Here is what Apostle Paul wrote to Christians at Rome:
“I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed throughout the world.”
If Paul were to write a letter to us, he would say some very similar welcoming words to all who are gathered here at Drummond Hill.
Welcome to this worship service on Labour Day weekend. Let us sing praises to prepare for worship.
Glorify Thy Name
Holy, holy, holy
Call to Worship: Psalm 37:3-7
Trust in the Lord, and do good;
so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will make your vindication shine like the light,
and the justice of your cause like the noonday.
Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him
do not fret over those who prosper in their way,
over those who carry out evil devices.
Hymn: Be thou my vision
In thanksgiving, we offer our adoration. You are our God who created us and takes delight in our worship. You bestow upon us love beyond our imagining. You pour your Spirit upon us to give life eternal. Be glorified, O God.
We bless you through this service of worship. We bless you for all your creative work through which the world comes to experience life in a new way in Christ Jesus, your Son our Lord. Receive this worship.
In your Son’s name we pray. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 14:25-33
Now large crowds were travelling with him; and he turned and said to them, ‘Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, “This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.” Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.
Sermon: The cost of following Jesus
About a decade ago, most popular shows on televisions were reality shows that were making over dying or almost dead restaurants, sad looking houses, and people who were hoarding. These shows had a simple formula. First we were introduced to people in desperate situations whether they were trying to sell their houses, run failing restaurants which were at the verge of bankruptcy, or in businesses wanting to grow to the next level without knowing how. Then, experts were brought in to rescue these regular people in trouble. Houses that looked old and drabby had makeovers with designers on tight budgets. Restaurants which were about to go bust were saved by the first class chefs’ interventions.
All these shows have the same formula as Disney movies and fairy tales, relying on a damsel in distress being saved by a prince with shining armour riding a white horse. In this case those who played the damsel part are forever grateful to their saviours for being able to put behind their miseries and pains. We loved this stuff. This formula never gets old.
Many churches have been playing with the same messianic formula for a long time. These churches have all kinds of ways of telling the world how they can save the people from the deathly sins. Indeed, “Jesus saves,” “Jesus loves you,” and “Hell is real” billboards are one of today’s ways to tug on a heart string, reminding people in trouble that salvation is just around the corner if they make the right choice. Billy Graham crusades were full of these stories of people who hit rock bottom and were saved when they received Jesus into their hearts. Many churches are still using this formula to attract people by offering a better life.
Of course, implied in these choices, though not fully spelled out clearly, is the assumption that those who are being rescued will end up with a better life than the one they have now. The new life that everyone is offered is described as pain and suffering free because Jesus is the one who will tend to all their problems as well as bless them for giving their lives up to accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. Giving up the life of misery for the sake of following Christ is a small price to pay, according to these evangelists. The sales pitch is that a life of bliss, happiness and fulfilment awaits anyone who is willingly to say “yes” to Jesus. Of course, once a person says, “yes,” to Jesus, then, she is told to follow through with a long process of learning to become a true Christian according to the stringent rules of these church folk.
We know clearly that many churches still build themselves this way and grow by tweaking this method. That is, we are bombarded with how to be Jesus’ disciples in all of life, starting with studying the Bible and being trained in discipleship programs in order to be faithful Christians. In practice of faith, however, these pressures to answer Christ’s call, often encountered at evangelical crusades or in many evangelical churches at the altar calls, is going through major metamorphosis. In the internet age, many are seeing the dark side of committing fully into these churches while answering Christ’s call. They soon find that leaders of these churches live the lavish, immoral and unchecked lifestyles by financial, ethical, and moral malfeasance. Indeed, weekly, we seem to hear about another pastor of a megachurch falling into disgrace due to sexual or financial wrong doings. In a strange way, today’s churches seem to resemble the Mediaeval churches filled with sin.
Unlike other times, because we are literate, scientific, and technologically grounded in today’s ways of being, we calculate the cost and try to understand fully what it means to follow Christ today. Of course, today we have a very different sense of what it means to give up all our possessions. From the very moment we are challenged to follow Christ, we are clear eyed about the true cost of being Jesus’ disciples. We know that this cost is not simply determined by calculating what I own materially. Indeed, for us in this information age, material wealth is no longer the most important measure of what I own. The discussion on work-life balance, on fulfilling one’s goals, on checking off one’s bucket list, emphasis on happiness, or on the latest arguments over quiet quitting points to the way our world is redefining what it means to be worthy as a human being as well as what we ought to have as our possession. That is, who we are is no longer based on how much we own and what lifestyle we live based on God’s blessings, but what current and possible future possessions we are willing to give up.
We are at the very edge of another major reformation for churches. It is crucial that all Christians are to receive the good news of God for today. It is also essential that Christians imitate Christ in life of blameless morals and ethics. It is imperative that we live life worthy of being called the children of God as Christ’s people who love one another. As God’s people, who through Jesus are saved from sin and death in God’s grace, we are to live an exemplary life of love going so far as to lay down our lives for others. In a way, our new identity and being Christ’s followers is based on our very ancient and traditional way of loving God and neighbours. The difference for us today is that we are very clear about counting the cost of being followers of Christ.
Jesus’ approach is very timely in this regard. According to this passage from Luke 14. Jesus does not sugarcoat how wonderful life will be for those who desire to follow him. Instead, he describes a life of extreme social, psychological, physical, and material hardship if a person chooses to say “yes” to his calling. Jesus does not promise any special riches or peace of mind for choosing to follow him. There is no great reward that awaits the one who makes such decisions. Instead, what Jesus tells them is very difficult for anyone to hear.
First, Jesus tells them to hate father and mother, wife and children, and siblings. In this passage Jesus chooses the word “hate” very carefully. Unlike today’s world where we list our loved ones to whom we love the most, Jesus speaks of hating. Of course, as in English, this word can carry a different meaning within the context of its usage. For example, we can say, “I hate that colour,” to indicate that it is my least favourite colour. That is, Jesus uses it to express the strong detachment or dissociation necessary from one’s families if the people were to become his disciples. In other words, the discipleship would be very costly. This is why Jesus asks the rhetorical question: For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? This passage ends with Jesus saying that none can become his disciples without giving all their possessions up. The cost of discipleship is pegged at everything one has. It does not come cheap.
All this is to say that the misuse of the high cost Jesus speaks of can very easily be manipulated and misused by many church leaders for the purpose other than offering ways to follow Christ. In reality, it is not just a simple possibility, but reality for many believers who obediently follow their leaders instead of Jesus. This is why we need to take a look at very carefully what we ask of ourselves as a church. Remember Jesus when a rich young man came to him and asked how to gain eternal life? Jesus told him to give everything up. The difference between Jesus and many of today’s immoral church leaders is that Jesus told him to sell everything and give to the poor, then, come and follow him. In other words, Jesus wanted to have nothing to do with his riches.
So I have been thinking. Thinking about how passages like this, taken seriously, applied to churches throughout history. Until the time of the Reformation, Christians were divided in two major groups: one consisted of people who were totally into following Christ and the other were those who went church every Sunday going about living. Monks and priests, pastors and preachers, were in the first group. The rest were in the latter group living daily lives as best as they could without sinning. With the Reformation, however, a new way of thinking about what it means to be a Christian came into being. With everyone being able to read the Bible in one’s own language, with the literacy increasing as more and more people were educated, with churches teaching so that priesthood of believers became an accepted principle, being a Christian was understood as answering Christ’s call to follow him. Instead of a smaller number of devout Christians answering the call to give everything up, our theology turned to this wonderful new thinking of how each person on a pew could have a direct relationship with Christ in the same way Jesus’ original disciples did.
Today, as the information age matures, the Reformation thinking has come to its end. Anyone and everyone, including those who are not Christian, has access to the content of the Bible, historical records of the Church as well as any theological treatises one desires. More than ever, information is available for all to sift through. Everyone with a bit of effort can figure out whether Christians are being true to their beliefs or veering off. This is why all hypocrisies and sins of the Church and its leaders are exposed and judged quickly. Transparency, sincerity, authenticity, and truthfulness are the most important qualities not only of churches, but also of all human institutions. In other words, the world can easily measure up and see if any church leader or an institutional church is in the right.
Where do we stand, then, as a church of Jesus Christ? Perhaps the time has come once again that we need to take a good look at what it means to be the ones who believe and follow Christ. Certainly we could revert back to the Mediaeval times and re-institute the division between ones who are called like monks and priests and ones who simply believe as regular Christians who attended worship as best as they could. But in our information age where our ways of being are shaped by science, technology, philosophy, and enlightened theology, it is impossible for us to go back and be like the people of the past no matter how hard we try. We are different from the people of the past in ways of thinking and being.
As that old saying goes, more things change, in a way more things stay the same. That is, being Christian or following Christ has not changed. We are still required to give up all we have to follow Christ. In our world where family relationships are valued the most, it will cost us all that we have if we truly seek to be authentic, sincere, and true in loving God and neighbours transparently as followers of Christ. It is not easy to love God and neighbours as much as we love and care for our own family members. Yet, without this commitment or denying ourselves to love beyond those whom we love, we will not be seen as Jesus’ disciples. Indeed, in this internet age, being true Christians costs everything we own including what we believe and hold onto in terms of knowledge and wisdom.
O Lord God,
In your grace and mercy we bring our prayer. Hear our prayer.
Bless this congregation. Today, your people rejoice for this visible symbol of invisible grace manifested through the baptism of Evan. Remind us of your promise for life in Christ. Give this congregation courage and strength to be your people full of love in this world.
We pray for all those who are around this building. Lately we have noticed many people who are homeless, suffering mental illnesses, and are confused and lost in this world. They are unable to live life that affords them peace, health, and well-being. Be with them. Help us to find ways to share your compassion with them all.
We pray for those who are worried about their future. Many in the world have experienced the severe heat of the summer and have been facing difficulties of global warming. Many are doing their best to find ways to overcome the impending energy shortage as winter approaches. Yet, leaders are oblivious to the worries and fears of their people. With a few caring for them, they do not know where to turn. Remind them of your ways, O God. Lead them to your love in ways that they return to your ways of peace and love.
We pray for this congregation. As we begin returning to this hill and continue our worship as a community of people who love you and one another, in your grace, lead us to your way. Help us to see what lies ahead and reveal to us your will. Give us courage to follow you.
All these we pray in your Son’s name. Amen.
With God’s Word firmly in our minds and hearts, we begin a new season of service. We are God’s servants who gladly serve him and his people.
Today, we give God thanks for the baptism of Evan Malier. As God continues to remind us that life belongs to God, we pray that God’s wisdom will be upon Richard and Lyndsay as they nurture and love Evan as he grows before God.
Our Cinnamon Bun Tuesdays return on Tuesday, September 13 at 10:00 am. Please mark the date and time. Join us for fellowship of good conversation.
The session will meet on Tuesday, September 20th at 6:30 pm.
We are trying to organise volunteers for various works at the church starting with serving refreshments after Sunday worship. We will begin distributing lists of work that can be volunteered for starting next week.
We are excited about getting back to our more or less regular activities. Please, stay tuned.
Our offerings have been fairly low in the months of July and August. Though we have taken out an extra $25,000 in June, we will soon face difficulties meeting our expenses. Please see what you can do to meet our expenses. Your help is greatly appreciated.
We offer you our hearts through these symbols of love. As we make a commitment to continue as your community, sharing your good news with the world, may your Spirit guide us so that we may truly be the extension of your love in faith. Help us to serve you and our neighbours with faith, hope, and love. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Hymn: There is a redeemer