Sunday, May 9, 2021



News

Thank you for being part of the life and ministry of the church. With your help, we continue to find ways to serve our neighbours in Christ’s name.

Happy Mother’s Day!

The Jolley family made a decision to keep Harry at home for his last days. Please pray that God’s peace continues to guide and is poured on the entire family as Harry walks his last days. Betty and everyone else are doing a wonderful job of tending to Harry’s needs.

Bob and Isobel N thank you for all your prayers. They want us to know that your prayers supported them through this very difficult time. They are waiting for the entire home to be declared COVID free by May 11.

Here is the list of those who need your prayers: Betty and Harry J., Bob and Isobel N., Doris R., Wayne and Eva T., Bob and Virginia W. and everyone else you can think of who belongs to the congregation.

Please pray for the people of India as they experience the surge of pandemic deaths.

The session will be meeting on Thursday evening by phone. As we begin preparations for our future, we ask for your prayers.

Gathering:

Worship draws us into the work of Christ.
In Christ we come to love God and our neighbours.
In worship the Holy Spirit completes all that we do so that God may be glorified.
Let us come and worship!

Praying for God’s presence:

On this day, come and receive this worship. We bring all our hearts, minds and spirits in show of our love for you. As our creator, continue to form and shape us as your people. In this worship, feed us with your word and become flesh among us. All these in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Opening Hymn: Tell me the old old story vs. 1



Eve had to face the death of her son at the hand of another son. Cain killed Abel. She not only faced the untimely death of her son, but also faced the truth that it was her own son who killed the other. From the very beginning grief and sorrow wrapped mothers witnessing killings among male children and yet loving without failing all their children..Her sorrow is understated in this passage, “Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and named him Seth, for she said, ‘God has appointed for me another child instead of Abel, because Cain killed him.’” (Genesis 4:25) The bitterness of losing her son and of admitting that the other son killed him is found packed into this very simple sentence. What a way to begin a story of humanity through women’s eyes!

Prayer

Through good and bad, ups and downs of life, we cry to you, O God. You hear our cries and respond. On this day we pray for all those mothers who grieve deaths of their sons and evils their sons inflicted on their own siblings. May you bless all those mothers who witness and live with evils committed by their own children. Give them strength to love without fail. Amen.

Tell me the old old story vs. 2



Hagar is mother of Ishmael and slave woman to Sarai. She gave birth because Sarai was not able to bear a child with Abram. Soon she was put out of Abram’s house with her child given only bread and a skin of water. She became the first recorded single mom in the Old Testament fending for herself and her child. Soon water ran out. In despair she and her son cried. The cry reached God’s ear and God spoke to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid.” (Genesis 21:17) God opened her eyes and their new life began. Like millions of single mothers today, Hagar brought up Ishmael all alone by doing her best under God’s promise. Can you imagine the burden she had to bear as she tried her best to make life good for her son?

Prayer

Dear God, in our world there is no end to the troubles many mothers face. More and more are carrying the burdens of raising children alone around the world as economies decline and pandemic continues. So many women are trying to keep families going while their husbands are away trying to find jobs or having been divorced. Many of these mothers are also mired in menial low paying jobs that keep them permanently in poverty. As they try to raise their children, they find the world cold, distant and unsympathetic. Be with every single mother who does her best for her children. Give them your presence so that they may find strength to continue. Be with the leaders of the world and all those who are able to bring about meaningful changes for these single mothers. We pray in your Son’s name. Amen.

Scripture: Mark 7:24-30

From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, ‘Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ But she answered him, ‘Sir,* even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’ Then he said to her, ‘For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.’ So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

Sermon: Mothers in faith

The 1992 movie Lorenzo’s Oil opens with a wonderful scene of a happy child. Soon, however, something happens to their beautiful son. Suddenly everything falls apart because something is happening to a very healthy looking son. He forgets and does not remember, shows unusual symptoms like severe tantrums and many other symptoms. Eventually he is diagnosed with ALD (adrenoleukodystrophy). All doctors they come across tell them there is no cure. His parents, especially his mother, tries to figure out how to make the sick son better against all odds. Mother’s desperation is in full display as she frantically searches for a possibility of cure with her husband.

This movie was based on the true story of the Odone family in the United States. Eventually the oil they heard about in a symposium they sponsored, now known as Lorenzo’s Oil, came to stave off the symptoms. Sadly the oil was not the cure. Lorenzo, the son, lived for 22 more years in spite of the early diagnosis that he would die within a few years. He lived in an almost vegetative state for those 22 years. If given early this oil, however, does help those who have ALD to live without symptoms developing further and help to live a life without severe symptoms. Because of the effort of Lorenzo’s parents, this disease that affects 1 in 20,000 to 50,000 boys, can now be diagnosed and given treatment to live a longer and better quality life. The relentless and dedicated search for a cure by Michaela Odone in real life reminds us of the Syrophoenician woman from the Gospels.

Before we turn our ears to something more exciting, let us take a look at this passage one more time. As we begin, we need to acknowledge the contributions made by feminist theologians and scholars like Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza for opening new ways of understanding this passage and what happens here between Jesus and the unnamed woman.

There are things that everyone recognized about this woman. She was a stranger and was not part of the people of Israel. The passage makes her estranged position ever so clearly when it states that she is a Gentile of Syrophoenician origin. In other words, she is very aware she does not belong to the people of Israel and so does everyone else. She has no standing in the Jewish world. Therefore, she has no claim on Jesus and his ministry. At the same time, she is a female in the male dominated world in her time. Yes, she is twice removed from Jesus to begin with in this way, as an outsider and as a woman.

By the time we come to this passage, Jesus has already cured many sick people. One notable healing has to do with a woman who was bleeding for 12 years. She thought to herself that if she simply touched Jesus’ cloak, she would be made well. After she touched him, Jesus waited until she revealed herself as the one who touched him. Jesus praised her for her faith in front of everyone. This sign of God’s kingdom at hand was happening every time Jesus healed someone who belonged to the tribes of Israel. Jesus has shown a great deal of compassion to the people of Israel. In earlier parts of Gospel Mark, Jesus has already spoken about how he came for the lost ones of Israel as he does in this passage. As some scholars, especially Walter Brueggemann and Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza, note, up until this point in his ministry, much of Jesus’ activities were confined to the people of Israel. They point out how the feeding of five thousand having twelve baskets full of leftovers and other miracles showed that Jesus was doing his ministry with the Jews.

Just prior to this passage, however, Jesus begins to get rejected by leaders of Israel and is facing more and more roadblocks. At this point in his ministry, this stranger, the unnamed woman of outsiders, comes to Jesus and carries on this very odd conversation. More so than Jesus, it is this woman from Syrophoenician origin who is crossing the traditional boundaries and coming to Jesus. Fiorenza points out that as a gentile woman, this person before Jesus is facing the prejudice for being an outsider as well as a woman stepping into the world where men are considered important and dominant over women.

We are told that she heard about Jesus. Knowing what her daughter needed, because she wanted what was best for her daughter, she came forward. She bows down at his feet. She blocks Jesus from continuing on his way. She musters her courage, not for herself, but for her daughter’s sake. This is a daring move. She can easily be pushed aside, stepped aside, or turned away. Her bold action is so that her child can have a new life, not the debilitating one that has been haunting her. It is a mother's love for her child that forces this bold move. Her child’s future is in her hand. So she bows in front of Jesus disturbing him.

Then she speaks. Imagine the gall on her part in the eyes of others. Here is a gentile woman who dares to step in front of a highly esteemed teacher/prophet/healer of Israel and speaks. She as a woman should have known that she ought not speak until spoken to. But her love for her daughter makes her bold and unstoppable, overstepping conventions, traditions, and social norms. She does so in order for her daughter to have a healthy life like every other child. Her resolve is to get a positive response from this man she only heard about.

Unlike the time when Jesus waited a long time for the woman with bleeding disease, Jesus is curt and direct. Remember that we are told that Jesus did not want to be found or he wanted to be left alone at the very beginning of this passage. That was why he went into Gentile territory, it seemed. Hearing her plea, he responds, ‘Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ He seemed very annoyed and sounded as if he wanted to get rid of her. He honours the children of the twelve tribes of Israel, but he derisively refers to her child by including her as dogs. He came to save the Israelites, not the gentiles. Of course, the people of Israel called Canaanites and other occupants of Palestine ‘dogs’ and discriminated against them. Just imagine how this mother would feel about hearing her daughter referred to as one of the dogs, not deserving of food.

She could have shrunk at Jesus’ negativity and went away quietly. She could have gone away thinking at least she tried. She could have gotten angry and fought Jesus’ lack of compassion. As Fiorenza points out, something more important than her pride and humiliation was at stake for her. Her love for her child is stronger than any humiliation that is thrown at her. So she engages in a conversation as if to change or convert the mind of Jesus. “Yes,” she acknowledges instead of confronting him for his cruelty. Then in Fiorenza’s view she opens Jesus’ mind by saying, ‘even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’

Fiorenza points out from the perspective of a woman that this woman’s love for the daughter makes her respond in a wisdom that points Jesus to do something that he was not doing up until that point. Crumbs as well as food that is rejected are shared beyond the children of Israel. Both Fiorenza and Brueggemann show that this is the pivotal point in Gospel Mark. After this incident, Jesus begins to minister to gentiles as well. The good news of God has gone beyond the boundaries of Israel.

Would Jesus have so readily taken the gospel to the Gentiles if there was no meeting with this woman and himself? The Gospel Mark makes this a crucial point. After this conversation and healing the daughter of this unknown woman, Jesus heads to the gentile lands and feeds four thousand. If you remember the beginning of the passage you remember that Jesus wanted to remain unknown in this area. Now he goes among the Gentiles to be known as the one who brings the gospel. There are many important theological points here for us to ponder, but they are for another time. Today we are focusing on this mother’s action.

What courage she showed. What wisdom she displayed. So much so that Jesus gives her the response she came for. Her daughter was made well. This unknown woman who knew nothing about Jewish thoughts about salvation, redemption, and the kingdom of God, went away experiencing what the life of salvation was going to be like. She reached out not knowing anything and went away full. Her daughter experienced the healing--the very sign of the coming kingdom of God. Her boldness, courage, strength, and wisdom expressed as her love for her daughter made her and her family enjoy God’s reign. This is the point. She helps us answer the question of what is required of us to enter God’s kingdom. This mother’s wish and her love for her daughter were the main factors.

I love to tell the story (Offering)



Offering Prayer

On this day, we give you thanks. We give you thanks as we celebrate your love shown through our mothers through whom we experience your unconditional love. As we offer these gifts, may you continue to open our eyes and minds to those around us who share your love freely without limits. Bless all those who are doing so much to help everyone experience your love through gentle, caring, and always present mothers. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Tell me the old old story vs 3



We have already mentioned Eve and Hagar. The next mother of consequence in Genesis is Rebekah. She as mother of Esau and Jacob changes the course of history by making it possible for Jacob to receive Isaac’s blessings. After hearing that Isaac was going to bless Esau, it was her quick thinking to put Jacob in Esau’s place and to send Jacob away to protect him from angry Esau that made it possible for Jacob to receive the blessing and become the father of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Later it was Moses’ mother and her midwives who disobeyed Pharaoh’s order to save the life of a boy. She and these midwives were a vital part, along with Moses’ step mother, Pharaoh’s daughter, in changing the course of history again. Without Moses the exodus was impossible. The beginning of Israel’s freedom from Egypt would have been different. Now we see this unknown gentile woman changing the course of Jesus’ ministry by stopping Jesus on his way to somewhere to bring the good news of God to the gentiles.

Come, Thou fount of every blessing

Recent history also contains endless numbers of mothers who affected and altered the history’s course. In America’s Civil Rights movement one of the mothers who opened eyes of the world to the atrocities of racial discrimination in the United States was Emmet Till’s mother who bravely and unapologetically let the world see the brutal violence that disfigured and killed Emmet’s young life to the world by bringing his body to Chicago and letting the world see the ugliness of white supremacy in killing a child senselessly on a flimsy excuse that he eyed a white woman.. She vowed that her son’s death in the deep South of the US would be the witness to the terror of white supremacy. She was right.

In Lorenzo’s Oil, it was Michaela Odone’s relentless search for a cure that made it possible for many young boys with ALD to live a relatively safe and long life. We can go on and on about all those mothers who for the sake of their children did take great risks like this unnamed woman who caused Jesus to change his course of ministry by stepping in front of him. These bold and immense loves of mothers challenge us to be bold and courageous in loving others. On this Mother’s Day, indeed, we thank God for mother’s love that continues to change the way our lives unfold and brings God’s attention to the plight of this world. In a way, mothers, like Mary, mother of Jesus, continue to stand by, affirm and witness their children in life so that the world may be a better place for all God’s children when they love their children with such love. On this Mother’s Day let us follow the examples of all these mothers doing their best to bring life to their children by daring to bring life to the children of this world against all difficulties that are put before us. Like this woman, let us appeal to God for the sake of all God’s children who face tremendous odds in this world.

Prayer

Dear Lord,
On this day we give you thanks for all the blessings you have bestowed on us through our mothers. May we thank you for the love of mothers we have enjoyed and grew up with. As we pray in gratitude, we also pray for all those who were deprived of mother’s love in ways we cannot fathom. So many in our world have been without such love we speak of today for reasons too difficult to mention. While some give you thanks, there are as many who are sad. Be with us all.

We pray this day for all mothers here and everywhere who are doing their best to love their children. There are billions of mothers who are unable to share their love in ways that some privileged and well to do mothers are able to. Be with each of them. Let them know that because of their love, even in poverty, their children are able to have home and hope.

We pray for mothers all over the world who feel inadequate in providing sufficiently for their children. Be with them all. Let them know that their presence and efforts are the very love their children need.

We pray for mothers who have been separated from their children often forcefully by authorities for reasons beyond their control. We are mindful of many governments’ policies of dividing children from their parents. Each moment they are kept apart is another moment they experience pain and anguish. Be with them. Move the hearts of politicians, border officials and citizens of countries that have enacted such cruel and inhumane laws. Help everyone to see the hurt being inflicted on all these parents and children.

We pray for mothers and fathers all over the world who are exhausted as they do their best to provide for their children. Keep them in your care. Give them strength and love to live each day in faith, hope, and love.

Help those who are well to do and are able to live in the privileged parts of this world to share and work with those who are in other parts of the world.

We also pray for all those who come as your people in this congregation. Be with us. Bless us. Strengthen us in ways that we may continue to glorify you and love one another.

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

Closing Hymn: Tell me the old old story



Benediction:
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us, now and forever!