You will say in that day: I will give thanks to you, O LORD, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, and you comforted me.
Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the LORD GOD is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation.
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.
I will enter the gates with thanksgiving
Call to Worship: (Isaiah 12:4-7)
And you will say in that day: Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known his deeds among the nations; proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth. Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.
Here I am to worship
In your grace and mercy, we bring our tired bodies and broken spirits in hope that we may be restored by your love. As we come, we bring our praises. It is you who have guided and protected us in these past days. Receive our praises.
Humbly we ask you to be present with us at this hour. We remember your Son’s promise that whenever we are gathered together in his name he is with us. O God our Creator, in and through your Son, may you be worshipped by us among us.
O Holy Spirit, lift our voices in your voice. May our singing and prayers be lifted up in your words as we worship you today. Make our words new. Recreate us in Christ as his people. Amen.
Scripture: Isaiah 65:17-21
For I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered
or come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice for ever
in what I am creating;
for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy,
and its people as a delight.
I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
and delight in my people;
no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it,
or the cry of distress.
No more shall there be in it
an infant that lives but a few days,
or an old person who does not live out a lifetime;
for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth,
and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed.
They shall build houses and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
Sermon: God creating new heavens and a new earth
Once in a while, many of us try to start anew. We like to have a brand new start without the baggage of the past. This new start sounds wonderful, but how does it get done? I should be somewhat good at starting a new life. After all, I have moved multiple times in my life. I am used to starting life in different places. To think of it, I can call at least four places my home. I am very comfortable in all these very different places. It is always exciting to start a new life, but with lots of trepidation. When nothing is known about tomorrow, it is difficult to truly begin life in a new way.
What is clear to me is that I can remember that starting a new life in a new place did not mean that I was totally cut off from the place I left. I always carried a lot of things from the place I left to a place where I was beginning a new life. I am fond of saying that when I left my parents, I left with a bag. By the time I left Ottawa to come to Niagara Falls, YoungMi and I brought a truck full of stuff. So many old things fill my daily life today. I am sure that most of you are like me. Even when you have downsized, you still have many things you have kept from the last place you were at.
Because we are so tied to things of the past, some for sentimental reasons and other items for necessity, we have difficulty imagining what God means when the passage says, “For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.” Yet, the meaning seems to be clear. In this coming world which is new, there is nothing that resembles the past. Our minds will not be thinking of things of the past. This way of thinking boggles one’s mind. Should we not be allowed to remember things that were good? After all, we like to imagine the happy, blissful and joyful moments of the past. What will our lives be like if we are not to remember?
In thinking about this, I wonder if any of you saw the 1990s action comedy movies known as Men in Black. It is a story of people who were allowed to see that many aliens were living among us and were responsible in keeping these aliens in line away from the eyes of the people of the earth. Each time they found regular people who have been exposed to these aliens and began seeing them everywhere, these men in black would use a device to wipe off the memories of people so that they could return to normal life because the true reality was too much for regular people to bear. Once exposed to this device, people would not remember anything of their past. With their memories wiped out they can live life oblivious to what they have been through in their immediate past. At the end of the first movie one of the men in black returns to a regular life by having his memory wiped out the same way.
There is another action movie series following the journey of a rogue agent James Bourne. It is all about a trained assassin who lost his memory being haunted by his past and remembering something of his past vaguely and beginning to search for his true identity. In this case he tries his best to recover his past self because the past is catching up with him as those who trained and used him try their best to kill him in order to cover their evil actions. This series of movies show how the past intervening into his present disrupts his desire for peace and tranquility. He is not let alone to enjoy peace until his bosses who controlled his past or he destroys all those who controlled his past. Even then, after defeating all, he is left with a horrifyingly gruesome past from which he cannot escape.
Of course, such total amnesia that wipes out the past completely is impossible for anyone to experience. However, being able to forget a very traumatic event can be a blessing. Indeed, in human lives, it is our inability to suppress and forget the past traumas that brings about terrible suffering. In psychological and medical fields, people like Dr. Gabor Maté of Vancouver have been writing a great deal about how the past traumas have caused so many illnesses and sufferings later in life for so many people. In fact, his latest book, “The Myth of Normal” is all about explaining how our past is so intimately related to today’s well being and how many suppressed, ignored or avoided traumas of the past eventually catch up with people.
Indeed, it is in this sense we are able to imagine the blessings of God’s new creation of new heavens and a new earth where everyone can have true new beginnings by having the past wiped away completely. This new start where the past is not remembered and nothing from the past can come to our minds does point to a hope filled life. Theologically Isaiah’s passage is preparing the people of God to realize that the new world is only possible when the old is buried and is no longer part of the present. Remembrance of the past in the present can indeed be what prevents us from entering into this new world.
This is counterintuitive in a sense that we are who we are by remembering God’s grace that was given through Jesus’ death and resurrection. This is why as Christians we find it so meaningful to partake in communion as we take and eat a piece of broken bread and drink the cup in remembrance of Christ. It is helpful at this stage to remember a passage from Paul, “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.” (1 Corinthians 13:12) When we come to the fullness of time, we enter this new creation where the past is no more for it has come to completion. That is, until the day of our jubilee it is our lot in life to struggle with the past and remember the past because the present is made up of the past we lived.
On the Remembrance Day as I prayed to God for peace on earth, I came to realize how easily we may establish peace among all if we are not burdened by the past. It would be so easier if Russians and Ukrainians, Americans and Chinese, Israelis and Palestinians and Russians with Americans were to let go of the past, or no longer remember the hurts and fears of the past, peace might come to us a lot more quickly than we might be able to imagine. Isaiah is bringing us this wonderful possibility of God’s new creation, new heavens and new earth, where the past no longer influences the present because the past is no more.
In case some may wonder about justice because so many have been unjustly treated and we believe that those who were unjust ought to be punished, would we ask for justice if in God’s grace all of us no longer have the past? What a gracious gift these new heavens and a new earth are to us when all our sins are wiped away and we are brought back to God’s presence to enjoy life anew!
We bring our hearts in words. In these past seven days we have been away from this sanctuary living life as best as we could. As we sojourned in the world, we shared fears of this world. With prayers we stood by our neighbours to the South as they went through another election. We also shared our concerns for peace for those who are struggling in war zones. We did our best to remember those who were fleeing their homes in search of more peaceful and safe places. With those who walked the streets homeless, we did our best to bring their plights to your ears. O almighty God, hear the fears of all these your people in our world. May you hear their prayers and our prayers we lifted up on their behalf.
O loving God
We pray for your grace and mercy. Often with our best intentions, we still hurt our neighbours in ways that we sometimes do not understand. Sometimes the very institutional structures we support end up hurting many vulnerable people. Sometimes we take sides in arguments instead of doing our best to bring peace. Oftentimes, we think we offer the best solutions without realizing how harmful these solutions can be. In your grace and mercy cover all our mistakes and failings with your love. Through our actions may your love be shared in this world.
O faithful Saviour
We bring our prayers for all who worship at Drummond Hill. Some are still in hospitals. Be with them. Give them strength to recover so that they may be able to return home sooner. Some are in homes and places where it is difficult for them to come to worship you here. Guard and protect them. Give us a caring spirit to remember them always. Help us to be with them in many ways we can.
O Holy Spirit
Open our eyes to see all those who are suffering around us. We remember before you all those children who are suffering with this onslaught of the respiratory virus and their parents. With shortages of medications, so many are suffering unnecessarily. Keep them in your care.
Open our ears to hear all those who are crying to you in despair. So many are caught in cycles of hopelessness and are making wrong choices. Help us to find ways to walk with and be with them. Make us your servants to them.
Open our minds to share the pains of those who are lost. They struggle each day to find meaning and purpose in life. They search for life only to experience life’s cruelties. Hope is far from them because they walk in darkness. Be with them. Be their light. Make us your servants to bring your light to them.
All these and more we pray in your son’s name. Amen.
O Lord God,
What can we bring that will gladden your heart? What is the right way to offer you our thanksgiving? How can we present these small gifts to present our hearts that are full of joy of being with you?
Be pleased with our offering. We bring them knowing that they are never sufficient in acknowledging all that you have done for us. In humility we come and place them. Use these gifts in ways that they will bring your love to all your people who are in this part of your vineyard. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.
Today, our main in person service takes place at 2 pm. We are asking you to be part of this music worship. It is a new way of worshipping God. As we have indicated to you, we will follow this in January with Prayer Worship.
Please remember to pray for all our members who are not able to join us to worship in person. Some are in hospitals. Others are unable to come out and be with us.
Remember to come with any mementoes of your past that you would like to share with others. Next Sunday, during worship, we will share our past joys and experiences.
Every Tuesday at 10 am we are continuing with our Cinnamon Bun Tuesday fellowship. Please come and enjoy tea, coffee and warm cinnamon buns with friends.
We are continuing our Love Your Church fund drive. Please consider prayerfully and give generously. Our goal is for $20,000. We are about the third way there.
You are my all in all