Sunday, August 29, 2021 Worship Service

Blessings Cooksville Family!

Below is the link to this week’s service:

As always, If you have problems with viewing the video, I have included the full text , of most of the service, below.

And remember, please try to keep in touch with each other, particularly those you know who are forced to spend so much time alone.

And feel free to call or email me personally if you want to connect or if there is anything I can do.

Blessings,

Rev. Brian

Rev. Brian Vickers
Cell – 905-802-4081
Email – b_d_vickers@hotmail.ca


July 25, 2021
Sunday Worship Service

Prelude: Come, Holy Spirit, Lord God – Pachelbel

Opening Video: An Opening Prayer

Welcome & Greeting:

Lighting the Christ Candle

Hymn: “Your Love Is Amazing”

Call to Worship and Opening Prayer:

The Lords Prayer

Scripture:

James 1:17-27

17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. 19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. 22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. 26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Solo: O Lord! Correct me – text from Jeremiah 10:24 music by Handel

Video: James

Message:

Religion That’s Not Worthless

James 1:17-27

I heard about a man who came into worship late one Sunday morning. Not knowing where they were in the order of service – he asked someone in the back of the sanctuary – Is the sermon done yet?

The experienced old Christian turned in the pew – and answered with all the wisdom of their years – The sermon has been preached – but it has yet to be done.

Wow! You talk about a statement that is truthful and insightful! The sermon isn’t done when it is preached – but when it is practiced. Amen!

Many years ago – theologian A. W. Tozer lamented – There is an evil which I have seen under the sun…It is the glaring disparity between theology and practice among professing Christians.

So wide is the gulf that separates theory from practice in the church – that an inquiring stranger who chances upon both – would scarcely dream that there was any relation between them.

An intelligent observer who had heard the Sunday morning sermon – and later watched the Sunday afternoon conduct of those who had heard it – would conclude that he has been examining two distinct and contrary religions.

That was a scathing critique of Christians and Christianity as Tozer observed them in the 1950s – and although my optimistic and hopeful side wants to think we aren’t like that today – my realistic side has to admit that we are often just hearers – rather than doers of the Word.

Some people have said that there is no more practical book in the Bible than James – and these verses that we have heard today are some of the most direct and practical in this little letter.

But in addition to their practicality – there is also a biting edge to these verses. James doesn’t just say – This is the way you should live. In a fairly confrontational manner – he says – If you are not living this way – then your religion is – and this is very hard to hear – he says – Your religion is worthless.

I think that’s pretty strong language. Twice in this section – James warns us that if we don’t put into practice what we are taught – then we are deceiving ourselves.

Without mincing words – James declares – Those who consider themselves religious – and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues – deceive themselves – and their religion is worthless.

Personally – I think that James could have substituted any number of things for controlling their tongues in that verse – and it would have been just as truthful.

He could have said – If anyone thinks they are religious without controlling their greed – then their religion is useless – and they deceive themselves.

He could just as easily have commanded us to control our hatred – lust – or hostility – just to name a few. The point is – True religion makes a difference. True religion is heart felt and life changing.

Another theologian – William Barclay – wrote – James does well to remind us that – that which is heard in the holy place – must be lived in the market place – or there is no point in hearing at all.

So – with that in mind – how does James define religion that makes a difference? In the verses that we heard today – I’d say that James wants us to see that religion that makes a difference – can be characterized by three things – Godly language – Godly love – and Godly lifestyle. Let’s take a quick look at each of them.

Firstly – religion that makes a difference is characterized by – Godly language.

In verse 19 – James wrote – My dear brothers and sisters – take note of this – Everyone should be quick to listen – slow to speak and slow to become angry

Then in verse 26 – as we already noticed – he added – Those who consider themselves religious – and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues – deceive themselves – and their religion is worthless.

Hardly any test of one’s religion could be more practical and revealing as this one. Are we able to listen? Do we know when and how to hold our tongue? Can we control our temper – which typically reveals itself through our tongue?

I don’t think that being known for a sharp tongue and a fiery temper would make anyone appear to be a good model of Christianity.

There was a young man who once approached Socrates – the great philosopher – to ask if Socrates would teach him how to win an argument. As the young man made his request – he kept talking with an incessant stream of words.

Finally – Socrates placed his hand over the young man’s mouth and said – Young man – I will have to charge you a double fee.

When the fellow asked why – Socrates explained – I will have to teach you two sciences. First – how to hold your tongue – and then – how to use it wisely.

Proverbs 18:21 says – The tongue has the power of life and death – and those who love it will eat its fruit. If we are going to have a religion that makes a difference in our lives – and in the lives of others – then it must be characterized by Godly speech – and Godly words.

Second – Religion that makes a difference is characterized by Godly love. In verse 27 – we hear this – Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…

One of the first things we note about authentic religion is that it is relationship oriented. You can’t look at it like some type of plan – believe these things – say these things – do these things. As I’m sure you’ve heard – Jesus Himself boiled it down to two commandments – Love God – and Love your Neighbor.

True religion accepts God’s gracious love – and passes it on to others. And Godly love is far more than a love that says – because you love me – I love you back. Godly love is a love for those who are downtrodden and in distress – a love for those who are weak and vulnerable.

When the Book of James was written – the widows and orphans were certainly among the most vulnerable and needy – and for that reason they are recipients of divine concern. Psalm 68:5 declares that God is – A father to the fatherless – a defender of widows.

As long as there are widows and orphans in the world – as long as there are homeless and poor people – as long as there are victims of abuse – crime and illness – then true religion calls us to do something about it.

In the second chapter of James – he will challenge us about putting our faith and love into action. He asks the question – Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him – Go – I wish you well – keep warm and well fed – but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? (James 2:15-16)

Religion that makes a difference is characterized by Godly love – a love that looks out for the needs of others – especially the most vulnerable.

Third – Religion that makes a difference is characterized by a Godly lifestyle. In verse 21 – James wrote – Therefore – get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent…

And in verse 27 – he concluded – Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this – to look after orphans and widows in their distress – and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James is challenging us to be holy and pure.

We deceive ourselves – and we harm our witness – when we claim to be a Christian – but then continue to live as though we have never heard the words of Christ.

Much of the world we live in thrives on the filth and evil that James warns us about – and it’s easy to get caught up in that – but as Christians – our calling demands that we take seriously the task of removing that filth and evil from our lives.

Yes – it’s all around us. Yes – everybody else is doing it. Yes – it’s hard to resist it. But with God’s help – we can and must live a godly lifestyle.

We must strive for Godly business ethics – and Godly social ethics. We must keep away from us things like cheating and lying – gambling and addiction and promiscuity and violent entertainment.

Does any of this sound easy? Not by a longshot. Religion that makes a difference is hard and it requires our constant attention and our very best effort. More than that – it requires God’s assistance.

The good news is that James not only tells us what we must be – but he gives us some insight into how we can be successful. James gives us three steps that enable us to develop a religion that makes a difference.

James says that we must regularly listen to the word. Remember – in verse 19 – it says – My dear brothers and sisters – take note of this – Everyone should be quick to listen – slow to speak – and slow to anger. We often do the opposite – we are quick to anger and quick to speak – and slow to listen.

The old saying is true – God gave us two ears and one tongue – so we should do twice as much listening as speaking. Certainly we must learn to listen to others – but more importantly we must learn to listen to God.

We must open ourselves up to hearing God’s voice. And God’s voice is heard in Scripture. And God’s voice is heard in the godly counsel and teaching of God’s people. And God’s voice is heard in the soft whispers and prompting of the Holy Spirit.

We will not be successful in having a religion that makes a difference, without having a listening heart and mind.

But – just hearing won’t cut it. We must do more than hear. James says that we must humbly accept the word. The second half of verse 21 says – humbly accept the word planted in you – which can save you.

Notice that James says that the Word is planted in us. James is saying that our heart is like a garden – and the Word is like a seed. I’m sure you remember Jesus’ – Parable of the Sower.

In that parable

– Jesus warned us about having a heart that is hard – or rocky – or weedy. Once we hear the word – we must accept it – which means we must receive it and believe it.

But additionally – we need to keep our soil free from hardness and weeds – so that the Word can take root and grow without hindrance.

Even though these first two steps are important in helping us have a religion that makes a difference – they are incomplete without the final step. James says that we must immediately obey the word. Hearing the Word – and accepting the Word – are useless without obeying the Word.

James wrote – Do not merely listen to the word – and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and – after looking at himself – goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. (1:22-24)

James humorously illustrates his point with the mirror illustration. How many of you spent some time looking at a mirror this morning?

Why do we look at ourselves in the mirror? We want to look our best – right? We want our hair to look its best. Me – when I’m shaving – I want to make sure I do a good job – no missed spots – sideburns even.

So – when we look in the mirror and see that there is some work to be done – we don’t just forget about it and walk away. Instead – we get to work on what needs attention – right? If we notice that our hair is sticking up or lying flat from our pillow – we don’t just ignore it and say – that will have to do.

If we notice there is a fleck of pepper stuck between our teeth – we don’t say – I think I will leave it there – I may need it later. No – when we look in the mirror and see something that needs attention – we do something about it.

But unlike a physical mirror – which only reflects our outward appearance – the mirror of Scripture reveals our inner character and reveals where our lives need work. It doesn’t do us any good to look intently into God’s mirror – to see what needs to be addressed – and then walk away and do nothing about it.

But James gives us this wonderful promise. Listen to verse 25 – But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom – and continues in it – not forgetting what they have heard – but doing it – they will be blessed in what they do.

Religion that is all about listening – but never gets around to doing – is worthless – and if we think otherwise – we are just deceiving ourselves – that’s what James is trying to tell us.

We must not only learn to listen to the Word – but we must also humbly accept it and then immediately obey it. And if our religion is going to be acceptable to God – and really make a difference – then it must be characterized by Godly language – Godly love – and a Godly lifestyle.

God will bless us – and will bless others through us – when we put His Word into practice.

Amen.

Hymn: “Lord, Speak To Me”

Video: One Prayer

Pastoral Prayer

Hymn: “The Servant Song”

Benediction and Commissioning

Postlude: Fugue in B major BWV 868 – Bach Played by Katie Sun

Sunday, August 15, 2021 Worship Service

Blessings Cooksville Family!

Below is the link to this week’s service:

As always, If you have problems with viewing the video, I have included the full text , of most of the service, below.

And remember, please try to keep in touch with each other, particularly those you know who are forced to spend so much time alone.

And feel free to call or email me personally if you want to connect or if there is anything I can do.

Blessings,

Rev. Brian

Rev. Brian Vickers
Cell – 905-802-4081
Email – b_d_vickers@hotmail.ca


July 25, 2021
Sunday Worship Service

Prelude: Sweet By and By – Joseph Webster, arr. Mark Hayes

Opening Video: God Is Here

Welcome & Greeting:

Lighting the Christ Candle

Song: “God of Wonders”

Call to Worship and Opening Prayer:

The Lords Prayer

Scripture:

1 Kings 2:10-12, 3:3-14 New International Version

2:10 Then David rested with his ancestors and was buried in the City of David. 11 He had reigned forty years over Israel—seven years in Hebron and thirty-three in Jerusalem. 12 So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David, and his rule was firmly established.

3:3 Solomon showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places. 4 The king went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices, for that was the most important high place, and Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. 5 At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” 6 Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day. 7 “Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. 8 Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. 9 So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” 10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. 11 So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12 I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. 13 Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. 14 And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.”

Solo: A Living Circle – words and music by Ralph Carmichael

Message:

The Deep End

1 Kings 2:10-12, 3:3-14

I’ve said a lot of prayers in my life. Generally – you hear the formal ones – opening prayer – prayers for the people or pastoral prayers – final blessings – the ones that are all part of our worship service.

And then there are the less formal ones – start and end of a meeting – prayers with people who ask for something in particular – or with people in the hospital – prayers and blessings for someone’s new car.

Some long – some short. Someone once told me that the best blessing for a meal was the shortest one – thank you God. But then – using Irish slang for thank you – and an affectionate way of calling God Father – you can shorten it even more to just – Da Pa – which roughly translates to – thanks dad.

But I don’t think that any of the prayers that I’ve given could be considered – the perfect prayer. I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard the perfect prayer – but I’ve heard of one that comes pretty close.

It came out of the mouth of a six-year-old boy. His mother told the story to another minister – who then posted it online. They were at a local swimming pool – and her son was standing at the deep end – his toes curled over the edge. Still unsure of himself in the water – he stood there for what seemed to her like a very long time.

Hesitating – Meditating – Palpitating. And just when it seemed that he was going to back away from the edge – he looked up to the sky – put his hands together – and said – O Lord – give me skills or GIVE ME GILLS! And he jumped.

Give me skills or give me gills. That pretty much covers all the bases – doesn’t it? O Lord, give me what I need to overcome what I’m facing – but if you won’t do that – give me what I need to endure it. Give me skills or give me gills.

I want you all to remember that prayer – and what it’s really asking for. Say it yourself when you’re in those tough situations. It’s surprising how many times I’ve used it myself since I first heard it. But maybe it shouldn’t be all that surprising.

In his book – Hustling God – Craig Barnes – wrote this about the Christian life – (the Christian’s) calling is not primarily to accomplish something – but to serve God who will always lead you to places where you are in way over your head. Barnes is reminding us that God has a habit of tossing us into the – deep end – of life. O Lord – give me skills – o r give me gills.

Our reading from First Kings finds Solomon in way over his head. His father – King David – is dead – and now – he – is the head of his family.

He’s grieving – he’s afraid – he’s carrying a heavy load. He’s no longer swimming in the safety of the shallow end of his childhood. With one swift toss – Solomon has landed – headfirst – in the deep end of adulthood.

And what a deep end it was. It isn’t just the loss of his father that Solomon is forced to confront – it’s who his father was. His father was David – the great king of Israel – the slayer of Goliath – the liberator from the Philistines – the original Raider of the Lost Ark – the unifier of the tribes – the master musician and wordsmith – the “man after God’s own heart.”

So with David’s death – Solomon not only took his place at the head of his own family – but he was now the head of the kingdom as well – ready or not – and it was clear that Solomon was not ready.

But he should have been – right – I mean – for years – Solomon had known that this day would come. Just like our prince Charles or Prince William – His whole life was a preparation for the day that he would become king – everyone expects them to be ready. And yet – when the day does come – Solomon seems totally unprepared for it.

The author of our story is kind to Solomon when he writes – Solomon showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David – except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.

They sort of try to gloss by it – but that’s a fairly strong except there. The second half of that sentence certainly seems to bring into question the first half. Solomon loved the Lord – following the instructions of his father David – except – he wasn’t – David wouldn’t have honoured the high places – and doing so would never have been part of his instructions

I think what the author is trying to tell us – as gently as possible – is that while Solomon tried to follow in his father’s footsteps – it was clear that he was very definitely – not – his father. He was – in fact – a bit of a mess. He was in way over his head.

But the good thing – the saving grace – if you will – was that Solomon knew it. And when confronted with it – he ‘fesses up to it.

Solomon had lost the way to God – trying to find it by going to Gibeon the highest of the high places – to offer sacrifices – if only he had listened to his dad – he would know that wasn’t the way to God.

But the really great thing is – that even when he has forgotten or just abandoned the way to God – God finds the way to him. God finds Solomon in Gibeon – where he has mistakenly gone once again – to make some more sacrifices and to burn some more incense – even though he knew better.

There might be a perfectly logical reason why Solomon would be so devoted to worshipping in the high places – a reason that has nothing to do with his faith or the lack thereof.

Going to those places – putting on the appearance of worship – Solomon buys himself some time. It would take quite a while to offer 1000 burnt sacrifices. Days – or even weeks I would guess. At the very least – it was time-consuming enough that it required him to camp out there for a few nights.

And as long as Solomon is worshipping in the high places – he doesn’t have to get about the difficult task of being the king – of truly following in his father’s footsteps. He doesn’t have to take the leap into the deep waters of the great unknown. He can stay in the safe – shallow end of his life.

It’s the perfect disguise really. His people see what he’s doing as an act of deep devotion – when – in reality – he’s doing it all out of fear.

It looks to all the kingdom like Solomon is constantly running to God for help – when it’s really the opposite – he’s constantly running away. But lucky for him – not even Solomon can run in his sleep. And that’s where the Lord finds him.

The Lord appears to Solomon in a dream and asks him what he wants. Because it’s a dream – and because there’s no one else listening in or looking on – Solomon is able to be truthful to God – and to himself – and he can unburden his heart to God.

This is what he says – You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.

“Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number

Solomon was saying – in effect – I’m not up to this God. You put me in the place of my father – but I’m not my father – I have no idea what I’m doing – I’m scared to death. Then Solomon tells God what he wants –

Give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?

It’s a prayer really. O Lord – give me what I need to overcome what I’m facing – but if you won’t do that – give me what I need to endure it.

In other words – O Lord – give me skills or give me gills. And the Lord gives Solomon both!

So – God said to him – Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked.

I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings.

The rest – as they say – is history. It came to pass just as the Lord had said. And King Solomon is still known today for his wisdom – for his – understanding mind – which is – I think – a bit of a shame.

For unless you know how Solomon acquired that wisdom – you might think he was born with it. but we know differently. It was a gift. The only thing Solomon really knew and understood – was that he didn’t know anything about being king. But he did have the courage to fess up about it – and ask God for the one thing that he really needed.

If Craig Barnes is right – and God – is – constantly leading us into places where we are in way over our heads – then this story about Solomon is an important one. It means we can relax a bit about our shortcomings – or if not relax – then it means we can at least stop pretending that we have everything under control.

It means we can stop wasting time and energy on our own high places – our own personal Gibeons – pretending to be something – or someone – that we’re not.

It means we might as well stop running away from God – because God is going to find us anyway. It means that when we realize all that we can’t do – we are in a perfect position to discover all that God can do.

It means that if we can’t avoid the challenge set before us – if we’re going to be heading into the deep end sooner or later – one way or another – we should ask God for what we need to overcome it – or what we need to endure it.

We should boldly pray for skills or for gills – confident that God will always give us one or the other.

And sometimes – like Solomon – we may even get both. But however the answer comes – God always comes with it. And that – as Solomon discovered in the middle of the night in Gibeon – is the very best news of all.

Let’s pray. O Lord – how often we find ourselves in over our heads. When our toes are curled over the edge of the deep unknown – give us the faith to jump – confident that you will either give us the skills we need to overcome what we’re facing – or the abilities we need to endure it. Either way – we trust that you will be with us. And that will be more than

Amen.

Hymn: “In Christ Alone”

Video: One Prayer

Pastoral Prayer

Hymn: “Amazing Grace”

Benediction and Commissioning

Postlude: Oh God, Hear My Prayer – Johann Walther

Sunday, August 8, 2021 Worship Service

Blessings Cooksville Family!

Below is the link to this week’s service:

As always, If you have problems with viewing the video, I have included the full text , of most of the service, below.

And remember, please try to keep in touch with each other, particularly those you know who are forced to spend so much time alone.

And feel free to call or email me personally if you want to connect or if there is anything I can do.

Blessings,

Rev. Brian

Rev. Brian Vickers
Cell – 905-802-4081
Email – b_d_vickers@hotmail.ca


July 25, 2021
Sunday Worship Service

Prelude: Fantasia on “Forest Green” – trad. English melody arr. Lani Smith

Opening Video: You Are

Welcome & Greeting:

Lighting the Christ Candle

Song: “Holy, Holy, Holy”

Call to Worship and Opening Prayer:

The Lords Prayer

Scripture:

John 6:35, 41-51 New International Version

35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
41 At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?” 43 “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. 44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. 46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

Solo: It is enough” from Elijah – based on 1 Kings 19 music by Felix Mendelssohn – Sung by Sheikh Ali

Message:

Bread of Life

Ephesians 4:1-16

For some reason – and who can ever understand the algorithms of popularity – my YouTube feed has been recommending clips from the old Indiana Jones movies.

Now I don’t mind – I used to love the series – well at least the first and the third one – true to general movie sequel rules – the second one was terrible.

It makes sense that I’d like the first and third – in those two – Indiana Jones was searching for a biblical artifact. Raiders of the Lost Ark – is about the Nazis trying to find Israel’s lost Ark of the Covenant in order to use its power for their evil plans

And – The Last Crusade – is about Indiana’s and his father’s search for the Holy Grail – the cup that Jesus used at the Last Supper – because people believed it had the power to grant everlasting life.

Indiana Jones is a fictional character – but there was a real – historical – character named Ponce de Leon – a Spanish explorer – who spent most of his life searching all around Florida trying to find the mythical fountain of youth.

I think it’s a common desire in all humans – to live forever. The great theologian – Woody Allen – once said – I’m not afraid to die. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.

But sometimes our plans don’t work out the way that we would hope that they would. Sometimes – in the midst of our feeble attempts at success – we find a better plan.

For example – back in high school – I wanted to be a pilot – a military pilot. I’d had some training – and I’d been accepted to attend the Royal Military Collage in Kingston. I thought that I’d serve 20 years as an air force pilot – and then retire and become a commercial pilot. But in my final semester of high school – my eyesight deteriorated – being a pilot was out of the question.

So – instead I became a computer engineer – working with main frame computers – I was succeeding very well in that career – making a fair bit of money – more than I ever would have as a pilot – but with the advent of more powerful desk-top computers – the bottom fell out of the mainframe business.

So – I settled into a new career – the outdoor retail market. I knew I could be quite happy spending the rest of my life involved in camping – hiking – canoeing – kayaking – and cross-country skiing.

Each time my career changed – I moved from higher levels of stress – to a slower pace – and I had more time on my hands – time that allowed me to get closer to God – work more for the church.

Eventually – my call to serve God on a more committed level got stronger and stronger.

At the time, I didn’t see God’s plan at work but now – looking back – it all makes sense.

God’s plan was better than my own. I’m glad that my plans didn’t work out – it’s always better in the long run when God’s plan plays itself out.

We always think that we know what’s best for ourselves – in our careers – in our lives. We think we know what it is we need – what will make us successful – happy.

There was a survey taken from among people from all ethnic backgrounds – cultures – religions – social status – and walks of life. One of the questions they were asked was – How satisfying or fulfilling is your life? The answer was alarming – more than 70% of the respondents answered that they were dissatisfied with their lives.

They felt that their lives were not really fulfilling – life felt meaningless – without purpose. The answer was the same among poor people and rich. It was the same among successful executives and among the unemployed and uneducated. It was the same for atheists and religious people.

I often meet with people who are dissatisfied with their lives. They feel that there is something essential missing. They are restless – looking for something that would make them feel happy and fulfilled. But they can’t find it.

The psychologist Abraham Maslow became famous years ago for his diagram of a pyramid representing a hierarchy of human needs. He claimed that if the most basic needs in the bottom layer have not been met – the needs higher up in the pyramid cannot motivate people.

It makes sense – on the bottom level are the most basic human needs – air – food – drink – shelter – warmth and sleep. These are essential for our survival. If you can’t breathe – you’ll hardly be motivated by a career opportunity. If you have nothing to eat or drink – you won’t give much thought to attending a concert or an art exhibition.

Only once your most basic needs have been met – will your thoughts and desires go to secondary things like safety – love and belonging – or esteem.

Maslow said – It is quite true that one lives by bread alone – when there is no bread. But what happens to man’s desires when there is plenty of bread and when his belly is chronically filled?

He continues – At once other – and – higher – needs emerge and these – dominate our thoughts. And when these in turn are satisfied – again new – and still – higher – needs emerge and so on.

The Bible disagrees with Maslow at least on one thing – we do – not – live on bread alone.

When Jesus was in the wilderness – He fasted for forty days. In the end – He was very hungry – and there was no bread. So Satan – who must have known Maslow’s hierarchy inside out – suggested that Jesus turn some of the stones into bread.

Even though Jesus was very hungry – on the point of starvation – He refused – And He quoted the words from Deuteronomy 8:3 – no one lives on bread alone – but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

It was this latter bread—the word of God—that Jesus offered the crowds who were following him everywhere. He was eager and determined to preach the good news of the kingdom of God.

But most people in the crowd were after something else. They had seen Jesus performing signs by healing the sick. So those who were sick followed him in the hope to be healed.

And those who were healthy wanted to be there to witness the sensational miracles for themselves. Their lives were empty – and they felt that the entertainment that Jesus offered would fill some of the vacuum inside.

But then – as the day wore on – the people felt their stomachs protest. Most of them had not had anything to eat for hours. And that’s where – quite in line with the theory of Maslow – their empty stomachs started taking over.

I won’t go into detail about what happened next – but Jesus fed the 5,000+ people there – and then left the crowd behind – but not for long.

The next day – the crowds found out where Jesus had gone and went after him – and that’s when Jesus rebuked them and said – You are looking for me – not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils – but for food that endures to eternal life – which the Son of Man will give you.

What Jesus says here – is a modification of the Maslow hierarchy. He says that the most elementary needs we have are not physical or physiological needs. Our spiritual needs are much more basic. Air – bread – and water will only keep us alive for a limited time – we all know that our bodies will not last forever. Our deeper and more fundamental needs are for – food that endures to eternal life.

Many people are looking for such spiritual food – they look to various religions – they turn to yoga – or mindfulness. But Jesus doesn’t talk about religion or yoga or mindfulness – He speaks about himself –

I am the bread of life that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever.

You have to love the language of Jesus – He says profound things and we are left wondering – how literally are we supposed to take this statement? Surely – He’s being metaphorical He can’t mean exactly what he’s saying – and yet he seems to mean exactly what he’s saying.

But you need to remember – that for the Jewish people that He was speaking to – eating was synonymous with living. When Moses leads the people out of Egypt – he takes them from a place where slavery was a way of life – but at least there was always food and water. The people of God did not have freedom – but they did have breakfast – lunch – and dinner.

After all the plagues were finished – Pharaoh freed the people – and they headed out into the desert. But with freedom came something else – grumbling.

Grumbling because they were tired. Grumbling because they were hungry. Grumbling because freedom had seemingly cost them breakfast – lunch – and dinner.

The pathetic statement of disbelief is confessed often in the desert – It would have been better to stay as slaves in Egypt then to die here in the desert. Was that God’s plan for his chosen people? Was that God’s plan for the great – great – great grandparents of the Messiah?

Was God so short-sighted that he only made a plan for escape – without a plan for breakfast – lunch – and dinner.

Of course God had a plan. And God’s plan is always better than our plan. Nobody ends up dehydrating in the desert – water can come from rocks. Nobody ends up starving – manna falls from the sky.

But that’s not good enough. The grumbling starts again – and prayers of thanksgiving turn to finger pointing. We’re tired of this food – Tired of miracles – tired of God’s intervention – tired of freedom?

What exactly are they complaining about? One of the things that I love about God – is that he doesn’t just answer the prayer of righteous people – but sometimes even answers the prayer of the grumbler.

So – here’s your water – here’s your manna floating down from heaven every day to keep you alive in the desert – and just so you know I love you – how about some juicy quail fajitas?

You would think all miracles from God for the Israelites – and all the miracles that Jesus had performed – would have meant something to the people. All that grumbling and demanding more.

But I know I’m guilty of the same. Clothes overflowing my closets – and still not content. Food overflowing at my table – and yet I want more s pice – more flavour – and bigger portions. A beautiful roof over my head – and yet I still get jealous about the new place going up down the road.

Like the Israelites – my basic needs are met – actually much more than met – but we always come up with new needs.

Jesus declares – I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry – and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

If you thought manna and quail fajitas were amazing – how about never being hungry again – how about eternal life? But then – Jesus’s enemies react by grumbling. More grumbling from God’s chosen people. The same story being lived out once again.

God’s plan is not our plan. It’s sad but true. In Deuteronomy 8:3-4 – God is showing His love when He says – I fed you when you hungered to teach you that no-one lives on bread alone – but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet didn’t swell during those 40 years in the desert.

The hand of God was all over the people. Freedom from slavery – seas opening up – water – manna – quail – clothes that won’t wear out after 40 years – why do we so quickly forget?

Jesus does the same thing. Taking bread and fish for a few – and turning it into a feast for thousands. He cooks fish on the shore for the disciples when they can’t catch a thing – He overflows their nets when their human skills let them down.

But if you stop there you would have completely missed the point. God’s deliverance of His people wasn’t about manna – and Jesus’s life – death – and resurrection – were not about bread and fish. Something better is entering into our world. God’s plan is more profound than we ever could have imagined.

Jesus is the bread of life – not because he merely feeds us and teaches us – but because He’s the savior who rescues us. A savior who comes after us when we are wandering.

Think Exodus – we’re like the Israelites – grumbling about food When God is trying to deliver them from Pharaoh and slavery.

We grumble about not having the desire of the next level on Maslow’s pyramid – but Jesus is offering us so much more.

God’s plan is that we feed on Jesus – on his love – on his teaching – on the community of his church. We won’t go hungry – ever again – when we align our desires on the world that Jesus came to give us.

Amen.

Video: Communion

Solo: “Fill My Cup, Lord Sung By Alicia Seifert

Pastoral Prayer

Hymn: “There’s A Spirit In The Air”

Benediction and Commissioning

Postlude: Redemption – Bethany Smith

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