Sunday, March 21, 2021

Service of Worship for Sunday, March 21, 2020 at Drummond Hill

Welcome and Announcements



Thank you for taking the time to worship with us. It is good to have you. As the weather warms up and Spring returns, it is our prayer that your spirits are lifted up in Christ as you prepare for Palm and Easter Sundays.

Remember that on Sunday, March 21 at 11:30 am, we are holding our virtual fellowship. Please join us using your computer, tablet, smartphone or phone.

Next Sunday is Palm Sunday. It marks the year since we have begun our online worship due to COVID 19. For Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday, we will have worship services online as usual.

For Easter, the worship team is suggesting something different. Since it is getting warmer, we thought that it would be good to have a short outdoor worship service at 10 am remembering the Sunrise service we used to have. We will gather at the church back yard. Yes, we will have the full online Easter worship service. At the same time, we thought, for those who are willing (of course, you probably have to dress warmly), we can have the outdoor service at 10 am. We can access the backyard through the church hall or through the gate on Lundy’s Lane side. We will be safer outdoors. The service will be about 30 minutes long. So mark the date (Easter Sunday, April 4) and time (10 am) and let’s worship God.

Saturday Lunch Take-outs are continuing. Thank you for your help. Some of the things we are looking for are juice packs, single wrapped cookies, and granola bars.

Thank you for your support for the church and its ministry. Remember that we are still asking you to help with raising funds for our own mission until Easter. This year, Easter Memorial Flower donations will be added to this mission fund. In the meantime, also prayerfully remember that our regular needs are still requiring your support.

Hymn to prepare for worship: Day By Day



Call to Worship



By the Spirit, Christ calls the church into being and unites us to himself and each other. As the church we are called to worship and serve God and neighbours. Come and worship so that the Spirit may shape us into the church that demonstrates the love of Christ to the world.

Opening Hymn Christ for the world we sing



Prayer



With love, O God, you have called us out of the world to love the world. In your grace and mercy, we come gladly to be in your presence. As we raise our voices in praise, be glorified. Receive our worship.

Send us your Spirit to direct us in this worship so that all that we do may point others to you as the creator, who brought this world into being out of your love. With your Spirit, form us to be your faithful servants who are delighted in serving you and our neighbours in ways of your Son our Lord. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Offering Now Thank We all our God



Offering Prayer



As we come to you, we bring our gifts. Through them, may you receive our hearts and thoughts. In faith we do our best. Yet, we know that all that we do often are done to benefit us more than benefit you and your world. Give us wisdom to see the needs of this world according to your will. Fill us with courage to carry out actions that go beyond our selfish desires and motivations. Direct us to live a life of love for all and always walk in your presence. All these and more we pray in the name of your Son our Lord. Amen.

Scripture: James 2: 14-17



What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

Sermon: Faith without works is dead.



I remember reading a story of two Canadian Presbyterian women missionaries who went to Japan in the early part of the 20th century. One of their tasks was to visit prisons in the Tokyo area. They made a point of visiting the maximum security prison where feared criminals were kept. One in particular was notorious for having murdered quite a few people. He was waiting for his death sentence to be carried out. These two Canadian women visited him every week without fail. In the meantime, he was condemned by everyone he knew. His family and friends cut their ties to him. A few weeks before he was to be executed he asked these two women why they were still visiting him when the whole world thought he deserved to die. They told him that God through Christ loved him. Moved by their show of kindness and care by visiting every week, he asked them to give him a Bible. He read the whole thing and asked to be baptized. He died as a Christian. This true story of mission helps us to know about what God’s love is--unconditional and unrelenting when no one else would care.More than anything, these two women’s constant visit and conversations opened the experience of God’s love.

The story of the Christian mission is not always uplifting and positive. Two of the first female martyrs were Perpetua and Felicity. Felicity was Perpetua’s slave. We know little or nothing about how they became Christians. We know about them because Perpetua kept a diary while in prison. She was a young noble woman who lived with a husband, an infant son and had a slave woman (Felicity) in Carthage (today’s Tunis, Tunisia) in Northern Africa on the Southern shore of Meditteranian Sea across from Malta around the late 2nd and the early 3rd century. She was in a catechism class of five when she along with others were arrested and put in prison as Emperor Septimius Severus tried to exterminate Christianity because he felt that Christians were a subversive group undermining Roman authority. In prison she breastfed her child. Her father pleaded many times along with the Roman Governor to spare the child by saving herself by making a sacrifice for the emperor’s well being. She refused just like the other four because sacrificing for the emperor would have been worshipping an idol. Perpetua refused to accede to her father’s request and died along with the others in the colosseum, torned to death by wild animals. Hers and her companions’ story is heroic without the wonderful ending of conversions and changes of hearts.

These are very important historical events pointing to the glories and dangers of mission work Christians carry out in the world as we share the good news of God. These two heroic sacrifices are enveloped in the long history of Christianity. We are not only awed by them, but also inspired by them. Hearing these stories shows us how much work we have to do in sharing the good news of Christ in the world. In comparison to these giants of Christian faith, we feel small, yet, are no less determined than them as we live out faith in this difficult pandemic time.

Today, we are in a very different situation than these faithful servants. In our case, the world has come to us. That is, we are surrounded by people who are not Christians. Unlike those two Canadian Presbyterian women who went to Japan, people from Japan and all over the world have come to our city. It is true some came already having been part of the worldwide Church, but most people came without knowing Christ fully. Strangely, it is in our own backyard we have failed to share our faith experience as the good news of Christ to all our neighbours, old and new. In many families, we have also failed to pass the faith onto the next generation.

I have been reading about various discussions on how to evangelize in this pandemic world with all the distancing restrictions. Many people are using video conferencing as a less than adequate substitute to a person-to-person relationship. Also according to most of the articles I have read, they are waiting until the pandemic restrictions lift in order to build new relationships. Interesting thing is that I am not sure if in fact there will be immediate attempts to reach out to strangers. We have certainly been confined. The immediate reactions to the end of pandemic restrictions will probably be about re-establishing the relationships that were put on hold rather than building new ones. It will be very rare for people to start searching out new people with whom we want to share life. Most likely reaching out to new people will happen only when we are emotionally satisfied for having hugged and made up the lost.time. Those who have no one close will find this new world even more devastating than under the pandemic rules as they will realize that they have no one reaching out to as everyone else begins to reconnect. Then, after the initial euphoria, we will return to the way we used to be before the pandemic. That is, it will be as before for those who are weak, sick, poor, hungry, and so on.

It is important to realize that the world will return to the way it used to be. In a way, this return offers us an immense opportunity to be Christians who wish to share the good news of Christ. For a long while, Christians in Canada, like many Christians in European countries, forgot about their reasons for being. We have become set in our own ways of worshipping and sharing within our own little churches. We have forgotten our place in the world as the institutions in our societies began meeting the physical needs of the people. With good living conditions, we left the work of caring for the sick to hospitals, for the poor to the government funded social workers, for the orphans to the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, for prisoners to the Correctional Services of Canada, and so on. Having let the governments and social agencies to look after the weak, the hungry, the abused, the broken, and the marginalized, we happily retreated into our own church families to focus on growing in faith and in spirit. It appears that when we no longer are shackled by this terrifying virus, our hope is centred on doing what we used to do. That means, we will go back to letting governments, various institutions and non-profit organizations to look after the vulnerable.

Christians did not always depend on governments of the day to look after the marginalized. Already in the middle of the fourth century, Emperor Julian wrote to the high priest in Galatia speaking of how Jews known as Galileans (Christians) were looking after the poor, “For it is disgraceful that, when no Jew ever has to beg, and the impious Galilaeans support not only their own poor but ours as well, all men see that our people lack aid from us.” The emperor’s purpose seemed to have been on the point of shaming his subjects by comparing them to Christians in order to make sure they looked after their own poor. From the very beginning, as we see in the Book of Acts, Christians were concerned with plights of the widows. The election of Stephen by the first Christians was all about responding to the needs of Greek speaking widows. Christians cared for the poor in ways others did not. The mission history of the Church contains stories of how Christians served the poor whenever they went to other countries to bring the good news of Christ.

Today, we are seeing how most Christians have lost heart for the poor and the vulnerable, not in terms of through government agencies and raising funds or donating, but in terms of actually meeting, listening, caring and building relationships with them. It is true that “some” churches support programs or have started programs to help the marginalized as best as they can. It is also true that most churches in Canada are heavily burdened with issues of survival due to the dwindling membership causing financial hardship on the way we have run local churches. All these difficulties and the indifference shown by our neighbours have made us become more inward looking. That is, we have been churches as we always have known it, carrying out worship services and maintaining with very little effort to look beyond our own needs. Those churches, who seem to show a great deal of love for the marginalized, are partnering with not-for-profit organizations or parachurch organizations at best. It is not clear how those who are poor, sick, unemployed, lost, abused, cut off from our societies, and known as deplorables can experience the good news of Christ through what we offer and who we are. We have become like children who are good at playing in our own sandbox without disturbing or paying attention to those who are outside of our own sandbox.

In today’s passage, we read, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” Having faith is essential, but faith alone is not enough for others to experience God’s love in real time. Christians tend to read what Jesus told the Devil as a reminder to focus on God’s Word when we read that a person “does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” So we focused on what we know rather than what we do. Today’s passage from the Letter of James is a reminder that faith alone is not going to help those who are poor, marginal, vulnerable, etc. Both faith and concrete expressions of meeting people’s needs are necessary.

We do know that our world requires tangible expressions of Christ’s love in every facet of life. We have been hearing too much about people falling between the cracks in our systems that are built to look after them. We see constant failures in agencies that are mandated to help. These failures are inevitable when God’s love that gives life is missing. We pour money into every need we can conceive of for those who are in need, but without them experiencing love that is the Way, the Life and the Truth, everything we do through our governments and social agencies remains a stop-gap measure, a bandage being applied to already dead corpses. Only way to overcome this difficulty is to share our lives fully as Christ did and become the body of Christ in this broken world. This mission of loving the poor, the lost, the neglected etc. remains as ours as it was for all Christians throughout history.

If you have been wondering as to why we have been opening the church up to the community sharing our facilities and meals, this is why. Our task in faith is to bring the good news of Christ not only in words, but also in deeds. In this mission task you as the congregation have been part in many different ways. In the words of this world, we are walking the talk. Our faith is not only about enjoying God’s love for us, but also sharing it with the world in all kinds of ways.

Prayer



O Lord God,
We remember you. We remember your Son. We remember your Spirit. As the triune God you have created, redeemed and recreated us so that your will may be manifested in this world through us. Knowing your unlimited love that is given to us, we come with prayer.

Be with all who are working hard to make everyone safe from COVID 19 virus. So many are struggling with restrictions imposed on them by their governments. So many are filled with fear of tomorrow as their financial situations turn more desperate each day. So many are filled with anxiety about the future because they are unable to hope. Do not neglect any of them.

Care for all those who are in hospitals. As they seek healing, as staff at hospitals try to do their best, as their family and friends wish for their healings, may your presence be sufficient to elate fears and give them strength of hope and life. When some of them walk through or near the valley of death, keep them with you.

Give strength to all your servants to love and care for all who are in need. Our world is filled with people who have been wounded by the harshness of life. Some in pain try to give up on life. Others in suffering reach out to any and every possible remedies in order to find life. Pour your Spirit upon them to withstand temptations of death.

Love us to love everyone around us. Knowingly and unknowingly we live life of selfish love. Replace our love with yours. Give us faith strong enough to give our lives up for others as the sign of your love given to this world. When we show weakness in loving, fill us with your love. When we lack hearts to love, fill our hearts with your mercy and compassion. Make us yours always to be the ones upholding your love in this world.

All these and more we pray in Jesus. Amen.

Closing Hymn Let There Be Love



Benediction