CALL TO WORSHIP — Revelation 4:11, 5:11-13
Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created. Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing! To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!
GRACE & ASSURANCE — Psalm 145:17-19 The Lord is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does.
The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.
This past Saturday I took a walk through part of Miller Nature Preserve in Avon. I noticed the plant whose picture you see attached growing on the bank of the pond. It’s really quite delicate and pretty, isn’t it? Don’t touch it. Don’t smell it. Don’t even go near it (I used a telephoto zoom lens to take the picture). Don’t even think about eating any part of it. It is water hemlock, considered to be the most poisonous plant in North America. I have read comments from experts saying that ingesting just a small amount of the stem or roots can bring death in as little as 15 minutes.
After hearing Pastor James’ sermon on Sunday, I was reminded of this plant.
“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:6).
When Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the tree death came instantly. Not death from the toxicity of the plant, but death from being disobedient to God’s order. They didn’t die instantly physically, but they would die. That would be something that they, and all humans, would not have experienced if they had been obedient. Did God know that we would fail and sin? Absolutely.
Why were plants like water hemlock, that can kill almost anything that would eat it, created in the first place? What was God thinking when he created it? Insects feed on it’s flowers’ nectar. They don’t have any ill effect from it. Animals usually know or sense when something is toxic or harmful, and intentionally avoid it. People can learn quickly (unfortunately after a tragic event). Toxic plants and venomous creatures, like some snakes or insects, have some built in protection from predation. It helps them to survive. I believe this is part of God’s design. Water hemlock provides a reliable source of nectar for certain insects. It won’t be eliminated by other creatures (or people) eating it. Possibly it has some other uses we simply aren’t aware of yet. Sometimes it takes humans time and experience to learn.
Considering our world, we can be thankful that God planned in ways we haven’t discovered for the earth to be able to carry on operating. That includes the plants, animals, and even insects that we don’t appreciate for various reasons. They make up a self-sustaining world. Sometimes we do things that affect how it operates, but God’s planning has always proven superior to our intervention. Thankfully that same planning went into our future salvation, and His sending Christ to cover our sin and shortcomings. As humans, we can mess up a lot. We can’t mess up God’s ultimate plan for us and our world.
CALL TO WORSHIP — Psalm 36:5-9 Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens,
Your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;
Your judgments are like the great deep; How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. For with you is the fountain of life;
In your light do we see light.
Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
and your right hand will hold me fast.
CALL TO WORSHIP — Psalm 145
I will extol you, my God and King,
and bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you
and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.
GRACE & ASSURANCE — Philippians 4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always
again I will say, rejoice.
Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.
The Lord is at hand;
do not be anxious about anything,
but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving
let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
As some of you know, my job gets very busy at quarter end times on the calendar due to my team auditing financial statements for public sector retirement plans. They are usually challenging because of the tight schedule we have to meet. Sometimes they are more challenging because of changes in format, other developments, or system issues. Both I and my boss have done this for many years, and have recognized that this has been the most challenging one we have faced. It has required many hours of overtime, and a great deal of effort on my part to research and help the IT department resolve problems.
Twelve to fifteen hour long days test me, both physically and mentally. I am the guy that the rest of our team depends on to keep things going (as much as is in my ability). A few times I have found myself saying a short prayer– something to the effect of, “Lord, I need your help. Please give me the strength to keep going, and the sharpness of mind to keep doing what I need to do.” I know He answered, because I have been able to keep going, and also to keep handling the problems that come up. Sometimes I believe I feel the Holy Spirit’s working by bringing hymns and songs to mind that remind me of God’s care and strength. One night that song was “Abide With Me.” I let it play in my mind for a couple minutes, remembering the message. The first stanza stuck in my mind:
Abide with me; fast falls the eventide; The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide; When other helpers fail and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.
Author and minister Henry Lyte wrote this hymn considering that he was very sick with tuberculosis. He planned a final sermon for his church, including the words of this hymn. I believe he lived about ten weeks after his final sermon. I certainly didn’t feel my impending passing in my situation, but I did feel the darkness of night, failing comfort and strength, and a bit of helplessness at 3 a.m. The last line of the hymn also has a prayer that we all should heed: “In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.”
Lord, please help us to appreciate your presence with us not only in our future home, but in our present life on earth. Thank you for Jesus- our Emmanuel, and for the Spirit. We hope to be the best example for you here on earth, and look forward to eternity with You.
Please listen to the hymn as performed by The King’s Singers:
CALL TO WORSHIP — Psalm 93 The Lord reigns; he is robed in majesty;
the Lord is robed; he has put on strength as his belt.
Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved. Your throne is established from of old;
you are from everlasting. The floods have lifted up, O Lord,
the floods have lifted up their voice;
the floods lift up their roaring.
Mightier than the thunders of many waters,
mightier than the waves of the sea,
the Lord on high is mighty! Your decrees are very trustworthy;
holiness befits your house,
O Lord, forevermore.
CALL TO WORSHIP — Psalm 103:1-5
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
GRACE & ASSURANCE — Psalm 103:8-12 The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.