Sunday, September 5, 2021


Welcome and Announcements

We thank God as we continue to look forward to our worship in the sanctuary. We thank God and you for your presence in this worship. As we move forward, let us joyfully praise and worship God.

We are starting our Wednesday Suppers and Worship. Supper will take place at 5:30 pm and end at 6:30 pm. The worship service will take place at 7 pm. Please pray that God’s blessings will be all those who are preparing and participating in these Wednesday celebrations. Serving our neighbours is our joyful thanksgiving. Praising our God is the witnessing of God’s grace before the world.

We have been behind in our givings re: Presbyterians Sharing. We accepted $10,000 as our portion for 2021. So far we sent just over $3,000. Please give attention to this. Presbyterians Sharing is an important part of our mission nationally and internationally.

May God’s blessings be with you this long weekend! May you be refreshed and replenished!

Preparation: O How I Love Jesus

Call to Worship

Minister: Every generous act of giving, along with every perfect gift, comes from the Father of Lights, in whom is no shadow or variation due to change.
All: God gave us birth by the word of truth, that we may be the first fruits of God’s creatures.

Hymn: Great is Thy Faithfulness

Prayer

Hear our prayers, O Lord. We bring our inadequacy of our devotion and the weakness of our service. We have become good at honoring you with our lips even when our hearts have been far from you. We know we only look to you when it suits us. In many ways our outward appearance masks our inward reality, and the sin within us defiles us.

But you, Holy God, have the power to forgive us. Cleanse us in your living water, that we may truly serve you with all the strength of our being and bring glory to your name.

Be merciful, oh God. Your Son reminded us that you desire mercy, not sacrifice. So we come in that promise and bring our praise. Receive them as from our hearts. Receive this worship as our offering to you.

In your Son’s name we pray. Amen.

Scripture Reading: Matthew 18:21

Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

Sermon: Forgiving

Forgiving should be part of our Christian life. Strangely, ever since Peter asked Jesus the question of how many times one ought to forgive, Christians had difficulty forgiving others. In a way, throughout history, Christians found many ways to judge and punish rather than forgive. The United States, which claims to be the nation founded by Christians, has the most number of people in prison than any other nation in the world. Throughout history Christians were extremely good at exposing those who harm others and put them in prisons. No one was as cruel it seems as Christians who established and implemented Inquisition in the Medieval Church.

Christians are good at demanding accountability and responsibility. We seek out those who do wrong, expose those who sin, and punish them. Of course, punishment is given out as a way to make sinners pay for their sins. All modern Western nations that built their penal systems based on Medieval Christian understanding of crime and punishment share a similar understanding of how to deal with criminals who break the laws of their countries. Though these countries broke free from Christian holds on their political systems, their penal systems still resemble Christian ways of dealing with sinners. In both, punishments were seen as a better remedy in rehabilitation than forgiveness. In other words, making those who did wrong pay is seen as benefiting everyone more than forgiving.

It is ironic that while the Canadian justice and penal system relies more on incarceration or punishment than the indigenous restorative justice systems in many of our provinces which rely more on forgiveness and self-reflection than incarceration. Indeed, many of us are suspicious of the indegenous restorative justice systems as soft on crime, lacking tough love, and corrupt because the perpetrators of crimes are not punished as severely by not being incarcerated physically in prisons. We point to our prisons as evidence that the indigenous systems do not work since there are more indigenous people incarcerated proportionally than the rest of us. In other words, we make no effort as a society that is based on Christian values to forgive those who do wrong against us.

As if to make a clearer point about the efficacy of meting out punishment is the way to go, the American president, who flaunted his Roman Catholic Christian credentials during the election (like his predecessors who also claimed to be Chrisitans of one denomination or another), declared his intention to punish those who were responsible for the suicide bomber who killed 12 American soldiers as they were assisting in their retreat from the Afghan war they started. Like his predecessors, he vowed to hunt down and kill all those who were responsible for killing Americans. No objections were raised by any prominent American Chrisitan leaders on such a barbaric pronouncement. If anything, many would support this strong American stance against those who harm Americans.

On a personal level, it is always important to see whether as individuals we are able to forgive others as often as Jesus said we should. Do I forgive others in my own life? That question is bigger than whether the Church or our society forgives as a Christian organization and a Christian value based nation. It matters little if the institutional churches or our governments forgive when I as a Christian do not. You see, for my own family members and neighbours, the only concern that touches them is whether I am a forgiving person or not. My Christianity is based on their experience of personal forgiveness.

So why is forgiving so difficult for Christians? Is forgiveness not something that differentiates Christians from others? Did Jesus not say that we are to love even the enemies? Is it not true that those who experienced forgiveness would be generous in forgiving others? Since we claim that our sins are forgiven in Christ, should we not be ones for forgiveness? Yet, somehow, rather than being generous in forgiving others, we have become like the wicked servant in Jesus’ parable who throws one who owes him in prison, we demand restitution and our sense of justice be satisfied instead of being full of grace. Again, the question is: why is forgiving so difficult for us?

Maybe, one reason we are so unforgiving is due to our understanding that, just like the wicked servant, we feel that we have escaped our own dangers and we can do business as usual. Or perhaps, we think that as upholders of Christian morality, we have to be demanding of others since we know how easily others can slip back into sin without tough love. Or due to this strange pride that I am on the side of the saved, my view of the lost is now filled with disdain and contempt. Whatever the case may be, it is clear that we cannot grasp the grace that has been bestowed upon us if we are demanding others to go through the whole nine yards of restitution even though we did not have to.

Forgiveness for Christians is a spontaneous response to God’s grace. It is also a recognition that before God I have no claim in spite of my presence there only because of God’s love through Christ. Throughout history, however, Christians became adept at systematizing God’s grace and making sure that forgiveness is a duty rather than an inherent part of God’s grace manifested in Christ. In this way, grace and joy are separated from forgiveness.

Without this experience of gratitude, forgiveness is neither spontaneous response nor the extension of my joy of salvation. Rather, forgiveness becomes a duty that requires just remedy. Once forgiveness moves away from God’s grace and devoid of gratitude and joy, it becomes harsh, demanding, and punishing. It becomes our tool to establish a religion of Christianism, rather than a moment in time through which God’s reign breaks into human history. In this strange world of Christianism reflecting values and thoughts of those who claim themselves as the elected, forgiveness is a reward for specific behaviours as outlined by them. Confession and repentance are must if forgiveness is to be obtained.

It is time for us to return to the state of fullness of grace and joy. Only in grace and joy do we find gratitude bubbling up to the surface and forgiveness becomes spontaneous and unconditional. Grace of God and our joy under God’s reign is not something we can manufacture, nor obtain. They are something that are abundantly given to us in Christ. When our hearts are set on Christ, we fully trust Christ, and our beliefs of Christ stand in Christ, we are able to realize and experience the ever present grace of God and enjoy full Christ’s presence with us. To co-opt what St. Patrick said, with Christ before us, beside us, under us, and above us, forgiveness becomes part of our joyful living under God’s reign. We make no demands of others when we confront others. We simply forgive all imitating Christ.

It may sound strange to our ears to discuss forgiveness when we have been talking about starting anew. The reality is that without God forgiving us and our willingness to forgive in gratitude and joy, there is no new start for our worship and praise.

Prayer

With you before us, we follow. Lead us into the future as we commit our future in your hand. Help us to focus on you. Dispel our fear of future. Make us trust you fully and follow you wherever you take us in your grace.

With you among us, we pray for those who are not well. Some are caught in illnesses. They have been suffering without knowing when the pain will cease. Be with them. Give them strength and hope so that they may fearlessly depend on you in spite of pain and anguish. Some are struggling with mental illnesses. Because these illnesses often do not affect the bodies, they have more difficulty navigating our medical systems and finding cures. Continue to walk with them. Bless them with your presence. Bless us to be your presence to them.

With you beside us, we pray for those who are migrating to find better living conditions. There are so many who are refugees seeking a place to call home. Continue to guide them. Help us to open our eyes to see and share your blessings with them.

With you above us, we think of those who constantly reach out to find you. Be their guide.

With you below us, we remember those who are falling between the cracks. They have no support and are drowning in many troubles. Give them courage to reach out and seek help. Help us to reach out to them. Make us your instrument in giving them hope.

With you behind us, we march together as broken and disparate people. Give us confidence to move onward. Help this congregation see the future you have in store. May they know that you are our safety net and are behind us to keep us from falling back. Instill in us a sense of purpose and direction. May we walk with faith and hope as we love each other.

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

Offering (All To Jesus I Surrender

Offering Prayer

Blessing, honour, and glory are yours, O Lord. In our joy we bring these gifts. We bring them knowing how small these are in comparison to the infinite mercy you have given us. Yet, in your Son we come forward with these gifts as symbols of our gratitudes. Receive them. Through them open the eyes of hearts of those who do not know you. May these gifts be used to seed your love in this broken world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Hymn: How Great Thou Art

Benediction