(2 Timothy 3:14-17))
As for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.
Create in me a clean heart
Call to Worship: (Psalm 119:97-104)
Oh, how I love your law!
It is my meditation all day long.
Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,
for it is always with me.
I have more understanding than all my teachers,
for your decrees are my meditation.
I understand more than the aged,
for I keep your precepts.
I hold back my feet from every evil way,
in order to keep your word.
I do not turn away from your ordinances,
for you have taught me.
How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through your precepts I get understanding;
therefore I hate every false way.
Hymn: Praise my soul, the King of heaven
O Lord, we bless you.
We bless you with praise and songs.
As we come to you with shouts of joy in our lips for all that you have done for us, stand among us and be glorified. May your name be proclaimed in this world through our worship!
O Jesus, we love you.
We love you with all our hearts, minds, and souls.
As we offer our hearts with songs of gladness, come to us as our Saviour and make us yours. May your presence among us be praised now and always!
O Holy Spirit, we thank you.
We thank you with our whole being.
As we lift up our voices in words of thanksgiving, continue to guide us and shape this worship as an acceptable offering to our God. May your guidance illuminate our hearts!
Scripture Reading: Luke 18:1-8
Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, “Grant me justice against my opponent.” For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, “Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.” ’ And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’
Sermon: Relentless Faith Old and New
One thing babies learn to do very early on is to drop things. It usually begins with the game of dropping their pacifiers. They find it amusing that as soon as they drop these things in their mouths or throw them away, parents and adults around them immediately pick them up and return to them. They repeat this over and over. Of course, mothers getting tired often tell them to stop. This admonition only provokes them to do more. Adults around them oblige.
Babies are born with ways to get the attention of adults. In evolutionary biology and psychology many studies have been done to see how babies are born with survival strategies that help them to flourish by getting full attention in order to get their needs met. We know how important it is for babies and children to alert adults when they are in need. We see this when a baby is wet and needs a change of diaper, hungry and needs food, and in discomfort with ear infection and needs relief. In almost all these cases, mothers or caregivers know what to do. It always fascinated me to observe that mothers could tell when babies needed a change of diapers and when they needed to be fed by listening to their own babies’ cries.
The Old Testament is full of stories of the people of Israel crying out to God. The origin of Israel as a nation is all about the descendants of Jacob lifting up their voices in pain and anguish. It is important for us to ponder about how the nation of Israel came about.
Up until the time of Exodus from Egypt, they were Hebrew people who were the descendants of children of Jacob. When they came into Egypt because of the severe famine in their homeland, they were just a refugee family. Then, in this new land, they multiplied. Yet, they were not a nation. They became a group, huge in number, of Hebrews after many generations.
One Pharaoh who never knew about Joseph saw the Hebrews as a threat and enslaved them to hard labour. As the number of Hebrews grew even more, this Pharaoh instituted even more severe measures to restrict the growth of population by demanding that all male children born to Hebrews be killed. At the same time Hebrews were put to harder and harder labours. These Hebrews cried out in suffering. Their cry was heard by God. God remembered the promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God rescued these Hebrews from slavery in Egypt and made them a nation in the land flowing with milk and honey.
Later in history, even when the nation of Israel went after other gods, when the people cried out to God in suffering God heard them and responded by rescuing them and bringing them back to Jerusalem. This pattern of God responding to the cries of the people of Israel reminds us a lot about how mothers respond to cries of their children.
Indeed, in a way, the birth, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus is often understood as God responding to the cries of the people of Israel suffering under a long list of foreign domination.
Our Christian faith understands God’s deliverance through Jesus as the answers to the cries of people in terrible suffering. This is why in our faithful service in Christ’s ministry, we lift up the cries of those who are being oppressed, who are in relentless poverty, and who are the weak having no voices in our world. We take this responsibility of magnifying the voices of the suffering ones very seriously. It is with an understanding that Christ hears the voices of his sheep. That is why we bring the plight of many in prayer without ceasing.
There is no surprise, therefore, when we hear Jesus telling this parable of a relentless widow who demands justice from an unjust judge. The point is a simple and direct one. When the widow persisted, the unjust judge listened to her pleading just because he no longer wanted to be pestered constantly by this woman. Jesus is making a point that if an unjust judge would relent, how much more the benevolent and loving God would respond when God’s people were to ask. Through this parable, Jesus lays out a case that God will respond in grace and mercy far more when people appeal to God for justice than the unjust judge.
This argument is quaint and old. This is what we have grown up with. God will always react with justice when we cry out in unjust suffering. Not too long ago, an atheist philosopher was making a case of justice for people who have been oppressed by powerful countries like the United States and its allies. She described the terrible hardship and misery many nations and peoples were facing due to constant bombings and destructions made possible by arms and bombs supplied by the Americans and their allies. Then she said, the cries of these oppressed people will reach the heavens. The point is, even the atheist intellectual like her, sees the injustice under which so many people live and wishes that the justice can be rendered to those who unjustly subdue their neighbours with military power and might.
This old message that God is the ultimate judge who judges justly with impartiality, lifting up the oppressed and the lowly becomes new when it manifests in everyday life. It is a nice wisdom or thought to know that God has time to hear complaints of people who suffer injustice and unjust oppression. For many, though, as long as their complaints are not heard and responded to, this teaching remains as something from of old. It ranks as nothing more than a fairy tale or stories told by the wise until the complainants are heard. If the voices of the downtrodden are not heard, then, justice remains a concept for the privileged.
This old message becomes new in a powerful reality at the very moment the voice is heard, the complainant is responded to, and the just judgement is delivered. It comes alive as a genuine experience for the suffering ones when the oppressed experience relief. Their painful life under unjust powers is affirmed and validated when their voices are heard. When they know that their God hears them and acknowledges their voices of torment, they are made whole. This is so because they come to understand that they matter to God who created them and gave them life.
The new message is not a pie in the sky wishful thinking. It is now an experience that brings new life into those who are under hardship. It lifts their spirits up. It fills them with hope. It allows them to have the strength to love God and neigbhours in ways that life is no longer a burden, but full of meaning. In this way, the person (or people) who is carrying heavy loads finds deliverance into Christ’s new creation. In this new creation, all voices matter, all complaints heard, and all appeals are tended to. This is why Jesus emphasizes that if an unjust judge would yield to a relentless widow in order to get rid of her, God who loves us will be far more grace-filled in responding to our cries.
Not too long ago, I was browsing a news site. There was a strange looking creature I have never seen before. It had black hair and was moving slowly. Hairs were thick, clumped, and caked. Head was a bundle of wool. It was impossible to see eyes, nose and mouth. You knew it was a dog because it barked. It looked more like a dirty shredded sleeping bag with legs. The person taking the video approached it slowly. This creature did not seem to notice anything as it slowly moved. It was captured and was brought to an animal shelter.
There, the staff began shaving off the thick, bunched, and caked hair. Slowly you could see a shape of dog emerging. By the time the back half was shaved off, the amount of hair was double the size of the dog. The body was thin and frail. When all the hair was removed, you could see a very cute dog. The transformation was unbelievable. Obviously this dog has been outside for a long time to have hair grown to cover its entire head and body. You can imagine how mistreated and neglected it was as it roamed streets. It was clear that this dog belonged to someone before it was let out for good from the way it stayed calm throughout the saving and washing.
When this dog was first filmed on a street, it was barking. It is more than apparent that people did not bother to pay attention to this dog as it roamed the streets barking. By the length of hairs and the way these hairs were caked up, you could see that it was fending for itself outside for quite a long time. It would be impossible for hairs to grow that much in just for a few months or for a year. For all that time, its barks were ignored. I would not be surprised to see that many people would have avoided it as a dangerous animal. It was when someone saw it and reported it to a shelter, it was captured and given a transformation revealing a beautiful dog it always was.
Jesus’ parable speaks of God who hears the cries of those who seek justice in this unjust world. Jesus reminds us that God’s grace and compassion restores us as who we were intended to be when God responds to our complaints and unfair sufferings. Through God’s hearing, those who have suffered unjustly find new life in Christ Jesus. In God’s just judgement, those who are like this widow find eternal life. The old is made new. The old world passes away as the new creation dawns for those who have suffered under heavy burdens.
O Lord God,
In life and in death, we belong to you. You are the giver and taker of life. We are yours. As ones who are called into being through your Son our Lord we bring our prayers, remembering the promise that you will hear our prayers.
On this day we pray for our world. Fears, anxieties, and war mongering continue. We often lose hope when we are surrounded with news of people struggling to search for life. So many are caught in war zones. So many are forced to kill in the name of their countries. Humanity is being lost in unprecedented ways. Instil in us hope that is found in your Son our Lord. Make us see that your Son is our only hope. Help us to be courageous to proclaim your Son as the only hope in this world of darkness.
We pray for those who are hurt. We pray for the families of police officers who were killed in Innisfil this week. We do not know what to say when an unimaginable evil is unleashed to take the lives of our neighbours. May your grace and mercy be with the families of murdered officers.
We pray for all those who are struggling in poverty. In our prosperity, so many of us cannot fathom what it is like to live on streets, going to sleep hungry, fending off colds that assault their spirits, and diseases that bind them in perpetual pain and anguish. Without knowing what to do, we often turn our hearts and minds away from them. Help us to search for ways to be their neighbours. Give us hearts to share your love freely and abundantly with all who struggle in life.
We pray for all our members. Many are alone. Many are fearful of getting sick. Many are struggling with diseases. Give us compassion to care. Make us instruments of your presence so that they will receive your strength through all that we do for them. Fill us with your grace to extend your peace to all your people who belong to this congregation.
Look into our hearts, O God, and see, hear, and receive our prayers that are in our hearts when we say the prayer your Son taught us saying, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, they will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
Offering and Offering Prayer
Please remember the Cinnamon Bun Tuesday at 10 am. It is a time of fellowship. If you can, please come and join us.
We will begin our Thursday afternoon worship soon. We have initially scheduled to start it by this coming Thursday. However, we will delay its start until December as an Advent series. In the place of Thursday afternoon service, we will begin our Wine, Women, and Song series (3 weeks) on the first three Thursdays of November at 10 am. Please mark the dates and time. Bring friends. Come and enjoy fun and fellowship.
We are planning a very special music worship on Sunday, November 13th. It will be full of wonderful music. Please mark the date.
Session meeting will take place on Tuesday, October 18th at 6:30 pm.
Please keep in mind the need of the church as we continue to go forward. Usually about 50% of our budget comes in during the Fall and Winter months. We are far behind this year. We need your attention on this matter. Presbyterians Sharing as well as our operational budgets require your contributions.
Hymn: He leadeth me