Monday Reverb – 22May2023

WELCOME and THANKS for joining us.



We are now into our final week of the Easter season … and the next big event on our worship calendar is Pentecost, which celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit (and the birth of the NT Church).  Pentecost will be observed next Sunday (May 28, 2023).

The theme for this week is getting on with God’s work.

  • Our call to worship Psalm reminds us that God cares for the lonely and the prisoners, suggesting that we have an active role in worship-leading them in singing and praise.
  • In Acts 1, we hear the gentle rebuke from the angels following Jesus’ Ascension, reminding the disciples that they have a commission.
  • Jesus’ prayer for the disciples in John 17 recalls that they have been chosen by the Father, and he prays for their protection as they remain in the world following his Ascension.
  • Finally, in our sermon passage for today, we are told in 1 Peter to cast our worries on God so we can stand firm in doing God’s work amidst any challenges or trials we have to endure.



  • Title: Reaching Out to the Lonely
  • Presenter:  Greg Williams, President of GCI
  • Keynote Passage:  Psalm 68:4-6a

From the transcript …

Are you a fan of the Beatles? If so, you may remember their well-known song, Eleanor Rigby. In the chorus they sing, “…look at all the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong?”

Despite the many tools we have to stay connected, younger generations in western culture have been described by mental health professionals as the loneliest generation.[1]

Wrestling with feeling alone is an experience most of us can identify with and it brings us to ask the same nagging question posed by the Beatles – where do I belong?

Thankfully God supplies an answer in a wonderful scripture, Psalm 68 tells us that God is for us and with us:

Sing to God, sing in praise of his name, extol him who rides on the clouds; rejoice before him – his name is the Lord.  A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.  God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing.   Psalm 68:4-6a

Where there is a need for relationship, we see our loving Father in heaven ready to step in and bring healing and an end to the loneliness.  In the church, we are blessed to join in our ministry of inclusionGod sets the lonely in families, and we can be those families: ready to accept, love, and encourage the lonely souls God sets before us.

      • Lend an ear to the chatty person on the bus in desperate need for conversation, not just once or twice, but whenever you are able!
      • Make a point of speaking to the quiet individual often ignored in the back corner of the room – and not just about the weather – find out what they enjoy talking about!
      • Keep your eyes and ears open so you can see those who are feeling lonely, and you can reach out to them.
      • If someone seems like an outsider, then help them feel the belonging that can be found in a loving community that shares the love that God has given them.

The ways in which we can join in God’s ministry of inclusion are many, and often require us to be ready to step out of our own social bubbles, or out of our own state of loneliness so that we can truly engage with those in need of relationship and care.

Let Jesus’ love in you reach out to the lonely around youShow them they matter.  As the doors open, share God’s love with them and help them see they are included among those God loves.  And maybe, just maybe, you’ll end up in a new relationship that God has prepared for you.

I’m Greg Williams, Speaking of Life.




Unmoved by the Lions

1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11 (NIV)

Perhaps you’re familiar with Bobby McFerrin’s 1988 hit Don’t Worry, Be Happy.  This iconic song hit top of the charts at the time, and thirty-six years later can still be heard regularly in coffee shops, street parties and glass elevators (especially helpful for anyone who’s both claustrophobic and acrophobic).  McFerrin’s lyrics offer the title’s simple advice for any and every situation and they have become the guiding principles for many seeking to live a carefree life.

Dig a little deeper into the lyrics of the song though, and there is cause to wonder whether McFerrin was parodying a phrase that is often carelessly used to dismiss the real concerns and anxieties by well-meaning but socially inept friends.  In the song he tells people wrestling with homelessness, financial ruin, loneliness, and social stigma to stop bringing everyone else down with their negative attitudes – instead, he advises, “like good little children, don’t worry, be happy.”

While “don’t worry, be happy” has the ring of sage advice, in the face of real tangible life challenges it smacks of insincerity.  Most of us would love to be able to throw our worries away and indulge in some good old fashioned positive thinking — however, it’s far easier said than done.  Yet the advice to put our worries aside has its roots firmly in scripture.  Jesus warns against worrying, asking us whether we can add any time to our life by doing so (Matthew 6:27), and he goes on to tell us not to worry over the future (Matthew 6:34).  In Philippians, Paul tells to be anxious about nothing but rather to bring everything to God in prayer (Philippians 4:6-7).  In our passage for today, Peter explores the trials that suffering and persecution bring to Christians, and calls for us to surrender our anxieties to God in the midst of those struggles.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Be alert and of sober mind.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.  To him be the power for ever and ever.  Amen. (1 Peter 5:6-11 NIV).

It is easy to read Peter’s advice to “cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” as a flippant dismissal of those same anxieties.  And the same thoughts could be had about the passages in Matthew and Philippians — but only if you remove them from their contexts.  These are not throw-away lines intended to placate someone’s grief, so we don’t have to deal with it ourselves.  The advice given in each case comes amidst a far more detailed discussion about worry or suffering.  Jesus speaks his words of advice after framing the greater context of God’s care for his creation – we do not worry because we have come to believe God truly cares for us.  In Philippians, Paul tells us not to be anxious after having already talked about how to focus on the incredible things God has done – a pathway to fortify our faith through his faithfulness.

In our passage Peter begins with a “therefore” – meaning it follows the greater context of what was written before it, thus the bulk of Peter’s first letter.  Throughout the letter, we have been taught that righteous suffering, that is, suffering for righteousness’ sake, means participating in Jesus’ suffering by only suffering for doing what is right or for the sake of the GospelIn other words, when we suffer, we relate more clearly to the love that Jesus had when he chose to suffer for our sakeIn no way is Peter trying to downplay our suffering per se — he is instead trying to help us understand it in its proper context in Christ.

In fact, a theme throughout the book is that sufferings and trials are things we endure just as Jesus endured suffering for us.  Also, as is indicated here in this passage, the machinations of the devil are to be resisted.  Endure, resist, stand firm – these are the responses we are called to have in the face of suffering and trials.  These responses are not grounded in simple “positive thinking,” rather, they infer challenge, patience and practice.  In other words, it’s not so much “don’t worry, be happy” that’s grounded in scripture, but more “don’t worry, stand strong in Jesus.” And our capacity to stand strong is something that we have been given by God in grace:

… the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast…

Therefore, the basis for our letting go of anxieties and worry is grounded in the certainty of God’s faithful love.   We cast our worry and anxiety on God because he cares for us.  And our God who cares for us and loves us will not let us remain in suffering eternally, but instead he draws us out, comforts us, and gives us the strength and hope we need.

The reason that throw-away phrases such as “don’t worry, be happy” or “it’ll be alright on the night” can sound trite is because they are rarely said within the context of faith.  In fact, Christians can often be perceived as callous toward those outside the faith because we may seem to be too dismissive of death and suffering.  What is a statement evoking deep theological truths to a mature Christian, may appear as an offensive platitude to a non-believer.

Peter’s advice about enduring suffering applies solely within its correct context — i.e., suffering for doing the right thing or the GospelSuffering brought on by our own sin and actions are a different matter entirely.   Rather we should enable the transformation of our behaviour through the work of the Holy Spirit in our livesIf we suffer, let it be for a higher reason – following Jesus.

When we delve back into Peter’s discussions on suffering, we see that he is giving his advice so that believers may live out their faith with eyes wide open.  We don’t live perfect, happy lives because our enemy is prowling around seeking whom he may devour.  Naivety about this risks our being potential prey as we succumb to despair when life does not go our way.

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.  If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. (1 Peter 4:12-14 NIV).

Back in chapter 4, Peter tells his readers that the suffering they are currently enduring should not be a surprise.  It is a test, not from God as he has no need; he knows who are his and his Spirit speaks the better word of Christ over any such need.  No, this is the challenge of the prowling lion, or of those who oppose Christ.  Much as a vindictive individual might aggravate their Christian neighbour just to see how Christian they are, so too we can see this in action on larger scales within the body of the church.

We are called to respond to such trials, not with retribution or anger, but as an opportunity to join with Christ in his suffering.  In doing so, we become witnesses to those around us and can celebrate when that witness bears fruit.  Our endurance of suffering and the surrendering of our anxieties is a participation in Christ, and potentially ends up with a clear and intentional goal – the preaching of Christ and the glorification of God.    

Hopefully, you can see here that Peter is not talking about an abstract concept when he speaks of casting our anxieties upon GodHe is asking us to frame suffering in its correct context and take on a mindset to trust in God, remaining unmoved even when surrounded by lions.  And we do so because we know that God is good and that, by witnessing to this truth, we partner with him in the ministry of Salvation.










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