Sunday, November 22

Welcome and Announcements


Thank you! Your presence in this worship is very appreciated. Together we constitute Christ’s presence in this part of God’s world as we worship.

As we continue to monitor the current COVID-19 infection rates, be prepared for some drastic changes to keep our neighbours and ourselves safe. If we are to enter “RED” zone, we will move our worship services online.

Please continue to pray and keep in touch with each other. As we continue to struggle in this social distancing time, we need each other more than ever.

Our Mitten Tree Project of collecting winter gloves, scarves, hats, socks and toques continue until the first Sunday of December. Our Help the YWCA Shelter Project will also end on the first Sunday of December. Please make sure to bring single bed sheets, pajamas, socks, underwear and personal care items for women and children by December 6. Remember these items have to be new and are in original packaging.

We will continue with our Saturday Lunch Takeout right through all of December. Your help with various items such as apple sauce, cereal bars and wrapped cookies have been brightening up many who depend on these lunches. Thank you. Keep helping.

Our Love Your Church campaign will continue until the end of December. Thank you for being generous. We need all the help we can get as our numbers decrease and we are under current difficulty making it more challenging to do fundraising.

Please remember that we will continue to expand our ministries. Pray that we will be able to bring God’s good news to everyone through all that we do.

Meditative Hymn: I Look To the Shepherd



Call to Worship:


New life of faith, hope and love comes from God’s grace alone. We receive this new life through our faith in Christ. Come and worship in his presence and enjoy this new life given in and through him.

Hymn: Rejoice The Lord is King



Prayer:


O loving God, in Christ we are made acceptable to you. Though we are people of sin having forgotten to love others and strangers fully and are unable to forgive those whom we care deeply from time to time, we are made new through your Son our Lord by your grace and mercy. May you be glad that we are here to give you our thanks and to make a promise that we will love you and our neighbours always. In your mercy, be kind to us and continue to shape us as your people who will grow in faith, hope and love. Guide us in ways that we may reflect your will in this world.

O compassionate God, in the Holy Spirit, call us into being as your church this day and open our eyes to the unimaginable suffering so many are under in our world today. Hear their cries as we worship today. We have set this worship aside so that we may bring their cries to your ears. Hear them. Be moved by their pain. Know that they seek reliefs from the impossible situations that have trapped them in oppressive and unrelenting evil. Be with each of them. Move our hearts also as you are moved. Make us your instruments by which the suffering people of this world may discover their ways back to you.

In this worship as we glorify and enjoy you, may the cries of the people of this world be lifted up to you in everything that we do today. In your Son’s name we pray. Amen.

Offering (Anthem: The Servant Song) https://youtu.be/



Offering Prayer


Out of mercy, you sent your Son. Out of grace, you embraced us through your Son our Lord. Now be kind and receive our gifts. These gifts are from our hearts. Though you do not desire any gift from us, but our love, we come offering these gifts as tokens of our love for you. In the spirit of gratitude we humbly offer them. Use these gifts to reveal your reign as the life of hope and peace. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Scripture Reading: 1 Thessalonians 2:9-12


You remember our labour and toil, brothers and sisters; we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how pure, upright, and blameless our conduct was towards you believers. As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children, urging and encouraging you and pleading that you should lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

Sermon: Serving others in times of need


From the outset, it is important to know that today we are celebrating God’s hope together. We intend to do this by remembering all those who have been struggling in this time of pandemic, especially those who are in the frontlines as essential workers and all those who have been suffering because of this virus’ impact on everything and how God responds to people’s cries. In these dreary news filled days, we come to give God thanks and recommit ourselves to hope in God as the way out of our current difficulties.

In the Old Testament the people of Israel begin their confession by remembering how they cried in Egypt as slaves. When they cried because their life as slaves were too hard to bear, their cries went up to God. God heard and was moved to act. God, remembering who these crying people were, acted to deliver them. These cries were based on unfair oppression and control put on the slaves by the Pharaoh to build his granaries all over his kingdom. The king was ruthless in exploiting the slave labours and making sure any complainers were dealt severely and made examples so that others would not join in revolting against the regime.
The current situation we face in Canada is no way near what Hebrews of the Old Testament faced in Egypt as the slave labour. We are not so severely oppressed or exploited to the extent. What we glean from the struggle of the slaves in Egypt is that their cries were heard by God and stirred up God to intervene in history to deliver these slaves into freedom in the promised land.

As we near the 9th month of COVID measures, there are all kinds of people who are fearful and are in very difficult circumstances mentally, physically and spiritually. Some are facing fatigue. Some are dealing with loneliness and isolation. Some with desperation with no income or with prospects of losing everything. Some have relapsed into use of drugs. Others have been facing the humiliation of being unable to provide for their families.

People are very anxious on every front. You can tell by how someone gets upset over seeing a person without a mask or finding out how a neighbour seems to be hosting a large party. Every day, news is filled with the possible collapse of our hospitals’ ability to cope with the surge of COVID patients. Every day, political leaders hold briefings with gloomy predictions. Unknowingly, being realistic they inject a higher dose of fear into our society. All these lead to people being very short-fused, easily upset and being rude without knowing. Our world contains a very high level of irritated minds ready to explode. Pressure is building higher and higher each day.

As we face the second wave, our workers are no better off. We are being warned that this time around things may be even worse than the first time. More threats of draconian measures on the way are not helping, yet are dispensed each day. One of the pharmacists reminded me the other day that Spanish Flu that so many suffered had four waves. What would it mean for our workers if we cannot flatten the curve now?

Many people who feel hopeless, helpless and in despair are crying. This cry, too, is a growing one. It keeps on growing each day. We have been adding to this cry of sadness since the first COVID death where the dying cried out alone and the loved ones cried out unable to be near. The cries of essential workers, families and friends have been growing as we try to account for over 1100 deaths in Canada, nearly 3500 in Ontario. The side effects of so many who have been delayed in receiving treatments also add more tears to this ever growing sense of powerlessness. Where do all these tears of despair go? Is there anyone listening? Is there anything that can be done about these cries of anguish and suffering?

As we have pointed out earlier, in Egypt under Pharaoh, cries of the Hebrews went up to God. As Walter Brueggeman, an Old Testament scholar, puts it, the cries of despair were not necessarily directed to God. Yet, they reached God’s ears. God heard them and responded to them by remembering these were Jacob’s children.

In the New Testament, our understanding changes. In response to the cries of the people of God under powerful foreign powers, as God’s loving response, Jesus came into the world bringing God’s reign. Through his death and resurrection, God’s reign remains in the world hidden from and not seen by those without faith. This hiddenness does not remain a permanent status. It is witnessed by Jesus’ followers and is experienced by those who come to believe. Witnessing is done not only by words but also by loving actions.

Paul talks about how he and those in his company were doing their best without becoming burdens financially or relying on Christians in Thessalonica to witness Christ. They did it out of love for God and the Christians all over Roman Empire. They worked incredibly hard and put up with lots of suffering including persecutions for the sake of witnessing Jesus as God’s loving response to all who were suffering and despairing. He talks of living life that is pure, upright and blameless before the world as part of witnessing this good news that there is new life for all for those whose cries reach God’s ears. After all, Jesus’ presence was the loving response to the hemophiliac woman who suffered for 12 years, to the blind who cried out for healing, to an official of synagogue whose daughter was dying, to many others who came to him for healing. Disciples like Peter and apostles like Paul brought this good news of Christ that God would hear their cries of desperation.

We do the same. We do by being Christ’s hands in his ministry here, now--loving the world to bring them in reconciliation with God. As we ponder on this, imagine the responsibility God has put on us as the body of Christ. We are to witness Christ and his good news to the world by being pure, upright and blameless before the world. Then, through our witnessing, others will come to see how God has heard their cries. In this suffering filled world where overburdened and under-compensated workers will come to know how God hears their cries because we share it without condition freely. They get to experience God who loves each and every one of them that God sends Jesus to lead them to the new creation. In that newly created world they are to inherit a world full of love and peace. This is how the world rediscovers hope in this time of death. This is why we uphold before God those who share their cries of unbearable suffering and pain. This is why in this dreary and dark time, we celebrate hope found in Christ. The hope is that Christ is in the world with those who are suffering and is leading them to the new creation in him.

Hope for those who are suffering is not that we are able to live pure, upright and blameless lives. Rather, through our witnessing of Christ, they get to see hope. Christ is the response of God to people’s cries. This Christ is walking with, being with, and giving life to them here and now as the only hope for life. Today, as so many struggle to find a way out of this despair filled world, others may come to experience this loving Christ because of our witnessing. They certainly can find this good news if we live the life that God has given us in Christ and be glimpses of what God intends for the whole humanity.

Where do cries of humanity go? Who shall hear them? Who can respond to them? Cries that rise out of human misery are often ignored and forgotten by us. We avoid and scorn those who are full of cries of desperation and despair. We chastise those who bring cries out of poverty and hunger. What the Scripture, both the Old and the New, teaches us is that these cries are heard by God and God responds.

Cries of fatigue and exhaustion from the frontline medical workers, long-term care supply workers, and other essential workers, cries of laid off workers and workers who are worried over being laid off in another lockdown, cries of those who are about to lose everything due to lack of money and means, cries of those whose loved ones dying, cries of those who have lost their loved ones and are grieving in silence, cries of those who are so desperate that they have no way to escape chemical dependency, cries of loneliness from those who are isolated from everyone, cries of the homeless and powerless, cries of all who are losing hope because their treatments are delayed yet again…. All these cries of suffering are not lost, but heard by God who loves the world, God who is in the world as God-with-us. God responds to them. In God’s response is us who serve day and night without ceasing. With God’s love we acknowledge and accept the cries of people. This is the ultimate hope: the cries from the depths of despair are given hearing and responded with love. We proclaim this good news to the world that God hears their cries.

Prayer:


On this day, not like any other day, we bring with us cries of your people from all around the world. From hospital beds, not desiring to die, they cry out. From corridors of long term care, both workers and patients cry out. From homes, streets and work places people cry out for hope. Be with them all. May you help us to be your presence to them.

More than any other day, we ask you to hear our own prayer. Among us are those who have been suffering pain due to diseases. Their bodies are full of pain.Their minds are full of worries. Their families are concerned over their weaknesses. They get through each day by the strength of medication. Grant them your healing.

We bring prayer for those whose houses and cities are being bombed by enemy forces. Here and there, away from the global eyes, they suffer in silence the devastation of wars. Forgotten and lost, they do their best to make each day count in surviving onslaughts of chaos unleashed on them by the powerful Guard and protect them.

We pray for those who are in extreme poverty. Always under stress they roam streets or confine themselves to their rooms. As the winter approaches and cold weather sets in, they feel even more lost. Help us to seek them out and share your grace with them.

We pray for ourselves. As the world continues to change around us, it is difficult for us to think about our future. Give us your wisdom to discern your will. Bestow on us patience to discover your way in this world. Bring us near to where you are in this world. May we have courage by the Holy Spirit to follow you into this troubled world.

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

Hymn: Shine Jesus Shine



Benediction