Welcome and Announcements 

2nd Sunday of Lent

We thank God for bringing us into this wonderful day to worship and enjoy God. Let us come together, give God our praise, and be filled with God’s Word made flesh among us.

Next Sunday, we are putting our best on for our 220th Anniversary. We are quite excited. We invite everyone to come and join us as we sing and praise our gratitude to God. Yes, for 220 years God has guided us. We pray that God will continue to sustain God’s witness here for many more years to come.

On Tuesday, March 15 at 6:30 pm, the session will come together and continue to plan for our reopening. Please pray for all the elders as we begin moving forward.

Every year during lent, we contribute to a particular mission work through our donations. Remember how we helped to plant over 100 olive trees in Palestine to help Palestinian farmers? This year, we are asking you to pray as well as contribute to the Healing and Reconciliation Project of our denomination. The Healing and Reconciliation Fund at The PCC was set up in the 1990s to bring about a meaningful way to reconcile with our Indigenous brothers and sisters. The way it works is that members of The PCC contribute to the fund to grow the principal. The interest from the fund is used each year to serve the needs and concerns of the indigenous peoples in our Church. Currently we have five vibrant and active congregations, serving the indigenous peoples of Canada in Kenora, Winnipeg, Mistawasis, Edmonton, and Vancouver. Much of their work are supported by this Healing and Reconciliation Fund. All donations collected as our mission fund will be sent to the Healing and Reconciliation Fund.

All our activities will start in May. Please pray that we will be able to witness the Gospel and minister to each other and to our neighbours starting in May.

Preparation: Father we love you

Call to Worship (Psalm 27)

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail me to devour my flesh-- my adversaries and foes-- they shall stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident. One thing I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple. For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock. Now my head is lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the LORD. Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me! "Come," my heart says, "seek his face!" Your face, LORD, do I seek. Do not hide your face from me. Do not turn your servant away in anger, you who have been my help. Do not cast me off, do not forsake me, O God of my salvation! If my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will take me up. Teach me your way, O LORD, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen against me, and they are breathing out violence. I believe that I shall see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD.

Hymn: Unto the hills

Prayer

O Lord,
For the past seven days, we witnessed deaths and lives under the power of death as news of our world is brought to our ears. Being in comfort, enjoying relative peace, we are at a loss as to how we can witness the life in you. Yet, we know you are our peace and comfort. You are our Saviour and Redeemer in times of trouble. We come to you for wisdom, guidance, and the truth that are only possible in you.

As we come, we bring the sins of this world and we bring our sinful selves. We come in your assurance that if we repent, we are forgiven. Like Abraham, O Lord, we ask you not to condemn the world if there are not more than ten people in this world who are faithful to you. We repent and pray on this world’s behalf for your forgiveness.

We come also as people who live in the world, but not of this world. We, as your Son’s followers, have sojourned with your Son our Lord, witnessing the Truth, the Way, and the Life that are your Son and our Lord. As we proclaim your good news of salvation through your Son, we often mislead and hurt those who come to us seeking you. In our eagerness to convince our neighbours of your love, we impose our will more than simply pointing to you. So we come and repent our sins. Reconstitute us as your people who are as innocent as doves and as loving as your Son to our neighbours always. Make us yours.

Now bless us as your people, the body of Christ, as we worship you. May the Holy Spirit help us to bring our worship to you. All these and more we pray in your Son’s name. Amen.

Scripture Reading: Luke 17:5-10

The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’ The Lord replied, ‘If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea”, and it would obey you.

‘Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from ploughing or tending sheep in the field, “Come here at once and take your place at the table”? Would you not rather say to him, “Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink”? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, “We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!” ’

Hymn: Joyful, joyful, we adore you

Sermon: Preparing of coming God’s kingdom

When we read the Gospels, there are always surprises, upsetting us. We have a very clear idea about what it would be like to enter God’s kingdom. We imagine that under God’s full reign our lives would be much improved as we enjoy eternal bliss in God’s presence. We continue to hang on to Jesus’ sayings like, “I will give you rest.” For many who have been faithful followers, the promise of everlasting life where one would have eternal rest is what they are looking for. We endure the misery and unbearable suffering of this world for the restful eternity. What if things we are expecting may not happen?

I bring this point up because there have been many ups and downs in the Gospel Luke. Each time we think we have come to an understanding something else makes us think and look at the story with fresh new eyes. These chapters are no exception. Unlike Gospel Mark and Matthew, Jesus did not preach that the kingdom of God is near or at hand. Instead in Gospel Luke Jesus preached the good news of the kingdom of God. In Luke it is about the forgiveness of sins and release from captivity. This is why it is such a surprise to hear what he says in today’s passage.

Before today’s passage the chapter begins by Jesus warning the disciples about occasions when they will face difficulties, when they will stumble. Jesus is certain that they will fail. He tells them to rebuke those who sins, but when the sinners repent they ought to be forgiven. Indeed this is a very difficult saying. He goes on so far as to say that if the sinners failed us 7 times and yet repent asking us to forgive, they are to be forgiven. The temptation to judge and condemn them may be strong, but on repentance they are to be forgiven. At this teaching, the disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith. In other words, they want to succeed as Jesus’ followers and are asking for greater faith.

In his response to their request, Jesus tells them that if they had faith as the size of a mustard seed, they can do wonders. In other words, he seems to tell them the size of faith is not as important as the kind of faith they have. If their faith is the right kind, then, even with very little, they may exhibit God’s power. In other words, they are being told to examine their own faith and be centred on the right faith. Obviously, the disciples will fail–we know this because we see them abandoning Jesus at the cross. They are without faith. Increasing the same kind of faith they have at this moment will not change anything.

I wonder how Jesus might have felt telling his disciples. They have been with him all this time. They have been taught and witnessed the manifestation of God’s power and glory as Jesus not only preached the kingdom of God in words, but also in deeds of healings. Yet, Jesus seems to know that his disciples are without the kind of faith that is required. What a sad way to remind his own disciples that they still do not have faith the size of a small mustard seed. Somehow, even in this lack of faith the disciples follow. No wonder Jesus was talking about forgiving even after multiple times of sinning. If there is repentance, then, the sinners must be forgiven.

From pointing out the lack of faith, Jesus turns to what it means to be a servant in God’s kingdom. A servant/slave is required to do an assigned work. The master demands that the servant/slave finishes the daily task. When the servant/slave returns after the hard day’s work, there are more work to be done by the servant/slave. The servant-slave’s is not free to meet his personal needs until the master’s needs are met. In other words, servants-slaves are not allowed to rest even when they return back to the master. These disciples are not to rest until the work of Christ is finished.

Two things come to mind, reading this passage. 1. As Christ’s followers we are to work as long as Christ’s disciples in God’s kingdom. 2. We are to be humble to recognize that everything we have done is simply what we have been assigned to do.

Taking a look more closely we are to realise that there is no time to rest as long as God is at work in this world and even when the kingdom of God arrives. Just like these servants in Jesus’ example, we have been given tasks, to love even our enemies, do good, and glorify God. We are to recognise that as Christ’s followers, or as God’s people we have our duties to complete and when we return to God we still have our service to offer to God. Up until now evangelists have made it sound as if repenting and accepting Jesus into our hearts were enough. In truth, according to this passage, these are not enough. We are to serve God and Christ. We are not to think that being baptised in the name of Triune God is our end goal. Baptism only signifies that we are part of God’s kingdom and we are here to serve God. Serving God continues under God’s reign. We are only servants–slaves.

We have been seeing many heroic Christ followers who are self-made, self-actualized, and self-acclaimed. They speak highly of their accomplishments as Christ’s followers. They emphasise a high number of books they wrote, of sermons they preached, of people they saved, and of their accomplishments in life. They not only tout their own horns, promote their successes, but also display their fame, power, and fortunes as just rewards for their faith and faithful services to God. Indeed, many people of strong faith do demonstrate their worthiness as Christians. Interestingly, Jesus throws cold water on all of them. They are to be humble enough to know their places as servants-slaves. In doing all these great things, they have only done their duty. Doing their duty is not something to boast about, to profit from, and to allow them privileges of rest when they return back to God’s kingdom. Indeed, servants-slaves ought not expect rest. Instead, they ought to be humble and serve.

Currently our world is filled with Christians, Christ’s followers, believers of Christ, or whatever they call themselves who boast how wonderful they are in life doing things they are expected to do. Everything they are doing, after all, is nothing more than what they are required to do in the first place. Have they been kind in the angry world? Have they been patient in the world of instant gratification? Have they been loving their neighbours beyond their call and duty? Have they been giving life in places of death? All these are what we were supposed to do. As God’s servants-slaves in Christ, we are expected to be all these and more. We are to know this especially when we have endured hatred, attacks, and persecutions.

This life of humbleness and humility prepares us for God’s kingdom. Luke is trying all kinds of ways to show us this. In the story of good Samaritan, of Zacchaeus, of the prodigal son and his brother, and so on, we are encountering how we ought to be humble in life as we face more and more danger as Christ’s servants. Loving even the enemies is not a special and distinguishing heroic action on our part, but a duty we carry out. Giving the hungry food is nothing more than doing what God asks us to do. Sharing what God has entrusted us with in ways that help the world around us flourish is not a distinction to be celebrated, but another task we have been required to do.

So Gospel Luke insists. That when we enter God’s kingdom, instead of rest, we are required to serve God in every way is the surprise that we have not given much thought. Jesus, however, reminds us that with little or no love, we have been missing the mark in faith just like the disciples. The entry into God’s kingdom is not a destination where we are to cease serving. The entry into God’s kingdom is the next step of serving God after our duty to serve our neighbours comes to an end. This faith is crucial in this part of Gospel Luke, If we do not understand this, then, just like his disciples, we, too, abandon Jesus on the cross.

Prayer

O God,
Is it because we are in Lent that we see more evil around us? Is it because we are doing our best to stay by Jesus’ side as he walks burdened with the cross that we become aware of so many people who hurt others so deeply? Is it because we feel the weight of our crosses we wonder if we can be like our Lord as we witness him suffering and being mocked?

The world is at war, O God. A small fire, that was Ukraine, is now consuming the minds and hearts of leaders and people of our Western countries. Taking sides, they are fanning the flames of war and putting us all in danger in ways that we feel sad, yet, powerless. As this war in Ukraine is stoked with possibilities of the nuclear conflict we pray that your peace is what we witness to all these leaders people who are thumping their chests to prove their power and might.

Our love is limited, O God. After two years of isolation, following directions to keep everyone safe, we have lost ways to connect with our neighbours and those who are strangers to us. Having interacted only with those whom we love and care for, we do not know where to start as we try to reach out to everyone around us in need. Help us to see beyond our own loved ones. Open our eyes to behold those who are different from us. Open our hearts to embrace all God’s people.

Our bodies are failing. Being confined for two years without meaningful outdoor activities and safe ways to exercise, many parts of our bodies are struggling to recover. Like our minds, our physical well being has been assaulted in order to keep us safe from the virus. As we begin to venture out, help us in ways that we can heal our bodies and be healed of our illnesses so that we may participate actively in many physical activities. May we enjoy your blessings of life once again.

We pray for those who are mired in the war in Ukraine, who are struggling in your churches as they are declining or being persecuted, who are terrified in daily life due to lack of jobs, money and homes, and who are in despair because of the mental anguish and physical illness they carry. Be with the leaders to see the sufferings of their people. Be with everyone in fear. Guard and protect all your people in trouble.

All these we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Mission Moment

In Afghanistan, Fatima had always dreamed of attending school. However, most schools were far from her home and, as a girl, it was unsafe for her to travel to them. At the age of 10, Fatima’s dreams finally came true. She learned about a school near her village and persuaded her father to enroll her. “After completing my studies, I will become a teacher and become a role model for other girls and women in our village,” Fatima shared. Though the current political situation in Afghanistan has left many children uncertain about their futures, Fatima prays that she will be able to continue her education beyond primary school. This education project is supported by Presbyterian World Service & Development.

Hymn: Arise the light is come

Benediction