Finding Peace in the Midst of Tribulation

Pastor Kim Gilliland
Easter 4
SCRIPTURE: Psalm 23 and Revelation 7: 9-17
For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Revelation 7: 17 (NIV)

THE MOTHER OF METHODISM

This has been a great day and I promise not to keep you too long. But it has been absolutely wonderful to celebrate the baptism of Gwyn, the confirmation of Ashley, Angie and Anita, and to receive Rick, Dawn and Andy as members of the church. And all of this happening on Mothers Day.

I do want to take a few minutes, however, to talk about peace and specifically the peace that comes from faith. That’s important because all of us will go through times of struggle and it is in those times of struggle that we most need the faith that gives us peace.

Many of you will recognize the name of John Wesley. John Wesley was an Anglican priest in the 18th century who began the Methodist movement in England. Those Methodists eventually found their way to Canada and some of them formed this congregation 152 years ago. So if you go outside and look at the name carved in stone on the side of the building from 1913, it doesn’t say that we are a United Church. It says that we are a Methodist Church. How did we become a United Church? Well, if you were part of the confirmation classes you’d know. The Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church and the Congregational Churches in Canada joined together to form the United Church in 1925. It was the first such union of its kind in the world so it was pretty significant.

So why is that important? It’s important to give you some context for the next story. John Wesley also had a very famous mother, Suzanna Wesley. In fact, while John Wesley is known as the father of Methodism, Suzanna is widely recognized as its mother.

Suzanna Wesley was married to Samuel Wesley who was also an Anglican priest. Together they had nineteen children, ten of whom lived to adulthood. John was number fifteen. You might feel for Suzanna, having nineteen children so it might also interest you that she was the twenty-fifth of the twenty-five children whom her mother bore.

Her husband Samuel was not good with money. He got himself in debt which twice sent him to debtor’s prison. So Susanna was often alone to raise her children. But despite a lack of money and not a lot of support from her husband, Suzanna did an admirable job of raising the family. At the age of five, she began to home school them sons and daughters alike. On their fifth birthday, each child was expected to learn the whole alphabet. That’s how it began. Her home school consisted of six hours of classes every day. Not only did she teach basic skills. She also taught them Latin and Greek. She also tutored them in the classical studies of spelling, grammar, logic, epistemology, philosophy and systematics. And let’s not forget the biblical studies.

Her husband was not only bad at finances, he was a poor preacher. It got to the point where Suzanna, wanting her children to get a good biblical background, began to hold a family worship on Sunday afternoon where she shared a sermon. It wasn’t long before some local people heard of this and asked if they could attend the family worship. Soon, she was preaching to 200 people on Sunday afternoon while her husband’s Sunday morning worship dwindled to practically nothing.

And she did all of this without the aid of a dishwasher, gas range, refrigerator, microwave, computer, cell phone or yoga pants. And did I mention that their house burned down twice? That’s some mother!

No doubt there were times when she had enough of things and just needed some piece and quiet. I’m sure we can all understand that. When those times came, she let everyone know. She simply sat down on a chair and pulled her apron up over her head. When she did that, the children all knew not to bother their mother. That was the signal that she needed some me-time and to interrupt it for anything other than a real emergency was to poke the bear in a most unhealthy way. And there she would stay for as long as it took until the peace returned and she could carry on with the work of raising her family and sharing the gospel message.

PEACE IN FAITH

So, have you ever felt like Suzanne, just needing to put aside all the cares of life and spend a few minutes seeking peace? We’ve all been there, haven’t we? We’ve all felt overburdened and down trodden. We’ve all been at the end of our wits wondering how we will possibly find the strength to carry one. We’ve all wanted things to just slow down for a while.

I know there have been times when I’ve been tempted to throw in the towel. In fact, I saw a Facebook meme this week that talked about that. It said, “I tried to throw in the towel. God threw it back and said, “Wipe your face, you’re almost there!” And I thought, “Maybe that’s what it was like for Suzanna Wesley.” I expect there were there times when she wanted to throw in the towel? But rather than throwing in the towel, she put her apron over her head. And things got quiet. And the kids went away and looked after each other for a while. And in the semi-darkness of the apron covered world she began to hear for the voice of God. And maybe God gave her ten or fifteen minutes of rest and peace. But then God said, “Wipe your face, you’re almost there.”

This morning, we’ve really been celebrating faith. Baptism is an act of faith. Confirmation is an act of faith. Even transferring memberships from one church to another is an act of faith. All of them say that faith is real and all of them say that we will continue down the road of faith from where we are now to wherever it is that God wants us to be. Just being here today is an act of faith. And it is amazing to gather every week with brothers and sisters who share this common faith in Jesus Christ.

Faith is valuable because it is through faith that we can find peace. That’s what it says in Revelation. As many of you know, Revelation is my favourite book in the Bible because it speaks to us in our times of struggle as no other book in the Bible does. One of the places where it speaks most strongly about peace is in Revelation 7. In this chapter John looks up and sees a vision in heaven of a great multitude of people dressed in white robes. They are from every tribe, nation, people and language. And they are before the throne of God. It says that they have palm branches in their hands. Palm branches are a sign of peace. And they cry out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,

who sits on the throne,

and to the Lamb.”                                                              Revelation 7:10 (NIV)

And as they are crying out, all of the angels and the elders in heaven fall down before the throne of God and they say:

“Amen! Praise and glory

and wisdom and thanks and honor

and power and strength

be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”                            Revelation 7:12 (NIV)

And then one of the elders asks John: “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?” (Revelation 7:13 (NIV))

And John doesn’t know so he says, “Sir, you know.” (Revelation 7:14 (NIV))

And so the elder tells him who they are: “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” These are the ones who have been through tribulation. Tribulation is a pretty strong word but Revelation is a book filled with strong images. Tribulation is a word that means a lack of peace. These are the people who have experienced trouble and sorrow – a lack of peace. But they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. The Lamb, of course, is Jesus and what this simply means is that they have found their peace in him. Through Jesus, tribulation is transformed into peace. And it closes with these words:

They are before the throne of God

and serve him day and night in his temple;

and he who sits on the throne

will shelter them with his presence.

Never again will they hunger;

never again will they thirst.

The sun will not beat down on them,

nor any scorching heat.

For the Lamb at the center of the throne

will be their shepherd;

he will lead them to springs of living water.

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.                                  

                                                                          Revelation 7:15-17 (NIV)

Those who have gone through tribulation will find peace. This is the promise of faith. This is the promise of Jesus. Faith does not promise that we will never face times of tribulations but it does guarantee that we will not face them alone. Peace will come. Peace in this life. Peace in the life to come. Claim that promise today and discover the peace that only God can give.

For the Lamb at the center of the throne

will be their shepherd;

he will lead them to springs of living water.

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

That is the testimony of those who put their faith in Jesus.

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

Holy God, we come before your throne with hearts full of praise for all of your great deeds and wonders. Thank you that we can come to you, that through Jesus Christ we are your adopted children and inheritors of your eternal promise. We thank you for the beauty of creation as it unfolds around us. Thank you for budding trees and warm spring days. Thank you for colours, breezes and new life.

We are so grateful that we are valuable in your sight. You have called us and made us for specific purposes. You have chosen us, and set your purpose within each of us. Enable us to comprehend, understand, and fulfill that purpose, knowing that if we accomplish anything it is only through your Wonderful Spirit. Because you live, we also live!

We pray for your healing presence in a world of pain and suffering. There are floods in the east and drought in the west. There are people suffering from the effects of war and famine. There are refugees escaping persecution and poverty. We say a special prayer for our soldiers who continue to serve and put themselves in harm’s way for the cause of peace and justice. There is just needless suffering in this world, caused mostly by those who seek wealth and power. Shine your light to bring healing and peace to your troubled children.

We lift up in prayer the sick of our congregation and community. We remember, Sharon, Mary and Herb. We would pray that your Healing Spirit would descend upon them and all others who need your touch, offering hope and light both for now and forever.

We also lift I prayer the family and friends of Bill Heatherington whose funeral will be on Tuesday. Thank you for his gentle spirit and faith and for the way he quietly supported the ministry of this church over the years.

Heavenly Father, it is our greatest desire to exemplify your love and character, not only in what we say, but in everything that we do. We want our lives to be so much more than just talk. We would be bold to ask that you would enable us to be constant and consistent examples of your healing and self sacrificing love.

We raise these prayers in the Holy Name of Jesus. Amen.

WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE

May 12, 2019 / Easter 4

SCRIPTURE

Psalm 23; John 10:22-30; Acts 9:36-43; Revelation 7:9-17

CALL TO WORSHIP

God is our Shepherd;

God is our Saviour;

Let us lift our voices to the Lord;

We will praise the One who was and is and is to come.

PRAYER OF APPROACH

Hear our prayers, O Gracious God, as we come into this house of worship. The murmurings of our souls cry out to you for you are the One who gives us hope, both for now and into the future. Speak to our hearts. Touch our lives with deepest blessings. Enliven our spirits to experience your Word, that we may be transformed into images of your love. Come, Lord Jesus, come and flow over us with the sweet waters of life. Amen.

PRAYER OF CONFESSION

We confess, O God, that we are not perfect. Our motives are seldom pure. Our vision is often clouded. We place our hope in the transitory things of life and dream of fleeting fame. Forgive us, Merciful One, when we do not keep our minds focuses on you and the things of your Holy Kingdom. Turn us around, once more, that we may walk in your way.Amen.

ASSURANCE OF PARDON

When we stray, there is one who calls us home. Jesus is our Shepherd. He is the One who laid down his life for his sheep. We are his sheep and we can have complete confidence that when we confess our sins, we are truly forgiven.

DEDICATION OF OFFERING

Receive our offerings, Generous God, in the same spirit in which they are given. We could never match your generousity but we give what we can, when we can. We thank you for all of your great goodness. Amen.

COMMISSIONING

The time has come to leave this place and venture out into the world beyond these four walls. Always remember that no matter where we go, God is there. The hand of God is upon us. The love of God is within us.

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