APC 4th October 2020 “Love always perseveres.”
Welcome and Introduction Michael
Good morning everyone and welcome to our Sunday morning worship. Today we’ll be asking ourselves - what did Paul mean when he says “love always perseveres?”
As we begin today on behalf of us all I would like to pass on our deepest condolences to Lisa and Clive and to all the family of Hilda Crammond who passed away during the week.
Hilda was such a faithful servant of God and of our church here in Arklow and she will be sadly missed by us all. Please do keep the family in your thoughts and prayers at this time.
Let’s begin by reminding ourselves why we are here – because God has called us to worship Him, to experience His presence and to receive the help that only He can give.
Call to Worship
In the midst of our failures,
We stand in God’s grace.
In the midst of our struggles,
We boast in our hope through Christ.
In the midst of our suffering,
We claim the endurance given by the Holy Spirit.
In every part of our lives,
The love of our Divine Creator has been poured into our hearts.
Let us be open to this love as we join together in worship.
Let us pray…
Living God, we thank you that you are a God of love and compassion, slow to anger and full of mercy, a God of infinite patience, infinite goodness, infinite care, with infinite time for each of us.
Living God, help us to make time for you.
We thank you that though we so often fail to make time for you and so often fail to make time to serve you, yet you are always ready to receive us, to accept us, to respond to us and to help us in our time of need.
Living God, help us to make time for you.
Teach us to create space in our lives for you, for one another and for ourselves. Help us to measure time not by our standards, but by yours, and so may we live our lives as you would have us lead them.
Living God, help us to make time for you.
In the name of Christ we pray…
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.
Bible Reading 1 Genesis 29 v 14-30
Jacob Marries Leah and Rachel
After Jacob had stayed with him for a whole month, 15 Laban said to him, “Just because you are a relative of mine, should you work for me for nothing? Tell me what your wages should be.”
16 Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 Leah had weak[a] eyes, but Rachel had a lovely figure and was beautiful. 18 Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.”
19 Laban said, “It’s better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me.” 20 So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.
21 Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to make love to her.”
22 So Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast. 23 But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and Jacob made love to her. 24 And Laban gave his servant Zilpah to his daughter as her attendant.
25 When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?”
26 Laban replied, “It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. 27 Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work.”
28 And Jacob did so. He finished the week with Leah, and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. 29 Laban gave his servant Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her attendant. 30 Jacob made love to Rachel also, and his love for Rachel was greater than his love for Leah. And he worked for Laban another seven years.
Bible Reading 2 1 Corinth 13 v 4-7
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
Short Reflection “Love always perseveres”
For most of us modern life is so fast paced. The society we live in is so instant. There can be many benefits to this. I love nothing more than an instant coffee or instant noodles. Wifi gives us instant access to any information and enables us to instantly contact any of our friends in any part of the world. 24hr shopping means we can pick up our bread and milk at any time of the day or night and a simple swipe of our phone gives us instant access to our bank account when we want to make a purchase or check our balance.
But there are downsides to all of this. One of them is that because we can access everything so easily we can fall into the trap of assuming that all of life should be easy and that good things should always come quickly to us without much effort. This can lead to a runaway approach to problems. When the going gets tough, when we don’t like what we’re feeling, when people aren’t meeting our needs or fulfilling our desires, the temptation is to run out rather than seeing things through or taking the time and effort to resolve the issues.
There are so many areas of life where people are more likely to give up today than they were even twenty or thirty years ago. In the past it was common to stay in one job for life. Today a Millennial is likely to do 12 different jobs in their lifetime. In the past it was very rare for people to get divorced. Today there’s probably about a 45% chance of a marriage ending in divorce. In the past people were more likely to commit to one sports club or organisation for life. Today it’s common for people to try many different sports or to move around from club to club. In the past it was more common for people to spend countless hours mastering a particular skill or trade. Today many of those skills are on the decline because people just don’t have the time or the stick-ability to become a master of the art. Sadly there is an ever increasing rate of suicide as people even decide to give up on life.
Now I’m not saying that there is never a time to give up. We all know that in the past people have remained in abusive work or marriage situations where they were miserable because of a twisted religious or societal pressure that it was always the done-thing to have a stiff upper lip and keep going. One of the huge positives of the modern world and the attitude of the younger generation is that they are willing to make changes and to try something new rather than settle for a miserable existence.
If we’re suffering from burnout one of the kindest things we can do is to love ourselves. As difficult as it might be, that will involve swallowing our pride and admitting that we can’t just keep on trying to juggle all the balls of life while ignoring ourselves. It might mean taking time off, it will certainly mean making changes and above all it will mean creating time in our week for us to rest and do things that make us laugh and that we enjoy.
But there is also great benefit in learning the art of perseverance. There are so many examples in life when it is a good thing to be able to keep on keeping on, even when we don’t feel like it. So how can we develop this characteristic in our lives?
Well I think one of the most important things is to learn to love. When we love something we are more likely to persevere. It’s my love for my two dogs that helps me to get out around 7.00 am and take them for a walk when I’d much rather just pour myself another cup of coffee and put on a slice of toast. It’s my love for my children that keeps me driving them to hobbies and activities, that keeps me working to provide for them and to make the necessary sacrifices so that they can have what they need. It’s my love for people that enables me to keep in contact with them, trying to encourage them and that enables me to face a blank page every week in the church office as I begin another sermon. It’s our love for a teacher that keeps us interested in a subject at school. It’s our love for a subject or a personal interest that motivates us to stay on in a job when the going gets tough or the hours are long. In the current climate, however difficult we’re finding it, it’s our love for other people that motivates us to keep on sanitising, wearing masks, completing e-forms and keeping our distance when we’d much rather just not bother because of the inconvenience.
There are a number of practical takeaways from all this. If you’re a young person thinking about what you might do in the future my advice is simple- follow the path of the things you are good at and the things that you love. You will spend most of your life working. If you choose a field you love and have a natural interest in, you are more likely to enjoy it and to be willing to persevere on those days when it’s just not as exciting.
Don’t marry for money or because of someone else’s expectations. Marry for love. That said, the sparks of first love easily fade for all of us over time. So love needs to be worked at every day. Time needs to be carved out in a busy month to keep love alive. If we really love someone we will try our best to work it out and not give up at the first sign of difficulties.
Some people are easy to love. Others, let’s face it, are extremely difficult. It’s a challenge for all of us to learn to live with difficult people. But God calls us to love even our enemies because that’s what He does. You see, we forget that we too are sinners. We often go about doing our own thing with no real concern for God. If God was to treat us as we deserve, He would simply give up on us. But He doesn’t because He made us, we’re His children, and He loves us. Sure, He must often weep at the way we ignore Him or treat one another, but He never gives up on us. Despite all that he knows about us, God sent Jesus to die on the cross to take the judgement we deserve and to offer us complete forgiveness for free.
You know, they say that 7 days without prayer makes one week! When I feel my love for God growing weaker, when I feel like giving up on ministry, when I couldn’t be bothered dealing with difficult people anymore, when I’m tempted to just let the kids do whatever they want or not turn up at rugby training for a week, I get on my knees and I pray a simple prayer… “Lord, show me your love.”
In the quiet, God brings me to the foot of the cross. There I see Jesus dying for me and hear His words dripping with grace, “father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.”
And the longer I sit, the more I feel my heart strangely warmed. The more I sense the love of God filling my spirit. And in that moment I feel myself receiving a strength and motivation that is supernatural. And that’s what helps me to keep on keeping on.
I’m convinced it is the love of God shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit that will enable us to persevere in the areas of our lives where we feel like throwing in the towel.
It’s the knowledge of God’s deep love for me, that enables me to love myself enough to hear His voice whisper – “Michael are you looking after yourself too?”
That’s something of what I feel St Paul means when He says, “Love always perseveres.”
So let me ask you as I’ve asked myself this week. What is God saying to you when you hear the words, “Love always perseveres?”
Where do you need the love of God to empower you not to give up?
Where do you need the love of God to inspire and motivate you to care for yourself?
Let us pray…
Prayer for others
Lord, we pray for our government leaders. Please continue to give them wisdom, energy and strength as they seek to make policies to guide us through these difficult times.
We thank you for the many people working on a vaccine to provide immunity against Covid-19. We pray that they would continue to make quick progress to find a safe and cost-effective result.
We pray that in your mercy just as viruses in the past have burned themselves out, that you would cause this Corona virus to do the same.
We continue to ask for energy, strength, perseverance and safety for all those working in hospitals and in all essential services and industries where there is a high degree of contact between people.
We ask you to draw near all those we know who are sick at this time bringing them courage and comfort and all the help that they need.
We remember those who mourn. We think especially of the family and friends of Hilda Crammond. We thank you for the example of faith that Hilda has given us and ask that in their loss that you would bring great comfort to her family at this time.
Lord we thank you for the faithfulness of Emily Kearon over nearly 20 years as our Clerk of Session. We thank you also for the faithfulness of Brian as an elder. As they step back from these roles we pray that they may know how grateful we are for their commitment to you and to our church. May they enjoy many more healthy and happy years together.
We pray for the many harvest services that will take place this month, including our own. We ask that through them we would be reminded to be thankful to God and generous in sharing his blessings.
We remember our Moderator, Rev David Bruce, as he embarks on his first Presbytery Tour of Down. As he preaches in various churches and engages with civic officials give him wisdom and make him a great encouragement to everyone he meets. Keep him safe in that work as well.
We thank you for our chaplains who are serving in the Forces and in prisons. Give thanks for those using their gifts in very specialized and often demanding situations.
We pray for the people these chaplains minister to, both those who value the Christian support they receive and those who have a limited knowledge of faith. Pray that the chaplains would be able to show and share faith in all these situations.
We pray for the officers of the General Council Standing Committee as they deal with annual items of business; assessments and stipends etc. and report to the Council for decisions. Pray especially for the Financial Secretary, Clive Knox and the Support Services Committee Convener, David Thomson.
We remember Profs Stafford Carson (Principal) and Gordon Campbell (Principal Designate), as they lead tour training College in Belfast, having to make challenging decisions for the well-being of the College and its staff and students in these exceptional times.
Take a few moments to bring your own prayers for people on your mind to God…
Lord, we offer you all these prayers in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
It’s been a joy and privilege to share with you again today. Thanks again for logging on.
I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s reflection on the nature of Christian love. Please do spend some time in quiet over the next few days reflecting on the truth that love never gives up. Ask God to fill you with his love and power to keep going and to give you wisdom to know best how to care for yourself.
Just a little reminder that our midweek bible study meets again tomorrow night from 7pm to 8pm in the church.
Unfortunately due to the Covid Restrictions imposed on Dublin Emily and Brian’s family are unable to travel to Arklow. So we are postponing the presentation to Emily and Brian for all their faithful service over the years. Edna behind the scenes has taken over duties as our new Clerk of session and we will officially welcome her when travel restrictions are lifted.
On Sunday 18th October we will be celebrating Harvest. At that service we will be hearing brief reports from the two charitable organisations that we have agreed to support this year. That’s Purple House Cancer Support and the Arklow Lifeboat. So please do put that in your diary.
The Sunday School hopes to restart a week or two after the Harvest service. Tara will be emailing all parents with the details of how that will operate and with our new registration forms. We are still looking at the possibilities for the Youth Group. We had provisionally booked bowling in Wicklow but unfortunately the bowling alley in Wicklow rang us to say they were having to close. Further details for the other activities will follow in the days to come.
Next Sunday we will be staring a short series on Prayer as we look at the Lord’s Prayer together. I think all of us have been increasingly aware of how much we need the Lord’s help in these days so I hope you find this series will be a real help in encouraging you in your own prayers.
With changes to government guidelines we are now able to have two pods of up to 50 providing each pod is separate and socially distancing of 2m is maintained within each pod. This will enable us to have more than 50 people in total safely accommodated between our church sanctuary and the hall. So in short, we are now allowed a few more people than 50. The same rules of socially distancing, hand sanitising, wearing face masks and pre booking apply. So don’t forget, if you’re coming to church, to send Aleida a text by Friday evening at the latest.
Do stay tuned at the end of this recording to listen to a beautiful song reminding us of the mysterious truth that it’s often as we persevere through the difficult days of life that God shapes us and moulds us more into the likeness of His Son.
In the meantime, let me lead you in a Benediction after which I invite you as always, to say the grace together…
Living God, go with us on our journey of faith – revive us when we grow weary, direct us when we go astray, inspire us when we lose heart warn us when we turn back. Keep us travelling ever onwards a pilgrim people, looking to Jesus who has run the race before us and who waits to welcome is home.
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.”
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.