Sunday, July 18, 2021

Welcome and Announcements

Thank you for joining us for worship. We are really excited to be able to move into Stage 3 and see a possible date when all can join us for worship in person. We thank God for you all as we wait for the day to enjoy communion together. It appears that if all goes well, the church may be open in full in early September.

As we enjoy summer we also thank you for your prayers and concerns for the church. We are working hard to be ready for you to return. John and David are working hard to fix the ramp to the building. They have made significant progress. We thank Ed Fraser for cleaning the church and getting the building in shape. The church will begin to welcome back those who use our facilities as well starting in August.

Once again we thank Gail, Linda, and Ruth along with Lynn, Deanna, Terry, and Verna for takeout lunches as we carry on this important mission. It is also important to thank you for continually supplying us with many things we require. Your willingness to pick up various desserts have been a great help.

We are asking for your prayers as we begin to think about relaunching our church in September. Our hope is to see if we can begin a new way of being a church that truly embodies Christ’s love as we worship and serve God in all that we do.

Preparation: Be still, for the presence of the Lord

Call to Worship:

Call to Worship:

O Lord, you call us in eternal faithfulness.
You are with us in all of life, always filling us with love.
By your love we receive life that is full.
Come to us now as we gather to praise and worship you.
Blessing, honour and glory be to you, O Lord our God!

Hymn: My peace


O Lord, with love, we gather. In love, we come to the feast you have invited us. May this time with you be the moments that open our eyes to life beyond this day. Immerse us in your Spirit in ways that your love may fill us. In your grace restore and nurture us to share your love with our neighbours. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Offering (Anthem: Take my life and let it be

Offering Prayer

What can we bring that can add to you, O Lord? There is nothing you need from us. Yet as your creation, we come and offer you our commitment. Through this commitment we promise to share your love unconditionally with those around us. Bless all who have gathered and offered their presence this day. Bless all who are here promising to serve you as stewards of all that you have created. Send us into the world at the conclusion of this service to live a life of grace and mercy. All these we pray in your Son's name. Amen.

Scripture: Ephesians 2:11-22

So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called "the uncircumcision" by those who are called "the circumcision" --a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands--remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.

Sermon: Unity in times of differences

There is a joke among Protestants on how we grow by dividing ourselves. Protestants were and are notorious for splitting up. We split churches on any small and minute differences in beliefs, teachings, and ways of expressing faith. Drummond Hill was not immune to divide. Indeed in the late 1800s when North American Presbyterian churches were beginning to sing with organs, Christians in Drummond Hill fought over whether to let an organ be played in our sanctuary or not. After the vote, many who did not want to sing hymns with an organ left. It appears from the record that nearly 50% left because they firmly believed that organs or other musical instruments did not belong in Sunday worship.

In 1925, Presbyterians in Canada took a vote on whether to join Congregationalists and Methodists to form one church. ⅔ of Presbyterians agreed. ⅓ disagreed. ⅔ went and became part of the United Church of Canada. ⅓ remained in The Presbyterian Church in Canada. This division was traumatic. Like any divorce, both sides were hurt. The United Church of Canada became the largest Protestant denomination in Canada while The Presbyterian Church became a small shadow of itself. The Presbyterian Church in Canada became insular and had far more difficulty in carrying out its international and national missions due to its smaller size. Drummond Hill also divided. Those who voted yes left the church and joined another congregation while the majority stayed as Drummond Hill.

In the 1960s another battle took place in The Presbyterian Church in Canada. This was on the issue of ordaining women to eldership, both ruling and teaching. Many battles were fought. Many terrible things were said between factions of those who disagreed. Eventually the church law was changed to allow the ordination of women into the eldership fully. This issue made some Presbyterians to leave the denomination because they felt strongly that women’s eldership was against their understanding of the Bible. Even to this day, there are more than a few Presbyterians who are saddened over this decision because they believe that the Bible does not allow women in leadership positions.

We have come through another decision that was over thirty years in the making. Again the fight was over whether to allow a group to leadership positions or not in our congregations. This time the discussion was on the issue of LGBTQI people. There is another possibility that The Presbyterian Church in Canada may end up being split. We certainly know that American Presbyterians who made the same decision saw some Presbyterians leaving and forming another denomination.

Today’s passage is an excerpt from Paul’s letter to Ephesians about a similarly controversial issue. In the early churches, as Paul and the apostles were going from one city to another all over the Roman Empire, gathering people to start new churches, it became obvious that there was no agreement on many issues. However, one particular issue began to dominate in these early Christian churches as some of the apostles began insisting that all Christians ought to become like Jews. Paul was one of the few who argued that gentiles did not need to become part of Jews to be Christians. Eventually Paul’s view began to be accepted by many churches in Roman Empire. To the church in Ephesus the letter outlines that the gentiles in the church were as much part of God’s people as the Jews.

In the letter the key point is that the gentiles were equal with all who were called to be Jesus’ followers as free citizens were in any Roman cities. It appears that there were some disagreements and divisions within the church at Ephesus. He pleads for the unity of the church. This appeal to unity means, as Paul would say in the letter to the church in Galatia, that there would be neither Jews nor gentiles in the Church altogether. This is what Paul meant here in the passage “you… are members of the household of God.” There should be no distinction between the Jews and gentiles in the Church. It is obvious that this unity is in need of support and care. This unity of different peoples is not an ideal, but a reality required to be exhibited in all churches according to the Letter to the church at Ephesus.

Since the church began to be established, every local congregation everywhere throughout history faced the same difficulty of unity and disunity. Since the Reformation, church divisions accelerated even more. That the Presbyterian Church in Canada is facing division is not new. Doctrinal disputes as well as theological differences have been with us from the very beginning. Maintaining unity has taken a great effort for all concerned. The question for us has always been how far do we extend our differences before we snap as one entity. As more and more pressures build up for differences or uniquenesses to be celebrated, there are more challenges to hold the entire group together and figure out why we are to stay as one church rather than splintering into many. When the identity that we shared in the past no longer helps in holding us together, we face this situation of cultivating a new identity for all or of breaking up into different ones.

In the past few years, our identity as people of Drummond Hill Church has gone through dramatic changes. With many young families, Drummond Hill of the 1960s and 1970s was a social and spiritual centre that provided activities as well as worship services. As young families grew up, the identity of Drummond Hill was a church of all generations with many middle aged folks in the 1980s and 1990s. By the time the new century dawned on us, we became a congregation of elderly with a few children. As we enter into the third decade of the 21st century, we are faced with a dramatic situation. The youngest active members are now in the middle 50s and most of our Sunday worship services are with people of the 70s and 80s group. So we are trying to reinvent ourselves with a new identity yet again.
The question of unity is in the forefront of our minds because as we discuss together who we want to be in 5 years in order to determine who we will be, there will be disunity among us. Each member will have a different ideal of what kind of church we should be in five years.

In those cases of disunity, we are to be reminded by this passage that those who came more recently than others to Drummond Hill are as part of this congregation as anyone else in Christ. This is a hard thing to accept, especially those of us who have been in this church and have put our hearts and souls into it. Also it is a very difficult thing to be reborn or recreated in a totally new way. We like who we have been. We do not like starting all over as a new creation with many things in confusing uncertainties. Yet, this passage becomes the key for us to move on from where we have been and where we are. This endeavour indeed takes faith, hope, and love so that we can truly stand in Christ, with Christ, and for Christ.

Yet, as our Presbyterian motto, Always reforming and being reformed, reminds us, we do not stand still by holding onto what we have done in the past, but being open to God’s new direction. To trust God totally and commit our future in God’s hand is more than doing the same thing over and over again or repeating what we are comfortable with. To rely on God totally is to let God take us where we do not wish to go--wherever that new place might be.

I am always struck by what it means to be loving. What fascinates me, even now, (I say this because we now know everything there is to know about love in terms of biology, physiology, and psychology) is the way lovers are ready to jump into an unknown future in embrace. Our songs, (classics, pops, folk music, raps, jazz and all forms of songs) talk of our willingness to go with our love wherever without condition. Perhaps, the reason that we often do not want to go where God leads us is because we are not in love with God as much as we say we are. This reluctance might tell us far more than what we say about our love for God. After all, those who love traveling will go very places they have never been to and encounter situations they can never foresee; those who write novels often do not know how the book they are writing will end and who will be touched by their stories; those who sing songs do not know how famous their songs will become; those who launch new business have no idea if they will succeed or fail; and those who hope in love do not know where they will end up in their relationships. If we truly are in love with God, love God, then, why the so much reluctance on our part? Why so much worry when it is our turn to put our future in God’s hand?

Pastoral Prayer

In thanksgiving, O Lord, we humbly pray. Though we have lacked little in this world because of your abundant blessings, yet we come once again with prayers full of needs and concerns. From the very beginning of time you have sustained and blessed this world. Yet in life, focused with concerns for ourselves, we have recreated the world in our own image while veiling, hiding, scarring and destroying all that you have created. The entire creation is groaning. We hear this in unbelievably high temperatures, unheard of floods and weathers that have affected everyone all over the world. In these overwhelming situations, we bring our prayers.

We remember before you all those people in Canada, especially those who were driven out of their homes by forest fires in the West and who have lost much in the tornado in Barrie. We pray for them all as they try to figure out a way to rebuild their homes. Be with them.

We lift up those who are suffering from illnesses, both physical and mental. So many are struggling in pain trying to put each day together in hope that healings will come their way. Grant them your presence, O Lord. Walk with them and be their guide in healing. Do as you will with each life that brings glory to your name.

As we pray for the world, we pray for ourselves. Trying to prepare ourselves for the future is not a task of weak and broken hearts. As we do our best in preparing by putting our faith and hope in you, fill us with love in ways that we may bring your love to the world around us. May we truly be your hands and feet in this world. By your wisdom, may we seek the very tomorrow you have given to us in your Son our Lord. Give us courage and hope to follow you wherever you lead us in love.

In our prayer we seek your wisdom, your presence, and your guidance. Do not fail us. Always be with us. In your Son’s name we pray. Amen.

Hymn: Saviour, like a shepherd, lead us

Offering Prayer