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A Question of Loyalty

Jesus responds to his accusers questions about paying taxes. He responds by saying God, whose image we bear, is the One deserves our greatest loyalty/

Breaking with the Past

Go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5sZ9cxw5RSA to see our worship video for this Sunday

Paul speaks of his great passion in life which is to know Christ.

Imitating the Coach

This week’s sermon focuses on Paul’s call to imitate Jesus and his service to others.
In following Jesus’ example of service to others, we will shine brightly in a world that too often focuses on what is negative, divisive, and unhelpful to all concerned.

The Generous Employer (click here)

Welcome
* Thanks for reading this on-line version of our weekly worship.
* To see a shortened version of this service go to https://youtu.be/dq7Juv5PYa4

Call to Worship
One: Just as sunrise breaks through the darkness each day,
Many: So God’s grace, mercy and justice shine forth.

One: We gather together, with devotion and doubt,
with weariness and wonder;
Many: trusting that God’s peace and love are present here.

One: Come and worship as you are, knowing you are loved.
Many: We come rejoicing, to praise God’s holy name. 

Opening Prayers
Loving God, compassionate Son, healing Spirit,
You meet us in so many places and in so many different ways,
when our need is deep and we long for you,
and when we think we can manage on our own.
You draw near to us in kindness,
regardless of our state or condition.
You turn weeping into laughter, sorrow into joy, death into life.
You speak a word of challenge and a word of comfort
to draw us to you.
In gratitude, we come before you this day,
to seek your word for us,
and to enjoy your gift of life in its fullness.
[Receive our praise and our prayers this day
offered in the name of Christ, our Lord. Amen.] (Video)

God, you are the giver of all good gifts,
yet we confess that our own generosity is limited.
We share what we have, but often reluctantly.
We complain about our lot.
We compare ourselves to others
and see what they have that we lack.
We fear running short of things
rather than trusting your attention to our needs.
Forgive us our worries about tomorrow
and give us generous hearts that trust in you.

Remind us again that your is from everlasting to everlasting.
Your generous love reaches out to embrace everyone.
We thank you that in Christ,
we are forgiven and set free to begin again.
Accept the worship we bring as your people gathered this morning.
Amen

Hymn: Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)

Prayer for Understanding
Holy, healing God,
your thoughts are not our thoughts, and your ways are not our ways.
As we hear your Word read and proclaimed, guide us by your Spirit,
so that our thoughts and our ways are transformed by your grace,
through Christ, your Living Word. Amen.

Scripture

Matthew 20:1-16 – Parable of the Vineyard

This parable follows Jesus’ welcome of children into the Kingdom of God who have nothing
And Jesus encounter with a rich young man who wants eternal life who has everything , but the courage to leave his wealth behind to follow Jesus.


Sermon: The Generous Employer

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen

Most people who I have met believe that it is “right” to be paid fairly for the work that one does. When this doesn’t happen, we feel cheated and undervalued as an employee. This has led to employee protests, strikes, and work to rule campaigns in various jobs and occupations.

Our wages we believe represent what our employers and in many ways what our society believes our labor is worth. Although we know that is not always the case.

We all have our own opinions as to who is underpaid and who is overpaid in our society. One extreme example was demonstrated in boxer Mike Tyson 1995 fight against Peter McNeeley in Las Vegas Nevada. Tyson was paid $22,000,000 for the 89 second win over McNeeley. McNeeley was paid $400,000 for the 89 second fight. And those who set up and cleaned up the MGM Grand Hotel for the event were paid less than $5.00 /hr. Those making minimum wage would only have made only $0.12 during the 89 sec. fight.

I know this is an extreme example, but it highlights the reality of the value our society places on different kinds of work by way of material compensation for that work.

As with all of Jesus’ parables, his stories always have a different twist to them. His perspective doesn’t always go along with the conventional wisdom or practices of our time. That is why the ending of the story is unexpected. It does not follow the conventional thinking of “just pay for a fair work day.”

At the end of work day, each laborer is paid a Roman denarius.

A denarius was what a day’s wages was worth in Jesus’ day. With it one could take care of one’s family. The wage that the Landowner paid would be especially helpful to the extremely poor, who in fact, were standing around idle in the marketplace. The ones hired last would have included widows, orphans, the sick, disabled, and newcomers to the community who were hardly ever given work.

They were probably expecting to be paid very little, but what a surprise and relief to them when they received their generous gift of the denarius, a day’s pay.

The landowner goes out of his way to meet the needs of the poor in his community. The Landowner goes out his way to meet and exceed the Jewish Laws in Deuteronomy 24 regarding the treatment of laborers, aliens, widows, and the poor in the community.

The pay offered by the Landowner in our story is not based on the hours worked, but rather is based purely upon what the employer offers to each group.

The first group agrees to work for the daily wage of denarius. The midday laborers agree to work for “what is right or just” which is not clearly defined, and for the last group no wages are agreed upon.

At the end of the day, everyone from the first called to work to those called last to work are paid the same wage.

From a modern business perspective, all laborers being paid the same runs counter to our current capitalist model of economics. It is unsettling to us with our 21st century sensibilities, for no one in our society pays everyone the same wage regardless of how many hours they worked. We hardly, if ever, will one run across an employer who is THAT generous. That is why the parable doesn’t connect with our “JUST PAY FOR FAIR WORK DAY” practice.

While the intent of the parable is not to propose a new economic system for our society, although some have suggested it does, it does join a significant amount of Biblical teaching on economics.

You have God creating for Israel before it settles the Promised Land new patterns for the fair treatment of workers, the establishment of a social net to care for the least in the society. God warns Israel of how wealth can too easily become an idol. Israel is reminded again and again that it was freed from unjust slavery in Egypt by God almighty acts.

In the New Testament, there is more talk about wealth than sexuality. There is advice to indentured servants and their bosses in how to live with each other. Jesus teaches that his followers are to be servants not tyrannical Lord’s over one another. The lowest household slave is raised to a position of honor.

If we are wise, then we will not be afraid to humbly listen and reflect upon what the Scriptures teaches us about Kingdom of God economics.

In Jesus’ parable, the focus is on the Landowner’s actions toward his labour force. God is the landowner and the laborers are various groups who come into God’s kingdom at different times.

When the Landowner pays all the workers the same amount and the end of the day, the first group becomes upset with the generosity of the landowner.

My guess is that there is some part of each of us who are like those who grumbled, questioned, and told the landowner that it was unfair to pay everyone the same wage.

The first group acts as those they have been deceived by the Landowner are being treated unfairly by him. But in our story, the group who complains is the same group who agrees to work for a denarius.

The others agree to work for “What is right” and they accept that. There is no deception and nothing unfair done by the landowner here.

The first group of laborers are the only ones to complain about the landowner in the parable. The complainers in the story represent the pharisees who question and criticize Jesus at every turn for not following agreeing with or following their perceptions of who God is and how they expect God to act.

Like the Pharisees before us, our imperfect perceptions of God get in the way of fully understanding just how gracious and loving God is to all.

We are confronted with the creative Tension between God’s Truth and God’s Grace. The landowner follows the rules laid out my Moses, but also follows God’s command to do justice and love neighbor as self.

The parable by focusing on God’s gracious and generous character highlights the new spiritual economy in the Kingdom of God that triumphs and supersedes all understandings human merit and value.

Our society’s reward for work system is so much a part of the way we think that we have a difficult time with God’s grace and generosity. We have difficulty with grace, because you can’t work for it, or earn it, and you can’t ever repay God for it. Our birth, lives, families, our work, gifts, opportunities, friends, talents, and our salvation are God’s gracious gifts to us that flow out God’s generous heart to us.

God’s generous and gracious character is a stumbling block for anyone who refuses to give up their own or our society’s ideas of justice and merit. It doesn’t matter how long or how hard a person has worked within the church. What matters is “have we responded to the gracious call of God to work in his vineyard today?”

Eduard Schweizer, a biblical theologian once wrote…
“The `person’ who imports `their’ own ideas of what is right and just cannot understand this (that is God’s grace). To measure God’s goodness by the standard of people’s works does not do justice to either. Anyone who fails to understand that God gives infinitely more than a just wage also fails to understand that the reward given by God is an expression of his goodness.” (Schweizer, Matthew, p. 393)”

The landowner exerts his authority over all who have worked for Him. To the workers who grumble at his generosity, the landowner declares
“Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you.
Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
God’s generous and gracious character is to have a profound mark and effect every aspect of our lives.

In all things, we are to celebrate and focus on the spiritual plenty that God’s gives to us in Christ. We all stand on equal footing at the cross.

We all need God’s Grace, God’s Mercy, and God’s abundant care for us. God as our Creator has claim on each person.

If we live in God’s grace, then we will want to follow God’s demonstration of his love and mercy towards all people.

We celebrate the plenty of an expanded vision and understanding of God and his Kingdom that leads us to see the needs of others as well as our own.

We welcome all who God welcomes into in the labor force of Kingdom of God, be it those who have worked long and hard in God’s vineyard, or whether it be those who come to work at the “11th hour.”

We celebrate God’s gracious generosity, which creates a new alternative community that opposes our world’s emphasis on valuing some more than others. The church, like Israel, stands as a beacon of hope, a people who live out God’s graciousness in all their relationships. A people who when hurting themselves do not cease to help others who are hurting.

And maybe, just maybe, we value God’s teaching on wealth and economics more than our society’s so that that we might be more vocal and active advocates for those who struggle financially in our communities.

The parable ends with the declaration,
“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Mt 20:16).

One could hear that as a threat or a warning to get in step with God and be better people who don’t complain about God’s generous character.

Or you one can hear it a statement of blessing from God to those who have embraced His gracious upside down and right side up Kingdom economics.

May we be followers of Jesus Christ, who seek to embrace and embody the gracious character God, in our everyday lives.

AMEN.

song: Come thou fount of every blessing Sung by Sarah Noëlle

Moment for Mission – International Day of Prayer for Peace
Today, there are millions of people around the world
living in conflict-affected countries.
Many have been displaced from their homes
and have limited access to basic needs.
Children are unable to go to school.
Families do not have enough food to eat.
There is no telling when home might be safe again.
Presbyterian World Service & Development (PWS&D)
continuously provides emergency relief in conflict-affected areas.
By reaching out to the most vulnerable
to address immediate needs such as food, shelter, and water and sanitation,
as well as long-term needs, such as
livelihood recovery, education and psychosocial support,
we help to restore strength and hope for
the future for the world’s most vulnerable.
PWS&D responds to conflict

Prayers of the People
God of Hope,
When the world is bleak and dim, you pierce the shadows with light.
You help us see new paths and possibilities.
For hope in times of despair, for clarity when we felt confused,
for a way forward when we thought all was lost,
we give you thanks.
We pray today for those who feel hopeless;
or those who are sick or dying;
for those who mourn; and for those weighed down by heavy burdens.
May each of us know and share your gift of hope.

God of Peace,
All around us there is conflict: in our world, our communities,
our families, even our closest relationships.
We thank you for steps toward reconciliation in our lives,
our communities, and among peoples of different cultures and histories.
We pray today for places where pain, violence and cruelty
seem to have the upper hand.
May each of us know and share your gift of peace.

God of Joy,
We give you thanks for moments of delight and occasions of celebration;
for happy gatherings, gentle solitude, pleasure given and received;
for laugher, friendship, and love.
We remember those who do not taste such joy;
those who are lonely or bitter, hurt, or difficult to love.
May each of us know and share your gift of joy.

God of Love,
In Jesus Christ, your love was born in a human life.
Jesus was rooted in a particular family,
yet his love stretched far beyond to include outsiders a
and those rejected by others.
We are so grateful to be part of his circle.
We pray for our families, those closest to us or and anyone estranged.
We pray for friends and for acquaintances, strangers,
for those very different from ourselves, and even for our enemies.
Help us draw our circles of affection wider,
seeing our kinship with all people.
May each of us know and share your gift of love.

Hear us now as we pray in silence for those who have come to mind this day.
(Silence for at least 15 seconds.)
And now, in one voice, we pray the prayer that Jesus taught.

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name, your kingdom come,
your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory
are yours now and forever. Amen..

Song: By Grace Alone

Charge and Benediction (2 Cor 13.13, The Message)

We go to be laborers
in God’s Vineyard in the world.

We go to be gracious laborers supporting each other.

We go to witnesses to God’s gracious character.

May the amazing grace of the Master, Jesus Christ,
the extravagant love of God,
and the intimate friendship with the Holy Spirit
be with all of you.

Congregational Blessing: “The Peace of Christ be with You”

Prayer Partnership

Monday, September 21 (International Day of Peace) We pray for the safety and well-being of those living in conflict situations around the world and that hear the call to be peacemakers and to speak out against forces of violence.

Tuesday, September 22 We pray for justice and safety of all the minority groups in India who are persecuted for their faith.

Wednesday, September 23 We pray for Cyclical PCC participants who are gathering to prepare to learn about and work towards starting new worshipping communities.

Thursday, September 24 We pray for peace for those affected by ongoing conflict around the world as Presbyterian World Service & Development provides emergency assistance.

Friday, September 25 We pray for campus ministries’ chaplains and volunteers and the congregations that support these ministries that show God’s love and care to young adults facing many stresses and challenges.

Saturday, September 26 We give thanks for the faithful generosity of congregations across Canada as we share in mission and ministry together through Presbyterians Sharing.

Living in a Paradoxical World (click here)

Welcome
* Thanks for reading this on-line version of our weekly worship.
* To see a shortened version of this service go to

Call to Worship (Psalm 33:20-22)

Leader: Our souls waits for the LORD;
he is our help and shield.

People: Our heart is glad in God,
because we trust in God’s holy name.

Leader: Let your steadfast love, O LORD,
be upon us, even as we hope in you.

Opening Prayers

Almighty God, we gather to worship you, to lift our voices in praise.
We come with our questions and our needs,
seeking your guidance for our lives.
We come desiring to be enabled to accept your answers
and to believe that all things do work together for our highest good.
For you alone know all things,
things that are beyond our understanding,
Things too wonderful for us to understand in this life.
Build us up in faith, so that whatever we face,
we may face them with the confidence
that you never forsake or abandon us.
Lift up our faith so that we may in all things witness to your love
revealed to us in Jesus Christ.

Merciful God, whose care never ceases, we come to you as we are.
We are tired from trying to do more than we can manage.
We are anxious about problems which go unresolved.
We are worried about events beyond our control.
We do not easily let go.
For mistakes we cannot redeem,
for tasks left undone, for uncertain goals,
we need your forgiveness and ask for your understanding.
For recovery of strength and enthusiasm, we pray for your Spirit.
For fullness of life, generous hearts, and contented souls,
we pray to be followers of Christ Jesus.

In your mercy, restore us and lead us.
Forgive us God of love and mercy,
Remind us your promise from your servant John who declared…
that if we confess our sins,
You, who are faithful and just,
will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

And now O God, offer you our worship in the name of Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Hymn: Great is thy Faithfulness

Prayer for Understanding
God of all knowledge, prepare our hearts and minds to receive your wisdom. Quiet in us all distracting thoughts so that we may hear your Word, and be strengthened to follow your way. In the name of Christ we pray. Amen.

Scripture

Ecclesiastes 7:15-29: The Preacher Addresses the Riddles of Life

Matthew 5:6, 10, 17-20:
Sermon on the Mount. Blessings and challenges of seeking and following God

Song: You Are God Alone-Phillips, Craig, & Dean


Sermon: Living in a Paradoxical World

The Preacher who wrote Ecclesiastes humbly recognizes that there are many things about living in time that were difficult to wrap his head around.

For example, why do wise and caring people suffer and why do foolish uncaring people prosper?

Why is it that so many choose to live foolishly when there is so much information to help us live wisely? I think the Preacher would have been just as concerned about the foolishness of our time as he was with what he observed in his.

The Preacher shares three wise ways for living in our paradoxical world that can help us.

First, don’t deceive yourself in thinking you can manipulate God. The Preacher says in verse 16,
“Do not be too righteous, and do not act too wise; why should you destroy yourself?”

The language that the Preacher is using here is ironic. He is talking about a person who thinks they are far more righteous and wise than they actually are.

The Preacher is talking about Pharisaical righteousness and wisdom. The Pharisees thought that by being extremely righteous or good, they could persuade God to act as they wanted him to act.

The Pharisees were trying to manipulate God. They believed if enough Pharisees were good enough and followed the laws to the letter, then God would have to send the Messiah and make everything in the world “Right.”

They felt a huge burden to try to persuade God to bring peace and restoration to Israel. Sadly, it was unnecessary. The many hours spent making sure they and others got everything right could have been spent showing mercy and helping others know God.

The Preacher warns us of being too righteous as to believe you can manipulate God by being good, or having the right beliefs, and right practices. There is certainly a place for right belief, right practice, and the right intentions in the Christian faith or any other faith for that matter.

But the problem comes when we think we can manipulate God by doing, thinking, and saying the right stuff. Many in the Bible tried to do this and all of them failed miserably.

Our world knows the harm that various forms of religious extremism have caused.
For example, Boxer Mohamed Ali, was asked by a reporter after 9/11 how he felt as a devout Muslim of having Osama Ben Laden as part of his religious family. He quickly responded to the reporter by asking him how he felt about having Adolf Hitler as part of his Christian family.

The point that the Preacher is making in verse 16 is the danger of being so extreme in your belief system that you believe that you can manipulate God!

And can we manipulate God? No! God is God and we are not. God is in control and not us. The Preacher declares this numerous times in Ecclesiastes. God is the only one who can straighten out our crooked world not us. (Ecclesiastes 1:15, 7:13).

The one who tries to manipulate God into to do anything God will not do will end up literally destroying themselves trying to do the impossible. The Preacher warns us to avoid this extreme as it doesn’t help us to live in faithfully in this crazy world of ours.

Second, the Preacher warns us of going to the opposite extreme of abandoning God. The Preacher says in verse 17,
“Do not be too wicked, and do not be a fool; why should you die before your time?

Is the Preacher suggesting that it is okay to be a little wicked, just don’t be overly wicked? Is that really what he is saying? I doubt that you could provide a good Biblical rationale for that, although many have tried.

The point of the Preacher is that going to the other extreme and giving up on God, doing your own thing whether God approves or not, is not going to help you live with the paradoxes of life any more than thinking you have all the answers.

Those who face tragedy and disappointment struggle with the temptation of calling it quits with God. Perhaps you like many others have asked
“What’s the point of following all the rules, going to church, doing the religious thing, what is there to show for it?
Does anything change in this world if I am good or do my own thing?”

This kind of thinking leads to despair compared to the overly confident self-righteous person. And people who are despairing and hopeless do all kinds of foolish, harmful, and wicked things to themselves and others, because there are no moral boundaries to guide and direct them anymore. And how tragic it is when one gets to that point.

That is why we pray in the Lord’s Prayer for God to save us from the Time Trial or that point where we want to give up on God. Only tragedy can follow that decision as we have seen so many times in our world lately.

So, if neither self-righteousness nor self-indulgence helps us make sense of our paradoxical world, then what does?
In verse 18, the Preacher offers us a third and middle way to living in our paradoxical world.
He says,
“It is good that you should take hold of the one, without letting go of the other; for the one who fears God shall succeed with both.”

The best way of living in our paradoxical world is the middle way of faith. Here both extremes are held in a kind of creative tension so we can walk between them.

Or to use a similar kind of illustration, think of a tight rope walker walking with a long pole that is weighted at either end that helps the walker to walk on the thin cable.

On one hand, the Preacher holds up the Bible to call to us to walk in a right relationship with God. This includes believing in certain things, doing certain things, and being motivated by a love of God and love of neighbor.

Our right relationship with God is a Gift of God, and not a result of anything we do or have done for God. Therefore, there is no room for us to believe we can manipulate God for any reason.

The Bible also reminds us we are called to do good work in response to what God has done for us. And the mystery of God’s will is that God uses our puny efforts to fulfill his larger plans and desires for our world.

On the other hand, the Bible reminds us that we fall short of God’s good intentions because we sin against God and against one another. God has provided a way of forward for us to connect with God through Christ’s work on the cross. God continually reminds us that our work done for Him is never in meaningless or hopeless.

Therefore we keep both extremes of righteousness and sinfulness, wisdom and foolishness in a kind of creative tension or balance with each other.

We see other forms of this creative tension or balancing act when it comes to other aspects of Christian faith.

I have already mentioned faith and works, but we also hold Grace and Truth in tension. Love and Law are held in creative tension. Social Action and Evangelism, God’s Sovereignty of God and human free will, Old Testament with New Testaments, Past, Present, and Future are held in creative tension. Justice and Mercy; Suffering and Victory, Joy and Sorrow.

These are all held in creative tension with each other. Either extreme leads to a misunderstanding of who God is and leads to a misunderstanding of what God says is ultimately good for us.

Jesus in his life and work demonstrates to us how to live faithfully live with the paradoxes of life, keeping them in balance that helps us to navigate and live faithfully in our times.

He embodied and taught God’s truth and embodied demonstrated God’s grace to all.

He upheld the Law, but called the extreme law-keepers to embrace and show God’s mercy.

He did not reject those who sinned, but forgave them and called them to turn from their foolishness and to follow God as He did.
He called us to hunger and thirst for God’s ways above anything else so we would experience God’s love and grace in deeper more fulfilling ways. Jesus also knew that in following his narrow and middle way of being faithful to God, we would experience opposition from those who reject God or who think they can manipulate God to their own ends.

The wisdom of the Preacher points us to the wisdom of Jesus, who calls each of us to walk the uncomfortable, narrow, and middle way that leads to fulfillment, blessing and success.

The Preacher reminds us
for the one who fears God shall succeed with both.
May God continue to grant us the wisdom to live in these challenging times of ours.
AMEN!

Moment for Mission – A Light in the Community

Kenora Fellowship Centre is one of nine Indigenous ministries supported by generous gifts made to Presbyterians Sharing.

Known in the community as “A /na/mie/wi/gum/mig,” meaning House of Prayer in the Ojibway language, the drop-in centre offers basic essential services such as food, shelter, showers, clothing, laundry and transportation.

In addition to offering skills training courses and health and wellness programs.

Even more, the centre offers a place of hope, encouragement and safety for those who come through its doors, many of whom are displaced, living in poverty or struggling with addiction and mental health issues.

Please pray that this ministry would continue to be a light in the community and a safe space where people can find the healing love of Christ.
Presbyterians Sharing reaches out with the love of Christ

Prayers of the People

God of light and hope,
we pray for those who face lives filled with darkness:
those who suffer in body, mind, and spirit;
those bent under burdens of sorrow;
those who cannot see the way ahead.
We pray for those who accompany others in dark times and places;
For those who comfort the grieving, and work for healing and new possibilities.
May all these find their darkness transformed by your presence.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our Prayer

God of liberation and justice,
we pray for those who suffer abuse, violence, or injustice
at the hands of powerful people or forces in their lives,
and for those who have been betrayed by people entrusted with their care.
Stir in all people a deep respect for life.
Encourage those who struggle for freedom,
and work for truth to be heard and reconciliation achieved.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our Prayer


God of peace and promise,
we pray for those who work for peace in the world,
for leaders and decision makers,
for those who hold power and can make a difference in their communities,
and for those who make, interpret, and enforce laws.
Awaken a respect for the needs of the most vulnerable, including the earth and its fragile balances.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our Prayer

God of wisdom and understanding,
we pray for those who misunderstand the words and actions of others,
and for those who are misunderstood.
We pray for those who teach, and those who learn,
especially those who struggle and are afraid to ask for help.
In this challenging school year,
guide teachers and students in new patterns of learning
and keep each one safe and healthy.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our Prayer

God of forgiveness and reconciliation;
we pray for those we have hurt or offended
and for those to whom we have been unkind.
We pray for those who have hurt us, or been careless with our feelings.
Work in our lives to redeem broken relationships.
Shape us into gracious and forgiving people.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our Prayer

In silence we name before you other concerns on our minds today…
(Keep silence for at least 10 seconds)

And now we pray together as Jesus taught us;


Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name, your kingdom come,
your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory
are yours now and forever. Amen..

Song: O Master Let me walk with thee

Charge and Benediction

We go to walk
the uncomfortable middle road of faith
which is the best way to live faithfully
for Christ in our paradoxical world

And now
May the peace of God,
which passes all understanding,
keep your hearts and minds
in the knowledge and love of God,
and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord;

Congregational Blessing “Peace of Christ be with you”

Prayer Partnership

Monday, September 14 We pray for the faculties and staffs of our theological colleges as they work to provide academic programs to support the leadership needs of congregations across Canada.

Tuesday, September 15 We pray for the Continuing Education Grants Committee which meets this month.

Wednesday, September 16 We give thanks for those whose call has included the call to teach, research and write for the benefit of others.

Thursday, September 17 We thank God for the gift of communion. May the Lord’s Supper be celebrated as a sign of our unity in Christ and a means to grow together in love.

Friday, September 18 We thank God for music, and the choir members and musicians who share their gifts at church on Sunday mornings.

Saturday, September 19 (WCC Week of Prayer for Peace in Palestine and Israel) We pray for a just peace in Palestine and Israel so that all children may grow up in a safe place with equal opportunities to thrive.

Roller Coaster Emotions (click here)

Welcome
* Thanks for reading this on-line version of our weekly worship.
* To see a shortened version of this service go to either . . .
YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m9N2RE9Z-IA&t=26s

Call to Worship (Psalm 131:1-3)


Opening Prayers
Holy and loving One, God of might and mercy,
The heavens and the earth are full of your glory.
Your love transforms our lives.
You take darkness and give light.
You take grief and give healing.
You take fatigue and give strength.
You take fear and give courage.
You take death and give new life.
So we come before you in worship,
handing over to you all that weighs us down,
waiting for your refreshing gifts. (In Christ we pray, Amen)

Today we lay before the burden of our guilt and sin,
We lay before your throne of grace,
The sin of not loving others
as you have shown us to do in Christ.
The sin of not taking advantage of opportunities
to care, serve, bless, and witness to the hope
that you have given to us in Christ.
We confess the moments this week
when we have not been honest with you, with others and ourselves in how we are feeling
Forgive us when we have not acknowledged our need
for your and others grace, love, hope and strength.
Forgive us when have been foolish and not reached out for help and support.
We lay before you now in silence the specific burdens we carry today.

Remind us there is nothing in all creation
that can separate us from you through Christ,
who lived, died and rose again to keep us close to you.
Renew us in this time of worship, we pray,
so that we may serve you in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Hymn: You are my all in all

Prayer for Understanding
God ever present,
yet ever new, guide us by your Word and Spirit,
so that in your light, we may see clearly what you call us to do.
In your truth, may we know how best to follow you,
and in doing so, find true peace through Christ, your living Word.
Amen.

Scripture
Psalm 13:1-6 A prayer for deliverance from one’s enemies

John 11:28-37 Jesus weeps at death of his friend Lazarus

Sermon: Roller Coaster Emotions

How many of you like roller coasters? I have had moments in my life when I couldn’t wait to try the newest and most thrilling ride going. The adventure of breathless drops, unexpected turns, thrilling hair messing loops, all of it ending way too soon. At the end of the ride, we normally would find ourselves getting back in line to ride again.

One year Elias and his uncle Dane managed to ride Space Mountain at Disneyland 6 times in an hour. I lasted for only four. When my kids were younger, I wondered why my mother did not ride with us anymore. I understand that now.

These days I have come to associate Roller Coasters more with the emotional journeys we take in life and not with the rides of my youth. Although a good roller coaster still has a certain appeal to me.

Kathy and I were talking one night at dinner at how much of an emotional roller coaster ride the past months have been. In talking to each other about our responses to the pandemic and what we have observed in other. We concluded that we are grieving in different ways the loss of something or someone that is leading to various kinds of behavior both wise and foolish.

We have experienced the loss of the “pre-Covid normal,” the disruption of relationships and the addition social distancing, the loss of or the changes in the patterns of work, school, recreation, socializing, volunteering.

We have experienced the loss of the freedom of just leaving your house to do whatever without having to think about bringing a mask, sanitizer with you and the risks now associated with normal events.

Many of have experienced the death of loved ones and the pandemic has made arranging the funerals more difficult. We are all grieving in this time. We are experiencing the same Covid storm, but we are in riding it out in different boats.

The standard for looking at grief for over 50 years has been to look at the research of the Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in her book “On death and dying.”
Here Dr. Kubler-Ross identified stages, which she later changed to phases or aspects of grief because they don’t always occur one after the other in a straight line, but we experience them in different ways, intensities, and times.

The stages or phases of grief in her research are 1) Denial, 2) Anger, 3) Bargaining, 4) Depression,
5) Acceptance.

Others have gone to expand Dr. Kubler-Ross five phases to seven phases. When I read them see how many you have experienced?
1) Shock and denial. This is a state of disbelief and numbed feelings.

2) Pain and guilt. You may feel that the loss is unbearable and that you’re making other people’s lives harder because of your feelings and needs.

3) Anger and bargaining. You may lash out, telling God or a higher power that you’ll do anything they ask if they’ll only grant you relief from these feelings.

4) Depression. This may be a period of isolation and loneliness during which you process and reflect on the loss.

5) The upward turn. At this point, the stages of grief like anger and pain have died down, and you’re left in a more calm and relaxed state.

6) Reconstruction and working through. You can begin to put the pieces of your life back together and carry forward.

7) Acceptance and hope. This is a very gradual acceptance of the new way of life and a feeling of possibility in the future.
(source: https://www.healthline.com/health/stages-of-grief

I suspect we could go the list of phases and identify people who we know who are experiences those phases of grief. And if you are honest, you could point to the different phases you have experienced this week and even today.

At the start of the grieving process that intensity of each phase is greater and with time the intensity lessons until we reach some sort acceptance, or may be more accurately a co-existence with our loss.

When you read through the Gospels, you find these stages of grief and loss demonstrated by Jesus and by others. For example, Jesus weeps over the death of his friend Lazarus in in John 11. Jesus weeps and laments for the city of Jerusalem because they did not recognize and respond to his person and ministry.

There is certainly shock demonstrated by Jesus when Peter rebukes Jesus for announcing that he will suffer and die in order to accomplish God’s mission.

Jesus becomes angry and lashes out at merchants in the temple who are selling in an area of the temple set aside for Gentile worshippers. Jesus is also angry that the business people who over charging poor worshippers who can barely afford the sacrifices they need for worship.

Jesus seems depressed or unhappy when the disciples don’t understand the way to greatness in the Kingdom is by service to each other and the world. There is depression expressed from Jesus from the cross when He cries out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”
Jesus’ prayerful wrestling match with God in the Garden of Gethsemane to remove the cup of suffering from Him, could be seen as Jesus bargaining with God. The prayer ends with Jesus accepting his calling to go to the cross. This certainly allowed Jesus to care for his family and the repentant thief while suffering on the cross.

Jesus demonstrates the kind of honesty with his emotions and losses that are quite amazing. He demonstrates his humanity and honesty with God and with us so we can relate to him and to God as well. I find that equally comforting, freeing and motivating all at the same time. If Jesus can do this, then why don’t I trust God enough to do the same?

When one reads through the Psalms you find the authors of them freely expressing the pain, frustration, anger, shock, praises to God over various circumstances and losses of life. The language they use to express to their feelings to God is shocking in its honesty and intensity. That’s why I love the Psalms so much.

Honesty with God is a priority and virtue for them that helps them to connect with God and to find relief in the midst of their losses and circumstances. They express the various phases of grief so freely.

You hear their shock, anxiety, loss, anger, depression, hopelessness, as well as their praise, thanks, and hope expressed to God. Sometimes words of anxiety and anger are spoke right alongside words of hope and praise. The various Psalms enable us to express how we feel to God in the midst of the various losses and grief we feel every day.

Shouting our anger at God or acknowledging our anxiety and depression to God, will not completely fill the losses we feel at this time, but they do move us closer to the point of accepting the things we cannot change, of motivating us to change the things we can and to have the wisdom to know the difference as the wonderful Serenity prayer helps us to do.

The grieving process is always a marathon and never a sprint. The losses due to change or circumstances or deaths or personal growth is never easy. The long road from initial shock to acceptance is a roller coaster ride whether you are ready for it or not, or whether the ride is familiar or unfamiliar, you still caught off guard by it.

What is important for us as we experience the Roller Coaster ride of these times is, we have God’s promise to never abandon us. God, through his people caring for each other, provides his comfort and presence to us.
Paul reminds us of this at the beginning of 2 Corinthians 1:3-7. . .

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,
who comforts us in all our troubles,
so that we can comfort those in any trouble
with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ,
So also our comfort abounds through Christ.
If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation;
if we are comforted, it is for your comfort,
which produces in you patient endurance
of the same sufferings we suffer.

And our hope for you is firm,
because we know
that just as you share in our sufferings,
so also you share in our comfort.

Final Words
No matter what you are grieving at this time, I would encourage you be honest with the losses you feel.
I would encourage you to pay attention to the phases or stages of grief you are experiencing to give you some perspective as to where you are in your grief.

If you have not done so already, reach out for help to God, to a family member or friend, a counselor, or to me. Take advantage of the available resources locally or online to help you move toward to wellness, toward peace, toward acceptance and growth.

May the peace of God be with you in your grief through our friend, Savior and Lord who walks with us during these challenging times.
AMEN.

Song: “We lay our broken world, in sorrow at your feet”

Moment for Mission – World Literacy Day
In Afghanistan, cultural norms dictate that men often play a more central role in public life, while women and girls have more significant roles in the home. Because of this, many girls do not have equal access to education. Presbyterian World Service & Development (PWS&D), with the support of local partners, has been working to provide girls with access to high quality education.
Through summer camps, girls are informed about human rights, gender, sex, and leadership and democracy. Sadaf and Nargi participated in this summer camp, where they were inspired and excited about the great things they could achieve in the future. For the two girls, access to fair and equal education is vital for their goals and dreams; it is also essential to allow their communities to flourish. PWS&D supports equal education.

Prayers of the People

Creator of heaven and earth,
lover of each and every soul,
we are filled with gratitude for the blessings of this life.
For making us in your image to love and care for one another,
we give you thanks.
For the gift of Christ, who redeems and guides us,
and who gives us a pattern for everyday living,
we praise you.
Hear us now as we pray for situations where your love and grace are sorely needed in the world you love.

We pray for the church in this place and around the world, facing so many new challenges to respond to so many enduring needs…
(Keep silence for at least 10 seconds)

We pray for this beautiful planet, the fragile home we share with all living things…
(Keep silence for at least 10 seconds)

For those who rule in this city/town/area and the nations of the world, that they may find the wisdom and courage to do justice in the decisions they make…
(Keep silence for at least 10 seconds)

For those who serve as teachers, healers and caregivers facing new situations this fall, and for all students who return to school in very different circumstances…
(Keep silence for at least 10 seconds)

For the homeless and the hungry, for the unemployed and the anxious, and for all who have become more vulnerable through the pandemic…
(Keep silence for at least 10 seconds)

For those who mourn and those who are alone or feeling isolated…
(Keep silence for at least 10 seconds)

For the powerless and oppressed, and those caught up in destructive relationships or unjust political systems…
(Keep silence for at least 10 seconds)

And for the concerns we bear on our hearts this day…
(A longer time of silence)

Eternal God, we thank you for those who have gone ahead of us and showed us some measure of your eternal love. Keep us always in communion with you, and with your people from every time and place.
So we join our voices to theirs in the words Jesus taught us, saying:…

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name, your kingdom come,
your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory
are yours now and forever. Amen..

Special Music: Dragon school Oxford : Make me a channel of your peace

Charge and Benediction

Isaiah declared that
God gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

The Blessings of the God who watches over us
The Blessings of Jesus who walks beside us.
And the Blessings of the Holy Spirit who lives within us.
Goes with each one of us into this new week.


Prayer Partnership

Monday, September 7 We pray for members of the Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Committee as they meet this month to further our relationships with others.

Tuesday, September 8 (World Literacy Day) We give thanks for a Presbyterian World Service & Development program that is ensuring girls in Afghanistan have access to quality education.

Wednesday, September 9 We pray for all of the students attending our theological colleges who are beginning or resuming their studies in September. May they be enriched and challenged through their studies.

Thursday, September 10 We pray for an end to forced child labour and that the efforts of those who promote Fair Trade products across many industries can be supported and strengthened.

Friday, September 11 We pray for the Rev. Fr. Martin Kalimbe, Executive Director of Theological Education by Extension in Malawi (TEEM), as he provides leadership.

Saturday, September 12 We pray for the network of coaches serving in congregational renewal and church planting support programs.

Living Sacrifices (click here)

Welcome
* Thanks for reading this on-line version of our weekly worship.
* To see a shortened version of this service go to either . . .
YouTube – https://youtu.be/of-f9A6-o9A
or Facebook: St Paul’s Presbyterian, Banff, Alberta

Call to Worship (Psalm 138:1-8)

I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart;
before the gods I sing your praise;

I bow down toward your holy temple
and give thanks to your name
for your steadfast love and your faithfulness;
for you have exalted your name and your word above everything.

On the day I called, you answered me,
you increased my strength of soul.

Opening Prayers

Eternal God,
you are the same yesterday, today and tomorrow,
and yet you come to us afresh each new day.
You breathe new life into what has grown tired and discouraged.
You offer healing for what is broken and worn.
You restore hope for what seems impossible.
You are the source of life and love for us and all your creatures,
And so we worship you as Creator, Christ and Holy Spirit,
one God, now and always.

Merciful God, we confess that we have strayed from your purposes.
You set a path for us to follow that is good for us,
but we conform to the ways of this world
that lead us away from you and your life giving ways.

You offer us your transforming love
to become stronger agents of your grace in the world,
but we cling to familiar patterns and habits
that inhibit our participation in your Kingdom work in the world.

You give each of us gifts to use for the work of your kingdom,
but we wait for others to do what needs doing,
rather than following your teaching and example of service to others.

Forgive us for taking the easy way out
For and failing to honor and love you
with heart, minds, spirits and strength.

Remind and assure this day (Psalm 124)
If it had not been for you who is on our side,
the weight of the world
would have crushed us by now.

If it had not been for you, who was on our side,
the weight of our lives
would have drowned us by now.

Thanks be to You O God, who is on our side,
Thanks be to You O God, whose mercies are lavished upon in Christ.
Amen.

Hymn: “10,000 Reasons”

Prayer for Understanding

Source of all wisdom and understanding,
in the midst of all our distractions, still our hearts and minds.
Amid competing voices, let us hear your word for our times.
By the gift of your Holy Spirit,
help us discern your will and follow your path.
In the name of Jesus Christ, your Living Word, we pray, Amen.

Scripture

Romans 12:1-2 – A Response to God’s Mercies.
Matthew 16:13-20 -Jesus asks a question about who he is.

Sermon: Living Sacrifices

Our congregation is named after the Apostle Paul. He had a profound understanding of the Grace and Mercy of God, brought about by numerous events in his life. When Paul speaks of the mercy God, he does so with deep reverence and great appreciation for what God has done for all of humanity.

Paul is amazed at God’s steadfast love, God’s unconditional forgiveness, and God’s mind boggling and heart grabbing, life transforming grace.

In his introductory treatise on the Christian Faith to the church at Rome, Paul carefully and systematically lays out what he believes about the nature and practice God’s mercy and grace that is contained in the Gospel of Jesus.

 Paul spends eleven (11) chapters describing and celebrating the Gospel of Jesus Christ that is the focal point of the Christian faith.
Paul’s reasons for celebrating are extensive:
* Those who follow Christ shall live faith,
* The Gospel is the power of God for salvation
* All have sinned and fall short of God’s good intentions for them.
* We are made right with God or reconciled to God only through Christ’s work on the cross for us.
* We are united to Christ’s death and resurrection symbolized in our baptism.
* God delivers us in our midst of struggle to be faithful, even when we do not understand ourselves or our actions.
* God gives us the Holy Spirit, to keep our focus on God, to help us in our weakness, to give us hope, to pray for us, to assure that there is nothing in all creation that can ever separate us from God.
* God offers salvation to all people both insiders and outsiders who hear and respond to God’s merciful action in Jesus the Christ.

Now, in chapters 12-16, Paul encourages, prods and pushes his readers to respond to God’s mercy in specific ways.

LIVING SACRIFICES
Paul begins by appealing to the Romans to offer themselves fully to God as living sacrifices.

Paul was writing to people who were well acquainted with the sacrificial worship practices of the Jews, Greeks, and Romans. Animal and grain sacrifices were demonstrations of a person’s devotion to a particular god or religious belief. They were acts of love from the followers of those religions.

According to Jewish law, you always presented to God the best sacrifice you could afford.

Paul in chapter 12, calls upon all Christians to be living sacrifices. This sounds rather like an oxymoron which is a figure of speech pairing two words together that are opposing and/or contradictory, for example:

• Bitter Sweet
• Working Vacation
• Found Missing
• Random Order
• Growing Smaller
• Unbiased opinion
• Plastic Silverware
• Sound of Silence

At first glance “Living Sacrifice” does not make any sense at all. Once you typically sacrifice anything it is dead, and remains so, unless your name is Jesus.

Paul is using the expression to describe our on-going and never-ending sacrificial response to God’s mercy. It is based, in part, upon the Jewish understanding of worship
.
We typically think of worship only as something you show up at a building to do, do some religious stuff and then go back to your regular life.

This is different from our how Jewish forebears, thought of worship. Worship was something they did in their daily lives. Besides going to synagogue, their work was an expression of worship, as was their family roles, leisure activities (if they had any), theire service to others and their actions in the community. People worshipped six days a week and rested on the seventh as God rested from his labors, knowing God would provide for them.

Notice that Paul does not encourage his readers to attend worship services more often, or to increase their financial support of the congregation, or serve on a committee, or pray and study the Bible for a longer periods of time.

Paul is calling his readers to respond to God’s love and grace through their daily words and actions.

This ways of thinking about worship transforms Work from simply being a way to make money to a way to serve God and others.

Relationships are transformed into opportunities to celebrate God’s love and grace together, to encourage each other in our faith, and to help others make deeper connections with God.

Serving others becomes an act worship as we see Christ in face of the person we serve.

Serving is an opportunity to move beyond our natural tendency toward selfishness and to grow toward a greater understanding, appreciation and witness of God’s love and mercy to others.

When we allow our lives to be lifted out of the mundane and are seen as our acts of worship, they become a primary way for fulfilling God’s mission to honor and love God, love our neighbors and to make Christ known. We become living, breathing, serving, and sacrificing examples of God’s mercy to the world, just as Jesus gave people a clear picture of God’s mercy.

Paul is pushing us to be Followers of Jesus Christ who, from the moment they wake up in the morning until they time they lay down to sleep, respond to God’s mercy by giving the best of their time, talent, treasure and trust to Him.

TRANSFORMED NOT CONFORMED

Paul then calls his readers to be transformed by the work of the Holy Spirit into the image and character of Christ, rather than molded into the image of the world.

 J. B. Phillips, an English Bible Scholar and translator, translated Romans 12:2 in this way
Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity.

We are surrounded and literally bombarded daily with thousands of messages, images, encouragements of our culture that wants us to squeeze into the shape of the moment that too often contradicts with what who and what God’s calls us to be.

Sorting through all those messages to determine what is good, right and honoring to God is exhausting.

There is a constant pressure of our society to see our purpose in life as being consumers and hoarders of goods and services, rather than stewards and sharers of God’s gifts to us.

There is a constant pressure to think about yourself and no one else. There is pressure to believe that you are wiser than anybody else. Look how far that is getting our world these days.

There is a constant pressure to believe that you are the center of your personal universe and normal rules of good behavior don’t apply to you. That is until someone records you being a jerk on their cell phone and makes your selfish and harmful behaviour public on social media.

If you want to respond to God’s mercies by being a living sacrifice, then Paul says you will need to open yourself to the transforming power of God. Paul tells us we combat the negative influences of our culture by renewing how and what we think about.

The word that Paul uses for “renewing” our minds could also be translated “Renovate.” How many people have watched a “Home Renovation show on TV?” How many have tackled a “Home Renovation Project.”

It is a lot of work, it’s messy, but in the end, it is all worth it when you see the finished product.

Our minds are the “Renovation projects of the Holy Spirit.”

What we allow into our heads ultimately shapes who we are and what we become. We have a choice as to who the contractor for renovating our minds is going to be: The World or Jesus.

I don’t believe that the advertisers pushing their various wares on us, or politicians, or proponents of the latest fads care as much about us as God does.

Whatever we think and reflect upon will ultimate shapes how we feel, what we are passionate about, and what we do.

The Holy Spirit who knows both God and us, works to push us and prod us where we need it toward a life more in step with the wishes of God our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.

Paul, the overly-confident, self-righteous, former persecutor of the church, needed a dramatic Damascus road experience with God to turn his life upside-down-and-right-side-up.

Paul in his letter to the Philippians speaks of leaving his old life behind in order to embrace the new life with Christ that offered him.

Often it takes something dramatic, like a pandemic to get us to listen to God, to see how our culture is negatively affecting how we think in order for us to do the hard work of embrace more fully God’s timeless, practical and life-giving ways revealed in Christ. We do so because we want to respond to God’s mercy and to live in God’s good, acceptable, and growth promoting will.

In hard times you learn to determine . . .
• what is helpful to our relationship with God and others and what is not.
• What promotes peace and well being from what promotes anxiety and fear.
• What helps us to treasure what is important from that which has no or little value.

At a pivotal moment in his ministry, Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” The disciples answered what they had heard from others in their travels.

And then Jesus asked the greater question, “But who do you say that I am?”

And Peter responded with “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus then tells the disciples upon this important profession of their faith in Him, He would build his church. And nothing, not even the powers of evil would stop God from carrying his Kingdom desires and purposes on earth.

Today as we reflect upon our response to the mercies of God, I want to suggest we do two things this week:

1) Imagine each part of your day being done in the presence of Jesus. See how this affects or changes how you go through your day.

2) Every day this week read chapter 12 of Romans. Let Paul’s instruction guide you in how you respond to God’s mercies in one new way.

We do all this, being assured that God is guiding us to discern his will and that nothing, including this pandemic, will stop God’s mercy, love, and his Good News of Christ from reaching out to those need it through us.

To Father, Son and Spirit
be all glory, honor and praise.
Amen.

Song: “I know who holds the future”

Prayers of the People

We thank you, God,
For your daily mercies and provision.

We are humbled by the breath of your mercy shown to us in Christ life, suffering death and resurrection. We make no claim on love and your grace, but we welcome it as we need it.

WE thank you for Christ’s resurrection, we can live in the present with glad hearts, giving generously of all our varied resources, and look to the future, trusting the one who is with us always to the end of the age.

Holy Spirit we thank for your encouraging, convicting, comforting, guiding, transforming power and presence in our lives.

for the inspiration of those who have offered to us an example of faith, devotion, and Christ-like living.

For ourselves,
that our worship and our lives be Spirit-filled and joyful, and both an expression of the love and commitment we offer to Jesus.

for willingness to live for Jesus and with him in the nitty-gritty of every day.

that we take up the responsibility of sharing the glorious news of resurrection, which alone can comfort the grieving, sustain the suffering, and assure the dying.

For others,
for awakened awareness of need and calling for those who have lost a realization of the privilege and opportunity of worship you every day.

for those who struggle with the times we live in, for all struggle to remain emotionally and mentally healthy.

We especially pray for the mental and emotional health of our front line workers in this pandemic. Bring your quiet comforting peace to them.

Help us to take the important steps to keep ourselves emotionally and mentally healthy so we can serve, love, bless and witness to others in your name.

Schools, students, teachers, families, admin people preparing to help our children, teen and young adults return to school both in person and online.

Continue to the people of our communities to act wisely in these times, to continues to do those things that keeps others safe even our desire and will to do so fluctuates.

We pray for all who need your healing upon their bodies, relationships

For your church as continues to act as your hands, feet and voices during this time. We pray for guidance and direction to congregations preparing to return to in person worship.

Pause for silent prayer.

We ask these things in the name of Jesus Christ who taught us to pray…

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name, your kingdom come,
your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory
are yours now and forever. Amen.
Please join me in humming

Song: Take my Life and Let it be

Charge and Benediction (2 Thess. 2:16)

We go now to carry on God Mission in the world,
To love and honor God in all we do, think and say,
To Love our neighbors as ourselves, and
To be and make faithful followers of Jesus the Christ.

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself
and God our Father,
who loved us and through grace
has given us eternal comfort and good hope,
comfort your hearts
and strengthen them
in every good work and word.

Moment for Mission: World Humanitarian Day
Ravaged by almost three decades of conflict as well as recurrent droughts, Somalia’s population suffers from chronic food insecurity. Lacking access to basic necessities, many are vulnerable to disease and malnutrition. In response, Presbyterian World Service & Development (PWS&D) and Canadian Foodgrains Bank are providing vital humanitarian assistance to those in need. Pregnant and lactating women, as well as children under five, are being screened for malnutrition and receiving supplementary feeding. Additionally, the project is empowering vulnerable women with lessons about how to prevent further malnutrition, eat a balanced diet and maintain nutrition, providing them with the tools and knowledge they need to live a life full of nourishment.

PWS&D supports food security and nutrition

Prayer Partnership

Monday, August 24 We pray that we catch a glimpse today of God’s reconciling love so that we may not lose heart but get caught up in your mission for Christ’s sake.

Tuesday, August 25 We thank God for Canada’s fresh lakes and running rivers.

Wednesday, August 26 We pray for the PCC Archives staff as they endeavour to organize, preserve and make available the rich historical collection held in the archives, all of which serves to provide vital information to those within the denomination and also the general public.

Thursday, August 27 We thank God for ecumenical ministerials and councils. May the diverse gifts of the Body of Christ enrich and strengthen our ministry and mission.

Friday, August 28 We pray for congregations embarking on the New Beginnings congregational renewal process.

Saturday, August 29 We pray for The Presbyterian College in Montreal, Que., as it goes through a time of transition in leadership. May those involved be guided by the Spirit of God.

Wrestling with God (click here)

Bible Text: Genesis 32:22-31, Romans 7:14-8:2 | Preacher: Clay Kuhn | Series: Summer Series | Announcements:
To see a shortened version of this service go to either . . .
YouTube – St Paul’s Presbyterian, Banff, Alberta https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHak6P9gfWJAj3qd_GdDrPA
Facebook – Banff Presbyterian

Call to Worship (Psalm 130:1-8)

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice!

Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my supplications!
If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you,
so that you may be revered.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch
for the morning, more than those
who watch for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is great power to redeem.
It is he who will redeem Israel
from all its iniquities.
Let us worship God!

Opening Prayers
God of all glory,
on this first day of the week you began creation,
bringing light out of darkness.
On this first day you began your new creation,
raising Jesus Christ out of the darkness of death.
On this Lord’s Day grant that we,
the people you create by water and the Spirit,
may be joined with all your works
in praising you for your great glory.
Through Jesus Christ, in union with the Holy Spirit,
we praise you now and forever

Gracious God, we confess to you today, that like the Apostle Paul
we don’t always understand our own actions.
For we do not do what we know to be good,
but rather we do and say those things which we know to be wrong.
We wrestle with what you want us to do
and be and wrestle to be faithful and committed to you.
We confess too that we would rather relate
to the more gentle, comforting and peaceable aspects of your character
than to your disturbing, confronting, and challenging nature.
And yet O God, like Jacob of old,
we need your disturbing presence to wrestle with us
and challenge those things in our lives which are inconsistent
with what you have taught us through Christ.
Forgive us for wanting to hide from you because we fear combat;
we know your love is such
that you will not let us go until you fulfill your plan for us.
We seek your blessing and make us worthy recipients of that blessing.

Today, remind us the Good News of Christ that
God sent his son into the world not to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3:18)

Jesus himself bore our sins in his body on the cross,
that we might be dead to sin and be alive to all that is good. (1 Peter 2:24)

Almighty and Gracious God,
be pleased with the worship we offer you today.
This we pray in the name of Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Hymn: Love Divine all love excelling
words: Charles Wesley. music: HYFERDOL

Prayer for Understanding
Lord, fill us with the knowledge of your will
in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,
so that we may lead lives worthy of the Lord Jesus,
lives that are fully pleasing to him,
and live that will bear fruit in every good work
and as we grow in our knowledge of You.
In Christ we pray, Amen.

Scripture

Genesis 32:22-31 Jacob wrestles God before his meeting with his estranged brother Esau by the Jabbok River

Romans 7:14-8:2 Paul wrestles with his desire to do good while at the same time not doing good.

Sermon: Wrestling with God
In Genesis today we have a story of the Jacob’s of his wrestling match with God along the Jabbok River. This is quite fitting since Jacob means literally Jacob means “one who grabs by the heal”. This sound like a wrestling move, something akin to what my cousins used on me growing up.

When Jacob came out of Rebekah’s womb, he came out grabbing on to his brother’s Esau’s heal. The term later came to mean “one who tricks” or the “one who gets ahead by trickery.

Jacob’s whole life would be one of getting the upper hand or achieving his personal goals by whatever means possible. Jacob’s whole life reveals how much of a little heal grabber he is.

For example, Jacob cheats his brother Esau out his birthright, which included land, status, and a leadership role in the family. As a result Esau threatens to kill Jacob for his deception.

Jacob then flees and goes to live with his family in his grandfather Abraham old stomping ground in Haran. There Jacob is out-smarted by his father-in-law Laban into working twice as long for him in order to marrying both of his daughters, and not just the youngest daughter whom Jacob loves.

Jacob who will not be out-smarted by anyone. He succeeds in carrying out a plan to trick Laban out of the best of his herds. Laban’s sons are furious with Jacob. God tells Jacob to leave and go home to Canaan. When Laban and Jacob meet, they promise to keep their distance from each other.

In order for Jacob to go home, Jacob must first make peace with angry brother Esau. And so Jacob devises yet another plan to make that happen so he can claim the birthright of the land that God gave to Abraham and Isaac and which he stole from Esau.

To tell you the truth; Jacob is not the righteous role model we lift up to our children. He cheats, tricks, and swindles his way to wealth, power, and fame. Jacob truly lives up to his given name of the “heal grabber.”

At the Jabbok River, Jacob will stand face to face with the brother whom he has so grievously wronged.
Will Esau receive him or kill him?
Who would blame Esau if it did the latter?

When you first read the story, you can’t help but think this is going to be a bloody family reunion.

Jacob, the win at any cost son of Isaac, sends his wives, children, and animals on ahead as a test of Esau’s mood.

Jacob figures if he hears their screams across the Jabbok River, he’ll re-think the idea of a friendly reunion with Esau. Jacob again shows his true devious character.

On the night before he meets his estranged brother Esau, Jacob camps out under the sky and is left alone with himself and his thoughts. And there on the bank of the Jabbok River, a dark stranger assaults Jacob.

Who is the stranger who jumps Jacob in the night? Nobody knows. The storyteller only says in verse 24…
“a man wrestled with him until day.”
Is Jacob wrestling with his brother, locked here on the riverbank after midnight like they once were locked in the dark waters of their mother’s womb?

Is the stranger a demon, who has survived out there in no man’s land, resisting taming, and religion?

The nighttime opponent has no name and Jacob never sees its face for it is dark. But, by the end of this eventful night, Jacob will be convinced he has fought with his God (v. 30).

But the God with whom Jacob wrestles is not the gracious God of daylight, who blesses Jacob, who promises to make a great people of him. This is a terrifying force of the God of night. This is a God who shall not be appeased with flowery phrases in prayers. This is not a God to be stared at, picked apart, and discussed in religion classes. Jacob feared the wrath of his brother, but first he must endure the assault of his God.

The fight lasts all night. It was almost an even match for neither wrestler will have their way. You have to think to yourself,

“What a man Jacob must be to wrestle God and to almost triumph?”

And you have to wonder “what kind of god is this who is almost pressed to a draw by this man!”

Near dawn, gasping for breath, exhausted in conflict, and they are reduced to speech. Jacob clings to the dark stranger who he has wrestled with throughout the night.

“Let me go, day is breaking,” says the dark stranger.

“Bless me first,” says Jacob. Jacob as we know would do almost anything to get a blessing.

“Well what is your name?” asks the stranger. A kind of odd question to ask especially if you are God or an angel. There must be more going on than simply asking for a name. And there is.

For when Jacob confesses and declares, “I am Jacob,” You have to believe that since names generally reveal the character of the individual, as it does in this case, Jacob finally acknowledges who he truly is before God. It is as if he declares, …

“I am the Heal Grabber, the Trickster. I am the one who has spent his entire life trying get the upper edge on everyone and in every situation. This is who I REALLY am!

I don’t know of anything worse than to acknowledge that one is a Cheat, a Trickster, and a Heal.

The mysterious nighttime opponent, who we now know to be God, then declares,

“You are no longer called Jacob. You are Israel.
You have struggled with God and with humans
and have prevailed.”

Now Jacob, the “Heal Grabber” he is RE-NAMED “Israel” which means “God prevails, or God fights, or God Rules.” In the new name, given by the stranger, there is a new being. Power has shifted in God’s relationship with the world. A new man, a new people have been formed, and called forth by the will of God.

Jacob/Israel is the one who faced God, who has been gripped by God, prevailed, gained a blessing, and who has been re-named.

Jacob will continue to be Jacob, but we will see in the later chapters of Genesis, a dramatic change in which has taken place in his life.

When daylight came, God was gone and so was Jacob. Now, only Israel remains, walking with a permanent limp after his nighttime wrestling match. This was to be a permanent reminder of his encounter with God, who loved him enough to show him his true and unflattering self.

It was a reminder of how God made a new man, with new insight of himself and of his God. He is left with a profound blessing from God. That night, Israel was both blessed and wounded by God.

We see Jacob’s story of his wrestling match with God echoed in the Apostle’s Paul struggle with his sin in Romans 7. Here too in the midst of his struggle, Paul comes to hear the blessing of God’s words of assurance at the beginning of chapter 8…
“There is therefore now NO condemnation
for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Paul will write in his second letter to the Corinthians about how he bears a thorn in his flesh, for which there is much discussion about. Regardless of what it is, Paul proclaims that God’s grace is sufficient for him.

We hear Jacob’s story echoed in Jesus’ own wrestling match with God in the Garden of Gethsemane. Here the powers of God and the powers of evil battled for Jesus’ loyalty. Jesus struggled to be obedient to God’s call and to live up to his name and role as “God Saves.”

At the end of his wrestling match, Jesus decides to go to the cross for us in order to win for us God blessings of eternal and abundant life. And here too, Jesus would forever be marked by the signs of God’s victory over sin and death on his body.

I don’t know about you, but these stories of wrestling matches resonate within my spirit. We have all wrestled different aspects of our personalities both positive and negative. We have wrestled mentally, spiritually, emotionally with the pandemic and our response to it. We have wrestled with God crying out for answers and the resources to face the pandemic. Sometimes we have had the upper hand in the conflict and sometimes we have felt overwhelmed and out of control by it.

Jacob’s story, Paul’s story, and Jesus’ story encourage us to wrestle fearlessly with God and the important issues we face. We do so knowing that God will not abandon us to our fears, our weaknesses, our sins or our failures.

Jacob’s and Paul’s stories encourages us all the more to hang on and to wrestle God, until the Spirit’s work of inner transformation within us brings about the blessings of a changed person in us that God desires.

The result of our spiritual wrestling matches always leaves some permanent mark upon our lives, as it did with Jacob, Paul and Jesus. Those scars we carry remind of how much God loves us and is willing to wrestle with us to make the new people God desires us to be.

And in sharing our personal stories of our spiritual wrestling matches with God, we open the door for deeper discussions about how our wrestling with God can bring about a deeper relationship with God, ourselves and others.
Let us continue to wrestle boldly with God in these strange times of ours, in order to discover again the amazing nature of God’s persistent and amazing grace.
AMEN!
\
Song: Amazing Grace
words: John Newton, music: NEW BRITAIN

Moment for Mission
Making Space for a New Generation of Believers

The Well Church in Mississauga, Ont., started with a group of only 13 people. They were drawn together by their deep love of Jesus and a desire to share that love with others.
Inspired by a vision to become a welcoming space for second-generation immigrants, they developed a style of evangelism and worship that spoke to those they desired to reach.
Since the congregation started worshipping together three years ago, their community has grown and has become a home for many young people who had strayed from the church.
Please pray for the Well Church and the many other churches in The Presbyterian Church in Canada that are making space for a new generation of believers.
Presbyterian Sharing supports new faith communities

Prayers of the People

We thank you that you come to us when we least expect you to engage us powerfully in the life-changing struggle for our growth and good.

We thank you that you consider us worthy of wrestling and will not cease to struggle with us until we are conformed to the image and likeness of your Son.

We thank you that you leave us with reminders of deep and meaningful encounters with you,
for you give us the new name of Christian,
you give our lives purpose as participate with you
in blessing the world through our caring and service.,
and you enable us to walk in newness of life.

We thank you for all who are celebrating birthdays this month. Continue to bless them and meet each of their different needs. Help them to continue to grow and deeper in their relationship with you.

We pray for those who try by every means to avoid a life changing encounter with your grace.

We pray for the faint-hearted who endure so long with you, but then give up on the very verge of receiving your divine blessing for life.

We pray for deliverance for those who wrestle with destructive habits and attitudes.
We pray for those who long for the healing of their minds, bodies, souls, and memories.

We pray for ourselves for the grace to engage the darker sides of our personalities. Come to us with blessing and healing.

We pray for the courage to wrestle with the important issues of reaching out with your love to our communities,
and for the courage to be wounded and blessed in the process.

We pause to offer you our other concerns in silence . . .

We now join together to boldly pray as Jesus taught us to pray

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name, your kingdom come,
your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory
are yours now and forever. Amen..

Song: “O Jesus I have promised”
words: John Ernst Bode, music: ANGEL’S STORY

Charge and Benediction

Go out to participate with God
in being a blessing to our world
knowing that God is present
in the midst of your struggles
to shape and conform you
in the image and character of his Son.

The blessings of
the Wrestling God,
the victorious Christ,
and the empowering Spirit
is upon us now and forever more.
Amen

We bless each other using the words of the Spirit Song,

Prayer Partnership

Monday, August 3 We pray for new ministers in first pastoral charges.

Tuesday, August 4 We pray for congregational leaders who are taking vacation this month. May this be a time of rest and renewal.

Wednesday, August 5 We pray for the Assembly Council as it continues to give leadership to the denomination during these changing times. Give thanks for each member’s leadership and commitment to serving our church, and especially for the convener, Ms. Sandra Cameron Evans.

Thursday, August 6 (Anniversary of the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima) We remember the victims from the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 and pray to God for an end to the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Friday, August 7 We give thanks for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a guiding light on the path to justice and reconciliation.

Saturday, August 8 We pray for Indigenous women in Guatemala as Presbyterian World Service & Development works alongside them to improve empowerment and self-esteem.

The Parable of the Yeast / Leaven (click here)

Bible Text: Matthew 13:31-33, Matthew 13:44-52, Romans 8:24-30 | Preacher: Clay Kuhn | Series: Summer Series | Announcements:
To see a shortened version of this service go to either . . .
YouTube – St Paul’s Presbyterian, Banff, Alberta https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHak6P9gfWJAj3qd_GdDrPA
Facebook – Banff Presbyterian

Call to Worship (Based on Matthew 13:31-33, 44-53)
A small seed grows into a large tree,
the Kingdom of God is a home for all.
A field filled with treasure is bought,
the Realm of God is beyond price.
Yeast is kneaded into flour to make it rise,
the Kingdom of Heaven brings life.

A pearl of unsurpassed beauty is bought,
the Realm of God is worth waiting for.
A net that catches all the fish of the sea,
the Kingdom of God catches us all.
Let us worship the One, who teaches us
about the Kingdom of Heaven.

Opening Prayers
Our gracious and ever loving God,
we come in the midst of summer looking for refreshment.
We rest in the knowledge of the wonderful works you have done for us, We rest in your deep and abiding love for us and all people.
We rest in the work of Christ on the Cross on our behalf.

Search our hearts.
Fill our soul with your indwelling Spirit
who whispers to our soul that all will be well if we but trust in you.
Shine your light before us,
that we may see our path to you and to your kingdom on earth.
Merciful God:
Some days, we don’t know how to pray or what to pray to you.
Sometimes the words of “I am sorry God for …”
don’t easily come of our mouths.
Some days, we are afraid to be honest with you and with ourselves
About our sins, failures and lack of trust in you and your ways.
We are afraid to confront and confess the words, thoughts, actions,
of our lives that have not brought you praise and honor.
We are afraid to confront and confess the times
when we treasure things and other people more than you.
We are afraid and reluctant to confront and repent of
the areas of our lives that keep us
from following you as you desire.

We confess now in silence . . .

Lord have mercy upon us.
Help us to be brave and honest before you
That we might again experience anew Your saving grace
that forgives, renews, and changes us
into the people you created us to be,
Help us to be brave in following your ways of forgiveness
that free us from our past and which opens us
to the life in Christ you always offer to us.
Assure us once again that in Christ we are forgiven
And we are freed to love, serve, and follow you
With grateful and devoted lives.
In Christ, our Savior, we pray. Amen

Song: “Seek ye first” Words/ Music: Karen Lafferty

Prayer for Understanding
God of wisdom, you teach us with your love,
you touch us with your mercy,
and you challenge us with your truth.

Send us your Holy Spirit to help us understand
the depths of your Word speaking to us
through the scriptures this day. Amen.

Scripture
Romans 8:24-30 God at work in our lives through the Spirit, circumstance, and through Christ

Matthew 13:31–33, 44–52 More Parables of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Sermon:

I want to thank the Rev. Charles Hoffacker for his sermon on the Matthew text that helped shape this sermon.

In the name of the Father, Son, Holy Spirit. Amen.

In first my pastoral charge, every Sunday before the children headed off for Sunday School, I did a children’s sermon for them. The children’s sermon highlighted the main Scriptural theme for that Sunday.

On one Sunday after I talked about Jesus being a shepherd or one of the other many ways Jesus talked about himself, one of the children became angry with me. She said you have talked about Jesus being a friend, a farmer, a light, a loving parent, and she listed another half dozen things.

I was impressed that she remembered all the different things Jesus compared himself to.

Then she asked, “Can Jesus really be all these things to us at once?” My wife recalls, I responded by simply saying “Yes, he can.”

I don’t remember her being impressed with my answer to her. But young friend did have a good point. Why did Jesus use so many different ways of explaining himself and his Kingdom to us?

When we think about God, or Jesus it is far too easy to get trapped into thinking about God like some bearded Roman Zeus god-like deity hanging out in heaven, wherever heaven is. Or Jesus as a Robinhood like character wandering around the Sea of Galilee with his band of merry men.  

Jesus knew that the Kingdom of God, which was the focus of his teaching, was a huge concept for people to grab hold of and understand. And because of this what we needed were multiple pictures of the kingdom of God for even just a couple them to take root in our thoughts and imaginations.

In chapter 13, Matthew includes with Jesus parable of The Sower, Weeds growing the Wheat, five more additional parables or verbal pictures of the Kingdom of God. Jesus speaks of the kingdom of God as being like a mustard seed that grows into something large, a woman who bakes bread with yeast, a treasure that is hidden in a field, a merchant that finds a rare and valuable pearl, a net that catches different kinds of fish.  

You combine all the parables that are recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke and you have a pretty good picture of what the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven is like from Jesus. And what you see is something of God’s sovereign rule and gracious activity on earth that Jesus was announcing and demonstrating.

The parable of the yeast in the flour is a simple one, and is one of the shortest parables Jesus told. We can easily miss its importance of it like we do with a newly placed road sign on our regular travel routes.

The parable goes like this: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”

Three measures of flour. At first glance that doesn’t seem very much, but do you know how much that is? It is about eighty pounds or 36 kilograms of flour! That is enough flour to make 120 one-pound loaves of bread.

This woman is not a contestant on the British or Canadian Baking Show whipping up a couple delicate, frosting covered bit size biscuits that together weigh less than a canary. No, no. This woman is a baker, perhaps a farmer’s wife feeding her extended family, which would have included the farm hands. She is baking enough bread to share with her poorer neighbors as well.

She’s emptying sixteen five-pound bags of flour into the biggest mixing bowl you’ve ever seen. She is pouring in forty-two cups of water. She’s got a mass of dough on her hands that weighs over a hundred pounds.

Kneading this lump of dough, shaping it, pounding it. It looks like some scene from a professional wrestling match. We have a woman, with her apron dusted with flour, her ten fingers deep into the dough – who is a combination of a Martha Stewart and a professional wrestler.

“The kingdom of heaven,” Jesus says is the smallest part of the baking operation, but an essential one. The woman takes less then 1.5 lb of yeast and adds it to the 80 lbs of flours until all of it was leavened and ready to be baked.

Jesus tosses out this simple, one verse parable to help us gain another glimpse the kingdom of heaven, where God’s rule is recognized.

Take another look at that huge mass of dough. It’s not just flour any more. The yeast is in the dough, it’s invisible, but it spreads through the mass, and has its effect on the greater whole. Sounds like something else that’s been in the news a lot lately. But yeast has a positive effect on the other ingredients. It brings out the best in them.

There is this mystery that is bubbling away inside, with so much more happening than meets the eye.

As this process continues, the hidden will become visible. There’s no way to stop it! You can punch that dough all you want and it will keep rising on you.

The movement is from what is at first hidden to something that is finally revealed. Jesus presents this to us as the pulse of the kingdom of heaven.

Here is how God’s sovereignty becomes apparent: it resembles the strange transformation that turns flour into dough into bread.

We get to watch the baker woman at work. We’re invited to look at this process and see it for what it’s worth. But if we are to get a glimpse of the kingdom, then two things are asked of us:
1) We must be patient,
2) We must exercise discernment.

Yeast takes a while to work, and its working is mysterious. So we have to be patient as the dough rises and comes to life. This dough is not a dead, hopeless, shapeless lump, but instead it is a universe where opportunities become real.

God is a baker woman who is at work within our lives, our circumstances, and the people around us.

We are leavened with gift of God’s Presence through the Holy Spirit as Paul points out to us in Romans 8.

The Holy Spirit, like the yeast in the dough, is slowly expanding its positive and life-giving influence in us, and in many others.

We not only need to be patient with God working his Kingdom plans and goals within and with us, but we also need to exercise this same patience with one another and our circumstances. In some unseen way, in some purposeful fashion God is at work carrying out his redemptive plans for us and our world.

Just as yeast permeates the entire lump, so the kingdom is present everywhere, and everywhere it becomes visible for those with eyes to discern it.

Yeast is invisible and known by its effects, so the kingdom is hidden, concealed, buried deep in ordinary circumstances, yet known by its positive effects.

If we look around us and within us, we can recognize the presence of the God’s kingdom. That kingdom is at work, just as yeast is active in the dough.

Look at your life in the light of God’s grace. Something is there for you to find of God’s yeast bubbling, Kingdom building activity in your life,
whether you feel happy or sad,
whether your life seems successful or disastrous,
whether you are seeking God or doubting God.

And when you find the kingdom among the realities of your life, nothing prevents you from finding this same kingdom present as well . . . in the circumstances around you, in the lives of other people, and everywhere you choose to look.

We can see these times not as a threat to your life or to the mission of the church, but as an opportunity for us to grow in your love of God, your love of Neighbor and growth in your in participation in God’s Kingdom work happening through you each day.

There is however, one caution to always keep in mind. The kingdom does not come with brass bands. Nor is it the make headline news. Nor is it the result public-relations efforts. We are talking here about yeast working invisibly in the dough, bringing about God’s hidden yet effective activity.

As it takes faith to believe that bread will rise, so too it takes faith to see the kingdom visible in the everyday and the ordinary. We must exercise patience and discernment wherever God places us.

We will see that what seems like a dead lump is in fact bubbling with divine life and possibilities.

So may each of us go forth this week, and encounter places and people and circumstances, and look there for the kingdom:
not as distant, but near at hand;
not as obvious, but hidden;
not as static, but alive and becoming visible;
a kingdom making room for all of us.

When we look for the kingdom, then we find it present, abundantly present. And when we do, then we have more reasons to give thanks than we ever expected.

Thanks be to God for a small uplifting parable that helps to expands our thinking about the Kingdom of Heaven.
AMEN!

Song: I greet the, who my sure Redeemer art Sung by Moody’s Men’s Collegiate Choir
Words: John Calvin, Music: French Psalter, Strasbourg

Moment for Mission: Keeping Communities Hygienic

Presbyterian World Service & Development (PWS&D) helps ensure that countries affected by natural disasters have access to proper sanitation. In South Sudan, continuous rainfall that caused massive floods washed away homes and food supplies of hundreds of thousands of people. Waterways and latrines were also destroyed. Without proper sanitation, the chance of contracting deadly diseases like cholera and typhoid are much higher. With PWS&D’s support, 9,000 men and women are accessing clean water and adequate sanitation. Hygiene kits are distributed to families, along with training on improved hygiene practices.
Ensuring cleanliness and sanitation is vital to keep communities as healthy as possible while allowing them to continue to thrive.
PWS&D promotes sanitation programs for a healthy community

Prayers of the People

Good and generous God,
In Jesus Christ you came to us, promising us life in abundance.
We give you thanks today for the abundant gifts we receive in him:
Assurance of your love day by day;
Relief of mercy when we recognize our own failings;
Hope renewed when things seem bleak;
Peace that comes when we trust ourselves to your eternal keeping.
These are the gifts that matter, O God, so for all the times we experience these gifts we thank you in these moments of silence:
(Keep silence for at least 10 seconds)

Generous God, the world is going through difficult times this summer.
So we pray for all whose lives seem empty of joy:
Because plans have changed, and friends seem far away.
Because hearts are filled with disappointment and loneliness.
Because sorrow and grief rise up each day.
Support each one we name in this silence with your abundant compassion:
(Keep silence for at least 10 seconds)

Generous God, so many things must be rearranged because of the pandemic and what it has revealed.
We pray for those whose lives are empty of purpose,
and for those who do not know the respect of their neighbours:
Because they are without work.
Because they face discrimination and are devalued in our communities.
Because they have made poor choices and cannot find a way forward.
Support each one we name in this silence with your abundant mercy and show them signs of hope:
(Keep silence for at least 10 seconds)

Generous God,
We remember before you in silence those who lives are empty of peace and hope:
Because they struggle with illness or disability.
Because they are powerless in the face of violence.
Because old animosities rankle and opportunities for reconciliation are elusive.
(Keep silence for at least 10 seconds)

Loving God, you are so faithful and generous to us.
We dedicate the gifts we have offered to you in Jesus’ name this week
of our time, talent, treasure, trusting that you will bless them and us,
so that your goodness is multiplied to touch the lives of those in need,

Good and generous God, fill us with the energy and compassion of your Spirit to reach out to those facing difficult times.
May we become the gift we have received in Jesus for it is in his name we boldly pray, saying…

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name, your kingdom come,
your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory
are yours now and forever. Amen..

Song: The Love of God Comes Close Words: John Bell, Music: Claude Maule

1. The love of God comes close
where stands an open door,
to let the stranger in,
to mingle rich and poor.

The love of God is here to stay,
embracing those who walk the Way;
the love of God is here to stay.

2. The peace of God comes close
to those caught in the storm,
forgoing lives of ease
to ease the lives forlorn.

The peace of God is here to stay,
embracing those who walk the Way;
the peace of God is here to stay.

3. The joy of God comes close
where faith encounters fears,
where heights and depths of life
are found through smiles and tears.
The joy of God is here to stay,
embracing those who walk the Way;
the joy of God is here to stay.

4. The grace of God comes close
to those whose grace is spent,
when hearts are tired or sore
and hope is bruised and bent.
The grace of God is here to stay,
embracing those who walk the Way;
the grace of God is here to stay.

5. The Son of God comes close
where people praise his name,
where bread and wine are blest
and shared as when he came.

The Son of God is here to stay,
embracing those who walk the Way;
the Son of God is here to stay.

Charge and Benediction

We go now to carry on God Mission in the world,
To love and honor God in all we do, think and say,
To Love our neighbors as ourselves, and
To be and make faithful followers of Jesus the Christ.

“Grace and peace
be yours in abundance,
through the knowledge
of God and of Jesus our Lord.” (2 Pet. 1:2)

We bless each other using the words of the Spirit Song,

Have great week. Stay safe! 

Prayer Partnership

Monday, July 27 We pray for those in the Order of Diaconal Ministries who are called to serve the church in areas of Christian education, pastoral care and social ministries.

Tuesday, July 28 We pray that our hearts may be open and generous so that we might make stewardship a way of life.

Wednesday, July 29 We pray for the ministries and mission of the Presbytery of Montreal.

Thursday, July 30 (World Day Against Trafficking in Persons) We pray for all victims and survivors of human trafficking. We give thanks for those who work diligently to end all forms of human trafficking.

Friday, July 31 We pray for the strength and commitment to protect the earth in all its beauty and wonder.

Saturday, August 1 We pray for the ministries and mission of the Presbytery of Western Han-Ca.

The Problem with Weeds (click here)

Bible Text: Matthew 13:24-30, Matthew 13:36-43 | Preacher: Clay Kuhn | Series: Summer Series | Announcements:
To see a shortened version of this service go to either . . .
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Call to Worship

One: We gather in the presence of God.
All: We gather to worship and praise.

One: We gather in joy and expectancy.
All: We gather in beauty and wonder.

One: Speak, Lord, for your servants are listening.
All: Speak your Word of life to us, O God.

Opening Prayers
Creator God, in you we live and move and have our being:
You alone have been our help and guide through good times and bad.
You alone give us the strength we need to face the challenges around us.
You alone will be rest for our bodies and souls.
To you we turn for wisdom;
in your presence we will find the peace and comfort we long for.
Fill us with your Spirit in this time of worship;
Open our minds and hearts,
so that we may see as you see, love as you love,
and follow your ways for the sake of Christ our Lord.

God who sees and knows our inmost thoughts and our thoughtless actions,
The truth of our lives is this:
we are often impulsive and do not seek your wisdom;
we are often stubborn and do not practice mercy;
we are often arrogant and do not act with love;
we are often anxious and do not trust in you.

Forgive who we have been, amend who we are, and direct who we shall be
For the sake of Christ, our Lord we pray.
Amen.

Assurance of Pardon
Dear friends, remember that God
is slow to be angry and quick to forgive;
kind and gracious to all.
Know that your sins are forgiven through the grace of Jesus Christ,
and forgive those who have sinned against you as he taught us.
Amen.

Song: “Come ye thankful people come” Words: Henry Alford, Music: Job Elvey

Prayer for Understanding

God of wisdom, your thoughts are not our thoughts, your ways are not our ways. As we listen to the scriptures, stir our hearts and minds with the Holy Spirit so that we understand your desire for the world and resolve to do your will in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Scripture

Isaiah 55:6-9: God’s thoughts are not our thoughts.

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-40: Parable of the Wheat and Weeds and its meaning.

Sermon: The Problem with Weeds

If you are a gardener or enjoy the gardens of others, you know that it is next to impossible to have a weed free environment. The issue of what to do with weeds is an issue that every gardener, farmer and landscaper faces.

This is exactly the question that our passage from Matthew asks? But Jesus in our parable of the wheat and the weeds takes this problem of weeds and points us to something deeper.

The people Jesus was talking to knew all about the problem of weeds or tares in the wheat crop. They lived close to the land. They depended on a good growing season to provide them with their basic food needs.

There was no such thing as rushing out to the local grocery store or bakery to grab a fresh loaf of bread. You bought your flour from local farmers and you made your own bread.

Jesus grew up in a small town and probably knew the farmers who sold him his flour name for his daily bread. Surely, he would have asked questions about the crop. He obviously knew how difficult it was to tell the young bearded darnel weed from the young bearded wheat. They look almost exactly alike until the time of harvest. Jesus knew how the crop would be damaged if you tried to separate the two before the time of harvest.

Jesus knew the problem of weeds.

But weeds are more than bearded darnel grass or funny unwanted things coming up in our gardens. Jesus wasn’t advising his listeners how to be good farmers or how to increase the yield in your vegetable gardens. In this parable, he was talking about the kingdom of God, and more specifically about his promise to those who worry about being choked out by evil they saw in their world.

In an old Peanuts cartoon, Charlie Brown is confronted by Lucy, who says to him,
“Charlie Brown,you are crabgrass in the lawn of life.”

For Lucy, in her anger, Charlie Brown is a hindrance, undesirable; a sore spot that keeps life from being what she thinks it ought to be.

In the context of Jesus’ ministry, Jesus had faced criticism, challenges, and opposition from local Pharisaic leaders who questioned Jesus’ words and actions at every turn. They were rather weed-like in the ministry of Jesus.

Perhaps the disciples despaired that the pharisees voices would overwhelm the good that Jesus was teaching and demonstrating.

Perhaps we may feel that same way the competing voices and foolishness of our age that seem to work against the efforts, wisdom, and guidance of people working to control and overcome Covid-19 virus.

We too may wonder why people in our communities don’t embrace the wisdom of loving your neighbor by wearing a mask and practicing safe distancing.

Jesus narrows down the definition of weeds to elements within the community of faith that work against God’s plans and mission of caring for people and connecting people to God.

I don’t know why there are elements within each of our different church communities and denominations that are forever troubled by how broadly or narrowly we should draw the boundaries of the contemporary church.

Who do we and who should we embrace or not embrace as a brother or sister in Christ?

Who is accepted or not accepted by God, and why?

What criteria do we use to include or exclude?

At one point in the life of the church, much of what we accept in our life and worship today would have put us at odds with some part of the church, such as a Bible in English, hymns that aren’t Bible quotes, believing the bread and juice are transformed into the actual body and blood of Christ, women in leadership, etc. The first major fight of the early church was whether or not to include non-Jews or Gentiles into the life and leadership of the church (see Acts 15). And we have would been excluded as being unacceptable to God for what we are, believe, and do.

There always seems to be elements within the church that want to get rid of what is perceived to be weeds that are growing up alongside the wheat.

Sadly, the church is not made up of perfect people, including ourselves. It never has been and never will be until Christ returns.

I can understand why the servants of the parable and why we as readers of it want Jesus to give us some clear cut direction as to how we deal with the fact that there are weeds growing up in the midst of the church and world. The servants are confident that they have the ability to go into the field and remove the weeds from the wheat. That would forever the resolve the problem of who is in and who is out in the church.

And wouldn’t it be great if that were the case for us. But, Isaiah declared for God,

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Is 55:8-9)

In other words, God is God and we are not. We lack the ability and perception to carefully remove the weeds from the wheat.

The master in Jesus’ parable tells his servants not to go into the fields and remove the weeds from the wheat. The master of the parable declares,
“for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest” (vv. 28–29).

Let both grow together until the harvest, he says, because one cannot always tell about these plants.
There is a wise strategy in these words of restraint of the master. They move away from being overly confident to discern who is in and who is out and opens the door to make room for one what one commentator calls “a holy and purposeful, wise and intentional ambiguity.” (Theodore Wardlaw, Feasting on the Word)

The servants, like us at times, want Black and White answers to the problem of weeds within the church and world. And God from his vantage point of his infinite grace and patience, allows weeds and wheat to grow together until the time of harvest. At that point, the wheat and weeds will have revealed themselves for what they truly are and can be easily separated from each other.

This parable models for us the infinite patience of God with the world, which frees us to get on with the crucial business honoring God by loving our neighbors, some of whom we like and others whom we have trouble loving.

The infinite patience of God with us and our world pushes and challenges us to grow in our patience with one another and with ourselves. This too is how we are called to love another in these difficult times of ours. It is far too easy to complain about the weeds in our world than to love them patiently as God has demonstrated to us. It far to easy to point out the speck in another’s eyes, while not dealing with the huge logs in our eyes.

The picture of the strange and blessed mixture of weeds and wheat growing together until harvest is not just a glimpse of the faithful church in our own time, but is finally a glimpse of the future judgment at the end of time as we know it.

Theodore Wardlaw in the Feasting on the Word Commentary, writes,
At this level, the text points us to a God who does not merely tolerate endlessly a world that is a mixture of good and evil, faith and faithlessness, triumph and tragedy,
but who finally, in God’s own good time, acts both to judge and to redeem the world.

Christians believe that, for the sake of this hurting and impatient world, and through Jesus Christ our Lord, God’s realm will at last be completed and revealed in all its fullness. Meanwhile, this realm is thriving in us, around us, and even, miraculously, sometimes through us; and God is pleased to let all of it “grow together until the harvest” (v. 30).

Jesus frequently compared the Kingdom of God to living and growing things, likes seeds that are sown and produce on different kinds of soil, a small seed grows into a large tree that houses other forms of life. He speaks of a woman who puts a tiny bit of yeast into dough so it rises and expands in order to make many loaves of bread.


The Kingdom of God continues to grow as God wishes it grow with His patient support and oversight of it. God has his reason for the ambiguity of allowing the weeds to grow alongside wheat that we have difficulty understanding and accepting. The parable reminds us that God will is in control of the situation so we don’t have to worry about.

There is so much more work that we are called to do on God’s behalf than to waste our time trying to determine who is within and who is beyond God’s love and attention. Thankfully, God has that authority and responsibility and we don’t.

Freed from that responsibility, our job is very straightforward and unambiguous:
• to love and welcome whoever God puts in front of us
• to love the people who God’s sends out to love.
• to help people connect with Christ in a life changing way.

Let us Listen to what Jesus is teaching each of us in this challenging parable of the Wheat and the Weeds.
AMEN!

Song: “How Great Thou Art” Words: Carl G. Boberg, translation: Smart K. Hine,
Music: Swedish folk melody. Sung by Chris Rice

Moment for Mission: Meeting Milestones
In Haiti, more than half of the total population is chronically undernourished, the majority of whom are children. Drastic, unpredictable weather changes caused by climate change have left many families food insecure. Many are not able to produce enoug h nutritious food for their families to consume. Presbyterian World Service & Development (PWS&D) works with local partners to bring nutrition to those who are suffering from malnourishment. Life-saving mobile clinics have been established to detect and treat malnutrition. Since the project began, 3,400 children have been treated, giving them the chance to regain their strength, meet developmental milestones and lead a healthy life.

PWS&D supports healthy futures

Prayers of the People

God who is full of kindness and love,
hear our prayers for the world, for one another, and for ourselves:

For this congregation and for the church around the world: that we may be faithful and courageous in the face of all challenges that arise day by day;
Lord, have mercy. Hear our prayer.

For mercy, justice, understanding, and peace in relationships between nations: that in this time of anxiety about the future there will still be generosity for all in need.
Lord, have mercy. Hear our prayer.

For those who work in fields and forests, in mines and offices, in hospitals, schools and shops; and for those who cannot find work: that as the economy is reorganized, all who do work will be fairly treated and those seeking work will not lose hope.
Lord, have mercy. Hear our prayer.

For those who travel by land, air and on water, and for those on vacation taking time to explore your creation: that as we recover from the pandemic we will remember to cherish the earth and treat it wisely.
Lord, have mercy. Hear our prayer.

For those who are teachers and students, for schools, colleges and universities, who plan for a new season of learning in challenging times: that creativity and commitment will lead to discoveries about the world you love and the truth rooted in your wisdom.
Lord, have mercy. Hear our prayer.

For all those in danger and need: for the sick and the dying, the poor and the oppressed, for those standing up against injustice, and for all still at risk from COVID-19.
Lord, have mercy. Hear our prayer.

For those who are closest to us, for friendships that have stood the test of many years, and for those who love us enough to tell us the truth about ourselves: that they may know our love and appreciation.
Lord, have mercy. Hear our prayer.

God who guides and directs all things keep us
Ever faithful, in the midst of our doubts,
Ever courageous, in the midst of fears,
Ever loving, in the midst our selfishness,
Ever patient with you and with others,
Ever dependent upon your strength and resources,
Ever trusting of you to work out your plans in our world.
Help us to be your shining lights in our world.
Lord, have mercy. Hear our prayer.

We offer you these prayers in the name of Jesus Christ,
using the words he taught us to pray…

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name, your kingdom come,
your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory
are yours now and forever. Amen..

Song: “The Kingdom of God is justice and joy” Words: Bryn A. Rees, Music: Paul Bateman

Charge and Benediction (John Newton)

We go now to carry on God Mission in the world,
To love and honor God in all we do, think and say,
To Love our neighbors as ourselves, and
To be and make faithful followers of Jesus the Christ.

May the grace of Christ our Saviour,
And the Father’s boundless love,
With the Holy Spirit’s favour,
Rest upon you from above.

We bless each other using the words of the Spirit Song,

Have great week. Stay safe!


Prayer Partnership

Monday, July 20 We give thanks for Louise Gamble as she returns to Owen Sound, Ont., after serving 13 years as a volunteer with the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan.

Tuesday, July 21 We pray for ministers who are seeking to discern God’s call to ministry. May they find friends and a comfortable sense of belonging as they adjust to their new environment.

Wednesday, July 22 We pray for the work of the Canadian Ecumenical Anti-Racism Network as it supports church communities working for racial justice across Canada.

Thursday, July 23 We pray for the presbyteries as their moderators, clerks and members seek ways to support each other and to support congregations within their ministries with care and wisdom.

Friday, July 24 We pray for ministers, elders and church workers who are taking much-needed vacations. May they be refreshed and re-energized.

Saturday, July 25 We pray for the ministries and mission of the Presbytery of Kootenay.