August 1 Sunday


Welcome and Announcements

We give God our thanks for you all. Without you, sharing Christ’s love in this place is not possible. Because of you, many are able to see God’s presence in this world.

As we gather in person to worship God, let us give God thanks. Let us pray for each other and this congregation. Let us pray for all those who are suffering because of the forest fires in Western Canada and USA, in the Prairies, as well as in Northern Ontario. So many are displaced from their homes. They need our prayers and support.

Think of what the pandemic lockdowns have taught us. Many of us, though missed in-person Sunday worship, have learned to continue worshiping God online. Through this way of worshipping, we have come to realize that our facilities are essential, but for very different reasons than we thought. We have found out what is most important in being a church--one another.

The session will meet on Wednesday, August 4th, following the Wednesday gatherings to plan for the Fall reopening.

As we mentioned last week, we will begin pastoral visits again in August. If you would like a visit, please email or leave a phone message at the church office.

We ask you to pray for our future. It is exciting to think about what God may have in store for our tomorrow.

All Heaven Declares

Call to Worship:
Leader: Come! Come to God in holiness!
All: We are God’s loved ones. God has poured out his love on us.
Leader: Bring your praise!
All: Praise and worship we bring. Praise and worship we offer to God today!

Prayer

Blessing and honour, glory and power, love and praise to you O God our Creator. From before the beginning of time, you have minded your people in eternal love so that we may come into being. Now we return to you all that we are as your people, gathering together to worship you. May you be glorified!

In our coming, we bring our whole selves. Sins and weaknesses, we bring before you, knowing that in your love our sins are forgiven and through our weakness you complete your creation. Fill us with the Holy Spirit in ways that we may come to know our sins in order to see our immense debt to your Son our Lord. Help us to know that though our debts are too heavy for us, through your Son our Lord you have redeemed us as your people.

O Christ, guide us in this worship so that we may find a new life in which we live the life of faith, hope, and love.

All these, we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Great is the Lord

John 6:24-35

So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?" Jesus answered them, "Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal." Then they said to him, "What must we do to perform the works of God?" Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." So they said to him, "What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" Then Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." They said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always." Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

Spirit of the Living God

Sermon: What must we do to perform the works of God?

We are always curious. Questions are asked by many people, “what must we do?” We want to know the bottom line. One thing that is interesting, though, is the reason why we want to know the minimum. You see, if we know the minimum, we usually end up doing the minimum as our maximum. Yes, that’s right. We may be excited to know the minimum in order to do more. However, in reality, it usually turns out that we do as much as we must and no more. This bottom line is very important. When we are asked why we have done so much or so little, we can point to that required minimum to say that we have done all that we are asked to do. Anything more is done out of our good hearts. This is the way of our world.

The question is straightforward: What must we do to perform the works of God? What must we do to enter eternal life? What must we do to show our faith? What must we do to follow Christ? What must we do to show that we love God? Yes, all these are the same question put in different ways. The ultimate intention of these questions is our desire to know the very base foundation of our life’s task. Jesus answers as succinctly as possible, “you believe in him whom he has sent.” The very minimum is to believe in Jesus. It sounds simple enough. If we use our mind to believe in Jesus as the Way, the Life, and the Truth, our life becomes complete. There is not much more we can do. That is all there is to do.

In our minds, each word carries a specific meaning. In this case when Jesus says we must believe, we hang onto the definition of the word believe. Merriam Webster defines ‘believe’ as a verb to consider to be true or honest, to accept the word or evidence of, to hold as an opinion. To believe, therefore, in North American English is something to do with the way we respond. We could consider, accept, or hold true of things we see, hear, and are taught. These activities--considering, weighing, accepting, or holding--are all things we do in our own minds. Believing, therefore, in our current age, is something we do in our head. The very action that is required in believing is to let our minds embrace what we are being told, taught, and given.

This way of defining “to believe” leads to the realization that we do not have to go beyond accepting that Jesus is the Son of God, is the Saviour of the world, or the only way to eternal life. As I have said earlier, if believing in Jesus whom God sent is the minimum requirement, then, anyone who thinks, supposes, accepts, considers and chooses this statement to be true or to be God’s command has now done what is fully necessary in terms of doing God’s work. This passage says so. This is why the deists of the 19th and 20th century still attend Christian churches and feel wonderful about being Christians. They believe. What more can we demand of them? They are doing enough by believing to be accepted as Jesus’ followers in this world. After all, they are meeting the minimum.

Thy loving Kindness

Believing today is a matter of opinion as you have seen in the definition provided by the dictionary. This is why it is so easy for many to simply say that they do not have to take it seriously since it is nothing more than an opinion to believe that Jesus is the Saviour of the world. After all, all great religions have their own opinions about how life ought to be lived and understood. As long as religions do not get in the way of the world, people are tolerated to believe in anything they choose. To make this notion clear, a Physics graduate has started a new religion and named it, the “Church of Flying Spaghetti Monster.” Yes, all religions in this light are nothing more than ways to hold one’s opinion. This is today’s world view. Thus confining Christianity to an opinion minimizes its teachings, doctrines, and theologies and makes it equal to the Church of Flying Spaghetti Monster. In this way, the world does not have to take Christianity seriously.

Of course, we can trace the demise of what believing is all about within Christian traditions. In Protestant groups, much blood was shed over doctrines and theologies through their 600 years of existence. Sadly the overwhelming divisions within Protestantism ended up contributing greatly to the view that believing is a matter of holding correct opinion. Church infightings have contributed to the decline of Christianity in the West alongside many other factors. It is not easy to recover from this understanding that religions, especially Christianity, are nothing more than opinions and are not verifiable truths like answers provided by science in all matters of life. No matter how loudly many churches shout and crowd today’s market places, the majority in our public squares hold our views as private opinions.

How, then, do we go about sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Should we do so like those mega churches, medium churches with plentiful resources, small churches that are still strong in centering their faith on Christ alone? Shall we roll out incredibly attractive social and cultural programs for people to join us in our faith? Can we invite those hungry, lost, and despairing souls with food, spiritual support, and hope? Will we not be true only when we meet people in their own lives or where they are at instead of trying to invite them to be with us? Shall we not meet their spiritual needs? Some churches have programs for people to overcome addiction, deal with financial difficulties, provide food, and so on. Are all these not our attempt to sway opinions of others regarding who we are?

In over thirty years of ministry, I have been part of all these attempts. I note that the latest attempt by many Christians is to do “Discipleship Training” or something similar in order to perpetuate Christianity. The argument is that for any local church to thrive it must disciple people as Jesus discipled those whom he called. (you can see that we have turned the noun into a verb in order to emphasize the significance of being Christians rooted in the Gospel.) There are all kinds of training methods and resources available for anyone or any church that desires to take this road. It requires commitment and certain types of discernment. Like old Monastic ways of training Christians and keeping them focused on God, the discipling insists that all become like those disciples whom Jesus called. Part of disciples’ tasks is to witness the Gospel of Christ in the world and win over people’s opinions by convincing them that Christianity is the universal truth.

What discipling does is to demonstrate that believing is more than a thought to accept or reject. It argues that with believing comes actions and that believing precedes action. Yet, the question regarding the bare minimum is still a factor in that if the real bottom line is believing with our minds, why is it necessary for anyone to go beyond our thoughts and translate them into actions? The very notion of discipling contradicts the notion that unconditional love requires unconditional service in response to that love. By demanding that unconditional service is part and parcel of the Christian believing, this unconditional love we preach has become conditional. No matter how we try to cover this illogic by saying that unconditional love compels us to serve unconditionally as our response to it does not sway the opinions of those who want to keep believing as nothing more than a thought to be accepted or rejected.

What are we to do, then? We need to rethink our approach altogether. Jesus did not come to convince, sway, or change the minds of the people of Israel. Jesus came to affirm and confirm that God’s steadfast love has been graciously placed with these stubborn and sinful people. This steadfast love has been present with them despite their continual betrayals and unwillingness to share it with those who are weak, sick, hungry, poor, and in despair. Jesus’ affirmation and confirmation made it possible for all to enjoy God’s unconditional love equitably. This is the key. Believing in Jesus opens ways to the world to enjoy God’s love.

Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet

In this passage, the Greek word that we translated into “believe” is to have faith. Faith is far more than holding an opinion or supposing something to be true. When Jesus says it in this passage he means to trust, rely on, have our hearts set on, and believe in him. What it means to have faith, in this sense, is far more than what English translations imply. It stretches deep into our hearts and souls to be able to express our faith in Jesus as the one that God sent into this world. Yes, ones with faith are seen not just as ones who have a thought or opinion but living a particular life that is focused on God in all matters. This is what Jesus means by believing in this passage.

In this context, it becomes clear that our task in faith is not to persuade others to hold an opinion or argue that our beliefs are true. It is simply to live life that exudes through every action our faith. Is discipling necessary? Intentional discipling programs are indeed the start for those who are new to Christianity. However, the reality of faith is that many will learn from experiences as much as teachings. The difficulty is that without experiences of God’s love, words and knowledge about faith remain as nothing more than thoughts and ideas that may or may not be true. No amount of learning can replace one’s personal experience of God’s unconditional love through Jesus.

There is another aspect of this believing or having faith that is totally different from today’s understanding of English definition. Even if we consider having faith in Jesus whom God sent is minimum required, this minimum in faith contains all that we are as we trust, rely on, have our hearts set on, and believe in him. This is a way of being, an identity. There is no minimum or maximum that we can do in order to attain it. Today, as yesterday, and as it will be tomorrow, believing in Christ or having faith in Christ is our life and being. In this, we embody Christ and his love that God gives to the world. Others come to meet, experience, learn and know God through Jesus whom we believe with our minds, have faith in, rely on through all of our life, and trust in totally.

Prayer

Dear Lord,
As we begin planning to reopen in full this fall, we are coming in gratitude for your love. You have sustained us through this very difficult and frequent pandemic lockdown. You have kept us together safe both physically and spiritually. Now we bring our prayers knowing that you hear us and always honour prayers that are said in your Son’s name.

We thank you for providing sufficiently for the various ministries, especially Saturday lunch takeouts, through your people. We also thank you for continually sending those who require help in many ways. With your love continually fill us in ways that we may share your love with those who need you.

We pray for those who are struggling with addictions. We hear the news of how so many people are struggling with substances in order to cope with this difficult time. We often do not know what we can do to help. Grant us wisdom to know that as your presence in this world we bring your patience, kindness, gentleness and love to all those who require your love. Use us in ways that our ministries will bring glory to you.

We pray for those who are homeless. They face very difficult situations of having no place to call home. They try their best to survive night to night on streets, in parks, and wherever they can stretch out and sleep. Many of them are mentally ill. Many others are abused. Many are lost and cannot find their ways. Many are in despair lashing out at anything and anyone. Keep them in your care. Bless us in ways to become a blessing to them by having courage to bring your good news to them.

We pray for those who are physically suffering due to hard labours, overbearing demands of their employers, and diseases of all kinds. They often suffer in silence. They suffer quietly because they feel powerless. Be with them all. May we always remember them in our prayers. Give us your hope so that we may share it with them.

We pray for those who belong to this congregation. Many have been stuck at home. Many have been isolated. Many have been waiting patiently for various appointments that will make their lives more bearable. Some have been waiting for surgeries. Others have been told to wait until doctors are available. In the meantime, these, your people, have been suffering in patience and gentleness. They trust you. They hope in you. They do their best to live the faith by reading, studying and meditating on your Word. Keep them in your care. Bless them with physical strength to cope with daily pain and disappointments.

Lord, we pray that you will bless us with a hope filled future. Open our eyes and hearts to see your will for this congregation. Bless us in ways that we will continue your ministry here in this part of your creation.

All these and unsaid prayers, we offer them to you in your Son’s name. Amen.

Offering: The Gift of Love

Offering Prayer

O Lord God, in life of stability and comfort, we bring what we can as offering. We tend not to know your blessings as we live day to day. Our worst fears are small worries which affect no one but us. We are only vaguely aware of difficulties others face. Out of this life of gentleness we bring these offerings. Receive them as from our hearts.

O dear Lord, fill us with your love and compassion. May we walk in your wisdom to love the forgotten and share compassion with those who need you in this world in all of life as we serve you and our neighbours! Use us as your presence in this world.

All these, we pray in your Son’s name. Amen.

There is a redeemer

Benediction