Listen to the Word – Sermon – Rev. Alex Moir – 2 May 2021

communion cup and broken bread

Communion Worship Service

Reminder: If you are planning to take part in the Lord’s Table at the end of the service, have your bread and juice ready.

WELCOME

Good morning First Baptist. We welcome you to worship this morning. Be sure to remember your brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the week as you pray for them, and as the Holy Spirit brings their faces to your mind. Be sure to also connect with them in the ways that are possible. And if you have any questions or would like to talk to someone, please don’t hesitate to contact the church through the church telephone and leave a message. (519-733-4144)

As this is the first Sunday of the month, we will be observing the Lord’s Table at the end of the service. If you are participating, be sure to have bread and juice ready. Even though we know that we will not be taking part at the exact same time, we ask you to use your imagination and place yourself in the sanctuary among us. We look so forward to the day we will no longer have to use our imaginations!

Call to Worship

“Sing to the Lord; praise the Lord; for he rescues the poor from those who would do them wrong.” 

— Jeremiah 20:13

Prayer

How we thank You, gracious Father, for those occasions when we feel like our cries have been heard and we have been rescued.  For all those times when we felt that we haven’t we are reminded of our Lord Himself, Who prayed for deliverance that night in the garden but Whose life was destined to count for better things.  No matter what our lot, teach us to be faithful in all areas of life and service.  We pray in the name of the precious and courageous One … amen. 

Song

Today's Message

Call to Worship: Dueteronomy 6:1-12

Love the Lord Your God

1 These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you.

4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

10 When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, 12 be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

As we begin a new message series today, we might blush a little at the passage I have chosen.  As Moses addresses the Hebrew nation, he does so just before they are to enter “the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess.”  Yes, it is about conquest, a term which we are not comfortable with these days.  Though we will not address this particular issue in its totality today, suffice it to say that, as Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann states, Israel is not just a marauding army, but a nation with a  calling … to rescue the land from “the condition of exploitation” and to eliminate the forces of “greed and anxiety.”  It is not the conquest of the land that is the main goal; rather it is the birth of a mission nation, carrying the principles of Yahweh worship to a new land.

However, the success of that vision is not yet determined … and the words of this passage suggest as much.  The phrase in v. 3, “that you may increase greatly …” communicates that there is much work to do before success is assured.  And we might be surprised as to the source of the hoped for progress!

That’s where this new message series begins!  Through the month of May, we will discuss the importance of “listening” in our lives and what the Bible has to say about it.  Today we begin with the ancient Hebrews in a context, as mentioned above, which has prompted much debate throughout the years … yet one which, in spite of the passing of time, is still relevant in our human context.

“Hear, O Israel:” The beginning of v. 4 indicates the importance of listening to Yahweh amongst the ancient Hebrews.  Again, as Brueggemann states … “In listening, Israel is summoned, commanded and assured by the One with authority who takes an initiative and imposes upon Israel a will, purpose, and identity other than any it might have taken for itself.”  And so, it is with us!  Where would we be without the listening or hearing of God’s word in our lives?  Would we not be free to simply embrace whatever current philosophy has become popular in everyday life?  How thankful we are for the Word that we hear in the context of faith and church … a word that is so strikingly different from all that we may hear in our contemporary society.

“The Lord Yahweh our God …” University of Calgary professor Peter Craigie has suggested that, since Hebrew nation “experienced the living presence of their God in history”, this suddenly elevated their status from a people equipped with the latest version of truth to a nation in community with Yahweh.  So it is with us … so many of us have sensed His mighty presence in our daily lives.  It is the very essence of prayer that indicates this precious truth, as we pray to Him with the idea that He actually hears.  The lyrics to an old camp song remind us of this …

‘Till by faith I met him face to face,
and I felt the wonder of His grace,
then I knew that He was more than just
a God who didn’t care, who lived a way up there and
now he walks beside me day by day,
ever watching o’er me lest I stray
helping me to find that narrow way,
He’s everything to me. 

— Ralph Carmichael

“The Lord Yahweh is one.”  Let us consider two meanings in this phrase.  The first has to do with the unity Yahweh expresses, where He is the only God we need be concerned about.  The ancient world’s panoply of gods created great confusion, especially when these “heavenly beings” could not be depended upon to rise above their whims and fancies and provide guidance and direction to their human subjects.  One of the great Hebrew words used to describe our God suggests as such … the word Elohim is actually the plural of the word for God.  In a very subtle way, the use of this term to describe Yahweh suggests to the world that all the various gods attributed to the different aspects of life are actually bound up in one.  But there is a second meaning as well.  This phrase can also mean “the Lord Yahweh alone.”  It reminds us that there is only one being worthy of our worship, which will put us at odds with so much that goes on in the rest of our world. Once again Brueggemann writes …

“The claim of total loyalty is one mark that makes the God of Israel incomparable, that makes Israel problematic in a world that wants to “go along and get along” and that makes the book of Deuteronomy pivotal for the most serious claims of biblical faith.”

Finally, the last significant phrase in v. 4, “Love the Lord, Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”  We might think that, at the end of the shema, the word the Hebrew people used to describe this very important address, we might see the word “obey”, indicating that these were commands expected to be followed.  Instead, we see the word “love.”  What else would we expect from our living God, so eloquently expressed many centuries later in the context of the early church?

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.
He is patient with you,
not wanting anyone to perish,
but everyone to come to repentance.”

— II Peter 3:9

If the Hebrew people were looking for a way to assure their success as “mission nation” in this new land, it is contained here.  “These words … place them upon your hearts (v. 6).”  And so it is for us, the new “mission nation”, that we may live well in whatever space we happen to occupy.  May these words occupy a special place in our hearts …

PRAYER

Gracious Father, our hearts resonate when we hear the words, “Yahweh, our God.”  How we praise You for the years spent in Your presence and service.  Such a lineage brings hope to us as, like the ancient Hebrews, we reflect upon Your years of kindness to us.  It is because of this that we face each day with anticipation, knowing that You accompany us and inspire us.

With that in mind we confess that it is sometimes easy to forget that there are those around us … in our neighbourhoods, our work and even in our families … who do not possess the heritage that is ours.  We are then reminded that this gathering of Yours which we gladly embrace is for others as well.  Prevent us from becoming so comfortable in our gathering that the appearance of those new to Your kingdom goes unnoticed.

As we close this prayer for Your people, we bring before You those with special needs.  We think today of the ones putting themselves in harms’ way by working to provide us with good food … those in the fields, greenhouses, processing plants and grocery stores.  May the hearts of their employers be stirred to think of their safety and fatigue during this time of Covid.  We also think of the students in our community and around the world who have relied upon the absent jobs in movie theatres, restaurants and other places to finance their education.  As they rely on food banks and even our churches, give those of us in better circumstances a spirit of generosity.  In the name of the One who emptied Himself, even Jesus … amen.

Communion

Sharing of the Bread

Hear the very words of scripture, from Mark’s gospel; While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.”

Prayer for the Bread

We take this bread now, Father, as Jesus intended it … to be the representation of His real flesh given on our behalf.  We do so with great thanksgiving … amen.

Sharing of the Cup

Again, the account of the last supper from Mark’s gospel; Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it.

Prayer for the Cup

As we take this cup we do so in acknowledgement, that as this drink has flowed in the making, so our lives began as His blood did flow.  In deep gratitude we pray … amen.

Song

Benediction

“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord; plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.  You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart.” 

— Jeremiah 29:11-13