Worship Service for the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost

Hi everyone,

Welcome to another worship service, but this time it is for the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost. The worship bulletin can be found here. And the manuscript for the sermon is found directly beneath the worship video.

We will again celebrate communion in this service, to which all participation is welcome but not obligated. If you wish to participate, have some food and drink nearby ready for consumption at that portion of the service.

A special thanks to those helping in worship today:
Musician: Justin
Vocalists: Susan, Bern, Jony
Reader: Darla
Special music: Carolyn Klaassen (Lutheran student at VST)

Have a wonderful week!

If the video is not working, please click here.

O Lord our God, send to us your Spirit to entice and empower us with the strength of your word.  We pray for the ears to hear your call and the resolve to live according to your will, through Jesus Christ.  Amen.

So as I mentioned at the top of this service, today is National Indigenous Day.  And I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t even know this was a thing.  But in my defense, I am totally ignorant when it comes to these commemorative days as there are times when I don’t even know what day of the week it is, let alone what festival we are recognising.  I think it’s Father’s Day today too, by the way.

But with all the news talking about racism in and around our country, I think it’s important to take the time to learn about all the ways that we’ve been participating in it all, either through our explicit action or implicit inaction.  Because one of the catch phrases that is emerging from the Black Lives Matter movement is that it isn’t good enough to just be non-racist, but we must be anti-racist.  Meaning that it isn’t helpful to just passively not act like a racist, but it is important that we are intentionally active in squashing the racism in ourselves, in our communities, and all around us by learning about the other and finding the value in our differences.  Because if we aren’t moving forward, we’re moving backward.

And so, I’m again preaching about racism.  But not just because there is racism out there, I mean we all know that it’s there.  As rapper and actor Will Smith said in like 2016, “racism isn’t getting worse, it’s getting filmed.”  He meant that the racial tensions we have in the world are coming to the forefront, they are caught on video and posted on social media, we’re being forced to talk about them and thus are able to understand them more openly, and hopefully deal with them that we perhaps, in the near future, live in a world free of racial injustice and violence.  But this was 4 years ago he said this.  And it seems like things haven’t gotten any better.  I’m preaching about racism again because things have to get better.  We have to get better.

I’m not just talking about the police violence against the black community, but I’m talking about all racism.  That includes the racism and discrimination against and the ignoring of the Indigenous people in North America.  That includes the narrative we have perpetrated about our Muslim and Middle Eastern brothers and sisters.  That includes the disrespectful and patronizing attitudes that we hold toward the Asians, no matter Northern, Eastern, Southern, or Western, in our communities.  And it even means the assumptions that we make towards Caucasians and their role in all of this.

The thing is, while we all might feel like we are, to a certain extent, victims of racism, especially those of us who are visible minorities in the communities that we live in, at the same time none of us are completely free of racism, as we all have those tendencies, we all hold those stereotypes and prejudices, we all cannot help but to see someone by the colour of their skin and make a snap judgement before we even know their heart.  And I know this is difficult to hear.  It is difficult to look into our own selves and bring light to our own faults.  It is difficult to examine our hearts and admit that we aren’t exactly perfect or blameless.  It’s difficult to humble ourselves and confess our own sin of racism.

And that difficulty might scare us.  Scare us away from that admission, scare us away from any kind of action, scare us away from that intentional and active anti-racism.

We see today Jesus comforting his disciples, and again telling them to have no fear… “do not fear,” he says, “do not be afraid”.  Jesus assures his disciples that all people are equal, all people are valuable, all people, including and those we might not like and even ourselves, are loved.  But this assurance that Jesus offers isn’t just for lovey-dovey fuzzy feelings, rather he said these things to drive his disciples, and us, into action.  Because we are equal, we must stand up against inequality.  Because we all have value, we must speak up for others who do not feel or are given that value in society.  Because we are all loved, each and every one of us, we are driven to love others just as God loves us. 

So have no fear, for God’s truth of equality will bring us together as one body of Christ, all with different roles but one mind of community and justice.  Don’t fear those who oppose God’s message of love, those who would rather hate and instill fear, those who would sooner put you down and insult you for showing compassion than learn humility and peace, for the power and strength of God’s grace and mercy is with us.  Don’t be afraid of perhaps losing your own privilege and identity, for God has declared us all with value, us all redeemed, us all God’s own beloved children, taught to believe and have faith that we are welcomed and included in God’s kingdom.

But what does Jesus mean about not bringing peace but a sword?  That sounds kind of violent if you asked me.  It sounds like Jesus is promoting division between the us and the them, more than uniting us as one body.  I know there are a lot of people out there that would say this means that we need to go to war and attack those who oppose us.  There are people who would say that Jesus is giving us permission to shun those who disagree with us and fail to recognise our God-given self-righteousness and piety.  There are people who even say that it is ok to condemn others to hell because they don’t share the same doctrinal views as we do. 

But I don’t think that is what Jesus is saying at all.  I think the sword that Jesus is talking about is the tool that is to be used to cut out whatever opposes God’s message of love in us and for others.  I think the sword is the method for us to remove the scales from our own eyes that we can see that our faith isn’t to be one of complicit comfort, but of proactive progress towards God’s kingdom.  I think the sword is the knife used to surgically remove whatever is ailing us, whatever disease in us, whatever is killing us inside, so that true healing could happen in our hearts, in our lives, and in our communities.  And for us to take up our cross is to ally with those who live in the margins, those who are outcasts, those who are victims of the systemic racism that has plagued humanity since the beginning of time and haven’t even had the pleasure, the privilege… the right to be reassured that their lives matter.

So this fight against racism is on all of us.  It is our responsibility as God’s children, as God’s disciples, as God’s called servants and believers, to proclaim the good news of God’s gospel, which is exactly what Jesus told his disciples, that we are all equal, all valued, and all loved.  See, we cannot stay silent any longer.  Like Jeremiah we must speak, we must cry out against the injustices of the world.  Through the death and resurrection of Christ, we have been freed from the guilt of sin and shame and are empowered to boldly love with compassion and serve God and others with confidence.  For this message of God’s love and grace is in us, filling us with blessing and it cannot be contained any longer.

So I choose to ally with my brothers and sister who are of different cultures and background than myself.  I choose to stand in solidarity with the marginalized, the racialized, and the oppressed.  I choose to love my neighbour as God loves me, and see the value in each one of God’s people.

Friends, I’m not saying that this is easy.  I’m not saying that the road ahead of us won’t be difficult.  I’m not saying that the sword cutting us open to reveal our hidden sins won’t hurt.  But I’m saying have no fear… do not fear… do not be afraid… for God is with us in this journey, empowering us to love, healing us in our pain, and forgiving us in our humble confessions, now and always.

So on this National Indigenous Day, may we remember the marginalized around us, may we recognise our role in marginalizing those around us, and may we retaliate against the systemic racism that marginalizes our brothers and sisters, also beloved children of God, that we might without fear proclaim God’s message of love, justice, and peace.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

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