiful. I digress.
Jenn had that vision of others that Jesus sees. When you can believe something wonderful about yourself that someone else believes, how encouraging! All the more when we get in touch with how God esteems us. As a father is filled with compassion for his children, so God loves us. As a hen would try to gather her chicks under her wings, so Jesus wanted to embrace His people who were straying. As the Spirit lets our own spirits know we belong and are children of God, so our lives expand and strengthen.
As a new year begins, follow Jesus.
Notice how His own attention follows you.
And discover anew the delight and purpose Jesus sees in you!
PRAYER after the Sermon: God, You are more than words can tell or names can describe. Jesus, You are bigger than history and more down-to-earth than stained glass and hymns. Spirit, You are holier than we can touch, yet also close and graciously available to our souls. In our quest to know You, to believe in You, to follow Your way for us: remind us again how You also seek us with great love and attention. Even with Your arms open wide upon the Cross You seek us. You are lifted up that all men and women may be drawn close to You.
Draw close to us again, we pray. Amen.
COMMUNION The table of bread is now to be made ready.
It is the table of company with Jesus,
and all who love him.
It is the table of sharing with the poor of the world,
with whom Jesus identified himself.
It is the table of communion with the earth,
in which Christ became incarnate.
So come to this table, you who have much faith
and you who would like to have more;
you who have been here often
and you who have not been for a long time;
you who have tried to follow Jesus
and you who have failed; come.
It is Christ who invites us to meet him here.
Jesus said, “I’m telling you the most solemn and sober truth now: Whoever believes in me has real life, eternal life. I am the Bread of Life. Your ancestors ate the manna bread in the desert and died. But now here is Bread that truly comes down out of heaven. Anyone eating this Bread will not die, ever. I am the Bread – living Bread! – who came down out of heaven. Anyone who eats this Bread will live—and forever! The Bread that I present to the world so that it can eat and live is myself, this flesh-and-blood self.” John 6:47-51 (Msg)
Now, we remember that…
The Master, Jesus, on the night of his betrayal, took bread. Having given thanks, he broke it and said, This is my body, broken for you. Do this to remember me. 1 Corinthians 11:24-26 (Msg)
Let us give thanks for the bread… [Maggie Beveridge:]
[Eat the bread]
After supper, he did the same thing with the cup:
This cup is my blood, my new covenant with you.
Each time you drink this cup, remember me.
Let us give thanks for the cup… [Peter Dickie:]
What you must solemnly realize is that every time you eat this bread and every time you drink this cup, you reenact in your words and actions the death of the Master. You will be drawn back to this meal again and again until the Master returns.
[Drink from the Cup]
Prayer after Communion
The bread has been broken, the cup has been poured, the meal has been shared. Gracious God, we give thanks for bread for the journey, for your wisdom guiding us along the way. May there be friends to share the road as we dare to dream of creation renewed, and hope in the promise of justice for all. Amen.
BENEDICTION: May the word of Christ dwell in you richly, in all wisdom; and grace, mercy and peace from God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with us now and always. AMEN.