Sunday, Jan 10, 21

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Welcome and Announcements

Welcome to worship on Epiphany Sunday at Drummond Hill. We are very glad that you have come to join us. May you enjoy abundant blessings from God today.

Thank you for doing your best in serving Christ through this congregation. We do thank God for your dedication and service to Christ’s ministry. We thank you for continually supporting Christ’s ministry here as we bring God’s presence to our neighbours.

Our Saturday Lunch ministry is continuing through this lockdown. Your prayers and gifts have been essential for this ministry. Items like packaged cookies for single servings, cups of puddings, yogurts, apple sauce, packaged granola bars are very much appreciated.

On Tuesday, January 12, there will be a graveside service for Jennifer Gould. Our prayers and sympathies along with Christ’s love are extended to the family and friends.

Please pray for those who are physically unwell. Many of our members are having difficulties waiting for medical appointments. Due to COVID-19 many have not been able to see their doctors.

Open Our Eyes Lord



Call to Worship:

God has come to us.
The Lord spoke to the people of Israel and entered into covenant with them.
From Israel came Jesus Christ, the Son of God, bringing salvation through a new covenant entered by faith.
The Lord continues to come to us by the Holy Spirit, God present in the world, and Guide to the church, the new Israel.
Let us worship the living and present God among us.

Hymn: Amazing Grace



Prayer

Eternal Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
You graciously gathered us together as your people in worship each week, receiving us in your presence, bestowing upon us life through the Son by the Holy Spirit. We come humbly to praise and glorify you.

We bring to you the world as we have lived and experienced in the last seven days. We have witnessed political difficulties our American neighbours were experiencing. We learned about how Palestinians and Israelis were still separated as Palestinians were not being given vaccines as quickly as their Israeli neighbours. We learned how Niagara Region was running out of ICU beds and were planning to send some patients to Burlington because of COVID-19. We learned how so many long term care homes in Niagara along with the hospital were experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks.
In the midst of all these difficulties, we come to you in worship. As the source of our life, you guide and protect us. You lead us to yourself in this time of troubles. You open new possibilities for us to share fully in your love. In response to the goodness you have given us, we praise and worship you. May our worship be acceptable to you. May this our worship be your time in which your presence is made known, experienced and shared by all. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Offering (Anthem: Be Thou my Vision )



Offering Prayer

O Lord, all good things come from you. With our eyes we see your goodness being revealed to us each day. With our ears we hear the stories of your wonders which inspire us in this time of troubles. We bring our work symbolically through these small tokens. Receive them and be merciful. Do not look at the amount of size, but hearts that bring you these offerings. Continue to be with us as we share your love with the world around us. By the Holy Spirit, reach through us to those who require your presence. In your Son’s name we pray. Amen.

Scripture Reading: Mark 10:46-52

They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart; get up, he is calling you.’ So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man said to him, ‘My teacher, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

Sermon: New sight and new direction

More than any other year, we like a different start. 2020 was such a difficult and troublesome year that we are glad it is over. It began somewhat the same as all other years with a news here and there in January about a virus that was never seen before in China. By the end of March everything was lockdown. Everyone was told to stay home, away from friends and neighbours. Toilet papers flew out of supermarkets. Stores also ran out of yeasts. In Canada we cried with the people of Nova Scotia after a gunman went on a killing spree. We saw the entire world going into a summer long demonstrations of “Black Lives Matter” ignited by the killing of Mr. George Floyd. Then, we heard how the elderly in Long Term Care homes in Ontario and Quebec were dying of the virus disproportionately in large numbers. This news hit home when many people we knew and worshipped with were among those who died. In the meantime, California burned with wildfires. As December was closing, Ontario, Quebec and many provinces were locked down again due to COVID-19. Simply listing all these events we witnessed makes us run out of breath.

It is our collective hope that 2021 will be the year when all lives come in full with joy, hope, peace and love as we always celebrate at Advent. So we begin our new year with joy. How do we celebrate life that God gave us joyfully? We will focus on living with joy in the midst of pandemic until the Holy Week. Then, with Easter we will celebrate life in hope. It is our prayer that this upcoming Easter will truly signal a life of hope for everyone and every life fully filled with love as given through Christ.

In Gospel John, Nicodemus comes to Jesus in the dark to ask Jesus about being born from above. He is perplexed with Jesus’ answer. What does Jesus mean by being born of water and spirit? How can a grown man be born the second time? How can he re-enter the womb that bore him? We, as Easter People, know what Jesus meant. Baptism of water and of the Spirit is what we are given in order for us to be born from above. The trouble for us and all Christians is that what Jesus says to Nicodemus has taken all kinds of strange interpretations to a point that every theologian of any level thinks she knows what it means. In the meantime, humble people on the pews go about doing their best to live as those who belong under God’s reign without theological dogmas hanging over them.

Apostle Paul was keenly aware of what it means to live the new life in Christ Jesus. It is to put on Christ each day. To explain in 1 Corinthians 15, he talks about dying each day. He lets each day be sufficient with all its troubles and joys. He uses death to express how what he has done one day is not taken into the next day. He starts afresh in Christ. He does not bring anything into the new day other than Christ and Christ’s love for the world. Though the world around him did not change and continued on, he and his companions started a new day having buried everything that had taken place the day before. This, of course, does not mean that we commit sin and then start over as if sin did not matter. Paul would have reminded us that we should have done our best to live in Christ each day. Then, at the end of each day, we let go of all that we have done. When we awake next day, we start as if we find ourselves to be new--a total blank slate--to live life in Christ with excitement and joy. It helped him get through the darkest days of his life as he was persecuted, imprisoned, punished, and even threatened with death.

Wishes, hopes, Desires, and aspirations to start anew is very strong for every human being. We often talk this thought out loud as our belief in giving everyone a second chance in life or wiping out debts to those who are overburdened. In our economic life, we have instituted bankruptcy laws. In our social life, we have named our penal system the “restorative justice” system. In the back of our minds, a new start in life resides as a fantastic possibility when we are overwhelmed with life’s troubles. It is no wonder that many people are talking about COVID-19 vaccines as something that will get us to start a new life soon. As many of us still struggle with the restricted life under pandemic restrictions, we wish, hope, desire and aspire for life without worries of unimaginable pain and threats of death.

When we are in impossible situations, we learn from others who have gone through similar troubles. Watching and listening to how others dealt with their situations, we begin finding our ways. Today’s passage provides us with a blind man who seeks a new start in life. He has been blind. He suffered terrible consequences of being blind in the world where being blind was understood as God’s punishment for sins and was the main cause for many unjust abuses he had to face. He was marginalized by his society.

For this blind man, named Bartimaeus, Jesus is the way to his new start in life. He heard about Jesus of Nazareth. He knows enough to call him the Son of David--a messianic title given to the one who would restore Israel to its glory by bringing God’s reign. Hearing that all the commotion was about Jesus of Nazareth passing through, he claims his moment in Jesus’ time and calls out to him, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” He is not deterred by others telling him that he ought to be quiet, that he is not that important to get Jesus’ attention, and that he should not be wasting Jesus’ time. Bartimaeus is not going to be denied his new start in life. He has suffered long. All his life he lived life at the margins of his world, having to beg, always dismissed, and by implication abused. He may be a young man or a middle aged man, but to him he suffered because he became blind. He knew no other life. He seizes the moment to find a new life that he has never known, but only heard about how others were living in it. He is determined to share in life of others, but to him that ordinary life everyone takes for granted is going to be totally new. So he shouts. Jesus hears his cry. Jesus responds by giving him sight. Bartimaeus begins his new life.

From the passage, it is not clear how long and to how far Bartimaeus follows Jesus. What we are told is that he immediately begins to follow Jesus. His new life starts in Christ. Of course, we can also think of another man who followed Christ--in this case we know he followed Jesus till his death--when his eyes were opened from blindness. Saul on the road to Damascus becomes blind. When he has his eyes opened, he finds new life in Christ as Paul to serve his Lord and starts on the road of incredible suffering, but he lives on gladly, for the cause of the Gospel. Here we see how people gained new life in Christ and began living their new lives by following Christ. The Scriptures have uncanny ways to show us that with new life in Christ is only possible with new sight. Nicodemus without this new sight could not see or understand. Bartimaeus and Paul saw and understood life in Christ was theirs to live because of it.

As the Easter people, baptized by water in the name of the triune God and by the Spirit through our experience of Pentecost, we have the very sight that binds us into the life in Christ. Sadly, our sight has dulled and cataracts have been set over our eyes after two millennia of history. Often we do not even see dimly. We are going blind slowly as cataracts thickens. We have been conditioned by cataracts in both eyes to think that the world looks fuzzy and unclear. We wish for a new sight. We wish to see clearly and know where we are headed to. We hope to live and participate in new life possible only in Christ. We aspire to life of faith, hope, and love where joy and peace are the hallmarks of humanity. Unfortunately all these desires remain unmet mostly as our sights deem.

As mentioned earlier, in suffering or in troubles, we see others and learn. Bartimaeus shows us the way. We are to seize the moment as we enter into 2021. Tasks are enormously daunting. As we mentioned at the beginning, those troubles we witnessed in 2020 have not gone away. They are with us. But we are not without means. Two weeks ago we celebrated Christmas, in which we received God with us. We know Jesus is our living Lord. We know in him we are given new life. This is our moment to claim that life in Christ by calling out to him. The world and those around him may deter us, dismiss us, ridicule us by telling us that we are not important. We have a choice to shout out louder and call him directly over and above all other chatters that try to push us down and beat us down. Because only when he tends to us, then, we have our sight restored and we follow him. As we start 2021, we petition loudly like Bartimaeus to start a new life as Apostle Paul did each day by dying to this world each day so that we may rise in Christ each day.

Prayer

Gracious and loving God, have mercy on us. We come bringing all our troubles to you. We are weak and unable in many things. We often fail and are easily troubled when it comes to sharing your love. With your forgiveness, we come before you once again with our prayers.

Today as in the past year we are hearing about COVID 19 breaking records in our region. More and more people are dying and being hospitalized. We worry about our own and neighbours. With this scare, we are all in our own isolation trying to see if the pandemic will subside. Help us to be strong. Help us to deal with all these difficulties we are facing. As this COVID 19 infections breaking records, we feel more fear. Help us to focus on things that are important instead of things that give us fear.

We pray for all the staff including doctors, nurses, and everyone who contributes to the smooth running of the Greater Niagara General Hospital. With COVID outbreaks in most floors, they have been having round o’clock vigilance in order to tend to patients. Keep all of them safe and strong as they go about helping patients heal. Be with those who are infected while tending to patients. Give them full recovery.

Our thoughts are also with those who are unable to receive treatments because of COVID pandemic. There are so many others who suffer illnesses of various kinds. Their needs to heal have been pushed aside for a moment. Be with each of them as they wait for their turn at being treated.

O Lord, be with our political, social religious leaders. Give them wisdom to lead their people in ways that everyone may find strength to help one another to get through this pandemic.

We also pray for our neighbours to the South. They have had a difficult few days due to political disputes. Some have taken to express their displeasures by forcing their way into the congress. Many leaders have been ignoring or being oblivious to the needs of ordinary people. Help them find peace together in this time of turmoil.

Be with us, O Lord, especially those of us who are in pain, suffering and difficulties. Many of us are wondering and seeking a path to peace and good health. Help us to know that your presence with us is sufficient, that in your love we are able to flourish, and that in sharing your love, our lives become meaningful.

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

Hymn: Wonderful Grace of Jesus



Benediction

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all who have gathered with us to worship and with everyone who is suffering in this world today! Amen.