Welcome (Isaiah 45:5-7)
I am the LORD, and there is no other; besides me there is no god. I arm you, though you do not know me, so that they may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is no one besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make weal and create woe; I the LORD do all these things.
Preparation: A new commandment
Call to Worship (Psalm 96:1-9)
O sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth. Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvellous works among all the peoples. For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be revered above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the LORD made the heavens. Honour and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary. Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts. Worship the LORD in holy splendour; tremble before him, all the earth.
Beneath the cross of Jesus
Always creating God,
You create and recreate us over and over in your love. You make us ever new. Yet, today, once again we come with hearts full of sadness. Indiscriminate killings of innocent lives, indescribable oppression of the weak, death inducing poverty, not to mention unimaginable human cruelties are in full display. The power of death overwhelms so many in the world. Despair grips those of us who are far away from the suffering. So we come, O God, in helplessness, lifting up our voices in prayer.
We bring before you all those voices that remain voiceless among us. We lift our voice up on their behalf. As we praise and worship you, we present before you the hearts of those who are in pain after their neighbours destroyed their lives. May their voices be heard through our prayers.
Grant us your Spirit in this worship so that we may glorify you this day. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Scripture: Matthew 22:15-22
Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?" But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, "Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax." And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, "Whose head is this, and whose title?" They answered, "The emperor's." Then he said to them, "Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's." When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.
Sermon: Why local mission?
Just about fifty years ago, ordinary church attenders thought that mission is something we did overseas. Occasionally we would collect toys, clothes, books or money and send them to far away countries. Another way of understanding the mission was to give money to support missionaries in far away places. Generally, mission was something we did not get involved in except on Christmas. Yes, for Christmas, we would make food baskets for the needy in our area, always including a turkey so that every family could have a Christmas turkey dinner. People in need did not ask for help. Everyone simply thought that our world was prosperous enough for everyone to share in it if they tried.
Things began changing in the 1980s. As interest rates went up, gas prices soared through the roof and many people lost their jobs, people in churches got together to set up foodbanks. Up until that time, most people in need dealt with government departments. Yes, the really poor people were helped by social welfare departments of the government. Our hope at the time was that if we could help people in emergency situations, as the economy improved, they would be able to help themselves. What we did not anticipate was how poverty became an endemic and chronic condition. So much so that by the 1990s, politicians began talking about eradicating poverty as a policy.
As Christians, we no longer think about mission as something that is happening far away. Our understanding on what mission is has evolved from taking Gospel to the far corners of the world to participating in what God is doing in the world. Yes, we now describe mission as not what we can do but doing God's work in response to God’s invitation. We now acknowledge that God is at work all over the world, including God’s work in our neighbourhoods. To be on a mission is to take up God’s call to engage with things that are happening already all around us. This is a very different way of thinking about what Christian mission is all about.
Today, therefore, we look around to see how God’s work is being done in our neighbourhood. In this regard, we came to realize that God blessed us with various gifts so that God’s work may be done. One of those gifts was the facilities we are in. Our facilities are divided into three different areas: sanctuary, hall and many rooms both in the education building and under the sanctuary. We also have a sizable parking lot as well as a manse property that has been rented out. With all these assets we began imagining how we could be part of God’s work in the world.
The first and the easiest one to think about was to rethink the spaces that were thought of as spaces generating income. Instead of running the business of renting spaces to add to our income, we began thinking of these spaces as finding ways to love others by sharing. Yes, the users are asked to contribute to the maintenance cost. It requires quite a bit. For example, the winter snow clearing budget alone exceeds the monies being contributed by those who use our spaces regularly. If we are to be in the rental business, then, the cost would be too high for these folks to bear. However, if we share the cost of the maintenance and ask each group to donate, then we are sharing spaces in God’s love in place of a facility rental business. This is how those who are sharing our facilities can manage their cost and provide services to others, spreading the love of Christ we share with them.
For over a decade, we have been sharing our facilities this way. Before the COVID pandemic those who shared the facilities with us were Kids Kastle, St. John’s Ambulance, two groups of Chinese dancers, Niagara Folk Arts, and many other small groups. These groups used our basement rooms and the church hall. After the COVID lockdown was lifted, we began seeing the use of the building increase. Our policy of sharing the facilities remained pretty much the same. We are focused on sharing our facilities to better serve those who help others first and foremost. In some cases, we may ask for donations, but do not make donation a requirement.
From time to time people ask good questions that confront us to see if we are indeed participating in God’s mission or doing what benefits us only. After all, it is so easy to fall into temptations of renting out spaces in order to augment our income to pay for maintenance. The pressure to search for ways to increase our income is real. Each year we are seeing our expenses increase while the overall income decreases. It is one thing to say that we are participating in God’s mission. It is another thing to know that we are running out of money to maintain the facilities in ways that they are safe and up to standard. It is not easy to pass on opportunities to accept proposals that will allow us to have sufficient funding.
When we struggle with low income, it is a good reminder to see what Jesus asked us to do. In today’s passage we see Pharisees testing Jesus regarding money. They try to trap him by asking a question about paying taxes. As is today, in Jesus’ time, tax was also a requirement in life. When asked what to do with taxes, Jesus reminds them to give the emperor what belongs to the emperor while giving God that which belongs to God. Jesus made a clear distinction between the requirements imposed by governments and things that belong to God. Sometimes things are this simple. As the ones being called to participate in God’s work in our world, we need to know what belongs to the world and what belongs to God.
Sure, our facilities require maintenance. But we are to understand that they exist to serve God’s purpose. The moment that our facilities hinder us from doing God’s work, we need to ask ourselves and see if indeed these spaces are necessary in sharing God’s love so that people may have hope and grow in faith. Our faithful response to God’s call to share in God’s mission in the world is to be free in ways to follow Christ in love and hope, not being bogged down by the load of caring for facilities. Having said this, however, we have an obligation to be good stewards of these facilities which we inherited so that we may use them to continue God’s work effectively. This is the way we render unto the emperor that which belongs to the emperor while we offer unto God all things that belong to God.
Going back to our facilities, as God’s stewards, we open doors to all those who are doing God’s work knowingly and unknowingly. We also initiate many activities where God is glorified and enjoyed. We are sharing our facilities with all those who come to us and many of them in return respond with donations that add to the maintenance cost of the building. This is not a perfect system by any measure, but it is our way of participating in God’s work here and now. Many are blessed by English classes we have been running. Many are finding ways to be part of our faith communities. Sometimes, what we do appears meaningless and pointless. In those times, we need to remember that sharing God’s love by sharing our facilities is one of many ways to let God’s work here flourish.
Today, one Sunday a month, some Hungarian people come and worship in the afternoon. They are able to praise and worship God because we open the doors for them. Narcotics Anonymous uses the building one evening each week to help each other get better. They celebrated their 10th anniversary, four of those years with us. As a co-op, Kids Kastle is able to keep costs low so that people with lesser means can enrol their children. Welland Heritage Council and Multicultural Centre came and shared our hall this past spring and summer bringing many other organizations to serve the asylum seekers. Niagara Folk-Arts and Multicultural Centre has been partnering with us for various programs.These are groups who came to us strangers and welcomed as from God.
Then there are our programs providing experiences of Christ’s hospitality to many. Our Art Time began as Tuesday afternoon sharing time. It is now going to be held on Saturday afternoons to anyone who wants to share time together drawing. Our English learning groups are different from English classes. We build relationships with each other and share life experiences together. Our Friday evening of sharing food will begin again soon after a two month break. All these moments are where God’s love is being shared. Love, hope and faith for and in God and one another make us a community where we give God things that belong to God.
Today is not like any other day. Today is built upon the deaths of so many in Ukraine, Gaza, Yemen and many places of evil. Today is the culmination of many sources of pain and suffering due to human evil visited upon the weak and the powerless. When we encounter these evil acts through the news, we do not know where to turn and what to do. We become immobilized and paralyzed by the severity of sin. So we come to you, bringing pains and cries of all those who suffered so this week. Hear their prayers. Tend to their cries. Receive their tears.
Today is not like any other day. Today we come to you boldly. Though we are sad, having witnessed human evil unleashed in many places of our world, we see our only path for peace that is possible for life in and through you. May your example be followed even unto death and resurrection by us and by those who seek justice and peace in this world! May your breath envelope our breaths full of pains! May your resurrection life be breathed into all those who follow you in this terrifying world! Make today not like any other day by breathing your breath into all of us!
O Holy Spirit,
Today is not like any other day. Today you call us and you renew us in your Spirit. Fill us fully in ways that our eyes open to your eternal reign that is taking root in this world, that our ears hear the Word to fill us with the new life of peace and hope, and that our hearts overflow with love beyond our understanding so that all may find life full of joy and peace. Bring humanity together to know your peace. Recreate us in the image of Christ to share love and hope in ways that faith guides and restore us to the life eternal.
O triune God,
In our inability to express all that are contained in the hearts of those who despair, we bring prayer in your Son’s words. Hear the prayer and know the sufferings of your people.
The Lord’s Prayer
We have been announcing that there will be a fundraising concerts. The first one will take place on Friday, November 10 at 7 pm. We are asking everyone to help advertise the event. It will be a freewill offering affair. Mike and Joan with their friends John and Chris will put on a concert for everyone to enjoy. Please mark the date and time. Share the news with everyone and come on out to enjoy.
Baking Cookies on Saturday Afternoon
Starting this coming Saturday, October 28th at 1:30 pm, we are learning to bake cookies. If you like to help children and young people bake cookies, please let us know. Also let families with children know that we are starting this sweet program.
If you would like to take your mind off this busy and troubled world, why not consider a time away from it all by sharing the time of drawing pictures. We are not looking for professionals. We are trying simply to enjoy drawing pictures and spending time together. If you like to learn to draw, Bob Opie will be there to guide you.
We are continuing to collect food for ProjectShare. Please bring non-perishable food and help your neighbours.
We will have two more Sundays to collect toonies, loonies, quarters, dimes and nickels including today. Please bring your changes. So far we have collected more than $300. Thank you for participating in this very important fundraising.
Christmas Turkey Dinner Volunteers
This year, we will have a sit-down Christmas Turkey Dinner as we have done before. We need at least 10 volunteers. If you are interested in helping to set up, serve and clean up, please let us know.
We are looking for people who will help with worship service by planning, reading Scriptures, ushering, and so on. If you are able to help, please let us know. We have a sign-up sheet for those who want to help.
And can it be