Sunday 8 April, 2018

    This moving Sermon was given by Margaret Larsen.
    Here is what she told us.

    Good morning everyone.

    When I read Rosemary's text regarding taking the sermon this morning, I felt a moment of panic, and then I had a talk to God about it.  I said "Please help me.  Show me the way."  I decided that we could have a look at the Bible because that is familiar ground for us all.

    When I was a child, I knew that my Father read the Bible to my Mother every night, so I started reading it too, and like Alice in Wonderland, I began at the beginning and went on.  However, I never did get through it to the end.In all of the standard versions, the first four words are

                       "In the beginning, God..."

    Before any thought of his wonderful world, in the beginning, God.  The Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.  He called himself "I am".  Ever present, right now, through every moment of our lives, with us every step of the way.

    Be still and know that I am God, closer than breathing.  We can know the peace and joy that his spirit brings, that here he is, to work through our troubles with us.  All we have to do is ask him.  He doesn't always answer our Prayers in the way that we expect, but he does hear us, and he does answer.

    When my beloved had a hugely disabling stroke in 1998, against all advice I brought him home to care for him.  He couldn't stand up, and he had a lot of pain.  I found myself crying out to God to bless him and take the pain away.  Nothing happened..   He still called out in pain, and I would warm up wheat bags in the microwave, get out my jar of anti-flam and massage his sore places.  With the warm bags and loving touch, he would relax and probably go to sleep.  We felt that God was very present here.  We knew that we could never get through this time without him.

    Ron was blessed by having me to care for him 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for 5 years.  God sharpened my mind by desperation to do what was necessary, to help him with Love, and God is Love.  Just remember, God often works in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform.

    Back to the Bible. It tells the history of the Jewish people, their trials and tribulations, with God leading them to the promised land of milk and honey.  Their strong leaders and prophets pointed to a better way of life.  Then the psalms of David, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the pure poetry of the Song of Solomon. 

    Remember "His canopy over me is Love."  Remember that "Gospel" means "Good news".  God sent his Son to be a light over all our paths, to show us the way that God wants us to live, that we may have life, and have it more abundantly.

      "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have Eternal Life". 

    When Jesus was asked, "which is the greatest commandment", he answered

    "Love the Lord your God with all your soul, and all your heart and mind."  The second most important is this: "Love your neighbour as yourself." Such a simple thing.  If we all behaved lovingly to each other, there would be peace on earth. But we are human, and easily forget all about this.

    Such a simple thing.  If we all behaved lovingly to each other, there would be peace on earth. But we are
    human, and easily forget all about this.

    When I was 11, Nana Wise came to teach us in Sunday School for a couple of years.  She was "Nang" to the Truman kids who lived next door to us.  She made great Toffee.  She also made sure that we learned our Catechism, and a large number of Bible verses every week.  In summer we would sit under the Rata tree in the Manse garden and she would hear our homework. What a great legacy!

    When I broke my ankle a few years ago, and couldn't sleep in hospital, it was a great comfort to me to remember those Bible verses.

    From Psalm 8,

      "When I consider the Heavens, the work of Thy fingers, what is man that Thou are mindful of him?" The sheer wonder of that has always raken my breath away.

    From Psalm 121:

       "I will lift up mine eyes to the hills, from whence cometh my help.  My help cometh from the Lord, who has made Heaven and earth." 

    My home town, Greymouth, is half surrounded by hills, with the wild Tasman pounding in the west.  The Ministers' wife, Mrs Tom Campbell, said that she always thought of that psalm when she shook her tablecloth at the back door.  And the hills were right there.

    Then of course, the Catechism.  I heard a sermon preached on the first question in the shorter catechism in the BeachHaven Church by the then Moderator, Don Brash's father.  The question is - and I can feel all of you trying to recall it - "what is man's chief end?"  The answer, "to glorify God and to enjoy him forever."  Sometimes we forget to enjoy God.  He created us in his own image, and he made his world such a lovely place.  This little blue/green marble following its course in space, and he had the Grace to give it to us to enjoy.   He's got to have a sense of humour, I decided that when I was 11, and saw the sacred baboons at the Wellington zoo.

    Can you remember them?  They are the ones with large pink hairless bottoms.

    These days I have a habit after breakfast of taking my coffee and sitting in a wonderfully comfortable Lazy-boy chair and having a think about all the good things that are going on all around me, and have a talk to God about it.  I Pray for every single one of us all over the world, all loved by God, that we may be kind to each other.

    I grew up with the King  James Bible, taught Sunday School from the Good News Bible when it became available, and more lately I had “The message” given to me.  I just read a chapter at a time these days, or if it's stories from the Gospel, one parable at a time, to keep it clearly in my mind instead of cramming in heaps.

    I get up early enough so that I have time, and feel greatly blessed and at peace by it.  I give Him my heartfelt thanks for all his Goodness to me.

    And finally, back to Nana Wise. Of course she had us learn the 23rd Psalm - along with the Creed and such things.  Sometimes this is such an overwhelming and emotional Psalm because it is read or sung at all our biggest occasions - baptisms, weddings, funerals.  My mother used to read it often in her last years to her sister Margaret, who had terminal cancer.  And then afterwards she couldn't bear to sing it or read it while our eldest daughter was baptised in this Church in 1962. My mum said  "I can sing it again, because I truly feel that my cup runneth over".

    I shall finish with the lovely words of the 23rd Psalm:

      "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,

        ..................

       Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.

       Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
       And I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever".

          Amen