Welcome and Announcements
We give God thanks for you and for the life we enjoy. Each day the sun is getting brighter, days are getting longer, snow is melting fast. The chill comes and goes, but we feel blessed and are thankful. All these give us reasons for thanksgiving.
We will be having an in-person session meeting on Tuesday, February 15 at 6:30 pm. We are getting very excited at the possibility of participating in Christ’s ministry again, engaging with neighbours around us.
2021 Tax receipts are available to be picked up at the church. If you would like your receipt for income tax purposes emailed, please, let us know. Emailing receipts has already been done for many members.
If you have pastoral concerns please let us know. It helps us to care for one another.
Please pray for Rick Stokes. He has been recovering from a surgery at home. So far he is enjoying his daughters. They make sure Rick is well taken care of. In usual Rick’s fashion he enjoys their fuss with smiles.
We thank you for continually supporting the ministry here. We thank you for participating in Christ’s ministry especially when most of us have very little idea what we are doing besides worshipping on Sundays. It is our prayer that through sharing of the newsletters on Wednesday via email. (Those who are desiring these newsletters in printed form, you can pick them up or have them sent to you. Please let us know.)
Preparation: Father we adore you
Call to Worship:
Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law they meditate day and night. They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. (Psalm 1:1-3a) Happy are we who do not walk the way of the wicked and are blessed abundantly. Let us come and worship God who blesses and sustains us.
Hymn: Open our eyes, Lord
In life and in death, you are our God. You are with us whether we rejoice in life or struggle with death. In your steadfast love we have confidence to come to you day and night, thick and thin, and in joy as well as in despair.
Open our eyes this day to see your mighty hand in this world, lifting up the lowly. Open our ears this week to hear the stories of your unending love that fills hearts of those who are poor, hungry, and in despair. Open our hearts this season to discern your Son’s tireless work so that we may participate in his ministry.
As we humbly come to you in worship, show us mercy. Let us approach you in humility. Call us out of this world of sin into your Son’s forgiving presence. Reconcile us to yourself through the Son whom you sent so that we may find the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Amen.
Scripture Reading: Luke 9:18-20 Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say that I am?’ They answered, ‘John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered, ‘The Messiah of God.’
Luke 9, 10, 11
Up until the end of Chapter 8, we have seen Jesus being welcomed for his preaching and healing of many people. Gospel Luke has been taking us through the early part of Jesus’ ministry. We have been following him from Nazareth to Galilee to beyond. Now in Chapter 9 there is a new development in the plot. It is no longer Jesus alone, but Jesus now involves his disciples and the story of Jesus’ ministry begins to take a new turn.
The writer of this Gospel wants to set up the tension between Jesus and his adversaries. He does this by setting up how Jesus’ fame grows in the world and eventually leading to confrontation. Jesus’ life from now on unfolds God’s new way of saving the world. This redemption story is different from any other stories that people have heard about.
One way the growing fame of Jesus is described is by showing how his disciples’ number is growing as well as what they are doing. Initially in Chapter 9 we see Jesus sending out 12 disciples. In Chapter 10 this number has grown to seventy. Since they were being sent out two by two, in the first sending, we see six sets of disciples spreading the good news. This is increased by thirty-five sets of disciples spreading out into all over Israel. They are given similar instructions. They are to go with nothing and stay at whoever’s house they are welcomed in. They are to share the good news and cure diseases. It appears as if the second instructions in Chapter 10 are more detailed in terms of what they are to do. In both cases, the disciples return with great news of acceptance and of healings.
One small point to remember is that in between the time that apostles are sent out and return, in Chapter 9 the writer of the Gospel tells us that Herod is confused about Jesus and who Jesus is . In Chapter 10, Jesus makes a “woe to you” speech to various cities. We will come back to this shortly.
There are other ways that we are exposed to Jesus’ fame. In Chapter 9, we find Jesus feeding about five thousand men with five loaves and two fish. At the end of Chapter 9 we are told that people were pledging to follow him. It is clear that the writer is continually pointing out Jesus’ growing fame to show the threat he is beginning to pose to those who are in power. This is why Herod is mentioned. By the end of Chapter 11 Jesus seems to make clear that the confrontation with his opponents is very imminent.
Gospel Luke sets up the inevitable confrontation where both Jesus and his opponents are instigating. This is not the case in other Gospels. There, the leaders of Jews, Pharisees, priests and scribes are continually disputing with Jesus. Their motives become clearer as the stories unfold. Here, as we have seen in Nazareth, Jesus is the provocateur at times. We have not really seen the Pharisees, lawyers, or priests having caused much trouble for him. Yet, the Gospel is clear that both John the Baptist before and Jesus in this section see the leadership and the Jewish people as already in sin and in need of redemption by Jesus. In other words, they are Jesus’ opponents who cannot be trusted. After all, they were accused to be the ‘brood of vipers’ by John and the people in the synagogue at Nazareth were ready to kill him for what he said.
So as in Nazareth, here, we see Jesus being rejected at a village of the Samaritans in Chapter 9. Then, in Chapter 10 we see him criticizes a number of cities like Chorzin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. Once again, simply reading his “woe to you” speech, it is very difficult why he is making such harsh statements against these cities. This confrontation, as was the case before, is taking place right after Jesus’ identity is revealed. In Chapter 9 after the feeding of five thousand men, Jesus asks the disciples who the crowds think he is. Peter’s famous confession that Jesus is the Messiah of God is spoken.
To really make the point, the Gospel immediately follows Peter’s confession with Jesus’ prediction of his death and resurrection and Jesus’ transfiguration. This formula of confession by Peter followed by the prediction of Jesus’ death and resurrection and transfiguration is used in the same way in Mark and Matthew. All three Gospels agree that this revelation happens at a very crucial time in Jesus’ ministry.
In Chapter 9 Jesus talks of his death and resurrection twice. There is no mistake that a gloomy future is ahead. As if to make sure of this difficult future, Luke mentions a rejection of Jesus by a village of Samaritans. Why the rejection by Samaritans here? The clue lies within the paragraph, because his face was set towards Jerusalem. This is a very interesting point we will look at in more detail later when we review this section again. For now, we will keep this in the back of our minds.
After sending out seventy disciples in Chapter 10, Jesus condemns three cities. Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum are singled out. Why these three cities? Again it is unclear right away. After all, Jesus was just in Bethsaida when he fed five thousand people. Nothing in these chapters indicate these cities were particularly against Jesus or his disciples. We are not quite sure what this is about other than what Luke has been doing since Nazareth. That is, the writer is continually pointing out the reason Jesus is doing his ministry as the Messiah. The world is no longer a safe place for the poor, the weak, the hungry, and the sick. In other words, those who are crying out to God for hope and redemption are these lowly people. In all cities, or centres of power, are where people refuse to follow God’s commandments, especially the leaders and the rich. Compassion and mercy are not lived out, deserving of these severe condemnations. In other words, they may welcome Jesus, but they are not repenting of their sins. Their hypocrisy is being denounced by Jesus.
It is not until the end of Chapter 11, Jesus denounces the Pharisees. There, too, it is ironic that Jesus’ pronouncement against Pharisees comes as he sits in a house of a Pharisee, having been invited and welcomed for dinner there.In this place of hospitality Jesus is provoked to give “Woe to the Pharisees” echoing the woes given to these three cities. Here Jesus sat at dinner without following the ritual rule of washing. This act of not washing caused some Pharisees to be upset. Then, Jesus points out the hypocrisies of Pharisees regarding their rituals and behaviours. Again the “woe” speech is about the hypocrisy of the people of Israel.
Also in Chapter 11, we begin to get a sense why Jesus is very negative against the cities and those who are benefitting from these human societies. A dispute arises as people begin making accusations against Jesus. They are trying to figure out how Jesus can heal so many sick people. Instead of believing like those who came to him, the poor, the sick and so on, these bystanders are formulating possible answers to their questions. They wonder if this supernatural power is from a greater evil power like Beelzebul. These doubting people are bystanders, yet, as from the very beginning, Luke does not distinguish them from those who are following Jesus. They are all mixed together. Perhaps, Luke is beginning to lay a ground that eventually both those who benefit from Jesus and those who remain as doubting bystanders abandon Jesus. After all, if anything, all Gospels describe the scene at the cross in which Jesus is hung alone, betrayed by all.
As the Gospel displays increasing conflict between Jesus and the world, it continues to underline the importance of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus rejoices at the return of his disciples, giving God thanks. At the same time, he uses teaching moments wisely. In the first incident, a lawyer's question about a way to inherit eternal life opens the discussion to who one’s true neighbour is. In this discussion, Jesus, though at an earlier time, was rejected by a Samaritan village, tells a parable of the good Samaritan.
Then, when Martha complains about Mary’s preference to listen to Jesus, he teaches Martha the importance of listening to him. This episode is followed with the teaching of the Lord’s Prayer and what it means to persevere in prayer as well as how God will respond to prayers. He eventually teaches them how the light is not hidden, but also one has to be able to be full of light with no part in darkness.
So the invitation is given to all of us to question ourselves in this section. Are we one with these skeptical, unrepentant, and evil people or are we one with those who believe, follow, and confess that Jesus is the Messiah?
We are on the road with Jesus. Unlike those who did not know who Jesus was in their world, we are the ones who have chosen to follow, believe, and confess him as the anointed one. Are we able to repent? Are we courageous enough to confess Jesus as who he truly is? Are we humble enough to let him be the one who calls us to walk with him no matter what we may face on his account? Are we hypocrites like the people of those cities and Pharisees or are we the ones being true to his teachings?
Hymn: A new commandment
We come to you with the cries of this world. News of this world is full of possible wars. Americans are leading the charge against Russians. The NATO nations are accusing Russians for escalating. What are we to make of it? Whose side should we take? Remind us, O Lord, that you point our way to peace in Christ Jesus our Lord, the Prince of Peace.
Our minds are saddened over confrontations in many parts of our own country as those who have been angry over the pandemic rules, congregating to express their displeasure by blocking bridges and city roads. Day by day, the protest across the country grows. More and more people are taking sides. Help us, O God, to focus us on loving in places of hate, compassion in places of quick judgements, mercy when everyone calls for just punishments. Make us the channel of peace by tempering everyone in these struggles with faith, hope, and love.
Our hearts are overflowing with sadness, compassion, and mercy when we hear of our neighbours struggling in pain. So many are waiting patiently for medical treatments that have been delayed and delayed and delayed even more. They quietly suffer on their own, having no one to understand the hopelessness and despair they experience. Give them your strength to see that many of us are doing our best to walk with them, that they are not forgotten, and that they are remembered every day in our prayers to you.
Our faith is waning at times when we lift our eyes and witness the world in anger. We find it difficult to maintain faith to be hopeful and loving when everything we do is so small in comparison to the trouble we face. These mega troubles weigh heavily on our beings, crushing what little faith we have in you. Come to us and lift our spirits, O Lord. Help us to see that even with a small and insignificant amount of faith, you do wonders through our meagre faith.
Each day when we are pressed down by the world, may we stand up in the Holy Spirit. Each day when we feel that our faith is nothing, help us to share what little we have with those around us by the strength of the Holy Spirit. Each day when we shrink back into our minds in fear, open our eyes to see the Holy Spirit lifting us up to be the witnesses of your presence in the world.
All these we pray in your Son’s name. Amen.
In Malawi, the Mulanje Mission Hospital provides care and support to orphans through its community-based program. Vocational skills, such as livestock farming, are taught to out-of-school children as a means for achieving economic empowerment. Brian lives with his grandmother. Through the program, he started goat farming, which has allowed his family to pay for food and other necessities and has also helped him establish a sustainable livelihood. “After the mother of the children died, things have been difficult. We had nothing to depend on during hard times, but now things are becoming smooth as we can sell goats and buy grain and other basic needs,” his grandmother expressed. This project is supported by Presbyterian World Service & Development.
Hymn: Guide me, O thou great Jehovah