- On November 14, 2021
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My hope is that you have had a pleasant week!
The focus of worship this week is the relationship between money and faith. My hope is that the reflection provides you with somethings to consider as you spend time in relationship with God. You will notice that the music selections are both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time! I invite you to both engage with what is uncomfortable as well as notice how you have to adapt your perspective in order to participate fully. Enjoy!
You will also notice in the announcements a number of items that relate to Christmas. Yes Christmas … the season of Advent is almost upon us and we have begun to make preparation for this very important time in the church year. Please notice that there are a number of places where we will need your help to make this a meaningful and memorable Christmas.
If you would like to have a pastoral visit – in person, by phone or over Zoom – please reach out and we will set a time to be meet.
Christmas Poinsettias: As in previous years we will decorate the Sanctuary for the Advent and Christmas season and deliver Christmas flowers to our members who are unable to join us for worship on a regular basis. If you would like to contribute to these purchases please speak to Brenda, place a donation in the offering plate marked poinsettias or e-transfer your donation to Ken (firstname.lastname@example.org). As has been our practice we will have them available for pick-up on the first Sunday of Advent – November 28th. This means that the final date for placing an order is November 21st. The ordering brochure is attached to the bottom of this e-mail.
Brenda has agreed to take the lead again this year; however, she needs help! If you are willing and able to assist with any of these tasks, please talk directly to Brenda. She will need help with: collecting orders and payment, picking up the flowers (Saturday, November 27th), distributing the flowers, delivering the flowers to those unable to attend worship.
Student Christmas Care Packages: Again this year we will be sending “care” packages to the university and college students (children and grandchildren) of the members of our congregation. We know that the exam period is a stressful one, so we want to provide encouragement! Members of the congregation are invited provide a treat or token of encouragement on the first two weeks of Advent (Nov 28, Dec 4) so that the packages can be mailed on the 5th. If you have a student that you would like to receive a package – please let Brenda or me know sometime during the next 2-weeks.
Women’s Candlelight Service: The service will take place on Wednesday, December 1st. This year ladies are invited to The Christmas Café where you will always be welcomed with gratitude and experience the hospitality of a friend who cares. This service is a wonderful opportunity to take the time to center ourselves on the meaning of Christmas. Consider making time for this wonderful service … and inviting a friend.
Advent Sunday School: Would you like to help tell the Christmas story? During the 4 Sundays of Advent, we will be offering a Sunday School for the young children of the congregation, and we need adult leaders. Everything you will need to lead the lesson will be prepared for you – so that you can focus on the children and sharing the special story of Jesus’ birth. If you are able to be a leader for one (or more) of the four Sundays, please speak with Rev. Gushue.
Communion: Next Sunday November 21st, the last day of the liturgical calendar, known as the Feast of Christ the King we will celebrate communion together.
Covid-19 Protocol Update: At its monthly meeting on Friday, Session discussed and updated the protocol for the Advent & Christmas Season. The motion that was adopted was the following:
While the Session of Knox Presbyterian Church Sixteen prefers that all people attending public worship will be double vaccinated, it wishes to create a space that is welcoming for all people. As such, the Session of Knox Presbyterian Church Sixteen, supports that all people, vaccinated or unvaccinated, will be welcome to participate in public worship through the Advent and Christmas season. To facilitate this policy all people attending worship will be required to continue to: 1. adhere to public health screening protocols, and 2. wear a mask throughout the duration of the worship service.
If you have questions regarding the changes to the protocol, please speak to one of the Elders.
Preparing for Christmas: Every year it still surprises me how fast Christmas seems to come – and how often I am not prepared as I would like to be. And so, in January every year I make a resolution to be better prepared next year. Even thought it sounds early, now is the time when we have to make decisions about how we will engage this Christmas season and how we will ensure that we focus our efforts and attention on what matters most. One of the practices that I am going to suggest is making the commitment to be present for worship at each of the 4 Sundays of Advent. I expect that the continuity of worship, through what is often a busy and hectic time, will create a space and make room to welcome the Christ child and fill you with the peace, love, hope and joy of the season.
——————————————————————————————————————————-Knox Presbyterian Church Sixteen
Service of Worship
Sunday, November 14, 2021
Hymn # 626: Lord of all Power
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIAntiPiwJs (organ instrumental)
Hymn # 672: Jesus calls us, o’er the tumult
Hymn # 661: We give thee but thine own
Hymn # 641: One more step along the world I go
Scripture: James 2: 1-7
2 My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? 2 For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, 3 and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” 4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? 7 Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?
Reflection: Money & Faith
Why does James insist that it is the rich who oppress and dishonor the poor?
It was this question that started an interesting discussion at our Bible Study a couple of weeks ago. We are studying the Letter of James and one of the subjects that he draws attention to is the difference between the rich and the poor. When you read the letter, you come to the conclusion very quickly that James makes a distinction between the rich and the poor. The rich are described as blasphemous and dishonorable toward the poor, not hesitating to drag the poor into court. While the poor are portrayed as being favoured by God. Being rich was correlated with negative morals and ethics while being poor was associated with being favoured by God.
“So, who are the rich?”, was the question from one of our group. “How much money do you have to have to be considered rich?” asked another, as we looked around the table acknowledging that each of us present lived in a well-furnished home, have as much food to eat as we want and had driven ourselves to the church. “Are we not favoured by God just because we have financial resources?” asked another. And one of our group commented that if that is the case, God seems a little judgemental!
“And what of people who do have financial resources and do share their money to the poor. What of them?” asked another, as they pointed out that there are many people with financial resources who donate to charity and other worthy causes. The Kerr Street Mission, Evangel Hall, the Lighthouse for grieving children, the Presbyterian World Service and Development agency and countless food banks and shelters would not be able to operate without the generous contribution from donors who have financial resources. (pause)
As so often happens when we delve deeper into the meaning of the Scriptural text, things are not as obvious as they first seemed. And there was tacit agreement that there had to be more to it than the black and white perspective that indicated that all the “poor” were favoured by God and all the “rich” were corrupt. “Perhaps,” offered another “when the terms “rich and poor” are used they are not referring to financial resources at all but rather to spiritual well being.” And the group pointed out examples of people who were poor who lived lives that were neither moral or ethical as well as examples of lives of those who had financial resources and were generous to those who were in need. And yet for all of the discussion that provided both positive and negative examples of the both the poor and the rich, at the end of it all there was also agreement that when we looked at the teaching of Jesus concerning money there was a very clear indication that wealth was an impediment to entering into the Kingdom of God.
So this morning I want to go a little deeper and tease out the relationship between money and faith. In a moment we will listen to two more readings from Scripture. The first is taken from Matthews Gospel and describes an interaction between Jesus and a rich young man. The second is taken from Mark’s Gospel where Jesus contrasts the actions of a rich Scribe to those of a poor widow. I invite you to notice the motivations that guide the actions of each of the characters: the Scribe, the rich young man and the poor widow. (BREAK for Readings)
Matthew 19: 16-26
16 Then someone came to him and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; 19 Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “I have kept all these; what do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astounded and said, “Then who can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”
38 As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39 and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! 40 They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
41 He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43 Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44 For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
Reflection: Part 2
So let’s begin with the Scribe. What do we notice about this character? Remember that a Scribe would have been a person who held a position of responsibility with-in the community. They would have risen through their knowledge and effort to a place of authority and a place of respect … if not for themselves personally, at least for the position that they held. And this particular Scribe expects to be treated with all the respect that he believes that he deserves. It appears to me that this is a person who is impressed by his own self-importance. To say that he was a little puffed up would be an understatement! And what seems to be his motivation? To be the center of attention – with everything center upon him. You can imagine that if he donated money to the synagogue, that the reason that he did it was to be recognized for his contribution and for his own self-gain. Beware of people like these, Jesus warns, because they are only in it for themselves. Their focus is on their own self and their motivation is to accumulate for themselves. We are left with the portrait of a selfish – self-focused – person: a caricature of the self-focused, self-important person who is neither a follower of Jesus nor truly concerned for the poor.
The second is the rich young man. Like the Scribe that young man has wealth and resources. However, unlike the Scribe, he appears to have a certain righteous humility. He keeps all of the commandments, living his life as he has been instructed by the religious leaders. Sounds to me like he a person who you would like to have as a friend – and someone who could be depended upon to take care of those who have need. I don’t think that it is much of a stretch to consider that this young man would be donating generously to many charitable organizations as well as to the Synagogue to which he undoubtedly belonged.
And yet, in this episode there is something that separates him from entering into the Kingdom of God. I know to my ears it sounds harsh that if he wants to enter into God’s Kingdom that he must “go, sell his possessions, and give the money to the poor.” Often, I have struggled with this directive. Think about it for a second, what good would it do for the young man to sell all his possessions and to give the money to the poor? At the end the young man would now be poor himself … and whatever the value of his estate, it is hard to envision how it would change the lot of the poor for any extended time. Wouldn’t it have been better for Jesus to instruct the young man to become engaged with the poor? Perhaps hiring some of them to work, teaching them skills so that they could care for themselves and not be reliant upon the charity of others? Or perhaps it would have been useful for Jesus to instruct the young man to invest his resources so that his effect could have lasting implications that resulted in real change rather than a simple one-time splash!
What was it about this righteous and well-meaning young man that kept him from the Kingdom of Heaven? I suggest that it wasn’t that he was rich but rather that he was unable to give up his riches.
I’ll ask you to hold on to that thought while we explore the motivations of the third character: the poor widow. We meet the poor widow as she is making a contribution to the Temple treasury. On the surface, the offering of the widow appears to be ill-conceived. The offering isn’t much but it is what she has to live on. Wouldn’t it have been better for her to save the money that she has?
What is it about her action that garnered such praise from Jesus? I suggest that it was her faith in God and her way of being that was not controlled by her relationship with money.
I believe that here is the crux of the lesson. In one way it is a lesson about money, and in another way, it is a lesson about faith. Or to be clear it is a lesson about the relationship between money and faith.
Let’s go back to the rich young man: notice his dialogue with Jesus. What must I do? was his initial question. And when Jesus asked him if he followed the commandments he replied, “I have kept all these; what do I still lack?” The engagement of the young man demonstrated his desire to be in control: in control of his actions but also in control of the outcome. And Jesus says to him, what you need to have to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven is, first and foremost, to have a trusting faith. Are you willing to give up control and do you have a faith that trusts? Are you willing to follow me?
In our common vernacular this would be described as a “Come to Jesus moment.” Everything that the young man had learned, everything that the young man had worked for, everything that he had accomplished was now brought to a place of decision where everything that he had done before would no longer help him get to where he wanted to go. To have a deeper relationship with God he would need faith enough to relinquish control. To enter into the kingdom of Heaven he would need to put his relationship with God first and live in a way that was consistent with how God envisioned life to be.
I always get uncomfortable when I get to this place of discernment – because it is a difficult place to be. I don’t want to be poor. I don’t think that any one of you who are gathered here today want to be poor. In fact, I don’t think that Jesus wants us to be poor either … Jesus came so that we could have life and have it abundantly. What Jesus asked of the rich young man, applauded in the widow, and what I believe that Jesus wants from us … is the faith to follow him and the desire to see the Kingdom of God realized. Because, you see, when we do this, we will no longer be focused on money as a priority. What will become central to our living and our decision making is helping to realize God’s mission … and part of that mission is caring for the poor and less fortunate.
You know, I don’t think that the women in the Temple was a poor widow. In fact, if you asked her, she would probably be surprised that she would have been described as being poor at all. I expect that she would have indicated that she lived a simple lifestyle, that she had everything that she desired and that she was content with her life – that her life was focused on her relationship with God and caring for the poor. I would expect that if she were asked about the relationship between money and faith, that she would respond that when you have faith and live into it each day money is simply a tool that allows you to do God’s work.
So as we conclude some questions for us to consider about the relationship between money and faith:
- What is it that we do first, focus on how we can follow Jesus or worry about our financial resources?
- What practices could we begin to help us to be more diligent followers of Jesus and discern how God desires us to be part of God’s mission to the poor?
- Given a desire to care for the poor, what specific and practical actions can we take that would help us to align ourselves with God’s vision.
My prayer this day, is that we are able to relinquish control of our lives into the hands of God … who will guide us into a life of concern and service to others.