Thank you for participating in this worship to give praise and glory to God.
We will continue with Cinnamon Bun Tuesdays until July 26. We will take a break in August. It will return on Tuesdays in September.
Please remember that the first two Sundays in August, we are asking everyone to make an effort to attend worship services at other churches. We will be closed for these two Sundays. We are asking all of you to let us know of your experiences in these churches and also help us to see how we can improve the ways we worship God and welcome others. If you can pair up with someone to attend another church, please do.
We will continue with our online worship services for the entire month of August. We invite you to participate in our worship online if you are able.
Change my heart, O God
Call to Worship
With praise and worship on our lips we come.
With gifts and offerings in our hands we come.
With adorations and thanksgiving in our hearts we come.
We come to worship our God who created heaven and earth and all therein.
Let us raise our voices in praise and worship our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer!
All heaven declare
As the east is from the west and the north is from the south, we are far from you. Yet, in your grace, you called us to be with you through your Son our Lord. We gladly come, bringing our all to worship and praise you, offering our gratitude for the grace you have shown us in Christ Jesus our Lord. Hear our praises today and be glorified. Receive our gratitude as our offering to you this day. By the Spirit, be present with us. Make this worship acceptable in your sight. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 12:22-32
He said to his disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?* If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin;* yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his* kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
Sermon: Jesus and flowers
We are in the middle of July and enjoying beautiful flowers everywhere. All those flowers are surrounded by bees, butterflies, and all kinds of insects that most of us do not even know their names. Birds and animals are everywhere, too. Yes, some animals with no places to hide are making homes in our yards, under the decks, behind sheds, and every nook that is good to hide. It is amazing to see all these lives flourishing in spite of the dry spell we have been experiencing. This is the time when people try to get attention from squirrels in parks trying to feed them. Some people simply like to watch birds for hours. What a joy they get from being able to enjoy all these lives bursting out all over the place!
As we give thanks to God for the beauty of God’s creation flourishing all around us, we ought to remember that our world is very different in July than the one where Jesus walked. Weather wise, we are enjoying one of the best summers in recent years. Not too hot and always cool in the mornings and evenings. Palestine in July, is very hot and in desert conditions unlike us. Heat and dryness make very few things grow. Sitting outside, even in shades, makes us thirsty. July is not a time in Palestine to imagine beautiful flowers blooming everywhere and wonderful fruits ready to be picked. Instead, July and August are quiet months when nature seems to take a break in Palestine.
Jesus’ world was different from ours. It would have been very difficult to find a nice garden in front of a home. Especially in Palestine where Jesus roamed, flowers would have been abundant in mountains during growing seasons, but not in front of or beside houses. People did not bother having gardens. Life was too busy, difficult and harsh. Water was not plentiful for people to have grown things year round. Often mountains and fields in these near desert areas would be filled with flowers, plants and trees, but not many houses would have cultivated flowers as we do today. Certainly, some houses would have trees, but not more. It is good to remember that many houses of means had animals like donkeys, chickens, etc. There was not enough property to have flower beds. Besides, they did not have time to look after flowers.
Most people with whom Jesus was with were not the people of means being able to afford leisurely living to enjoy flowers or other hobbies as we do today. They were peasants and slaves, eking out living as best as they were able in often very harsh conditions. Enjoying flowers or stopping by hills to collect flowers for the loved ones was not something that they could afford. We forget that in those days, farmers, peasants, and most regular people had very little time to enjoy life as we do today. They were busy, poor, and hungry. Perhaps this is why we see so few descriptions of flowers or other leisure activities mentioned by Jesus.
At best lilies are the only flower mentioned by Jesus in Gospel Luke other than a few plants and trees like mustard and mulberry (Luke 17:6), mint, rue, and other herbs (Luke 11:42). Yes, it is obvious that everyone knew lilies and how beautiful they were. Jesus could talk about the lilies and their beauties and everyone understood what he was talking about. They could immediately know what Jesus said regarding these flowers being far more glorious than Solomon’s outfits. Jesus could count on their understanding to prove a point about how God provided for these flowers and how much more God would do for the people.
Of course, in Jesus’ time, palaces and estates of nobles had gardens lined with grand trees and pretty flowers. One of the most beautiful garden designs we still hear about is the hanging garden of Babylon. The people of Israel at the time of Jesus would certainly have heard about this wonder of beauty after having been exiled in Babylon for a long time and not too distant past of their time. Israel’s constant threat Egypt also would have maintained beautiful gardens for Pharaohs and their princes and princesses. These Egyptians already knew how to plan and maintain these wonderful gardens.
Yes, for commoners in Jerusalem, Palestine, or Judea, flowers were luxuries beyond their daily lives. Being subjugated by the Roman Empire and corrupt Jewish rulers, everyday people had little or no time to marvel and enjoy these flourishing lives around them. Daily struggle to survive by farming and fishing while paying taxes to Rome and to Jerusalem was not easy for regular peasants who subsisted on lands and sea or lake. We could imagine that their lives were no better than today’s villagers in the highlands of Ethiopia, villages in Somalia or Ghana. Their lives were nowhere plentiful as ours today in Canada.
For those who are struggling with daily worries of survival and constantly in despair, more and more Canadians today are becoming like these early Palestinians. Like them, enjoying flowers or marvelling at the peace and tranquillity of being in the middle of God’s creation is an impossible dream. How are they to find time to escape the drudgery of city ghettos when working three jobs to pay for rent and food has become the norm? How are they to stop and take in the beauty of a lily in someone else’s well kept yard while busily rushing from one disaster to another? How are they to travel to the middle of the pristine wilderness with their own families when they are struggling with addictions? How could they pay attention to pretty flowers when they hear the hungry cries of their children?
In a busy and downtrodden life of despair, however, people know beauty. People know it is essential to be surrounded by God’s creation for better mental and spiritual health. It is no coincidence that many doctors are finding through research that people who walk in the city parks or simply walk in wooded streets are mentally healthier and less stressed. These doctors are now recommending that people do spend time in nature. There are endless stories of how those who gave up rat chasing city life and moved away into God’s nature found new strength in life with abundant creativity. Is it possible that those early Palestinians under the powers of Rome and Jerusalem, paying high taxes and barely able to survive had better mental and spiritual health than many who live in our cities today?
Jesus mentioned lilies in the context of a dreadful colonial life of common and poor people of Israel. Though they never had flower beds in front of their dwellings, they were often walking by these and other flowers blossoming all around them on the roadsides or hills. We know this because Jesus’ equation of lilies as grass tells us that lilies were abundant and were present everywhere during the growing seasons. We can imagine how green and filled with vibrant colours these fields and meadows would be and how everyone could easily imagine the life of plenty and the eternal life where God’s provisions would be overflowing in ways that they would have no need.
It is indeed a far cry from hot summer days in Palestine and Judea when everything turned to dried up beige yellow. The reality of growing seasons reminded everyone what a permanent life under God would be like and gave strength to survive through these days of exhausting heat and throat-parching dryness. Jesus was addressing people’s anxiety during this growing season when lilies were all around them in order to explain God’s grace of plentiful care for those who were suffering under the cruelties of others. These people of little or no means could actually see, experience, and wonder about what God’s salvation would be for them.
This is why this passage is so powerful today for those who are in very difficult situations. Jesus’ encouragement to pay attention to these lilies in times of anxiety, fear, and despair was and continues to be the reminder for us to be God’s creation who shares the abundance of God’s provision with one another. So focused we are on our own personal worries, we forget to participate and share in God’s bounties. As we enjoy these lives within God’s creation flourishing all around us, we are to remember what God has done for us and return to God’s ways of life of loving God and neighbours. When we fully get how lilies are the life which is fully blessed by God to reflect God’s glory, then, we can also be the humanity we are created to be: loving God and neighbours, always being good stewards of the entire creation.
Prayer (from The PCC resource)
From the very first breath we breathed until now, we have done our best to keep our eyes fixed on you. From the very first word we uttered, we have used our words to glorify you. From the very first moment of understanding, we tried to empty ourselves so that your Spirit may fill us. Now as we turn to you in prayer, we offer all that we are to you so in denying ourselves, in faith we may pick up our crosses to follow your Son. O gracious and merciful God, hear our prayer.
We give you thanks for these incredibly beautiful summer days. There is no other time than now for us to be immersed in your creation to receive and enjoy you. In every breath we take, we are filled with life that you breathed in us. Every time we open our eyes, we witness your glory as the world around us attest to your glory through the beauty and life that fill all living things. Every sound we hear reminds us of your Word, giving life abundantly.
O dear Lord,
How are we to thank you for these immense and unending blessings?
Humbly we present our world before you. Like Abraham we appeal to your mercy for this world. Our world is full of evil and sin. People have turned against each other. Wars rage in Ukraine, Yemen, Syria and many other places. People are violently killing each other. Crimes that deprive humanity are present in every country. We bring this world before you and ask for forgiveness for all that we are doing wrong. We ask you to fill us with courage to be your people bringing love in places of death, care in places of abuse and neglect, compassion to those who no longer have hope in humanity. Be with all who suffer evil at the hands of the powerful, sinister, violent, and malicious. Help us with courage to stand against all those who perpetrate evil and sin in this world.
O gracious and loving God,
We lift up our voices for those who are fearful and ill. So many are losing their hope because they suffer physical and mental pain. They do not know where to turn to find relief from these severe pains because no one knows how to cure them of these diseases fully. As COVID continues to attack many people, so many are suffering because of the way we treat our sick patients in our medical systems. Many are losing hope. Many have given up. Many are taking life into their own hands to relieve themselves of these unbearable pains. Help us to bring your love to all those who are suffering. Make us your presence so that they may know that we are with them in suffering every step of their ways.
O gentle and patient God,
Be present with us. We are quick to temper and despair. After two years of COVID lockdowns we have lost patience. Help us to relearn that our love begins when we are patient with each other. Fill us with your love in ways that we may share your love with all those around us. Focus us on you so that we may never lose hope in life.
All these we pray in your Son’s name. Amen.
In your generosity we find our hearts filled with gratitude. In responding to your abundant blessings, we return your grace to you as our offering through these gifts we have brought for you. May you receive these offerings! Open our eyes to see where in our lives we may find you ministering to your people. Open our ears to hear from you ways to participate in your mission in this world. Open our hearts to fully immerse ourselves in taking part in your ministry to this world. All these we pray in Jesus name. Amen.
Hymn: Blessed are you