Sunday, June 20, 2021


Welcome and Announcements

Thank you for taking the time to worship with us. We thank God for your love for God and for one another. Your participation in this worship service is the confession and proclamation of God's presence in this troubled world.

Please share the hope in Christ with your neighbours and those who belong to Drummond Hill. It is important to continually be vigilant as we move into this first stage of opening.

We will begin our in-person worship services in July. The first service on Sunday, July 4th, will be exciting in that it will be the first time we will be together since Easter Sunday outdoor service. Please, prepare your hearts and join us for worship. Yes, we will sing, share readings of Scriptures and rejoice together. Remember in July and August our Sunday worship service will begin at 10 am.

On Wednesday evenings in July and August, there will be another service at 6:30 pm. It will be very informal, yet, uplifting and joy filled. Please, take advantage of our summer weather. Come and join us for this time of refreshment.

Our mission continues. We are continually reaching out with our Saturday lunches. We are also planning to prepare soups for sale. The proceeds from soup sales will go to Presbyterians Sharing to help with ministries in various parts of Canada.

Continue to pray for your church as we move forward. Remember those who need your prayers. Currently, the ones we are praying for God’s care are Hugh and Judy, Wayne and Eva, Robert and Virginia, and Doris. If you have names of those who require our prayers, please let us know.

We are called into the Church, Christ together with his people, to worship and serve God all of life. We are God’s people set apart to do Christ’s ministry on earth, to love neighbours as ourselves, proclaiming the nearness of God’s reign. Let us come and give God our praises.

Glorify Thy Name (Father we love you)



The past two years have been an incredible social experiment. As the virus we now call COVID 19 began spreading, the world began drastically limiting activities of people. It was a sight to behold in a sense that fear of death swept through everywhere the virus spread. The world’s most powerful countries began locking down. To save lives, some countries went into measures unforeseen in history as people were confined, quarantined, and prohibited from moving about. All activities except the essential activities to keep life going in the most basic ways were stopped. It was not the first time everyone was faced with threats of death. It was the first time the threat of death immobilized entire populations in many countries.

With the massive vaccination efforts, much of the threats of death have subsided in Canada. People are impatient at the speed of returning to the way life used to be. The fear of death is not as overbearing as it used to be for the entire population. Without fear, the usual threats of death are toothless. As fear decreases, governments are losing their abilities to convince people to behave in a safe manner.

The experience of the past two years gives us an insight to what the Church went through in the past century and half. Many people needed religions like Christianity. They were fearful of death and consequences of death. They found comfort in churches that assured them of eternal life of bliss and comfort. The Christian revival of the 19th and 20th century focused all its energy on rewards of the afterlife. The message was simple: be good by following Christ and keeping commandments so that you will live forever in heaven or else you will face eternal punishment in hell. In this spirit, being born again and living life as their churches taught them were seen as guarantees to enter this wonderful eternal life.

As people’s lives improved, education levels increased and threats of death were no longer so powerful in people’s minds, most people no longer needed Christianity. As the population became more concerned with living comfortable and meaningful lives here and now, death became less and less a thing to fear. Indeed, now we even have people promoting good death where you can die the way you choose to die on your own terms. This soothing picture of death was dramatically overturned when a huge number of people began dying painfully in hospitals because of COVID 19. Suddenly painful and unexpected deaths became the reality and people began living in fear again. One thing that changed in people’s response is that instead of turning to religions for relief, they relied on scientists and doctors to save them from death. As we are assured of the high efficacy of vaccines to protect us, people are now able to resume slowly the life they used to enjoy as before.

One thing that was made clear with this pandemic and people’s responses to it is that religions and their leaders are no longer the go-to places to deal with threats of death. Other than for a very small number of people, who insisted on worshipping without masks and breaking the measures to protect people put in place by the governments, God, religions, or religious institutions are not the necessary means to work out people’s fear of death. They are finding solutions to survive everywhere else, but in God and religious institutions. This is a good thing. Indeed, the realization that people are not driven to churches because of their fear that they may die and end up in hell is a gift that we need to cherish as we move forward. Faith in God, you see, was never about saving lives that are escaping death, but living in God’s reign as we walk with, follow behind, learn to share Christ love, and partake in Jesus’ ministry. Today, we explore what it means to be faithful to Christ.

Prayer

From before the time began, you, O God, intended us to be in your creation to be your stewards. As we come today, in thanksgiving for your call, we bring our joys. In this vocation of service, we find our purpose in life. Now we come to glorify and enjoy you.

We bless you, O God, for sending us Christ to reconcile us to yourself. Though we continually search out our own ways, you bring us back to you in Christ. You restore us in ways that we may be found in your love always.

We praise you, O God, for being with us through the Holy Spirit in all of life. In our brilliance and arrogance, we lose your presence with us always. Yet, in your grace and mercy, you set us free from our own selves to follow your path.

In this worship, bring us closer to you. Then, send us into the world to be who we are created to be, the people who love you and neighbours in ways that the world will come to say, “Look at those Christians! How they love God and their neighbours unconditionally!”

All these we pray in Jesus name. Amen.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus



Mark 4:35-41

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’

Anthem: Still



Sermon: Faith or no faith?

In today’s passage the disciples are scared for their lives. As the storm rages and the boat they are on tipsyturbies in rough waves, they are filled with fear. No wonder when they wake Jesus up to say, “do you not care that we are perishing?” A very interesting observation indeed. It was obvious that they were scared.

Jesus and disciples are on a boat. It was a long day. Soon Jesus falls asleep. He had a long and busy day. Things are going okay until the wind begins to blow. Soon they find themselves in a storm. Jesus continues to sleep undisturbed by the storm. The disciples are getting more and more worried. The storm rages on and it becomes too much for the disciples to handle. This storm must have been fierce for the disciples to fear. After all, some of the disciples are fishermen well experienced in such storms. For these hardened fishermen to be worried, the storm is more than a simple gust of wind that is going to pass. After trying to handle things on their own, they finally wake Jesus.

Something about their question demands our attention. The disciples can easily say to Jesus that they are about to die, or that they need to do something to save themselves. The experienced ones among them can offer all kinds of ways to survive. The situation, however, seems to be so dire and hopeless that the only thing they can say is, “do you not care that we are perishing?” The question implies something that we do not expect. They are saying that Jesus has power to rescue them from this perilous situation. “Do you not care…?” indicates that if Jesus cares enough they may not be in this predicament full of fear. In a simple faith, they wonder out loud why Jesus or God for that matter are letting them suffer this threat of death. The disciples have been good and done everything Jesus asked. So why do they have to face this terrifying situation? When something happens, whose fault is it? This is the way most human beings wonder why they are the ones to face death when others do not have to.

Upon waking up, Jesus immediately calms the waters. He responds to their request. Their appeal works wonderfully as Jesus rescues them. Their needs are met. Their prayer is heard. Their wish is granted. They can breathe a sigh of relief. The terror of death has passed them by because they awoke Jesus from his sleep. They did the right thing when faced with death. That right thing is to rely solely on Jesus to save them. Is this not the way our faith in Christ works? In moments of difficulties we ask Jesus to intervene and deliver us from death’s power.

His questions, however, say otherwise. He turns to the disciples, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” Two questions back to back make us pause about our understanding of faith. Somehow there is a big disconnect between Jesus and his disciples. Just at this very moment, the disciples feel as if they have been snatched out from death’s mouth to live another day. They were totally in fear. They woke Jesus up because they were in fear for their lives. Jesus is totally on the opposite end. He questions them for having been through a terror of being swallowed up the waves. He questions their experiences and feelings. Then he equates fear with not having faith. Jesus questions their being. Aren’t they following him? Didn’t they wake him up when they were in danger? Why does he question their faith? They called on Jesus! Would stronger faith have saved them without Jesus?

At this point fear and faith seem to be tied together as if they are the opposite of each other. Fear of death certainly drives us to Christ. However, being driven to the safe arms of Jesus by fear, apparently, is not faith. I have been wondering about this a lot as a Christian. For a long time, we have been telling people about hell and cruelties of hell and contrast that terrifying life after death to life in Christ as the good news. Yes, the message has always been very simple and easy: call on Christ to save us from our sins so that instead of spending eternal life in hell, we would spend eternal life with Christ under God’s reign. Some Christians acted this out during the pandemic by invoking the name of Jesus. They are the ones who refused to stay home, but came together to worship. They are the ones who shouted out that God will protect them from the virus because they know God is stronger and more powerful than the virus. They made sure that everyone would see that they were all for worshipping God in their sanctuaries doing everything that pandemic lockdown rules prohibited them to do. They presented themselves as the faithful.

However, the way Jesus asks these two questions back to back makes it clear that calling Jesus to save our lives has nothing to do with faith. Indeed, calling to Jesus out of fear of death is not faith. The question they ponder at the end of this passage makes it clear that the disciples still do not have faith. They say to themselves, “Who, then, is this that even the wind and the sea obey him?” They do not have faith in Jesus, God’s own son whom God sent into the world to bring the good news of the nearness of God’s kingdom. They cried out and ran to Jesus only because they thought all of them were going to die. In the entire Gospel Mark, the disciples fail to notice that Jesus is the son of God who proclaims that the time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is near. Faith is all about believing in this good news. Perhaps this is why we see so many desperately sick people come to Jesus and are healed by him but we never see them again as faithful followers of Christ. Their needs were met when they came to Jesus. They experienced the power of God’s reign or eternal life, but they never became faithful followers. They all turned away from Jesus and returned to their homes. Turning to Jesus or asking God to save you in a moment of desperation is not faith.

Hymn You are my all in all



Fear of death makes us focus on ourselves. This fear forces us to think only about our own safety and well being. It makes us afraid of what will happen today and tomorrow. It traps our sights within the darkness of death. It imprisons our souls to search for a way out for our own survival. Fear seduces us to look at our own death. In this way, fear dooms us. Fear opens our eyes to eternal darkness. Fear fills our souls with visions of our sinfulness, inadequacies, weaknesses, impotence and failures. Fear compounds our view of death and makes death all powerful. Fear leads us to despair leading to death. Fear comes when we turn our eyes away from Jesus, even for the smallest amount of time filling our hearts, minds and spirits. In fear we fight to save ourselves from death. In fear we run to save ourselves from death. It is a losing game. The disciples knew they could not save themselves. They knew that death won over them when strong winds and high waves thrashed them. In fear, they become totally powerless. They realized that in fear only one who could save them was Jesus.

In many ways, we are no different than these disciples. Escaping death with the help of Jesus is understood as faith. Going to Jesus whenever we are facing death is considered to be faithful and being strong in faith. We hear these types of faith stories all the time. It makes Jesus a hero. All our hero movies share this scenario. We are in great trouble. No matter what we do we cannot escape total destruction. At the very last moment, we call on our hero or our hero suddenly appears out of nowhere saving us. We even attribute grace to this heroic act saying that when our hero (in Christians’ case, Jesus) saves us from painful death, destruction or living under powerful evil, we thank God for grace. Grace is experienced because though we have been sinners, yet, Jesus saves us regardless of our sins. This is our story. This is why we tell others to join Christianity. But according to Jesus, this is not faith.

Jesus’ second question zeroes in on the lack of faith as the cause of fear in the disciples. Our thinking is that fear would cause us to call on Jesus. This is the way we encourage each other when we face terribly hopeless situations like being diagnosed with incurable cancers or impossible financial ruins. Many so-called Christian testimonies at crusades or rallies have this formula. These ones who were testifying always begin with how they were at rock bottom. There, they had a choice between turning to Christ or dying--giving up. At this desperate last minute, there was no other choice if they wanted to live, they say. When they finally realized their predicaments and received Jesus as the Lord and Saviour, things began changing. They were given the strength to turn their lives around. The emphasis on these testimonies was and is always focused on choosing Christ in the same way these disciples woke Jesus up to be saved from the storm. We are told that making this choice is the beginning of faith.

It is true that Jesus saved the disciples. It is also true that Jesus will intervene in our lives and postpone our deaths in cases of diseases and pain sometimes through healing, other times, through resilience of hope. Yet, in today’s passage, Jesus who snatched the disciples out of the mouth of death, wonders why they were fearful and did not have faith. In the same way, Jesus may deprive death of its victory over us by healing us or helping us to live a bit longer, but will wonder why we call on him in fear and are without faith. Yes, in truth, so called completely surrendering or calling God at the life and death moment to save us is not faith. It shows either our desperation or our power. In situations where we run out of all possibilities to get ourselves out, apparently there is still one more powerful choice we can have or make. In a way, there is this condition that we are required to turn to Jesus at the very last moment in order to be saved. How can it be faith when we are left with either a choice to live or die and we choose life? In reality, it does not require faith to make this choice no matter how we contort ourselves to say that faith is the cause for our choice of receiving Jesus. It is more correct to say that we chose what would benefit us the most. What a power it is! We have this incredible power to make the right choice! If this condition is present, then, God’s grace and love coming through Jesus is not unconditional. We need to make clear that the faith Jesus requires has nothing to do with people’s faith in Jesus insofar as they believe that Christ is useful in making us avoid painful situations or death. Perhaps this is why when Jesus raised that young girl or Lazarus from death, we do not hear of them again and do not see them living continuously without ever dying again. All four Gospels are mum on how many of those whom Jesus healed became faithful to him in the end.

To Jesus and to his followers, faith is setting our hearts on God fully, relying on God totally, trusting God completely, believing God unconditionally like a little child and committing our future in God’s hands unequivocally. Jesus models this faith by pointing to God, rather than putting himself out as God. In this faith we are free of fear. Like Jesus who was distressed and agitated facing death, we, too, wrestle with death, but ultimately, to be faithful to God is to say along with Jesus, “not what I want, but what you want.” Faith that Jesus shows us is to love God completely and unconditionally even in situations of death. It is not demanding or asking for what we want, or surrendering ourselves to God in ways that our sacrifice can be seen by others as faith. Faith is our way of loving God. True love that establishes this faith casts out fear utterly. Faith understood, accepted, known, and lived out this way allows us to live fully in the midst of a death gripped world. Faith does neither prolong life for a few more years nor make death look weak to the world. Faith guides us to commit our future in God’s hand as our love for God regardless of the outcome. In our baptism, faith is given so that we are given the privilege of sharing in eternal life in and through Christ. Death in this case is defeated in and through Jesus’ death and resurrection. The victory over death frees us to face the world without fearing the power of death. This is why we Christians no longe fear death. This is why when we call on Jesus to save us in fear that gives death all the power over our lives, these two questions are posed to us as well

Hymn: Rejoice in the Lord always



Practically, faith means that we plan for the future, not as ones anticipating death as threats to our beings, but as ones who are determined to reveal God’s kingdom. We engage in justice work because it is the way we reveal how God loves all peoples. We reach out in charity work because it offers to share eternal life under God with all. We love the world’s unloved, rejected, cast out, ignored, degraded, abused, shunned, and excluded because all are God’s children given to this world as God’s gift. We go to be with and share all that we have with those who live in death filled, violence and hatred filled parts of our world because we do not fear the power of death. In this faith God is not directed to do our bidding, is not in business of doing what we think God ought to do for us, and is not at our disposal. God may be moved by our love, may change God’s mind at our appeals, and may protect us from ills of this world, but everything that is done is done within God’s own free will. We have no power over God to force God for our benefits.

The reason we do not run to God to save us from this danger is not because we are without faith. Rather, our faith truly focuses us on loving God and neighbours to the full. True faith guards us from using God at our whims, but even facing the death moment, we pray with Christ, “now what we want, but what you want!”

Prayer

O Lord God,
In your grace, we live. We live joyfully and meaningfully. We carry out your Son’s ministry to share your love with those whom you send to us. Receive our thanks. Continue to keep us in your grace to be your graceful people to all.

We remember before you the people of Israel and Palestine. Both Israelis and Palestinians have been fighting for home for over a century. Much blood has been spilt. Apartheid has become their political status. We pray for all who are in this part of your world trying to make home. We pray that you will soften the hearts of Israelis to know that Palestinians are your children as much as they are. Give them wisdom to establish political relationships with Palestinians in equity and justice.

We pray for all who are walking our streets without homes. As summer deepens, so many are trying to live without shelter in parks and on streets. Bless and keep them as your own. Give us understanding and compassion to share gracefully with them.

We pray for those who are facing the pandemic of COVID 19 in poor countries. As the rich ones begin to reopen their economies and return to life before the pandemic, so many in these countries are dying without much help. Give those leaders, both politics and economies, to put lives before profit, alleviating suffering before their gain as they begin selling vaccines to the rest of the world.

We pray for those who have been suffering under the terrible economies of their countries. So many women and children are going hungry every day. As they struggle, may you move the hearts and minds of those who are in wealthy countries to help those who go without food every day in poorer countries. Give them the strength not only to survive, but also to thrive. Give us love to share your bounties in ways that all may eat sufficiently according to one’s need.

We pray for those who have been put in prison unjustly. Each day we learn that our systems of justice incarcerate many innocent people. They languish in prisons often without hope. Be with them. Guard and protect them. Help us to find ways to help them.

We pray for this church. As we begin planning to hold in-person worship services, we pray that your grace and mercy will be with all your people in this part of your vineyard. Gather them here starting the first Sunday of July. Give us strength and wisdom to feed your people with your spiritual food.

We pray for those who are sick or having troubles. There are many. Bless and keep them in your care.

All these things we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Offering Hymn: Blessed be the Lord God Almighty



Offering Prayer:
Thank you, O God, for giving us abundant blessing to share with others. In this ministry of sharing, you bless us to experience your presence. Thank you.

In and through this offering we bring you our conditional love. Temper us with your unconditional love so that freely as we have received freely we may share your gifts with those around us. Always fill our hearts with your love so that with our eyes we may see you in our midst ministering to all those who are calling on you.

In your Son’s name we pray. Amen.

Hymn: Shine, Jesus shine



Benediction