APC 23rd Dec 2020 “Mind your Head!” (Part 5)
Welcome and Introduction
Good morning everyone and welcome to our Midweek worship. Today we continue with the final part of our Wednesday Morning Series for Advent called, “Mind your Head!”
But first let’s take a moment to pause and to talk to our heavenly Father, let’s pray…
Eternal God, you came to our world not in a blaze of publicity, surrounded by pomp and show, nor to the frenzied acclaim of crowds gathered to greet your coming, but quietly unassumingly almost unnoticed, in the quiet of the night in the little town of Bethlehem- born in a manger to the virgin Mary, your coming first witnessed by shepherds out working in the fields. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so our ways are not your ways nor our thoughts your thoughts.
Time and again, you have chosen the small, the humble, the insignificant and worked out your purposes through them. You have shown your strength in what the world counts weakness, you have made the last first and the least the greatest. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so our ways are not your ways nor our thoughts your thoughts.
Teach us what that means today- that you can use us beyond our imagining, that you can take what seems unimportant and turn it into something wonderful, that you can work among us in ways that exceed our wildest expectations. Teach us to see life not merely from our own perspective but from yours, and so may your strength be made perfect in our weakness. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so our ways are not your ways nor our thoughts your thoughts.
Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Join me as we say the Lord’s Prayer thoughtfully and sincerely together…
Our Father, which 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,
And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil,
For Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory,
For ever and ever, AMEN.
1 As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
3 My tears have been my food
day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
4 These things I remember
as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
under the protection of the Mighty One
with shouts of joy and praise
among the festive throng.
5 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
6 My soul is downcast within me;
therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
7 Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.
8 By day the Lord directs his love,
at night his song is with me--
a prayer to the God of my life.
9 I say to God my Rock,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?”
10 My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
11 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
Reflection “Be realistic, patient and firm”
Today is the 5th and final part of our series ‘Mind your head’ as we reflect on how we might care for our emotional and mental well-being. We’ve been using Psalm 42 and 43 as our text because it’s a poem written by someone with strong faith who was experiencing a period of deep depression.
So far we’ve discovered that it’s normal for all of us to get discouraged at times especially when we experience loss, or become socially and physically isolated from the people we love and the things we love to do. So it’s important that we go easy on ourselves during these difficult days and look out for each other.
We reflected on the importance of having the courage to be open and honest about our feelings. When we are feeling depressed its good for us to share those feelings with someone we trust. It’s also helpful to be completely honest with God even if we feel angry or frustrated at the circumstances, He has allowed in our lives.
We’ve also looked at the importance of trying to address our feelings by asking the question, “Why?” – “Why am I depressed?” If we do that prayerfully and listen for God’s answer, we may just discover that there are very legitimate reasons for our discouragement. Reflecting on the causes of our depression may enable us to find a way forward.
Last week we considered the benefits of looking back at our lives and remembering some of the good times. The Psalmist found that reflecting on the happy times when he had sung in the temple choir was a real encouragement because he knew that someday in the future he would experience those happy times again. It’s a great encouragement to know that despite all the restrictions a day will come in the near future when we will be able to enjoy everything that we are unable to currently.
Today I want to show you how well as asking himself ‘why’ and ‘do you remember the good old days?’ the Psalmist also talks to himself by asking, ‘won’t the future be better?
He exhorts himself by saying, “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Saviour and my God.” Again I think there are a couple of really important lessons for us to learn here. The first is that we need to be realistic about our situation when we are depressed. The Psalmist is hopeful of a brighter future but he acknowledges that it may be some time before that day is realised. That’s why he says, “I will yet praise Him.” You know, the bible never tells us to pretend to be happy when we aren’t.
But as well as being realistic, it’s also important to be patient with ourselves and with our circumstances. That’s why the Psalmist says, “Hope in God.” The Hebrew word translated ‘hope’ here literally means ‘Wait for God’. That’s really important to remember when we are depressed or when we are helping someone else through depression. There are no short cuts. You can’t just snap out of it. You need to be patient and to be willing to hang on in there until things start to improve. Even with counselling, making the necessary life changes or taking anti-depressant medication, it takes time for the black clouds of depression to drift away and for the sunshine of joy to return.
In addition to being realistic and patient as we wait for improvement the Psalmist reminds us that we still need to be firm with ourselves. That’s why he robustly tells himself to “Put your hope in God!”
You know, when we are helping someone else who is suffering from depression it won’t do any good to tell them to pull themselves together. But there is every reason when we are suffering from depression to say that to ourselves. We must remember that we are never helpless victims of our own emotions. We must remind ourselves that God is with us and that with His help we will overcome this illness in time. We need to cultivate that steely determination to keep coming to church or logging on, to keep meeting with God’s people and singing His praises even when it is the last thing that we feel like doing. We must also remember to put our hope in God- the God who knows what it is like to suffer the darkness and depression of Gethsemane and the Cross. The God who through that suffering was vindicated and raised from the dead. The God who is ascended into heaven and who, even now, is praying for us. The God who has put His Holy Spirit within us and who promises to help us. The God who promises us this Advent season that even though we may have great trouble and pain in this world- a day is coming when He will wipe away every tear and will give us a new and perfect resurrection body. The God who promises us that one day He will invite us to share the new heaven and the new earth with Him where we will experience constant joy, forever and ever.
Thankfully most of us may never experience the depths of depression that the Psalmist here went through.
But if you do let me encourage you that it in no way means that you are any less of a Christian than anyone else.
It may well be that if someone else was born with your temperament and had to cope with your life experiences that they would be battling with depression as well.
Let me also encourage you that it may just be that in God’s wisdom your proneness to depression may give you the potential of knowing God more deeply and more intimately than those people who have never known the struggles that you have known. That’s why your Christianity isn’t about glib clichés, modern sales talk or trite formulae. You know what’s it is like to feel spiritually thirsty, to have wrestled violently, to be moved profoundly and to have prayed desperately. And your faith is all the more real for that.
But let me also encourage you to learn the lessons from this Psalmist so that you may be better equipped to cope with your depression.
Don’t seek an escape or try to bottle up your feelings. Talk to someone you trust and talk to God. Be completely honest about how you are feeling.
As well as talking to God and others, talk to yourself.
Ask yourself why you feel the way you do, you may just find there is a logical explanation.
Try to remember times in the past when you were happy and enjoying life, that may just give you an encouragement that there will be days like that to come.
Be realistic, don’t pretend you’re happy when you’re not.
Be patient. Even with help it will take time for this depression to lift.
But be firm. Don’t allow yourself to wallow in self-pity. Put your trust in God. Remember that He is with you and can help you. Remember all that he has done for you and that He the promises you a bright future with Him in heaven forever.
And may God bless to each of us this meditation on His word. Amen.
God of love, we pray for all the people who will be celebrating Christmas this year, enjoying presents, food and fun, yet not having heard or accepted or understood what Christmas is all about. Speak to them now and help them to respond.
We pray for those who have never heard the gospel or received a distorted picture of its message, or failed to recognize it is good news for them. Speak to them now and help them to respond.
We pray for those who have closed their hearts and minds to Christ, refusing to listen or consider further, rejecting your Son as so many rejected Him at His coming. Speak to them now and help them to respond.
We pray for those who have come to faith but barely realized what that means, seeing perhaps just a small part of all you have done, or seeking to know more but troubled by doubts and questions. Speak to them now and help them to respond.
God of love, come to our world again this Christmas. Be especially close to all who will not be able to meet with their loved ones in the way that they normally would. Be particularly near to those who have lost family members in the year that has passed. Help us to look out for those who will feel that sadness most acutely and to be there for them.
Help us and all people to glimpse the wonder of your awesome love- a love revealed in the Christ who came and lived among us, who suffered and died on the cross, who rose and reigns with you and who shall come again to draw all things to Himself. Speak to them now and help them to respond.
It’s been a joy and privilege to share with you again today. Thanks again for logging on. I do hope you found this morning’s service an encouragement.
Next Friday will be Christmas Morning. Thank you to all of you who have booked your place with Aleida. The good news is that there is enough room at the Inn for everyone to be socially distanced in just the one service. The service will begin at our usual time of 10 am and will only last about 35 minutes. Then there will be a Sunday service on the 27th December led by Aleida at the usual time of 10am. If you haven’t already done so, please let us know as soon as possible if you hope to attend the service on Sunday 27th.
As is our tradition, on Christmas Day we will have a special collection for the poorest and most vulnerable in our world who have been especially affected by the Covid 19 pandemic. The money that is raised will be channeled directly through our Partner Agencies ‘Tear Fund’ and ‘Christian Aid’. I will show a little video clip on Christmas Morning when our Moderator will explain about this in a little more detail. But for now, I just want to give you a heads up and encourage you to come prepared and to give as generously as you can. You can also donate online using the Church bank details on our website, just mark your donation for the Moderator’s Christmas Appeal. You can also contact our treasurer Aleida Van der Flier to pay using a mechanism that is more suitable for you.
And don’t worry, if you can’t make church on Christmas Day or on Sunday 27th there will be services online on both days at the usual time of 10am. On Sunday 27th, you will be able to enjoy a specially recorded service led by our Moderator who will help us to reflect on the year that has past and look forward to the year that is ahead.
In a moment, I will lead you in a Benediction after which I will invite you as always, to say the grace together…
Like Mary, have the faith to believe that nothing is impossible with God, Like the shepherds, go in heart and mind again to Bethlehem to see what God has done, like the wise men offer Christ your worship and bring him your gifts, and like the angels, sing joyful songs of praise to God…And
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all now and for evermore, Amen.”
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