We welcome you to this online worship. May God bless and keep you this day and days yet to come.
Starting this Sunday, we also have in-person devotion at 9:30 am at the church. Please come and be part of the devotion. We thank Gail Opie for leading the devotion today.
For all pastoral needs please call elders Betty-Ann, Chuck, Gail, Linda F, Linda T, Prince, Ruth,or Verna.
Our regular Sunday worship will resume in September at 10:30 am.
Call to Worship (Psalm 6: 1,2,8)
For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall never be shaken.
For God alone my soul waits in silence,
for my hope is from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my deliverance and my honour;
my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us.
God is love
Day and night, we come to you in prayer. Sunday to Sunday, we present ourselves before you. Come to us now. Look kindly upon us. In us, do not see sinners, but your creation redeemed and cleansed by your Son our Lord. Though our lips are not clean enough to utter words before you, though our hearts are not pure enough to receive your love, though our hands are not washed enough with tears to stand before you, by the Spirit, may you sanctify what we think, say, and do in this worship and be glorified. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 5:17-22
One day, while he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting nearby (they had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem); and the power of the Lord was with him to heal.* Just then some men came, carrying a paralysed man on a bed. They were trying to bring him in and lay him before Jesus;* but finding no way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the middle of the crowd* in front of Jesus. When he saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend,* your sins are forgiven you.’ Then the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, ‘Who is this who is speaking blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ When Jesus perceived their questionings, he answered them, ‘Why do you raise such questions in your hearts?
Sermon: Jesus brings healing
COVID 19 continues to surprise us by its menacing presence to humankind. These fast developing new variants make us realise how precarious our human existence is. It appears that nature is far more complicated and mysterious than we humans have ever imagined. How is it possible that with our incredible scientific knowledge which results in less than six months to develop a vaccine cannot outwit these viruses? Weren’t we so confident in 2019 that there would not be any disease that we could not find a cure for? Yet, in very short two years, we have been almost outdone by this virus with its fast mutating cousins.
Sickness has always been a curse for human beings. It continually reminds us that death is not too far off. So far we have come to stave off death quite a bit. Remember how the lifespan for Canadians is at just over 82 years in spite of all our difficulties with our medicare system. We no longer have fears for death. We fear suffering illnesses which will make us face dreadful diseases from Alzheimer’s to all types of painful cancers. This lengthening of our lifespan has changed us. We are far more focused on how to live well. Our world is filled with wellness industries which will help us live life meaningfully. If you can afford it, life can be full of activities bringing us joy in good health.
With this long and active life of comfort, though at times we face many physical, mental, and spiritual challenges, we think less of eternal life. We are busy living life for today, for this moment. Since worrying about tomorrow is useless, most of us live for now. Perhaps this is why the whole sense of now makes us not worry about sin. Of course, we are very concerned about sin, but in reality, sin is something other people do as they hurt, maim, cheat, and kill others. Most of us know that we do not get involved in hurthing, abusing, defrauding, and murdering others. We are busy looking after ourselves and our family. We also do our best to help others as much as we can.
Again, the focus is off eternal life. Yes, we do think and talk about eternal life as Christians, but we are not immersed in worries about what will happen to us when we die. We believe that our faith in Christ is sufficient to be part of eternal life. This is important because without fear, guilt, and punishment, our daily lives are centred entirely on matters of here and now.
Today’s passage from Gospel Luke has two sides to it. The first is the one we like and enjoy: healing of the paralytic. Friends bring a paralytic man to Jesus. Jesus heals him by telling him that his sins are forgiven. But the story is quite elaborate to show the dedication of his friends. To begin with, this man could not have come by himself. He had his friends bring him. As if he did not have enough obstacles, when they arrive, they find already many people surrounding the house Jesus was in. There was no easy way for this man to be near Jesus. Seeing this obstacle, his friends came up with an ingenious plan. They took him up onto the roof and began opening the roof up to lower him right before Jesus.
Let’s pause for a moment and take a look at what took place so far. First the obstacle. Getting near Jesus was not easy. As a paralytic, getting to where Jesus was required an immense effort. Without friends, he could not even be near the house where Jesus was staying. It took quite an effort for his friends to carry him to where he needed to. When they arrived at the house, the obstacle became more than a simple immobility issue. People who wanted to see and be close to Jesus ended up becoming immovable obstructions to the paralytic. How is it that everyone was so desperate for the good news of God they would not let the paralytic pass? The scene looks as if those people who came to see Jesus put themselves first.
Can we blame these people who wanted to be near Jesus and hear the good news, though? People who have been desperate and without hope for a long time have little awareness of others who may need Jesus more. Like a group of people who have starved for days on end, reaching out for food when they see a basket full of food. They are not able to think about the hungry person next to them. They know that without food they would perish. In the same way, these village people have gathered near Jesus. Suffering under the Roman Empire and the religious leaders, they were hungering for any little spiritual food they could get for themselves. So the paralytic, the most vulnerable one near Jesus, was unintentionally blocked from Jesus by those who were able and were hungry. It is a very basic case of the marginalised blocking off even more desperate people to survive.
Friends of the paralytic, however, took the matters into their own hands. They found a creative way to get their friend before Jesus. They went up to the roof and began breaking up the roof to lower him down. What would have happened if he did not have such determined friends? Would he have simply turned back in disappointment? Would he have lost any hope that he might be cured? We would never know. However, good friends rescued him by finding a way.
In the meantime, Jesus seemed to be very passive. He waited rather than telling people to let the paralytic in. He didn’t do anything until the friends of the paralytic took this drastic step. This is the frustrating part about Jesus in the world for many Christian activists. Those who advocate for the poor and the marginal would like to see God being actively seeking out the vulnerable and weak, making things better for them. Instead, Jesus waited. In all the cases of healing in the Gospels, Jesus did not proactively heal the sick. He waited until in faith or hope or both, the sick ones or their representatives came to him and asked for healing. Though he knew the world was ready for deliverance from all evil things, yet, he let evil continue to hurt, maim, and kill people through sinful actions or diseases.
From the reading of the Gospels, we get an impression that Jesus certainly preached God’s kingdom being at hand and what a joy eternal life would be. However, Jesus was not as concerned with quality of life matters as we do today. Pain, suffering, agony of death, and griefs coming from death were not the things Jesus was concerned about. Apostle Paul also took a similar view of worldly life. What mattered most for Jesus was reconciliation of people to God through repentance. We can see this clearly in this passage as Jesus heals the man by declaring that his sins were forgiven. Of course, today, we would question why forgiving sins is linked to his physical well-being. However, for Jesus life is about being free from sin.
Before we forge ahead, let’s stop here and take a look at Jesus’ reaction. Jesus did not address the faith of the man who needed the cure. Instead, Jesus looked at “them” as in those friends as well as the man who could not move. It was “their” faith Jesus responded to. It was not how the person was suffering and in pain that moved Jesus to heal the man. Jesus did not even address anything about his physical condition. He simply forgave the sins this man carried. We can debate and argue over whether sin and diseases are linked. We like to see a demonstrable link so that we can find permanent cures for people who suffer all kinds of diseases. However, Jesus was not interested in the universal cure for all illnesses people suffered. Also, as we mentioned in the prior paragraph Jesus was not concerned with the quality of life for this man in a medical sense. He responded to “their faith.”
Back to the discussion. From the very beginning of his ministry, Jesus was concerned about faith and was clear how faith would lead to life. In healings or other miracles faith is forefront and centre. Jesus spoke often of the little faith his disciples had. Indeed, in faith, living life becomes part of being in God’s presence, or eternal life. Sin is what keeps everyone from being part of life with God. The focus of Jesus’ ministry was to call people to repentance in order to be reconciled to God and be part of eternal life. In this sense forgiveness restores people to life with God. In this life with God, people are to love God and neighbours through their service to God and neighbours. Life is understood differently.
Life of faith, in this case, is not simply taking care of “me” or “my family” to enjoy the quality of life (often meaning life without physical and mental pain or worries) until death in comfort and happiness. Reading today’s passage of healing of the paralytic from this point of view helps us to understand it with a different perspective. Jesus saw faith in “them.” Their determination to bring their friend and their friend's desire to be part of life against all odds demonstrated to Jesus that their hope was that this man would enjoy life with God. Their expectation was not clear as to whether they wanted him relieved of pain or healed from the paralysis. The best we can surmise in their actions is that they knew life for the man would change in Jesus’ presence. Of course, they would have thought about a possibility that Jesus would refuse to heal. Yet, they persisted in presenting their friend before Jesus.
By declaring forgiveness, Jesus responded to their faith that Jesus was the Way for this man’s life. With forgiveness, his life changed and was able to join life fully. Note that there was no public confession from this man or his friends about the man’s sin. Also note that he did not declare his willingness to receive Jesus as the Lord and Saviour. None of these important things were factors in his healing. The only thing that mattered was that Jesus responded to their faith and forgave the man for his sins. We do not know what sins this man committed. We simply know that he was relieved from them.
So Jesus brought healing to the man and cured many people. Faith was what moved Jesus. Jesus restored them to the fullness of life with God. Healing, once again, was not a quality of life issue for Jesus. It was the very thing that brought glory to God and when people saw these healings based on faith, God was glorified by the people. Today’s issues of what constitute good life did not enter into Jesus’ healing. In our world, faith plays no role in healing. At best physical healings from illnesses have little or nothing to do with life with God, but with our desires to live pain free in ways that we may enjoy the quality of life in comfort. Life redefined this way does not require forgiveness of sins. Life lived according to our definitions of quality of life is removed very far from eternal life.
As Christians, reading this passage reminds us that the life we live is eternal life and we always strive to live eternal life, life with God. This is why faith is still important. In faith, eternal life is our reality as forgiveness of sins is given through the death and resurrection of Jesus. This is why we proclaim Jesus is the Way, and the Life, and the Truth.
Prayer (Psalm 53, 58)
Fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God.’
They are corrupt, they commit abominable acts;
there is no one who does good.
God looks down from heaven on humankind
to see if there are any who are wise,
who seek after God.
They have all fallen away, they are all alike perverse;
there is no one who does good,
no, not one.
Have they no knowledge, those evildoers,
who eat up my people as they eat bread,
and do not call upon God?
There they shall be in great terror,
in terror such as has not been.
For God will scatter the bones of the ungodly;
they will be put to shame, for God has rejected them.
O that deliverance for Israel would come from Zion!
When God restores the fortunes of his people,
Jacob will rejoice; Israel will be glad.
Do you indeed decree what is right, you gods?
Do you judge people fairly?
No, in your hearts you devise wrongs;
your hands deal out violence on earth.
The wicked go astray from the womb;
they err from their birth, speaking lies.
They have venom like the venom of a serpent,
like the deaf adder that stops its ear,
so that it does not hear the voice of charmers
or of the cunning enchanter.
O God, break the teeth in their mouths;
tear out the fangs of the young lions, O Lord!
Let them vanish like water that runs away;
like grass let them be trodden down and wither.
Let them be like the snail that dissolves into slime;
like the untimely birth that never sees the sun.
Sooner than your pots can feel the heat of thorns,
whether green or ablaze, may he sweep them away!
The righteous will rejoice when they see vengeance done;
they will bathe their feet in the blood of the wicked.
People will say, ‘Surely there is a reward for the righteous;
surely there is a God who judges on earth.’
Amen and amen!
We come bringing our commitments in these offerings. Open our eyes so that we may see how these offerings may be used in this world to carry out your ministry. Open our lips so that we may bring your good news in ways that these offerings may bring glory to you. Make us your instrument of love, peace, and hope. All these we pray in your Son’s name. Amen.
Hymn: I surrender all