Sunday, September 12, 2021 Worship Service

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.

Blessings,

Rev. Brian

Rev. Brian Vickers
Cell – 905-802-4081
Email – b_d_vickers@hotmail.ca


September 12, 2021
Sunday Worship Service

Prelude: Sleepers, Wake! A Voice Astounds Us melody by Nicolai; harmony by Bach; arr. by Gilbert Martin

Opening Video: Psalm 19

Welcome & Greeting:

Lighting the Christ Candle

Hymn: “God Of Wonders”

Call to Worship and Opening Prayer:

The Lords Prayer

Scripture:

Mark 8:27-38 New International Version

27 Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?” 28 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” 29 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” 30 Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him. 31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” 34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

Solo: Agnus Dei – from Mass of the Sacred Heart of Jesus – by Charles Gounod
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us and give us peace.

Message:

It’s Worth The Risk

A man named Fred was named in a large inheritance – He would receive a large parcel of land – and had to decide if he wanted some land in Chile or Brazil. He chose Brazil.

Unfortunately – if he had chosen Chile – he would have received his inheritance in land on which they had recently discovered gold and silver.

Then he had to decide if he wanted to plant coffee or nut trees – he chose the nut trees – but the bottom fell out of the nut market – just as coffee futures were going up – and he lost the farm because he couldn’t pay his property tax. He was left without a penny.

Fred pawned his gold watch and had enough money to fly to either Montreal or Toronto – he chose Toronto. When the plane for Montreal arrived – it was a brand spanking new airbus. And after several hours of delay – the plane that arrived to take him to Toronto was an old propeller driven clunker that looked like it was held together with wire and duct tape.

Over the mountains – one of the engines fell off – and Fred – finally learning from his earlier bad choices – took both of the parachutes offered to him. He jumped. He immediately pulled one of the rip cords – but nothing happened – he pulled the other cord – and it broke.

In desperation – the poor man cried out – St. Francis – save me! A great hand from heaven reached down – seized him by the wrist – and left him dangling in mid-air. Then a gentle but inquisitive voice asked – wait a second – did you mean St. Francis – Xavier or St. Francis of Assisi?

The poor guy couldn’t win for losing – but that’s life sometimes. Life is risky – because it’s full of choices where we don’t always know the outcome.

It’s the same with choosing to become a Christian. There’s always risk – because we don’t always know how other people are going to respond to that choice. Some people may appreciate the choice because of the changes it brings into our lives. But others may very well reject us for choosing to follow Jesus – because they don’t like those very same changes.

Following Jesus is risky – but is the risk worth it – is it worth the risk of rejection to go where Jesus leads you to go – to do what Jesus leads you to do – and to be what Jesus leads you to be? Is it worth the risk of rejection – from a large percentage of the world – to let Jesus change you from the inside out?

Well – in our reading today – Jesus asks His disciples to take that risk. In Mark 8:27-29 we hear that – Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ.”

Before we consider the risks in following Jesus – we first have to acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ – the Messiah – Anointed One – the Prophet – the Priest – the Ruler of All!

You see – people in Jesus’ day thought He was just another prophet – perhaps Elijah or John the Baptist come back to life. I don’t know about you – but if people said that about me – I would be very flattered. If people said – Wow! He preaches like Elijah Himself – my head would swell so much that I’d have trouble getting through the door.

But not Jesus – He’s greater than any political power – and He’s greater than any prophet or priest that ever lived.

When Peter said – You are – THE – Christ – he was saying You are THE Prophet – the one who speaks the words of God. In fact – Jesus is the Word of God Himself – according to John 1.

As we consider the risk of following Jesus – we must acknowledge the same thing – we must acknowledge that Jesus is – the Christ – and not just some popularized version we hear about from people today.

In a posting on his – Restless and Reformed blog – Kevin DeYoung describes what people say about Jesus today.

“There’s the conservative Jesus – who’s against tax increases and activist judges – for family values and looking after ourselves.

“There’s liberal Jesus – who is against big Wall Street and Wal-Mart – for reducing our carbon footprint and printing money.

“There’s Therapist Jesus – who helps us cope with life’s problems – heals our past – tells us how valuable we are – and not to be so hard on ourselves.

“There’s Starbucks Jesus – who drinks fair trade coffee – loves spiritual conversations – drives a hybrid – and goes to film festivals.

“There’s Open-minded Jesus – who loves everyone all the time no matter what (except for people who are not as open-minded as you).

“There’s Touchdown Jesus – who helps athletes run faster and jump higher than non-Christians and determines the outcomes of Super Bowls.

“There’s Martyr Jesus – a good man who died a cruel death so we can feel sorry for him.

“There’s Gentle Jesus – who was meek and mild – with high cheek bones – flowing hair – and walks around barefoot – wearing a sash.

“There’s Hippie Jesus – who teaches everyone to give peace a chance – imagines a world without religion – and helps us remember that – all you need is love.

“There’s Yuppie Jesus – who encourages us to reach our full potential – reach for the stars – and buy a boat.

“There’s Spirituality Jesus – who hates religion – churches – pastors – priests – and doctrine – and would rather have people out in nature – finding – the god within – while listening to ambiguously spiritual music.

“There’s Platitude Jesus – good for Christmas specials – greeting cards – and bad sermons – inspiring people to believe in themselves.

“There’s Revolutionary Jesus – who teaches us to rebel against the status quo – stick it to the man – and blame things on – the system.

“There’s Guru Jesus – a wise – inspirational teacher who believes in you and helps you find your center.

“There’s Good Example Jesus – who shows you how to help people – change the planet – and become a better you.

And then – DeYoung says – there’s Jesus Christ – the Son of the living God. Not just another prophet. Not just another Rabbi. Not just another wonderworker.

He was the one they had been waiting for – the Son of David and Abraham’s chosen seed – the one to deliver us from captivity – the goal of the Mosaic law – Yahweh in the flesh – the one to heal the sick – give sight to the blind – freedom to the prisoners and proclaim Good News to the poor – the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world…

This Christ is not a reflection of the current mood or the projection of our own desires. He is the Father’s Son – more loving – more holy – and more wonderfully terrifying than we ever thought possible.

As we consider the risk of following Jesus – we must give up our own notions of what we want Jesus to be and acknowledge Him for who He truly is. We must acknowledge that He is indeed – THE – Christ.

But that’s not all – we also have to consider that that Jesus – is headed for the cross. Jesus isn’t pursuing any type of glory – He’s following a path that will lead to suffering and death. Jesus is not pursuing a crown – He’s pursuing a cross.

In Mark 8:30 – Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him. Why? Because if people knew who Jesus was – they’d raise Him up as their King – they’d elevate Him to power – but that’s not why He came.

Our reading says that Jesus – began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

You see – Peter – like the rest of the disciples, wanted to follow Jesus to glory. They wanted to share in the prestige and power of His reign – but they didn’t care too much for the pain necessary to get there.

Peter’s attitude was not only selfish – Jesus thought that it was satanic. Peter wanted to pursue more power and glory for himself – but that’s not where Jesus was headed. Jesus was headed for a cross – and if we want to follow Jesus – we need to be prepared to head in that direction too.

In the 1950’s – Parker Brothers came out with a game for church families called – Going to Jerusalem. Unlike Monopoly – the playing pieces weren’t – a top hat or a Scottie dog. In – Going to Jerusalem – a player got to be a real disciple. Each was represented by a little plastic man with a robe – a beard – sandals – and a staff.

In order to move around the board – players looked up answers to questions in a little black New Testament that was provided with the game. Everyone started in Bethlehem – and then made stops at the Mount of Olives – Bethsaida – Capernaum – the stormy sea – Nazareth – and Bethany. If a player rolled the dice well – he or she won the game by making it to the triumphal entry into Jerusalem – but no one ever got to the Crucifixion or Resurrection. There were no demons or angry Pharisees.

Players only made their way through the nice stories. It was a safe adventure – perfectly suited for a Christian family on a Sunday afternoon walk with Jesus.

But that’s not what following Jesus is all about. Jesus is headed for a cross – so traveling with Him isn’t safe! Traveling with Jesus isn’t meant for plastic disciples who look up verses in a little black Bible. Traveling with Jesus is meant only for those who are willing to take a real risk with their own lives.

Then this passage tells us that in order to follow where Jesus travels – it will definitely cost us. We must realize that we will have to pay a price to go with Jesus. In verse 34 Jesus – called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

What does denying oneself mean – there was a man who loved chocolates – he’d eat a big – pot-o-gold box each week. Every year during the weeks of Lent leading up to Easter – he would open up a box of chocolates – look inside – and then tell the Lord that he would not eat any candy as a token of his love for Jesus. He called it – denying himself – and – taking up his cross.

Denying oneself – and taking up one’s cross – does – NOT – mean giving up chocolates. It means giving up your life. When someone took up a cross in Jesus’ day – it only meant one thing – they were going to die!

A Pastor had a man knock on his office door and ask him for some bullet points on Christianity. You see – His wife had just become a Christian – and he wanted help in making some sense of the dinner conversations he was having with her. He made it clear he was a very busy – very successful man – and didn’t really have time to study what it meant to be Christian – he just wanted the bullet points.

The Pastor told him – I can see you are a very busy – very successful person – so I don’t think this is a good idea. Why? – the man asked in frustration.

Because – the Pastor replied – If I only gave you the bullet points – and you really came to understand them – they have a way of working into a person’s life so significantly that your life could really get messed up. You would have to rethink the meaning of success – of time – of family – of everything really. I don’t think you really want to do that – do you?

Well – as it turned out – the Pastor’s response peaked the man’s interest – and after many more conversations – he joined his wife as a dedicated follower – and it truly – did – change his life.

How about you and me? Do we just want the bullet points every Sunday morning – a quick executive summary? Or do we really want Jesus to change us from the inside out? Do we really want Jesus to mess with our lives and rearrange our priorities so much so that we’d give up everything for Him?

That’s what Jesus is talking about here. If we want to follow Him – we must be willing to lose our lives – as we recognize it. Jesus is the Christ headed for the cross – so it will cost us to follow Him – but the cost is worth it.

Following Jesus is well worth the risk of losing your life. In fact – it may be riskier to try and save what you think of as your life. Look at what Jesus says in verse 35 – For whoever wants to save his life a will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.

In other words – He’s saying – If you want to really live – then give up your life for my sake – risk it all in the cause of the Gospel.”

Tyrtaeus – a Greek – wrote something very similar to what Jesus said here. He said – The one who risks their life in battle has the best chance in saving it – the one who flees to save it is most likely to lose it.

Statistics from World War two actually back that up. A psychologist made a study of the top pilots who fought over the Pacific Ocean. There was one common trait he found among all of them – they were risk-takers.

Throughout their lives – they kept testing the limits of their abilities – and yet they were highly resistant to accidents. In fact – during the war – they suffered fewer casualties than pilots who were inclined to play it safe.

The psychologist concluded – Living itself is a risky business. If we spent half as much time learning how to take risks as we spend avoiding them – we wouldn’t have nearly so much to fear in life.

That’s interesting – people who play it safe are actually at greatest risk – but those who take great risks are actually the most secure. Or as Jesus put it – Whoever wants to save his life will lose it – but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.

Jesus goes on to say – What good is it – to gain the whole world – yet forfeit your soul? – what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?

The word Jesus uses for soul here – is the same word He uses for Life – Jesus is not talking about losing – souls here – He’s talking about losing our lives by wasting them in the wrong pursuits.

In 1867 – Swedish chemist – Alfred Nobel – invented dynamite. He hoped that his invention would make war too horrible to ever happen again. However – he soon realized the truth. He made a huge fortune from its sales – yet was horrified with the suffering and misery it caused. But what was he to do?

Towards the end of the 19th – century he awoke one morning to read his own obituary in the local paper – Alfred Nobel – the inventor of dynamite – who died yesterday – devised a way for more people to be killed in a war than ever before. He died a very rich man.

Actually – it was Alfred’s older brother who had died. The newspaper confused the two. But the account had a profound effect on Alfred. He decided he wanted to be known for something other than developing a means to kill people efficiently.

As a result – he initiated the Nobel Prize – an award for scientists and writers who foster peace. Nobel said – Everyone ought to have the chance to correct their epitaph in midstream and write a new one.

How about you? Are you going to wake up one day to regret what you did with your life? Or can you honestly say – I’m living the life I really want to live. Sure – sometimes it’s a tough life – but I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

If you can’t honestly say that – then I encourage you to take the risk and live your life following Jesus. Acknowledge that He is the Christ – and that He is headed for the cross. Appreciate the cost of following Him and go for it. For then – and only then – will you truly live!

Amen.

Hymn: “The Wondrous Cross”

Video: Dream Again

Pastoral Prayer

Hymn: “At the Name of Jesus”

Benediction and Commissioning

Postlude: Sacred Heart of Jesus – Joseph McGrath

Sunday, September 6, 2021 Worship Service

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.

Blessings,

Rev. Brian

Rev. Brian Vickers
Cell – 905-802-4081
Email – b_d_vickers@hotmail.ca


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September 6, 2021
Sunday Worship Service

Prelude: Simple Gifts – Shaker melody, arr. Michael Hassell

Opening Video: a prayer for Labour Day

Welcome & Greeting:

Lighting the Christ Candle

Hymn: “As Those Of Old Their Firstfruits Brough”

Call to Worship and Opening Prayer:

The Lords Prayer

Scripture:

James 2:1-10, 14-17 New International Version

2:1 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong? 8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Solo: Then shall the eyes of the blind; He shall feed His flock text
from Isaiah 35 and 40; music from “Messiah”, by Handell

Message:

Behind The Cover

Dodie Gadient – a schoolteacher for thirteen years – decided to travel across the country during her summer vacation and see some of the sights she had taught about. Traveling alone in a truck with camper in tow – she headed out.

One afternoon – while rounding a curve on the highway near a major city – the fan belt snapped on her truck. She was tired – exasperated – scared – and alone. In spite of the traffic jam she caused – no one stopped to ask if she needed some help. Leaning up against the trailer – she prayed – Please God – send me an angel – preferably one who knows how to fix a fan belt. .

Within a few minutes – an enormous man sporting long – black hair – a beard and tattooed arms – riding on a tricked-out Harley pulled over. With an incredible air of confidence – he jumped off his bike – and without even glancing at Dodie – went to work on the truck. Within another few minutes – he flagged down a large truck – attached a tow chain – and whisked the whole pick-up and camper off the highway onto a side street – where he calmly continued to work on the engine. .

The schoolteacher was a little intimidated and too dumbfounded to talk. Especially when she saw the distinctive patch on the back of his leather jacket – Hell’s Angels. .

As he finished with the engine – and it came roaring back to life – she finally got up the courage to say – Thanks so much – and was able to carry on a brief conversation. .

Noticing her surprise at the whole ordeal – he looked her straight in the eye and mumbled – Don’t judge a book by its cover. You may not know who you’re talking to. With that – he smiled – straddled his Harley – and with a subtle nod – he was gone as fast as he had appeared. .

Looks can be deceiving. Dodie prayed for an – Angel – to rescue her – and that’s what she got – a member of the notorious biker gang – the Hell’s Angels. As he said – You can’t judge a book by it’s cover. .

You see me here every week – In the summer – nice pants – nice shirt. In the cooler months – I’m in my robes – black with a stole and button up shirt with a clerical collar – dress shoes. But I typically dress like that only for services – most of the time I’m much more casual – and I mean – MUCH – more casual. .

I’ve always been that way. Even years ago – when I worked in the computer industry – daily work attire was suit and tie – but after work – faded jeans – sandals – and a t-shirt..

And the difference in the way I would be treated – depending on how I was dressed – would really make you stop and think. If I stopped at a store – or maybe a nice restaurant – on my way home from work – the staff would be falling over each other trying to serve me..

You could tell what they were thinking – that’s a really nice suit – this guy’s got money – he has to be a big spender. But if I went to the same places on the weekend – or after I’d gone home to change – salespeople and servers would ignore me. They’d be thinking – he can’t afford to buy anything here..

The thing is – they’d all be wrong. I was – in no way – a – BIG – spender. But I could usually afford to buy in the places I’d shop. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover..

Don’t judge too quickly – when you do – you might assume the worst – when the best is intended. This is one of the issues that James addresses in his book..

James 2:1 My brothers and sisters – believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism..

Don’t judge a person by what you see on the surface. In other words – don’t judge too quickly. Or don’t pre-judge – before you have a chance to really get to know someone below the surface..

A study by researchers at the University of Toronto and at James Madison University in Virginia – demonstrates our tendency to do just that – to judge people simply by what we see on the surface..

Jonah Lehrer – one of the researchers – says we all have what he calls – bias blind spots – no matter how smart we think we are. In fact – his research found that – a larger bias blind spot was identified in people with greater intelligence. That’s because there’s a mismatch between how we evaluate others and how we evaluate ourselves..

He says – When considering the irrational choices of a stranger – we are forced to rely on what we see them doing – we see their actions from the outside – which allows us to see them as in the wrong..

However – when assessing our own bad choices – we tend to engage in elaborate introspection. We study our motivations and search for relevant reasons..

For example – if we drive erratically through traffic – it’s because we have an important meeting – or we don’t do it that often – and we’re really careful – and so forth. But if someone else cuts us off in traffic – there’s one simple – observable explanation – he’s a jerk..

Lehrer concludes – our bias blind spots are largely unconscious – which means we don’t see them in ourselves. And being smarter – doesn’t make it any easier to see our bias faults. (quotes paraphrased).

I find that very interesting – because in our sophisticated society – people like to think that they have very little – or no – prejudice at all – when in fact – they may tend to prejudge people even more..

That’s the way of the world – but God calls Christians to – keep unstained from the world. (James 1:27). Unlike the world – Christians are called to demonstrate a different attitude. So don’t Judge the book by the cover – and don’t be a foolish critic..

Don’t be hasty in your evaluation of others. You see – when you judge too quickly – your judgment is usually wrong..

James 2:2-4 says – Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?.

That’s judging the poor man as being less worthy of your attention than the rich man – and it’s because you’ve taken each person at face value – and have evaluated them based solely on their outward appearance..

The word used for – poor man – in the original Greek could be translated as – someone who crouches and cowers like a beggar. It sure doesn’t describe someone who would look like knowing them would be an asset – at least not compared to the rich man dressed in the ancient equivalent of an expensive Armani suit with a gold Rolex watch..

That’s judgment based on a person’s outward appearance – and that’s how people usually – see – things. The Bible says – The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance – but the Lord looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7). You see – God has a totally different assessment – because God looks below the surface to the heart of an individual..

And God sees that the poor are often rich in what really counts..

James 2:5-6 – Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor..

The real assets to the world – are the poor – who are rich in faith!.

This was demonstrated in May of 2017 – do you remember the bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester – England. None of the tickets for that event were cheap – so you could argue that most of the people attending were reasonably well off. But – while many of those fairly wealthy concert goers were fleeing the arena – two homeless men stayed to help those who were hurt.

For Chris Parker – a 33-year-old homeless man – the arena’s entrance seemed like a good place to beg for money. And Stephen Jones – another homeless man – had found a spot nearby to sleep.

Chris was panhandling when the bomb exploded – according to local news reports the force of the blast knocked him to the floor – but he was unfazed. Rather than running for safety – he went to the aid of victims – comforting a girl who had lost her legs – wrapping her in a T-shirt – and cradling a dying woman in his arms.

Stephen – pulled shrapnel out of children’s arms and faces. Just because I am homeless doesn’t mean I haven’t got a heart – he told a local news agency – I’d like to think someone would come and help me if I needed the help – he said – adding that he had been overcome by an – instinct – to pitch in.

The poor can be very sensitive to the needs of those around them. That’s why their – instinct – their heart – is to – pitch in – to help in whatever ways they can. That’s faith at work – and God sees that the poor are often rich in that kind of faith.

On the other hand – God also knows that the rich are often poor in what really counts. The wealthy are often lacking in things like faith and compassion.

James 2:6-7 Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?

The church – over the years – has experienced more trouble from rich people than from poor people. It’s the rich who have tried to dominate and control the church. It’s the rich who have caused most of the church’s legal problems – and the rich who wind up being on the news demonstrating examples of how – not – to be a Christian.

They tend to be the ones who give Christianity a bad name – if not by their words – then certainly by their actions. Just think of those wealthy TV preachers – who live in mansions while taking money from the vulnerable of society.

The rich have caused far more trouble for the church than the poor ever have over the years. And yet – churches still work on appealing to the wealthy – and discouraging the poor.

A 2012 newspaper article asked the following question – Does money change you? The article said that most people are convinced that gaining a lot of money – wouldn’t change who they are as people. But studies show exactly the opposite.

A mounting body of research is showing that wealth can actually change how we think and behave – and not for the better. Rich people have a harder time connecting with others – showing less empathy – and are more likely to dehumanize those who are different from them.

Percentage wise – they are less charitable and generous – less likely to help someone in trouble – and they are more likely to defend an unfair status quo. Money – in other words – changes who you are.

Researchers from the University of California – based on a number of studies – have concluded that wealthier people tend to be less compassionate towards others in a bad situation than people from lower-class backgrounds.

Now – I don’t want you to think that I’m trying to say that all rich people are bad – or that all poor people are good. No – it’s just a reminder to look beyond the surface. Don’t judge people too quickly. Don’t take people at face value – and through that – become an uninformed judge.

Finally – by judging others based on initial appearances – you run the risk of becoming the one in the wrong.

James 2:8-10 says – If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.

Jesus summarized God’s law in two commands – Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind – and love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-40).

According to James – The law of love is the – royal law – the ultimate of all laws – and judging people too quickly breaks that law! When you don’t take the time to really know someone before you form an opinion of them – you violate the law of love.

In fact – according to James – Judging people based on appearances – breaks the entire law! James considers the law is a boundary line – like a border – and it doesn’t matter where you cross that line. If you cross it anywhere – at the point called murder – or adultery – or favouritism – it’s all the same – you’ve crossed the border. That’s how serious James thinks it is.

Judging people too quickly breaks the law of love. In fact – it breaks the entire law – so instead – learn to show mercy – not judgment. Demonstrate compassion – not a critical spirit.

Express the kind of love which goes below the surface and takes the time to really know someone. If you do – you will no longer see the need to judge.

That’s what faith in Christ is all about. When you truly trust Him – you will love others as He loved you – unconditionally and without judgment.

It’s countercultural – but that kind of love changed the world. In the middle of the 2nd Century – those who could afford to fled the Black Plague in ancient Rome by abandoning the city – leaving the poor – sick and dying behind. The Christians – on the other hand – remained behind at great risk to themselves.

When everybody else ran – they stayed to care for the sick and dying. They showed mercy – and their mercy triumphed over the judgement of others.

After decades of persecution – Christianity began to be accepted in the Roman Empire – so much so – that less than 150 years later the Roman emperor himself became a Christian and sought to Christianize the entire empire.

I’m going to finish by telling you something you might not know about me. I own and ride a motorcycle. It’s not a Harley – but it’s the same sort of cruiser – with the same sort of loud thumping engine noise – and it’s often mistaken for one.

When I ride it – I wear an older pair of jeans – some heavier boots – a motorcycle jacket – black leather gloves – and a helmet with a dark visor. Like a lot of motorcycle riders – I wear those things for protection. But it kind of makes us all look the same. Other than the fact that my jacket doesn’t have a big club patch on the back – I might look just like a gang member.

And if it’s a hot day – after wearing a heavy outfit like that for a couple of hours – well – let’s just say I don’t always get off the bike smelling like a bouquet of roses.

So – what I want to ask you is this – if I pulled up in front of the church – loudly revving the engine – dressed like that on my bike one Sunday morning – just parked right out front by the steps – got off – and walked in through the sanctuary doors before taking my helmet off.

How do you think I’d be judged? How would you judge me? Would I be led to a good seat – would I be asked to sit at the back or maybe even asked what I was doing there. And how would you feel after I took off my helmet and you realized it was me.

So don’t be quick to judge – instead – be quick to love – all people. Be quick to show mercy – as God has shown us mercy. Then watch that mercy triumph over judgement in our world.

Amen.

Hymn: “In Christ There Is No East r West”

Video: Shoes

Pastoral Prayer

Hymn: “Sent Forth By God’s Blessing”

Benediction and Commissioning

Postlude: Fugue in G major – Bach Played by Lily Zhou

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