Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1 John 4:7,8)
Cinnamon Bun Tuesday is continuing. Please let us know what you think. Are you enjoying being part of Cinnamon Bun Tuesdays? Are there things we can do better?
On Sunday, June 12, we are holding a memorial time during our worship to remember those who have passed away during the COVID lockdown time. Please mark the date and come.
On Sunday, June 19, to celebrate Father’s Day, we will begin our activities at 9:30 am. It is our hope that we will begin gathering at 9:30 am and will start our worship, followed by BBQ brunch. Weather permitting, the activities will take place in our church yard on the East side of the sanctuary. Please, mark the time and date and join us.
The congregational meeting to vote for the session’s suggestion on downsizing is called for Sunday, June 26. Please, mark your calendars. Come and vote. For those who are unable to be present, you can vote either by mail, email, or phone. We will begin distributing the details of the suggestion starting Sunday, June 5, Pentecost Sunday.
The General Assembly of The Presbyterian Church in Canada begins on June 5. Please pray for all commissioners. This year, the Assembly will meet online again from Sunday evening to Wednesday afternoon.
Starting next Sunday, our worship services in the sanctuary will be in our summer schedule. That is, our worship order will change. Also we will be discussing in the next session meeting the time of summer worship services. In previous years, we moved our worship to earlier time during July and August.
Preparation: Blessed be the Lord God Almighty
Call to Worship (Psalm 97:1-5, 10-12)
The Lord is king! Let the earth rejoice;
let the many coastlands be glad!
Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
Fire goes before him,
and consumes his adversaries on every side.
His lightnings light up the world;
the earth sees and trembles.
The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,
before the Lord of all the earth.
The Lord loves those who hate evil;
he guards the lives of his faithful;
he rescues them from the hand of the wicked.
Light dawns for the righteous,
and joy for the upright in heart.
The earth has yielded its increase;
God, our God, has blessed us. Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous,
and give thanks to his holy name!
Hymn: Come, Christians, join to sing
O God, you are our God. You created us. You called us into being in Christ Jesus our risen Lord. In your presence our lives are. In your love we find our fullness. In humble humility we offer this worship to you.
Send us your Spirit. Fill us with your Spirit. Make us yours.
We give you thanks for sending us the Light of the World so that we are secure on our path as we deny ourselves and follow your Son. We give you our praise for filling our hearts with faith and hope so that we continue to share the good news of your reign with those who are losing hope. We give you our prayers so that in sure and certain confidence of your promise to hear our prayers we lift up the suffering of your children in this world.
O God, we offer this worship to you with our hearts full of love for you. May you be glorified and be praised with all that we bring to you in words, deeds, and thoughts. In Jesus’ name we pray.
Scripture: 1 Corinthians: 13
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
Sermon: The future church
What is a church? To this question, we answer in the Living Faith, “Christ together with his people, worshipping and serving God all of life.” In praise we sing, “I am the church! You are the church! We are the church together! All who follow Jesus, all around the world! Yes, we’re the church together! The church is not a building; the church is not a steeple; the church is not a resting place; the church is a people.” Now that we are able to say what a church is, the next question is, “how do we worship and serve God in all of life?”
This also has a short and succinct answer in Matthew:
‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’ (Matthew 22:37-40) The church is a wellspring of love because God is love. Everyone loves God and neighbours in response to God’s love for us given in Christ. Everyone, including those who are outsiders, knows these two commandments.
Being a Christian is, therefore, all about loving God and neighbours for us. It is simple enough until we try to define who our neighbours are.
When Jesus was asked who was a neighbour, Jesus told the good Samaritan parable. The parable shows that neighbours are those who help ones in dire needs. Jesus asked who the neighbour was to the man who lay on a street helplessly bleeding, after being mugged. Of course, everyone knew the answer. It was not the priest or the Levite, but a foreigner who was considered to be so sinful that all Jews were prohibited from interacting with.
This day and age, our world is suspicious of Christians. We lost credibility as an institution where our neighbours can find love. They know they can come for food or handouts, but they are certain that churches are not places for them to receive the love they need. Many people no longer see us as their neighbours full of love when they are suffering and are in trouble. Sadly, we often do not offer similar experiences of love as the mugged Jew received from the Samaritan on the road to Jericho.
Why do we put conditions on our love? Why do we demand that they ought to repent? Why do we insist that they have correct morality and demand that they act ethically in the right ways when they come to the church? Seeing the broken, bleeding, and/or wearing dirty clothes, we advise them that to be in churches to worship, they ought to have cleaned themselves up and at least in clean presentable clothes. We look at them with contempt for wearing smelly clothes and unkempt hair or for wearing ragged baseball caps. If the Samaritan demanded such before helping the victim of robbery, could the half-conscience or fully un-conscience bleeding individual have complied in order to obtain the Samaritan’s help?
So the reputation gets built in the minds of many that churches are judgmental, divisive, and hate-filled. Think for a moment. People left because we allowed blacks into churches in the 1800s. People left churches when we allowed inter-racial marriages in the late 1950s and the early 1960s. People left when women were ordained in the church as elders and ministers in the 1960s. People left when we began using the Bible that included sisters to the Bible while the King James Version had only “brothers” in some passages. People left when we began singing inclusive hymns. People left because the last General Assembly passed the remits to include LGBTQI+ people. I also know more than a few churches where people left because they did not like the fact that their outreach programs to the homeless or the people with addiction problems began attracting these undesirables to their worship services. Those who were included for the first time found no love from those who acted morally. The ethical behaviours of those who were leaving because they did not want to sit beside sinners led to much pain in all those who remained.
In other words, many people, who considered themselves Christians trying to live righteous lives in the Church, left on the strongly moral, ethical, and Biblical grounds because they did not want to be neighbours to those whom they considered sinners. It did not matter that these sinners were hurting, broken, excluded, poor, and outcasts . They could not see why they needed to love those who were sinners who were not like them in being morally correct and ethically good. Is it any wonder, then, that those who were outside the churches began noticing that churches were not loving as they expected. Today, exclusion in our world is seen by everyone as an action that is opposite to love. In this world, the churches are now known as places of worship, but not of love, the places to love God, but not their neighbours. The world came to know us by the ways we exclude consciously or unconsciously. In general they concluded that all Christians churches are no longer places of love.
To counteract the criticisms from those outside, many Christians work on worship, ethics, and morals. Some Christians churches now wear criticisms of the world with pride because being morally on God’s side is far superior in their views than willy nilly loving. They work hard to define love in particular ways. They say that there are harmful ways of loving. For them love without correct morals and right ethical behaviours cannot be love. This love can only be found in the way they understand and interpret what Jesus said and did. They are okay, therefore, with tough love that is grounded in morals based on their biblical interpretations. For them this tough love can and does include the necessary hurts and suffering in order to right the wrongs of sinners. This is why these Christians insist that all Christians ought to live their lives in ways that are spelled out in their teachings. Rightly or wrongly those outside the churches, then, see such tough love rejecting sinners.
We as Christians, on the other hand, have a very different understanding of love. For us morals and ethics do not drive or define love. Rather love is what drives our lives to be morally and ethically Christian. In this understanding love is something that flows from God and can change in ways people experience it. This love of God is very open, life giving, and always pointing us to the risen Christ. This love is not static and bound by correct morals and right ethical behaviours. This love is always changing us, recreating us as part of new creation in Christ Jesus, and compels us to follow Christ by emptying ourselves or denying what we desire and want, always asking God to fill us with the love of Christ to share with neighbours in all of life. We are free to grow in love and share this love more and more freely with others.
When we begin with the mystery of God’s love, morally correct ethical behaviours are natural expressions of love. We do not define Christ’s love based on morals and ethics we have discerned ourselves. Defining love from the morals and ethics we already have because we studied the Bible is to put the cart before the horse. The more proper way is to receive Christ’s love and do our best to share it in the ways of Christ. This way makes us live the life where our actions are morally centred and ethically righteous. Being opened to God’s love in Christ challenges us to examine our love so that our love reflects Christ’s love in the world more and more in our daily lives.
We have been trying our best to love in ways that our love will be experienced by others as moral and ethical. Because we begin with the love of Christ that is mysterious and is from God–instead of a clearly defined systematic love that is based on correct morals, resulting in right behaviours in dealing with our neighbours–we are far more prone to make mistakes, yet, are always learning to grow. This love of Christ opens us to the world without demands and judgments, especially to those who are weak, broken, hurt, sick, poor, betrayed, and lost. In this love, we do not insist others to be like us morally and ethically. We are not looking to create others in our image so that their thoughts are morally correct in the way our thoughts are.
Our way of understanding and living the love of Christ is incomplete, unsystematic, and imperfect, prone to many mistakes. It is far less satisfactory than other ways mentioned above. Yet, we do our best to follow the ways of Christ’s love. Our faith is that whatever we try, Christ through the Holy Spirit will guide this love to bring glory to God and free us to enjoy God. Our hope is that God will forgive us as we repent and reconcile us in ways that the love we share with our neighbours will lead our neighbours to experience Christ as their Lord in the same way he is our Lord and Saviour.
We used to love our neighbours by teaching correct morals that would lead them to ethical behaviours. Our hope was that patient and long-suffering teachings of correct morals would result in these neighbours becoming like us to worship, love, and live in God. Yes, we imagined that the poor will learn to work hard and become positively contributing exemplary members of society, just like us. They would then become examples to their neighbours so that those strangers can become much like us too in worshipping, loving and glorifying God by joining us in our worship on Sundays. We learned that this way was not the way of Christ.
Now we love our neighbours as who they are. Instead of teaching them correct morals, we learn from them who they are. In hospitality we welcome them as they are, sharing our sacred space in life with them freely. We allow them to be who they are: sinners in need of Christ, safely. Of course, this way of being Christians is extremely difficult. We have to refrain from teaching, showing, guiding, and leading them. Instead, we let them be found by Christ in God’s time as sinners. There are no demands from us. They are welcomed in our midst wearing dirty and smelly clothes. They are invited to sit beside us as broken and full of sin. There are no rules or guidelines saying that they have to repent and receive Christ as their Lord and Saviour if they want to worship, praise, pray and be part of God’s people.
What about those who can hurt us? What about those who can steal from us? What about those who can kill us? These are our challenges, not Christ’s.
Being the future church, to be known by the fruit of love, we face these challenges by learning to love as God through Christ loved the world.
In our weakness we come. In your strength, receive us as your people and hear our prayer.
O Lord, we offer this prayer as your children in love. Receive these, our concerns, and respond according to your will. We lift up to you our worries and fears. Hear us, O loving God who created us and called us into being as your hands in this world.
This week as we continue to pray for those who were killed in Buffalo, we sadly bring prayers for those 19 children and two adults who were killed senseless in Texas. Evil deeds of human beings are beyond our imagining. Yet, we know your love is more than sufficient in giving hope and life to all those family members in grief and sorrow. Pour your presence to all. Be with them.
We pray to you that you will be with all those who are contemplating evil thoughts in their hearts. There are so many people who are not hesitating to harm others, even taking lives, in their anger. Soften their hearts. Fill these evil ones with your love.
We pray for all those who are doing their best to save themselves in wars. In places like Ukraine, Palestine, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Congo, and many other countries where people are doing their best to save the lives of their loved ones as they do their best to save themselves. Be with them all. It is hard to imagine what it is like to live in these terrifying places. Place your table among all those who are fearful and are desperate. Feed them with your love. Give them strength to love one another
We pray for all our world’s political, economic, and spiritual leaders. May they be filled with your wisdom in ways that they will do their best for their people, Guide them to look after the needs of the poor, the weak, the meek, the lost, and the vulnerable. Give them strength to protect all your children.
We pray for our own who belong to this congregation. Some are waiting for doctors’ calls. Some are requiring your love and support as they deal with the news of cancers and recurring cancers. Some are trying their best to deal with pains that debilitate them from ordinary chores. Be with them. Give them hope of healing and recovery. Be present with them so that they may enjoy each day as new blessings from you.
We pray for those who have lost their loved ones. In grief and sorrow, they do their best. Embrace them. Walk with them. Be their strength and hope.
We pray for our future. Guide and lead us in ways that we will build a congregation where people will find your love in our midst.
In your Son’s name we pray. Amen.
Please do not forget to give generously so that we may continue to carry out Christ’s ministry here in this part of God’s vineyard.
With gratitude we bring our offering. These are too small in comparison to what you bless us with each day, but these are expressions of our faith, hope, and love in and for you. Make us wise with your Spirit. Give us faith, courage, and wisdom to be your witnesses in this part of your vineyard. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Hymn: He has made me glad