Live in Harmony
ST ANDREW’S PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
August 30, 2020
LIGHTING OF THE CHRIST CANDLE
ENTRY OF THE WORD
- We welcome Rev. Shirley Cochrane to the pulpit this morning and thank her for leading us in worship today.
- Rev. Ena van Zoeren will be back from holiday Monday morning (August 31st) and we pray that Rev. Ena has been refreshed and renewed in body and spirit.
- The Session of St. Andrew's will meet in the Greening room of the church on Wednesday Sept. 2nd, at 10 am.
- September's Loonie offering is going to "Doctors Without Borders" to see more info on this check out the "Recent Posts" to the right.
CALL TO WORSHIP
We give you thanks, O Lord, with all our hearts
for your faithful love ensures forever.
We sing your praise, O Lord, with all our might
for your promises speak of your goodness to all the earth.
We place our trust in you, O Lord, with full confidence
for your salvation continues from generation to generation.
And so, we come to worship you, O Lord, and lift up our hearts in praise.
HYMN 78 This is the day (click the blue text for YouTube music, sorry there may be advertising)
PRAYER OF ADORATION
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. Although you satisfy our deepest desires, O God, we confess together that we have often turned away from you:
UNISON PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Merciful God, we confess that we have strayed from your purposes. You set a path for us to follow, but we conform to the ways of this world. You offer us your transforming love, but we cling to familiar patterns and habits. You give each of us gifts to use for the work of your kingdom, but we wait for others to do what needs doing. Forgive us for taking the easy way out and failing to serve you with eager hearts. We ask in the precious name of Jesus AMEN
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
Friends in Christ, St. Paul declared that from now on, we regard no one from a human point of view. If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation. Everything old has passed away. See, everything has become new! Thanks be to God that we can all make a new start through God’s grace.
May the peace of Christ be with you! Please extend the peace of Christ to those around you in a loving, socially distanced, wave.
HYMN 475 I am the church
Psalm 105; 1-8
1 Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
2 Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
3 Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
4 Look to the Lord and his strength;
seek his face always.
5 Remember the wonders he has done,
his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,
6 you his servants, the descendants of Abraham,
his chosen ones, the children of Jacob.
7 He is the Lord our God;
his judgments are in all the earth.
8 He remembers his covenant forever,
the promise he made, for a thousand generations,
Romans 12: 9-21
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Matthew 16: 21-28
21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.
28 “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
SERMON Live in harmony
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 scriptures so that we may encounter you as we listen for your living Word. Amen.
When I moved to north western Alberta, there were still enough teens to form a youth group. Maria kept using the letters WWJD. I, in my ignorance asked her “what does this mean? “She looked at me in horror saying “You’re a minister and you don’t know what this means? I kinda cringed and said “no” It’s “What would Jesus do !!! OK!
Our text from Romans this morning is quite challenging. Paul writes to encourage God’s people to live in their calling, but his words can be overwhelming. “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil. Hold fast to what is good. Love one another…be fervent in spirit…rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer”. This is only a small portion of what he writes in the first three verses. His list goes on and on. In fact, it includes 30 little commands or sayings to encourage us.
Listening to his words, it is easy to feel exhausted. It is easy to feel unworthy. It is easy to wonder if the Holy Spirit could ever form within us all of these desires of God. Paul’s list leaves us wondering, “Where do we start? What should we pay attention to? What is a Christian to do with all of these words?”
We live in a strange world. Actually, I am at a loss as to descriptive words for the state of the world right now in an earlier sermon I referenced this to being in “a perfect storm” However there are more facets than just three intersecting phenomena. Worldwide every aspect of our lives has been, disrupted, deteriorated, or. displaced. Decades of pain, frustration, anger, sadness and hopelessness have come to a head
Humans seem to have the need to be jolted from the 'reality of our own making or imagining' into a reality over which we have no control. Certainly, our comfortable realities have been jolted with the rise and effects of COVID19, not just here in North America but throughout the world. The sudden surge for recognition of social and racial equality is also not just a phenomenon occurring in the United States but is a movement manifesting itself the world over.
When a people in our society begin to wonder if they matter, Jesus says a resounding “Yes! You matter! I came that you might have abundant and eternal life.”
As they walk in the region of Caesarea Philippi, Peter and the disciples ponder Jesus’ question: “Who do you say that I am?” Not limiting himself to the options offered by “others,” Peter proclaimed his answer: Jesus is the Messiah, the son of the living God.
Peter got it right. But in the next instant, Peter gets it wrong. Wrong enough, Jesus suggests, for him to be in league with Satan. Security. Influence. Power. It is hard to resist their glorious lure.
Perhaps that is Peter’s challenge. He cannot help thinking that his close association with the Messiah will right all that is wrong about the world. But Jesus’ announcement of the death-dealing events about to unfold in Jerusalem point to anything but the glory of security, influence, or power. Peter (for one of several times in his life) gets one of those jolts in this text
What Jesus quickly announces as lacking is a recognition of God’s way of dealing with the situation. Peter is the recipient of blessing (Matthew 16:17), but now, he is putting his own thoughts ahead of the ways of God, which makes him a stumbling block—a hindrance to Jesus’ mission. Nevertheless, and this is significant, Jesus does not break relationship with him. Instead, he reminds Peter of the proper place for a follower.
Now hear the rest of what Jesus says. It may not be a rebuke. It may actually be an invitation. Trust God. Trust Jesus. If you hold too tightly to the things God has provided you—trusting the gift and not the giver—you could lose everything. But God is faithful. If you search for God’s light in the darkness there will be a flicker of hope. The scenario may not as we planned. But the promise is trustworthy; so there is no need to conspire with evil-doers. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer (Romans 12:12).
Instead of claiming the privileges of Sonship to call on God’s angels for his own benefit, Jesus uses his privilege to save, heal, and restore the lives of sick and marginalized persons. Instead of grasping after worldly varieties of power and authority, he opens the kingdom of the heavens to all who would follow after him in the way of righteousness. He shows the falsehood of the world’s measures of authority. Along the way, he reveals what it looks like to serve in the ways of God.
Like other Pauline letters, Romans 12:9-21 focuses on the humanization of the gospel and the church. According to Paul, the gospel affirms all human beings and its preaching in the church must equip people to appreciate diversity in all its forms. We all have hidden biases, and we have to work to try to see things from other people’s perspectives.
Having cautioned Christian practitioners to be transformed and renewed in their minds, attitudes, and entire conscience, the Apostle Paul makes a clear call around the essence of love, and summons readers of the letter to employ love as an instrument that opens the door of hospitality and faith.
Biblical love has a ruggedness about it, mixed with the tenderness of the deepest commitment of the will to the object of divine grace. It is holy love, free, distinguishing, and gracious. “Let love be genuine. Using love as a basis and center of Christian living, the Apostle Paul encourages Christians to cultivate love as a virtue for both social and holy life. Genuine love, as Paul calls it, is not a one-time achievement, but a sought-after virtue enacted through daily practice and prayer (Romans 12:9-10).
Paul tells us about self-sacrificial love in the first five verses. First of all, it is a genuine love that cares for others and their needs. It does not focus on us or demand anything in return for what it does for another. Simply put, it puts others first. Paul says a self-sacrificial love also abhors what is evil. It despises and repulses evil acts and deeds. It is a love that does not seek to harm or avenge oneself. A self-sacrificial love is one that shows a brotherly love to others. A brotherly love sees people as all alike and on the same level. It does not have favorites. This love transcends our immediate family ties and does not depend on natural or ethnic bonds. In fact, it does not even consider it! Isn’t this what our world needs?
This love according to Paul, shows honor and respect. It doesn’t wait to be honored, but it makes the first move in honoring others He writes that a sacrificial love obviously includes a love for God that comes from the Holy Spirit. This love leads one to serve God with the talents and gifts that one has been given. Lastly, a sacrificial love looks out for the needs of others and shows hospitality. It looks for opportunities to serve, and it goes out of its way to do so.
Paul calls upon his readers to be loving, zealous, generous, and humble. They are to meet the needs of others even if the people in need are their enemies. The people to whom Paul writes are all of the people of the church. Paul is shaping a ministry of the laity.
Sadly, the church quickly forgot Paul’s teaching. Ministry became the calling of the ordained and the leaders of the church. Regular lay members of the congregation were relegated to ushering, teaching Sunday school, and cleaning. Young people were dressed in little white robes and told to light the candles on the altar. Only ordained ministers—clergy— could preach, baptize, visit the sick, take communion to the home bound, and teach adult classes.
The course of human history and the history of our nation are stained by injustice, slavery, the treatment of native peoples; The struggle for suffrage to minorities and women; the denial of civil rights. Racial hatred and sexist discrimination still exist today. Systems seem rigged against the poor and in favor of the powerful. However, we must also understand that the scourge of racism is not only advanced by cruel acts of violence through police brutality, lynching and murder; it is also advanced by structural racism which has produced health disparities, economic disparities and achievement gaps
Paul encourages us to stand together. When others around us are besieged by oppression, we identify with them. We strive to understand their position. As they weep, we weep with them. When they rejoice, we cheer with them. There is great strength in solidarity. Finally, Paul forbids vengeance. Hatred and rage are not to corrode our spirits. Facing injustice on a daily basis can lead to anger and ill feelings. It acts like acid and destroys everything it touches. We do not meet rage with rage; we do not demonize our enemy. To do so is to submit to the downward pull of evil. We bless, we do not curse. Evil can only be overcome by good.
A poster made by 18-year-old Keyra Horst-Moore from the Chicago area says: “Not all blacks are criminals. Not all whites are racists. Not all cops are bad. Ignorance comes in all colors” [Internet]
Internationally, protesters in over 60 countries have rallied opposition to worldwide racism and police brutality, and expressed solidarity with their counterparts in the United States.
There still is systemic racism, even though many laws have been passed to get rid of racism and oppression, there still needs to be changes in police practices, educational opportunities, adequate housing for minorities across our country, and so much more.
We all need perspective and understanding – we need to be able to hear and understand each other. We need to avoid extremes and we need to avoid painting everything with too broad a brush.
I came across this story about John Reed, a man who drove a school bus in Australia. The bus carried both whites and aborigines and the boys on the bus were constantly fussing and fighting about their racial differences. Finally, John had heard all the bickering he could stand between the boys.
He stopped the bus on the side of the road,turned and said to the white boys, “What color are you?” The boys answered, “White.” John said, “No, you are green. All the boys who ride on this bus are green. Now, what color are you?” The white boys answered, “Green.”
Then John spoke to the aborigines and said, “What color are you?” “Black,” they said. a. “No, you are green. All the boys who ride on this bus are green. Now, what color are you?” The aborigines answered, “Green.”. That seemed to bring an end to the bickering and fussing — for a while.
Several miles down the road, one of the boys said to the others, “All right, light green on this side of the bus, dark green on that side.” Then the fussing started all over again.” [Kent Hughes borrowed from David Sargent’s sermon “I Wish All People were Green—internet]
Do you wish that all people were green? Maybe then, we would realize that we were all created by God. “What color of skin did Adam & Eve have?” What made Adam and Eve God’s special creation was not the color of their skin; it was something far more significant - they were made in God’s image.
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So, God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Gen. 1:26-27)
But in spite of the fact that all humans are equally made in God’s image, all humans have not been treated equally with regard to love and justice. Sadly, it has been a problem throughout history in all parts of the world. Every day we hear of increasing violence against black people erupting with volcanic force in the USA.
So instead of more violence, which in turn inspires violence more in return, we need to seek justice in a way that promotes peace, which is at the heart of God. Jesus makes this one of the main attributes of a Christian.
The definition of empathy is the action of understanding and being sensitive to another person; to vicariously experience their feelings, thoughts, and experiences; in other words, we need to put ourselves in their place. Walk a mile in their shoes so to speak.
As a believer in Jesus, this is what I need to do, because in so many ways I never have experienced what others have. But I do know far too many have literally been brutalized and abused by those in authority, just because of their gender, the color of their skin, their nationality, or because of their faith.
We need to have greater understanding and empathy for others, because frankly we don’t know what they have gone through. As Christians that is how we are told to conduct ourselves. We are told to pursue peace with all people, (all, no matter where they are from, or their race, nationality, faith or gender) The Bible says that besides pursuing peace, we’re to pursue holiness as well (Hebrews 12:14).
A white man named Jared Price wrote: “If you are a Christian, and can't hear #BlackLivesMatter without feeling the need to respond with a criticism that “All Lives Matter,” then crack open your Bible and hit up Luke 15. Let me summarize. There are 100 sheep, but one goes missing. Jesus leaves the 99 and goes after the one. The 99 say: ‘But... what about us? Don't we matter?’ Of course, the 99 still matter, but they’re not the ones in danger. The one is.”
Author Kia Nilsen wrote: “I used the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’ in a social media post earlier this week. As happens each time I use the phrase, someone asks, ‘Why not just say “all lives matter?”’ Here is my quick response: When one of my four kids got hurt, it didn’t seem to make sense to say to them, ‘All my kids matter.’ In that moment, I embraced them and said, ‘You matter. Your pain matters. Your healing and return to health matters.’ That doesn’t diminish my love for my other kids. It expands my capacity to love as I live with another person’s pain. yes, all lives matter –,” including the lives of the unborn, the disabled, the displaced, the incarcerated, the elderly – I have in mind everyone. But at certain times, certain ones need our special attention and assistance.”
Jesus did the same thing in his ministry. He didn’t say, ‘all people matter.’ He went to those who were hurting, who’d been denied a place at the table, who had been cast out of community and said ‘You Matter.’ Samaritans matter. Women matter. Tax collectors matter. Lepers matter. Did that mean he loved other people less? By no means. His life and ministry expanded the vision and capacity of his followers to love as they broke down the religious and cultural walls that had long divided people
So, let’s take Paul’s admonition who said that we are to do everything we can to live at peace with everyone, in other words, there is no exceptions. this is our responsibility, to be those peacemakers. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)
This truly is one of the hallmarks of being a Christian. It’s not so much about how much we pray or read the Bible as it is about how we get along with others. It’s by our love that they’ll know that we are Christians.
In relationships we get hurt and we hurt others; accidentally or intentionally, but hurt happens. The Apostle James says, “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:17) We need to build bridges, not bomb them. What can we do together to make right the wrong?
One last point and that is many people think they have the peace of God in their heart, when in reality, what they have is only a ceasefire. It’s where they keep God at a distance, and if God isn’t bothering them then they’re at peace. But this isn’t peace, rather it’s a false peace and it isn’t going to last.
And while I am in agreement that all injustice should be dealt with, it should be done in a way that is productive and doesn’t promote more violence and injustice, which is WWJD.
To God be the glory! AMEN
HYMN 767 – Lord, speak to me
The apostle Paul reminds us that we all have gifts to share. When we give, we give generously. When we feel compassion for those in need, we give cheerfully. Let us share what we have to offer to God generously and cheerfully, so that God’s good work may continue.
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!
O God, bless the offerings we make today, as well as the time, talent, and concern we will offer you this week. Keep our hearts free of worry so that we can give what we have freely, trusting your Spirit to accomplish more than we can ask or imagine in Christ’s name. Amen.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Life-giving God, you equip your people with gifts to work for your kingdom, bringing justice and peace to every land and community.
Through your Spirit, O God, you give the gift of prophecy. Help us to use this gift to speak words of justice and truth into situations where people are exploited or treated unfairly. Guide our actions so that we might influence change for good in the world, and bring hope to the hopeless.
You give the gift of serving, O God, in the example of your Son Jesus. Help us to use this gift to serve those who have been cast aside by structures of power and privilege. Increase our awareness of injustice and our dedication to work with those who suffer its effects. May the abundance we share in our country touch every life and community in this land.
God of wisdom, you give the gift of teaching. Help us to use this gift to ensure that every child has access to education and opportunity. Be with every teacher and every student in the coming months as schools adapt to the challenges of COVID-19. Support creative teaching and diligent learning in every school and centre for learning. In this time of uncertainty and confusion may this year be a time of growth and learning
We pray that the faculties of Knox College, The Presbyterian College of Montreal and the Vancouver School of Theology find joy and wisdom in and for the work of theological education.
God of hope, you give the gift of encouragement. Help us to use this gift to hearten all who are struggling in these difficult days. Bless us with words and actions to bring comfort to all who morn, to those coping with mental or physical illness, and to any who feel isolated or left behind. We remember those whose lives have faced crises this summer—
Through tragic death and unexpected loss,
Through critical illness or injury,
Through pain or problems that seem to have no end…
We lift to you the folks in Louisiana and nearby states who are just beginning to recover from the hurricane on Thursday – the people who are reeling from the affects of forest fires - near Penticton, in California and other places around the world
Surround them with your comfort and compassion
God of purpose and promise, you give the gift of leadership. Help us to use this skill to build up our communities and model respectful ways of living and loving. Show us how our churches can be places of support within our neighbourhoods.
We pray for congregations that are encountering struggles to support all the areas of ministry they would like to do in Christ’s name.
God of love, you give the gift of kindness. Help us be kind to all who cross our paths, even those who anger or upset us. Teach us to be forgiving and reconciling in all our relationships.
God of love in the peace of this holy place we lift to you the prayers of our hearts……
We ask these things in the name of Jesus Christ who taught us to pray…
THE LORD’S PRAYER
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name,
thy kingdom come, thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,forever.
HYMN 772 [TUNE 293- Moscow] Christ for the world we sing
According to the riches of his glory, may God grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. May the love of God, the grace of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit be with you today and always
Go now in peace. Never be afraid.
God will go with you each hour of ev’ry day.
Go now in faith, steadfast, strong and true.
Know He will guide you in all you do.
Go now in love, and show you believe.
Reach out to others so all the world can see. "
God will be there, watching from above.
Go now in peace, in faith and in love.