Sunday, May 16, 2021

May 16, 2021 Focusing on Presbyterians Sharing


Welcome and Announcements

As we continue to do our best to love God and each other, we pray that God provides and protects everyone with health and strength of both mind and body in this struggle.

Normintons would like to thank everyone for prayers. Everyone in their building with the virus has been able to recover fully.

Our sympathy and Christian love are extended to the Jolley family. Harry passed away on Sunday, May 9th peacefully at home.

Please contact the office for pastoral concerns.

The session is in the process of figuring out how to restart our worship services and activities when the pandemic lockdowns ease. If you have any questions, suggestions, and ideas please let any elder know.

As we approach summer months, we ask you to support the church financially. We are grateful for all that you have done so far. As summer approaches, we ask you to note that our income has been behind our expenses. Our givings have been dropping as usual following our annual pattern and we need your support. I am beginning to wonder if we need to pay for a wig for Betty-Ann if this trend continues into July and August.

Preparing Worship with Hymn: Lord of all power

Today, we are asking you to sing this hymn accompanied by the organ alone. Words are provided below.


Lord of all power, I give you my will, in joyful obedience your tasks to fulfil. Your bondage is freedom, your service is song, and, held in your keeping, my weakness is strong.

Lord of all wisdom, I give you my mind, rich truth that surpasses our knowledge to find. What eye has not seen and what ear has not heard is taught by your Spirit and shines from your word.

Lord of all bounty, I give you my heart; I praise and adore you for all your impart: your love to inspire me, your counsel to guide, your presence to cheer me, what ever be tide.

Lord of all being, I give you my all. If e’er I disown you, I stumble and fall, but sworn in glad service your word to obey, I walk in your freedom to the end of the way.

Coming together to Worship

From the very moment of our beginning we witness. With our eyes open, we witness God’s glory that permeates the world. In life we witness God’s mission everywhere as God reveals love through Christ to us of faith. As we continue to find ways to co-create with God--not because we can, but because God accepts our efforts and deeds as the work of God’s hands--we witness how the world lives in God’s love.

Worship is a moment in time when we come together to give glory and praise to God. For Presbyterians, in worship, as signs of our faith, we bring all that we are to put who we are, what and how we have done before God as our commitment to Christ’s ministry.

He leadeth me vs. 1



He leadeth me: oh blessed thought! Oh words with heavenly comfort fraught!
What-e’er I do, wher-e’er I be still ‘tis God’s hand that leadeth me.
He leadeth me! He leadeth me! By his own hand he leadeth me!
A faithful follower I would be, for ‘tis God’s hand that leadeth me.

Prayer

O God, you are most blessed and most holy. In humble humility, full of love in our hearts, we come to adore and worship you. May you be glorified now and ever.

O Christ, as you sit at the right hand of the Father, open our eyes to your promise once again and be present with us as we gather in your name.

O Holy Spirit, give us life that keeps us in our weak moments, enabling us to worship in the beauty of holiness.

Blessing, honour, and glory be yours now and always! Amen.

Today we are keeping in mind the work that we do as Presbyterians in Canada. We are involved in many works that are being done as part of Christ’s ministry. Through the name Presbyterians Sharing we share our love for God and for our neighbours in a variety of ways. One work that we have been part of is inner city ministries. In Montreal, Tyndale St. Georges looks after children and young people along with many low income people. In Winnipeg, Winnipeg Inner City Mission (formerly known as Flora House) has programs for children and youth along with programs to help indigenous people find jobs as well as providing worship services. In Vancouver, our people have been working through Hummingbird Centre. In Kenora, Ontario, we are involved through Anamiewigummig Fellowship Centre (formerly Kenora Fellowship), and many other ministries.

All these and many other works, not mentioned, are funded through our givings to Presbyterians Sharing. This year, the session challenges the congregation to raise $10,000 in order for the national church to continually carry out these important ministry on our behalf. Please prayerfully and generously support Christ’s work.

Offering (King of kings)


Offering Prayer

O God, we give thanks unto you our Lord who is good; for your mercy endures forever.
We give thanks and praise to you, the creator and the father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We give thanks and praise to you, the Son, the Saviour and Redeemer of all. We give thanks and praise to you, the Holy Spirit. In all that we do, we praise you with all your works that brings praise to you.

Receive these our gifts that are too small, yet are the symbols of our love for you. Make these small amounts mighty in the same way you turned the five loaves and two fish to feed five thousand and seven loaves to feed four thousand. As we return your love for us, be glad and be glorified. In your Son’s name we pray. Amen.

Scripture: Mark 6:1-6

He left that place and came to his home town, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, ‘Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offence at him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honour, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house.’ And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Sermon: Living in God’s mission

For Christians, our reality is different from our secular friends and neighbours. We believe and confess that our life is lived in God’s mission. Our purpose in life is to glorify and enjoy God as we live in this life where God has been creating and nurturing continually so that all creation flourishes. Part of glorifying God is to be whom we are created to be: stewards in God’s creation. Being stewards in God’s creation is to participate in sharing and spreading God’s love for the world. As we worship, our task is to discern, witness, and receive ways God’s grace is showered on the entire creation. As we go away from worship, filled with God’s love, follow Jesus to transmit to the creation all God’s goodness.

He leadeth me vs. 2

More than any other time in history, as people travel more and more, we become acutely aware of differences among people. We now often experience what it feels like to be strangers. I remember hearing from so many English Canadians who went to Quebec after the separatist government under René Lévesque came into power and Language Law was passed in Quebec. The English speakers found it upsetting that in Canada, they were in places where they were feeling like they did not belong. They felt lost and frustrated as they could no longer fully see familiar English signs for streets and shops. They surmised that they were not welcome in Quebec when they stopped to ask for directions and locals responded to them in French. It never occurred to them that French Quebecers were always feeling that they did not belong in Canada once they crossed the borders into other provinces. This is why most people are often very uncomfortable with changes that make them feel excluded.

Something similar seems to be happening with Jesus in today’s passage. He is back in his own home town. It is the place he knows well. He grew up in that town. He had friends and knew most of the people who lived there. Now, however, upon returning, those very familiar people are asking who this man is. The people of the town recognize him. However, they see him as someone who has changed. To their ears, he speaks differently, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands!”

The townsfolk detect something unfamiliar with the person they should be very familiar with. Things that he talks about give them clues. He speaks of things they do not quite get. They do not get what he is saying, not because they do not know the subjects that he speaks about, but because he is not the one they expect him to hear from about these things. They expect priests, and Pharisees along with ones they consider prophets like John the Baptist to speak about these things. They simply cannot hear this man whom they know as one of them speaking like he is doing. It is not the message that stops them, but it is the messenger that makes it impossible for them to hear the message because they do not expect him to be the right messenger.

Today we have special terms to explain this kind of behaviour by the townsfolk: cognitive dissonance or wilful blindness. A confusion in mind is caused because Jesus they know is not the Jesus who is speaking to them. A carpenter’s son who grew up among them as one of them without much education is suddenly speaking as if he has authority beyond important people like priests and learned people. After all, before he began his ministry Jesus was an ordinary folk like everyone else, working as a carpenter. Rather than adjust their own understanding of what they know of him, they stick with what they have known all along. They want to treat him as they always did: one of them whom they knew very well and who spoke on the same things as they. They question and try to make him fit into the image they have in their own minds. They try their best to make sense out of this confusion by comparing him before he began his ministry to the one they see now.

When there is this difficulty of things not aligning up in their minds, they see Jesus as a stranger, the person whom they no longer know. The sameness with them no longer helps him to talk familiarly with them. Everyone begins to notice the difference and begins to distrust this person whom they once knew. This revelation about what they did not know about him disturbs them to their core. It is the same kind of reaction we see on news when a friend or a well respected neighbour is found to be a criminal or has done something that we thought that person was not capable of. Once we come to this point, we see this friend or the neighbour with a different set of eyes. We do not trust the person. We feel betrayed and duped. In the same way these townsfolk react to Jesus. To them, he has changed.

This reaction reminded me of the big uproar that took place in our churches with contemporary hymns since the 1980s. When the new style of music was introduced, many people became very upset. They always liked to sing familiar hymns with organ or piano helping them. They did not think having drums, guitars and other instruments were any good for worship. Many of us still do. Many Christians are still refusing to attend worship services where instruments other than organ or piano are played. Those of us who do not like to sing hymns without an organ accompaniment feel very much like these townspeople.

He leadeth me v. 3

As interesting as it is to study the reactions of these townsfolk, our focus for today is on what Jesus does and is going to do based on this rejection he faced. It is easy for us to simply pivot and say that Jesus moves on. Then, we miss something crucial taking place in Jesus’ ministry. As we can read, their rejection of Jesus is found in the rhetorical question, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” This question seems to surprise Jesus in ways he does not expect. It also makes us wonder along with Jesus. What does it mean for Jesus to be rejected by the very people to whom he is bringing the good news?

After all, from the very beginning of the Gospel Mark Jesus made it clear that he came to bring the good news to the people of Israel. The entire ministry of Jesus hinges on preaching the good news to God’s people. Yet, we find that the very people he should be able to depend on, the very ones who know him, are the first to reject him outright. Up to this point, even the disputes with Pharisees and other teachers are to see if he does have the authority to be God’s messenger. Now very bluntly those who should support and encourage him are the ones turning against him.

Jesus acknowledges that he is not welcome among his own folks by saying, ‘Prophets are not without honour, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house.’ Then, something totally unexpected happens. Jesus ‘could not do deeds of power there.’ Imagine that! Jesus could not be who he was called to be in his home town because he could not do what he was supposed to do. It is really difficult in our understanding to see that Jesus could not share love. That the very Son of God whom we are worshipping is not able in certain circumstances to do wonders is the understanding that contradicts what we know of all powerful Jesus. It strikes at the centre of our faith in that God in Jesus is not able to do things at times. This, just like what those townspeople could not square, does not square with all knowing, and all powerfully loving God whom we believe in. How could this be?

In a way, this notion does make sense if we look at the entire gospel. Throughout Jesus’ ministry, everything is focused on “faith.” Jesus admonishes his disciples for having little faith. He goes on so far to say that even if there is faith as small as a mustard seed, the world will be a different place and experience God. In his own words, mountains could be moved and storms be stilled. Without faith, there is nothing. God is no longer in the minds of people and whatever God does is not seen and experienced by the people who choose to believe what they know over who Jesus is revealed to be by God. In healing many, Jesus often addresses how it is faith that gives them the healing. Faith is what connects God with God’s people and helps God’s people ask, receive, and be saved. Without faith, God is excluded by people in their lives. Their understandings, ethics, morals, and abilities become the basis by which they live and breathe. Without faith, everything begins and ends with self. With faith, all things find their beginning and end in God. God in this sense is truly Alpha and Omega.

Sadly when they refuse to believe in Jesus, they also turn from faith in God to faith in themselves. Their thoughts and knowledge of Jesus of the past are true in their eyes. What they see and experience in Jesus now is false. Without faith, nothing God does is visible to them. God’s will is pushed aside in favour of their will. In this environment where God is excluded, Jesus could not bring about any work of God to be experienced by these ordinary townspeople. In a way, life without faith as the very link that connects God with God’s people goes missing. Without this vital connection, people become totally incapable of knowing, accepting, understanding and growing in God who is ever present with them. This is not about God needing our permission to heal us from our ills. This is not about God requiring our faith as precondition for any healing. Faith is simply the way God is sought and is loved in response to God who loves us first by bestowing upon us life in Christ. If we refuse the life God gives us, then, we are no longer part of God’s reality or God’s kingdom.

He leadeth me v. 4

Because the people distrust and are without faith, Jesus is no longer doing anything that speaks of God. Even when he did bring signs of God’s kingdom by healing a few, there is neither the acknowledgment nor the exciting celebration by the people. These deeds showing God’s kingdom is at hand go unnoticed by the people. It is faith, the Gospel Mark insists, that makes God’s presence, acts, and love come alive in our midst. As we saw last week in the curing of the daughter of a Syrophoenician woman, faith is not even believing in and worshipping the God of Israel. Faith as the Gospel Mark defines in the entire Gospel is simply believing in, setting one’s heart on, and trust in God’s ability to be God of this world as the creator and ruler over all things, who is manifested through Jesus. Without this faith, Jesus would not do anything that is of God. People will not come to know and believe in God no matter what he does.

When he is rejected by his own townspeople, Jesus, then, turns away into the gentile world. Last week’s episode that follows this passage shows how Jesus enters the gentile land in Chapter 7. In the meantime, there seems to be a time of grieving by Jesus. He is rejected here. He seems to respond to this rejection first by sending out the disciples to everywhere in Israel everywhere, but in his hometown. Then, he eventually goes to gentiles having been made aware of the presence of faith among the gentiles through the Syrophoenician woman whose love for her daughter made her believe that Jesus is the one to cure her daughter. Last Sunday we did not dwell with what Jesus said to the woman, “For saying that you may go--for demon has left your daughter.” What has she said other than she believes that Jesus is the one to cure her daughter? That faith,--Jesus is the one to cure her daughter-- though Jesus does not name it as faith, is what cures the child. That is, prompted by her faith in Jesus to manifest God’s kingdom here and now, the kingdom of God where the sick are healed and tears are wiped away has become the reality for the daughter, the woman and Jesus.

In faith, then, God’s kingdom is opened as true reality. Because of the lack of faith, Jesus turns away from those to whom he was sent and sets his sights on those who are not part of the people of Israel.

Pondering this, we need to think about how we may have become like these townsfolk. Here are some indicators. We know all too well what God’s message is for us, our faith in God is all about, our relationship to Jesus Christ is and what’s in the Bible. At times, we lament that those who are staying away from our churches are ones without faith. Yet, in this passage, we see how those faithful people turn out to be faithful to what they know rather than what is made available to them through Jesus. Indeed, when they find a mismatch between their faith in God and God’s reality in Jesus, they choose their faith over God’s reality. How often do we do the same? We do out of faith with devotion and love just like these townspeople. How often, then, because of what we know, do we make Jesus among us turn away from us?

As we continually remind ourselves about Christ who works in our midst, this passage may show us how Jesus is now working among those whom we have not given much thought. The children of inner cities in Montreal, Winnipeg, and Vancouver are the ones to whom Jesus goes and sends us to work with as many in our own church communities no longer feel the need to be in our churches. Indigenous peoples of Canada are another group of very forgotten people who are considered in much the same way in our communities as gentiles among the Jews of Jesus’ time. As we ordain, install, hire staff at these institutions, we now can come to know that we, like Christ in this passage, are summoned to share in God's love with these much forgotten neighbours.

Prayer

Dearest Lord, be patient with us. We ask for your patience because we know we are people who are stubborn and unchangeable. We come to you with eloquent and deep thoughts only to find that your wisdom is beyond our understanding, your love is bigger than all our thoughts. In your grace and mercy receive our prayer.

We lift up those who are suffering all over the world, especially those in poor nations around the world. Having seen the devastation caused by COVID 19 in Europe and North America now invading them in full force they are fearful and worried. They are in deep grief beyond our understanding. Be with them all.

We lift up those to whom you open our eyes so that your love may be shared. Be with all those ministers and staff at our inner city missions. Be with your people with whom these ministers and staff share love. Be with us so that we will continually and prayerfully share your love with these, your people, our brothers and sisters. May we come to see fully how your love continually makes us discern where you go and how you invite us to come along so that your good news may be lived and celebrated by those whom you call.

We lift up those who are frustrated with the current lockdown conditions making things worse and worse. Be with them. Give them patience and hearts of compassion in ways that they will think of others before they think of their own needs.

Again we bring before you all those who are working so hard to keep this world going. Grant your wisdom to all leaders, your strength to all the frontline workers, and your love to all those essential workers. Keep them in your care so that they will continue to do their work of caring for the rest of us.

We pray for all those who belong to this congregation. Keep them in ways that they will continue to love your and their neighbours with all they have. We ask you to be with Betty J., Gennie K., Hugh and Judy M., Doris R., Bob and Virginia W. as we offer you thanks for the recovery given to Bob and Isobel N.

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

Hymn: Oh master, let me walk with thee



Prayer and Benediction:
Most gracious God, we ask you, let not your word return to you empty. Perfect the faith of us in us who believe, and sow the good seed in the hearts of our brothers and sisters in inner city communities across our country who believe. Root and ground us in your holy word. Through our work may you bring forth good fruit abundantly. Send us into the world with your word.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit remain with us and go wherever with us always! Amen.