Welcome

‘Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.’(Luke 10:23,24)

Announcements

Cinnamon Bun Tuesday will continue at 10 am on Tuesdays. Please come and enjoy the fellowship as well as warm buns, coffee, and/or tea.

Please remember that on the fourth Thursday of each month, we are having Tea Tasting. This month, it is on Thursday, June 23rd at 1:30 pm. Please mark the date.

Remember that the congregational meeting is called for Sunday, June 26. We will be discussing and voting on the session’s proposal to downsize.

Hot and Spicy’s planning is scheduled for Friday, June 24th at 5:30 pm. As we have shared with you, this is a new community of faith we are planning to start.

Preparation: It is well with my soul

Call to Worship (Psalm 8)

O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honour. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Hymn: I've got peace like a river

Prayer

O Lord, we continually praise you with all our hearts, minds, and spirits. Send us the Holy Spirit so that in and through your Spirit our praise and worship may find you and glorify you.

We come in your Son’s name, filled with gratitude, having been called to serve you and our neighbours. As sinners we sojourn in this world, doing our best to get by each day. Sometimes in our service we see and experience the harshness of life. Wars and killings remind us of the evil of this world. Death and the power of death force so many to focus on ways of greed and gluttony. More and more people care only for themselves. You call us out of this world to live as your children sharing faith, hope, and love. So we come.In praise, we discover our blessings. In prayers, we find ourselves. In your Word we receive your life. In gathering to worship we experience your grace. Be glad of our presence before you. Fill us with your love in ways that we share your love abundantly with the world. Shape us in faith so that by our actions we share hope with those in despair. Grant us the gift of faith so that we are recreated in you as the vessels of your grace in this world.

All these we pray in the name of our Lord. Amen.

Scripture: Luke 10:25-37

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.’ And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.” Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’

Sermon: Faith: Doing something new

Often the parable of the good Samaritan is used to expose our hypocrisy of being more like the Levite and the priest. Today, however, we will look at a totally different aspect of the parable. We will look at how something old can hinder us while something new can help us do new things that we have never tried before.

In the parable, there is a man in need. He is in the middle of the road, having been stripped and beaten. With wounds and not in condition to speak. He cannot even raise his voice for help. He is completely at others’ mercy. The voiceless and sightless mean that he would not know who passes him by. In other words, the onus of helping is solely on the passers by. This is an important part of the story.

The first we are told is a priest. We know immediately that the priest would be in a conundrum. As a priest he knows clearly the details of purification law for all Jews, especially for priests. He was taught the rules and traditions concerning cleanness and uncleanness. He knows how one can become unclean. Touching dying or dead bodies would be catastrophic to those who need to remain clean, especially for one who is in a leadership role like being a priest. Also, not being asked to help, a priest does not have to help those who do not ask for help. It is up to the priest to extend his grace. Not extending grace in order to serve God or prioritising serving God first is not a sin.

Think of it this way, We sit on a busy street as a church. We often see people in desperate need sitting on our front step or on our property. Many of them do not ask for help. When you look at them, they turn away in their tattered and unwashed clothes. It is obvious to our eyes that they have not eaten for a few days. They have the look of having consumed drugs. There are times, as a church, we do not extend our grace or grace on behalf of Christ to them. We let them alone instead of harassing or chasing them away. Are we sinning? Definitely we are not sharing Christ's love by looking after them, but is leaving them alone a sin? We can fight until cows come home about how we could have expressed our love to them, but it is not a sin to leave them alone. Mind you, it would have been a wonderfully loving action if we provided for their needs so that they would live to flourish in life. It might have been different if they asked for help and we refused to respond to their call for help.

In this priest’s action to sidestep the victim of robbery causes us to pause and think of his inhumanity. However, on technicality he has not sinned.

The next person who passes by is a Levite. Why did Luke specify that the second person passing by was a Levite? Moses and Aaron were Levites. After settling in the promised land, Levites were given tasks of being local religious representatives. They were given the 10th of everything including the harvest initially. They were chosen for holy service to the Lord. They were the keepers of the Temple and all the rituals of worship in the Temple in the very early days. By Jesus’ time, they were not as highly regarded as priests. They ranked between the priests and regular Jews. They looked after guarding the Temple, slaughtering sacrificial animals and so on. They also lived with purification laws that bound the priests.

To have both groups represented here shows how the story talks about those who are religious and more aware of the religious traditions and the law of Moses they were supposed to keep in everyday life. In a way they represent for us–any and everyone who takes religious rules and laws seriously. To understand the implications of interpreting this parable, we need to know this before we move on to the next part of the discussion. It is not to judge whether their actions in the parable are just or sinful. It is to know the context to realise that these persons are bound by tradition, rules, and laws of their faith.

Today, we are continuing our discussion of 1 Corinthians 13’s faith, hope, and love. As we continue to explore faith, I am asking you to note that faith is what bound these two very faithful groups of people to the law that requires them to remain clean/pure. Teachings on tradition and law of cleanliness meant that they are not allowed to touch dead or dying bodies. Both of them were faithful to the law that prohibits them to be impure in any way. If they are to serve God in the Temple and around the Temple. Traditions and the laws state that death awaits those who are serving God to be not pure.

Being faithful for us means to keep the commandments summarised as loving God and loving neighbours as well. We stress on staying right with God in all circumstances. We may struggle to figure out what this loving God and neighbours may mean, but in reality, we review all our actions to see if we are indeed being faithful, just like the priest and the Levite. Is it not the case that many good Christians constantly remind us that to follow Christ we must protest against abortions, prohibit drug consumptions, be faithful in daily prayers, attend worship services, and keep sexual purity?

Our faith in Christ also makes us live with all kinds of traditions and rules. What hymns we sing, when to stand and sit, who gets baptised, who are given votes in church meetings have always been the visible ways to demonstrate our faith. Thus certain Christians fight for banning abortions while others fight against abortions. Each denomination has a rule about whether to include or exclude LGBTQI people and so on. In other words, our faithfulness in faith reflects much the same way the priest and the Levite passed by the dying man. Most of the time in faith, we do our best to be faithful like these two religious men.

The Samaritan in the parable, on the other hand, does not have to live with the same purity law as the priest and the Levite. He is less worried about being pure. He does not serve in the Temple at Jerusalem. He does not participate in any Jewish ritual of sacrifice. He, therefore, is less bound by traditions and rules of the Jews. This is an important thing to remember. This Samaritan is not more heroic or compassionate than the priest or Levite. He simply lives with a different set of traditions and laws. He is free from those purity requirements of the others. He faces far less weighty consequences for touching the dying person for the Samaritan. He, too, can pass by. However, he chooses to look after the dying man. In this way, the hurt person is rescued because the Samaritan was not a Jewish person with religious rules.

We often see a similar thing happening in churches. Those who have been Christians for a long time often have very clear ideas about how we should behave as Christians. When looking for a church, faithful and devout Christians are careful to observe and see whether there are Bible studies, prayer groups and preaching based on the Bible. Their desire to find a home church with certain ways of being Christians motivates them to search for a compatible group of Christians. In other words, all of us function with certain rules and traditions that guide our behaviours.

We have known for a long time that changes for churches come from those members who are at the margins of church structures. This is another way of saying that church members who bring changes to churches often are those who are not core members or participants for a long time. They are usually new to churches. They bring to churches new ways of doing things. These new ways may be old in the churches they come from, but new to us. Also those who are new Christians bring us ways and understanding that are dramatically different from our comfortable ways. In other words, being faithful can blind us to what God wants us to do because we have been doing things in our comfortable ways for so long.

The Samaritan in the parable does not have to worry about the strict Jewish purity law. He might have had to live with similar purity law as the priest and the Levite if he was a religious leader at the Samaritan temple. We don’t know that. The very fact that he is a business person and has less worries about purity helps in this situation to help a dying Jew. In this way this victim of robbery finds grace from this stranger who was a less religious and rule bound outsider. Yes, this parable is far less about showing hypocrisy of those who are religious and more about how the world ends up experiencing God’s grace from those who are not bound by religious rules and traditions. Our strict Christian rules and traditions of faithful behaviours, indeed, can make us less a tool of God’s grace than we think.

Changes for our church also come when we look at how our faithful ways are shaken up when we witness how our traditions, rules, and laws limit us from being neighbours to those voiceless and powerless ones in need around us. Also more than often Christians are reminded of God’s grace given in Christ by actions of those who are not like us in the world. Our preoccupation with following Christ according to our traditions, rules, and laws certainly helps us from not sinning, but not necessarily allows us to share God’s grace shown in Christ to us. Being faithful to God in sharing God’s grace has nothing to do with being good and faithful Christians according to traditions, rules, and laws of our churches. Being faithful, this parable teaches us, is to keep on reexamining our ways of faith by learning and witnessing how God’s grace is shared by all in the world. Otherwise, our faithful ways limit us from being ones who truly share God’s grace. It is God who teaches us how to be true neighbours to others in love.

Prayer

Blessing, honour, and glory are yours, O God. You always love us. Your love is revealed especially to those of us who are in much need of faith and hope in this difficult world.

We pray for those who are caught in wars. Ukrainians, Yemenies, Congolese, Somalians, Ethiopians. Many are displaced from their homes, are lost after their homes are destroyed, are grieving after their loved ones are killed, and are traumatised. As ordinary people we feel powerless. So we pray. We pray that the leaders, who are forgetting their people and put their people under death’s grip, in their aims to win a war, find in their hearts the suffering and pain they cause in their policies and strategies. O God of peace, do not harden the hearts of these leaders. Put in their hearts compassion and mercy so that they may find ways of peace for their people.

We pray for our indigenous brothers and sisters. So many are grieving still and are living the life threatened by their children’s suicides. In their suffering they cry. Hear their cries. Make us witnesses to their suffering and causes of their suffering. Open our eyes to see how so many of these our brothers and sisters are made to suffer by existing political, economic, and social structures. Give us courage to follow your way of reconciliation.

We pray for our city. As the prices rise, many are experiencing poverty, displacement, and hunger. In despair many are withering away as they are harassed and chased away. Those who are mentally ill or incapable, those who are under constant pressures of anxiety and worries, as well as those who see no future are increasing in number. Be with them. Help us to find ways to share with them life that you have given to all humanity.

By your love, O God, forgive us. We are grateful for your grace, mercy, and compassion we enjoy in your Son our Lord. We ask you to make us to be graceful, merciful, and compassionate when our neighbours ask us to be like you. When our needy neighbours make us uncomfortable, angry, or exhausted, remind us of your love for us. Fill our hearts with your love. Make us joy-filled to be ones who bring your grace, mercy, and compassion to all those who require them.

In faith we remember your promise of life. There are many among us who are struggling with cancer and other debilitating diseases. As we age, we find our bodies becoming more burdensome. Help us to live in your promise of eternal life. Remind us that you are the Lord of life and death. Instil in us faith so that we find life in you.

In hope we bring our prayer for the future. Soon we will be discerning your will through voting on the suggestion put forth by the session. Help us to discern in ways that we can truly be ones living your will and be your presence here as your people.

In your Son’s name we pray. Amen.

Offering

Please do not forget to give generously so that we may continue to carry out Christ’s ministry here in this part of God’s vineyard.

Offering Prayer

In thanksgiving for the very life we enjoy here in this part of your vineyard, we bring these gifts. Help us to experience your generosity. Make us instruments of your grace in this world. Use us and all these gifts as ways for this world to experience your love. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Thy loving kindness

Benediction