Welcome and Announcements
Thank you for taking part in this worship. We worship God. We give God honour, glory, and witness as well as proclaim God’s worthiness as our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. By our work of worship, we glorify God.
Thank you for worshipping with us. We are continuing to prepare for our 220th Anniversary. Please mark the date, come and rejoice in God who gave us this wonderful gift of being here to witness God for this long a time. As we prepare to meet the challenges of the present and future, in remembering God’s grace with us in this long and vibrant history, we see how solid our foundations are. Come and join us in communion and in agape lunch.
This is the first Sunday of Lent. Usually in Lent, as part of our preparation for Easter, we participated in the work of God’s ministry. Remember how we helped 100 students in Africa with school uniforms? During this Lent, we are asking you to help on a special project.
We will be celebrating Palm Sunday (April 10) and Easter (April 17). Mark these dates. Please remember that next Sunday the Daylight Saving Time comes into effect. That means you will be getting up one hour earlier. We ask for your prayers and support as we do our best to continue Christ’s ministry. It is our hope that God will continue to provide sufficiently as we prepare to open the church fully.
Preparation: With the Lord as my guide
Call to Worship (Psalm 91:1,2)
“You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the LORD, "My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust." Let us return to the Lord from this world of troubles and deaths and worship God who is our refuge, fortress and our God in whom we trust..
Hymn: We Praise Thee, O God, Our Redeemer Creator
Prayer O Lord, From the world of wars, as battles rage in Ukraine, Yemen, and Syria, where lives are being lost in hundreds and thousands and where God’s creation is destroyed indiscriminately, we come. We come in humble humility with prayers seeking peace. Our hearts are tainted with anger, rage, and revenge. As we see images of destruction and scared people fleeing, we witness how sin continues to afflict everyone. Cruelties have become accepted as normal by everyone who is trying to save one’s own life. Strangers with different citizenships or with different colours of skins hurt each other. Yes, Lord, we come from this horrific world into your presence. We come to worship you.
Though our world is full of those who hurt others, we come knowing that in you is peace and love. We are not experiencing peace as your Son has revealed to us during his ministry. We are living in a world where the greatest power belongs to those who have powers to kill others at their whims. In this world of greed, wars are all about worshipping money and power. Yet, we come out from this world to be in your presence to be made as your people who share with the world life that is true and full of love.
Through your Son, you have shown us the Truth, the Way, and the LIfe. You called us out from this world so that with the Holy Spirit we bring your good news to this death filled world. May you be glad and receive us into your presence. May you fill us with your Word. May your Word become flesh among us. May your people, as created anew in Christ Jesus, be the body of Christ who brings your life in places of death, love in places of hate, faith in places of unbelief, and hope in places of despair. As we offer this worship, may your will be done through us. In your Son’s name we pray. Amen.
Hymn Lord Jesus, You Shall Be My Song
Scripture: Luke 4:1-13
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread." Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'One does not live by bread alone.'" Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, "To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours." Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'" Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, 'He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,' and 'On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'" Jesus answered him, "It is said, 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.
Sermon: Cost of following Christ
Today we read Luke 12-19 focusing on Jesus’ teaching regarding the cost of being his followers. In 14:33 Jesus says, “none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.” Throughout history we find Christians who have given up everything and followed Jesus. These Christians were able to leave behind their wealth, power, and families to follow Christ. In a way, baptism, especially the adult baptism, is understood as dying to old self and being made new in Christ. A Christian practice of living the life in common in the Book of Acts was a form of giving up one’s possession.
This statement often makes us face what our faith has been so far. To what extent are we ready to follow Christ? Here, Jesus’ question focuses on one’s possession. The most challenging word in this statement is not giving up, but “all.” All one’s possessions for Jesus ultimately means to include his life. Jesus lays down or gives up his life for others. In another place Jesus speaks of no greater love than the love given to others by dying for others. What this “all” that we possess certainly includes wealth, but it opens our eyes to many other things we own, including life.
“All” is not as nuanced as we think. It implies everything. This is why Jesus’ all included giving up his life in loving the world. Throughout the Gospel Luke Jesus’ emphasis is on those who repent and follow Christ changing their ways completely. Changing ways involves not only how we do things, but also what we think. This (thoughts in our minds) is what was demanded of Pharisees. Pharisees, lawyers, and priests had developed extensive ways of practising their faith in God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They had rules and regulations on as small matters as cleansing hands and feet before eating. They had their own ways of working out how God was in the world. To follow Christ, they had to give all their possessions including their understanding about God.
The struggle of following Christ by giving up all their possessions caused not only Pharisees, lawyers, and priests, but also everyone else. In 14: 26 and 27 Jesus clarifies, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Part of giving up means to give up on relationships that feed and nurture us to be part of a family, as well as social, educational, political, and moral structures. We find out how difficult what Jesus is saying by looking at where his disciples are when he is arrested and being tried. They all abandoned him to save themselves.
Chapter 15 opens with a parable of the lost sheep. When Pharisees and scribes grumble saying that he was mixing with sinners, he told them the parable. In it, the lost ( in this case tax collectors and sinners are inferred as the lost) sheep becomes the focus. The Pharisees and scribes, though they are like this lost sheep, do not know that they are lost. The consequence is, they are not the object of God’s redemption. Pharisees and scribes are confident of their ways of faith. They like to engage in debates, discussions, and studies of Scriptures. However, they do not consider themselves as part of the lost whom God is seeking through Christ. Of course, they do not feel the necessity to give up all they have and know to follow Jesus because they believed that all they had was given to them for their faith.
At the 18th verse in Chapter 18, a rich ruler comes asking what he has to do to gain eternal life. Once again this conversation turns to Jesus telling him to sell everything he owns and give to the poor, then follow him. This man goes away sad because he is unwilling to give “all” he has. The crucial point here is that coming to Jesus and asking for healing, restoration, forgiveness, and believing that Jesus is the Messiah is not enough. Faith in Christ is shown decisively in giving all one has and following Jesus. After all, as long as we have families to return to, businesses to tend to, and matters of the world to care for, we will not be able to lay down our lives for others as Jesus did. This is why it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than to the one with riches of this world to enter God’s kingdom.
If this is so difficult or impossible for human beings, then, why do we say that we are called to be Christ’s followers? Are we being condemned for living a decent life in Canada in comparison to those who live in very economically deprived countries of the world? Should we not hear what Jesus told the rich ruler, selling everything we own and giving all we have to the poor in order to follow Christ? Perhaps. Being good stewards of God’s gift, however, is very different from selling all to give to the poor. What Jesus is focused on here has everything to do with cutting our ties from our past in order to live under God’s reign. We are first to cut our ties to the powers of this world, including riches. We turn away from this world and return under God’s reign. This is the cost of following Christ.
There is to be a clear understanding of “repentance.” In this life after the repentance, we live under God. We no longer understand the wealth and power of this world as our possessions. We see them as what they are supposed to be, the very gifts that enable us to glorify and enjoy God in God’s presence in Christ. We do not use wealth and power for our own benefits, but for the flourishing of all creation. That is, we become good stewards of the entire creation. This stewardship requires us to walk away from everything we have gained, inherited, and made our own with our own hands. Giving everything up is to acknowledge that we are turning away from the ways of this world completely.
With this understanding, Gospel Luke is setting us up to see this theme of the cost of following Christ clearly as part of Jesus’ ministry. This unwavering commitment to follow Christ is divisive and costly. It is an impossible cost for anyone to bear. It is only possible because of what God does through Jesus for us. The world does not understand God’s will. The people of this world cannot hold onto everything including their lives and be the followers of Christ. Our ways of thinking, knowing, understanding, and figuring out have to be given up, too. How, then, do we function in this world? In times of need for knowledge, understanding, wisdom, and speech, the Holy Spirit will put God’s words on our lips to be spoken. In all our speeches, we depend not on what we know, understand, and wisdom we gained in the world through worldly ways, but on the Holy Spirit.
Today, we are meditating on the passage describing the temptation of Jesus. The very first temptation speaks of our need to save ourselves. We tend not to realise that Jesus not only tells the devil the need for God’s Word, but also for bread. In Gospel Luke, Jesus’ response is simpler than in Matthew. Jesus simply says, “Man does not live by bread alone.” With this, we are reminded that our spiritual needs are met by God. Matthew expands it to say that every word that proceeds from the mouth of God is what feeds our spirits. In the second temptation the devil offers Jesus in exchange for the glory, power, and everything a person desires is worshipping the devil-not God. Today’s discussion centred on giving up this glory, power, and everything one desires in life as the cost of following Christ.
Gospel Luke continually builds on top of the theme we studied two Sundays ago, the theme of struggle between the powers of this world–displayed in the hypocrisy of Pharisees and others. Today’s theme overlaps with the first one somewhat, but points out that there is a great cost for anyone who follows Christ. The cost is indeed life and death. Our lives in this world must be given up. We need to die to this world. By death to this world, giving up everything we possess, we find life under God’s reign as we are called into God’s kingdom through repentance.
How do we walk out of the life we have enjoyed all life long? How do we gain knowledge, understanding, wisdom, and courage to live under God’s reign after giving up everything including our knowledge and wisdom? It is indeed as impossible as a camel going through the eye of a needle. However, nothing is impossible for God. On this God’s grace, we trust and depend on for our lives under God’s reign.
Prayer (from The PCC Worship Resources)
God of grace, You are our Judge and our Hope.
Transform us with your love and harness our energy for your purposes in the world
into which Christ came and for which he died.
Hear us as we pray for the world, the church and our community:
We pray for the earth as your creation,
staggering under the demands of human activity and expectation.
May this planet, our home, be held in reverence in every culture.
Where we are tempted to use resources carelessly,
where human lifestyles endanger homes and habitats of other peoples or other species,
where immediate gain tempts people to give no thought for the future,
send your wisdom to guide citizens and decision makers to act responsibly.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
We pray for the Church facing the challenges of rebuilding ministry and mission
amid the uncertainties created by the pandemic.
Where congregations are tempted to guard traditions and resist new possibilities,
where members magnify differences instead of celebrating our unity in Christ,
where energy for leadership and community life has grown weaker, send your healing and transforming grace.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
We pray for relationships suffering under the stress of prolonged pandemic restrictions.
Where families are tempted to nurse grudges and harbour complaints,
where friendships have been wounded by misunderstanding or neglect,
where workplace tensions have arisen over clashing opinions or exhausting demands,
send your reconciling and restoring mercy.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
We pray for the world filled with increasing threats and conflicts.
Where countries are torn by unrest and persecution,
where communities are diminished by prejudice and discrimination,
where those with power and authority degrade or dismiss their critics,
empower those who work for just solutions and advocate for the powerless.
We pray for all who are troubled and find it hard to face these uncertain times,
we pray for those who face illness or loss of any kind,
for those challenged by economic hardship, and for those faced with the reality of death,
their own or of someone dear.
In silence, we name those on our hearts this day:
Embrace each one with your compassion and courage.
Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer.
Even as we remember the many challenges around us, we give you thanks for the blessings we know, for moments of pleasure,
for laughter shared, for conversations that brightened a day.
Thank you for your steadfast love and the comfort we draw from your presence with us in all things.
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Mission Moment – Sunday, March 6
The Reformed Church in Transcarpathia, Ukraine, has been struggling to recruit and retain pastors to serve in poor, rural churches. To encourage seminary students to return after studying abroad, the church started the Nest Program, which offers pastors a safe place to live. Bishop Zán-Fábián was overjoyed when The Presbyterian Church in Canada offered financial support to renovate a vacant parish house for the Rev. Sándor and his wife Noémi, who have agreed to serve in the small village of Tiszaújhely. With financial assistance from Presbyterians Sharing, Sándor and Noémi have furnished their house with basic appliances and furniture and can now concentrate on their ministry in Tiszaújhely and give thanks to God.
,p> Hymn: And can it be that I should gain