Sunday, June 13, 2021

Welcome and Announcements

Thank you for continually worshipping God with us in this difficult time.

This week the 146th General Assembly of The Presbyterian Church in Canada met. Some important decisions were made. We have updated you through emails with some important decisions. If you like to know what they are please check our website:

As we have been announcing, we will resume our in-person worship services starting on Sunday, July 4th at 10 am. We will continue to abide by the restrictions from the health department. Please pray that everyone will stay safe.

We are also preparing for Wednesday evening in person worship services at 6:30 pm in July.

We will continue to have our services available online as we begin our in-person services. Please continue to check for worship services online.

We are very thankful for your support. May God continue to focus you in Christ’s ministry.

Our thanks to those who have been volunteering for Saturday Lunch Takeouts. Please encourage them through your prayers. They have been in the church kitchen every week to prepare the meals.

We will soon be starting our Presbyterians Sharing fundraising by making soups. We will let you know when the soups will be available.

It has been a very difficult week emotionally for many Canadians. Two weeks ago we were faced with the discovery of 215 nameless indigenous children near Kamloops. Then, on Sunday we woke up to the news of the killings of a Muslim family by a young man who drove his truck over them. All these events affect us to wonder and find ways to overcome evil as a society. As we pray for all those affected, we will bring suggestions to you as how we can move forward on these issues.

Let us pray.

What have we to say, O God?
The sight of this carnage, hate smothering the blossoms of life,
Filling this sliver of happy walk with death beyond.

What have we to make of it, O Lord?
The cries of people silencing the whispers of love being shared in intimacy of a family on a walk,
Rush of disdain, angers, and guilt flooding the fragments of road, turned into an altar on which the sacrifice quenched the thirst of hatred.

What name by which shall we call this slaughter, O the Great Spirit?
White Supremacy? Discrimination? Racism? Terrorism?
By whose might was the young man led?

O God of love,
Already the names are lost, hidden and covered,
Flowers, shoes, red dresses, all like words fleeting and dissipate, erased again.

Here they are, your children, with and without names, O God.
Hear our prayers as we again bring their names: Syed Afzaal, Madiha Salman, Yumnah Afzaal, along with Syed's mother, 215 nameless children, thousands and thousands more indigenous children still crying out from the unmarked graves, and forgotten all those missing and murdered indigenous women on our highways and byways.

How are we to pray? Shall we bring the names of perpetrators of these heinous violence?
What are we to do with all those who killed your children senselessly and heartlessly?

O the Lord of compassion,
Help us to be the very manifestations of your love that loves even the enemies as we continue to work for the world where all lives will flourish in love and compassion.

Tend to those hearts broken and mangled.
Put faith in life into all who grieve today.
Give strength to love to all who find these killings unimaginable.
Recreate us in love, never to repeat ways of humanity killing and dominating one another.

We pray in your Son’s name. Amen.

O the deep deep love of Jesus

Life had its beginning in God. In God it will come to completion and its meaning be fully revealed. All creation will find fulfillment in God. God has prepared for us things beyond our imagining. Our hope is for a renewed world. Now we see in part. Then, we shall see face to face. Let us come and worship!

I’ve got peace like a river

Mark 10:17-23

As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honour your father and mother.” ’ He said to him, ‘Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.’ Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!’ And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, ‘Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’

Having just been to our first ever online assembly I see why this command by Jesus is so difficult for so many people. Many sincere and usually good Presbyterians are having a real difficult moment because of the new church laws ordaining the LGBTQI people as elders, both teaching and ruling. It was very clear from the beginning that this year’s assembly was very determined. By this I mean that for the first time I could sense the way these 200+ commissioners were asking questions in briefing groups, it was obvious that they came to make decisions on Remits B and C.

This issue has been going on since the first time I attended the assembly in 1992. At that time, we had over 300 commissioners present at McMaster University auditorium in Hamilton. Almost all of those 400 commissioners did not want to approve anything on sexuality issues. The argument was simply that homosexuality was wrong. The mind of the Church had no interest in entertaining any report that might allow any thought of understanding on homosexuality that sounded liberals being given time. Only a handful of us dissented. Presbyterians in Canada struggled to figure out how to discern God’s will on this matter year after year until this year. That means, it took 29 years of discernment.

In the 2019 Assembly when the motion was passed to include LGBTQI persons, some Presbyterians threatened to pull out and never return for the rest of the 2019 Assembly. At that point, to find a middle ground, young ministers and elders got together and proposed a compromise motions, known as Remit B and C, which were passed and were sent down to presbyteries on Barrier Act to get votes from presbyteries. As I have explained in my daily updates of the Assembly, a large majority of presbyteries approved these remits. The final step, then, was to have another assembly to vote on these motions in order to finally drop the matter or make them into the church law. As I have communicated, these two motions passed with wide margins.

Immediately it became clear that those who were outvoted could not accept the results. They brought out all kinds of reasons during the debate accusing the yes side with racism against visible minority congregations if we were to pass these remits since many representing visible minority congregations were unwilling to accept the final results. In that moment I could see this rich man’s struggle in all those who were not willing to accept LGBTQI people as our siblings with equal status. They could not put behind their faith life of riches including various views on LGBTQI people and follow Jesus into the new life of loving God and loving one another. They really wanted to hang on to the life they currently were enjoying. They argued that this new life where they had to let go of their views on LGBTQI issues were totally valuable to hang on to with all their strength.

I was not part of the arguments in our Church when ordination of women was discussed with same vigour and similar arguments. Many clergy and lay people argued back then how ordaining women was against the Bible and wanted to hang on to the views and practices they enjoyed up until that point in history. Everyone in The Presbyterian Church in Canada now does not understand why there was so much fuss and anger over changing. Life of loving God and neighbours did not change one iota. We continued and still live the Christian life of loving God and neighbours.

Another similar cultural point was on marriage. Some of us remember when marrying a partner from another denomination was derided as sin. Yes, a Catholic girl ought to marry a Catholic boy: a Presbyterian girl was meant to marry a Presbyterian boy. It was a scandal if a Presbyterian married an Anglican. Same for interracial marriages. Today, however, we would only find very few who would still argue that a Jewish person ought not be married to a Scottish Presbyteiran or a Chinese evangelical should not marry a French Catholic and so on. We would consider these ways of thinking obsolete. I do still hear, however, the Christian churches ought not allow LGBTQI persons because their lifestyles are prohibited in the Bible. Here, again, I am not judging anyone or making a statement about anyone who is for or against LBGTQI persons. I am simply saying that it is incredibly difficult for many people to let the life of our comfort and prosperity go in order to participate in the new life where the main focus is loving God in Christ and loving neighbours as we love ourselves.


We pray, O God, as we worship you. At times it is very difficult to bring ourselves in unity. With Remits B and C passing there are many Presbyterians in Canada who are relieved and are grateful for your grace. There is a sense that harms will cease and participation in your ministry will be welcomed. We thank you for this courageous decision of the Church and for all these your LGBTQI+ children who remained in this Church faithfully.

On the other hand, there are Presbyterians who are upset because their beliefs do not line up with this new reality. As they struggle to adapt, may your grace and mercy be with these brothers and sisters. Fill the hearts of these struggling Presbyterians with your wisdom and love in ways that decisions that everyone makes will be to your glory.

In this worship, we bring to you our love. As we present the love in our hearts, we find it partial and in need of your grace. Fill us with your Spirit in ways that we can truly bring forth love in ways that we come to love you, our siblings, as well as our neighbours unconditionally as you have taught us through your Son our Lord.

May your Word be heard this day through this worship!

In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

In His time


In this passage, we are seeing this man who was devout, had kept all the commandments, and was a good Jew on all accounts. It always puzzled me to think about what Jesus says here, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ It was obvious in the passage that this decent man could not do what Jesus asked. At the end of the passage neither he ended up with eternal life as his inheritance, nor with an instruction he could follow.

Jesus’ answer to the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” was fairly direct. Go, he said, straighten your life and put your life behind you, then, come and follow me. In other words, it was a variation of his call to deny oneself and follow Christ or treating the current life dead to oneself and start a new life with Christ. To do that, Jesus is saying that he has to give everything up including the way he has been thinking. Those who were ready to start a new life, the likes of disciples, had no trouble hearing the call to follow. This man, however, cannot hear the call. Somehow, Jesus’ message to follow him to participate in the new life is missed because he probably thought that the life with Jesus had nothing to do with eternal life or life after death.

This man’s inability to understand what eternal life was was evident by the choice of his term. Instead of God’s kingdom which was very widely used, he wants to know about inheriting eternal life. Two things are happening here. To inherit, he is not concerned about the rest of the Jews. He is only concerned about himself and what he will receive in his future. He seems to see eternal life as something that can be given for being a good son. In this sense, he does represent many of us modern individuals who are concerned more about one’s own well being than about the well being of a larger group of people. In this self-focused life, it became very difficult for him to let go of his wealth or his life as currently being enjoyed. He went away sad because he faced, probably for the first time, the reality of what it means to live in eternal life. Here, Jesus does not offer eternal life as a possession that he could gain after his death. Instead, Jesus offers a way to enter into and participate in it by being with him.

The point of dying to the life that is currently lived in order to participate in eternal life is not an easy choice for those who have been blessed in many ways and have been judicious in keeping God’s commandments. To sell all that one possesses and give the money gained from the sales to the poor in order to prepare oneself for starting up a totally unknown new life is far more difficult than we can imagine. How would each one of us have done if we are asked to do the same thing? Most of us will be very reluctant to entertain this question. We as a congregation have been trying to answer this question for the last few years as we struggle to be God’s people here in Niagara Falls. We cannot imagine selling Drummond Hill, giving all the proceeds to the poor, and following Christ. We do not know what this means. We do not know how to figure out to be with Jesus as we follow him.

Jesus’ demand to leave the current life behind for the new has a totally different dimension. As we have alluded earlier, today we consider our knowledge, wisdom, understanding and abilities to think--all gained from education--as part of our wealth as well. What are we to do with these riches? Just like Jesus observed, those who are rich in possessions such as theological and biblical knowledge, higher understanding of God’s salvation, deeper scholarships or spiritual devoutness face enormous difficulties of entering into God’s kingdom. This is so because those with learning are unable to empty or let go of our ways of thinking and knowing in order to follow Jesus and start in a totally radical way of Jesus.

As we ponder about the difficulty of letting the wealth go in order to follow Jesus with nothing but our beings, it is time for us to focus on what we as a congregation is willing to do. Here is a small example of the difficulties we face. In the 1980s and 1990s, we fought to give up or not give up one of our prized possessions. We still carry on this struggle. It is about the way we are so attached to music. Many of us like old familiar hymns that are so meaningful to us. But in the 1980s and 1990s, in many congregations across Canada the question was whether to allow different styles of music in worship services instead of organ music. In this battle of singing hymns with organ/piano or guitar/drums, we have proven well how we do not want to let go of the worship instruments that we know and appreciate so much. In this proxy fight, many of us have remained in the same mode of being as this rich man who turned away sad. Mind you, this fight over music was once a symbol of our willingness to give up or not willing to give up. It is no longer that symbolic since most new people are not concerned about the style of music. Most people simply stay away from Sunday worship saying they are not finding Sunday worship meaningful at all.

Today, we face a different challenge. With aging members and adherents, aging facilities requiring more and more repairs, and higher cost to maintain, we are faced with a choice of holding onto what we own and our riches or a choice of letting go of what we possess in order to follow Jesus into the new creation. As we begin to prepare for the return back to regular worship services in our sanctuary, we will begin to ponder various paths to following Christ in near future. How we hear Jesus’ answer to this rich man will point us to our future in a clear term. At the end this rich man went away sad. However, the most interesting point here is that we are not told of his final decision. He went away at this time, but the choice he ultimately made remains hidden from us. All we know is that many who followed him to ask the very same questions ended up doing exactly what Jesus told this man to do. Because of the positive responses of millions and millions of people who chose to follow Jesus by giving what they owned to the poor and participate in Jesus’ ministry, the Church grew to the size that it is today--about two and half billion people around the world today.

So what is Jesus telling us to do through this story? How willing are we to hear Jesus’ message?

How are we to come before you, but as sinners in need of your redeeming, O God? Be pleased that we have come and heard your message. Be kind to us as we come to bring our prayers that have been welling up from our hearts.

Today we pray for our Canadian brothers and sisters, both new and have lived here for generations, as they reel over the realization that hatred has not spared us and that among Canadians there are those who refuse to welcome one another. Be with those who are fearful. Be also with those who are unable to welcome those who come to us as strangers. Keep all of us in your care. May we work and find ways together to bring life that is filled with compassion and care for one another.

We pray for all Ontarians. After more than a year of lockdowns, we are impatient. Our nerves are frail. Many are frustrated and angry. As the government begins to open businesses, give everyone patience. Continue to be with the frontline workers in hospitals and care centres, in stores and supermarkets, and in many workplaces. Guard and protect them from those who want their ways.

We pray for Presbyterians. As we struggle to figure out a new way of being, having fully welcomed LGBTQI brothers and sisters, be our guide. Take hatred and prejudices away from our hearts. At the same time, give us wisdom to listen to each other as we go forward.

Be with all those who are ill, lonely, and alone. We pray for Doris, Hugh and Judy, Wayne and Eva, Robert and Virginia, Kathleen and many others. Give them your presence as they get through each day.

We pray for this, your congregation. As your people, we have been witnessing your good news here participating in your Son’s ministry. Keep us focused on loving you and loving others. Make us your hands and feet so that we may welcome and meet those who need you in places of their dwellings.

We know that our words are never enough. We now lift up unsaid prayers through the prayer your Son who has taught us to say: 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.

Offering: Spirit Song

Offering Prayer

In our humility, we come to respond to your infinite grace. In gratitude, we offer you these gifts in order to bring your good news to those who need your presence. Help us to be those who witness your love in this world. Make us your servants in ways that we help you usher in your reign as we participate in your Son’s ministry. All these things we pray in Jesus name. Amen.

Hymn: May the God of hope go with us everyday