Welcome and Announcements
Thank you for worshipping today with us. May God’s blessings be with you today and the coming week.
Next Sunday is our Annual Financial Meeting Sunday. You will receive financial information on a separate email. Those who do use emails will have their financial statements delivered to them during the week. We will meet online or via phone next Sunday at 1:30 pm. You will receive a link to connect. Those who want to join us using phones, please let us know and we will call you to join the meeting.
We are sending out our Update Newsletter every Wednesday on emails. For those without emails, we will find ways to get them to you.
This year, we are looking at Gospel Luke and read it together as part of our Sunday sermon series. You can always find our worship and sermon on our website. If you miss any, simply try the website.
We are continuing to hold in-person services for those who are fully vaccinated and are desiring to worship in person. Our suggestion is that if you are uncomfortable, please worship with us online until it is safe.
Thank you for your support. We are doing our best to keep the ministry going as best as we are able under the circumstances. We are looking for new ideas about what ministry we can do in 2022. If you have any good suggestions, please let us know.
Preparation: Thy loving kindness is better than life
Call to Worship Psalm 19:1-6
The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy, and like a strong man runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them; and nothing is hid from its heat. Let us come together and worship God who created the heaven and earth.
Our God reigns
Prayer (from the Common Lectionary C)
you spoke your word
and revealed your good news in Jesus, the Christ.
Fill all creation with that word again,
so that by proclaiming your joyful promises to all nations
and singing of your glorious hope to all peoples,
we may become one living body,
your incarnate presence on the earth.
In you, O Lord our God,
we find our joy,
for through your law and your prophets
you formed a people in mercy and freedom,
in justice and righteousness.
Pour your Spirit on us today,
that we who are Christ's body
may bear the good news of your ancient promises
to all who seek you. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 5:33-39
Then they said to him, ‘John’s disciples, like the disciples of the Pharisees, frequently fast and pray, but your disciples eat and drink.’ Jesus said to them, ‘You cannot make wedding-guests fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? The days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.’ He also told them a parable: ‘No one tears a piece from a new garment and sews it on an old garment; otherwise the new will be torn, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new wine, but says, “The old is good.”
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Sermon: God’s salvation of humankind
When we are re-reading a book, having the knowledge of overarching themes can help us find new insights about the story. This knowledge helps us to enjoy and appreciate the story even more. If we are reading the book for the first time, discovering the main arc of the story can take us into a path of discovery quickly and hook us into the story. One main arc of Gospel Luke is that through Jesus God’s salvation history is unfurled into the entire humanity and is no longer limited to the people of Israel. Up until the time of Jesus, the people of Israel believed that God’s salvation meant God would save them only. Other peoples or nations would be doomed. This God’s salvation history was lived as one part of the history of humanity for them. Gospel Luke, however, insists that from Jesus God’s salvation history, that was given only to Israel, expands and begins to include those who believe Jesus as the Messiah and live under God’s reign. According to Luke through Jesus the good news for the people of Israel becomes the good news for the entire humanity. This was made clear at the very beginning by addressing Theophilos, a gentile for whom the books, Gospel Luke and Book of Acts, are written.
In the first three chapters, we have seen how this salvation history is now juxtaposed against human history as the alternative that will rescue humanity from itself. The viewpoint of the introduction of Gospel Luke is all about God’s way of salvation being revealed as what God is doing for the world. God sent Angel Gabriel to Zechariah and Mary. God chose Elizabeth and Mary to carry babies: one child would prepare the way of the other who would be the Messiah of the world. Zechariah, Mary, shepherds, Anna, and Simeon attest to God’s salvation being made known. God’s Spirit came to rest on Jesus and God declared that Jesus was God’s son, the beloved. Gospel Luke connects all historical dots by placing the genealogy to show that from God who created Adam came Jesus in the Davidic line, to bring the good news of salvation to the entire humanity. In these first three chapters, Gospel Luke made the case that God’s salvation began with Israel.
Today we move from Chapter 4 to Chapter 6:11. Here we shall look at two ways that the main arc of the story continues. The first is the revealing of the purpose of Jesus’ ministry. The second is the opening up of God’s salvation to include the entire world from the people of Israel. To accomplish the first, Gospel Luke utilizes the Old Testament passages. To demonstrate the second, we are going to see how the people of Israel reject Jesus in stages. Before we get to these, however, Gospel Luke makes us linger on Jesus as the anointed one, not by water, but by the Spirit.
Chapter 4 opens with “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit.” As we keep this in mind, another thing connects Jesus to God’s deliverance. If you recall, in the Gospel Matthew, Mary and Joseph had to flee to Egypt to save infant Jesus’ life and eventually returned to the promised land after Herod is dead. It apparently is very important for Matthew and Luke to link Jesus as the Messiah, symbolically embodying God’s deliverance. The first and only freedom from oppression Isarel enjoyed was when God through Moses brought the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. Gospels Matthew and Luke are explaining that, in Jesus, God is delivering those who are suffering in the world once and for all. Gospel Luke shows this theme of God’s rescue of Israel as part of Jesus’ ministry. Unlike Matthew who sent the infant Jesus to Egypt, here Jesus “was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.” This short sentence alludes to the people of Israel wandering forty years in the desert and were continually rebelling against God. Having endured what the people of Israel had to overcome in forms of three temptations, Jesus is now ready to lead his people into the promised land, or the future that God has in store for them. Again, Gospel Luke’s emphasis is that Jesus is able to be steadfast and be right with God because he is full of the Holy Spirit and is the anointed one, the Messiah.
After the temptation, he begins his ministry among his people. Here, we find Jesus at the very center of many concentric circles of relationships with people. As we follow the story, we will see Jesus’ circle of relationship widening. At the centre, in the smallest and most immediate concentric circle of Jesus are the people in Nazareth. They knew him well. They saw him grow up. They knew who he was. It is also important for us to note that Jesus is beginning in the synagogue of his own town, where the story of God’s salvation is taught to God’s own people Israel. There, on a Sabbath day, he unrolls a scroll and reads from Isaiah. Here again, we are confronted by the phrase, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he anointed me.” The Spirit that descended at the baptism is now residing squarely on Jesus. He is the anointed one. Full stop!
As the passage from Isaiah is read, God’s full intention of Jesus is revealed: to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” Do you remember what Mary and Simeon sang? The very similar content is revealed here again as his tasks. Soon we will see how he begins to fulfill these tasks. But for now, we need to look at two more connections here. Do you recall how John the Baptist preached the repentance for the forgiveness of sins? Forgiveness of sins has this notion of being released from the power of sins. Notice how in this Isaish’s passage that is used here to reveal Jesus’ ministry contains the word, “release.” (ref: Tannahill) He is to release/forgive/give freedom to those who have been burdened. The other thing to remember is how John the Baptist mentioned that Jesus would be baptizing people with the Spirit. Jesus, anointed, being full of the Spirit, now comes to the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed. Whoever is in his presence is also in the presence of the Spirit.
Something very strange happens at this synagogue. Initially they marvel and welcome what Jesus, who is considered one of them, says. But Jesus provokes them by telling them how they are part of Israel who turned away from God. This turn of event has Jesus almost killed because his own people are outraged at what he is saying. Here, we thank scholars who pointed out how this difficult turn of events may have something to do with Simeon’s statement to Mary in the Temple, ‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.’ One of the scholars conjectured that here Jesus was able to see the inner thoughts of these people who initially welcomed what he said, but would soon reject him altogether.
Now we move out to the second concentric circle. Jesus is moving out of his comfort zone. He moves to Capernaum. There, he preaches in synagogues on Sabbath. This is important. Jesus appears to keep the righteousness by participating in Sabbath activities. However, Jesus soon demonstrates that he is also divine. Therefore, he is not bound by Sabbath when people’s suffering is concerned. He healed/released those who were captives to demonic powers as well as the sick. After he restored Simon’s mother-in-law, and after the sun began setting–meaning that the Sabbath was now over, he continued to release those who were captives to demons and sickness. His messianic actions are overflowing into regular days. We will eventually see how Jesus’ presence brings God’s reign and makes Sabbath obsolete in his presence. For now it is sufficient to note that this holy time, the time of the Spirit, is overtaking regular human time.
He soon enters into the third concentric circle. He is moving towards all of Judea. Here, he calls certain people to be his disciples. Simon Peter, James and John are called. He has widened his circle of relationships traversing those concentric circles that confined him. As he goes he also heals. Now it is not just the people of Nazareth, but Pharisees and teachers of the law he offends. Remember how he is to “release/forgive/give freedom” to the captives? He forgives the sin of the paralytic rather than heals. He released the man from bondage to evil power by forgiving. This causes uproar with Pharisees and teachers of the law because they know that only God can forgive sins. What they do not know is that Jesus is the one full of the Spirit and he is also divine, the Son of God.
Then he calls Levi, the tax collector. As he did earlier in calling Peter, James and John, from among the poor, now he is calling Levi out from those who are sinful. By doing so he, again, traverses through those confining concentric circles. His new circle no now includes the poor and the sinners right across all spectrums. Gospel Luke continues to show how Isaiah’s passage is being fulfilled in Jesus, even in his choice of disciples.
As his fame grows, we see Jesus differentiating himself from John. This is crucial because Gospel Luke shows that the understanding that God’s salvation is just for the people of Israel, or those who are children of Israel, is coming to an end since John is the one who is preparing the way for Jesus. John’s ministry is the transition point where the old understanding of salvation is ending while the new one is dawning in Jesus. Jesus makes it clear here by answering people’s questions regarding fasting. They want to know why Jesus’ disciples do not fast like John’s or Pharisees’. Jesus tells them about why a new piece of cloth is not used to repair the old garment and why new wine is not poured into an old wineskin.
To make clear that this new time of God’s salvation is beginning, as if to put a period at the end of this old salvation time, he addresses the question of Sabbath. It begins innocuously enough. His disciples breaking the Sabbath rule as everyone was following gives him an opportunity to declare that indeed he is the lord of the Sabbath. That as the Son of God, he is not bound by human understanding of Sabbath. As if to get rid of any doubt about his divineness, he provokes a confrontation with Pharisees and scribes by healing a man with a withered hand on Sabbath. Again, here, he demonstrates that he is the Lord of Sabbath as the Son of God on whom the Spirit rests. All these notions about who Jesus is is totally lost on his opposition. They do not see him as who he truly is. The old cannot see the new. Those who are holding on to the old idea that God’s salvation is only for the people of Israel cannot see, understand, know, hear, and tolerate the new way God’s salvation is expanding into the entire world. Those who are of the old epoch respond in anger and rage in order to protect what they already enjoy. They are totally incapable of receiving the new way God is saving the world through Jesus who is God’s Son.
What we now note is that only twice more Jesus heals on the Sabbath (Chapter 13, 14) and he uses those two occasions to expose the hypocrisy of Pharisees and scribes. His anger in these two is far more palatable than these previous occasions. This is one of the ways Gospel Luke has settled the question of whether to close the old understanding of salvation being available only to the descendants of Abraham.
So we come to an end to the second section of Gospel Luke. Here we have seen the clear demarcation between the Old Testament time and the New Testament time, the old way of understanding God’s salvation and the new way of unfurling God’s salvation to the whole world, beyond the descendants of Abraham. It is made clear that this work of saving the world is God’s intention and will from the very beginning. Now we wait to see how Jesus reveals God’s way of saving the world.
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession (from The PCC Worship Resources)
God of life, God of love.
You created us and set us in relationship with each other:
In families and neighbourhoods,
in churches and communities,
in cultures and nations.
We give you thanks for the rich gifts of arts and culture,
of home life and community celebration
which bring meaning and encouragement to our lives.
Help us contribute our gifts
to the traditions and imagination that sustain the best of our common life
from one generation to the next.
God of mercy and forgiveness,
You call us to live together in peace and unity.
In this Week of Prayer for Christian unity,
we pray that your Spirit will create understanding and co-operation
among all who bear Christ’s name.
Help us share our gifts with each other
so that churches within our community may flourish
and our common mission will find new energy after months of challenge.
Lead us to reach out to those of other faiths and no faith
so that, together, we may be a blessing in the world you love.
God of healing and hope,
We pray for our neighbourhoods and our nation.
Where people are divided and bitterness turns into resentment,
show us how to work for reconciliation.
Inspire our leaders at every level of community life
to work together for the care of the most vulnerable
and to restore the goodness of our common life
as we recover from the effects of these months of pandemic.
Make us generous citizens and careful stewards
of the land you entrust to us together.
God of justice and mercy,
We pray for the world you love, the world Christ died to redeem,
so deeply divided by religious and political animosities,
by ancient bitterness and current conflict.
Encourage world leaders to work for peace and understanding,
especially in places torn by violence,
and areas still struggling with the effects of the pandemic,
by poverty, hunger and the effects of natural disasters.
May the hope Jesus embodies encourage us all to work for positive change.
God of courage and comfort,
We remember those of our congregation and community
in need of your special attention today....
&bsp; Keep a silence for 30 seconds, and/or name people and local concerns.
Use us as agents of your healing and hope
as we offer ourselves in Jesus’ name in the words he taught us to pray
The Lord’s Prayer
“Here I am, Lord,” rang out at the 88th Commencement Service of the Near East School of Theology (NEST) in Lebanon, a seminary supported by Presbyterians Sharing. NEST graduates, Jamil, Khalil, Shant and Asadour, will serve churches in Palestine, Syria and Lebanon—three of the most troubled countries in the Middle East that are rife with violence, oppression, occupation, and severe economic, social and political crises. The hymn was their bold response to God’s calling. NEST President, Dr. George Sabra, declared, “If our seminary is able to continue graduating students with such commitment, then we must go on with our mission no matter what befalls us and our countries.”
Creator God, you made each of us in our uniqueness,
and together, all of us to bear your image in the world.
Accept our gifts, unique as they are, and bless them for the sake of your Son, Jesus.
May they bear his grace and mercy into the world you love so your purposes will be fulfilled. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Hail! Thou once despised Jesus