Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. (Matthew 18:4,5)
Cinnamon Bun Tuesday continues on Tuesday at 10 am. Please come and join us. Bring your friend. Cinnamon Bun Tuesdays will continue until the end of July. We will take a break in August.
Tea Tasting will stop for summer months. It will resume in September.
We are beginning to slow down in all matters. For the first two Sundays of August, we will ask you to do something special. We are asking you to choose to attend a church that is not Drummond Hill. We ask you to attend other churches either with someone else from this congregation or by yourself if you prefer attending another church alone. Some of you can go as a group. Then, we would like you to observe how other Christians worship. See what the similarities and differences are from us, what you really like or dislike, what you want to see us do and never want us to do, how friendly people are and what kinds of hospitality they extend to you. When you visit, you should be up front and tell them that Drummond Hill Church is trying to learn what they are doing in worship. You should thank them for letting us worship and invite them to attend our worship in the future.
To help you do this, we will close our worship at Drummond Hill for the first two Sundays in August. We will also provide for you names of churches you may like to attend. Again, if you go as a group or with a friend, it would be easier.
Then, on the third and fourth Sundays of August, we will reopen our churches and discuss all we have learned and see how we can love and worship God better and also welcome others among us better.
If you are totally uncomfortable visiting, you are more than welcome to worship with us online. Online services will be available for all Sundays.
Preparation: Make me a servant
Call to Worship (Psalm 25:1,24-6)
Make me to know your ways, soul..
To you, O Lord, I lift up my O Lord; teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.
Hymn: As the deer
Come among us, O God,
To give us ears that do not fail to hear,
To give us eyes that do not fail to see,
To give us hearts that do not fail to respond.
Make us soil,
Which receives the deeds of truth
To bear fruit abundant.
Amen. (J. M. Drescher: Invocations and Benedictions)
Scripture: Romans 9:21
Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one object for special use and another for ordinary use?
Sermon: Crafting Faith
In a long human history, many people have devoted their entire lives to a particular calling. As you know, what we call jobs or work today used to be known as vocation or calling. Being a farmer, blacksmith, basket weaver, custodian, village priest, teacher, you name it, every work was known as a calling to which one spent all one’s life. This was why a job that a father worked on was passed onto a son in trust. Sons were continuing the calling the family received. Everyone took their work seriously and was not always doing the work for money. True, there were many sons who did not carry on their fathers’ vocations. Many rebelled, but a local community could count on those who worked hard on their jobs. Many of these folks took pride and joy in being able to be top craft people in their area of work. Many centuries old buildings, furniture, bridges, and everything used in day to day work were made by these people of skill.
It took a long time for each person to acquire skills that produced beautiful, useful, and well-made articles for daily use. Learning to make teapots or iron kettles by hand took artisans lifelong training, refining, and improving. More than the act of making, the skills required to make these high quality pieces demanded very disciplined learning, practice, and care. These artisans started as apprentices and learned from masters. Usually after a long extended period of time in apprenticeship they begin to produce on their own. Even then, they require hard work to become masters.
In today’s culture, with mass production industries in place, most of these crafts requiring long learning and many practices, are pushed aside. Machines using robots run by computers can produce similar items for considerably cheaper and faster. At the same time, people who want these products are often far more concerned with the high prices of original items and are unwilling to pay. In our consumer throw away world, expensive and well made cannot compete with cheap knock-offs. We may laugh and make fun of those cheap things, but we know we have plenty of them in our cupboards and pantries as well.
Let’s examine the way we often think of being a Christian. In the very beginning when Jesus called people to follow him, things appeared to be simpler than today. That is, like Peter, James, and John, a person simply had to leave everything behind and follow Jesus. Things became far more complicated after Jesus’ ascension. Without Jesus being present in person, the disciples began teaching people about Jesus. If one did not know Jesus, they needed explanations on who Jesus was and why Jesus was calling them to follow him. The problem began when the disciples had to figure out what it meant to be the followers of risen Christ. They had to figure out who could and could not belong.
With the disciples and those early followers who became Christians after baptism, as Christianity began spreading all over the world, those who were serious about following Christ had to work harder and learned to be disciplined to be Christians to themselves and to the world. Being faithful began to be a way of life. The statement that Jesus is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life had to be lived out in their own lives. As the Church began to move farther and farther away in time from the time of Jesus, the work of being Christian became more and more elaborate and difficult. With persecutions, corruptions, and many other competing religions all around them, Christians needed a clear, succinct, and concrete way to be Christ’s followers. They found it by loving those who were neglected by the world.
The early Christians in the Roman Empire were seen as mainly those who did not participate in any local religions, were serving the poor and hungry, met among themselves away from regular religious temples (indeed, Christians did not have any physical buildings like they do today, often meeting in secluded outdoor spaces in very early mornings before work began), and followed strange rituals like communion (which was often misunderstood as eating real human flesh). For all these, Christians were described and persecuted as atheists (because they did not have statues of gods and temples), secretive (not everyone who was Christians was easily identified and therefore became scapegoats for the powerful since they could be hoisted as dangerous), and despicable.
In this harsh context of the Roman Empire, Christians were able to thrive because the vast majority of Christians practised living the simple life of following Christ in everyday activities. One could say that Paul and other apostles, who were going from city to city to spread the good news, were exceptions to the rule of being Christ’s followers. These early Christians learned together about Christ and vigorously debated whether Paul’s explanation was better than other apostles’ concerning Jesus, or who should be baptised within their circles. However, their external expression of faith consisted of tending to the poor, sick, hungry, and abused. The written records of early Christian history is rare, but outsiders did leave written records here and there about how Christians ministered to those who were neglected by the Roman citizens.
Two particular Christian practices from the early Church stand out. The first one had to do with denying oneself and following Christ. This simple teaching of Jesus guided many sincere Christians to give up privileges, wealth, and comfort of their worlds in order to be humble servants of Christ. They gave away their riches. They walked away from powerful positions in their societies. They left their homes and families to live like Jesus without any possessions. This life apart from the world was the way to love God for them. They found out how difficult it was to live this life. Many early Christians struggled valiantly and eventually found peace by completely relying on Christ for all their needs.
The other one had to do with loving others. Tending to those who could only be loved by God because the world turned its back on them was taken up as an expression of loving their neighbours. It was not always easy as they were confronted with the powerful people who took advantage of them. Indeed, in many ways, those powerful people became Christians for wrong reasons and began corrupting the Church from within. Loving others became extremely difficult as so many smart, compassionate, and well meaning people ended up in churches to fill their needs for power, privilege, and financially secure life. This meant that loving neighbours became a special challenge within the Church for Christians.
Those early Christians who took seriously what it meant to love God by denying themselves and sharing love with neighbours by truly caring for the poor, the weak, the broken, and the hungry had to be like those highly skilled artisans who had to devote their lives to their calling. Like those master artisans, these Christians accepted the calling to discipline themselves in the way of Christ and went about living life worthy of being called Christian. They refined ways of denying themselves of comfort, privilege, and wealth as well as ways of loving others as themselves. Like the master artisans we mentioned earlier, these Christians devoted their lives to follow Christ revealing the beauty of life in each and everyone around them. They became those who unveiled God in each of us and pointed to God always.
Paul in Romans uses what a potter does as a way to explain what God does as our Creator. In reading the passage, we can easily see those artisans breaking their creations when what they made was not exactly what they intended. In Limoge, France, I learned one thing from these highly skilled artisans about forty years ago. They did not hesitate to break what they created if it did not meet certain standards and quality. On final examination, only the ones they wanted to display to the world were kept. Some were not as perfect as they wished. They, however, kept certain ones with imperfections because these imperfections allowed these products to display their own unique beauty.
I have been pondering ever since about God’s grace as the Creator. Though we desire for perfection in ourselves and others, God was not concerned about our imperfections. Rather, God seemed to have made sure that imperfections in us would bring about our uniqueness and beauty of God’s presence in us. Yes, imperfections are not rejected, but seen as those qualities which enhance God’s creation and the beauty in that creation. Indeed, those lives whom God gracefully placed in this world though we see them as imperfect, are ones kept by our Creator for a purpose. No wonder Jesus alluded that what we consider bad or unacceptable was allowed in God’s creation to demonstrate God’s glory and grace.
Prayer (from The PCC resource)
God of abundant growth,
as summer unfolds around us, we give you thanks for warm sunny days,
for beauty in our gardens, crops growing in our fields,
life swimming in oceans and lakes.
Where the abundance of nature is at risk,
we pray that your Spirit will work in and through us to restore the air,
water and soil for the good of all creation.
God of every life, Hear our prayer.
God of peace and reconciliation,
we thank you for the peace and freedom we enjoy
and the many ways our lives are protected in this land.
We remember before you those places torn apart by violence and hatred,
those people who face discrimination daily,
and anyone who feels unsafe this day or any day. (Keep silence for 15 seconds)
Inspire leaders in every country to lead with wisdom and mercy.
Guide them in your ways of peace and justice.
God of every life, Hear our prayer.
God of creativity and community,
we thank you for the many ways the Church can serve you in Jesus’ name.
Thank you for the unique voices that sing your praise and speak your comfort,
all the hands that share in acts of service,
all the prayers offered quietly for your will to be done.
We pray for the Church and its many congregations as we seek to be faithful.
Help us work together so that our unity bears witness to the possibilities for unity among diverse peoples everywhere.
God of every life, Hear our prayer.
God of every precious life, our hearts ache for those who are suffering. Hear our prayers as we name before you those in need of your love and healing in the silence of our hearts... (Silence for at least 15 seconds) God of every life, Hear our prayer. God hope and love, draw us closer to you every day.
All these things we pray in your Son’s name. Amen.
In this life of plenty and lack, of rich and poor, we come with our offering. We know how we are blessed in ways that we are not in situations of fear and suffering. We also know that in your presence, we have been guided to be frugal and careful. In gratitude, we bring these gifts, returning a small portion of what you have blessed us with. Help us to live the life of gratitude. May our faith come to know that your grace has been sufficient for us. Through these gifts, we offer our thanksgiving and our blessings to you.We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Hymn: Blessed are you