Sunday, September 27

If you wish to hear the entire service without going through each part, simply click here.

Welcome and Announcements


Thank you for worshipping with us. It has been a wonderful week as we continue to prepare for Thanksgiving.

As we have mentioned last week, we will let you know sometime this week whether we will be back in the sanctuary on Thanksgiving Sunday. I am very hopeful and excited about the possibility of getting back to the sanctuary. Of course, we will still follow all the precautions as laid out by the governments and by our leadership.

Thank you to many who have been responding generously to our appeal for various items for Saturday lunch takeouts. We are looking for individually wrapped cookies, yogurts and the likes. Fruits are also well received.

As we have been saying, we are getting ready to help YWCA for their needs at Christmas time. The items are sheets for a single bed, pajamas, socks, underwear for women, personal care items. They need to be new and in original packaging.

In October, we will be starting our Bible studies. We will see how we can do it safely. If we gather in person, it will probably be on Sunday afternoons.

Now that we have begun our Fall season, we will be starting many new activities. Please be ready as we begin to get engaged in carrying out Christ’s ministry.

Meditative Hymn: Glorify Thy Name



Call to Worship


In the dark, you cried out for the light and there was light.
In the light, you cried out for the Light and there was the resurrection.
Into the world of darkness and of light, you cry out to your people in love.
Open our hearts to hear your voice of love.
Open our ears to listen to your love in the voice of your Son.
Open our being so that in praise and worship we come to be in your presence.

Hymn: Rejoice Ye Pure In Heart



Prayer:


O God, we have come into being through your grace in Christ Jesus your Son our Lord. We now come in worship. Be pleased.

In this worship our hearts are set on you, O God. Your presence is felt. Your grace enwraps us. Your love recreates us as new life each day. Though we come to you every Sunday full of faith, hope and love to worship, we are unable to see you. In our blindness we bring who we are as our gift to you. We offer unto you our praises.
Forgive us: we have come from the world filled with sin and confess to you our sins.
Restore us: we have no way of making ourselves new, but to depend on you.

May this worship be an occasion through which we are renewed by your Spirit.
By this worship, may we be blessed and made as your people to return to the world to be your light in darkness.

In your Son’s name we pray. Amen.

Offering (Anthem: Jesus is all the World)



Offering Prayer


In gratitude, we bring our gift. With our unclean hands, we offer these unclean gifts to you as our offering. These gifts are results of our works of the past and present. These gifts are the symbols of your love for us. These gifts are what you have provided us to sustain ourselves in this world. Receive them. Sanctify them for your works through the Holy Spirit. Give us wisdom to use these gifts for your ministry. In Jesus, we pray. Amen.

Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:8


Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Sermon: Pure in heart


To be pure… This thought comes to us when we look at treasures. Are they pure gold and silver? Purity in gold is defined in karats. We all know that 24 karat is pure gold. 18, 14 or 10 karat is less than pure. For these precious metals, purity matters because based on purity their prices are determined.

When we try to describe one another, the last word that comes to mind to measure each other up on purity. What would it mean to say someone is pure? Do we mean that person has no sins? Do we mean that person has never thought one bad thought? Is the purity of heart different from the purity of mind? Are we talking about the same thing?

White colour is often seen as symbolizing purity encompassing innocence, being pristine and being in a state of unspoiled. This is why we see parents dressing their babies for infant baptism in white and brides wearing white dresses. This is also why we say that white clothes do not stay white when worn by busy children. In a way we become awfully mindful of being careful when we wear white clothes ourselves.

Purity in spiritual discourses is associated with cleanliness and sinlessness. This is why good Calvinists say there can be no one who is pure: everyone is tainted and impure because sin touches us in ways we cannot even imagine. At least that idea of humanity’s capacity to sin is what we Presbyterians grew up with. As Calvin’s descendants, we keep this caution by referring to how easily all individuals can be dirtied or corrupted in daily struggles. We can easily make a list of ways and means by which we can do wrong things and become impure. This is why we are cautious of describing ourselves as pure Christians.

If the whole of humanity is so susceptible to sin, who is pure? To whom is Jesus giving this blessing?

This particular beatitude seems to clarify when it narrows down to people who are pure in heart. Jesus is definitely saying that there are people who are pure in heart. What does it mean to be ones who are pure in heart? Some scholars and preachers often like to talk about the spiritual purity of single mindedly searching for God to love. They talk of mystics who abandoned worldly temptations in order to keep pure or remain sinless. Others talk about how Jesus was referring to people who kept morally and ethically pure and untainted no matter what. Interestingly the majority of the writings on this beatitude seems to take it as an instruction to how we should be. That is, we are told by these scholars and preachers Jesus is setting a spiritual standard by which we ought to live in order for us to see God. After all, being able to see God would be a terrific reward for all those who have been working hard in anonymity without being appreciated by their peers or neighbours on God’s behalf for their entire life. According to these learned individuals, the lesson of this beatitude is, like children wearing white clothes in this very dirt prone world, we ought to keep ourselves from sin at all cost.

Of course, it is very plausible that Jesus was giving a lesson for people to be morally pure. Jews who were with Jesus that day would have easily understood. After all, as Jews, they would have known the importance of being pure as so often they were required to clean themselves in order to worship and knew how priests always had to cleanse themselves in order to enter the temple to offer sacrifice. They knew too well that the high priest in Jerusalem was the only one worthy of being in God’s presence from their learning. Like them, we also can benefit greatly if we follow this blessing as a teaching for us to be pure.

In a different take, when I hear Jesus say this blessing, I can imagine people and within them a group of people to whom this blessing was given. They are the ones who find encouragement as well as courage because they are being affirmed and acknowledged. They came to be part of this mass of people on that hillside before Jesus sitting on that day having been ignored by others, derided, made fun of, and already dejected. They knew that being pure in heart only brought them more troubles and heavier burdens. They knew themselves as sinners even though they were pure in heart. They knew they were unworthy to be in God’s presence. Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes and priests told them so at every turn. They knew they were poor. They knew they were powerless. They knew they were without benevolent political leaders. They knew they worked hard for living. They were under no illusion that their efforts were never enough to fully understand God.

To these people whom Jesus would call later the salt of the earth, Jesus gave the blessing. Jesus blessed those who were pure in heart. Unlike all those Pharisees and their friends, Jesus was not giving them one more assignment for them to work on, another rule to fail from. In Jesus’ understanding things were different. After all, with Jesus came God’s reign. God’s kingdom was realized in him. He demonstrated time and time again that through him God’s eternal reign was being realized. In this sense, this blessing was not another task for these overworked, heavily burdened and abused people to work on. It was something that was given not only as an affirmation, but also as a gift to those who were pure in heart. It was meant for them specifically. Yes, this is why this beatitude is an affirmation and acknowledgement. It points out that there are people among us whose hearts are pure. Their effort is appreciated and accepted. Our task is to find out who these people are, whether some of us are the ones Jesus is blessing.

Throughout Christian history, there were many who tried to be seen by God and to see God. These mutual gazes, God’s gaze on us and our gaze on God are an affirmation. It validates who we are in relation to God. We are not only acknowledged but also that we are worthy of God’s presence. It makes all our faithfulness and service worthwhile. Now that God’s reign is being realized in Jesus, Jesus is addressing those who steadfastly kept their hearts pure.

What does it mean to be pure in heart according to Jesus? Or more importantly what distinguishes those who are pure in heart from others?

In a way, Jesus and those who followed him made it far clearer. Those who are able to love God with all their heart and love their neighbours are ones whose hearts are pure. Loving God has been tied very closely to the love of neighbours. Loving God with all their hearts can be expressed in many ways. However, for Christians, the hallmark of loving God is how we love our neighbours remembering that without fail we take it to the ultra level by loving even the enemies. This does not mean that if people do not love so extremely their hearts are not pure. It simply means that for some people being pure in heart is displayed as their expressions of love even to their enemies.

Before we move on deeper into discussion it is important to remind ourselves that loving enemies is not a bar by which we ought to measure ourselves against. We tend to make into a fast and binding rule that if we fail to love in certain situations we are failures before God. This is far from the truth. Again, this blessing is not a mandate for people to do. Rather it is given to those who have been quietly toiling away, ignored and forgotten. Jesus did not give these blessings so that people can be measured and be judged.

Let me give you an example. On July 7, 2015, the London subway was bombed. 52 people from 9 countries were killed. One of them was Jenny whose mother was Anglican Vicar Julie Nicholson. She mourned her daughter’s death terribly. Many months later, Rev. Julie resigned from the pulpit saying that she could not love her enemy, the one who killed her daughter. This failure to love the enemy meant that she could not lead her flock any longer. This was a very harsh judgment on herself. Sadly, not meeting the bar to love the enemy made her feel that she could not be a leader among Christians. This is so far from the truth. Indeed, there was this other blessing we talked about two Sundays ago, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” In grief and mourning are angry thoughts and the rise of many negative emotions. To mourn and grieve is not to fail. This is partly why we ought to make clear that these blessings are not the fast and binding rules. They are given as affirmation, acknowledgement, and encouragement.
(To hear Rev. Julie's suffering go here.)

We know loving neighbours is difficult. Especially when neighbours are the untouchables, unwanted and outcast, loving is extremely difficult. There is a high price associated with loving these rejected ones. Also this love of neighbour is not necessarily tied to various charitable actions we can perform. We might think of benevolent deeds as loving neighbours. However, the true love of neighbours, steadfastly in the corner of our neighbours good and bad, is not what we give or what we do for them, but a state of being that others feel from us--our acceptance of them, our willingness to share with them, our hearts reaching out to theirs with or without sharing as our expressions of love for God.

If we only talk about those heroes who were able to love their enemies, we miss the point of this blessing. Again it is not only directed at those who have achieved the impossible, but also all those who go about being pure in heart by loving neighbours every day. For example, as many as there are “Not in My Backyard” crowds everywhere, there are compassionate people who stand with those who are kept out. One such person is nurse Roxie Danielson. She is a street nurse working in Toronto reaching out to homeless people. (To see her story go here.)

The point is that there are so many people like Roxie who work their best for the neighbours exhausted, forgotten and at times criticised mercilessly for working with the marginalized. These are the people who are pure in heart. Some of them are Christians. Many of them are not. To these people among us, Jesus gives blessings to affirm, acknowledge and encourage saying blessed are they for they are pure in heart. Can you imagine how fired up they will be when they are affirmed, acknowledged, and encouraged by those who follow Christ every day and each day?

As to whether the non-believers who do these work will be able to see God, of course, is not up to us. For now in this evil filled world, it is sufficient to receive the blessing from God and from us, the Christians who are the body of Christ in this world, by what Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are pure in heart, for they will see God.”

Prayer


God of mercy, we put before you our concerns. We bring them to you, not because we are worthy of your love, but because you are our God who, through Christ, called us to be your people. Hear our prayer.

This week, once again, our country has been overwhelmed with the news of rising COVID infections as well as the difficulty that lies ahead for all of us. These news of uncertainties make us worry and fear for life. Though we know that love casts out all fears, we are still fearful in this world. Fill us with your Spirit to be loving--having been filled with your love through your Son our Lord.

We thank you for subsiding worries by parents, children and friends as everyone does their best to help each other get through this pandemic. We thank you for politicians who are working diligently to move our country, province, city and communities forward. We pray that your wisdom will continually guide them. May they focus on needs and well beings of all peoples before anything else. Give also patience and kindness to those who are in need so that together we can find ways to share in life equitably.

We thank you for all those who are back to work so that our world will continue to be a place of flourishing. We especially thank you for essential workers. So many are doing their best to help others cope. Most of them are working tirelessly without regard to their own well being. Keep them in your care. Give them health and strength. Give us eyes to see all their efforts. Give us courage to share with them not only the gratitude but also their difficulties.

We thank you for all those who belong to this church. You have called us into it and blessed us to be blessings to others. May we be your hands of blessings to those around us, near and far. May we be your blessings as we affirm, acknowledge and encourage those who fall between the cracks of our society’s policies and ethos.

We now ask you to look after us. Among us are those who struggle each day with illnesses, weaknesses, fears and anxieties. Mostly we suffer alone especially when no one is around us. In isolation we do not know where to turn. May your Spirit guide us to turn to you. May we in those moments realize that we are not alone, that you are with us as our God who guides us through.

All these things and unsaid things we offer to you as our prayer in your Son’s name. Amen.

Hymn: We are God’s People



Benediction:


O God, you are steadfastly present in our lives. Fill us with your unconditional love.
O Christ, you are always calling us as your people. Fill us with your unending grace.
O Holy Spirit, you are unwavering in your guidance of us. Fill us with everlasting peace.
Send us with your love, grace and peace to be blessings to others always. Amen.