Welcome (Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16)
In you, O LORD, I seek refuge; do not let me ever be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me. Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily. Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me. You are indeed my rock and my fortress; for your name's sake lead me and guide me, take me out of the net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge.
Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God. My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors. Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.
Preparation: I surrender all
Call to Worship (1 Peter 2:2-4)
Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation-if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God's sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
This is the day
Out of deep darkness, you created the world, O God. Out of depth of chaos, you brought out your creation. You alone are God who is worshipped and praised. Come and be present with us as we offer you all that we are in this worship. Make us yours once again through your presence, renewing us in Christ Jesus our Lord. May all we have done in your name be glorified! All these we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Scripture: Acts 7:55-60
But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. "Look," he said, "I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!" But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he died.
Sermon: Strength of Love
Sometimes we make everything too complicated. Peace is not as difficult a thing to imagine as the world makes it out to be. As usual we turn this simple concept of peace into a very complex endeavour. Rather than living life in peace, we do our best to safeguard our lives from anything that can disturb our peace. Thinking deeply can turn a simple thought into a very difficult concept. In a way we turn peace into something that we can only hope for and as something that we must really work hard for.
It is like defining what mother is. For a child, a mother is one who loves, feeds, clothes, looks after and cares for her. In the presence of a mother, the child feels secure, comfortable and feels fully alive. But for psychologists, paediatric doctors and other adults, a mother is a complex concept. This is a person who provides psychological support in a particular way, supplies sufficient nourishments at proper intervals, teaches knowledge to live wisely and so on. From what a mother does to a child, that person can be described as a good or bad mother. See how complicated it gets? Again for a child, mother is to whom you run to for safety, nurture and love. It’s as simple as that.
For most of us we do not think of peace in spiritual terms. We think that peace is a social construct. To have peace means that we make agreements with our neighbours not to disturb each other whether through stealing, hurting, causing troubles or by breaking into their lives in unwanted ways. If we are left alone, we think we are at peace. Peace in this way of thinking is also about building relationships with others so that we can enjoy each other positively without harm. In other words, peace is about keeping a distance from each other while connecting with others without inflicting harm on others.
Peace, understood in these terms, disappears the moment a conflict or harm intrudes into a person’s life. As soon as a neighbour walks into my yard or my house unexpectedly breaks my peace. If someone takes my shovel without permission, my peace is gone. If someone shouts insults at me, my peace is destroyed. In life, any unwanted pressure that agitates and impacts my life negatively takes away my peace. Up to a certain point, we can tolerate how much our peace is interrupted. As soon as peace in my life erodes I begin the work of rebuilding my peace. This is the way we think. After all, peace is very fragile in life.
Or is it? Is our peace so delicate that it breaks or disappears from us when something unpleasant enters into our lives? Perhaps! More likely the cause might be the way we define, understand or construct in our minds what peace is. Our understanding of peace is rather limited and one dimensional if we understand peace to be as we described above. Spiritually speaking, life without troubles, disturbances, interruptions or violence is not peaceful. Life without all these negative things in life simply means that we are fortunate enough to enjoy life without them.
As we mentioned last week, peace as we Christians and people of religions in general speak of is peace that thrives in a life full of troubles and anxieties. Let me explain. There are those people who seem to be calm and at peace no matter what is happening around them.’ These are the holy ones. They somehow overcame all the life’s difficulties. Yet, they were unfazed by terrible evil they experienced in life. They have an aura of calm and peace about them. They do not shrink away from troubles, but were always in the middle of them, sharing their peace.
Sharing of peace is more than simply bringing calmness or serenity into a topsy-turvy world. It is more than having an ability to remain unfazed while everyone else is running around like Chicken Little shouting the sky is falling. We learned what it means to be at peace by watching Jesus on the cross, saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Extending love to those who were killing him was the example Jesus set for us. Jesus as he was hung on the cross to die was not only calm, but also loved by asking forgiveness for the ones who were putting him to death.
In this way of understanding peace, peace is the state of love being fulfilled in real time. Peace is more than a concept or construct one can hold. It is love unfolding in the world fully. It is life coming alive in places of death. It is God’s presence that wins over death every turn by infusing life with unconditional love. While the world imposes death, especially on the weak, God’s love breaks through the oppressive crusts of death.
This peace that was demonstrated by Jesus and found its way to many of his followers who were tortured, was the very same peace that could only be possible when one loves another through forgiveness. Again as we shared last week, it is peace that is only possible when love is its source, cause and reality. At the beginning we spoke of children knowing who their mother is. Those children are at peace no matter what situation they are under as long as their mother is with them assuring, nurturing and loving them. In other words, they are at peace when they know their mother loves them. I remember hearing a single mother saying how heartbroken she was because she could not give them good food that month due to her money running out. When she told them that she had no money left, the children hugged her and said that all was okay because they had their mother. Yes, these children were at peace. They were not worried or fearful as long as they were with their mother.
Jesus gave us peace. Because of this peace, we know that we are loved and nothing can move us to be part of the evil of this world. Death does not threaten us. In God’s love we know we are already living the life where death is no more. We do not fear death or any threats of this world. In God’s love we are secure. We are free from fear to choose to live as the people of Christ sharing the very love that makes this peace possible. With this peace we are calm and collected in all circumstances. Because of this peace we do not turn to life that is not of love. This peace that Jesus gave makes it possible for us to love freely without constraints.
In today’s passage from the Book of Acts, we see the first Christian martyr Stephen being stoned to death. As he was dragged out, we see him being passive rather than active in one way. Rather than protesting, condemning or asking God to judge the crowd, he brings into this horrible situation love. It is love that is fully centred on forgiveness. It is the only way those who are killing him to have life that is from God. Stephen was not agitated, fearful, or defeated. He knew what was happening to him, yet, he was able to love or share God’s peace with those who brought death upon him. He knew that he was already in eternal life through Jesus.
So we, too, follow Christ. We bring peace even to those who are determined to take our lives by loving as Christ did. This strength of peace, being serene or calm as death is heaped on us is only possible in God’s love being shared abundantly. Life in Christ is as simple as this.
In times of plenty and of want, we come in humility, O God. As we offer our concerns it is our prayer that you will hear us and respond to us with your love. We are not worthy of your constant love, yet, we come as your children who are given love through Christ your Son our Lord. As we lift up our voices as one voice, hear our prayer.
On this day we pray for all the displaced people everywhere. There are so many who left their homes in search of new homes where life will be safe and peaceful. Uprooted from comfort and familiarity they sojourn in this world as strangers We pray especially for those who walk with you in these journeys. Guard and protect them. Open your welcome through all those whom they encounter. May they come to know that it is in walking with you, they are filled with never ending hope! May all who receive them show your hospitality.
In this Mental Health Awareness Week, we remember before you all those who are struggling with mental illnesses. So many are looking for hope in despair. As these diseases attack minds, it is hard for everyone to realize how difficult it is for those who are suffering. Make us aware of all who are suffering traumas of minds and thoughts. Be with their loved ones who constantly try their best with being able to help. Open our eyes to see who they are in order to tend to them.
As we begin a new month, we give you thanks for all who are with us today. Bless us with your faith in order for us to continue in our spiritual journey of searching for you. Keep us in your hope so that we may not despair as we continually face disappointments. Enwrap us in love to glorify and enjoy you always. Give us courage to share your love with all those who have not experienced love and all who desire love.
In Jesus’ name we Pray. Amen.
Mother’s Day Sunday
Next Sunday is Mother’s Day Sunday. Please come to give God thanks and celebrate the day with joy and peace.
Cinnamon Bun Tuesdays
This weekly fellowship will return on Tuesday, May 23 at 10 am. Please mark your calendars. Come! Bring your friends and join us.
All the way my Saviour leads me