Welcome (Psalm 23)
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.
Preparation: Make me a channel of your peace
Call to Worship (Psalm 116:16-19)Call to Worship: John 10:7-10
Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."
Let us worship God who through Jesus leads us in this world.
The Lord’s my shepherd
At the sound of your voice, O God, the world came into being. With the first word you spoke, the light pushed out the darkness. With the first vision of creation, you established what is good in this world.
As the creator of heaven, earth and all therein, open our eyes to your recreation in Christ Jesus our Lord your Son. Open our ears to your voice of love calling us into being. Open our hearts to overflow with joys of your presence. Open our mouths to praise you without ceasing.
Come and receive the joyful praises from us. Be glad for we are here to love and enjoy you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Scripture: (John 14:27; 15:1-14)
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.
Peace to most of us means life of little or no troubles. Hearts are free from worries of death and crisis that hinder our freedoms of being. Of course, it does not mean total freedom and no concerns whatsoever. Peace means that we are able to deal adequately with difficulties we face without the major threats to our lives. Mind you, toward the end of life, we speak of a peaceful end to our physical existences as well. Peace in this sense means life taking its course as pretty much as we expect without dramatic events that drive our lives into all kinds of unexpected painful and suffering situations. Yes, in peace, we can handle and tolerate certain amounts of upheavals.
Peace for Christians, however, is far more than life without troubles, pressures, fears and anxieties. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” Jesus’ peace is more than the absence of negative forces breathing down on people’s necks. It is all about trusting God and being led by God at all times. Committing the present and future in God’s hand and following God’s will in full obedience is the peace that Jesus leaves with us. In this peace, as we saw during his passion and suffering on the cross, it was possible for Jesus to pray, “Not my will, but yours be done.”
This unconditional trust guides Jesus to die on the cross, buried and raised from the dead on the third day. Yes, this peace is gained not by discarding fears or overcoming anxieties and threats of death, but by facing them squarely and walking through them with our lives in God’s hand. Total reliance on God does change our behaviours and attitudes. There is freedom from worries of this world. This does not mean that we pretend there are no difficulties. It means that we trudge through hardship by building and sharing life with fullness of love as a defiant power against death. It is not a coincidence that our passage ends with the command to love.
Think for a moment what is happening in our world. Everything we hear fills our hearts with uneasy uncertainties. NATO politicians are busy speaking up about supporting Ukraine to the last Ukrainians. At every opportunity American politicians are warning us about the dangerous Chinese Communists who are ready to pounce on Taiwan. As if to emphasize how dangerous the world is, we are told that Sudan is now in full blown out civil war. In the meantime, the suppressions of Palestinians persists like a dull pain in a hard to get to part of one’s body. Yemenis are continually facing bombs. Kurds are without homes as powerful countries occupy their rich oil fields. All in all there are more than 30 civil or international wars happening in the world.
Apart from actual wars, poor people are ostracised and humiliated into homelessness. More and more middle class people are finding that they cannot cope with daily pressures on their time. The health of people has deteriorated so much that the Canadian Mental Health Association have set aside the first 7 days of May as the mental health awareness week. People are without peace. People seek peace without knowing what it is they are searching for. People simply want to live life without anxiety, fear, misery, pain, suffering and worries. It is only natural for all of us to be free of these burdens.
In a way we have built our economic systems to be free of daily worries of being poor and destitute. Our political systems are designed to free us from threats by the powerful. Our social structures are devised to help each human being flourish without too many worries. Our medical institutions are designed to alleviate pain and suffering. Yet, we know all of these societal bones are crumbling everywhere. By no particular fault of their own these safety nets we have designed and implemented so carefully are breaking down everywhere forcing people to deal with the threats of death everyday.
No wonder we seek peace. No wonder no one takes any peace talk seriously. Talk of peace is now just a front to continue fighting, exploiting, and suppressing. The world is in desperate need of relief from wars, conflicts, economic exploitations, and social imbalance. Regular people like us simply want to get on living in peace. We know that everyone will have an opportunity to flourish when there is peace on all fronts including economic and social arenas. Everyone knows that in peace our lives would thrive based on our efforts.
Wars, be they political, economic or social, are the result of destructive forces unleashed by human beings. If we are able to control and contain our urges for greed, envy, domination, anger and revenge, peace may be possible. However, throughout human history, we learned that it is impossible to control evil in us. We have known that evil lurks in ways that we are always lured into violent conflicts destroying one another. We have not been able to shake off sin in ways that we should be able to. We learned that humanity cannot save itself. How, in this world, can anyone have peace?
The answer is rather simple. The first and foremost thing to understand is that peace for us is to put our lives and all that we are in God’s hand. Then, we let God lead us through whatever difficulties we face. We may be afraid for our lives, but we face situations of death with calm and clear knowledge that life belongs to God, not to us. Our lives in facing pain, suffering and threats of death unfold according to God’s intention for us. This insight strengthens us to face all circumstances in peace.
Yes, peace is all about being with God and putting our lives in total trust to God. Like those who are not Christians, we fear death. We, too, are full of the dilemma of choices under the threat of death. The difference is we let God’s will be done through all that we do. In this we find no personal conflict, but peace in all matters. In all circumstances, we let God’s will be done. This is why we can follow Jesus in praying, “not my will, but yours.” Though we personally agonize over our own deaths, Jesus’ prayer becomes ours and in and through that prayer we not only demonstrate our love for God but also receive God’s peace in our lives. With this gift of God’s peace, we find courage of love to lay down our lives for others.
This is why peace without love is not possible for us. Our peace that Jesus gave us is the peace that stems from God’s love for the world that was given through Jesus God’s own Son in obedience to God’s will. Yes, love leads us to God’s peace being shared through all that we do in the most difficult circumstances even when the last option is death. In this love, we are able to let God’s love manifest through us in peace. So we are present with people as bombs and shells take people’s lives away. We carve out a peaceful world in the midst of wars by loving. Peace in Christian understanding is the state of being resulting from love.
Jesus in agony at Gethsemane was at peace in spite of the coming doom of death because he was loved and was loving. Jesus on the cross shouting, “Why have you forsaken me?” was still in the state of peace and he was able to be obedient to God’s will. He, though in anguish, fear and pain, was at peace with what God was doing and who he was as the one sent to die in order to save the world. This is why in this John’s passage we read, Jesus left his peace with his disciples, knowing that his love was sufficient in times of persecutions and troubles. They were being loved by him and they loved him and one another.
So we, as ones carrying Christ’s peace, can love in all situations. By loving, then, we share the peace of Christ with all those who are suffering and in misery as they navigate through this world, filled with sin and snares of sin. Again, our task is to love God’s people whom we encounter under all circumstances. By loving, we become God’s instruments of peace on earth in all circumstances especially in places where people are threatened with death.
O God, hear our prayer.
Though you have blessed us sufficiently to flourish in this world, we come with our needs and concerns. Though you have filled our life with your love, we approach you as sinners in need of redemption. Though you have made us instruments of peace, we come from the world of wars. Hear our prayer, O God on this day as we humbly raise our voices to you.
Year after year, we come with prayer for those who are suffering because of wars. Wars that are made out of greed for power, control and wealth: wars that maim, wound and kill for profit and domination. Be kind to your people who are continuing to lose their loved ones. Be gentle and hear those who cry in grief and sorrow. Be patient with us as we ask you once again as the powerless in the world for your Spirit to fill the hearts of political and economic leaders. May these leaders open their hearts and find compassion for people who are in fear and are dying. Give us courage to speak for these voiceless people.
Month after month, we lament before you and pray to you about those who are suffering all around us with poverty, hunger, addiction and destitution. Many are in these situations of their own making. Many are caught in the cycle of poverty due to unfortunate circumstances. As they struggle to find a better life, guide and protect them to seek your way. Open their eyes to see your presence alongside them in order to find hope and strength. Help us by giving us compassion to walk with them.
Week after week, we share our concerns before you and pray for your love for those who are ill among us. Some of us are fearful of diseases that force us to lose our minds, that debilitate our bodies, and that reduce our will to live. Some of us are constantly fighting for relief from pain. As we accept ageing as part of natural life, as we put up with unbearable pain, and as we tolerate our declining spirits, we pray that you will guide those who care for us. Be with doctors, nurses and caregivers. Be with our loved ones who tend to us each day. Give us love to be patient, kind and gentle. Strengthen us so that we may praise and glorify you.
Day after day, we share with you our concerns for the future. The world fights over climate change policies, economic plans, social control and political powers in an attempt to create the future of our own making, we come to you with fears about what will happen. We often forget that our future is in your hands and that our life is focused on loving you and one another. We are anxious over our own communities’ existence. Fill us with faith to understand your will for us. Open our eyes to the future of peace that you have given us.
Hour after hour we pray to you without ceasing. There are many concerns we are not able to articulate. These unspoken angsts lead us more often to despair. Help us to trust in you totally. Give us the strength to rely on you fully. Hear our prayer as we lift our thoughts and concerns in silence.
All these we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Celebration of May birthdays will take place next Sunday. Please come and join us. It will follow our regular service of worship.
On the second Sunday of May, we are celebrating Mother’s Day. We have a special lunch planned for you. Please come and join us.
Cinnamon Bun Tuesdays begin again on Tuesday, May 23 at 10 am. Please come and join us.
Christ is made a sure foundation
Call to Worship (Psalm 116:16-19)Benediction