Sunday School Anniversary 2020
Sunday 7th June
‘Locked in but United’ Pisgah prayer list and reflection - June the 7th anniversary edition!
We may not be able to meet in the chapel but we can still give thanks for our church family - Gods gift to us these past 199 years and, we pray, a source of strength and encouragement as we walk into the future as disciples of Jesus.
If you have never read the history section on our website then today might be a good time - not as a purely nostalgic exercise but for encouragement and inspiration perhaps as you read of those early non-conformist pioneers exercising faith and building the chapel out of their poverty.
Rob Scourfield and I have written a couple of articles which can be accessed in the History links:
On Sunday you will be able to access our lockdown anniversary musical pieces - members of Pisgah old and young providing a line or two for our chosen hymns from our homes.
I will send an email out on Sunday morning with a link you can click to access the anniversary videos on our site.
I will also place the videos on our Facebook page on Sunday morning.
Don’t worry if you can’t access these as we’ll play them on the big screen when we can meet again as a fellowship!
June 7th ANNIVERSARY REFLECTION:
How odd not to be meeting for our musical anniversary celebrations today, who could have imagined this?
It’s unsurprising then that many of us are feeling a little disheartened on this, our special occasion, but we look forward of course to a wonderful celebration next June in our 200th year meeting as a fellowship in the little chapel on the hill.
The point of each anniversary is to give thanks for what God has given, is giving and will give us so let’s not spoil today with lament, let’s instead choose to give thanks as we always have on this first Sunday in June (albeit in a temporarily unaccustomed fashion) because the ‘point’ remains and although at home today we are still in the presence of the shepherd God and we are united in him. He called us into his family and we will once again have the privilege of joining with his local branch in person before too long!
For our ‘virtual anniversary’ hymn we voted on the modern rendition of ‘the lords my shepherd’ - this wonderful text (psalm 23) is particularly appropriate in altered and difficult situations because it reminds us that he never deserts us and he walks with us in every single life circumstance.
I thought I would keep ‘on theme’ by using this psalm for today’s anniversary reflection but rather than reflecting in the usual ‘semi sermon’ style I want to use the words to form a thanksgiving celebration opportunity for each of us - a chance to ‘count our blessings’ as it were on this special Sunday.
I have used the much loved psalm as a framework- I will provide my personal brief ‘thanksgiving reflections’ throughout it and then invite you to prayerfully do the same- thinking about what the shepherd has/is doing/will do for you and prayerfully giving thanks.
Let’s allow this prayerful reflection to be our ‘psalm of praise’ in lieu of our anniversary musical programme and a way of taking his hand as we continue to walk our life path with him.
Before you start I would invite you to just close your eyes for a minute or so in preparation. Take a few slow breaths - let the out breath be a little longer than the intake. As you feel yourself begin to relax, quietly ask God to draw near, ask him to use the words of psalm 23 to encourage and minister to you and help you to praise him.....
READ PSALM 23
No matter where my journey has taken me in life, Psalm 23 has been a constant companion. It has unfailingly brought me comfort in my greatest times of need, and reminds me of the care and protection of my Good Shepherd.
How about you?
Have there been times in your life when these verses have been especially relevant or comforting?
Use this time before we start to just reflect on the impact the psalm has had on your life and thank him for any blessing or comfort you may recall
REFLECT - on your past experience of the psalm
GIVE THANKS - thank God for these comforting words
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want”. (Psalm 23:1)
Notice that the psalmist doesn’t simply say that the Lord is the or a shepherd - he says that he is MY shepherd.
He isn’t talking about a theological concept, he’s referring to a relationship.
MY Lord cares for and watches over me, and provides all that I need.
He is my Pastor, Shepherd, Overseer, Guidance Counselor, Daddy God, Father, Provider and Giver of all things.
He’s the spiritual hug when I feel afraid or alone. He’s the whispered ‘I love you, you matter to me’ when I feel inadequate or foolish.
-Is the Lord YOUR shepherd or is he merely A shepherd - a pleasant concept or metaphor?
-What is the personally Lord to you?
-Do you ever find yourself keeping him at arm's length?
-Will you let him draw near?
-Fill in the blank of the following statement in your reflection; ‘the Lord is my .......‘
REFLECT on the above questions
GIVE THANKS for what he is to you
“He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters”. (Psalm 23:2-3)
Adversity is wonderful for my prayer life, but he’s not just the God to accompany me/us in the difficult ‘valley moments’ -
how often have I drifted into lukewarm distraction when all is rosy in the garden?
God is the God of laughter and peace, friendship and fellowship. Scripture shows us that he wanted his people to remember him in the context of feasting and parties, not dour observances!
An elderly gentleman once told me that he opens the bedroom curtains each morning with the words ‘thank you God’ (for the sun, rain, snow whatever).
As I read this psalm I found myself thanking the lord for bringing me rest, peace and refreshment. He helps me to be still in His presence so that He can bring peace and refreshment to my soul.
The Lord provides strength for my weary heart in those moments when life is calm and I can enjoy contentment - these moments enable me to walk forward on my journey.
Thank you Lord.
-What are the green pasture and still water moments in your life?
-have you ever experienced these moments in the midst of difficult circumstances?
Do you need to ask for his inner calm today?
-Why not take time to say thank you now.
“He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake”. (Psalm 23:4)
Nobody likes a ‘self-righteous’ believer, so how can we be righteous without being deeply unpopular? Fortunately with God we can ditch the ‘self’ because ‘The Lord guides me into righteousness’ so that our life will glorify Him.
The Lord has given us the necessary tools to live a Godly life - we have His Word and the Holy Spirit who is our teacher. We have fellow believers to turn to. We also have his mercy to fall back on when we mess up or slip into self righteousness or legalism!
-do you rely on him to lead you in paths of righteousness or do you sometimes become a little ‘self’ righteous through your own religious efforts?
-are there areas of your life that you need help becoming more ‘righteous’ in?
-what area of your spiritual (or soul) life would you like God to restore?
GIVE THANKS that HE leads us and makes us better as we journey with him
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4a)
I confessed a moment ago that I most naturally turn to God when life becomes challenging or frightening and it is at these times that, in the words of John Newton, I am struck by his ‘amazing grace’. I have never sensed God saying ‘so NOW you turn to me when you need something, why should I help you?!’ - I would probably feel that way in his place.
No, instead I sense his presence, his comfort as he takes hold of my hand.
The Lord is close to me in the lowest of times, and I need not fear.
Even though I may walk through dark times, I trust that God is with me even there.
It is in those times where I press into Him, spending more time in His presence, letting His love enfold me.
When I am close to him, all the worldly cares fall off.
-have you experienced that amazing grace when you turn to him in desperation?
-what are the ‘dark valley’ moments when you need him most in your life?
“your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.” (Psalm 23: 4b)
The rod and staff were not merely walking aids or trendy outdoor accessories for the ancient wandering shepherd, they were his defensive tools. Shepherds in the Middle East had to protect the flock from mountain lions, rustlers and other fierce dangers. In the hands of a skilled shepherd, that staff was pretty formidable. When David, the young pre-kingly shepherd lad in 1Samuel was about to face Goliath, he spoke about his experience fighting dangerous creatures having been ideal preparation for that big lout!
David, traditional author of this psalm, uses these shepherdly items as a metaphor for HIS shepherd - the God who protects and comforts HIS human sheep.
He speaks of his experience with the lord to encourage those who will read/sing this psalm to help them see and be encouraged by the truth that his God will protect and comfort all who choose to walk with him.
“You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies”; (Psalm 23:5a)
The Lord provides a feast for me, even in the presence of my enemies.
I sometimes use these words from psalm 23 as an opening for communion. I once used them when I visited an elderly lady who was struggling with illness. I brought the little communion set provided to the chapel by the Arthur family in memory of their parents. We took communion together and afterwards she commented that the words from verse 5 helped her to see that the communion was like the ‘table’ prepared for her by God and the ‘enemies’ were her infirmity. She found this comforting and it bolstered her faith.
We will have trials, but if we ‘feast’ on His word, and learn to be still in His presence, it makes walking through those times much easier.
-What are your enemies?
-Will you allow him to feed you, even when you are surrounded by ‘enemies’?
“you anoint my head with oil”; (Psalm 23:5b)
According to my theological dictionary anointing in the Bible meant;
‘To ceremonially confer divine or holy office upon (a priest or monarch) by smearing or rubbing with oil ie - "Samuel anointed him king"’.
Jesus extended this anointing to ALL believers and in the New Testament we see it conferred both by oil and directly by the Holy Spirit.
The oil is a symbol of someone’s calling (choosing) by God, it’s not the anointing itself. It’s also worth noting that the term anointing doesn't just relate to priests or monarchs!
We are all invited to follow the shepherd, all who accept the invitation - hold the shepherds hand, are chosen (anointed).
Being anointed by God literally means;
‘set apart for service to the Lord’.
At its most basic (and profound) level it refers to loving others and expressing that as according to the abilities (giftings) and opportunities God has given you.
-how does the idea that you are anointed make you feel?
-as someone called to service, what opportunities do you have to express your Christ like love to others?
“my cup overflows”. (Psalm 23:5c)
Are you a cup half full or half empty person?
We can’t help our personality types but spiritually speaking we should all be ‘cup full’ people - full of hope, full of peace, full with the spirit, no matter what our circumstances.
We may not always ‘feel’ full but feelings can be deceptive - we choose to commit to the ‘cup filler’ and hold in faith to his promises to us.
-how often do you make a conscious effort to count your blessings?
-faith is a gift from God, we don’t have to strive for it in our own strength. Do you need to ask for more of his faith?
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life”, (Psalm 23:6a)
This isn’t about having an ‘easy life’ - life can be tough, Jesus never promised otherwise. Goodness and mercy are the survival aids that God gives us as we travel life’s path and the shepherd is the companion for all seasons and conditions.
“and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever”. (Psalm 23:6b)
Jesus once explained to the sadducees (the religious Jews who didn’t believe in life after death) that the God of Moses they love to speak about is God of the living, not the dead.
The Moses who died on mount Pisgah is alive.
Jesus is the ‘good shepherd’ God revealed - in person.
The God who walked the path of death (on the cross) and emerged into life (Easter resurrection).
The same shepherd God who offers to walk your life path with you - even through death to life with him.
Not life for life’s sake -
But life that can be lived to the full;
‘and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
He made this possible -
He did it for me and for you.
-How does Psalm 23 speak to you in your time of need?
Here’s a link to Stewart Townsend singing his version of psalm 23 - the video has the words on it.
Why not end this reflection by singing this now?
If you feel a little shy then perhaps you could read the psalm in your bible again and read the words as a closing prayer.
God bless and happy anniversary,