As has been mentioned a few times today, this is the first week in four week series on stewardship and giving. It’s something that we haven’t done for a long time but is something that we probably should have been doing all along. Why haven’t we done this before? Probably because we got a bit complacent. Up until 2018 we really didn’t have any financial issues but all of a sudden we do. That’s probably due to the changing demographics of our church and the fact that we’ve lost some of our best givers because they either moved away, went to a different church or just died. What became clear from that was that we have been relying too much on too few people for our finances. What that basically means is that if we are going to make up the difference, we are going to have to do it together. I’m confident that we can do that.
And so we are in a really odd position. As we saw last week, we have the funding in place for the Family Minister. What we don’t have in place is ongoing funding for my position. I didn’t actually realize that until I was thinking about it this week and have to admit that initially caused me a bit of anxiety. But I have confidence in you and faith in God that we will turn all of this around. We hope to begin to do that in the next four weeks.
I was trying to think about how to start this whole thing off right so I wondered if we should have a theme song. I thought of a few. There’s Supertramp’s, Give a Little Bit. How about the Beatles, Can’t Buy Me Love. Any remember Bachman Turner Overdrive? They had a song, Giving It All Away which seemed mildly appropriate. And then the Steve Miller Band came to mind, Take the Money and Run. But no that didn’t quite do it.
There are a couple of popular advertising slogans that came to mind. How about Scotiabank, “You’re richer than you think”. But I think the one that came closest is from the Canadian Blood Services, “It’s in you to give”.
I like that one, “It’s in you to give”, because not only does it remind us of the need to give, it also reminds us of how much we have been blessed. The reason why we can give is because we have been blessed and blessed abundantly. For that we can give thanks.
We need to remember to give thanks. I remember my mother’s rule for prayer. She always said, “Don’t ask God for something until you first thank God for something.” So let’s start there. Let’s start with thanks. For what are we thankful?
I’m thankful for lots of things. I’m thankful, of course, for my family, for Ruth, the kids and the grandchildren. I’m thankful for a roof over my head and warm bed at night. I’m thankful for music and dancing. I’m thankful for the Prayer Garden because I get to walk it every single day. I’m thankful that I have been part of this church for the last fifteen years. And I’m thankful for black cherry ice cream and Ruthanne Miller’s date squares. They are delicious. I could go on. There is so much for which we can be thankful.
But thanksgiving, all on its own, really isn’t enough. God expects more of us. Let me show you what I mean. Here is a pitcher of water and here’s tall glass. I’ve placed the glass in the baptism font for two reasons. First, because the baptism font reminds us that we belong to God through faith in Jesus Christ. That’s really important. The second reason is much more practical. If I don’t put the glass in the font, I’m going to make a big mess.
What I’m going to do is pour the water from the pitcher into the glass. What I want you to do is think of every drop of water as something for which you can be thankful. As I pour, I invite you to pour out your thanksgiving in the silence of your hearts. Let your prayers of thanks flow to God. Let’s take a moment so that we can focus as we pray. (Water is slowly poured into the glass until it is full.)
We have filled the glass with thanksgiving. That only seems right because there is so much for which we can be thankful. But guess what. There is still water in the pitcher. Even after we fill the glass, there is still more for which we can be thankful. That’s because there is no end to God’s blessing. Just look around. Look at the people here today. You are related to some of them. Others you know as friends or brothers and sisters in Christ. Still others are not known to you except maybe their faces. And yet we are thankful for all people who contribute to the ministry of this church in this community. Look at what our ancestors in the faith left for us to use in the ministry of Jesus in this place. We have this building which is a great building. It meets our needs. Look at the windows that let in the light and remind us of the scriptures upon which our ministry is based. There is the organ. We don’t use it much anymore but it was dedicated to the men and women who fought in WWI and WWII to defend our freedom. We need to be thankful for their sacrifice. The baptism font, the communion table, the sacred furniture that was passed on to us from the folk at Albuna, they all have their stories of faithfulness and mission. And then there is the prayer garden outside, a vision of what the future ministry of this congregation and how we trust in God to continue to work through us. Yes, there is much for which to be thankful.
Now I want to show you something else. The glass is full but I still have more water in the pitcher. Let’s see what happens when I try to pour the rest of the water into the glass. (The water is poured out of the pitcher so that it overflows the glass and runs into the baptism font.) The water overflows into the basin of the font just as our thanksgiving should overflow into the lives that we live. But how do we mirror that in our lives? How do we let thanksgiving spill out of us so that we live out God’s abundant Spirit? It’s one thing to be thankful. It’s another to live in the spirit of thanksgiving.
THE GOOD SAMARITAN
I want to read a story about someone who did that, who lived out his thanksgiving in the world. It comes from Luke 10:25-37 (NIV) and it is the story of the Good Samaritan.
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered, “‘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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Most of us know the story. Even most people who have never darkened the door of a church have heard of the Good Samaritan. In most western countries, including Canada, there is something called the Good Samaritan law which basically says that if you stop and try to help someone in need you can’t be charged with a crime for trying to help as long as you’re not trying to do something that you’re not qualified to do.
So, what does this story say to us today? First of all, I want to give you the context because, as always, context is important. A man is travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho. That doesn’t really mean much to you and me but it would have means something significant to the expert the law to whom Jesus told the story. For him, Jerusalem and Jericho have something in common. They are both Jewish cities and so this traveler must have been Jewish. Remember that because it’s important.
Along the way, the Jewish man is attacked by robber. They take his clothes, beat him and run away. And then three people come along. The first one is a priest who sees the man on the side of the road but passes by on the other side without helping him. And then along comes a Levite: the Levites were the people who did the sacrifices in the temple in Jerusalem. He too passed by on the other side of the road. Note two things. First of all, both of these men were holy men who were clergy in their tradition. Second, they were both Jewish. And what was the man who was lying beaten on the side of the road. He was Jewish too. So they are of the same faith and the same nation but they choose not to help the injured man.
But then along comes a Samaritan. What is a Samaritan? To put it in a nutshell, the Samaritans and the Jews were enemies. They had the same ancestors but after civil war occurred when Solomon died, Israel split up into two separate nations. The southern tribes remained Jewish and the northern tribes became the Samaritans. And they did not get along at all. The Jews, in fact, were not supposed to talk to Samaritans. They weren’t even supposed to touch them because, if they did so, they be unclean. Talk about racism.
But here’s the point. I’m sure that the priest in Jesus’ Good Samaritan story who passed by the man beaten on the side of the road could have rhymed off things all kinds of things for which he was thankful, even as he was crossing over to the other side of the street to avoid the man lying beaten at the side of the road. So too the Levite. Maybe both could have filled up gratitude journals and expressed thanksgiving for their many blessings.
But there’s a problem, isn’t there? Their thanksgiving didn’t go anywhere beyond them. At least not in that moment. It didn’t flow into their lives. It’s one thing to be thankful. It’s another to live in the spirit of thanksgiving. They clearly weren’t living that spirit.
What made the Samaritan compassionate? What made him bandage a stranger’s wounds? What made him pour out his oil and wine and offer up his own donkey and book him into an inn and pay for it himself? Jesus doesn’t give that part of the story away. He just says “Go and do likewise.” He says “Be that kind of neighbour.” (Pick up the glass and pour more water into it so that it spills over the edge.) “Let the love I pour into you pour out of you.” That’s what he’s saying.
GO AND DO LIKEWISE
Let’s go back for a moment to the reason Jesus tells this story in the first place. It is because the expert in the law asked him a question. Do you remember the question? It’s in Luke 10:25 (NIV): “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus, as he so often does, answers that question with another question: “What does the law say?” This man is an expert in the law and should know. In fact he does. He answers the same way any educated man versed in the Jewish law would answer. Love the Lord your God and love your neighbour as yourself. That’s the right answer. But then the man asks, “Who is my neighbour?” And the story begins.
When we get through all of that what the man is really asking is this: “How can I live my life in such a way that I can live it the way God wants me to live? How can I best be the person God created me to be?” The story of the Good Samaritan answers that question.
Imagine the stories the innkeeper would tell about the Samaritan who went to great lengths for the Jewish victim despite the racial feud had been going on for years.
I can imagine the innkeeper with one of his patron… “You’ll never believe what just happened. A Samaritan brought this Jewish guy in and told me to look after him. He even paid me for it. Gave me two denarii. No kidding!” Now, an innkeeper probably sees a lot in his line of work but I bet this rattled his cage, sort of cracked open his soul so that God’s light could shine in. Maybe his life changed like yours and mine do when we are just going about our day and suddenly are astonished by some act of love that just blows your socks off.
That actually happened for a lot of people this week. Maybe you’ve seen the video from Dallas where ex-police officer Amber Guyger who had just been found guilty of murdering Botham Jean in his own apartment where he was innocently watching TV. Guyger mistakenly thought it was her apartment. That’s is so sad but the act of love came when Botham’s younger brother Brandt told Guyger in court that he forgave her and only wanted her to give her life to Christ. And then he asked the judge if he could hug his brother’s murderer. The judge agreed and they were allowed to embrace. It blew my socks off. Those moments change us and make us think about what’s really important.
How could the innkeeper not help but be more kind to every Samaritan who came through his door? How could he not care in turn? How could the world not spin a little more gracefully on the axis of that experience? Jesus doesn’t flesh out the characters in the story. He doesn’t say what possessed the Samaritan to help the stranger or how either of their outlook on life, their relationships, their communities changed as a result. He simply wraps it up with: “Go and do likewise.” The “go and do likewise,” he says, is the key to life.
Jesus says the same thing to us. We are called not only to be thankful, but to share our thanks. To smile from the soul because it’s one thing to be thankful. It’s another to live in the spirit of thanksgiving. For the next few weeks, we are going to be talking about mission: our personal mission, our congregation’s mission, our denomination’s mission, and through it all, we are going to contemplate and celebrate God’s mission.
God’s mission is epitomized in this
story. A story about the outpouring of thanksgiving and love on a dusty,
nameless road between Jerusalem and Jericho that could really be anywhere. It
could be the street in front of your home or the street of your workplace or
the symbolic street that runs through the heart of your relationships. There is
someone on a road somewhere in your life waiting for your thanksgiving, your
gratitude to overflow in love. (Pick up the pitcher and the glass and start
pouring. It should overflow again over the edge.) Waiting for the abundant,
overflowing grace of God. What are you waiting for? “Go and do likewise,” Jesus
says. This is what you are called to do.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Holy God, come to us now. In the midst of our lives, make your presence known. Too often we crowd you out in favour of less worthy gains. But you, O God, offer us more than we could ever expect to receive from any other source on earth or in heaven. Your glory fills the skies. Your beauty touches the earth. Your grace rolls over the oceans, seas and lakes of Creation. Thank you for your wonders and your awesome power.
Thank you for Jesus, in whom we have our salvation. He alone has reconciled us to you. Thank you that in dying on the cross, he paid the price of our sinfulness; that in rising to new life, he gave to us the gift of eternal life; and by ascending to Heaven, has prepared a place for all in your heavenly realm.
We give thanks for our congregation and we pray for our congregation as we move into a congregational meeting after worship. There is so much to do and it is so easy to be led astray. In your Spirit, we find wisdom and courage to walk the narrow road that you have placed before us. Keep us faithful, O God, to live the holy lives that you require and demand of us. When we stray, lead us back. When we fall, pick us up. When we fail to hear your whisper, shout at us with the power of your love. We thank you for all of these gifts and more.
All of us need to feel your healing touch. Sometimes our wounds are obvious. Sometimes they are less noticeable. Touch us, O God, in those deep places that only you can know. Mend our brokenness. Bring peace to our suffering. Bless us with healing. We also pause to pray for any others in the silence of our hearts especially for Sharon, Mary and Jacqui as they seek your Healing Spirit.
Heavenly Father, hear our prayers and, in your loving way, answer our
honest and heartfelt petitions. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE
October 6, 2019 / Pentecost 17 / Proper 22 / Worldwide Communion
Psalm 137; Lamentations 1:1-6; Luke 17:5-10; 2 Timothy 1:1-14
CALL TO WORSHIP
We come, O God, from a world of your making,
to gather as followers of Jesus.
We come from many places to many tables,
to seek our unity in the Spirit.
We come to the table as sisters and brother,
to celebrate our common faith in Christ.
PRAYER OF APPROACH
We come before you, O God, unable to fully understand the sufferings of the people of the world. It is sometimes difficult to be with those near to us, let alone those all around the world. Yet on this Worldwide Communion Sunday, we would stand side by side, heart to heart, arm in arm, with all of our sisters and brothers of Creation. We stand recognizing that you are the Lord of all Life, the God of us all. We are in awe of you and the healing work you call us to do. Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
God of Compassion, we confess that it is often easy to give up. We become discouraged. Sometimes, we just plain forget. Forgive us, O God, for our lack of diligence. Forgive us our tardiness, our blinded eyes and our deaf ears. Forgive our limp hands and our silent tongues. Forgive us and light a fire so deep within our hearts that we may burn with the same love and passion as your Son, Jesus. Amen.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
God loves. God forgives. God renews. Be assured that by seeking God’s promised forgiveness, we can find new life, new hope, and new vigour to be faithful followers of Jesus.
DEDICATION OF OFFERING
Our needs, O God, are no greater than your ability to provide. We bring our gifts with gratitude for your infinite love and caring. With courage, we share them with others through the work of your Church. Amen.
has been broken. The cup has been poured. God’s love has been shared among us.
Let us go and share it with all those whom we meet along life’s way, guided by
the Spirit of Jesus Christ.