I’ve got something to shoot for

Worship on the Lord’s Day
10:00 am     Feb 12, 2023
Onsite & Online (Mixed Presence) Gathering as a Worshipping Community
Led by Tracy Childs    Children’s Time: Lynn Vaughan
Music director: Binu Kapadia     Vocalist: Linda Farrah-Basford
Elder: Sam Malayang

We gather to worship God

Music prelude

L: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
P: and also with you.

Lighting of the Christ candle
Welcome and announcements
Silent preparation for worship

Call to Worship
L: How blessed are we when we meditate on God’s teachings
P: and when we desire God with our whole hearts.
L: Let us praise God with attentive minds and eager spirits,
P: for we are God’s servants, working and praying together.
L: So let us worship God and praise God’s holy name.
P: Let us seek God’s path and listen for God’s call.

Opening praise: Everlasting God

Prayers of approach and confession
God of all life and each life,
You are the light of minds that seek to know you.
You are strength for those who seek to serve you.
You reveal truth to those who search for you.
In worship, we pause in your presence,
resting from our work and responsibilities,
from our worries and distractions.
We come to enjoy your presence
and praise you for the gift of life in Christ and in creation.
Receive our prayers and praise this day,
for we open our hearts in love and loyalty to you,
O God, our All in All. Amen.

God who is all in all,
You call us to choose life and walk in your ways,
but we are tempted by short cuts and easy solutions.
You ask us to turn from anger and settle our differences,
but we cling to grievances and point fingers at others.
You ask us to be true to our word,
but we prefer to keep everyone happy.
Forgive us, O God
and give us courage to follow the paths you set for your people.

Response: We come to ask Your forgiveness, O God

Assurance of God’s forgiveness

God invites us to choose life and find the blessing that comes from following God’s ways.  Accept God’s gift of forgiveness and choose new life. Forgive one another and discover the peace of Christ. Amen.

We listen for the voice of God

Children’s time

Gradual: Jesus loves me (373)

Story: Heart Offerings

Who knows what this is? Do you guys know what this is?

It’s an envelope.

Is it any special kind of envelope?

It’s an offering envelope. Most of us bring an envelope every week, and we put in some money, and we give our offering to the church. We give our offering to God, our gift to God, and it’s very important to do this because we need to support the congregation. We need to support our ministry here. But I’m going to tell you a secret.

This isn’t the most important thing that God wants us to offer to him. It is more important for us to offer what’s in our hearts. So this is the important part of the offerings that we give to God.

In Sunday school we’ve been talking about Jesus and the Sermon on the Mount, and one of the things he says in that is that when you come to offer something to God, when you come to offer your gifts to God, if you have something in your heart, if you have hurt, someone then leave your gift there, go back and ask forgiveness from that person, and then come back and offer your gifts to God. God doesn’t really want our gifts unless we also have a pure heart.

So give me an example of some things that we could do that might cause our hearts to not be quite so ideal.

Have you been angry about something? Have you been angry with someone else? Raise your hands if you’ve been angry.

Have we said anything bad to someone else, and hurt their feelings?

Have you said something about someone else that maybe wasn’t true?

Have you called someone a bad name? Like even when I’m driving the car down the street. Yep, everybody’s hand should go up for that one all right.

So those are a few examples of maybe some things we do that aren’t so ideal.

So what happened to our heart? It breaks. Did it make our heart kind of dirty and unclean, and not looking so good?

Yeah, so, what can we do about that? We can fix the problem, how can we fix the problem?

Hug them.  We could go, and we could say sorry, right? So we could ask those people that we hurt to forgive us and hug them there’s a lot of hugging going on.

So we’re going to ask Jesus to forgive us as we ask those other people to forgive us as well.

So we went, and we said, sorry to those people that we hurt. And then what happened to our heart? It comes back together. It’s all better now, right because God wants us to come to Him with our gifts and our offerings.

But He wants us to come with our hearts pure and clean, and the only way to do that is to ask forgiveness from those people that we hurt, and to ask God to forgive us as well.

Now, will you guys say a prayer with me? So you can repeat after me.

Prayer: Dear God, sometimes we say things in anger, sometimes we say things in anger that hurt other people that hurt other people help us to only say kind words, help us to only say, Forgive us. We are sorry. Forgive us, and help us to keep our thoughts and our hearts pure. And now together we’ll say the prayer that You taught us.

The Lord’s Prayer (535)

Transition music

Song: I am the church! Vss. 1,2,4 (475)

Today’s Message

Scripture reading: Matthew 5:21-37

Message: I’ve got something to shoot for

Unique to Matthew, this large section from Chapter 5-7:29 is probably a composite collection of linked teachings rather than a record of one single discourse.

Luke has much of the same material but a lot of it is spread out in Luke (who intended to keep an “orderly” and more chronological accounting of Jesus’ time). In this section Jesus speaks in ideals. In fact, many have found the standards set up in this section (in particular) to be utterly unrealistic because he speaks not just of actions but also of intent and thoughts. But there is no indication here that Jesus is speaking hypothetically. In short, Jesus is speaking about a target or an ideal standard for human thought and behavior that we are meant to shoot for.

Like with many of his saying Jesus here too, appears to criticize the leaders of his time as being too harsh, while at the same time, asking his followers to do even better than the leaders did. It’s odd but it’s very typical of Jesus. Basically, he calls for such a conservative view that it shows the weakness of both liberals Sadducees and conservatives Pharisees and exposes everyone’s imperfections.

For example: “You’ve heard don’t commit adultery. BUT I tell you that if you have ever lusted after someone then you have committed adultery in your heart.”

In other words he does what he always does, he takes the rules and then he bends them back onto themselves so that nobody is left to judge but God and the people who thought they were innocent see that they actually aren’t perfect either.

He doesn’t alleviate responsibility. He just exposes the true heart of the matter. As Dan Kimble says, “He turns the whole world upside down.”

This can be confusing at times. It’s also confusing sometimes because we are so far removed from the original context.

For example, whereas Moses allowed for a divorce, Jesus says (though he provides room for exceptions) that he doesn’t… and even goes so far as to say that a man who divorces his wife makes himself an adulterer. It’s a harsh statement (especially for a first century Jew deathly afraid to break one of the Ten Commandments).

This is an extremely conservative position, right? Well yes and no. While it is certainly true that Jesus is very much against divorce, it’s also true that this verse has been greatly misused over the years.

Here Jesus admits that Moses allowed people to divorce but says that He; himself, really doesn’t.

But if you understand that, at the same time when Jesus said this, a woman had no power to divorce her husband… that only a man could divorce his wife. If you understand that at this time serious debates raged under the rabbi’s about how many times a wife had to burn the food before you could divorce her… the common answer being three times by the way, it sort of changes things. If you understand that if divorced, a Jewish woman would lose her status and no longer be considered a part of the “chosen people”. If you understand that she had few educational and job opportunities. If you understand that after being divorced and sent away that she would likely only find work as a prostitute and couldn’t own land in Judea and thus couldn’t earn a living and may well starve to death… If you understand the context… then you see that Jesus’ command to almost never allow for a divorce (which at first seems very strict and harsh) was actually meant to protect women from being discarded and abused. Then things change a bit.

Certainly, Jesus is very much against divorce. But sadly today, this very same verse about not frivolously divorcing a wife is far too often used against the very women it was meant to protect, as Christian counselors encourage couples to stay together no matter what.

Now I don’t say this to promote the virtue of divorce I just say this to show that some verses in Scripture are actually very complex.

God’s word is deep and penetrating and things aren’t always what they first seem to be. Sometimes the plain and simple – isn’t so plain and simple.

Other times… it sort of – is simple. Case in point: Jesus moves quickly from divorce into oath-taking. Matthew writes, 33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”

Now at the time Jesus said this the Pharisees had refused to pledge an oath to Caesar and were fined for that. It nearly started a religious war. A wealthy and pious man had settled the matter by simply paying the fine for all 3000 men who refused to say the oath.

Debates raged on in the Jewish community about oaths. Donald Hagner is one of the world’s top scholars on the book of Matthew. He’s the author of the magnificent two part volume in the Word Biblical Commentaries series. In his engagement with this section of oaths he writes, “[Jesus] lifts the entire matter to a new level by denying the necessity of oaths altogether. The ethics to which Jesus calls his disciples are those of the kingdom and its perfection. Here a person’s word can be relied upon without qualification and without need of the further guarantee an oath might afford.

Oaths are thereby rendered superfluous. With the dawn of the new era comes a wholly new standard of righteousness, one in which a yes is really a yes and a no is really a no. It is a mistake, however, to take a biblicist approach to this passage that would disallow Christians from taking an oath, say in a court of justice. [That is not the issue.] The issue is nothing less than, and nothing more than, pure and total truthfulness in all things.[1]

The point is clear, In Jesus’ mind; we are called to be a totally honest people all the time. To an honest person, an oath means nothing. You always mean what you say. As my Grandpa Wes would say, “Kid, if a man hasn’t got his word, what has he got?”  And that’s pretty much what Jesus is talking about here.

He’s talking about integrity. Christian Women and Christmas Men are called to be known as a people that need take no oath; to be a people that are simply understood to be telling the truth. What an amazing world it would be if Christians were known to be so honest that they everyone just assumed we were always telling the truth?

That’s the ideal Jesus wants us to shoot for.

Here’s a little story for you.

A little boy had to write a report for school, so he went to his mother and asked, “Mom, where did I come from?”

Surprised at hearing such a question from her child, his mother discreetly answered, “Um, the stork brought you.”

“And where did YOU come from?” the boy continued.

“Well, the stork brought me, just like he brought you. Now go to your room. No more questions, please.”

But the boy stood strong with his pad and paper in hand, quickly scribbling down as best he could, his mother’s responses. “Wait! What about Grandma? Where did Grandma come from?”

“Look” said mom, “the stork brought Grandma, the stork brought me, and the stork brought you! Now go to your room. I do not want to talk about this anymore!”

So the little boy went to his room, set his notes to one side and began writing his report.

“Our family hasn’t had a normal birth in at least three generations.” he began. (1001 ill, 46)

As a parent, I suppose I understand the temptation of the “little white lie”. But I don’t like it, and I try hard – VERY HARD, not to give my kids a reason to doubt anything I say. I have this idea constantly going through my head as a parent. If I gives them a reason to doubt what I have to say about the stork then maybe later when they are older they will have a reason to doubt what I say about the cross.

I don’t want to be the dad that tells the kids about the stork. I want to shoot for the ideal.

I am far from perfect. But I want to be trustworthy (especially to them). Even if what I have to say is hard or awkward. I want them to believe that they can accept me at my word… see me as someone with integrity (even if they disagree with my views). I want them to know that my “yes” means “yes” and my “no” means “no”. And what I want for my kids I want for my friends and for my wife and my coworkers and on and on. How about you?

In their book A Chorus of Witnesses, Thomas Long and Cornelius Plantinga wrote, “Some people ask, ‘Who am I?’ and expect the answer to come from their accomplishments. Other people ask, ‘Who am I?’ and expect the answer to come from what other people think about them. A person who dares to make and keep promises discovers for herself who she is simply by the promises she has kept to other people.” (1001 Ill, 499) That’s the ideal we’re meant to strive for.

But… as if integrity isn’t enough reason on its own to “let your yes mean yes and your no mean no”, you can always just add to that, the fact that, if you don’t “say what you mean and mean what you say” you’re likely to get caught anyway. After all, as every little kid eventually learns, it’s easier to keep the truth straight.

As the story goes: well before the internet and cell phones came along, there were two sophomores at Duke University who were taking Organic Chemistry and who did well enough on all of the quizzes and the midterms and labs, that they had solid “A’s” going into the final exam. These two friends were so confident going into the final that they decided to go up to University of Virginia and party with some friends on the weekend before finals, even though the Chem final was on Monday.

However, with their hangovers and everything, they overslept all day Sunday and they didn’t make it back to Duke until early Monday morning. Rather than taking the final then, they went to Professor Aldric after the final and explained to him why they missed the final… Sort of…

They told him that they went up to the University of Virginia for the weekend, and they had planned to come back in time to study, but they had a flat tire on the way back and didn’t have a spare and couldn’t get help for a long time and so were late getting back to campus.

Aldric (a very well respected Presbyterian professor) thought this matter over and then agreed that they could make up the final on the following day. The two boys were elated and relieved.

They studied that night and went in the next day at the time that Aldric had told them. He placed them in separate rooms and handed each of them a test booklet and told them to begin. They looked at the first problem. It said (5points) and was a question about free radical formation but was fairly simple. “Cool” they thought, “this is going to be easy.” They did that problem in their own time and then each young man in his own separate room turned the page. Yet, they were unprepared for what they saw next.

At the top of the next page it simply said, “(95 points) Which tire?” (1001 Ill, 63)

In the past few years I cannot escape the reality that something has been lost. I know I probably sound like I’m 200 years old and perhaps my small town Kansas roots are showing but – When I was a kid a “hand shake” really did mean something. When my dad said “tomorrow we are going to… (whatever)”, he really meant it. The old statement that “a person is only as good as their word” was something people truly believed in. Integrity meant something.

Today, (especially if you are a news junkie like I’m trying my hardest not to be)… If you watch more than 5 minutes of TV. you will quickly start to believe that – the age of honesty is dead.

The words of Mark Twain ring true, “Politicians and diapers must be changed often, and for the same reason.”

It’s hard, it’s very hard today… hard to believe that simple honesty has a place in our world. And I think it’s getting harder to find good examples to follow.

But there are some.

Officials in Philadelphia were astonished to receive a letter and payment from a motorist who had been given a speeding ticket. John Gedge, an English tourist, had been visiting the City of Brotherly Love when he was cited for speeding. The penalty was only $15, but Gedge forgot about the ticket until he discovered it in an old coat. As soon as John Gedge found it he felt terrible. “I thought, I’ve got to pay it” said the 84 year old nursing home resident from East Sussex. “Englishmen pay their debts.” he said. Of course, he wrote the check for considerably more than $15, since he got the ticket in 1954 almost fifty-two years before he found it.

That’s integrity. That’s an ideal to shoot for.

That’s what it means to let your yes be yes and your no be no. That’s a world turned upside down. That’s a person whose words can be trusted. That’s a witness people can believe.

So… will I leave this pulpit and never tell a little white lie again in my life?

I’d like to say yes, But… I don’t want to lie to you. I don’t want to lie to anyone. Sooner or later we all sink down, take the easy way out and talk about storks. I can’t honestly say I will never lie ever again.

So let me just say. I will do my absolute best. I’ve got something to shoot for.

How about you?  Amen.

Song: Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life (565)

We respond to serve God

Reflection on giving: We have been giving faithfully since the beginning of the pandemic and we are committed to continuing the ministry and mission that define Dayspring – using the ways described below. Thank you all for your support of our shared vision and mission.

Prayer of gratitude and for others and ourselves

God of Life and Love, in spoken words and in the silence of our hearts, we give you thanks for all of life, for the grace you provide to creation in its diversity, and for your loving kindness known in the details of our lives.

Hear us, we pray, as we speak of matters on our hearts and minds this day.

Where the church is divided by squabbling or deep disagreement; where Christians emphasize our differences instead of seeking unity in Christ, where we put energy into guarding tradition at the expense of honouring new life and relationships with our neighbours, transform us and make all things new.

God, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Where families are divided by old hurts or new tensions; where friendships have ended through misunderstanding or neglect; where relationships have been severed by betrayal or thoughtlessness; transform us and make all things new.

God, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Where countries are torn by war and conflict; where communities are divided by prejudice or unexamined privilege; where leaders provoke anger instead of building understanding co-operation; transform us and make all things new.

God, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Where the poor and lonely find little support or comfort; where people are tired from overwork or pressured by rising costs; where workers fear for their jobs in the present or the future; transform us and make all things new.

God, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Where people suffer pain with physical, emotional or spiritual roots; where loss marks the beginning and ending of every day; where young people fear for the future of the planet and their elders mourn the loss of what they once assumed would last; transform us and make all things new.

God, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

God, our Source and Saviour, in Christ you make all things new.

Song: We are on in the Spirit (471)

Sending out with God’s blessing

Go with joy and peace, to claim new life as you serve God and one another.

And may the blessing of God who is Source, Saviour and Spirit of Life be with you and those whose lives you touch, this day and always. Amen.

Response: God to enfold you

Music postlude


Numbers in brackets after a song/hymn indicate that it is from the 1997 Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Those and other songs are being used in accordance with the specifications of Dayspring’s licensing with One Licence (3095377) and CLC (A735555).

Tracy Childs presented the material created by the Rev. Brad Childs, who retains the copyright (© 2023) on all original material in this service. As far as Brad Childs is aware, all of the material presented that has not been attributed to others is his own creation or is in the public domain. Unacknowledged use of copyrighted material is unintentional and will be corrected immediately upon notification being received.

Posted in Recent Sermons.