Bradenton-Sarasota Congregation Online Service
March 14, 2021
Call to Worship:
Before anything else existed, there was Christ, with God. He has always been alive and is himself God….Eternal life is in him, and this life gives light to all mankind. His life is the light that shines through the darkness-and the darkness can never extinguish it….his own people did not accept him. Only a few welcomed and did accept him. John 1:1-4, 11-12
May we invite and “Accept The Light” in our worship this day.
Hymn: “Jesus Messiah Name Above All Names” by Chris Tomlin
Prayer for Peace:
In the gospel of John, chapter 14, verse 27 Jesus tells us: “I am leaving you with a gift — peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (from: The Living Bible paraphrased)
Our Prayer: Lord, please help us to take you up on your promise. We thirst for this kind of peace that only you can give. Please quench our thirst for peace that we might by a soothing, calming influence in a world so filled with troubled minds and hearts. May the light of Your Son, Jesus, shine forth from us and into our neighborhoods, schools, work places and where ever we find ourselves. In the Name of the Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, the name above all names, I pray; Amen.
Song: “This Little Light of Mine” by the Listener Kids
Disciples Generous Response:
In 2nd Corinthians 9: 6-7 we read:
“But this I say, he which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he proposeth in his heart, so let him give, not grudgingly or of necessity, for God loveth a cheerful giver.”
One of the many things I miss, while we are not permitted to worship in person, is our little children running up the aisle to put their money in the basket. These little ones only have what their parents have given them but they trust they will be continually provided for. My offertory prayer is that each of us “adult” children may become more like our little ones “for such is the kingdom of heaven.” May we put our trust in our Heavenly Parent at least as much as these little ones put their trust in their earthly parents. Let us give with cheerful hearts and maybe even skip up the aisle!
During this season of Lent we follow the closing days of Jesus’ life in human form as he moves toward the garden, the cross and the resurrection. It was during these last days that Jesus asked his disciples if they were willing to pick up their crosses and follow Him. I recently heard the story of a missionary where he and his wife were called to witness in a place where their health would be under threat by diseases. His wife died of malaria. When asked about this, the Missionary said, “It was necessary that we go; it was not necessary that we live.” While most of us will not be called to minister in such places, none the less, Jesus is asking us, his disciples, are we willing to pick up our crosses and follow Him? Are you willing? Am I?
Song: ”Where he leads me” by Willie Nelson
Message by Evangelist Al Mount
Today, our scriptures come from the Gospel of John. John may have been approaching 100 yrs old as he was recalling and put into writing his life’s walk with Jesus. He was the last of the original twelve apostles. John is known as the Spiritual gospel writer.
To help us understand why John preaches and teaches what he does, it might help us to look at First, his audience, and Second, one of the issues the church was facing.
First: John is speaking to the Greeks. If John was speaking to the Jews he would have been trying to convince them that Jesus is the long awaited Messiah. But the concept of the Messiah would mean little, if anything, to the Greeks. So, John has a dilemma: How does he reach into the hearts and minds of the great Greek thinkers with his Gospel Message? Lecky, the historian, said, and I paraphrase, “that to spread an idea no matter how great, it will take more than the power of the idea, for much will depend on the predisposition of those we are speaking to and of the age it is presented.” John, however, living centuries before Lecky, already recognized this truth as he listened to the Greek thinkers seeking to discover their predispositions.
As John listened and prayed he learned that the Greeks had a concept/belief that there are two worlds. The shadow world (which is the world we live in) and the REAL world that is invisible. And so, a light goes on in John’s mind! He sees a way to share the gospel using Greek thought and terminology. John puts forth the concept that Jesus is REALITY come to Earth!! In Jesus, the invisible world of reality is made visible! Jesus said, “I am the Light and the Truth.” Truth and Reality, as I (Al) see it, are one in the same. When we move towards the Light, we move toward reality and away from the shadows and doubts of this world.
So, how successful was John in reaching into the hearts and minds of the Greeks with the Gospel message? I once read that by 60 AD there must have been a hundred thousand Greeks in church for every Jew who was Christian!
Secondly, let’s look at one of the challenges the church was facing that John addresses in his gospel.
During John’s time there occurred what John saw as heresies that were a threat to the church; it was called Gnosticism.
Among other things, the Gnostics taught that God could never take on flesh because flesh is evil, so Jesus could not have been in the flesh. In fact, God, as the Gnostics saw it, was so far removed from us that he could care less. (Kind of like the words Shakespeare put into the mouth of King Lear: “Man is to the god’s as flies to little boys.”)
As we look at John’s writings in chapter 3, verses 16-21, we see John fighting back at the Gnostics. John unequivocally states that Jesus and God are the exact opposite of Gnostic thinking. Looking at John 3:16 we read: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John is out in the open preaching and teaching about how much God does care, that God cares so much that He sacrificed His only Begotten Son; there is no GREATER love. John is teaching that God cares more about us than we care about ourselves. God loves us even more than we love those who are closest to us – mom, dad, spouses, even our children!
The Gnostics also believed that God was a punishing God. NOT SO says John as we look at verse 17: “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn but to save it through him.” You see, Jesus does not condemn us. I have found that when we speak words of condemnation to a person, group or even a nation; we tend to drive them away. If we tell someone how bad they are often enough there is a good chance they will believe it and become it. Jesus knows this as he came to heal, love, bless and save us from our shadowy selves to lead us into what is REAL. Taking us from darkness and into the Light of truth.
But here comes a seeming contradiction! In verse 18 John writes, “Those who do not believe or trust Jesus are condemned already.” Pretty harsh words about a loving God, don’t you think?
Here my (Al) mind goes to the time when Jesus was looking over Jerusalem saying, “How often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and ye would not.” (Matthew 23:37) You see, Jesus knew of the coming destruction of Jerusalem which could have been avoided if they had just listened, believed and obeyed His word. Jerusalem had condemned herself to destruction as she loved the darkness (the shadow world) more than the Light (Reality).
Obedience to God is important! As a child my parents told me “Don’t play in the street.” If I would have disobeyed and gotten hit with a car, my misbehavior condemned me, not my parents whose heart I would have broken, just as I break God’s heart with my disobediences.
Jesus is our guiding Light, he steers us through our darkest times and takes us into the Light. Where there is light there can be no darkness. Ever notice what happens when we turn on our lights in our dark bedrooms in the middle of the night? Darkness vanishes!
Many years ago, at the age of 19, I and one of my friends were out on the Chesapeake Bay in my little boat. We took the boat up to Georgetown and visited for a while. When we got back to the boat a dense fog had come over the water. All we could do (except doing the smart thing and stay put, fat chance!) was to cruise slowly and follow the sounds of the bells coming from the buoys until we could see their lights, which guided us to safe port, just as Jesus does for you and me. Those buoys were my guiding light. If we had gone our own way we would have been completely lost in the darkness.
Lastly, in verse 21, John calls us to action as he writes: “He who puts the truth into action comes to the light that his deeds, may be made plain for all to see, because they are done in God.”
May it be so. May our ACTIONS speak louder than our words. Let us Accept, Obey and Follow the Light of the World into REALITY. Amen
Closing hymn/ prayer: “The Prayer” by Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion
This service was prepared by Al Mount.