Sunday, March 14, 2021

If you desire to hear the whole service as one recording, click here. When before some hymns are played, there might be some advertisement put on by the makers of hymn videos.

Welcome and Announcements

Thank you for taking the time to worship together with everyone at Drummond Hill. Remember that we are together always in Christ Jesus as he gathers us in this world as his people.

Please let the minister know if you would require pastoral care. Once you are vaccinated, it becomes more possible to find ways to support each other.

Please continue to pray for everyone who has been mentioned before. They all require your support in prayer. Please let me know if someone needs pastoral care, prayer, or spiritual support as soon as possible.

Next Sunday, March 21, we will try something unique. We will see if we can have a fellowship time together through video conferencing at 11 am. I will send out the information in the same way we have done the financial meeting.

Please continue your support for the church. As we approach Easter, this is when Betty-Ann begins to pull on her hair. If you could help Betty-Ann worry less (she gets very nervous if our monthly balance dips) that would be wonderful.

Thank you for your generous help for Saturday Lunch Takeout. We are very grateful for your donations. Things are going well and we are able to serve on average 65 meals.

We are preparing for Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday celebrations. We will also observe both Maundy Thursday and Good Friday with online worship. Please, prepare your hearts in prayer.

Hymn of Preparation: Be Thou my Vision

Call to Worship

Sing to the Lord a new song! Sing praises to God who created you to be stewards of heaven and earth. Come, let us sing and worship God!

Opening Hymn: Come Christians Join to Sing

Opening Prayer

From grace to mercy, compassion to forgiveness, repentance to reconciliation, it is you, O God our Lord, who have brought us into being. As we come to worship you, be patient and kind, for we are people of stubborn minds and unloving hearts. Through your Spirit, melt our minds and hearts to be open for your presence. In this worship, change us in ways that we will re-enter the world full of your unending and unconditional love. Amen.

Offering: My Jesus I Love Thee

Offering Prayer

In this world of wealth, as the majority struggle in poverty, we bring what we can as symbols of our gratitude to you. Receive these gifts. Know that our hearts are shown in these offerings. Bless us so that having offered you all that we are through these symbols, we may bless the world to share in your grace, mercy, compassion and love. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Scripture: Matthew 1:18-21

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’

Sermon: Focusing on “People”

With the sober one year observance of COVID 19 pandemic declaration, it is important to realize how so many people have perished in this past year. Yes, it is important to remember them. Unlike any other time, these COVID 19 patients died without their loved ones beside them. The ritual of death in our societies was turned upside down in order to keep everyone safe. The frontline doctors and nurses took the brunt of these deaths. In Canada alone we saw nearly 23,000 deaths by COVID 19 in one year.

We ought also to remember and remind ourselves that there are those who died through other illnesses. They, too, died either without any loved ones present or just a family member or two present because of the restrictions placed on hospitals.

The ritual of funeral was at bare minimum, too. Being limited to as few as ten at graveside with no visitations, so many grieved and are continuing to suffer their loss alone. Add to these deaths all other troubles including mental illnesses have been hitting every group in our society. The hidden cost of people’s well being is beyond our ability to grasp. The psychological repercussion of these isolated deaths will reverberate long after the pandemic is put behind us.

With so much bad news all around, we tend to shrink into our own small world where we can control what happens from moments to moments. Our world has become incredibly small because we live in the world of individualism. In it, we are told that whatever happens to us is our own personal responsibility. If one gets sick, that is because he did not care for himself healthwise. If she is poor that is because she did not do the right thing. It is all that person’s fault. If you got COVID 19, it is because you did not take precautions. This is what our individualism has gotten us into. The onus is on the one in the unfortunate situation. That is, everything that happens to us is understood this way. If someone is rich, that is because that person’s hard work. If someone is poor, it is because the person is not working hard enough. This logic has been with the world since humanity appeared on earth.

This rugged individualism misses the point. God is not playing this simple game of ‘Do as I say, or else…” God’s love is extended to all, not just to those who are good. The good news Jesus brings is captured in today’s passage, “he will save his people…” He is not saving a few good individuals. He is saving all. Jesus’ coming had nothing to do with rescuing those who do not need to be saved. It was the opposite. He came to those who without hope of enjoying anything good and living an upright life. He came as God’s love which was being extended to people--his people who were already sinners and were less than stellar.

That Jesus came to his “people,” not just those who had potential to be morally good or already doing okay ethically is important to remember. It is the whole group for whom he came that should open our eyes and transcend this individualism. The good news is that his people were the messed up ones, hopeless ones, and rejected ones. So today we want to focus on these people and celebrate God’s grace given to us.

Who are these people to whom God sent Jesus? Who are these people Jesus came to save? Individually they do not seem to measure up. As a person she feels totally inadequate. As a Christian he feels like he is always failing to live faithfully. As a Presbyterian she knows she is less than perfect. As a citizen he is poor. As a neighbour she is homeless. As a church member, he is impossible. As a friend, she is invisible. As a family member, he always forgets to do right.To all these people who have been baptized, Jesus came. From Jesus’ point of view, they are the ones God desires to give the good news of salvation.

The Church, as Christ together with his people, has always been a place of many different people. From the very beginning as the Church expanded after the Pentecost, people of all walks of life came together. In Greek and Roman cities, Christians made a name for themselves according to Pliny the Younger as they ministered to the sick, the poor, widows and orphans. Christians, unlike other religions or social institutions at that time, sought out people at the bottom of their world. As such, the Church was never designed to be perfect and full of right people. Especially at the beginning Christians were just like us, from all walks of life with hearts for unwanted, unspeakable, undesirable and abhorrible people. Having been persecuted, tortured, imprisoned, and killed, they were acutely aware of the marginal people as they moved about in the Roman Empire.

During the Medieval times when the Church became the political power, much of the original hearts for the bottom groups of their world were pushed aside, but there were likes of St. Francis of Assissi who continued to bring the good news to the poor, the hungry, the sick… the sinners.

In this context we look at ourselves today. Drummond Hill is not full of politically powerful people. In fact we have none. We are not overflowing with rich people. We do not see a large number of righteous people. We are not the bastion of intellectuals of our city. We are as ordinary as our neighbours--some very poor, some very physically unable, some mentally struggling, and some carrying far more spiritual struggles than we can think of. We are made up mostly of those who consider themselves less than perfect, less than confident in faith, being aware of our own limitations in loving, and without too many answers. We are much less prominent than three-four decades ago. We see ourselves as weak.

To these rag-tag groups of older and physically less able people (known as Drummond Hill), God continues to send Jesus. Compared to those big and growing churches, we have little or nothing to offer. Compared to churches with young people, we are sluggish and unable. Compared to richly endowed churches we are always troubled with financial resources. Yet, God sends Jesus to us in ways the Life as demonstrated in Christ is shared through us.

In any secular way of organizing no one would dare to form a religious organization with the people who are considered to be like us. Even when they are doing what we call “church planting,” they are not looking to fill the church with elderly who are over 70 years of age. In fact, there are many Christian leaders who only see all the reasons and benefits of closing churches like ours. On paper most churches like Drummond Hill are seen as foolishness and waste of resources in people’s eyes. Yet, I can compare Drummond Hill to many larger churches with large numbers of young people, to many organizations doing good works and tell you that, per person basis, we do more than our share and outperform most of those organizations in terms of sharing God’s love to help life flourish in this world filled with unprecedented riches and wealth in human history. This is not a boast, but a point about God’s way of doing things in the world to bring about the Way, the Truth and the Life. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:25, “God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s strength is stronger than human strength.”

God is able to do so much with so little in the eyes of this world. We do not have much. As was mentioned earlier, we are not the best and the brightest, the most devout and the most committed, the richest and the most powerful. In fact, we are the opposite. We are composed of the modest and the weak, less than confident in expressing our faith, fearful of many things in the world as we age, more cautious than daring, getting poorer in numbers and wealth, waning in our physical abilities, and uncertain about our future. With this bunch, God carries on to prove how stronger God’s love is by using the least of our world. (Yes, I know. We don’t like to be classified as one of the least. Yet, in the eyes of the world, we are.) By being present in the world through us--the least likely ones--God brings the good news to the world because we along with all to whom we minister are Christ’s people.

In the past few Lent reflections, we have been looking at how our mission began. The point is that through these events God was always helping us to point to Christ in all things. Whether it was through Niagara CultureFest, Cooking Club with Newcomers, or welcoming those Japanese and Korean young people to our breakfast service, God did wonders with so little. To think that those participants in these events were mostly unfamiliar with Christ’s love, we wonder what made them seek out to be part of these sharing events.

Through our weakness, God continues to be present and help the weak of this world to flourish. Kids Kastle is able to function in our premise so that because we charge very little they are able to provide programs for those families who cannot afford the high cost of early childhood programs. Because we welcome many groups on a donation basis rather than with a set fee for using our building, many people can participate in Narcotics Anonymous, St. John’s Ambulance First-Aid programs, Cultural Dance Groups, etc. Mind you, because of the pandemic restrictions, they are on hold for the moment. They will resume once this pandemic is over. With blessings from you all, we are able to minister to many through Saturday Lunch Takeout and other ways of helping. These are what we do for those outside of our church.

Then, there are those things that we do for those who belong to Drummond Hill. There are many ways we have been proving how God’s weakness is stronger than human strength by the way people keep each other safe and connected, give prayers to support for those who are in need, share joys together as we continue to plan for the “return” to our sanctuary, care for those who are in pain.

In this world where success is measured by numbers--larger the more successful, we become invisible. Having planted a church I know the number game we play even in our Christian circles. I have heard my colleagues telling each other how they have grown by so many doing many things right. When I am invited to share our stories I know they are asking me to share with them our success stories. As more and more years pile up in ministry, I am beginning to see what Paul meant by “For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom; and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.” I see it is all about “his people,” not individuals with heroic records, not individuals with strong and unwavering faith, not individuals whose morals match their ethical behaviours. It is about being witness to God’s great saving act through Jesus Christ: sending Jesus to his people. Yes, it is important to mention, yet again, that his people are those who are at the bottoms of societies just like us. His people are us.

So we give God thanks for sending Jesus to us, his people, the weak, the marginalized, the unable, the poor, the hungry, the sick, the abandoned, the pushed aside, the vulnerable, the lonely, the deplorables, the lost, the impossible, the shameful, yes, the sinners. So we go out searching for those sinners, those who are just like us. And just like Jesus we tell them the good news that God’s kingdom is at hand for them, too.


Dearest Lord,

Keep us near you. Always be with us without fail. May your steadfast love be experienced by us. May we be filled with your love in ways that we become the embodiment of your love in this world.

We pray for the world. So many people everywhere are losing hope in this worldwide pandemic. The poorest of the poor are suffering in fear the most. As the rich nations are troubled by this disease, the people in the poorer countries are left with little or not hope. Be with all of them. Direct the minds of leaders in rich countries to put the lives of people before profit as they argue over whether the vaccines patents should be made available for free.

We pray for so many underpaid essential workers. Their labours are undervalued in ways that most of them are unable to stop working even when they have the virus. Protect them, o Lord. Open the eyes of company leadership as well as their owners and stock brokers so that those powerless workers may share in the bounties of wealth.

We lift up those who are struggling under oppression and political conflicts. As the people of Myanmar struggle for democracy, as the people of Yemen and Afghanistan are trying to cope with endless wars, give them hope, O Lord. Change the minds of the leaders who cannot stop these power mongering and enriching themselves in ways that they may see the wisdom in living in peace.

We pray for your congregation. We are weak: in you, we are strong. We are small: with your blessings we lack nothing. We are ignored in this world: in you we are always found. Hear our prayer.

Be with all those who are fearful of this virus.Be with them as they wait for their turn to get vaccines. Give them hope each time they second guess themselves about the efficacy of these vaccines.

Continue your presence with all the leaders. Guide them to be your hands and feet as they do their best to look after the people under them. Give them wisdom to put the interests of those who are weak and vulnerable instead of looking after the powerful and strong.

Be with all our members who are in many different situations isolated and distanced. May your presence be made real in their aloneness.

Keep all your people under your wing protecting them from all ills.

Give us strength to be your loving presence in this world.

We pray all these and more in your Son’s name. Amen.

Closing Hymn: Saviour Like a Shepherd