Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name;
worship the Lord in holy splendour. (Psalm 29:1,2)
Welcome to this worship service. We are glad that you will join us in loud praise of our God.
Preparation: In moments like these
Call to Worship (Psalm 113)
Praise, O servants of the Lord;
praise the name of the Lord.
Blessed be the name of the Lord
from this time on and for evermore.
From the rising of the sun to its setting
the name of the Lord is to be praised.
The Lord is high above all nations,
and his glory above the heavens.
Who is like the Lord our God,
who is seated on high,
who looks far down
on the heavens and the earth?
He raises the poor from the dust,
and lifts the needy from the ash heap,
to make them sit with princes,
with the princes of his people.
He gives the barren woman a home,
making her the joyous mother of children.
Praise the Lord!
Hymn: Will your anchor hold
All knowing and ever wise God,
We come to worship you this day. We bring our joys to your presence. With praise and glory we sing your presence in this world as the only hope that will save humanity from itself. Be exalted, O God, as our God who freely loves us unconditionally. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Scripture Reading: Luke 16:1-13
Then Jesus said to the disciples, ‘There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, “What is this that I hear about you? Give me an account of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.” Then the manager said to himself, “What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.” So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, “How much do you owe my master?” He answered, “A hundred jugs of olive oil.” He said to him, “Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.” Then he asked another, “And how much do you owe?” He replied, “A hundred containers of wheat.” He said to him, “Take your bill and make it eighty.” And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.
‘Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.’
Sermon: “You cannot serve God and wealth.” Then who are we?
The COVID lockdown has taught us a lot. First and foremost it has taught us that we can indeed worship God in many different ways and means than coming to church on Sunday morning at 10:30 am. It also taught us that we do need to be with each other to be a faithful community of God’s people. Without regular gatherings where we share, care, hope together and love God and neighbours we are no different than any collections of people doing what they like, not God’s faithful community engaged in vibrant ministry. The third thing we learned is that we can certainly connect through the internet, but reaching people through the internet does build a virtual community, yet, this form of being together requires different ways to care for each other.
One of the major side-effects of the COVID lockdown for a congregation like us is that some people became very comfortable with being part of our virtual church. For example, they found out how it was possible for them to stay home and worship at their convenience. For them, online worship became the only way of connecting with the church due to their lack of abilities to attend church in person. Though they found this way of joining for worship was not ideal, for them, online worship became their way of participating in worship to praise God.
As we begin to figure out this new reality after COVID pandemic time, we need to take account of how changed we are. COVID lockdown measures finally made many people in our world see what we are to value and what we can get rid of. Though many of us desire to return back to pre-COVID time, we cannot. For example, our membership has dwindled sharply. Our Sunday attendance has dropped even more in this post-COVID time. We are not even a pale shadow of our old self. Our way of worshipping changed drastically, too. Simply worshipping the same way as we always have has become far more costly in many aspects. We are learning each week that it is not possible for us to return to pre-COVID state of being a church. With depleted resources and having experienced a different way of being part of our worshipping community, we need to redefine what we are doing as a church. Nothing like a crisis confronting us to figure out who we are as God’s people. Yes, we, like all other congregations in The Presbyterian Church in Canada are facing this urgent crisis of identity. Who are we? In what ways are we being called to love God and neighbours? We are not the only ones asking this question. Entire world is asking this question. Everyone is trying to figure out a way to survive all these troubles that are being thrown at them. Climate crisis, severe economic downturns, soul crushing inflation–some people go so far as to say that we are on the way to human extinction. For many people, it is hard to figure out what to do in the midst of doom and gloom.
Life, however, is not about doom and gloom or being overwhelmed by challenges of each moment. It does not matter how long we live. We may think that wealth and possessions can give us a better life, but we know deep in our heart that being rich does not give us happiness. Yes, it does matter what kind of life we live.Life is far more than trying to survive each day. Indeed, life is all about living the life of love. Our life is full when we are loved. When we are given love our life no longer is focused on gathering wealth, power, and fame. This love that liberates us to be who we are created to be is the very soul, true essence, of life. Let me rephrase this another way: when we are loved, we are able to be who we are.
On a quick read, this morning’s passage is out of place. Why are we speaking of a wicked servant who took advantage of his master? He is a crook. He is about to be found out and be punished for all the wrong things he did. He was out for himself. Now, his gig is about to be exposed as fraud and con. In desperation, he comes up with another ingenious scam. This time, he plays on the kindness of people’s hearts. He would reduce all the debts people owe his master. These indebted people would be grateful to this shyster for lightening their debts. Who wouldn’t? Think of how delighted you would be if someone paid for half of your electricity bill or rent or mortgage. His plan is to be loved by people in the future when he will be out of his job and will be in ruins. In this passage, we see that his master commended him and Jesus used this story and concluded ironically that they should make friends by dishonest wealth so that when the wealth is gone they should be welcomed into their eternal homes.
What Jesus says sounds weird and off base even if we understand him to be ironic and sarcastic. However, if you look at the behaviours of many so-called Christian leaders, we see this happening all the time. These leaders defraud their flocks in the name of God. This is a very interesting thing for us to dissect, but it is not our topic today. Today we focus on what drove this wicked servant to do such a thing.
He knew he was no good. He did not want to suffer the indignity of being poor. He knew the kindness or loving hearts of people. For him to avoid suffering, he had to depend on others to love and care for him. In this sense, his scheme was a good one. We know also how this scheme would work out and allow this fraudster to live off those whom he helped this way. This is a roundabout way of saying loving hearts of people will allow him to live a decent life in spite of his crime. Without these loving people, he would end up as a poor beggar on the street.
Jesus immediately follows the story with a teaching about being faithful and how being faithful makes his disciples to love God, not wealth. Jesus is not asking people to reject weath. Jesus is simply saying that wealth cannot be elevated to the status of or in place of God. If we love God, then wealth may be enjoyed and shared with others. Loving God liberates us from all the traps that come with being wealthy. Being faithful, fully loving God, makes us see wealth as what it is–nothing more than a tool to share God’s generosity with our neighbours. Loving God allows us to see who we truly are and receive God’s love fully as we were intended to be. We can be who we are, fulfilling our potentials, when we are loved by God and our neighbours.
The only way we can overcome this doom and gloom of our world is not by finding technological/scientific or economic solutions. Our way of recovering from COVID lockdown effects does not depend on more medical advancements. Before the COVID 19 pandemic hit us, our world was already in trouble even though technological, scientific and medical advancements have been unbelievable. Before we were told to isolate for the sake of everyone’s safety, our economy was producing conditions that were unbearable for workers in all sectors. Before everyone stopped wearing masks, people became angry and nasty to each other. Remember that Trump became president, homelessness and poverty increased, workers were suffering under incredible stress, global warming was already a huge threat, and everyone was jittery. Love was lacking in human encounters while online threats and bullying increased. COVID 19 onslaught made the human condition worse. Love was nowhere to be found. I share this to make a simple point that no one felt loved. Everyone was desperately trying to buy love.
Why? Did the Church not say that God loved them as who they were? Did they not know that they could depend on others to love them? In reality the world where power and prestige belonged to those who were rich lived with an illusion that money, plenty of money, would solve all their problems. Even the churches were giving this message as churches without financial resources closed while the rich churches flourished. God loved the winners, not the losers, was the message. Our world forgot that wealth was not God. Everywhere the message was that the rich were free to enjoy life while the poor were doomed to a life of suffering. Christians, too, bought into this idea and loved success that came from the wealth of people and money as they preached God.
It is no wonder that as we regroup to face the world after COVID 19 lockdowns, Christians are once again focusing on what we have and what we need instead of who we ought to be. We have forgotten that we are loved by God fully and that our lives are based on that very love God has given us. This love frees us from all our worries and stress. It compels us to share God’s love with each other. That is, not only we are loved by God, but also we are loved by each other, those who love God. When we forget or do not take seriously this love, then, we are on our own. We become our own responsibility. In theological terms, we become our own gods trying to meet all our needs by our efforts. To satisfy our needs, we run after the riches of this world. See how this small thing of forgetting makes us struggle with what Jesus says about the choice between God and wealth?
We come to love one another when we know that God loved us fully. We know how to love when we have been loved so unconditionally first. In knowing how we are loved, we become free to love not only ourselves but even the strangers who are our neighbours. In this post pandemic reconstruction, we begin with this clear understanding that we are loved and therefore we are the people of God’s love shown in Christ to love the world. Our community is to be reconstructed on this knowledge of being loved fully. As the people who are loved by God, we focus on loving people and see wealth and possessions as what they are. After all, wealth and possessions are nothing more than tools to manifest God’s love in the world. If we tend to wealth and possessions more than the needs of people, then wealth and possession replace God of love as our god.
O Lord, we lift our hearts to you in prayer. Hear our prayer!
We thank you for your grace in all that we do. You are with us through bad and good. Your steadfast love keeps us steady in turbulent times. Your presence is a real comfort to us in all circumstances. We pray to you and you hear us.
We pray for your presence as we care for one another. Your love sustains and strengthens us especially when we share with one another. Give us generous hearts to bless each other freely. Through what we do in caring, may those who seek you find you in their lives.
Many of us struggle as we grow older. It becomes harder and harder for us to figure out a way to serve you as we grow older and more frail. Help us to be wise in serving you. Portion us the tasks that we can do in love and hope.
Often, O Lord, we are anxious. With this uncertainty, we try our best to survive rather than flourish. Instil in us your life. By the knowledge of your love for us, may we act boldly when it comes to bring life to those who are gripped by death.
We pray for this world. It is a world that is losing hope and is becoming more desperate each day. Everyone seems to be using your name and your love to fight those whom they despise. Help us to be the examples of your love in this world. Lead us in this world to love even the enemies.
All these and more we pray in your Son’s name. Amen.
Please remember that we are starting up again with Cinnamon Bun Tuesday. It will begin at 10 am. Please come and share in the fellowship. Bring friends.
The session will meet on Tuesday, September 20 at 6:30 pm.
On October 2nd, the first Sunday of the new month, we will hold our communion service. Please prepare for this important communion.
After the communion worship, we will be sharing lunch together. We will have baked potatoes ready. We ask you to bring your favourite toppings for them to eat with. Please bring enough for yourself and one other person. We do not want to have too much left over to be thrown out.
This week it is important for us to continue with this notion of rebuilding or re-establishing our church. Last Sunday our discussions were on the needs of carrying out essential tasks in worshipping God. Greeting, taking part in worship such as reading the Scriptures and helping with slides, and serving refreshments were seen as necessary. Starting today, you can sign up for October and November Sundays so that we can be a caring faith community. Sign up sheets are available in the church hall.
Another area where everyone can participate is in God’s Mission. In the past, this area involved serving meals, raising funds for local groups like ProjectShare, Breakfast Programs at schools, etc. Starting this Fall we are asking you to think very creatively about what we do. The session will choose three mission work on Tuesday. The sign up sheets will be available for next week for participating in God’s mission.
O Lord, we come to thank you with glad hearts. We have much to thank for. We are well provided for in our personal lives. Our troubles seem little compared to what others are going through. You have been kind to us. You have been generous with us. Make your generosity ours as well when we see those who are in need around us. Change our hearts to love others abundantly. Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Hymn: Will you come and follow me