Blessings Cooksville Family!
Below is the link to this week’s service:
As always, If you have problems with viewing the video, I have included the full text , of most of the service, below.
And remember, please try to keep in touch with each other, particularly those you know who are forced to spend so much time alone.
And feel free to call or email me personally if you want to connect or if there is anything I can do.
Rev. Brian Vickers
Cell – 905-802-4081
Email – email@example.com
July 25, 2021
Sunday Worship Service
Prelude: Be Known to Us in Breaking Bread – John Day, arr. Garrett Parker
Opening Video: Church Differently
Welcome & Greeting:
Lighting the Christ Candle
Song: “All Creatures of Our God and King”
Call to Worship and Opening Prayer:
The Lords Prayer
Ephesians 4:1-16 New International Version (NIV)
4:1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it says:
“When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.”
9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Song: Beautiful Things
The Thunk and the Gap
I didn’t have to use the scripture that we heard Sue read for what I want to talk about this morning – and I definitely didn’t need to use all of it.
All I really needed was the first three verses where St Paul writes – I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
Those three verses convey the primary message of the gospels – a message that tells us how to act – and how to interact with others.
Be humble – be gentle – be patient – love.
It’s the same concept summed up by Jesus in the second part of His great commandment – Love the Lord your god with all your heart – and love your neighbor as yourself.
I try to live by that – I try – but I know I don’t always succeed – particularly with one neighbour who I share a fence line with.
But – as I’m sure you have all come to know – neighbour is supposed to be understood in much broader sense than those who live near you.
I don’t live in Mississauga – but everyone who lives around our church is my neighbour. Actually – everyone who lives in the greater Toronto area is my neighbour – in Canada – north America – everywhere. And they are all your neighbors too.
Do you love them all – as you love yourself? That’s the primary calling of being a Christian – love God – love your neighbour.
Do all your neighbours know that’s how you try to live your lives? If they did – then I’m sure that the rest of the world would want there to be more of us – more people who – love God – and love our neighbours – more Christians.
Theologian – Jim Hopewell – talks about a phenomenon he calls the – Thunk – which is what he says happens when someone – with no connection to Christianity – discovers that you’re a priest or a pastor.
Dr. Hopewell told the story of a time when he was traveling on a plane – without his clergy collar – carrying on a perfectly normal conversation with the guy seated next to him. Eventually – the topic turned to what each guy did for a living.
I’m a priest – Dr. Hopewell confessed. And that’s when it happened – The Thunk – that palpable – unmistakable – inevitable change in the relational dynamic – when someone discovers that you’re a fairly committed Christian. Any pastor or minister or priest can tell you about her or his own experiences with the Thunk.
But you don’t have to be some type of professional clergy to know the feeling – any Christian – not just ordained ones – can experience the Thunk.
Just start throwing around the words – Christian – or – church – in everyday situations – and see what kind of response you get. I’ve done this – by the way. I’ve struck up conversations with people that I’ve been standing in line with – and then I intentionally mention that I’m a minister.
After the inevitable – Thunk – the conversations usually end with the person pretending that something else has become more important – like their phone.
But sometimes – once they regain their composure – they start telling me their thoughts on Christianity – and it’s usually not pretty.
If I ever get a chance to contribute to the conversation again – it’s usually to explain to them all the things that I’m NOT – rather than the things that I am.
There is a lot to overcome when someone finds out that you’re a Christian – not even to mention a Christian minister.
There’s an immediate credibility problem that has to be dealt with – because we Christians are often thought of as narrow-minded – bigoted – judgmental – uneducated – backward people.
And – church – is often thought of as the place where we narrow-minded people gather to reinforce our stereotypes and to point condemning fingers at those outside our walls.
Now – I realize that that is an unfair stereotype. Not all Christians are that way. But you have to know that such a stereotype is alive and well in many places on Planet Earth.
And it’s a stereotype that is constantly perpetuated by the media – how often do you read stories in the news about the – good – done by Christians.
if Christianity is featured in an article – it’s generally about some current or past wrong perpetrated by those claiming to be Christians.
Or it’s a story about some group out on the fringe that holds to beliefs and practices considered outdated to the majority of Christians – groups that try to use some type of contorted Christian message to further their own agenda.
It’s a sad thing – because we know that there is a brand of Christianity that is better than the widely-publicized brand of Christianity that is ethnocentric – anti-scientific – homophobic – imperialistic – defensive – condemning – rejecting – and afraid.
We know that a different Christianity exists. We know that there are followers of Jesus who are open-minded – well-educated – and accepting.
We know that there are followers of Jesus who are spiritually mature – intellectually honest and psychologically savvy.
We know that there are followers of Jesus who guard against unfair stereotypes – refuse to be judgemental – and who work to eliminate prejudice in their own minds and wherever else they see it.
But there are many people outside of Christianity who do not know that – because people who practice Christian spirituality – with spirits – and brains – and souls fully engaged – are not the ones who make the headlines.
And that’s why I think that the – Thunk – that you and I experience when we have these conversations with people outside the church’s walls can be explained by – the Gap. The Thunk is a function of the Gap.
There is a gap between Christianity and the world. It’s a gap that has been growing over the course of the last century or so – and this gap significantly impedes our ability to engage people outside the Church’s walls.
The reasons for the gap are multi-faceted – but to put it simply – the Gap exists for two reasons.
Number one – as I’ve already mentioned – the Christian message can get hijacked by people who have helped create for Christians a reputation that we do not want – and that is difficult for us to overcome.
Many people think that Christians are backward and blind – and that’s one reason for the gap between Christianity and the world.
Secondly – the Gap that gives rise to the Thunk exists because there are many people who have been hurt by Christian religion – a concept that is often called – religious wounding.
And we can never expect our faith communities to attract the people we would love to reach – until we have helped to repair the damage that we have done through attitudes and practices that have caused injury to people.
It might not represent who we are now – but there is no denying that past generations of Christians – have – acted in ways that helped to earn for us the lousy reputation that we have.
It’s essential that we recognize the damage to others – the damage that has occurred in the past – and remains today – due to our action or inaction.
And that we begin to communicate our apology to the world outside the church. Only then can we ever reduce the risk of encountering the Thunk – start to shrink the Gap.
Religious wounding takes place at the intersection of faulty religious teaching – and human growth. When religious teaching thwarts growth instead of promoting it – when it steps on human blooming instead of tenderly nurturing it – becomes severely wounding.
When a person living in a loveless or even an abusive marriage sits in church and hears that divorce is always wrong – a wound can be inflicted.
When a faithful person struggles with poverty and hears in church that material wealth is a sign of divine blessing – a wound can be inflicted.
When a young person struggling with gender identity or sexual orientation sits in church and hears that straight is right and gay is wrong – a wound can be inflicted.
When a group hears about how the ways of their ancestors were considered something that they needed to be cured of – a wound can be inflicted.
The number of religious wounds can be as numerous as the number of people who have walked at the intersection of human growth and faulty religious teaching. And it’s a very large number.
People outside the church can get a little nervous when they’re around Christians. People outside the church experience the Thunk when they interact with us. That’s because there’s a Gap between us and them – because they often think that we’re backward and blind – and some of them have been sorely hurt by religious people who have stepped on them instead of helping them.
But I have some good news. We can do something to close that Gap – and to lessen the effects of that Thunk.
Now – we can’t do anything about the Gap between people who are abusing the Christian message and those outside the Church – but we can do something about the Gap between the type of Christianity that truly believes in the commandment to love your neighbour – and those outside the church.
Here’s how we do it. We do it in six A’s.
Number 1. We can acknowledge – and I think we should acknowledge – out loud – that religious wounding exists. We need to do our homework – find out about the people –
both inside and outside the church – who struggle with self-limiting thoughts or feelings or behaviors because they’ve been injured by oppressive and faulty religious teaching. They’re out there – find out about them – acknowledge them.
Number 2. We can apologize. I understand that not every Christian individual or community has inflicted a religious wound. But – unfortunately – outside of the church – all Christians get lumped together – and it’s time for us to stand up and apologize for the ways in which Christianity has often been hurtful – and not helpful.
Maybe it’s time to think about adding a new line to our church sign that says – If you’ve been hurt by the Church – we’re sorry.
Even if we didn’t directly inflict the hurt – we are associated with those who did – and the process of our taking responsibility for the harm that has been done in the name of Christianity – will go a long way toward cushioning the Thunk and shrinking the Gap.
Third – Not only must we acknowledge and apologize – we must be very diligent to ensure that we – articulate – a Christianity that is smart and kind – that is honest – and in touch with the scientific and historical discoveries of the world. That is sensitive to the shifts that have led us into our current culture – and that is logical – and obviously good for people.
That approaches the complex issues of gender and sex with understanding and sophistication – that employs the best of scholarship to read – understand – and apply the truths of Scripture.
That turns its head – hands and feet to the issues that face this world – and that helps move Christianity out of the dark ages and into a place of meaningful participation among the peoples of the world in this day and age.
The next thing we can do – is to act. Acknowledging – apologizing – and articulating are nothing if we don’t act. We have to act to bring to an end to any teaching – or any policy in our churches that damages – supresses – or thwarts genuine human cultural growth.
Think creatively about how we can be an instrument of change. Resist injustice and oppression with our voices and with our words and with our actions. Action of this kind is often unpopular – but it helps to bring healing to those we have hurt – and it also helps to bring us closer to the same kind of unpopular ministries of love and justice that led to the rejection of the prophets and to the death of Jesus.
Then – we can advertise. Get to know people who don’t go to church. And when you find them – tell them about this sermon. Tell them that we truly want to love all our neighbours – tell them that we aren’t all bad – but that we accept responsibility for those who are – and that we are acting to bring real change in aid of those who have been hurt.
But remember – not everyone with whom you share this good news will enter our church – in fact – if more than a couple of people choose to come – I’d be ecstatically encouraged – but that’s not the point of your sharing anyway. Were trying to reduce the gap – eliminate the Thunk.
And then – prepare to be astonished. When the people who really love Jesus – and really love their neighbour – get radically and extravagantly kind and welcoming to all people – then we will have the opportunity to establish the kind of human community that can turn this world upside down.
We really can live out the kind of justice and mercy that Jesus said is what the whole thing is all about. And it will be astonishing.
Solo: “We Remember You “ – words and music by Walt Harrah; arr. Lloyd Larson
Hymn: “There’s a Wideness In God’s Mercy”
Benediction and Commissioning
Postlude: Communion – Félix Guilmant