Sunday, May 30, 2021

Welcome and Announcements for Trinity Sunday, May 30, 2021

Thank you for sharing a moment in your time with us to worship. It is always a pleasure to have you participate in worship as you join us through the internet.

Remember that we will be opening our worship services starting on the first Sunday of July according to the provincial regulations. Our worship time in July and August will be at 10 am every Sunday. Please pray that all will go well and we will begin to worship together again. These worship services will be held either outdoors or in our church hall. Our plan is to return back to the sanctuary in September.

In July, we are also planning to begin Wednesday evening gatherings to celebrate life and give God thanks. This gathering will take place at 6:30 pm every Wednesday for July and August.

In the meantime, for those who will feel more comfortable coming to join worship in person later when things are fully cleared, our Sunday worship will continue on our webpage and will be loaded onto our YouTube channel.

Please continue to pray for your church and members. Please continue to pray for Betty Jolley, Hugh and Judy McKeown, Doris Race, Bob and Virginia Ward. Often when we ask you to pray for specific people. They certainly need and appreciate your prayers. However, it would be good for us to pray for each other as part of being our church family. Remember that everyone’s love is shared through prayer as well.

Some of you have been wondering why our church is not streaming services or video recording worship services like some other churches do. There are two major reasons. The first one has to do with the internet capability. Our church internet is very limited due to the Bell line which can only bring us no more than 1 MB/sec upload speed. This is very inadequate. When we asked if Bell could provide us with faster speed, we were informed that it is not possible at the moment. When we enquired if Cogeco Cable could bring the line, they informed us that because of our current location, they have no plan to extend their cables to our church address unless we pay for it ourselves at very high cost. As for video recording, we are limited by those with technical abilities and time available to do the recording each week. We ask your patience as we search for better ways to bring online worship services.

Call to Worship

We worship God in the spirit and in truth. We come to God who through Christ calls all those who are weary and carrying heavy burdens. In our lives God’s Spirit is always with us and brings us to worship. In praise and worship we stand before the Lord to be made his.

Let us sing together As the Deer

How shall we come to you, O God, in this season of Pentecost? As we celebrate and give you thanksgiving on this Trinity Sunday, we are mindful of what it means to commune with you our God who is one, yet in three persons. By the triune presence, you teach us to commune with one another and live in ways to glorify and honour you among us. Be pleased with our worship. Come and receive this worship as our love for you. Amen.

Offering All Heaven Declare

Offering Prayer

Ever loving and giving God, we come to you in thanksgiving to bring our offerings. These are small gifts, yet, representing our full love for you and for our neighbours. In presenting these offerings, we acknowledge and proclaim your Lordship over us. Bless us to participate in the ministry of Christ here in this part of your vineyard in ways to bring forth your presence in this world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Luke 8:4-15

When a great crowd gathered and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable: ‘A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell on the path and was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered for lack of moisture. Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. Some fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold.’ As he said this, he called out, ‘Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’

Then his disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but to others I speak in parables, so that
“looking they may not perceive,
and listening they may not understand.”

‘Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones on the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe only for a while and in a time of testing fall away. As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance.

Sermon: Bear fruit with patient endurance

It’s planting season in Ontario. We go about buying young flowers, vegetables and trees. Weather fluctuates, but we know from experience that frost will probably be unlikely and it is a safe time to plant. Those who have been farming professionally and as hobbies have known that preparation of soils is the key for successful farming. Indeed for many green thumbs, preparation began last year before the winter came. Many of us have been immersed in the best practices to maximize the few weeks we have for planting. Even under these pandemic restrictions, garden centres have been opened so that people could do their planting.

In many ways, though we have been removed for many centuries, we can relate to the farmer in this parable. But this farmer’s technique of seeding, in our efficiency and science bound minds, is somewhat baffling. Why do the seeds fall on the road or on rocky soils?
We certainly can relate to birds eating seeds, plants having a hard time growing among rocky soils, etc. In this story, however, there seems to be a lot of waste of seeds. Though many preachers throughout ages (mostly preachers were neither farmers nor green thumbs, though there were a few preachers who came out of farming background) focused on the results and the necessities of good soil, those enquiring minds in the pews often clicking their tongues about this seeding methods.

Farmers in Palestine in Jesus’ time, on the other hand, had no trouble understanding what Jesus was saying because he was relating their life experiences. In those semi-desert conditions, with dryness everywhere, they were very mindful of the sparse rainy seasons. Irrigation system was used in various ways, but not for the entire year like they do today. Their first harvest was often celebrated around Passover as their barley harvest would come in. Their second harvest was in late May on the fiftieth day from the first day of Passover which was known as Pentecost. Christian Pentecost, of course, is the fiftieth day from Easter. There is a few day difference between Jewish and Christian Pentecosts. In May, Jews celebrate this day as the Festival of Weeks. This is hard for us to fathom since we are quite used to starting planting our gardens now.

The practice of seeding in those early times in this very dry climate where soils were hard, they often waited for rain to come in order to plough. To maximize rain’s effect of loosening soil, farmers often seeded as they tilled after the rain loosened the soil. That way, they could maximize their short time. As those who were seeding followed furrows they would grab a handful of seeds and throw them as best as they could. You get the picture. It is a very different way of farming than the kind of efficiency based farming today in Canada or in other parts of the industrialized world where wasting seeds hardly exists. There are some records of using very efficient methods in those days, too, but it appears that for most peasant farmers, they often threw seeds as they walked along the furrows.

By using this farming example in this parable, Jesus does bring out one aspect of God’s grace we often do not think about. We are using today the passage from Gospel Luke because this version shows something that both Gospel Matthew and Gospel Mark do not. We will get to this difference later. For now, it is important for us to think about God’s grace that is shown in this parable as Jesus describes a very universal process of farming among regular people in those days.

The very first one to focus on is that seeds, God’s word as explained by Jesus, fall on every type of soil. It does not simply fall on good soil. It is spread throughout the plot of land on which farming is done. There are no attempts by farmers to keep seeds just on good soil, even though that would be farmers’ primary aim. Like these seeds, God’s word is given to all and is not limited only to a few. That is, the good news of God Jesus brings is not confined to the few good Israelites who are always devout and willing. Jesus preaches and the Word reaches everyone. This is God’s grace. Though it is targeted, yet, everyone benefits in this grace. In many ways, our attempt at understanding Jesus’ encounters with outsiders has been to examine how God’s word crossed into foreign lands reaching foreigners going beyond the children of 12 tribes of Israel.

We are told by Jesus that there are many different ways God’s word is received. Not everyone will do the same in response when God’s word is given. The first response Jesus mentions is most appropriate for today. Gospel Luke is clear: the Devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts. People who hear God’s word, yet, do not have opportunity to receive it or even do anything with it are not blamed by Jesus. Rather, we are told that it is the Devil's doing. They are ready for picking by the Devil. As soon as the Devil sees that the good news of God reaches these folks, this Devil snatches it away. In our world, we are apt to blame individuals for not being open to God’s word, etc. In this passage Jesus makes clear that they are the target of the Devil and are subjects under Devil’s power. Our condemnations of those who are unable to accept God’s word appear to be misplaced. These folks did not even have a chance.

The second response is a bit more interesting. These people are the ones who are glad to receive the word. They rejoice. However, because their hearts and minds are like rocks, their joy is short-lived. These are the ones who get excited and are happy, but cannot sustain the joy and cherish the word because they lack the most important ingredient to sustain the word. We have known so many who get excited with nothing to show for it. Indeed, many of us fall into this category. So much excitement of the wonder of God’s good news is shared. We initially are eager to get involved at any mission projects or works of Christ’s ministry. We are the first to volunteer and sign up. Soon, however, we are unable to match our enthusiasm. We have difficulty matching our joy with the hard work that is required to carry out Christ’s ministry. In this case, those of us who are not easily giving up and are always hard at work may condemn those others among us like the elder brother in the famous parable of the prodigal son. However, there is no such judgment coming from Jesus. He simply explains why those among us who fail are the way we are. We will try for a while. We lack, however, the most important ingredient which he calls metaphorically ‘moisture.” Eventually, without strong roots, they fall away.

The third type is the ones that grow among thorns. Here, the ones who receive God’s word do their best. They struggle and grow with the word. However, eventually thorns around them, those non-God’s people around them become very influential. These are the folks who receive the word, but do what they want to do. These are the ones who make their own minds up comparing the word to what the world provides. They see the difficulty of keeping the word as well as seeing how their hearts and minds are attracted to the way of the world where hard work of keeping the word is not as rewarding. Like their neighbours they go after riches and pleasures that the world offers. In many ways, they have the word in their hearts. It has grown so much, but it cannot bear fruit because it is busy with other businesses than bearing fruit. Any expert gardener can tell you that too much good nutrients and sufficient water will help fruit trees flourish with beautifully healthy leaves, but often do not bear fruits. In many cases, to have flowers and fruits, farmers need to stress non-flowering plants and healthy fruit trees in numerous ways including pruning, holding back water, etc.

The final example is the seeds falling on good soil. With the right amount of nutrients, moisture, temperature, and weeding, the word of God flourishes. On these responders, we will only focus on what the Gospel Luke says here, “when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance.” The key words I ask you to hold onto are “bear fruit with patient endurance.” In many sermons I have heard and seen, most preachers focus on how the good soil produces ‘hundred folds.’ It is so encouraging for Christians on worship services to hear this message of being so productive etc. while others have nothing to show for. With this focus most of us can go back into the world feeling good for being this metaphorical good soil. Gospel Luke, unlike Gospels Matthew and Mark, talks here about bearing fruit with patient endurance. That is, nothing in Christian faith is easy. It requires patient endurance because the world rejects anything of Christ. It is a sober reminder that being Christian means to pay a high price. The writer of Gospel Luke not only knew the price Jesus had to pay through his suffering and death, but also for early Christians to withstand the onslaught of many persecutions. It is a real mistake for those of us who are living now to think that there is no price to pay. We are beginning to see how difficult it is to be Christ’s follower today as the world turns away from anyone who speaks of Christ in favourable terms.

As we ponder, I invite you to think about the third response very carefully. Today in many theological circles, it is easy to demonize the world while those who worship together in particular churches as ones who are part of good soil as described by the Lord. The trouble is, after over two thousand years of Christian history, most churches have become so immersed and ingrained in our society that we are unable to distinguish between God’s word and human words masquerading as God’s word. Take for example of the preachers who are into blessing theologies. They argue that blessing comes to those people who attend churches, do as these churches insist, including giving offerings in detriment to their meager lives in poverty. They exploit vulnerable people by dangling God’s blessings in order to enrich themselves. Then there are those who have been arguing vociferously on worshipping even if it means that people get infected with COVID 19. They have made attendance on Sunday service a test for faith while the pandemic rages on arguing that all powerful God who controls nature will spare God’s own. By default, their argument is that those who contract COVID 19 at worship are not true Christians because God is withholding protection and so on or God is trying to test their faith. My focus is not on deriding these Christians on one extreme. Rather, it is to point out that often those who claim to be good soils can resemble thorn patches onto which the seeds fell. In other words, their focus is on going after their ideologies, riches and pleasures. Their claim to being good soils somehow fails to “bear fruit with patient endurance.” The characteristics of good soil, according to Gospel Luke, are not in fighting the world and overthrowing governments who put restrictions on their freedom to worship, but in being able to bear fruit with patient endurance.

Why do we need to spend time on this point? Because this is the lesson that Gospel Luke is passing onto us if we are to follow Christ. Jesus did not resist, fight, overthrow, or answer the powers of his day. Rather, he followed God’s will and bore fruit through his suffering, death, and resurrection. In the same way, the early Church, soon after the Pentecost, began experiencing terrifying persecutions. It began simple enough so that initially the disciples were afraid and were locking the doors as they gathered. Soon, people like Saul went many places arresting and throwing Christians in prisons. This was followed by even more severe persecutions by Roman governors and eventually Roman Emperors. As the persecution began for Christians the Gospel Luke brought out this particular point from Jesus’ teaching, given in this parable: “bear fruit with patient endurance.” Christians were and are here for a long haul based on God’s time. Our task is to bear fruit with patient endurance instead of becoming like those in the world who go after riches and pleasures. Unlike those who talk of material blessings in return for faith and sacrificial offerings, the fruit we bear is a particular kind described in Galatians 5 by Paul, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.” So in this season of planting, in thanksgiving, we remember that God through Christ has sown the seed in us.

Let us pray.

Bless us, O God of Life, as we begin our growing season. May we see your glory in the surroundings in which you have placed us. As we participate in the life you are unfolding in this world, may we have wisdom to follow your Son our Lord.

O Lord,
Hear our prayer as we ponder your will for this corner of the world in which you plant your word. Through the Holy Spirit, help us to be good soils in being able to bear fruit with patient endurance.

Be with all who are suffering in our world. So many are struggling because of COVID19 and its fall out. It is hard for many of us to truly grasp the extent to which the suffering is visited on people of our world. Be with those who suffer.

Make us your servants wise in all our dealings in our world so that we may bear true fruit of the Spirit in ways that you are glorified in this world. Give us courage, compassion, and love to look after one another.

As we enter this growing season, may your Son’s life be infused with all who attend this church and beyond.

All these things we pray in your Son’s name. Amen.

Hymn: Glory be to God the Father