Welcome. As many people are suffering due to high temperatures, we welcome you to God’s presence. Let us welcome Christ’s blessings for all those who are suffering today. Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.’ (Matthew 5:3)
We invite you to Cinnamon Bun Tuesday at 10 am. After this Tuesday, we will take a break until September.
There will not be worship services for Sundays August 7, and 14. The church will be open for worship on August 21 and 28.
We are asking you to attend different churches on August 7 and 14 with a purpose of learning what other churches are doing. The list of churches you might like to attend is available today and next Sunday.
Holy, holy, holy
Call to Worship (Psalm 85:1-6
O come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the Lord is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and the dry land, which his hands have formed.
O come, let us worship and bow down,
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
Glorify Thy Name
O Lord God, Creator of heaven and earth and all there in,
We come in humility and offer you our worship. As yours, called in Jesus, we lift our voices up to praise you. In your presence we are revealed as who we truly are, sinners who deserve nothing but death. Yet through your son you bestowed grace upon grace on us and formed us your people in this world. With thanksgiving, we come to worship you.
We bless you, Redeemer of all who believe in you.
We owe our lives solely to the love you gave us by reconciling us to our Creator. In our poverty, we offer you our praise and worship.
O Holy Spirit, the very Guide who takes us on the right path,
We humbly bow before you and ask you to be present with us in worship.
Make this worship acceptable to the Creator without whom we have no life.
All these, we pray in your Son’s name. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 5:1-7
Once while Jesus* was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’ Simon answered, ‘Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.’ When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signalled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink.
Sermon: Jesus and Fishers
Do you like fishing stories? Are you sick of hearing how the biggest one got away? Can we talk about the biggest fish we caught? You know, the one that grows bigger and bigger as each year goes by? I am not a fishing person. I am not very interested in fishing altogether. Although I love eating fish, fishing is not what I enjoy doing. Don’t get me wrong. I am not squeamish about handling live fish. I am simply not a person who throws in a line and waits for fish to bite. I wish I could enjoy the thrill of catching fish as much as those who cannot stop going fishing. The best haul of fish I’ve ever had was at a supermarket when I bought a box of well filleted mackerels at a decent price.
My father was an avid hobby fisherman. He bought these very fine fishing poles, made his own baits at times, and had his spot on one of the piers he always went to. I remember him catching a bluefish that was nearly two feet long. I think the regulation was that he had to let the fish go if it was smaller than a foot or something like that. He also used to tell me about all kinds of different species of fish he was after. He not only went to his favourite beaches, but also went fly-fishing in the mountain streams. Everywhere he went he would spy out a good spot where he could catch lots of them.
Fishing to me was sort of a gamble. You don’t know what kinds of fish are in certain streams. Often you do not get to see them when you cast your line into the water. Then, you wait. Of course, I was told that certain baits were better for catching certain fish. But you are throwing in a bait in hope of catching something. Sometimes, you end up with very small fish that are returned back into the water. Sometimes, you catch something totally unexpected. I remember going with my Dad to catch some trouts but ending up catching perches. Once we went to the Red River in Manitoba to catch some big mouth bass. We ended up with a bucket full of catfish. Many times, we returned home with nothing. At least my Dad was not trying to provide family as a fisherman.
Simon whom Jesus called on that particular day was probably getting very worried. He made a living fishing. He provided for his family by fishing. No fish meant no food on the dinner table. Perhaps he was quietly blaming Jesus. After all, Jesus sat on a boat a very short distance away from the beach speaking to a large number of people. With so many people on the shore making lots of noise along with Jesus speaking in a large voice addressing the crowd, fish would have been very aware of human presence and hid away. He might have thought that it was not good for him to fish because of the noise. Fish were not waiting to be caught. No wonder Simon responded to Jesus’ suggestion to put the net down into the deep water saying their efforts to fish all night brought up nothing.
I can easily sympathise with Simon. After all, he was a fisherman all his life. He knew these waters like the back of his hand. He also had been out in the water all night long trying to catch something, anything. Now this stranger who was disturbing the quiet waters was telling him to let the net down. Any fisherman would have known how futile letting the net down one more time would have been. After all, everything was stacked against him. If anything was to be caught, they would have seen a sign of fish one way or another. Simon was there with nothing. Zero. Nada. Yet, as if he was compelled by some unknown force that came from Jesus, in spite of his protesting response, he casted the net one more time. Did Jesus know something he didn’t? You can hear annoyance in Simon’s voice as he says, “Yet, if you say so, I will let the net down.” He had no expectations. He simply was following Jesus’ instructions.
Then came the surprise to Simon, his friends and all who were present. Everyone on the shore heard Simon saying that all night long he caught nothing. Now he ended up with too many fish. The net was bulging and breaking. They could not have imagined catching so many fish all at once. He needed help from the other boat to bring the entire catch.. At this point, most of today’s Christians like to jump to the next part where Jesus told Simon that he would make Simon and his friends into fishers of people. This fishing story with that punchline offers a good lesson. Today, however, we focus on this part of the passage alone. We will leave Simon’s reaction as well as Jesus’ call to Simon and sons of Zebedee for another time.
Earning a living fishing was a harsh profession. As we can see in the story, often Simon and his friends came home empty handed. Today there are only a small number of people in each country who earn a living by fishing. More and more of them are giving up fishing and trying to make a living in other ways. Industrial fishing, overfishing, acid rain, global warming, and climate change have affected fisheries all over the world. Until the 1960s, people of NewFoundland were filled with fishers. Today, most of them no longer fish to make a living. Indeed in all of the maritime provinces, fishing as an industry no longer makes a significant contribution to their well being. Overfishing not only by Canadians, but also by European and Asian trawlers in the international waters off the east coast led to the collapse of the cod fishery. The effects were far reaching. Most small fishing villages became ghost villages as people migrated to find jobs.
I have been amused about the parallel between the collapse and recovery of cod fishery in Canada and the demise of Canadian churches. Christianity seemed to be following the fisheries in many ways. In the 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries, churches were packed everywhere in Canada. By the 1960s, we could not build churches fast enough. Then came the crash. Initially this crash was named as the donut effect where downtown churches lost most of their members to suburban churches as most of the middle class members moved out to suburbs. Because we could not build churches fast enough in the suburbs, we thought that churches would continually grow.
Then came the emptying of the suburbs as most households in the suburbs began experiencing empty nesting big time. At the same time with the increase in immigrants from countries with different religions along with most young people who left suburbs not attending churches, churches faced massive downturn. We are still dealing with this collapse of church membership everywhere. A few big mega-churches are beginning to suck up what few members remain behind in most churches while many local churches are closing their doors. This very close parallel between the demise of two different sectors ought to point a way out.
In this sense, we as a church have reached the point Simon and his friends reached. We have been doing our best with nothing to show for. So we are careful in how we manage to see if we could survive. The reality is that our old methods are no longer working. Our way of being a church seems irrelevant and out of touch with others. A very few might join churches like ours. With a very meagre result, like Simon, we keep on doing the same thing. We don’t know what else to do. In repeating the things we have always done, in a way, we are putting more faith in our past ways of doing things than in God. Our ways are filled with God-talk and how we understood God’s will in the past. We hold on more desperately to these ways of the past in hope that our efforts will be rewarded by God and we may survive.
Jesus’ instruction to Simon, on the other hand, demonstrates something very different from our old ways of faith. Jesus told Simon to go to the deep water and drop the net. Jesus’ instruction demanded Simon’s faith and service. He had to give up his experience, knowledge, and past results and trust. He reluctantly did as he was told. In other words, he initially lacked faith. Only after his eyes saw the catch, he followed Jesus. At least Simon was given an opportunity to see so that he could believe or have faith. In our case, Gospel Luke insists on faith in Jesus first. We do not have the luxury of Jesus showing us who he is in person. In this way, through Simon and sons of Zebedee, Luke puts emphasis on the primacy of faith for all that we do. In other words, all that we do in life ought to be the consequence of faith in Jesus, not the other way around. We are not to trust on methods of the past when churches were flourishing. Our faith should be in Jesus, not in our ways.
We have been talking about downsizing. We have been very cautious. Like Simon, we have been doing the same thing for a long time without really being the centre of hope for people in despair. If anything, what we learn from the collapse of the cod fishery and demise of many churches is that it is faith that we require, not our ways. It is faith that makes us hear and witness Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Without this faith, we (or our church) walk the same path Simon and his friends did throughout the night. With faith, we come with courage to follow Jesus and put our faith in him without seeing.
O Lord God,
Our world is suffering. Your creation is groaning as temperatures in many places are getting to new records, making it impossible for many people to survive. Human activities have now pushed your creation to the brink of extinction. O God of past, present and future, open our eyes to see how we need to change our ways if we are to have a prosperous future.
On this day, we pray for all those who are suffering in heat and other natural hardships. Many are suffering the consequences of unbearable heat waves in Europe, North America, Asia and Northern Africa. We are also hearing about droughts, famines, floods, and other disasters on the account of a changing world. So many people and other life forms are under threat as your creation tries to find a way of healing itself from the ills of human development. Give us wisdom to find ways to check our destructive ways. Help us to love all life to bring greater harmony by turning ourselves away from our destructive ways.
We pray, O God, for love. Without love for you and for others, we become selfish seeking only the ways we can save ourselves instead of working together to help this world become fuller with life that you have given. Fill us with your love for all that breathe and live. May we come to see the futility of wars and hatred of others. Focus us on building up life. Point us the way to work for the entire creation.
We pray for all your people who are part of this congregation.
Some are travelling. Due to plans, they are being exposed to these dangers we worry over in Europe and elsewhere. Keep them safe. Be present with them. Guide and protect them.
Some are trying to overcome their pain. Due to illnesses of all kinds, many of your people suffer quietly, waiting their turn with doctors, and hoping for their health to recover. Be with them. Hold them in your hand.
We pray for all those who are trying their best to help others. Many are involved in professions of caring. Many are providing care for their loved ones in decline. Many are trying to find balance in work and home chores so that they would provide safe and nurturing environments for their loved ones. Be with them all. Strengthen them with your love. Give them your presence so that they will never tire of looking after others.
We pray for this congregation. You have prepared various members to serve in ways to ready this congregation for a future that belongs to you. Give them wisdom to take on this task and do their best. Grand them your will so that they may find a way for this church.
All these and more we pray in your Son’s name. Amen.
In spite of our faith in you, we still hear, feel, and share with our neighbours worries and fears about everything in life. Prices are rising. Wars are continuing. Hatred abounds. Yet, the more our world gets filled with these terrible events, the more we feel blessed by you in our safe life. Our eyes are opened to see and know how your grace is present even more with us. So we come to you in thanksgiving. We bring you this offering as our promise to love you and our neighbours. Bless us. Make us your children who will not fail you in loving our neighbours. All these we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Hymn: And can it be