November 14, 2021 - Home Worship Service

November 14, 2021

Call to worship: (Discipleship Ministries)

Not one stone will be left on stone.

We worship our Rock and our Salvation.

Beware that no one leads you astray.

We worship our source of wisdom and truth.

When all seems lost, this is just the beginning of the birth pangs.

We are here to worship the Word that endures and the hope that is born among us.

Hymn #117 O God, Our Help in Ages Past

1    O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come,

      Our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home!

2    Under the shadow of Thy throne, still may we dwell secure;

      Sufficient is Thine arm alone, and our defense is sure.

3    Before the hills in order stood, or earth received her frame,  

      From everlasting, Thou art God, to endless years the same.

4    A thousand ages, in Thy sight, are like an evening gone;

      Short as the watch that ends the night, before the rising sun.

5    Time, like an ever rolling stream, bears all who breathe away;

      They fly forgotten, as a dream dies at the opening day.

6    O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come; 

      Be Thou our guide while life shall last, and our eternal home.

Morning prayer

Holy One, there is no God like You.  In praise and thanksgiving, we come before You ready to learn of Your power, ready to follow Your path for our lives.  Through days of jubilation as well as dejection, help us realize Your influence in the world.  We ask simply for ears to hear, eyes to see and minds to comprehend the blessings You bestow.  Amen. (Ministry Matters)

Prayers of Intercession:  Thank You most gracious and forgiving Father for hearing the cries of our hearts.  We now pray as You have taught us: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.  For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  Amen. 

Offering Spotlight:  Our Sunday School program teaches children and adults not only to love the Lord, but why we love Him.  Did you know that children who attend Sunday School are much more likely to remain faithful Christians throughout their lives?  If you do not attend, try one of the classes.  And thank you for supporting our Sunday School. 

Offertory prayer:  Mighty God, Architect of the Universe; Your work of creation and building is always before us!  We give our gifts this day in hopes that we might be co-builders with You in the creation of Your kingdom here on earth!  May our gifts reach others who feel disconnected from Your love, that they too may join us in the stonework of kingdom-building, whose mortar is the sharing of Christ’s love with the world.  Amen.  (Discipleship Ministries)

Preparation Hymn: #361 Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me

1    Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee; let the water and the blood,

      From Thy wounded side which flowed, be of sin the double cure; save from wrath and make me pure.

2    Not the labors of my hands can fulfill Thy law’s demands; could my zeal no respite know,

Could my tears forever flow, all for sin could not atone; Thou must save, and Thou alone.

3    Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling; naked, come to Thee for dress;

Helpless, look to Thee for grace; foul, I to the fountain fly; wash me, Savior, or I die.

4    While I draw this fleeting breath, when mine eyes shall close in death, when I soar to worlds unknown,

See Thee on Thy judgment throne, Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee.

Message scripture: Mark 13:1-8, 24-32

13As He came out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” 2Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”

3When He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked Him privately, 4“Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” 5Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. 6Many will come in My name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. 7When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. 8For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birthpangs.

24“But in those days, after that suffering,

the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,

25and the stars will be falling from heaven,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

26Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. 27Then He will send out the angels, and gather His elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

28“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that He is near, at the very gates. 30Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.

32“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

Message:  When Bad Things Happen            Rev. Ron French

“Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!” said the voice over the radio. It was the voice of David Johnston from his monitoring station on the north flank of Mount St. Helens. It was May 18, 1980. What Johnston had witnessed, as he called in his warning, was the largest landslide in recorded history. A magnitude 5.1 earthquake had caused a wave of earth and ice to rush down the side of Mt. St. Helens at 150 mph. By the time it petered out, the landslide had entombed 24 square miles of forest. This landslide in effect left the mountain, which contained a volcano, with no cap. And without a cap of earth to keep it sealed under pressure, Mount St. Helens then exploded, sending a 100-story high mixture of ash, lava, rocks and sand spreading a path of destruction 10 miles wide as it plowed down valleys and over ridges at speeds of 700 mph.

            There were 57 fatalities that day – including David Johnston. Neither he nor his trailer was ever found, both presumably hurtled into the next valley and buried in debris. Such destruction as the eruption of Mount St. Helens was unthinkable…until it happened. But it did happen as the unthinkable so often does.

Let’s consider another unthinkable event. On the morning of August 28, 2005, the National Weather Service issued this ominous alert: “Devastating Damage Expected.” Hurricane Katrina had morphed from a relatively weak Category 1 hurricane to a Category 5 tropical monster – and was spiraling straight toward New Orleans. The city would be “uninhabitable for weeks…perhaps longer,” warned the weather service. Half the houses would lose their roofs. Commercial buildings would be unusable, and apartment buildings would be destroyed. Residents should expect long-term power outages, and water shortages that would make “human suffering incredible by modern standards.” These predictions were right on target as was hurricane Katrina.

Many of us have images etched in our brains of the Louisiana Superdome where 20,000 people sought refuge from the storm. Conditions inside the dome were insufferable due to heat and humidity. At the nearby New Orleans Convention Center, where another 30,000 people fled, reporters interviewed people who had waded through “chin high” water, and who told of friends and family vanishing in the flood.

Hurricane Katrina affected 90,000 square miles of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Well over 1,300 people died across the region, and bodies were still turning up in condemned homes eight months later. Again, such destruction was unthinkable…until it happened.

Today we have the Covid-19 pandemic. Just here in the United States there have been over 600,000 deaths. Worldwide there have been over 5,000,000. And it’s not done yet. Such a pandemic was unthinkable…until it happened.

There are many unthinkable events recorded in history. There are some recorded in the Bible. One of them is in today’s lesson from the Gospel of Mark. “As He came out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings.’” (13:1) And they were magnificent buildings. The historian Josephus said that much of the exterior of the temple at Jerusalem, which was constructed under Herod the Great, was covered with gold that reflected the fiery rays of the sun. Moreover, he said that, from a distance, the temple appeared like a mountain covered with snow. This was probably because those parts that were not covered with gold were made of white stone.

The temple was enormous. The outer court was nearly a quarter of a mile long and three football fields across. It was bordered by walls. On top of these walls were magnificent, covered cloisters or walkways, with richly carved wooden ceilings. The temple was a huge undertaking which required an enormous amount of labor and money. It was said to be larger and more beautiful than the temple Solomon had built. It was quite a sight to behold – an architectural wonder of the ancient world.

As the disciples stared with wonder at this magnificent edifice, Jesus brought them back to earth, “’Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.’” (13:2) What was He saying – that their precious temple would be destroyed? This was unthinkable to the disciples. The temple represented God. The temple represented their identity as the people of God. Yet Jesus told them that one day it would lie in ruins. And what He predicted came true, within the lifetime of some of them.

Herod’s temple, a magnificent structure of awesome proportions, four years after its completion was totally destroyed and wiped from the face of the earth. That was 70 A.D. approximately 40 years after the death of Jesus.

In our Gospel lesson for today Jesus addressed the forthcoming destruction of the Temple and then uses this opportunity to talk with His disciples about the end of time. This is the content of Mark 13, one of those so-called apocalyptic chapters in the Bible. This is a chapter that has been used to strike fear in many hearts. The end of time is still a subject of speculation in many Christian churches, and many pastors and teachers are still using it to keep their fearful congregations in line. Jesus said three things about the end of times that I believe are helpful to us.

The first concerns false teachers. Jesus said of them: “Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in My name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.” I don’t think we can properly deal with writings like Mark 13 without dealing with the subject of false teachers. There is a popular misconception that has been spread in recent times about the end of life on earth known as “The Rapture.” As Marcus Borg points out in his book Speaking Christian, most Christians throughout history never heard of the rapture…and with good reason. The word “rapture” and the notion it embodies are a modern innovation, going back less than 200 years. Nobody even thought of the rapture until the 1800s.

Borg says, “Because millions of Christians think that the rapture is a ‘biblical teaching’ and thus has the authority of the Bible behind it, it is important to know that it is neither biblical nor ancient.” Borg goes on to say, “It was first proclaimed by a British evangelist named John Nelson Darby” in the first half of the 19th century. Darby concocted his vision of the rapture by his interpretation of a few passages in the Bible that speak of the second coming of Jesus and then end of the world. According to Darby’s imaginative scenario, the rapture begins a series of events that will unfold seven years before the second coming of Jesus and the final judgment. More specifically, it refers to an event when “true Christians”, as he would call them, will be raptured, that is, taken up to heaven, before Jesus’ coming. Those who are raptured will be spared the horrific suffering, wars, and devastation that face all those who are “left behind.”

            Arousing fear in people can be both quite easy and quite profitable – as many cable news channels have learned. And fear is very different from the faith that Jesus instills in His followers. In fact, the constant admonition of Jesus is “Do not be afraid.” That’s the first thing Jesus warns us about in Mark 13 – being led astray by false teachers.

            The second thing Jesus warned His disciples against was misinterpreting contemporary events such as war and natural disasters as indicators that the end is at hand. “When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come.” (13:7) There have always been wars and there have always been natural disasters. Fortunately, particularly in this country, we are better protected against such disasters than any generation that has ever lived. We have experienced few disasters in the scope of those experienced by other nations and other generations.

            For example, on July 5, 1201 (820 years ago) in Egypt and Syria, the deadliest earthquake in recorded history struck. This disaster rocked the eastern Mediterranean and killed over 1.1 million people. Nearly every city in the neat east felt the effects of this quake.  Then there was the bubonic plague or “Black Death.” It killed almost 33% of the entire population of Europe when it struck between 1347 and 1350. It also affected millions of people in Asia and North Africa.

            Each time a great tragedy has occurred; people have thrown up their hands and said, “This is it! This is the end!” And each time they have been wrong, very wrong. Jesus warned His disciples about misinterpreting contemporary events such as wars and natural disaster as indicators that the end is at hand. Don’t panic sisters and brothers, this world may be around for many more centuries and even millennia.

            But here’s the most important thing you need to know. Jesus makes it very clear that nobody knows when the end of time will be. He said He even doesn’t know when the end will come. In verse 32 we read: “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (13:32) It might be tomorrow, it might be 10,000 years from now. Nobody but God knows. Foolish people keep setting dates, but so far they have all been wrong. If you run into someone determined to announce how soon the end will come, ask them if they know more than Jesus. For Jesus said that He didn’t know when the end will come. How much more definitive can you be than that? Nobody knows – neither scientists, theologians, nor quack preachers on radio or television.

            Sisters and brothers, here’s what I want you to remember: Life is unpredictable. Terrible things will always happen in this world. I don’t say that to you so that you will be afraid. I tell you that for exactly the opposite reason. I want you to know that regardless of what comes; God will never leave you nor forsake you. Even if the entire world should pass away, God will still be with you.

            It has been said that during the filming of the classic movie Ben Hur, actor Charlton Heston had to learn how to drive a chariot. It was part of a race scene that was probably the most exciting ever filmed up to that time. After many weeks of chariot lessons Heston told the director, “I think I can drive the chariot all right but I’m not sure I can actually win the race.” To which the director replied, “You just stay in the race and I’ll make sure you win.”

            That is the message of Jesus Christ to us in every troubled time. “You just stay in the race and I’ll make sure you win.” Don’t let false teachers fill your mind with untruths or needless anxiety. No one knows what the future holds, but we do know who holds the future.

Closing Hymn Go Now in Peace

Go now in peace.  Never be afraid. God will go with you each hour of ev’ry day.

Go now in faith, steadfast strong and true.  Know He will guide you in all you do.

Go now in love and show you believe.  Reach out to others so all the world can see.

God will be there watching from above.

Go now in peace, in faith, and in love. 

Benediction:  Go into this week with the blessings of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

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