Welcome and Announcements
We give God thanks for your presence with us. It is indeed amazing that God brings us together in worship. May God continue to be present and receive this worship.
The elders met last Tuesday evening. Many plans are being considered in reopening the church and welcoming back those who have been away from us. As we begin to plan for the gradual return of God’s people, we ask you to pray for the church and Christ’s ministry here.
We are very excited to announce that we will be celebrating our 220th Anniversary on Sunday, March 20 with communion. Since December of 2019 we have not had communion together. As part of the celebration, we will also join together in having a soup lunch. Please prepare. Mark the date. Let us know if you need transportation. We would love to have you with us.
It is our hope that after Easter we will begin many activities for our members and friends. Please pray for God’s blessings on finding ways to help and encourage our members to be strong in faith and life.
Preparation: Psalm 27:1-11, 39-40
Do not fret because of the wicked;
do not be envious of wrongdoers,
for they will soon fade like the grass,
and wither like the green herb.
Trust in the Lord, and do good;
so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will make your vindication shine like the light,
and the justice of your cause like the noonday.
Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him;
do not fret over those who prosper in their way,
over those who carry out evil devices.
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath.
Do not fret—it leads only to evil.
For the wicked shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.
Yet a little while, and the wicked will be no more;
though you look diligently for their place, they will not be there.
But the meek shall inherit the land,
and delight in abundant prosperity.
The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;
he is their refuge in the time of trouble.
The Lord helps them and rescues them;
he rescues them from the wicked, and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.
Call to Worship:
O Lord, you taught us to love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, pray for those who abuse us. You challenged us even more and told us, “If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you. "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return” So we do our best and do all that you have told us to do. Now we come from doing our best to be faithful to worship you. We come, knowing that often we have failed. Yet when we worship, you reveal yourself to us as merciful and full of grace, calling us to yourself. When we stand before you with our failures and sins, you remind us of your mercy, shown in Christ. Receive this worship. We come not because we are able, but because in your Son our Lord, you have called us and made us yours.
Hymn: All heaven declares
Out of the life of anger, hatred, sorrow, sadness, despair, exasperation, and frustration, we come to you. Each Sunday, we hear your call and gather together in worship. As sinners we come, yet, we pray that your forgiveness is given through your Son our Lord, that we are released from the bondage of sin we incurred in this world, and that we are reconciled through your Son’s death and resurrection. Restore us as yours. Open our eyes to see your presence in the world to know that this world is filled with your love. Open our ears to hear your voice in the world, filled by human knowledge and wisdom. Open our hearts to experience your grace and mercy always in this world of greed, selfishness, and rudeness. Fill us with your Spirit in ways that our eyes, ears, and hearts are opened to all that is you and all that flows from you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 12:4-12
‘I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
‘And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God; but whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. When they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you are to defend yourselves or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say.’
Hymn: Seek ye first the kingdom
Sermon: Seeing the world with Christ’s eyes<
We are now in the middle section of our reading through Luke. Since Gospel Luke was not written like a 21st century novel or story, we need to adjust a little in a way we read it together. For chapters 12 through 19, we will look at a number of different ways that it advances the story of Jesus. There are groups of smaller stories told in parables, healing and teaching. Let’s organize them to show different ways Gospel Luke shows Jesus confronting Pharisees and leaders, Jesus teaching his disciples the consequences of following him, Jesus preparing his disciples for God’s coming kingdom, Jesus lamenting over Jerusalem, and Jesus teaching what God’s kingdom is like.
Today we will look at how Gospel Luke is setting up the story by telling us about Jesus confronting Pharisees and leaders. Unlike other Gospels, Luke has gathered all these smaller stories in this section to increase our desire to know and understand what Jesus is doing and why he will eventually be put on the cross to die the terrible death. Pharisees and leaders, in this case, are representing all that is wrong with the people of Israel as well as the social, moral, political, and religious structures they are living under.
We have already seen John the Baptist and Jesus railing against Pharisees and leaders in the earlier sections. Here, it is taken to a higher level. He is bolder and stronger in his condemnation of all things that are wrong with Israel. As his criticisms get more pointed and direct, we can anticipate the increase in hostilities between the two parties. As we spoke of last Sunday, Jesus’ accusation against Pharisees was that they were hypocrites. In Chapter 12, he continues by warning the crowd numbering in thousands to ‘beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, that is, their hypocrisy.’ (Luke 12:1) He calls the hypocrisy of Pharisees yeast because it is something that people cannot see at work easily.
At the same time, Jesus explains to these gathered people that those who acknowledge, confess, and follow him will face consequences. He tells them to fear God and not to fear the rulers and the authorities when they face judgments. Jesus is already signalling to these people that if they become part of Jesus’ witnesses, they would face consequences of being dragged before rulers and authorities in synagogues. He encourages them not to worry because the Holy Spirit will teach them what to say. In other words, Jesus asks them to stand on God’s side and God will be with them.
As if to put an emphasis on coming conflict, Jesus speaks about the meaning of his coming. Indeed, he tells them that he is the very cause of division. We always like to see Jesus as a uniter, bringer of peace, and so on. Yet, Jesus makes it unequivocally clear that the choice the people make will divide them. If they side with Jesus, they become divided from their own loved one. We see this kind of division all the time. This week, the truck convoy demonstration has certainly divided Canadians. More fundamental than these political divisions, being baptized by Jesus’ baptism divides even the loved ones.
In this large section, there are two healings that are used to show the confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees. The healing of a crippled woman in Chapter 13 and healing of a man with dropsy in Chapter 14. They are somewhat similar, but different. Keep in mind that Luke does have this way of pairing a woman and a man in his stories. Both of these healings happen on a sabbath day. That the day is sabbath already indicates to us the coming trouble. The woman’s healing happens in a synagogue. The man’s healing happens in the house of a leader of the Pharisees.
First in the woman’s case, Jesus sees the woman who has been suffering for eighteen years. She is unable to stand up straight. Jesus sees her and heals her. This healing in a synagogue on the sabbath caused a leader to get upset enough to stir up the crowd by saying there are six other days in a week to work, but not on the sabbath. Jesus calls the leader hypocrites in plural. Obviously they, meaning leaders, must have sided or agreed with this leader. We soon learn that the crowd was rejoicing at what he was doing. In this way Jesus is set against the leaders of synagogue. Jesus appealed to the notion that after 18 years, she is freed, liberated, delivered, released on the sabbath day.
In the man’s case, Jesus asks the lawyers and Pharisees before he goes on to heal him. After the first event, it is as if Jesus wants to make a point deliberately to the leaders and Pharisees. Knowing they are watching intently and trying to see what he is going to do, he asks them whether it is lawful or not to heal him. When they remain silent, he chastises them for showing no mercy. In this case, there is no rejoicing. These leaders and Pharisees are shamed. They do not respond. They remain silent. In their silence, they are exposed as merciless hypocrites.
In Chapter 16, we see the Pharisees described as lovers of money. They ridicule Jesus for saying people cannot serve money and God at the same time. As if to provide a smoking-gun evidence regarding the Pharisees' hypocrisy and money-loving, Luke includes in this section Jesus’ parable of two prayers in the Temple. A Pharisee puts on a show of prayer by putting a required amount out of his riches into the treasury, giving a prayer of pride and self-congratulation. A tax collector comes in full repentance, too humble and humiliated, standing far off. Jesus and Pharisees (including leaders and rulers) are in two different worlds. It is impossible to see them together anymore. They are on a collision course.
Now Jesus’ attention turns to those who are tax collectors, sinners. This is why in chapter 19, as Jesus nears Jerusalem, Luke positions the story of Zacchaeus here. Setting Jesus against the world of religious, cultural, and social powers of Israel, represented by Pharisees, Luke focuses on Jesus “forgiving/releasing” sinners from their sins. Zacchaeus is the symbol of all those who are sinful.
In this encounter between Zacchaeus and Jesus, we see a stark difference between Pharisees and leaders of the people of Israel, ridiculing and stirring up the crowd against Jesus and the sinners. Zacchaeus welcomes Jesus when Jesus tells him that he is staying at Zacchaeus’ house. We hear the grumbles from those who saw Jesus. We are to assume that those grumbling ones are the ones who considered themselves as the righteous. In that case, we are talking about Pharisees, lawyers and leaders. Their grumbling is about Jesus choosing to stay with sinners instead of staying with the righteous ones like them.
Unlike the righteous, including those Pharisees who did invite and host Jesus, Zacchaeus repents and makes restitutions. He has become a new person in God’s new creation because he experiences mercy of God through Jesus. So much so that Jesus declares, “Today, salvation has come to this house because he too is a son of Abraham.” Yes, totally unlike those lawyers, leaders, and Pharisees who remained silent, refusing to show God’s mercy on the account of the sabbath law, Zacchaeus goes beyond what is expected of him to do as a sinner.
By setting this confrontation up between Jesus and Pharisees (Pharisees as the symbol of all that is wrong with Israel) Gospel Luke has been able to indicate that Jesus has come not for the righteous, but for the lost.
Perhaps this is why we are so attracted to Jesus and his gospel. We know that we are not righteous. Zacchaeus is who we are. We struggle hard to overcome our sins every day. Our failings are beyond our ability to manage and conquer. We do not consider ourselves to be righteous. Far from it. We are sinners who follow Christ.
With this humble humility, we also acknowledge that through death and resurrection we are made his people to be his body in this world. We remain humble because we know without Christ, we are at best sinners. The grace that Jesus brought to Zacchaeus is the grace that we enjoy and share abundantly because Jesus as the Christ chooses to stay with us, recreating us as his. Like Zacchaeus, we, too, make restitutions, as a joyful response to God’s grace given to us in Christ each and every day.
O Dear Lord,
Fill our hearts with hope when we find ourselves in despair. We are easily discouraged, dejected, disheartened and dispirited. Once we fall into these seemingly bottomless pits, we get lost in the darkness. Yet, with you beside us, there is no true darkness. You are our Light shining in our lives. With you in our deepest darkness, we still are able to see who we are and how dark the world around us is because of your light. By your Spirit teach us to know that even in the darkest moment in our lives, your light shines for us to see our way back to you, that when we are lost it is by your light we are able to find a right path back to you.
We pray that your light will make our leaders see the truth path. Sadly, blinded by their own brilliance, our leaders are unable to see beyond their own self-interests. Decisions they make are for their own good and their own benefits. No matter how they try to be right, they end up serving mammon instead of you. From them we hear messages of fear. Recklessly threatening each other with wars, sanctions, immanent battles, ready to unleash brutal violence, foolishly barking orders and threats to crush those who have little or no power, and rudely insisting their primacy over others without regard for what is right, they rule without grace and mercy. O Holy Spirit, open their eyes to see your ways of compassion. Open their ears to hear your songs of peace. Open their hearts to experience your ways of true love.
We pray that your light will shine upon those who are protesting, insisting, and taking unto themselves powers, disrupting, abusing, and destroying lives of their peers as they unleash their frustrations and anger. They fight for themselves. They do not see beyond their own selfish needs and concerns, mirroring the ways of our political, economic, and religious leaders who exploit them. O Holy Spirit, open their eyes to see your way of love, the love that is given even to enemies. Open their ears to hear not just their own voices which express their anger and frustration, but the suffering of their neighbours whose peace they are damaging. Open their hearts to experience the Way, the Truth, and the Life so that they, too will find a way to love in which one lays down one’s love for another.
We pray that your light will reveal the path to new life for those who are in despair due to mental and physical illnesses. In great pain they suffer. They no longer see a way out. They turn to drugs and hang their hope on miracle cures. They no longer hear messages of hope. They close their minds to anything others say in pain and anguish. They no longer feel in their hearts hope of any kind. They carry their hearts filled with nothing but darkness and death. With inability to deal with pain they search for escape in death. O Holy Spirit, open their eyes to see that your Son opens the eyes of the blind with mercy and compassion. O Holy Spirit, open their ears to hear the Word of life that awakens them with hope. O Holy Spirit, fill their hearts with your steadfast and abundant love for them to feel, live, and enjoy life in fullness.
All these we pray in your Son’s name. Amen.
ARISE Ministry is a Toronto-based ministry that offers outreach, case management and spiritual care to individuals involved in the sex trade. In response to the explosion of the online sex trade in recent years, the staff and volunteers at ARISE have expanded their outreach ministry online through an app called “Freedom Signal,” which has allowed them to communicate and establish relationships with victims of online sex trafficking and exploitation. This type of virtual outreach has meant that staff and volunteers have been able to connect people to resources and support in a way that is not always possible in street-level outreach. ARISE Ministry receives support from Presbyterians Sharing.
Hymn: Nearer my God to thee