OUR CHANGING WORLD
It is so good to be back in worship for the first time since March 15. In some ways, it seems as though the world has change in the past four months. We missed some important times together. Palm Sunday was on April 5. This is the first time in years that we didn’t jump up and down and shout Hosanna! I missed that. That was followed by Good Friday and Easter the next week. Those are the two most sacred of our church year. And while we celebrated them, it was different to not do it together.
Then we got to May 24 which was supposed to be our anniversary worship, the same day we were supposed to dedicate our Prayer Garden. That had to be postponed because we simply could not get the work done what needed to get done so we have postposed that probably until the fall. But that’s okay because that will give the garden a chance to fill out a little and it will look even better.
Not everything, of course, was cancelled. Some new and exciting things happened. Linda Lord joined our staff on May 1. She has fit right in and provided some important groundwork that we needed to stay connected with online activities and messages for children, youth and young adults. I know that, as you get to know Linda, you will appreciate her as much as those of us who have had the pleasure of working with her for the past couple of months.
Lots has changed in the church. Lots more has changed in the world. four months ago, we had no idea of the extent to which Covid-19 would affect us. Who would have guessed that you could walk into bank with a mask on and people would consider that to be completely normal? Four months ago, no one had heard of George Floyd. There were no massive demonstrations for racial justice that sometimes turned violent. Statues were not being torn down or monuments defaced.
Four months ago I don’t think any of us would have believed that police would be under attack, forced to vacate large portions of some cities. There were no open calls to defunded and even abolished police forces.
Internationally, now there are demonstrations in Hong Kong to protest the crack down imposed on that city by the dictators who rule China. And locally, we are only beginning to learn about the sorry conditions in which some – certainly not all – migrant workers are expected to live.
The truth is that our world has changed in the past three months. Some of those changes are good. Some of them are questionable. And none of us really know where it goes from here. I confess that there have been times in the past little while where I’ve felt rather overwhelmed by it all. Maybe you have too.
In the midst of all of that, we are still called to live faithfully before God and exhibit Jesus love and grace in a world that seems to have gone mad.
BEING LIKE CHILDREN
We’re going to talk about that this morning because it’s an important topic. To do that we’re going to turn to Matthew 11:25-30.
I just want to give you a bit of background for this passage to help it makes sense. Matthew 11:25-30 follow directly after a story in which Jesus rebukes certain cities for not putting their faith in him. He visited them. He taught about the need for true repentance and transformation. But the people in these cities were not really interested. All they wanted to see were the miracles that Jesus performed. They didn’t want their lives to change. All they wanted was to see the show. They didn’t see Jesus as a saviour and messiah. To them, he was more of a carnival act. They were coming to see the greatest show on earth not to have their lives transformed. And Jesus is not the least bit impressed.
And so we begin to read Matthew 11:25-26 (NIV) which says:
At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.”
This is actually a prayer in which Jesus thanks God for hiding these important lessons from people who think they are so smart but are really blind to some very important truths. Their eyes are closed and their hearts are closed. And they are quite content to keep it that way.
But then Jesus does something interesting. He compares the closed eyes and hearts of those who think they are so smart with children who have open eyes and open hearts and are open to new realities.
One of the things that we really missed during this whole Covid-19 adventure was seeing our grandchildren. Two of them are just in Charing Cross and so we normally see them all the time. They have a sleep over at Nanna and Papa’s at least once a month but that hasn’t happened. We finally were able to have our first sleepover earlier this week. We had Jasper and Paisley for two nights and it was so good to have them with us.
I had forgotten over the past four months just how open they are to trying new things and just how much they want to help and make things better. And so on Monday, we went to pick strawberries at McLeod’s farm – sadly for the last time it seems. They just couldn’t wait to do that. And they did okay at berry picking for a three and four year old. We picked six pints. Within twenty-four hours, we had eaten four of them. Yummy! Monday evening, the kids noticed that the red currents were ripe in the bush in our back yard. And so we had a fire in the fire pit and ate red currents all night long. They wanted to try the gooseberries too but they needed another week or so. We tried one but it was still pretty sour.
On Tuesday Jasper especially wanted to help with yardwork, “Papa, can we do some yardwork?” To which I replied, “Sure Jasper, let’s cut the grass.” And we did.
Then he said, “Papa, go get your weed wacker. I like wacking weeds.” So we wacked the weeds. And then we weeded the garden. And then we trimmed some of the shrubs. And then we watered the garden. And they still had lots of energy so we started to move around some of those landscaping rocks that are used to edge gardens. They weigh ten or fifteen pounds apiece so that finally tired them out a little bit which was good because I was sure ready for a break. And just note that all fingers and toes remained intact on everyone. But I’m always amazed at just how eager they are to learn new things.
One of the joys of children is that they are open and they are willing to see things in a new way. They have been compared to little sponges that just soak everything up. Their eyes are open and so are their heart and their minds. Maybe that’s why Jesus said to be just like them.
The challenge for us sometimes, is to find the courage to open our eyes to the new realities that surround us. Change is not always an easy thing to face and yet we have to. As we have learned in the past few months, there is very little of anything that can be taken for granted. We cannot risk becoming complacent for ultimately the things of this world can be very fleeting, here today and gone tomorrow. So let’s not, like the people of those cities whom Jesus chastised, think of ourselves as being so smart, that we know everything. For Jesus tells us to be like little children.
REVEALED THROUGH JESUS
In Matthew 11:27 (NIV) Jesus goes on to says this, “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
Jesus tells us that all things have been committed to him. What that means is that all things can be revealed through him. He can open our eyes. He can open our hearts. He can reveal to us the unseen realities of today. But to do that, we have to understand that we don’t know everything. We need to be like those children who are open to new ideas and new realities.
That became crystal clear to the team that was assembled to coordinate the reopening of our church for worship. In that group were Pattie Logan, Bonnie Marn, Lindi Osborne, Linda Lord and myself. I remember the first time we met. There where thirty five individual things on the agenda. Those things included when to worship, where to worship and would there be nursery or children’s programmes. What would we do about music and singing? Would the bathrooms be open? How many chairs can we accommodate? What about the screening process that we are mandated to do by the province? Where do we get the screening teams and the set up and tear down teams and the cleaning teams? There was just so much to think about. This was not church like church used to be. This is new church in a very different way and we had to be open to doing things differently. There were certainly times when it felt like a burden but we met weekly to get these things figured out and some of it took a lot of discussion. But bit by bit, issue by issue, sometimes one thing at a time, Jesus revealed to us what we needed to do and things became clear.
Did we get it all right? I don’t know. In fact, I’m pretty sure we’ll be adjusting some things at our next meeting on Tuesday when we will rehash how things worked today. But we will still work at it and we will still keep our eyes open to see what God reveals to us about how we can do things better.
All of us are living with new realities whether it be at work or at home or shopping. And to be honest sometimes it really does feel like a burden especially with all of the other things going on in the world. I confess that there are times when I just what to turn off the news because I’ve heard enough of racism and black lives matter. And I don’t want to hear any more about defunding police or debates about whether we should or should not wear masks. I just don’t want to hear another report from the Health Minister in British Columbia. And it’s not that I don’t think these things are important because they are. But sometimes, we need to take a break from all of the craziness.
And so I turn the news off and switch over to HGTV and watch home renovations shows like Love It or List It or Property Brothers. At least those are safe for a few minutes and I can forget the world for a while.
I want you to know that, if you feel that way from time to time, that’s okay because I think we all do. I’m here to tell you very clearly that it’s okay to forget what’s going on in the world for awhile if it helps you keep your sanity. In fact, not only is it okay, it’s probably necessary.
But I also want to tell you this; you can’t forget the world forever because the world will not forget about you. Eventually, it comes back and when it does, we have to be prepared to deal with the burdens that we face. And that’s why what Jesus says next is so important.
THE YOKE OF JESUS
In Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV) Jesus says this: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
All of us carry burdens all of the time. Some of us carry heavy burdens. Some of us are carrying heavy burdens right now. Maybe it’s the state of the world. Maybe you’re worried about the health of a loved one. Maybe you’re still a little freaked out by Covid-19. Maybe you’re in the midst of the breakdown of an important relationship. Maybe you’re grieving the loss of something real or some potential that may never happen. Maybe your job and your financial security are in jeopardy. I don’t know what it is but you do.
I want you to think about that burden in your life and than think about what Jesus said: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Do you want rest? Do you need to take a break from your burdens? You can do that. All you have to do is give them over the Jesus.
Is that easy? No, it’s not because we have this crazy tendency to give our burdens to Jesus with one hand and pick that right back up with the other. Sometimes, it’s hard to let go and trust. We’re not good at that but we can better if we practice it.
We also have to remember the rest of what Jesus says in verse 29: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” This is the part of this passage that people often miss but to miss it is to miss the point. What it says to us is that if we want to give our burdens to Jesus, we must take something else in return. Jesus calls it a yoke.
What’s a yoke. A yoke is what farmers used to put on their oxen or their horses when they were plowing their fields. You might say that that’s just another burden. What’s the point of handing over one burden just to take up another?
Remember, however, that Jesus is speaking metaphorically. We have to understand what a yoke does. First of all, a yoke is generally used when the farmer is plowing with more than one animal. It’s a way of attaching the animals together so that they can work together. So, here’s the symbolism. The yoke of Jesus brings us together so that we are not alone. It allows us to draw on the strength of each other so that we can help to carry each other’s burdens as we plow through the fields of life. We are not alone because we are part of this thing called the church and, through his Spirit, Jesus yokes us together. That’s the first thing you have to understand about a yoke. It actually lightens our burdens because we share them with others.
The second purpose of a yoke is to provide direction. With the yoke the farmers steers the team where it needs to go so that the plow moves in a straight line to do the job in the most effective manner. By putting his yoke on us, Jesus provides direction. He doesn’t necessarily take our burdens away from us – although that does happen from time to time. My experience, however, is that he is far more likely to show us the way to go, to point us in the right direction. Sometimes, the reason why our burdens are so heavy is because we simply don’t know what to do with them. But through the Spirit, Jesus guides us in the way we should go and the things that we should do if we are willing to listen to his voice.
Are you feeling burdened? Are you weary and heavy ladened? Whatever your burdens are this day, you can find rest from them by taking on the yoke of Jesus for, as he says, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Look to him and, like little children, trust in him for he loves you more than anything and offers what you need to deal with whatever life can throw at you.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
God of All Creation, your Spirit flows around us reminding us of your love and care for even the least of your creatures. We offer our thanks for your constant presence, how you are able to walk beside us even as you live in our hearts. When life seems to be too much to bear, your hand reaches out offering healing and purpose. You are so great and we seek to honour you with all that we do.
We thank you for the hope that you give to us in the difficult times. Regardless of how hopeless or unsolvable our circumstances may appear, you can enter in and change things for the better. Strengthen our faith and help us to believe every promise that you have made.
We offer our thanks for Canada Day and the privilege of living in this great nation. We are so blessed in many ways that we seldom realize. We have freedom, prosperity and peace in a way that most of the world would crave. We thank you too for our American brothers and sisters who also celebrated their Independence Day this week. We are grateful for good neighbours and peaceful co-existence on this continent.
As we give thanks for our nation, we also give thanks for the Canadian Forces who serve around the world in various capacities. We are awed by those who are willing to put their lives on the line to protect us and to bring justice to the world. Help us to support them and to let them know how much we appreciate their sacrifices.
We also lift up in prayer those of our community and congregation who are sick this week at home or in hospital and ask for your Healing Spirit to be upon them.
Holy God, we know that all life is valuable in your sight. We are grateful that your love and compassion are limitless and unconditional. Enable us to honour the gifts and ministries that each brings to your Church. May we who call ourselves Christians always seek to give proper balance to our ministries that all of your Gospel may be shared. Grant us guidance, strength, patience and wisdom. You provide the example of how we should treat others. Keep us faithful as you are faithful. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE
July 5, 2020 / Pentecost 5
Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67; Psalm 45:10-17; Romans 7:15-25a; Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
CALL TO WORSHIP
ONE: Our hearts overflow with joy.
ALL: God has blessed us forever and ever.
ONE: With our mouths we raise songs of praise.
ALL: God has blessed us forever and ever.
ONE: God is here with us.
ALL: God has blessed us forever and ever.
PRAYER OF APPROACH
Your mercies, O God, are forever. Your love is eternal. Your grace is everlasting. Hear our prayers. Enter our thoughts. Move our spirits to follow your guiding hand. Your law is our delight and your salvation is our freedom. Draw us out of our self-seeking ways and give us a wider vision of your purpose.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
God of mercy, hear our prayers. You rescued our mothers and fathers from the bondage of sin and death. You saved them by the cosmic struggle of the cross and the astonishing victory of the empty tomb. That same salvation is ours in Jesus Christ. Forgive us when we forget about your love and move in a different direction. Break the bonds of our slavery and remind us, once again, of the freedom that is ours through faith. Hear of prayers of confession.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
God has promised to deliver us from the penalty of sin. God has assured us that death can not hold the victory over those who are in Jesus Christ. We are not destined to live in bondage. We are called to be free. When we confess our sins, we have God’s promise that we are forgiven.
DEDICATION OF OFFERING
We offer ourselves. We offer our gifts. We offer our lives for your Kingdom. Whenever you call to us, enable us to follow regardless of where or when we hear your voice. We commit, once again, our lives to your purpose.
As cool streams of water quench the thirst of the dry place, so does God’s Spirit refresh our spirits. Live the renewed life of Christ and share the Good News with all whom you meet.