Sunday, October 18

Welcome and Announcements


Thank you for joining us. As we move forward, we thank you for all you do for the church. We are especially thankful for your support and prayers.

Please pray for everyone in the church. In the past few weeks some of our members have experienced more difficulties with illnesses.

Please continue to support YWCA Shelter in Niagara Falls by remembering that we are collecting bed sheets for single beds, socks, pajamas and underwear for women and children, and personal care items. Make sure they are new and in original packagings.

We thank you for all your support for Saturday Lunch take-outs. Your help on small cups of applesauce, individually wrapped cookies and bars and fruits are appreciated.

Meditative Hymn:Spirit of God



Call to Worship:


Come! Let us bless the Lord at all times. Let us give God our praises. In blessing the Lord, let us magnify him who came to save us!

Hymn: Through all the Changing Scenes



Prayer:


We come, O God, in this time of thanksgiving with glad hearts knowing your grace continually blesses us through this troubled time. As we survey your creation, we come away sad. There are so many who are in need. There are uncountable numbers of your people who are suffering and in pain. The world is in agony. We bring their pain. We come bringing our own troubles. We come searching for peace in your Son our Lord to be renewed. Bless us, O God through this worship. Heal the world as we toil in it by loving our neighbours. In our praises, hear their pleas. In your Son’s name we pray. Amen.

Offering (Anthem: Day By Day)



Offering Prayer


With our hearts, we offer you our gifts, O God. In response to the new life we received through your love in Christ, we offer these small tokens. Be glad. Focus us on your ministry here and now to be glimpses of the new creation. May we bring a hope through participating in your work here to so many people struggling to survive through this virus rampage. We pray in the name of your Son our Lord. Amen.

Scripture Reading: Psalm 34


I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
O magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together.
I sought the Lord, and he answered me,
and delivered me from all my fears.
Look to him, and be radiant;
so your faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord,
and was saved from every trouble.
The angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
O taste and see that the Lord is good;
happy are those who take refuge in him.
O fear the Lord, you his holy ones,
for those who fear him have no want.
The young lions suffer want and hunger,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Which of you desires life,
and covets many days to enjoy good?
Keep your tongue from evil,
and your lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil, and do good;
seek peace, and pursue it.

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their cry.
The face of the Lord is against evildoers,
to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears,
and rescues them from all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the broken-hearted,
and saves the crushed in spirit.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the Lord rescues them from them all.
He keeps all their bones;
not one of them will be broken.
Evil brings death to the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
The Lord redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

Sermon: When God gets us through troubles


As our country began rolling out measures to keep people safe, one of the first things we learned was that the church was not essential. This might have shocked some Christians. However, many of us knew that this was not a recent development. Since the Sunday shopping restrictions were lifted, more and more people were staying away from worship services on Sunday. We knew that most people did not consider attending worship services as “must do” activities. This is a culmination of a long history of those who argued that the world was better off without Christian churches.

Many thinking people, especially scientists, psychiatrists, psychologists and philosophers have been insisting for the last few centuries that people would flock to religion or superstition when they are fearful. Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzsche gave credence to this suspicion by saying that religion was an opiate, a crutch, a hindrance to human well being because it was nothing more than an escape from the painful reality. Many churches (that are peddling rich material blessings to the poor, spiritual well being to the people who are seeking peace, healing to the sick people in exchange for everything these sick people own, a loving community to the isolated and the lonely, and a belonging to the lost in exchange for money, blind faith and loyalty) are doing exactly what these thinking intellectuals are accusing Christians as doing. In general, this argument became convincing enough for the majority of our population to believe that those who turn to religious gods in difficult times are doing so mostly because of their fears of the unknowns. In this thinking, faith matters only in private and is more than often superstitious at best. This is why our prime minister, premiers and many leaders were continually insisting that their measures of combating the spread of virus infection are based on science. That is another way of saying that their decisions are sound and reasoned because their thought processes are not influenced by any form of faith or beliefs.

If we look at our fight against this virus in another way, it shows us something about fallibility and vulnerability of human thinking. Let me explain what I mean with a bit of humour. After all, it is mind boggling that the entire humanity of over 7.8 billion people (each person having an average of 37.2 trillion cells with brain cells alone taking up more than 100 billion cells that are so developed and have knowledge in science and technology to go even to the moon and beyond) is losing a fight against a short string of protein without brain or even a cell structure. Everything we have built to support our lives is put on hold by this microscopic thing that is not even qualified in our classification as a life on its own. This small string of molecules with no thoughts or particular purpose is outsmarting highly evolved and developed humans. While losing against such a miniscule with no brained opponent hands down, the intellectuals with massive brain power are pronouncing with confidence on God’s existence. They can defeat God, but they have not been able to find out how this invisibly small string of molecules with no brain and no life gets spread around to create havoc in human lives. Okay, that’s enough fun for now.

The point is that we as humanity misses a point if we are thinking about whether God exists, or whether Christian churches are essential or non-essential in human lives. We miss the mark even wider if we try to figure out if this terrible pandemic is God’s judgment on us for our sins or God’s way of teaching us a lesson. What we need to remember is that as Christians we understand the world differently. We live a life of faith that is not only about believing but also about bearing witness of God’s love in the world. We live a life of hope that is always focused on the past, present and future all at once. Our hope is made stronger by remembering the way God loved us in the past, overcoming the present difficulties by becoming the body of Christ through which God’s reign breaks in and always anticipating life in God’s eternal reign. Our love sustains life as we live out the love we have received from Christ in our way we love God and our neighbours. As we discussed last Sunday on the occasion of Thanksgiving, everything we do in life is the expression of our gratitude for the love we have experienced.

Our task is primarily to be good stewards of the world as God’s people expressing our gratitude to God. This stewardship is shown not on proving or disproving God’s existence in argument with others. It is not shown in being able to defy rules of infection prevention. It is not demonstrated through wars we wage against the people and the world that disagree with us. It is not in displaying Christianity’s superiority over all other religions. It is demonstrated in setting the Table of the Lord in the middle of this broken, warring, and pain-filled world inviting all who are hungry, lost, homeless, poor, sick, in despair, broken, in deep pain, in fear and sick to come to the table and be filled there. It is displayed in our actions of welcoming, embracing and sharing God’s love as everyone takes her seat at the table. It is in serving them as if we are serving Christ regardless who these people may appear to be. Christians have known this task of stewardship from the very beginning.

Being focused on this stewardship was the way Christ taught us to witness God’s presence in the world. If you look at Christ’s ministry through the four Gospels, through his actions among the marginalized, he demonstrated God’s reign breaking into their miserable lives. The hungry were filled, the sick were healed, the lame walked, the blind could see, as he sat among sinners of all kinds. He did not use eloquent words to show his superior knowledge. He did not demonstrate his miraculous powers to draw attention to himself. He did not judge these sinners for their sins. Yet, those who came to Jesus experienced God, came to be in awe of God, and were able to enjoy God. They went away knowing that God’s reign/kingdom was theirs. In the same way, we were able to experience God through Jesus. We were able to understand God’s love for us in Jesus having supper in Zacchaeus’ house, in his healing both Jairus’ daughter and the woman who suffered bleeding for twelve years, in his gracious receiving of tears of the prostitute who washed his feet and wiped them with her hair, in giving sight to Bartimus, and so on. In seeing Jesus extending God’s grace on each of them, we found ourselves receiving ours. When Jesus served his disciples before his arrest, we were served. When we were hungry, Jesus fed us through the feeding of the five thousand.
When we were thirsty, Jesus gave us that water Jesus gave to the woman at the well. When we were sick Jesus healed us as he healed so many. As we recount God’s promise ultimately being fulfilled in Christ, we come to know how we have been delivered from troubles of this world as Israel was delivered and the people of God were redeemed through Christ. It is God through Christ who got us out of our troubles.

As Christians, we confess that in Christ’s death and resurrection we are delivered from this world’s troubles into God’s eternal reign. That is, we live in the new creation under God’s reign. That is another way of saying that we have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. Having been made Christ’s followers we share the joy of being in the world, but not of the world through our love of God and of our neighbours near and far. Our life becomes centred on this love of God in Christ that makes the new creation of God a reality in this world. Once anchored on Christ, we see the world differently. Instead of seeing the past as something that ought to be forgotten or put aside, we relive it as the reminder of how God brought us out of the troubles of this world through love in Christ. Instead of trying to escape the present and all the troubles in it, we live by sharing Christ’s love shown in his death and resurrection with all those around us even if it means for us to lose our lives in loving enemies. Instead of making and shaping the future in our image according to our desires, we wait for and commit our lives to God. We live with the assurance of the past being realized in the present while our future--the life under God’s reign--breaks into the present through the living Christ here and now.

Let me expand what I just said. We live with the assurance of the past being realized in the present while our future--the life under God’s reign--breaks into the present through the living Christ here and now. It means that our past experiences of tasting and seeing the goodness of our Lord draw us to the table of the Lord. That is, we gladly come to the Table of the Lord. As we partake in the feast there, in this present reality, we are asked to be the body of Christ preparing and serving those who come so that they can experience being made one with Christ at this gracious table. As everyone is being fed, including us as servants, everyone around the table is given the gift of experiencing what is yet to come while all are tasting and seeing that the Lord is good even amidst today’s troubles.

Through our stewardship of God’s love in Christ, others, too, can taste and see that the Lord is good. In this service we sing along with the psalmist saying, the Lord rescued us from all our troubles.

Prayer:


O Lord, in you is life. So we come humbly as your children requiring your grace and mercy. We have been doing our best through this peril of virus pandemic. We see no end. We are given news of more suffering each day. As countries including our own reverse the policies in order to keep people safe, we hear more and more people crying under the pressure of having to cope with all the difficulties they face in order to be safe.

We pray for all those people who are struggling to keep businesses open. They have been challenged in ways that they do not know how to deal with these on and off lockdown measures. They worry about losing their livelihood. They worry over leaving their workers without jobs. The worry for their customers. Be with them.

We pray for all those workers who are once again stopped from working or under fear of catching COVID 19 as they continue to work. They feel helpless and hope is not easy to keep. Continue to bestow on them your love.

We pray for all those frontline medical workers. Many of them are under extreme pressures as they do their best in serving others. Give them strength and hope. Bless them to see the fruits of their efforts.

We pray for the leaders who are trying their best to make lives better for everyone. Give them wisdom. May they lead their people with your will guiding their minds, your love filling their hearts.

We pray for ourselves. As we struggle to figure out what we ought to do each day, help us to focus on things and tasks that will help us reach out to those around us and make their lives more meaningful each day. If we are sick, bestow on us healing. If we require your presence, send your people so that we may find you through them. If we require your will, give us wisdom to discover your purpose in this world. If we are searching for a better way in loving others, fill our hearts with your grace.

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

Hymn: Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah



Benediction:


May the Lord bless and keep you!
May the Lord make his face to shine on you and be gracious to you!
May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace!