Thank you for your participation in this worship. May the Holy Spirit lift up your praises and prayers.
Next Sunday, we are returning to an in-person gathering at 9:30 am. With the minister on vacation, we have chosen to have a devotion and discussion for the next two Sundays instead of holding regular worship services. Come and share this time of devotion as we discuss the things we learned from participating in worship services at other churches.
Minister will be back on September 1. If there are pastoral needs, please call Betty-Ann, Chuck, Gail, Linda (Fraser), Linda (Thwaites), Prince, or Verna.
For this service and the following worship until the end of August, our prayer after the sermon will be taken from the Psalms.
Call to Worship (Psalm 34:1-3)
I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
O magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together.
Sing a new song unto the Lord
With joy, in the privilege of being in your Son our Lord, we come, O God, to give you praise. We were people of no importance in this world. We had no fame or accomplishments to boast about before you. Yet, you called us in your Son and made us his people. On Jesus’ account, we come to worship you. Be glad. Be glorified. We bless you with all our hearts. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
‘But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defence in advance; for I will give you words* and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.
Sermon: Wisdom for Christians
We are facing a world that is totally different from what Jesus faced. As a church, we are no longer persecuted like Jesus. Instead, we face indifference. No one bothers with churches. No one cares what truth we hold. Only time Christians or churches make news is when we have broken the criminal laws of our country. If a church pastor was fined, as was the case in Edmonton, it’s in the news. When evangelical churches refused to close their doors during the pandemic lockdowns, they were in the news. When children’s remains were found at residential schools run by Christian churches, we made the news. When some fundamentalist Christians demonstrate against LGBTQI people being recognized, they are splashed across our screens in evening news. Otherwise, we are hardly ever in the news.
Interestingly, things we do right as Christians are never reported as news. All the help we give to our neighbours, all the plans that we have been carrying out in order to dealwith those painful acts of the past, and all we do to make our world a better place are simply left out in the dark. Of course, we do not do good to be known and be praised. After all, Jesus told us to do good things in ways that one’s left hand would not know what her right hand was doing.The trouble in this information age is that without knowing what good we do and hearing only those things that are bad, the world gets an impression that Christians are not the ones to be trusted.
How do we overcome the very negative image we have in the world? Are we to keep quiet and slowly disappear because less and less people see us in a positive light? Do we go against what Jesus said in order for us to let the world know the good that we do? Indeed, we are put in very precarious positions. To grow we need to tell the world about who we are and what we do. Since the middle of the last century, churches have been seriously engaged in the task of telling outsiders what Christianity is and what local churches do. People who attend growing churches are good at telling other people about what they do and also invite their friends to join them in churches.
In today’s Scripture passage, we see Jesus telling his disciples how they will be persecuted and be arrested. Many of them would face trials, but they were being advised not to worry about what to say. Jesus would give them what to say. Granted, Jesus was talking about his disciples in times of trials and persecutions. Yet, they were encouraged by Jesus because they would be speaking the words given them by Jesus. They did not have to lie or make up their defence. They needed simply to repeat what Jesus would tell them. In other words, they were being protected by Jesus in all they would say and do.
We are certainly not in the same situation as Jesus described to his disciples. Indeed, none of us has ever been arrested because we go to church or speak about Jesus. In most cases we are silent about our faith. We believe, but our ways of expressing faith exclude activities that show others about who Jesus is or what we do as Christians. Indeed, if we are to ask our friends about what we do as Christians, they would not have any idea. They have never seen us as Christians doing Christian things. At times, we do not even know what other Christians do. Just think of a friend who is a church goer. Then, think of what she does in her church. Do you really know or are you guessing based on what we do ourselves in our church?
It is one thing to wait for Jesus to tell us what to say in front of judges and prosecutors who are determined to incarcerate us. It is another thing to wait for Jesus to tell us what to say when we are not being persecuted or under threats. We are also very mindful of trying to figure out what Jesus is telling us to say and what voices in our minds are saying. Our world is full of people whose mental illnesses make them claim that they are doing things because they hear God’s or Jesus’ voice directing them to do all sorts of things. For us, to let Jesus tell us what to say is far more complicated than we read from the passage. We are too self-aware of doing things simply because we think we hear Jesus’ instructions. In other words, we are very careful when it comes to saying things on Jesus’ behalf. We are not likely to speak on Jesus’ account much. For us, faith does not mean that Jesus speaks through our own words.
If we read the passage carefully, it says that Jesus will give us words and wisdom. For Christians, especially Protestant Christians, since the time when Gospel John clarified, Jesus has been understood as the living Word. Jesus is the Word incarnate. We find through the Gospels Jesus’ teaching or Jesus’ words to us. Of course, we are extremely careful in reading and studying the Scriptures so that we do not cherry pick and proof text our thoughts and understanding. Instead, we discipline ourselves by diligent studies and meditations as well as emptying ourselves continually in order to be filled with God’s Word given to us through Jesus. It is a long and humbling task for us to receive Jesus as the living Word. This is why we are far more careful to speak on Jesus’ behalf than many others.
Wisdom verifies words as belonging to the truth or falsehood. Without wisdom, all words become equal in meaning and value. Those who lie can speak smoothly and with silver tongue and can sound more truthful than those who stand in the truth. Indeed in many public disputes, those who are cunning and deceptive often mislead people to accept their lies as the truth. In the meantime, those who speak the truth are ridiculed, mocked, and betrayed as liars and frauds. Without wisdom, the truth cannot be verified and be able to reveal the lies of the evil ones. Wisdom, especially God’s wisdom, cuts through deceptive and slanderous speeches to expose both lies and truths. Remember how King Solomon’s wisdom exposed a mother who killed her own son and tried to steal a child of her neighbour by lying?
Jesus said that he would give both words and wisdom. It is interesting that as the Christianity begins to wane in Canada and the United States, so many are full of words. They speak Jesus’ words. They speak on Jesus’ behalf. They testify and witness using the Bible to prove their points of view. Words abound. Indeed, many of us who have been awfully careful and quiet have been pushed aside as being false Christians. We are accused and ridiculed for holding on to false faith while they follow true Christ and worship in the Spirit. All wonderful words and very based on the Bible. So many claim that they are Biblically based while we are accused of taking the side of the secular world. Strangely however, they do have words, but they lack wisdom. This is why it is important for us to know that Jesus spoke of giving both words and wisdom.
Wisdom that originates from God opens our eyes to see the truth as God intended. It displays and discloses the truth in ways that all evil speeches are fully uncovered as lies and falsehood they are. It is true that the passage speaks of what Jesus will do for us in times of tribulations, but we can certainly infer from this that at all times Jesus gives us words and wisdom in order for us to navigate through this life in all circumstances. That means we continually do our best to stand in the truth that Christ is the Word from whom all words flow and Christ is by whom humanity gains reconciliation with God. We may not be out in the world shouting from the rooftops but in quiet way, we know that when time is right Jesus gives us his words and wisdom so that those who accuse, ridicule, ignore, condemn, and judge us will not withstand and contradict the truth that God so loved the world that God gave God’s own Son so that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
Prayer (Psalm 47, 48)
Clap your hands, all you peoples;
shout to God with loud songs of joy.
For the Lord, the Most High, is awesome,
a great king over all the earth.
He subdued peoples under us,
and nations under our feet.
He chose our heritage for us,
the pride of Jacob whom he loves.
God has gone up with a shout,
the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.
Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises.
For God is the king of all the earth;
sing praises with a psalm.
God is king over the nations;
God sits on his holy throne.
The princes of the peoples gather
as the people of the God of Abraham.
For the shields of the earth belong to God;
he is highly exalted.
Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised
in the city of our God.
His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation,
is the joy of all the earth,
Mount Zion, in the far north,
the city of the great King.
Within its citadels God
has shown himself a sure defence.
Then the kings assembled,
they came on together.
As soon as they saw it, they were astounded;
they were in panic, they took to flight;
trembling took hold of them there,
pains as of a woman in labour,
as when an east wind shatters
the ships of Tarshish.
As we have heard, so have we seen
in the city of the Lord of hosts,
in the city of our God,
which God establishes for ever.
We ponder your steadfast love, O God,
in the midst of your temple.
Your name, O God, like your praise,
reaches to the ends of the earth.
Your right hand is filled with victory.
Let Mount Zion be glad,
let the towns of Judah rejoice
because of your judgements.
Walk about Zion, go all around it,
count its towers,
consider well its ramparts;
go through its citadels,
that you may tell the next generation
that this is God,
our God for ever and ever.
He will be our guide for ever.
Amen and amen!>
Out of our small hearts, we offer these small gifts. We do not know how to present these offerings: for in response to your infinite grace, they are much too small. Yet, in humility we lift up these small gifts. Receive them. Through them, may the ministry of Christ be made possible here in this part of your vineyard. We offer them as from our hearts. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Hymn: Seek ye first the kingdom of God