Not easy, but worth it (Brad Childs)

Worship on the Lord’s Day
10:00 am, 2022
Online & Onsite (Mixed Presence) Gathering as a Worshipping Community
Led by the Rev Brad Childs
Music director: Binu Kapadia
Guest Pianist: Dorothy Beyer    Vocalist: Lynn Vaughan
Elder: Gina Kottke

We gather to worship God

Music prelude

Greeting
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: Jesus said, “Love one another, even as I have loved you”.
P: Love is more powerful than fear; it is  mightier than hatred.
L: Let the love which God has lavished upon us be poured out to those in need.
P: Help us, O Lord, to witness to you by the ways in which we care for others.
L: Remind us, Lord, that we are called to be your disciples.
P: As we worship this morning, heal our hearts and spirits and prepare us for service. Amen

Opening praise: Come, now is the time to worship

Prayers of approach and confession

God of all generations, you are the Source of all life and the strength of our lives.

You know us through and through.

In Jesus Christ, you entered our lives and showed us how to live with hope and generosity.

Through the Holy Spirit, you nourish us each day to inspire acts of hospitality and kindness to those we meet.

As we worship you, fill us with your living water to refresh our faith and make us a blessing to others as we serve you in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Welcoming God, we confess we too often fall short of the kindness and compassion we meet in Jesus.

You have welcomed us like guests to a banquet, yet we find it hard to welcome a stranger in church.

You have shown us what matters most in life, but we are distracted by worries,

busy with things that really do not matter.

Forgive us, O God.

Teach us to honour you and those we meet in all we do and say, for the sake of Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Assurance of God’s forgiveness

Dear friends, while it is true that we have sinned and fallen short of God’s hope for us, it is a greater truth that we are forgiven through God’s amazing love.

To all who humbly seek the mercy of God I say, in Jesus Christ our sin is forgiven.

So be at peace with God, with yourself and with one another.

We listen for the voice of God

Children’s time

Gradual: Jesus loves me (373)

Story: Saving the starfish
We just have to do our best even if it doesn’t seem to be enough. It will matter to the starfish we save.

Prayer

The Lord’s Prayer (535 or 469)

Transition music

Song: Lord of all power (626)

Today’s Message

Scripture readings: Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16 and Luke 14:1, 7-14 (NRSV)

Message: “Not easy but worth it”

The philosopher Søren Kierkegaard was a genius, and he wrote many a biting tale to challenge his Christian brothers and sisters. He once told this story. It was titled: “And I looked around and nobody was laughing”.

He writes, “I went into church and sat on the velvet pew. I watched as the sun came shining through the stained-glass windows. The minister dressed in a velvet robe opened the golden gilded Bible, marked it with a silk bookmark and said, ‘If any man will be my disciple, said Jesus, let him deny himself, take up his cross, sell what he has, give it to the poor, and then follow me.’ And I looked around and nobody was laughing”. Ouch. That’s how I feel when I see a wealthy celebrity asking me to donate to their cause. Reactionary, maybe, but it’s how I feel.

I don’t know about you but when the world calls out Christians for being too comfortable. I really don’t pay it much attention. After all, Jesus said “the world would hate us because of him”. But when one of our own (and insider) does it, I tend to stand up and pay attention.

There is a trend in Christianity these days towards a very cheap form of grace that demands nothing of us. I guess faith in Christ is all happy days, motivational calendars and pretty rainbows. It seems you can be a disciple (ma-thA-tAse – a word for student) and yet never go to class or talk to the teacher? That seems odd. Many a Christian has made Christianity look a lot like secularism.

But the truth is very different. Sometimes real faith requires, thought, study, questions, hard passages, difficult answers and even (dare I say) action. Sometimes real faith requires a bit of sacrifice. But turn on the TV or Read a Chicken Soup book and it seems that kind of faith is becoming old fashioned. Faith in Jesus, it seems these days, is supposed to be easy.

But here’s the thing, Nobody ever said following Jesus would be easy. (Nobody in the Bible anyway). But I can tell you this… It may not always be easy. But it is worth it. With the destruction of the Jewish state, and the consequent changing status of the Jewish people from a nation to a religious group complicated life. And at the time, Jews and Christians were really considered the same thing. But at the certain point, tension ran high, and the Christians felt more and more compelled to decide whether they would continue to be a branch of Judaism or whether they would create their own society.

While the first generation of Christians rose up from Jews believing they had found the Jewish Messiah, the second generation came from all walks of life. The consequential transition from Judaic Christianity to a freer and more independent expression of messianic faith is part of what the book of Hebrews wrestles with. The major question at hand is this: How does one worship the Jewish Messiah, if one is not Jewish. How does one worship the Saviour of the Jews, apart from the Jews, and apart from the Jewish temple and practices?

Hebrews was written for that second-generation Christian, possibly at Rome, who had already suffered the plundering of their personal property and who might be required to resist persecution (possibly even to the point of bloodshed as suggested in Hebrews 12:4).

The people were being compelled to choose whether they would stay within the bounds of Judaism or assert some type of special independence.

To declare themselves boldly to be Christians (unique in some way) would be an increasingly difficult thing. It would mean subjecting yourselves to public ridicule and more importantly it would be to forfeit all the political and social privileges (though quickly shrinking) that the traditional Jews had amassed over the years. The traditional Jews too, didn’t want to be lumped in with these Jesus following Jews. The Romans thought of them as counter culture and troublemaking. Life was getting dangerous.

In the light of Nero’s savage though brief persecution, these new followers of Jesus would naturally hesitate to declare themselves Christ followers or “Followers of The Way” as they called themselves. Since the siege of Jerusalem was progressing under Vespasian and Titus, and while Rome itself was at the mercy of the soldiers, the Christian congregation at Rome would naturally feel that their status as “being tolerated” was dangerously unstable. And it was.

Being too open about your faith just wasn’t safe anymore.

The writer of Hebrews however did not share the current doubt and pessimism of his age. The vanishing of the old order was for him, merely the introduction of a new covenant which was in his mind clearly the point of the old. Hebrews author assured his readers that Christ had taken away the final Sting of death and that the removal of the old priesthood (something that brought tears to the people’s eyes) merely cleared the way for a new enduring priesthood with Christ as the New High Priest and every one of you a new kind of king or Priest under him. The whole system was changing. And that is never easy.

In a way, they were being thrust into a similar kind of environment that we are in today – an increasingly post-religious (or post-traditionally religious world). It would be a very different country for them, then the world of their parents.

Difficult questions still loomed over them. The temple, once thought to be the only place on earth where God would rest his feet) now lay in ruins. The Romans had it torn down.

The altar (the only place where the people believed they could find forgiveness from their sins) was now nothing but rubble.

The old traditions, the old forms of worship, the things that held the deepest meaning for them, were not only no longer fitting the mold, but without a temple, without the priests and without an altar… they were literally impossible. You can’t make a sacrifice at the altar of a temple that isn’t there!

In this new world what might worship look like? They had no idea.

They know that it would look nothing like the worship of their youth or their parents. Almost 2000 years of religious practice… (snap) was gone forever.

To address the pressing issues, the Author of Hebrews writes, 15 let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise.

But what does that mean?

That’s a very odd statement don’t you think?

The Altar… the place to take your sacrifice too – is gone. The priest (the one you give your sacrifice to) too make the sacrifice… is gone. Moreover, the people had multiple offerings they were supposed to give. They had burnt offerings, meal offerings, peace offerings, sin offerings and trespass offerings. They even had additional offerings they could bring if they wanted to give more, but which weren’t required to give (like the Free Will offering). But do you know what kind of offering they didn’t have? What they didn’t have was a “praise offering”. It didn’t exist.

The people must have wondered. What exactly is a “sacrifice of praise”? And just how exactly can we possibly afford to do it (?), is it a pigeon, and where, by the way do we take this sacrifice, and to what officials to we present it?

For most of us when we think about worshipping together, we probably think about music, offering, a sermon, hearing the scriptures read and prayers prayed, but I doubt very many of us think about worship in terms of a sacrifice. Unless it’s SuperBowl Sunday and your spouse dragged you in the door kicking and screaming it’s not much of a sacrifice to give one hour every 168 of them.

Now you could say that not being able to sleep in past 9:30 or not doing as many camping trips as you might like too is an inconvenience perhaps. Teens often think that everything is like the end of the world (I know I did) and so having to give up a whole hour (out of 168 in the week) to spend with your family in church could be seen as a bit of a difficulty I suppose- but “sacrifice”? seems a tad strong. Sure, giving an offering seems like a sacrifice (though I think of it as thanksgiving), still I can sort of understand that, but the problem is that – that’s not really what the Author is talking about.  In fact, the Author is very specific as to what’s being talked about.

Hebrews 13:15 says, it is “—the fruit of lips that openly profess His name.”

And that’s when it hits us. That’s when it sort of hits home. That’s when we start to realize what this sacrifice is. “Openly” professing his name. The sacrifice of praise isn’t just about giving your time, but also about being counted among targeted people.

When confronted with the question of how one worships in this new “Christian” world we’re told, what God requires is the sacrifice of “openly” professing his name. And doing it as the Author states… “continuously”

To the late first-century Jewish-Christians this would be a hard one to swallow.

For a while the Christians pretty much everywhere had done just that. They were very open about their faith. They shared the good news with everybody, boldly, and it was never really a safe thing to do… but as time went on, the people saw more and more death as a result of it. Because of this, the peoples worship became something that was done less and less in the open synagogues and more and more, done in the house church; behind closed doors, and hidden from the world.

But somewhere along the lines, sharing the you-on-gellion (literally the “good news”) became something Christians only wanted to share with other Christians. Because it’s safe.

We are told in the scriptures that the people came together for worship. We’re told that they shared in “the common meal”. They joined in the singing of hymns, that they offered traditional prayers, read from the Hebrew Bible, read the letters of what would become the New Testament, sang psalms and “devoted themselves to the Apostles teaching.”

But something was nagging at them. Where was the sacrifice? What did it cost them. Loving always has a cost.

The Author of Hebrews goes to great lengths to say that Christ had already offered the perfect sacrifice and so the altar was no longer needed. Jesus fulfilled the law. Why sacrifice again if it’s already done. The author then spends a huge about of time talking about the supremacy of Christ and going so far as to describe how even the furniture in the Temple predicted the coming of Jesus. And yet at the same time it seems quite clear that he (like the German Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer) didn’t believe in what he referred to as “cheap grace.”

For him sacrifice still had a place in worship… a prominent place.

And yet absolutely everything about the sacrifice was different now. Now a sacrifice wasn’t and couldn’t be something you did to become right with God, it was something you did because you were already made right with God.

It isn’t something you do to please God. It’s something you do to say thank you to God.

For him, in this new world, if you wanted to worship God… it couldn’t be safe.

You had to be willing to take a chance, to really risk something. You had to be willing to profess the name of Christ – in public, and to be know as a Christ Follower.

Now I know what you’re thinking… that’s easy to say but it’s not always so easy to do. It can be uncomfortable, feel odd, that’s not really our way of doing things. Live and let live right? Be Canadian and polite and multicultural. And I agree. But that’s kind my point. We are a part of that multiculturalism. We are one of the voices!

We get to share what we are too, share what we believe!

Speaking the name of Jesus in Public… If you think it’s a tall order for you then I’ve got news for you – you’re right. But just think about how hard it was for the second-generation Christians that Hebrews was first addressed to. For them, it could be the difference between life and death. About all we can say is that it makes us feel nervous. Is it awkward and hard for you to profess the name of Christ continually and in public? Well, yeah. That’s why they called it a sacrifice of Praise. It’s not supposed to always be easy. What is?

Wayne Rice is a wonderful writer and theologian. He’s a professor at North American Baptist Seminary and a professor at Bethel in San Diego, California. He’s also the founder of the UYT Network (a group that helps parents and teens learn how to communicate better). His specialty is with engaging preteens and teens in Christian dialogue. And he is a wonderful communicator.

At one of his conferences Dr. Rice was talking to a group of a few thousand kids and during the question-and-answer period of his talk someone asked him “Why is my church not growing”. The kid actually said this and it’s something that has really stuck with me over the years. He said, “My church is over 100 years old and it’s had about 100 people in it since day one, and it still has about 100 people in it. Shouldn’t it have grown at least by one person per year? Why is my church not growing?”

Dr. Rice answered with a story. He said, “Once upon a time some visitors took a tour of an oil refinery. The tour guide showed them all the intricacies of the refining process. The vast catalyst chambers, the pipes, the heating vats—everything that went into the refining of oil. As the tour ended, one of the visitors asked the tour guide a simple question. “Sir, you showed us everything except the shipping department. This size oil refinery processes a huge amount of petroleum, turning it into gasoline and lubricants. But you haven’t showed us where it’s all put into containers and shipped out to the world.” “Well, you see,” said the tour guide, “we don’t have a shipping department. Everything that is produced in this refinery is used up as energy to keep the refinery going.”

Dr. Rice continued, “The church has to understand that what it does, is for the world, not just to keep itself going. Too many churches appear to exist for no other purpose than to keep the church going. The purpose of the church is not to sustain itself, but to give what it has away to the world. The irony is… when we work just to stay open, we end up closing. BUT when we share what we have, we grow.” (See Matthew 28:19 and Mark 16:15.) (Hot Ill. Kindle ed. 1610-12)

As it turns out, the exact same thing that grows a church is the same thing the Author of Hebrew says defines the Church because it is what he says defines Christian worship. It is by “continually offering to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that openly profess his name” that we are the Church. Or as Paul puts it in Romans 9 “How can they call on his name unless they believe in him? And how can they believe if they have never heard of him? And how they can hear of him unless you tell them?”

But the Author of Hebrews is not quite done.

See, it doesn’t do any good to go out and tell people that God loves them and (not only would but has) died for them and then just leave it at nothing but empty words. Let’s face it, if you give a bible to a starving child, the child will be more likely to try and boil it and eat it than read it. It makes no sense to give people the “good news” if it’s not really good news to them.

The Author of Hebrews says that if we want to worship God then we need to proclaim His name openly and then he adds a little something extra to that.

He writes, 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices (the proclaiming of God’s name and the sharing with others) God is pleased.”

According to the scriptures, our God came to provide us with spiritual and physical food and then charged us to do the same. If you are like me, you are probably far better at one than the other. This week the author of Hebrews suggests we strive to do both. Are you brave enough to try?

If you are – it will look different for everyone in this room. To proclaim in word and deed will mean something unique for each follower of The Way.

But one thing is for sure. It won’t always be easy. It can’t always be easy. It shouldn’t always be easy. That’s why it’s called a sacrifice.

But then again… nobody ever said following Jesus would be easy. But it is worth it.

Amen.

Song: One more step along the world vss. 1-3 (641)

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 various ways described on the screen and in Dayspring Weekly News. Thank you all for your support of our shared vision and mission. For those in the sanctuary, if you have offering envelopes with you, simply put them in the offering plate at the back of the sanctuary as you leave the service today.

Prayer of gratitude

O God, bless the gifts we bring today, as well as the time, talent, and concern we will offer you this week. We trust that, through the power of your Spirit, these gifts will accomplish more than we can ask or imagine, for Christ’s sake.

Good and generous God, in Jesus Christ you came to us, promising us life in abundance.

We give you thanks today for the abundant gifts we receive in him – assurance of your love day by day; relief of mercy when we recognize our own failings; hope when things seem bleak; energy to make a difference through our work and our witness; peace that comes when we trust ourselves in you.

These are the gifts that matter, O God, especially when the future seems uncertain:

So we pray – Fill our lives with what matters, O God

Prayer for others and ourselves

Generous God, today we pray for all whose lives seem empty:
For those whose lives are empty of joy because the going is tough and friends seem far away…
because sorrow surrounds them…
because hearts are filled with anger or disappointment…

A moment of silent prayer

Fill our lives with what matters, O God. Fill our lives with you.

Generous God, we remember before you those whose lives are empty of purpose
and those who do not know the respect of their neighbours:
because they are without work…
because they face discrimination in their communities…
because they have made poor choices and cannot find a way forward…

A moment of silent prayer

Fill our lives with what matters, O God. Fill our lives with you.

Generous God, we remember before you those who lives are empty of peace & hope:
because they struggle with illness or disability…
because they are powerless in the face of violence…
because old animosities rankle & opportunity for reconciliation is elusive…

A moment of silent prayer

Fill our lives with what matters, O God. Fill our lives with you.

Good and generous God,
fill us with the energy & compassion of your Spirit
to reach out to those whose lives seem empty.
May we become the gift we have received in Jesus.

Amen.

Song: Will you come and follow me (634)

Sending out with God’s blessing

Response: Amen, we praise your name, O God

Music postlude

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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 licensing with One Licence (3095377 and CLC (A735555).

The Rev. Brad Childs retains the copyright (© 2022) on all original material presented by him. 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.