Sunday, July 4, 2021


Welcome and Announcements
We are incredibly thankful to God for calling us together to worship today in person. We have missed worshipping God together. It has been difficult for us not to feel and enjoy Christ’s presence because two or more could not gather together. We are so excited to see you because in your gathering Christ is present.

Please pray for those who are not able to be here today. Some are still trying to get a second dose of vaccines. Some are still cautious. Many are requiring your prayer to continue in their life. Remember that your prayer is their strength. Keep praying for Hugh and Judy, Judy and Kyle, Bob and Virginia, Wayne and Eva, Doris and many others.

Please remember to support your church as we continue to carry out Christ’s ministry. If you are concerned about Residential Schools etc. please check the church website. We have posted helpful information.

**All the prayers in this worship service are from The Presbyterian Church in Canada.

Hymn: God Will Take Care of You

Call to Worship:

Leader: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.
All: God’s mercies never come to an end.
Leader: the mercies of God are new every morning.
All: Great is your faithfulness, O Lord!

Hymn: This is the day

Prayer

Great are you, OGod, and greatly to be praised in all places and at all times. You have made all things and called them good. You created humans in your image. You gave us breath and life, a calling and a purpose. Filled with love for all creation, you lift up leaders and send out disciples to take part in your reconciling work in the world. Your love is endless, your mercy without measure, your faithfulness without limit. And so we praise you with all our strength, mind, heart and soul, in the name of Jesus, your Son, led by your Spirit who guides us day by day.

God of overflowing grace, we are a people blessed with abundance, and yet we take so much for granted. We do not recognize that your gift of life is precious, and so we waste time on things that do not matter. Preoccupied with our own needs and desires, we close our eyes to the needs of those around us; we close our hearts to those who are not like us. We turn away from opportunities to learn and grow. In your mercy, forgive us, OGod. Change our hearts and renew our calling to be bearers of your peace, and witnesses to the work of your kingdom. Amen.

Offering (Take my Life and let it be)

Offering Prayer:
Faithful God, we bring our gifts with trusting hearts, seeking your blessing on the ministries these gifts support. Work through our gifts and our lives, to touch the world with your healing grace through Christ, in whose name we offer ourselves to you. Amen.

2 Corinthians 12:2-10
I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven--whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. And I know that such a person--whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows--was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat. On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

Sermon: "My grace is sufficient for you..."

This passage contains one of the most liked sentences for Christians, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." For us to understand this sentence clearly, we need to go back to Chapter 11 of 2 Corinthians. There, Paul begins a discussion of one of the difficulties he faced in Corinth. It had to do with some who introduced themselves to the church in Corinth arguing that they were equal or better than Paul and his group for a number of reasons. Whatever these apostles were doing, Paul saw them as threats to the church. He described them the following way:
And what I do I will also continue to do, in order to deny an opportunity to those who want an opportunity to be recognized as our equals in what they boast about. For such boasters are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is not strange if his ministers also disguise themselves as ministers of righteousness. Their end will match their deeds.
Their way of presenting themselves as equal to Paul while denigrating Paul by insinuating that his unwillingness to be compensated for his work monetarily had something to do with his illegitimacy caused Paul to speak out in defence. In Chapter 11, Paul matches their arguments. In today’s passage in Chapter 12, he lays out why he is so reluctant in listing his credentials as other apostles do of theirs.

Paul feels awful that he has to get into a boasting match. For Paul, this kind of disputes only detract everyone from Christ. He hates it. Yet, his credibility is severely tested by his opponents as they make him out to be a fraud. He explains at length why he would not be the one to let the world know what credentials he brings when he appears. He is very aware how the world functions in this regard. Everyone comes showing why they are so wonderful. Paul on the other hand, sees no value or usefulness in this practice. Perhaps, because he does not want to take everyone’s focus away from Christ, he immediately returns to point to Christ. Here, he does so in a very unexpected way.

After having listed his credentials, he tries to show how insignificant it is to speak about one’s résumé. He does not want people to focus on these matters which force people to look at him instead of concentrating on Christ. So he describes himself almost in the third person by referring to his conversion experience this way, “I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows.“ It is the most pivotal experience for Paul, yet, he speaks as if the appearance of Christ to him happened to a third person whom he knows well. In a way he is trying to shift focus from him to Christ. Whoever he was, is and shall be is not going to be that important in the plan that has brought Christ into this world as the resurrected one. He does so by making the moment of his calling or conversion as not something that supersedes what Corinthian Christians think of Christianity ought to be. As the one who founded the church at Corinth, he is very concerned that these young Christians can be easily impressed with credentials or claims that apostles can make. He wants them to learn why being humble is so important before God in all circumstances. In this passage, he sets out to demonstrate what it is to be like when one humbles oneself before God.

To begin this argument for humbleness and humility in an attempt to shift everyone’s attention to Christ, he talks about his own “road to Damascus experience” as if it was something that happened to someone else. He says he knows of someone who had the experience fourteen years ago. Then, he describes it as something only God knows the true meaning of and avoids making it part of his credential. It is also his subversive way of saying that human beings do not have the right to pass judgment on these spiritual matters. This is the first point. Whatever changed him, it was not to be attributed as his own, but something from God. He had nothing to do with it other than being in that time and place. Since it is not he who caused it, he may speak about this as if it happened to someone he knows, but he will not usurp it as his own badge, reason for being, mandate, or merit. Others may use it in ways to put importance on themselves. Paul, on the other hand, refuses to do the same.

Paul in his subdued way shows how wonderful and blessed his experience was by saying he “was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat.” He is correct to say that this sort of out of this world experience containing “exceptional character of revelations” should not be used ofr an earthly purpose.

Then Paul moves the discussion. He speaks how he could certainly boast about that person’s experience (his own self of fourteen years before), but how he will not. You see, this experience apparently did not make him perfect. Though significantly spiritual and did have a significant impact on his own life, its purpose is not to make Paul into someone very special. It made him love Christ instead of persecuting him. Yet, this encounter with Christ did not make him full and complete. He is far from being the one who is fit to be with Christ, even though Christ extended this grace to him. This imperfection is shown in his current status of having a weakness. Like everyone, he suffers. This is the key. Meeting Christ did not make him so unblemished that he was spared from being an ordinary human being. Rather, he, like the whole human race, is living with pain and suffering. He is weak and powerless.

Paul does not diverge any information here, but it is clear that whatever it is, (he calls it a “thorn” in the flesh--some translations call it more severe by using “stake” instead of “thorn”) it is excruciatingly painful. Many scholars speculated what this “thorn/stake” in the flesh was (anything from epileptic seizure to migraine headache has been proposed). All we know from Paul’s writings is that it was so forbidding that he was debilitated and often stopped him from being able to do regular chores. So why is this illness such a weakness? In Jesus’ and Paul’s time, many believed that illnesses or physical deformities were God’s punishment for sin. Paul, to go through this very weakness and publicly acknowledge it is to demonstrate how his encounter with Christ did not make him pure in the sense of being totally without any blemish before God.

Paul goes on to use this weakness to demonstrate why God’s grace through Christ makes it possible for the Apostle that he is. He speaks of how he took this difficulty to Christ three times. Yes, not once, but three times. However many times he was facing this pain, Paul to tell us that he took it to Christ three times for relief from it shows that this weakness was not something to be dismissed as a one-time event, but recurring one. This recurring pain, he says, keeps him humble. He does not get arrogant because he is always aware of his fragility due to this weakness. Unlike others, it keeps him humble. He has to depend on Christ. In fact, because of this thorn/stake, he is assured by Christ, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." It is not what he can do that matters. It is not how much power Paul can demonstrate that matters. It is not Paul’s abilities to bring the gospel of Christ that matters. It is Christ who dwells in Paul that is the key. Unlike others, he does not have to boast about one’s strength, knowledge, and wisdom. He can speak of his weakness because in letting others see and witness how unable he is, Paul is arguing, they can actually see Christ at work in him. His weakness becomes a very window through which Christ shines and others are able to receive God’s abundant grace.

Paul’s whole argument is simply that even his weakness magnifies God’s grace. In this way everyone’s eyes are directed to Christ--not to Paul. Paul would be horrified for all the adulation today’s Christians confer on him for being this great apostle who single handedly raised up churches in many parts of the Roman Empire. He would do his best to prove that it was not him, but Christ who made all these churches flourish. All he did was to imitate Christ so that others would imitate him and become more like Christ. All of his doing had nothing to do with him, but everything to do with Christ. In the end it is this, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." In spite of who Paul was, Christ made all things filled with God’s grace.

Like Paul’s contemporaries who showed up in the church in Corinth, presenting their illustrious credentials, in our world, too, we do not point to our weaknesses. In a similar way, today’s leaders of the Christian churches try to out rank with demonstrations of charisma, academic degrees, wisdom, and superior powers of the indwelling God’s Spirit. They talk of the presence of the Holy Spirit, special focus on abilities to pray, marvellous skills to craft sermons addressing the needs of people, and wonderful affirmation from God for their faithfulness in their popularity and successes of their churches. These leaders hide their weaknesses, blemishes, and sins. If they reveal their weaknesses etc. is to display their power and ability to overcome them. As their popularity, power and wealth increase their followers also boast how great their leaders are and are more than willing to turn their eyes blind to these leaders’ foibles. Paul’s method of arguing against his opponents is turned on its head by these leaders to show why they deserve all the accolades from devout crowds in their churches.

How do we get back to say along with Paul that Christ’s grace is sufficient for us today? Our world, just like Paul’s world, cares little about humbleness and humility. They do not value these as virtues. In many ways, being humble or living in humility is to exhibit our weaknesses. No one likes to take a person who is seen as weak seriously. Our world values strong and powerful. In a way it is against our own nature to be humble in the same way Paul is in this passage. Yet, as Christians, our call is not to compete with the world and win over the world. Rather, our call is to follow Christ. We are to deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow the one who gave his life for the world. In Paul’s words, we live life where Christ’ grace is sufficient for us and through our weakness power is perfected. The world will not understand what we are talking about. There is no way the powerful of this world can appreciate anything we say about our weaknesses. Regardless of the way of this world, we live this life of humbleness in humility while being fully aware of our weaknesses. This is our faith in Christ. As we continue on with our weaknesses, Christ perfect power through our weaknesses so that the world will come to know God who graciously demonstrated love through Christ. In our faith, this is the only way.

As Christians, we are very mindful of our sinfulness, imperfection, blemishes, inadequacies and weaknesses. This is natural. Seeing who we are truly through Christ’s love we see ourselves as sinners in need of redeeming. Though we know Christ has redeemed us, we are fully aware how we fail each day. This is our reality. This is why we are not arrogant, proud, rude or haughty in any way. In Christ we are able to see our true nature. This is why we ask his forgiveness, grace and reconciliation. We also know how we are unable to overcome our sinfulness no matter what. We see our powerlessness and our weakness in full. Unlike those in our world, we are fully aware of our shortcomings and foibles. Yes, along with Paul it is important for us to realize that in being called or having given our lives to Christ or having received Christ as our Lord and Saviour does not mean that our weaknesses are wiped out and we are made blameless, without blemish, or pure. We are not made superior because we are given the promise of eternal life in Christ. It simply means that we become ever more clear about our weaknesses and how in Christ power is made perfect in these weaknesses. By these weaknesses we come to receive God’s grace which is sufficient for us because we appeal to Christ on the account of them. Our weaknesses are not something to hide: for through them power is made perfect. Our weaknesses are put there so that unlike others in our world, we may remain humble before God and this world,pointing to Christ.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, You reached out to so many different people, with so many different needs,in so many different situations. We thank you for the ways you have reached out to us, in the embrace of prayer, in the energy of a song, in thought sparked by a sermon, and in the wisdom of a word from scripture or the words of a friend. Sometimes your healing has brought comfort; sometimes it has brought challenge and the call to respond. Hear us as we seek your comfort and your challenge for the world, for the church and for our lives.

Bring comfort to those whose lives have been overturned by the pandemic: to those whose work or study has become so much more difficult; to those who cannot find work and don’t know where to turn; to those who still struggle with COVID-19 or another lingering illness,
and those who have lost hope that things will ever improve.
(Pause)

Bring challenge to those who lead recovery efforts over the next months: to those whose decisions affect the well-being of the vulnerable, to those who guide economic and educational planning, and those who are rebuilding community life:
(Pause)

May your wisdom and compassion guide them.

Lord Jesus, bring comfort to those who are lonely or shut in, and to all who have lost beloved family members or friends during the pandemic; bring comfort to those who feel pain without relief and those who wait for diagnosis or life-restoring treatment. Offer peace to those who know there is no treatment and wait in hope for your eternal welcome.
(Pause)

Bring challenge to those who want to make the world a better place, and to all who work within science, medicine, and the law to improve the quality of life for all people. Give them a vision of their work that is both just and courageous, so that no part of society is neglected or mistreated. Challenge those who stir up violence and unrest with a sense of shame for the cost to innocent lives, and with a deeper understanding of what justice means.

Lord Jesus, comfort your church in places where ministries struggle, whatever the reason.
And challenge your church to renew our vision for ministry so that our witness is faithful to your all-embracing love, expressed not only in words but also in the actions we take
to embrace those who differ from us and yet have a place in your heart and your eternal care.

Hear us now as we pray in the words you taught us, Lord Jesus, saying: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory, now and forever. Amen.

Hymn: The King of Love My Shepherd is

Benediction