Welcome and Announcements
Let us give God thanks for another year! May God bless us with the everlasting presence for us to share with the world as we love God and neighbours!
We are in scaled down mode as the omicron variant surges everywhere. It is our prayer that you are keeping safe and well in Christ.
Remember that we are praying for you all and that we are to pray for each other constantly.
Meditative preparation for worship:
A new day dawns
Born out of pain, washed in fear
This new life, stirring in the darkness.
Time always comes
Bringing all that we have left behind
Luggages full of anguish, threats, anger
Bulging out through their well worn zippers
Menacing to destroy all that is new.
Time brings the Light
Out of darkness
Awaking all that was asleep,
Washing the world in darkness
With dews of the Spirit,
For a life that is too small to sprout
Rooted in the Truth,
Grounded on the Way,
Pronouncing the Life.
Time ushers the end
To reveal the eternal,
Life that was, is and always will be;
Pain, suffering, death.
Call to Worship:
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” ’) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known. (John 1:14-18)
Hymn: Father, I adore you
O Lord God,
In your Son we find the beginning and end. Full of grace and truth, he came as your love, bringing the good news of salvation. Who are we that you are mindful of us, O God? What have we done that you choose to call us to yourself in your Son our Lord? Though mired in sin, helpless in our stubbornness, destined for death we are, you did not hesitate to call us so that in faith we may be made the children of the God who was, is and ever shall be under whose reign there is no end.
Even before we bring up our sins on our lips to confess to you, You already know. Long before we return to you broken, You already love. As we stand before you in tears, you see who we shall be. You breathed into us life. You formed us in your image. You sent us into the world so that your love fills the world. Yet, we come before you as sinners, depending solely on your Son’s mercy.
We thank you O God. We offer you this worship. May your glory fill the earth even as our world breaks, shatters, and is crushed in our sins! By your love, restore, redeem, and reconcile us to yourself. In your love, may we and this lost world be healed and recreated in ways that the Way, the Truth, and the Life is known, followed, and reign over us always. In your Son’s name we pray. Amen.
Hymn: Lead me Lord
John 1:1-5, 10-13
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
Sermon: Recovering the Word in our world
As we begin 2022, I ask you to let our conversation flow from the Word and let the Word replace our words. Let me explain. Our world is filled with words. We are bombarded with words of all kinds. Words spoken by humanity have replaced the Word as the essence of life. Today, most of us do not know where to find the Word. We do not even recognize the Word when it is put in front of us.
When I was around 6 years old, the world was a simpler place. I lived where there was no electricity. That meant everyone went home when it became dark. Everyone slept soon after the sun went down. Everyone awoke when the sun rose. Only on some special occasions we would stay late into the night, gathered around whatever light we had. Everything was accomplished during the day. The people of the villages and towns were living with the rhythms of days and nights in and out of seasons. The light gave us days to live life. We worked, but we also sang, prayed, danced, and loved.
In this bygone time where life was lived, enjoyed, celebrated, and shared, hard work of the day led to deep rest at night. Life and death were intertwined. Death was relentlessly present, always threatening to snuff life out. We knew how our daily lives were always lived at the edge of death. Pain and anguish were always reminding us that death was lurking nearby, ready to pounce in our weak moments. Death was the darkness, whose shadows always encroached on all things we enjoyed. Death was our enemy.
Violence, oppression, hate and murders were always within reach. We knew sin was in us as much as it manifested through others. When we read John 1, we knew instinctively what it was to be in darkness or in the light. We did not need any explanation when preachers proclaimed that Jesus was the light of the world. We embraced the gospel that God so loved the world that God sent the Son so that whoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life.
Today, our lives have changed. There are no longer days and nights. Amazon warehouses run without stopping to fill the orders from customers. Walmart provides shopping possibilities at all hours of night and day. Our borders are always open in order for trucks to move goods. New York, Toronto, Tokyo, London, Paris, Bangkok, Beijing, names of cities that operate without stopping are endless. We have built our economy to generate ever growing wealth. With our knowledge we have found ways to improve technologies to increase productivity so that our worldly wealth will continue to grow.
We have set aside life. We have convinced ourselves that if we put aside life for a while and created our world to generate more wealth, then, more and more of us can possess enough wealth to enjoy life. In reality, the rich and the powerful have found ways to indenture the rest of us to enrich themselves while depriving us of life altogether. To gain wealth, in setting our lives aside for time being, we ended up losing the fear of death. Death no longer threatens us. If one dies working, another will take his place. It is just a million deaths among billions of people. The dead are the collateral damage in this wealth generating economy. Survival has become more important than living. Life as survival avoids death. In this life, death becomes escape from pain, anguish, and meaninglessness. Instead of fearing, fighting against, and witnessing victory against death, we end up celebrating and idealizing death as our way.
No wonder the talk of darkness and light has no listeners in our world anymore. Once the rhythm of day and night is broken, darkness and light are mashed into always on artificial light, we no longer have ears for “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” In today’s world, darkness no longer exists. It is not the power that contends against light. It is simply an obstacle that can be overcome by our technological accomplishments. In this world, filled with artificial light, information or human knowledge has come to replace the Word. With abilities to reason, brilliant minds have come to realize that human words have power to create and shape the world in our own image. They have figured out many ways to replace the Word with their words.
The Word is no longer what creates our world. Our words create our world in our own image. No longer do we live in the world of God where the Word creates our world, but the world of human intellects where our words create our world. When the powerful speak, those who work under that power make their words come true. Everything we see, we find ways to recreate in our own image. Technology and ever expanding human knowledge help us to build the world of our own making.
The other day, on CBC’s Quirks and Quarks, a scientist was being interviewed. She declared that we can save the world with all its biological diversity because we now have technology, science, and knowledge to do so. She seemed to be totally oblivious to the fact that we are still at the stage of discovering new life forms and species of animals in our soils, in our seas, all around us. At the same time, there are very distinguished people who are claiming that the only way to save ourselves is to leave the earth altogether. From the current SARS-Co-2 virus, we have learned that there is so much we do not know still. Yet, these brilliant human minds have come to a conclusion that the Word can and should be replaced by human words. After all, they say, the very idea of the Word was human creation.
They tell us that God was created by human minds to deal with fear of death arising from threats to life from all kinds of danger. Hence, they conclude that it is time to replace the Word with our words in order for us to continue to create the world in our own image. In these people’s minds, Global warming, climate change, extinctions of so many living things on earth due to human ways, and our violent ability to annihilate ourselves are nothing more than side effects that will help us to discover a way to death free life. Hubris, sin, morals and ethics are all things that only primitive and undeveloped minds are occupied with, in their view. The truly strong and smart ones who will save humanity are the ones who made themselves rich and powerful, they say. In other words, they are convinced that they are gods. They do not need Christian God. They see why the merciful and compassionate will only hinder human progress by tainting the gene pool with the weak and challenged.
Unlike these godlike humans, those, who have received the one through whom the world came into being, to whom he gave the power to become children of God. who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God, see the light shines in the darkness. We hear the Word and witness to the Word becoming flesh among us. Because of him, we are. That is, we still walk, work, and live in the light of day, always aware of the danger of the darkness encroaching. Life is lived fully because death is always lurking against us. We know how death can overcome life. Death is not an escape hatch from dreadful and miserable life. It is the source that brings us conflict and suffering. Death is our enemy. We do not celebrate death. Instead we witness Christ who was resurrected from death as the very embodiment of the Living Lord. Death is not our friend. We, the children of God, do not desire to find ways to die good death. We die, not to appease death, but to be resurrected in Christ–to enjoy eternal life.
Today, we celebrate Epiphany or the day in which God was revealed to us. This means that we proclaim and witness the one who came into the world because God loved the world so that all who receive and believe him may have eternal life. If you wonder what this means practically, it is to participate in Christ’s ministry where the dead are raised, where those who are in darkness are able to see the Light and be invited to follow the one who brings God’s grace and mercy. It is to be the body of Christ in ways that the world will find a glimpse of God’s reign that is yet to come. It is to be witnesses for all those who are in the darkness so that they, too, see the great light. It is to live in the world, but not of the world, always loving God and neighbours, even so far as to love our enemies. It is to be Christ’s presence where those who walk in darkness get to see, find, and be present in the everlasting light.
It means to share the good news of God with those who are lost to darkness as they do their best to survive in Amazon Warehouses and delivery trucks, Walmart Superstores, driving long-haul trucks, picking and packing vegetables with less than minimum pay, serving the tables at 2/3 the minimum, packed into refugee camps, living on streets, living incarcerated, losing battles against drugs and alcohols, being oppressed and all others who are desperate to escape their pains and heavy burdens. Our task is to seek the lost and witness Christ to them, sharing the good news of salvation with them.
2022 will be the year when we, as God’s people, will work together to let Christ be the Word in ways that the Word becomes flesh among us. It is our prayer that our love for God and for our neighbours will witness and proclaim the Word once again, so that the Word will once again be heard and become the Way, the Truth and the Life, displacing the human words that destroy God’s creation.
O Lord hear my prayer
Listen to our pleas, O gracious and merciful God. Our words fail. Our thoughts are lost. Our love is misplaced no matter how hard we try to love you.
Yet in faith, holding onto your Son’s promise, we bring our needs. In isolation, many of us cry for love. In loneliness, we turn to you. In desolation we cry out to you. Illnesses that have debilitated our bodies and minds force us to search for healing.
In hope, searching for your Son’s presence, we bring our despair. We do not know where else to turn. As refugees, herded into decrepit camps, imprisoned in foreign lands, so many people seek a place to call home. Away from their homes, lost in these strange lands, their children suffer, their parents die, their friends fall prey. Give all them hope. Give us courage to love unconditionally.
In love, chasing for your assurance, we bring our world filled with hate. We do not know how to change this world. People are harming each other. Some have lost any compassion for another that they do not even flinch when they massacre a neighbour, family, village, city, nation. Their speeches are full of anger and evil. They show no regard for the life of another. Teach us the way to witness and share your love.
In grace, asking for your strength, we remember before you all those who are exhausted. We have been hearing from doctors, nurses, caregivers, essential workers, teachers, parents, small business owners, and so many others who are at the end of their ropes. We know not how to extend your grace to them. Be with them all. Give them comfort and strength. May they come to find peace in your presence and your steadfast love!
All these we pray in your Son’s name. Amen.
Hymn: All the way my Saviour leads me
May the Lord go with all those who in faith walk with Christ! May God bless all those who in hope love God who sent Jesus! May the Spirit keep all those who witness Christ in this world through words and deeds by loving God and neighbours near and far! Amen.