November 20-26, 2022 - Home Worship

For the week of November 20-26 – Christ the King!

Morning prayer: Blessed are You, Lord God, for You have visited and redeemed Your people. Your Savior has conquered death and is exalted above every power in heaven and earth where He reigns. We sing our thanksgiving and offer our praise to Your majestic name. Amen. (Discipleship Ministries)

Hymn: #131 We Gather Together

  1. We gather together to ask the Lord's blessing;
    He chastens and hastens His will to make known.
    The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
    Sing praises to His name, He forgets not His own.
  2. Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
    ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
    so from the beginning the fight we were winning;
    thou, Lord, wast at our side, all glory be Thine!
  3. We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,
    and pray that Thou still our defender wilt be.
    Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;
    Thy name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!

Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.

Worship the Lord with gladness; come into His presence with singing.

Know that the Lord is God. It is He that made us, and we are His; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name.

For the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations.

Children’s message Psalm 65:9-13

You visit the earth and water it, You greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; You provide the people with grain, for so You have prepared it.

You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth.

You crown the year with Your bounty; Your wagon tracks overflow with richness.

The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy,

the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.

Children’s Message

I have with me a cornucopia, which is sometimes referred to as “a horn of plenty”. It is called that because in the thanksgiving offerings given in the Temple, it would literally be a hollowed out ram’s horn filled with grain, fruits, or vegetables. There are prescribed feasts for each of these offerings and they are called thank offerings.

God is our horn of plenty, although this may appear empty of any physical offering, it is filled with all the things God gives us, things we can’t buy. They are forgiveness, friendship, grace, mercy, love, faith, promises, hope, miracles, redemption, compassion and the list could go on and on. It is a horn of blessing as well as a horn of plenty. Blessing and plenty speak to the abundance of God and that is an attribute we praise God for because we never have to worry that God’s blessings will run out or be in low supply – because God is limitless! This week think about all the things God gives you and be thankful.

Prayers of Intercession:  Thank You, Lord, for hearing our prayers for those dear to 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 sins, as we forgive those who sin 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 spotlightGive thanks for young people who share their talents so freely and joyfully.  We are indeed blessed.  A portion of your financial giving is designated for youth ministries and youth Sunday School. 

Offering prayer: Almighty, Creator God, we humbly bring our gifts to You this day. On Calvary’s cross, Your Son redefined for the world what it meant to rule, what it meant to be a king. In His life, teaching and interacting with people, Jesus redefined what it means to give in a way that pleases God. May we, in this season, live and give in a way that reflects the reign over us and the One who lives within us. In the exalted name of Christ, we pray. Amen. (Discipleship Ministries)

Hymn #694 Come, Ye Thankful People, Come

  1. Come, ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home;
    all is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.
    God our Maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied;
    come to God's own temple, come, raise the song of harvest home.
  2. All the world is God's own field, fruit as praise to God we yield;
    wheat and tares together sown are to joy or sorrow grown;
    first the blade and then the ear, then the full corn shall appear;
    Lord of harvest, grant that we wholesome grain and pure may be.
  3. For the Lord our God shall come, and shall take the harvest home;
    from the field shall in that day all offenses purge away,
    giving angels charge at last in the fire the tares to cast;
    but the fruitful ears to store in the garner evermore.
  4. Even so, Lord, quickly come, bring Thy final harvest home;
    gather Thou thy people in, free from sorrow, free from sin,
    there, forever purified, in Thy presence to abide;
    come, with all Thine angels, come, raise the glorious harvest home.

Scripture Lesson John 6:25-35 (CEB)

25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

Bread of life

26 Jesus replied, “I assure you that you are looking for me not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate all the food you wanted. 27 Don’t work for the food that doesn’t last but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Human One[a] will give you. God the Father has confirmed him as his agent to give life.”

28 They asked, “What must we do in order to accomplish what God requires?”

29 Jesus replied, “This is what God requires, that you believe in him whom God sent.”

30 They asked, “What miraculous sign will you do, that we can see and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, just as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”[b]

32 Jesus told them, “I assure you, it wasn’t Moses who gave the bread from heaven to you, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 The bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

34 They said, “Sir,[c] give us this bread all the time!”

35 Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

Message: Count Your Blessings                 Rev. Ron French

One of my favorite Peanuts comic strips is the one that came out several years ago just a few days before Thanksgiving. Lucy’s feeling sorry for herself and she laments, “My life is a drag. I’m completely fed up. I’ve never felt so unloved in my life.” Her little brother, Linus, tries to console her and he says, “Lucy, when you’re in a mood like this, you should try to think of things you have to be thankful for; in other words, count your blessings.” To that Lucy says, “Ha! That’s a good one. I could count my blessings on one finger. I’ve never had anything and I never will have anything. I don’t get have the breaks that other people do. Nothing ever goes right for me! And you talk about counting blessings! You talk about being thankful! What do I have to be thankful for?” Linus replies, “Well, for one thing, you have a little brother who loves you.” With that, Lucy runs and hugs her little brother as she cries tears of joy. And while she’s hugging him tightly, Linus says, “Every now and then, I say the right thing.”

This is the time of year when we count our blessings. For many of us the focus will be on material blessings. Our homes. Our comfortable cars. Our stylish clothes. Our dinner table bountifully spread. And yet, in the long run of things, these are the least important of all our blessings.

Our lesson today from the Gospel of John takes place after Jesus has taken five small barley loaves and two small fish and has fed about five-thousand men and an unknown number of women and children. Amazing is too small an adjective for such an extraordinary feat. Now the crowds are seeking Him out in earnest. Jesus isn’t impressed with their sudden interest. Jesus said to them, “I assure you that you are looking for Me not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate all the food you wanted.” Then He gives them this warning: “Don’t work for the food that doesn’t last but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. God the Father has confirmed Him as His agent to give life.” (6:26-27)

What Jesus is saying is beware of focusing on the physical, the material blessings in your life. These blessings are generally trivial and transitory. It is a cliché, of course, to say that money can’t buy happiness. And the proof of that is bountiful. There are many, many people who are blessed materially and are just plain miserable.

Jim Burns in his book Radically Committed tells about an incident a few years ago when police in New York City were called to a building where a woman was threatening suicide. She was standing on the top of a 54-story building ready to jump. The police suicide squad was taking the woman extremely seriously. She didn’t look the type, in her expensive dress and with her distinguished appearance. But every attempt to convince her to come down from the ledge ended in failure. One police officer called his pastor asking for prayer. The pastor said he would come right over and see if he could help. When this wise old pastor surveyed the situation, he asked the captain if he might try and get close enough to talk to the woman. The captain shrugged and said, “What do we have to lose?” But as the pastor started walking toward the woman she screamed, “Don’t come any closer or I’ll jump.” The pastor took a step backward and called out to her, “I’m sorry you believe no one loves you!” This got the woman’s attention, and also the attention of the suicide squad because it was such an unorthodox style. The pastor went on, “Your grandchildren must never have given you any attention.” At that statement the woman took a step toward the pastor and emphatically replied, “My family loves me and my grandchildren are wonderful, all eight of them.” The pastor took a step toward her and said, “But then you must be very poor to be so desperate as to jump.” The woman looked at her jewelry and her very nice dress and said, “Do I look like I’m poor? We live near Central Park in a beautiful apartment.” The pastor took another step and was now within three feet of the woman. He asked, “Then why do you want to jump?” Her surprising reply was, “I can’t remember.” The pastor had helped the woman turn her focus off of her problems and on to reasons to be thankful. They continued to talk, and she even showed him pictures of her grandchildren. A year later, this woman was a volunteer on a suicide prevention hotline helping others to choose a thankful life.

So this Thanksgiving as you sit in your beautiful home around a table loaded with tasty food, do not assume that these are the blessings that count most in your life. Because they are not! This woman needed to focus on the things in her life that really mattered and then her blessings were obvious.

Only one thing really matters in life: relationships – your relationships with other people, but mostly your relationship with God. People who feel loved can be happy in any environment. People who focus on anything else are guaranteed to experience tremendous heartache someday, for everything else is temporary.

Heidi Neumark in her book Breathing Space tells about having lunch with a little girl named Danielle. Danielle’s mother had died from an asthma attack brought on by smoking crack cocaine. Danielle was ten years old and had eleven sisters and brothers. Some were older and on their own, and some of them went to live with a relative down South. That left five parentless children in the home.

An uncle, known to be a compulsive gambler moved in. Rumor had it that his main interest was using the children to get money to support his gambling habit.

Neumark doesn’t know it that is true, but there was little affection or attention shown to the children at home, except what they offered each other. Three of the youngest children were in the summer program at Neumark’s church. One hot day when a swimming trip was planned for the afternoon, Danielle was brought to Neumark’s office in tears. It turned out that she didn’t have a swim suit. They decided it would be all right to skip the morning math lesson to go out and get a suit.

The trip took them out over lunch time, and so they stopped at a nearby McDonald’s, where Danielle ordered a Happy Meal. After getting her meal, she got up from the table and came back with a few extra napkins. Then she began divvying up the small bag of french fries into five little piles, each on its own napkin. Neumark asked her what she was doing. Danielle explained, “My sisters and brothers will feel sad that I got french fries and they didn’t, so I’m taking them home to share.” “Sitting there in McDonald’s with Danielle,” says Heidi Neumark, “I felt rich.”

Little Danielle knew what was important in life – and it’s not cars or houses or clothes or even a turkey on Thanksgiving Day. What’s important are the people you love. What’s important is your relationship with them and with God.

The people who followed Jesus after the multiplication of the fish and loaves were fixated on the physical miracle. What Jesus wanted them to focus on was the faith that produced the miracle. They were focused on the bread and fish; He wanted them to understand that there was a new bread from heaven, He Himself.

Jesus said to them, “The bread of God is the One who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. They said, ‘Sir, give us this bread all the time.’ Jesus replied, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty.’” (33-35) In other words, only one thing matters – relationships. Relationships with one another and relationship with God. The blessings we need to focus on are not physical or material, but emotional and spiritual.

This is a hard sell in a land of such abundance. Linda Kulman, wrote in U.S. News & World Report sometime back these prophetic words: “We are a nation that believes in having it all. In 1950, American families owned one car and saved for a second. In 2000, nearly 1 in 5 American families owned three cars or more…

Americans shell out more for garbage bags than 90 of the world 210 countries spend for everything. Indeed, America has double the number of stores as it does high schools. In 1990 the average person living in the United States wanted 72 different things and considered 18 of them essential. As of 2010, the average American wanted 500 different things and considered 100 of them essential.

Our obsession with stuff carries a hefty price tag.”

The average American family income was $54,132 per year in 2021. The average American family debt in 2021 was $96,371. Almost twice their average income.

Our addiction to material goods may actually make us less grateful than if we had very little. If your feeling of gratitude today has any relationship to the size of your bank account, or the number of toys that you have to play with, you may not ever experience the true spirit of thanksgiving.

Edward Markquart of Seattle once put this in a beautiful way. He said, “A great danger in living in a materially abundant world is to come to expect that material abundance and no longer feel deep gratitude in one’s heart. To illustrate, at your house have you ever experienced a Christmas where a child has just received ten Christmas presents and then asks: ‘Is that all? Isn’t there more?’ And then the next Christmas when the child is older and they receive only five gifts, they say, ‘Well, it wasn’t quite as good a Christmas as last year.’ When a person receives so many presents, one no longer has that deep inner gratitude but rather an expectation of more abundance. By contrast, if a person has never received a Christmas present and receives one present, that person is overwhelmed with delight at that one gift. I’ll never forget,” Markquart goes on, “my mother’s story of her most memorable Christmas. My mom, an immigrant, was raised in dire poverty, and when she received an orange that Christmas, her heart was overwhelmed with joy and thanksgiving. That single orange was the best and most memorable Christmas present she ever received. Why? Because there is something about poverty that enables one’s heart to be filled with gratitude.”

He concludes by saying, “One of the greatest dangers of living with material abundance is that one loses a deep feeling of gratitude and develops an expectation for more abundance.”

Do you understand that? Our very affluence may seal us off from God. We may end up depending on our material blessings rather than our connection to God to provide us with both happiness and security. In his book Money, Possessions and Eternity, Randy Alcorn tells the story of a persecuted Romanian pastor who told a group of ministers: “In my experience, 95% of the believers who face the test of persecution pass it, while 95% who face the test of prosperity fail it.”

This may be a hard lesson for Thanksgiving. I’m supposed to remind you to be thankful for your blessings, but if you are thinking blessings like your HD television or your new iPad, then you are going to miss it altogether. Be thankful for the people you love and who love you.  Be thankful that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. Count your spiritual blessings. If you focus on them you will understand what real gratitude is all about.

Closing Hymn: #102 Now Thank We All Our God

  1. Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
    who wondrous things has done, in whom this world rejoices;
    who from our mothers' arms has blessed us on our way
    with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.
  2. O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
    with ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us;
    and keep us still in grace, and guide us when perplexed;
    and free us from all ills, in this world and the next.
  3. All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
    the Son, and Him who reigns with them in highest heaven;
    the one eternal God, whom earth and heaven adore;
    for thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.

Go into your week with the blessings of The Father, The Son, The Holy Spirit.