Sunday, September 19, 2021

Welcome and Announcements

Let us give God thanks! God is good and has been good to us. Lift up your hearts to God who is our creator, redeemer, and sustainer.

Welcome to all who are joining us for worship today. It is wonderful to be together worshipping in God’s presence.

Starting this week until Sunday, December 5, our church will be collecting donations of food and toys. Food is to be non perishable like school snacks, drink boxes, pasta and sauces, box cereals. Toys must be new and in original packaging. In the case of toys, please do not wrap them. We thank you in advance for your generous willingness to share.

Our Wednesday evening suppers and worship are going in full. Come and join us. Be part of this community of fellowship and break bread together. Well, in a manner of speaking. As you know, due to COVID measures we are not fully able to share, but we are able to do so two meters apart.

What a joy it is to worship like this. We thank all those who are helping us by providing music. We thank Linda, Linda, John, Rebekah and all of you who are making joyful noise unto the Lord this day.

To share Christ’s love with one another, we are unfolding a project “Sharing Cookies.” There are various ways to do communions including communion kits produced to be used. However, it is our decision to hold off communion until we can share fully in breaking of bread and sharing of the cup. However, we feel that it is very important to care for one another and show our love of Christ to each other. So on Thanksgiving Sunday, October 10 and on Sunday, December 5, we will have Sharing of Cookies Sundays. If there are those who love to bake cookies, please speak with elders.

Next Sunday, we will worship with the help of guest organist Mr. David Cowan. You are encouraged to come and be part of this worship when we praise God, helped by this wonderful Casavant organ, installed to be used for God’s glory.

Preparation: A New Commandment

Call to Worship
There is one true God whom to know is life eternal, whom to serve is joy and peace. God has created all that is. The whole universe testifies to the majesty and power of its maker. Let us come before God and worship.

The steadfast love of the Lord
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.
Your mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning,
great is your faithfulness, O Lord,
great is your faithfulness.

Hymn: I come with joy


Dearest Lord, in goodness and mercy, you call us. You call us because in your love we are your children. In life and death, we find you beside us. Out of sin we are called so that we may be made new in you. We come in response to your call. We come knowing that your unconditional love is what compels us to be in your presence.

Grant us your presence. Make us know the depth and width of your love. Help us to fathom the mystery of hope that abides in you. By this worship, we return your glory. In this worship make us yours once again.

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

Scripture: 1 Peter 1:22-23
Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.

Sermon: What it means to be born anew in Christ

We are supposedly surrounded by new things. For many young people, in a consumer centric society like Canada, new is seen as either better or good while old is equated with outdated, obsolete, useless leading to bad. In the past 7 decades consumerism has accelerated. We are inundated with new things every day. Remember how we used to buy phones? Well, if you really remember in the late 1960s when many were on party lines, we did not buy phones. We simply paid a small fee monthly to have Bell let us use the phone. These phones were never changed until they broke down. Only in the late 1970s and the early 1980s did we get an option to buy phones from our favourite department stores. Today, no one rents phones. We buy them. In fact, phone companies bring out new models with more whistles and bells each year.

Same thing happened with cars. You remember how we used to keep cars for a long time? Nothing really changed other than new designs. In fact available options they were selling were at best new kinds of mats, radios, speakers and colours. Now if you sit in a new car, you begin to wonder if you need a degree from university to know how to turn on the radio. There are so many things there in that new car, we will probably never use half the technologies they had baked in these new models. With electric cars, things are changing even more. New means most of us are left behind. Just like how we had to leave the programming of video recorders to our children so that we can record our favourite shows, we will have to find someone to remind us what all these technological gadgets are. Don’t get me started on computers.

This trend for everything new has created a world that is totally different from ones in the past. New is to mean that we used it up and when it cannot be used any more, then, thrown away. Now, we replace things as soon as the shines of newness wear out. Even if things do not need to be replaced, the preference of today is to opt for the new. Antique dinner tables, old heirloom silverwares, outdated electronics and old fashions are turfed out in favour of the most current. In the US alone 13 million tons of clothing and footwear were manufactured and imported in 2018 and 9 million tons were thrown out into the landfills. Only 1.7 million tons were recycled. In Canada, in 2018 we put 81 pounds of textiles per person into the landfill. This is just on textiles. We cannot even imagine what this means for everything we replace every year. Of course, we do not think much about this. However, compound this Canadian figure to many nations with similar income, we see the horrific effect of our desires for all things new.

This desire for the new also permeates our spiritual lives. Not too long ago, Christians were quite content to be forgiven and participate in communion. Hymns were old. Bibles were in ancient Elizabethan English. Preachers and ministers prayed using “thee” and “thou.” Starting in the 1960s, though, like the secular world, many churches everywhere began changing for the new. Hymns were replaced by gospel choruses sounding like everyday pop and folk songs. Bibles were translated with modern English. Preachers began speaking about mundane things in their sermons, interlacing them with personal experiences and positive stories. Today, many churches are preaching the prosperity gospel because it uplifts their members. Most sermons are punctuated with uplifting and feel good anecdotes in life. In many churches, organs are replaced by praise bands. New attracts new. When churches appear new or constantly change in favour of the new, more worshippers come.

Of course, this is not to say changing is always bad. After all, Presbyterians have existed with “Always Changing” as our motto. Yes, from the very beginning we believed that we are made ever new each day by the Holy Spirit when we serve, worship, and love as Christ taught us to do. In fact, through our confession, we witness to the world our unchanging God who continually changes us so that we become more like Christ each day. What we need to realize is that our lives are always changing: we are not standing still.. This is not our doing: it is the Holy Spirit who guides and leads us to God by making us die to ourselves and reborn in Christ each and every day. Through our prayers at the end of the day, we confess our sins, bring our frailties before God, and present our imperfect selves to Christ. In faith we begin a new day having received new life in Christ, dispersing into the world to bring God’s good news, sharing love for God and for another. This ritual of praying as we were readying ourselves for sleep and praying as soon as we opened our eyes at the bedside connected us to Christian spiritual life. But this is an old thing now. Today, doing new means we have done away with this ritual. At best, we read stories--any good stories--to our children to put them to sleep. As for us, we simply lie down to sleep without prayer without reflecting on and giving thanks for the day we received.

But the Christian teaching of dying to ourselves and being raised in Christ sounds very much like discarding the old in order to be new. Just as in our desire to replace our old clothes with new ones. The trouble is, this metaphor of discarding the old self to become the new self has many pitfalls. It misleads us in ways that we think of life of faith in the context of consumerist ideals. We get to throw out our old selves in order to enjoy the new selves and when the new becomes old, we simply repeat the process. Rinse and repeat sounds good, but that was not what Jesus was saying when he said that he came to fulfill the law, not to abolish it. He came to complete what began and was being practiced under the law. He did not come to throw out the law altogether. In a similar way, his preaching of the good news was not to destroy and discard sinners completely, replacing them with new groups of people who are not sinners. If Jesus’ mission was to get the sinners out of this world, Christians would not have continued with the notion of love the sinner, but hate the sin statement.

It is clear that Jesus did not want to get the sinners out of this world. Instead, he went and stayed among the sinners. He supped with them, healed them, and blessed them. Indeed, those who desired the sinners to be cast out were Pharisees, Sadducees, and priests. They wanted the new in the sense of people who were righteous like they were. They questioned Jesus over and over about why he was with the despicable and deplorable sinners. In this sense, Jesus was not replacing the old and broken with the new and whole. Jesus came to recover, renew, and restore. In this sense, it needs to be realized that being born anew in Christ is not a process of getting rid of our broken physical, psychological, and spiritual selves, but one where those that are broken are mended, healed, and repaired. Importantly, however, this process of being restored is not the end. It is the beginning. To be renewed or made whole in body and mind is the very necessary first step. Once we are refurbished into our wholeness, it is time for us to deny ourselves and take up our crosses and follow Christ.

When we are healed of our physical, psychological, and spiritual brokenness, we are not as yet reborn in Christ fully. We are simply standing as human beings as God intended carrying God’s image within us. As before we fell into sin, we simply are people with potential embodying God’s intention. We are free at this point to choose to be whoever we want to be. We may choose to be righteous like Pharisees and priests or once again choose to be ordinary people struggling in life as many people whom Jesus healed became. In this restored life, of course, we could certainly choose to follow. After all, the unconditional grace is experienced as Christ’s forgiveness of sins or healings are given to us. Yet, as our Lord mentioned, the gate is narrow and the road is hard and only a few find it. In this way the rich young man could not go and sell everything and give it all up because he was too rich, so many of us have excellent reasons for not choosing to find this harsh road that can only be walked on when we enter through the narrow door. Yes, being born anew is to find ourselves walking on this harsh road because in being made whole by Christ, we willingly followed him through the narrow door with gladness and joy.

As we walk this road, we not only reveal more and more about God as we witness to the world God’s good news, but also God reveals who we are to the world a little bit more each day. This revelation by God of who we are changes who we are in each moment of our lives. We do not stay the same. Rather, we are always reformed by God, being reformed each step of the way. In this way, we are being born anew continually. In faith as we commit our future in God’s hand we come to know and trust that we will fully be made new by God in fullness of God’s time. In the meantime, we are revealed in the world as God chooses to reveal us. The key to understanding being born anew is the collapsing of the temporal with eternal in ways we often do not understand. It is the eternal breaking into our historic time. These eternal moments in our lives are more like momentary openings through which we experience God. They are neither continuous nor constant. Yet, when we catch these moments we get to experience God’s unconditional grace as part of the new creation in Christ. It is our hope that we will be revealed in our complete newness in the fullness of time.

To recap, unlike the way the world understands new, Christian meaning of being born a new is to be continuously being reformed and recreated. This constant renewal or reforming of who we are becomes the reality for us who deny ourselves and follow Christ. Once we are on this harsh road of following Christ, we are revealed to the world as having been reborn--being the body of Christ to the world, always witnessing and bringing good news of God. This is the life where the old rediscovered, renewed, and restored to its fullness and God’s full intention in what was old is completed through Christ so that the old is made new. We were created in God’s image. We fell away from God into sin. Through Christ we are restored--born anew. In the fullness of time, we shall be revealed as God’s new creation in God’s grace. The new in Christ means “being complete in him so that God’s image shines through each and every one of us as God originally intended at the beginning of creation.”

What grace of God this is! What love God has given us so that we may be made new in Christ Jesus our Lord!

How wonderful and beautiful your love for us is, O God! There is no measure that can size up this infinite and unconditional love you have given us through your Son our Lord. In awe and gratefulness we come. We bring and open our hearts before you so that our hearts may overflow with your everlasting love.

In presenting our hearts to you, we also open to you our beings that are filled with brokenness and wounds. In this past week, sojourning in this sin filled world, our spirits and bodies were afflicted with pain and anguish. Though we did our best to withstand them, we suffered terribly in silence within our homes. As our frail bodies are attacked by diseases mild and strong, as our minds wrestle with pain beyond our imagining, we have no one, but you, to turn to. We hold on to you as our hope. We ask you to be with our doctors and nurses so that their care for us will relieve pain and stave off imminent death. Be kind to us, O God. Be our source of life. Fill us with strength to understand and know that you are with us every step we take in this life. By your love, instill a sense of hope in all who suffer from illnesses.

Our eyes are filled with troubles in this world. Our ears overflow with news of harms. We see and hear about climate change, homelessness, refugees, abuses, and many other acts of destruction. In the meantime, experiences of selfish leadership in politics and economy, we have little or no hope in our leaders. As we face the federal election, we are more resigned than hopeful. Help us to overcome our cynicism and despair. Focus us on the life that is only possible in Christ so that we may continue to have strength to serve one another and all our neighbours. Fill us with your love and will to share your love as freely and as unconditionally as your Son our Lord. Through sharing your love, make us overcome our despair and participate in life to bring about your will to love you and neighbours.

We summarize all unsaid prayers in the prayer your Son taught us. Hear our petitions when we say together, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.

Offering (O How I Love Jesus)

Offering Prayer
O Lord, with joyful hearts, we bring these gifts and offer them to you. Receive them. Be glad. Be glad not because we have brought the best or the greatest gift, but because these are gifts that contain our love for you and for our neighbours. In accepting these gifts, shape us in ways that we become the embodiment of your love in this trouble filled world. Use us as your hand that brings your love to all. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Hymn: Rejoice The Lord is King