August 15, 21


Welcome and Announcements

Let us give God our thanks for the very life we live today! We feel God’s protection and blessings especially today as we witness terrible troubles around the world each day due to climate change and COVID 19. Let us continue to pray for God’s presence with everyone everywhere.

We will have our Summer BBQs on Wednesdays, August 18 and 25 at 5 pm. Everyone is welcome! Please do not hesitate to come and join for this fellowship. The BBQ will take place in the upper parking lot.

As we continue to prepare for the reopening in September, we are asking your prayers for us and for our city. With the 4th wave of COVID 19 upon us, we will have to keep a close eye on everything as we think of welcoming the world back to our services.

Please continue to pray for each member of our congregation. We have received the news that Dennis Harrison, one of our members, passed away in May. Thank you to Verna for being persistent and finding this sad news for us.

Please let us know if you need any pastoral care. Do not hesitate to use email or phone messages.

Preparation: It is well with my soul

Call to Worship:

Minister: Praise our Maker!
All: God is love! As followers of Jesus, we proclaim that God is love, indeed!
Minister: Worship God who creates and completes all things in love!
All: God is love, indeed!
Minister: O fear the LORD, you his holy ones, for those who fear him have no want. The young lions suffer want and hunger, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
All: Let us come, O children of God! Let us listen to God who teaches us the fear of the LORD.

Hymn: Immortal Invisible

Prayer:
Gracious God, we bring our faith that is infinitesimally small in comparison to your faith in us. We bring our love for you when this love is nothing compared to your love for us. Yet we come in hope. It is a hope that is only found in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We come knowing that our lives are unfit to be in your presence. Yet, boldly we stand before you on Christ’s promise. Be kind to us as we bring ourselves before you. Forgive our sins and who we have become, not because we deserve or are owed, but because in your mercy you call us through your Son.

On this day, through this worship, make us yours. Form us according to your love. Shape us according to your purpose for each and every one of us. We are too blind to see your will for us. Make us see through the eyes of our hearts your will for us and for the world.

All these we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Offering (Lord, I lift your name on high)

Offering Prayer

We bless you, O Lord Almighty. In your world is life. In your love is life eternal.

We bring these gifts as tokens of our love for you. Each day, we witness in this world’s misery, the immensity of your love that renews life. In spite of all the destruction brought on by the human race, you renew and recreate life without fail. For this love we thank you and bring you our love for you. Receive these gifts as the show of our love for you.

As we bless you, we ask your continual blessings upon those who are especially in dire circumstances. Open our eyes to see how your love extends to them through us. Make us your hands and feet in serving them.

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

Scripture: Ephesians 5:15-20
Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

John 6:51-58
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh." The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" So Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever."

Sermon: to be the body of Christ, the living bread

In the past few decades, as Christians’ influence and status waned, many were using churches as a punching bag. Comedians like late George Carlin had field days making fun of so-called hypocrisies of churches’ teachings. Many thinking people, secular scientists and philosophers, also found churches wanting at best and laughable at worst. They could not understand how we could believe in this make believe in the sky God who could be proven to be nothing more than a figment of our imagination.

Similar thing was happening in Jesus’ time as Jews disputed Jesus’ speech about him being the living bread from heaven. They were missing the point because they wanted to prove Jesus on their terms. Just like these Jews, today’s secular intellectuals are doing the same by arguing about the God of Christianity on their terms. There are some Christians who want to argue against them on their terms. However, these kinds of attempts always fail because the minds of secular people are not going to change based on arguments put forth by Christian apologists. Just like Jews who did not believe Jesus, these secular intellectuals will not believe Jesus. Without faith, Jesus becomes a thought, a teaching, a figment of imagination in their minds.

Our tasks of being Christians have never been to argue and win over those unbelievers to Christianity. Our tasks are to witness and share Christ as the good news to those who are hungry, weak, abused, neglected, broken, marginalized, and excluded from mainstream society. Witnessing is different from arguing. Witnessing is different especially when we are doing so by living the ethical and moral life according to Jesus’ teachings. Witnessing in a way is the believers becoming the body of Christ here and now for all to see. In other words, we live the life of witnessing Christ. We do not live the life of better arguments, higher knowledge, greater power, or superior religion. This is why we need to figure out what it means to witness in authentic Christian ways.

There are many helpful examples of what types of life Christians ought to be engaged in. Today, we are looking at a snapshot provided in Ephesians 5:15-20. This passage provides us with a very simple lifestyle. But don’t get fooled by its simplicity. There is a lot for us to do in order for this simple lifestyle to be lived as our life of witness.

First, something that we need to get it out early. The writer of this letter to Ephesian Christians knows and shares with them the condition of the world. What is being spoken here is not said out of ignorance, naivete, or shallow understanding of the world. All Christians, including this person, know that their days are evil. They know that people in the world are doing what they want to do, disregarding God of Christianity as impotent against their gods, teaching each other their superior knowledge through schools of philosophies, and ruling the world with the most powerful political and military systems the world had ever seen. They know about all moral decays, especially the terrible sufferings slaves and poor people have to endure. They see their days as evil because they see the powers and principalities living at the expense and by exploitations of those who are weak.

Out of this evil life, they are called to the life of wisdom. What is this life of wisdom? Living the life that is worthy of Christ, of course. In this wisdom filled life, Christians are to love. Yes, they are not to argue and try to win their arguments over the people of the world, not to demonstrate how much more powerful Christ is in comparison to others by living more lavish lives than their neighbours, not to compete for worldly powers and riches.

In the early part of the Roman Empire when everyone appeared to be a threat to Christians as so many were arrested and imprisoned just for being Christians and were killed in all kinds of ways, they did not try to spread the gospel boldly arguing against non-Christians. They also did not stand out, lest their lives were in danger. If they were identified as Christians, that was due to neighbours’ suspicions. In other words, in these early times, Christians were invisible.

In many ways, there is no shame in Christians returning back to this very different world where we are being shunned and disregarded. More and more people see Christianity as nothing more than a make believe fantasy. More and more people think they are able to care for themselves better without being part of Christian religion. Who can blame them when you hear about all the terrible things and greedy things churches have done in God’s name in the past and are continually doing today?

Those who are truly concerned about faith in Christ have lots to learn from the early Christians who were under persecution. These early Christians in the Roman Empire living through persecutions did not stop loving. They continued to love those who were ignored, shunned, mistreated, scorned and avoided. They shared Christ’s love with those who were nobodies of their world in ways outsiders often did not notice. Sharing meals here and there with the hungry without preaching to them, looking after the widows who were too poor and were being abused by the world, caring for the elderly and so on.

At the same time, they were living the exemplary life as this passage from Ephesians suggested. They were being wise by living in evil days, not getting drunk, and being filled with the Spirit. They were a group apart from their neighbours because they lived this life of Christ’s love.

Today, we are returning more and more, by circumstances, to this ancient way of being Chrisitans. Rather than shouting from the rooftops, preaching in public squares, inviting people to attend our worship services, we quietly go about becoming those who love others. Of course there are many not-for-profit groups, other religious groups, and many philanthropic foundations doing their best to make the world a better place by helping the poor, feeding the hungry, guiding the lost and doing many other innovative things. It appears as if we are in competition with all these forces in trying to improve people’s situations.
Yet, in a way, we are not in competition with anyone. We are not in the world to help the lower class, whether they be those under poverty line or uneducated, by helping them become the middle class to enjoy fulfilling life. We are not here to help them find a life of comfort or health. Our goal is not to make someone in destitution economically better. We live life with a far simpler reason for being. We live to love God and neighbours.

As those Christians in the Roman Empire did, we love because God loves us. We live the life that is exemplary because we love God. There is no purpose other than sharing God’s love with us. We live this mission of love as God lived it through Christ. There are no other reasons. The goal of this love is not to educate that God’s love is available if people choose to follow Christ, is not to show how God’s love can change their lives, is not to receive a gift of growing membership, is not to show the world that God loves the world. Love is what we do because God loves us.

In this love, we do not expect anyone to love us back, do not need to be the ones on whom others must love, and are not concerned about returning the love we share. When there is no expectation, precondition, and reciprocation, our love is truly free to be shared as intended. If we want others to respond in any way, including our hope that others will graciously receive our message or bear fruits because of our good behaviours, God’s love given to us freely is no longer free. If we hope that somehow the love we give ought to result in something good spoils the idea of this love that is freely given without condition. The freedom of sharing this love is to let love be shared regardless of ways others receive it. In this sense, God’s love expressed as the bread from heaven in Christ comes without condition.

What we do in response to God’s love through Christ is our doing--not anything God desires. There is no need for God to be loved by us in response to the love God gave us. If we give God love, that love, too, is totally free and is simply our willingness to offer God all that we are. In this way love from God, to God, between God and us, and between us remains free and life giving as bread is for the body. This is the only possible way of being. When we love this way, as God loves us in Christ, we become truly the body of Christ.

Can the Church survive? It all depends on how we love. If we love the way God loves us, then, yes. If we love the way we love one another in recent times, no. If we continue to insist that there are things we must do in response to God’s immense love for us, no. Only when love is free in the same way the ancient Christians followed to love as Christ did, yes. And in this love, without desiring to convert others, we live the life of wisdom, we live the life of soberness, and we live the life filled with the Spirit.

Prayer

Only in your Son our Lord, O God, we find our strength to bring to you our petitions. Only in your infinite love, do we bring our concerns on your Son’s promise that the prayers given in his name are heard.

We pray for everyone who has lost their loved ones during the pandemic. We pray especially for those who were members of this congregation. As we plan the reopening, we are mindful that many will not be returning to your house and some will choose to stay away from this place of worship. Be with them all. Give them your love and care. May each and everyone be in your care.

We pray for those who are ill with various diseases. Give them your presence in times of pain and anguish. Protect them in ways that they may find their bodies and spirits renewed and refreshed.

We pray for all those who have been working behind the scenes to make your Son’s ministry happen here. They have been pouring out their love for you in the work of bringing your love to all. Keep them in your care as they continue to minister to your people with love and hope.

We pray for your guidance on all matters. As your congregation heads into the future, may we commit the future firmly in your hand. May we never falter from the task of loving you and neighbours. Give us strength and courage to stay the course in glorifying and enjoying you.

We ask for your forgiveness if we have done anything wrong, hurt anyone, and failed to be your loving presence in the world. We ask you to restore us in Christ Jesus so that we will continue to share your love as you have intended.

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

Hymn: Love Divine, All Loves Excelling

Benediction