Greetings for Rev. Brian Vickers
Greetings Cooksville Family!
It looks like summer is giving us at least one more blast of niceness this weekend. I hope you can all take advantage and enjoy all that God gives us in the beauty of nature.
I would like to remind you that next week (Sunday October the Fourth) will be World Communion Sunday. Although we won’t be celebrating communion physically together, I encourage you to have your own elements ready so that we can celebrate virtually together online.
Anyway, HERE’s the link for this week’s service. Or you could search on ‘Cooksville United’ directly in YouTube.
As always, If you have problems with viewing the video, I have included the full text below of the introduction and the reflection 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
September 27, 2020
Welcome & Greeting:
Hymn:“I Could Sing of Your Love Forever”
Call To Worship and Opening Prayer:
The Lords Prayer
Scripture: Matthew 21:23-32 New Living Translation (NLT)
23 When Jesus returned to the Temple and began teaching, the leading priests and elders came up to him. They demanded, “By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right?”
24 “I’ll tell you by what authority I do these things if you answer one question,” Jesus replied.
25 “Did John’s authority to baptize come from heaven, or was it merely human?” They talked it over among themselves. “If we say it was from heaven, he will ask us why we didn’t believe John.
26 But if we say it was merely human, we’ll be mobbed because the people believe John was a prophet.”
27 So they finally replied, “We don’t know.” And Jesus responded, “Then I won’t tell you by what authority I do these things.
28 “But what do you think about this? A man with two sons told the older boy, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’
29 The son answered, ‘No, I won’t go,’ but later he changed his mind and went anyway.
30 Then the father told the other son, ‘You go,’ and he said, ‘Yes, sir, I will.’ But he didn’t go.
31 “Which of the two obeyed his father?” They replied, “The first.” Then Jesus explained his meaning: “I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do.
32 For John the Baptist came and showed you the right way to live, but you didn’t believe him, while tax collectors and prostitutes did. And even when you saw this happening, you refused to believe him and repent of your sins.
Hymn:What a Friend We Have In Jesus
Message: The Unwanted
Communities don’t seem to be the same as they used to be. When I was growing up – everything happened out in the – front – of the houses. Kids played in the street – parents came out to watch or talk with their neighbours – even the dogs would be tied up out front so they could be involved with what was going on.
But not so much nowadays. I blame it on the automatic garage door opener. Press the button as you come down the street – the door opens – you pull in with the big door closing behind you to enter the house through the inside garage door.
Other than to do yard work – you never see people out front – everything takes place inside the house – or behind the seven-foot fences of the back yard
Our communities seem particularly designed to avoid facing the bigger issues of life – as though we designed them to avoid interruption by anything unpleasant or uncomfortable – as a way of controlling who comes near.
Inside and out back we feel safe – but we are safe at the price of keeping out questions of need - questions of poverty - questions of insufficiency.
In fact – our homes and communities are designed to maintain an illusion of a particular life – the Canadian dream – where no one is needy – where there is a chicken in every pot – two and a half kids and a dog – a car in every garage – and all the other stuff that we might need.
Let’s face it – we don’t want to be bothered by people outside of our little bubble of safety – whole industries exist to create pleasurable experiences that divert us from the real pain of life.
In essence – we have become comfortably numb! We even go to lengths to feel the same in our places of worship – I want to ask this question – Would the most reviled sinner that you can think of – feel welcome and loved at our church – all the time?
Would drug addicts – sex workers – the homeless – the mentally ill – the depressed – the marginalized – those who have spent time in prison – would they feel welcomed and loved unconditionally by our community?
Would they know that we love them just the way they are – warts and all – no matter what their lifestyles – no matter their appearance – no matter what is in their bank accounts – would they know we love them just the way they are?
And do we? Do we really?
God loves us just the way we are – For while we were yet sinners – Christ died for us – and Jesus came not to condemn the world – but to save the world through Him!
When people come to our church – do they see in us the kindness and richness of God’s love and tolerance and patience and forgiveness – Do they see Christ in you – in me?
I heard about a church that started up a rather unique ministry – aimed at street kids – particularly the skater kids – you know the ones – you see them around town – typically gathered in packs – they dress a bit funny – drooping pants and wallets on chains – early teens – and they look troubled.
The ministry started one day when the pastor saw a group of kids on their skateboards – getting yelled at and chased out of a restaurant’s empty parking lot in the city’s downtown.
As they moved on down the road a bit to another empty lot – he had an idea – so he got out of his car and started walking toward them – but when they saw him coming they just took off again – You see – these kids are so used to being told to – get out of here – by adults – that they just expect that’s what’s going to happen.
But he didn’t give up – he follows them again – calling out – Hey guys – I just want to talk to you. I’m the pastor over at Covenant Church up the road – and – I just want to say that you can come and use our lot during the day when it’s empty.
The kids were dumb-founded – Really? – Are you serious? – they couldn’t believe it – these kids didn’t have many places they could skate -
no one wants them around.
Eventually – the church built a skate-park in an unused part of their property – complete with ramps and jumps and all kinds of stuff – and some benches for them to hang out – and now the kids come there in droves.
The pastor has gotten to know a lot of them – and says that most of these kids have virtually no parental supervision or love. Most are from single parent homes – and they hang out with the other kids because it gives them a sense of belonging – they just want to feel that they belong somewhere.
It did take a while for the group to start growing – and for the kids to start feeling comfortable in the church parking lot – because they were accustomed to being told to – get off – church property by people who are called Christians – the general rule was – don’t try to skate in church parking lots.
How sad – of all the places they could go – they should feel welcome and loved at a church – and this is the way all people should feel. Where have we gone wrong – how have we gotten so off base?
In our scripture – Jesus was talking to the religious people of his day – He was talking to the church goers and the pastors – and He said to them – I tell you the truth – the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.
How could that be – well – Jesus just told them the parable of the two sons. A man had two sons and he went to the first son and said – Son – go and work today in the vineyard – I will not – the son answered – but later he changed his mind and went.
Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing – And that son answered – I will – but he did not go.
How many of us – either out loud – or within our hearts – have answered God’s grace by saying – I will love You with all my heart – with all my mind – and with all my strength – and I will love my neighbor as myself?
And during baptism – many of us said – or had our parents say on our behalf – that we would keep to the great commission set forth by Jesus to – go and make disciples of all nations – baptizing them – and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you?
And let’s be honest – how well are we doing in this department. Did we go like we said we would – or have we become distracted by the things of this world – by our status in the community – by the protection of our homes – by the love of money over the love of people?
Do we spend more time in judgment of others – or being intentional about welcoming the stranger – the marginalized – people with messy lives – the outcast – the poor – the disenchanted – the disenfranchised – those who doubt – those who do not know the love of God – those who have been hurt by the church.
Do we seek to live in the kind of community that does not pass judgment – but instead embodies the riches of God’s kindness – tolerance and patience toward all?
Are we shutting the Kingdom of God in people’s faces – or are we opening the doors for all to come in?
If you ask me – the people who most need to feel the grace and love of Christ – to learn what the good news has to offer – are the very people who feel as if they are having the doors of our churches slammed in their faces!!!
We are the privileged – have you ever thought of yourself that way? – In Romans Chapter 5 – Paul writes – Because of your faith – Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand …
Do you think of – the church – where we now stand – as a place of undeserved privilege? And what a difference it would make in our lives – in our community – and in our churches – if we did!
We know something about life that many outsiders know nothing about. We know that God loves us. And we know that God loves everyone. And Jesus said that people will know we are Christians by how much we love.
Love is what attracts people to Christ - do people see in us – something that the world can’t offer – a superabundance of grace-filled – unconditional – love toward all people no matter what?
In his book – Organic Church pastor and author – Neil Cole writes about a time he decided to have a baptism in the parking lot of a ghetto apartment complex in Los Angeles.
He and other church members brought a barbecue – and let the smell of burgers grilling over the fire fill the apartments – and lots of people started coming out for the free lunch. They started singing songs and filled a little kiddie pool with water.
Cole writes – Curiosity kept everyone watching – in fact – the balconies were filled with onlookers. We had the new believers sit down in the little pool – and we baptized them in front of everyone. Then we presented the message of the Gospel – inviting anyone to come and join us.
Our presence was now well known in the whole neighborhood – and we were being watched closely. One evening we were sitting in a circle discussing the Bible – I noticed a young woman watching us from a distance.
As the weeks went on – she eventually worked her way into the meeting. She would sit quietly and listen to the Scriptures.
One day – she finally asked a question – and it was then that I realized – that this girl – who spent twenty years living in one of the biggest cities in the country – had never heard the story of the Gospel before.
And she was amazed by the message – Cole says that after the meeting he spoke with her – he asked her about her kids - they had different fathers – both in prison – one for murder
She told him she could never become a Christian because she herself was a drug dealer – and had been since she was 13.
But then – after a few more weeks – she ran over to him and gave him a big hug – and announced to him – and to everyone within a mile – that she had given her life to Christ.
She also told him that she had found a real job - she had to drive a lot – work long hours – and not get much money for doing it – but it was legitimate – and she felt good about it.
There are people just like her living all around us – some of them might look like skater kids – others are homeless – alcoholics or drug addicts – some look like you or me – some live next door – some live in close proximity to this church.
Many people know nothing about the Love of God – isn’t it our job to share God’s love with them? We are called to be Christ to a lost and dying world – we are called to be Christ to children whose parents are either in jail or on drugs – we are called to be Christ to the parents as well.
We are called to be Christ to those who have gotten caught up in the cycle of sin and addiction – the marginalized – the lonely – those who feel unlovable – those who have been kicked out of our parking lot in the past.
Now that’s a privilege – that’s an exciting calling – if you are like the second son in our Gospel lesson – the one who said he would go – but didn’t – there’s still time to jump into the thick of it – there’s still time to invite people of every persuasion under the sun to come and feel welcome in our yard.
The religious leaders of Jesus day – scoffed and said about Christ – This man welcomes sinners and eats with them - do we welcome sinners – no matter what that sin might be – and eat with them?
Let’s get our priorities straight – sure – you need to do what you can to have food on the table – and a roof over our heads – but when it’s locking our gates and entering through the garage – we’d be much better off spending time in the front yard.
Let’s get to know our neighbors – and let’s face it – many of our neighbors can use some help – they are going through divorce or abuse – they are on the verge of bankruptcy – and on the verge of losing their homes – they are lonely – they are isolated.
They need Jesus – just like we do!