Welcome (2 Corinthians 4:5-12)

For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus' sake. For it is the God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.

Create in me a clean heart

Call to Worship (Psalm 81:1-10)

Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob. Raise a song, sound the tambourine, the sweet lyre with the harp.  Blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the full moon, on our festal day.

For it is a statute for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob. 81:5 He made it a decree in Joseph, when he went out over the land of Egypt. I hear a voice I had not known:  "I relieved your shoulder of the burden; your hands were freed from the basket. In distress you called, and I rescued you; I answered you in the secret place of thunder; I tested you at the waters of Meribah.

Hear, O my people, while I admonish you; O Israel, if you would but listen to me!  There shall be no strange god among you; you shall not bow down to a foreign god.  I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.

Come thou almighty king


God of all life and each life, 
you created us in love to enjoy your presence in creation. 
You made us in your image
so that we would find purpose and possibility in our lives. 
You gave us Sabbath rest
to breathe in your grace and peace week by week. 
In Jesus you show us how to share grace and peace with one another. 
Refresh us in this time of worship, 
so that we may leave with a deep sense of well-being at our core,
for we offer ourselves to you
through Christ, our Saviour. Amen

Scripture: Mark 2:23-3:6

One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain.  The Pharisees said to him, "Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?" And he said to them, "Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions."  Then he said to them, "The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath."

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, "Come forward." Then he said to them, "Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?" But they were silent. He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.  The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

Sermon: To be a Christian here in Niagara Falls

What does it mean to be a Christian? Here in Niagara Falls, today. 
Some people say they are Christians because they attend worship services on Sundays. Others say they are Christian because they belong to a church as a member. Some consider themselves Christians since they believe in God. Some others, because they help others.Some, because they live according to Jesus’ teachings on their own terms. Yes, there are variety ways people think of themselves as Christians. More certain we are, the more we should realize that we really do not know. As to who is truly Christian, only God knows.

If there are so many confusing ways to define or know who Christians are, are we to give up and do whatever we like to do? Perhaps! It may work for some people to be living according to one’s own understanding, but for many of us, things don’t work that way. Jesus’ ministry was confusing the Jews of his time in a big way. Just read this morning’s passage and see. Here Jesus is confusing the Pharisees by letting his disciples do things that are contrary to what religious people who worshipped God were doing and allowing them to break the law.

He upsets the Pharisees by saying, “The Sabbath was made for humankind, not humankind for the Sabbath.” Huh??? Was it not the Sabbath way – obeying God’s command to keep it holy? Was it not for God’s sake people took a day off and did nothing? Was it not the day to honour God by gathering to praise and meditate on God’s Word? How, then, did Jesus go from that understanding to this saying where the Sabbath was made for humankind? Was not the day of rest all about God? Why did Jesus say it was for people?

We see in the Old Testament (Exodus 16:26) that the Sabbath was given to humankind to keep it holy to the Lord and rest. In a way, it is a reminder for the people to depend on God, not on one’s own hard work, to rest from all the toils and to quiet the urge that is deep in our hearts to accumulate wealth and power without restraints. It is for humankind to know their limitations and be satisfied with God’s provision. Without such restraints, humankind gets lost because of our fears, anxieties and worries that come from the power of death.

The rule concerning the Sabbath is the very first temptation Jesus dealt with in the wilderness. He fasted for forty days. Seeing his hunger that threatens his life, the devil tempts Jesus to turn stones into bread. Forty days of fasting turns human beings to find ways of means to survive anyway one can. There are stories where people began thinking not only about eating soils to fill the stomach, but also eating things they never imagined they would when they were left starving. The devil was reminding Jesus that he could avoid death by turning stones into bread. This is the temptation to live and escape death. After forty days of fasting, Jesus and the devil knew death was around the corner.

The whole command about Sabbath is to set human minds that are focused on wealth and power to something more. A philosopher named Byung Chul Han discusses the fact that the very human drive for wealth and power is a way to placate death. He points out that those who focus on wealth and power often equate gaining immense wealth and power as a way to immortality. More wealthy and powerful they become, the more invincible and powerful they feel. This pursuit of wealth and power can only be had through physical, mental and economic violence against others, resulting in many different forms of death. This is what we mean by saying that death rules over humanity, causing harm to all aspects of body and soul.

Jesus responded by saying that living for God’s people is more than fighting against death. It requires God’s Word alongside food. It is the response that negates the accumulation of wealth and power in order to avoid death. Turning stones into bread may postpone death, but it does not solve the problem of hunger and poverty caused by incessant human drive to be immortal. Here the necessity of Sabbath as God given tool to confront the power of death is seen. The command to keep Sabbath is to pause the human drive for immortality and accept the limits of life as we create it. It is an antidote against incessant drive to make ourselves live forever.

Sabbath puts temporary stops against not only the constant push for wealth and power, but also exploitation by the strong against the weak so that the well being of each individual can be taken care of. Without Sabbath or a day of rest, the poor and the weak face life without rest and recovery from daily chores, shortening their lives. In this sense, Jesus is reminding the Pharisees that the commandment to keep the Sabbath holy is for all human beings, not just the ones who can afford to rest from their daily chores and also a reminder that the world as God created it has sufficient provisions for all to enjoy life.

To clarify this point that the command to keep the Sabbath is for people, Jesus goes on to heal the sick on the Sabbath. Of course, this brazen contravention of the Pharisees’ understanding of the Sabbath command puts Jesus in their crosshairs, but Jesus reinforces what was in the Old Testament. The Sabbath is given to God’s people to free them from burdens, not to enslave them into a rule that oppresses and condemns them into judgement. Jesus’ teaching here reminds us to know how we are to treat God’s command we see in the Bible as well.

Today, we easily fall into ways of Pharisees in our churches worldwide. We are opinionated. We are convinced of our knowledge and faith in Christ. We often have a sense of superiority because of our knowledge and experience in faith matters. We weigh and measure others based on our own standards. We castigate those who do not act like we do as Christians. We condemn those who do not share our theologies. We plot to destroy those whose views threaten our way of being Christians.

Jesus is reminding us as much as Pharisees that to live life in praise of God as we give God glory, we are to make sure that God’s commands are for people. For us not only to glorify, but also to enjoy God, we ought to receive this lesson from Jesus that the commandments were given to people for our benefits first and foremost. They are the blessings by which we become God’s servants to live under God and overcome the power of death.


God of communion and community,
we give you thanks for our life together in Christ,
and for the work of the Spirit 
that draws us closer to you and to each other.
We pray for the life of our denomination
as it meets in General Assembly throughout the next days.
Send your Spirit to work in and through the commissioners,
opening minds and hearts to your leading.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ sustain us in communion and community,
even when we differ over decisions and directions.

God of compassion and concern,
Thank you for the ministries and mission Presbyterians undertake together
in Canada and throughout the world you love.
Thank you for lessons learned and hope inspired
by all the partners we have worked with 
in different cultures and on different projects.
We pray for all who serve in ministries supported by Presbyterians Sharing
and Presbyterian World Service and Development.
Open our hearts to support their work
with generous giving and ongoing prayer,
so that lives will be healed, transformed and strengthened
according to your compassionate concern.

God of our hearts and our hopes,
We pray for those you have given us to love. 
Hear us as we name them before you in silence. 
(Keep silence for ten seconds)

We pray for those who serve our nation and communities
as leaders in business and politics, 
in health care and education,
in the military and all emergency services. 
(Keep silence for ten seconds)

Grant them wisdom and resilience when resources are stretched, 
so their choices address the needs of the most vulnerable.

We pray for those who face uncertainty, unrest
and threat from violence day by day. 
In this moment of silence, 
we bring before you people in our own community
and those in places around the world 
where injustice and deprivation are unrelenting.
(Keep silence for ten seconds)

God of the earth and all its fullness,
in this season of planting and growing, of nesting and nurturing,
we pray for the environment and all the creatures it supports.
Protect species and habitats at risk,
and make us better stewards of all you have entrusted to us.

Hear our prayers for everything and everyone you hold precious
as we pray the words Jesus taught us:


Offering Prayer


The session and leaders will meet again to hear the proposal of the Transition Team on Tuesday evening at 6:30 pm. Please pray for them.

All other activities continue. Please remember Wednesday Prayer at 3:30 pm, Friday Devotion at 8 pm and Saturday activities starting at 1 pm.

I surrender all