1. STEPHEN’S PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OCTOBER 17, 2021

Rev. Sabrina Ingram

WORSHIPPING TOGETHER

 

Call to Worship:   Psalm 73: 1 & 25 – 28

No doubt about it! God is good—
    good to good people, good to the good-hearted.

You, Lord, are all I want in heaven!
You’re all I want on earth!
When my skin sags and my bones get brittle,
God is rock-firm and faithful.
I’m in the very presence of God—
    how refreshing it is!
I’ve made Lord God my home.
    God, I’m telling the world what you do!

 

Lighting of the Christ Candle (The Light of the World is Jesus)

 

Prayer of Adoration and Confession

Sovereign God, you are holy.

You came in Jesus Christ modelling for us what being human is meant to look like.

Jesus was the truth.  In his divine nature he was the ultimate, unchanging measure of all things.

In his human incarnation, he never failed to speak the truth to others.

He blessed us with the truth of your kingdom.

He did not shrink from speaking harsh truths, challenging people to look at themselves and repent.

He honoured you in all things, even laying down his life according to your purposes.

He didn’t seek the easy way; he sought the right one.

He was the window through which we saw you.  The light of our path.  The revealer of your grace.

 

When we measure ourselves against him, we realize how fragmented we are.  We are not even one within ourselves, let alone being unified with others.

We confess that we are deceitful.  We hide our actions from others.  We concoct lies and tell ourselves they are true.

We are unreliable, saying we will do things we have no intention of doing.  We do not always show up for those who need us.  We let others down.

We are compromising.  We do not always stand up for what we believe.  We deny you.  We allow people to lead us into situations that we know do not glorify you.  We care more about the opinions of others, than of yours.

Forgive us.  Work in our spirits so that we will be people of integrity who show Christ’s face to the world.

 

As we gather today, remind us that we gather not only with the people in this room, but with those who join us in other ways.  By your Spirit, make us one.

 

We praise you, Lord, for your mighty act of salvation in Jesus Christ, for your presence with us always, and for your loving, generous nature.  May our worship please you.  Amen.

 

Assurance of Pardon   adapted from Psalm 7

Lord God, Take your place on the bench,

reach for your gavel,
    throw out the false charges against me.

Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness
    and according to the integrity that is in me.

I’m confident that, in Christ, you will declare me, “Innocent.”

 

Hymn: Shine, Jesus, Shine

 

Children’s Time

 

Exchanging the peace of Christ

 

Prayer for Illumination

Loving God, you have given us your word to light our way.  Help us to listen so that we may go in the way you lead.  Amen.

 

Scripture Readings

Amos 7: 7 – 9

Acts 19: 11 – 20

Philippians 2: 1 & 2

Matthew 5: 8

 

Hymn: On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand

 

Message: Being the Church – Integrity

Young Mikey was going door to door asking his neighbours if they needed any work done. Mr. Johnson made Mikey an offer, “My porch needs a coat of paint. I’ll pay you 50 bucks, and if you finish by sundown, I’ll throw in a 50 dollar bonus”.  Mikey accepted the offer and got to work.  Less than an hour later Mikey knocked on Mr. Johnson’s door to announce, “All finished, that’ll be a hundred bucks!”  Noticing there wasn’t a single drop of paint on the porch Mr. Johnson was concerned for Mikey’s integrity.  “Now Mikey you no it’s wrong to lie. Are you absolutely, positively, one hundred percent sure you finished painting my porch?”  “I sure am! Oh, and by the way that’s not a porch, it’s a Ferrari”!

 

The word “integrity” is used in many ways.  Integrity is the quality of being honest, fair and living by strong moral principles, as in “he is a man of integrity.  It also refers to internal consistency or lack of corruption as when we speak of an uncorrupted computer, business person or politician as having “integrity.”  Integrity is also being solid, unimpaired, or sound in construction.  So, we refer to the integrity of a building or a novel.   Integrity is a state of being whole, unified and undivided, as in “Most Canadians hope to maintain the integrity of our country”.  All of those definitions apply to Christ’s church in slightly different ways.

 

In our gospel reading, Jesus speaks of integrity this way, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5: 8).  While the statement is simple, being “pure in heart” is difficult.  What does it mean to be “pure in heart”?  The Message is helpful in answering that question, “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.”   Notice Jesus didn’t say blessed are the pure.  Jesus knew we can have “fake purity”.  We can act pure on the outside, and not be pure inside.  Purity begins within us.  In our hearts and in our minds.  Purity of heart includes our will – what we wish and desire.  Purity of mind includes our thoughts – what we dwell on, our hidden opinions, beliefs, and judgements.  To be pure within, we need our minds and hearts to be right with God.  We need to be righteous.  Not “self-righteousness” –  we aren’t righteous in ourselves, we can only be right with God by God’s grace shown through Jesus’ death and resurrection.  All other righteousness is “fake righteousness”.   Yet, having been made right with God, we need to open ourselves to God’s will and God’s ways.  Soren Kierkegaard said, “Purity of heart is to will one thing.”  He defines that “one thing” as “the good”.   We’d say that “the good” is God.  God is holy.  God is the source of all goodness.  So, to be pure of heart is to will only God and to align ourselves with God’s will.   That is integrity.  The Spirit gives us strong moral principles to help us to grow in purity, righteousness, holiness.  Purity includes honesty and fairness as opposed to deceit or partiality.   When people look at us, they should get what they see.  It’s not until we are rightly aligned with God on the inside that we’re able to recognize God outside of ourselves.  Psychology calls this “projection”.  We take what is within us and put it out there on other people or things.  If we’re dishonest, inconsistent, double-minded, or fake on the inside, that is what we see outside of ourselves. If we’re integrated and good, we see beauty and holiness everywhere.

 

Integrity is also a lack of internal corruption or consistency.  In the book of Acts, the power of Jesus to heal became so strong, people began to take things Paul had touched home to heal their loved ones.  A lot of components were at play here – the faith of the people, the power of Christ and Paul’s vigilance of his own spirit.  Paul always watched to be sure he practiced what he preached and didn’t fall prey to corruption.  Other people witnessed this and thought they’d get in on the act.  Maybe they saw dollar signs.   While they didn’t believe in Jesus, they couldn’t deny the power that was present when his name was invoked.   They didn’t want to know Jesus or follow him, or change their lives in any way, they just wanted to use his name to exorcise demons.   One memorable story is about the seven sons of Sceva who tried stealing Jesus’ power to exorcise a possessed man.  The demon within the man declared, “I know Jesus and I’ve heard of Paul, but who are you?” (Acts 19:15).  It then proceeded to pummel all seven of them.  They escaped within an inch of their lives.  As these stories spread, people’s envy of Paul turned into curiosity about Jesus which led to repentance and integrity.  Recognizing their magic didn’t come from God, they denounced their practices.  They freely took their books and burned them so there was no turning back.  Their lives were no longer guided by magic, falseness or pretense, these people were now living for and aligning themselves with Jesus.

 

What does it mean to align ourselves with Christ?    It means we live with integrity.  We become solid, unimpaired, and sound in construction like a building built to last.  In the book of the prophet Amos, Amos has a vision of a building.  God dangled a plumb line next to it.  A plumb line is a tool used to measure if the lines of a building are straight.  If they’re not straight the building is crooked, unsound and dangerous.  It will not stand.  God tells Amos he is placing a plumb line in the midst of his people to measure their integrity.  That plumb line is Jesus.  Jesus is the measure of all that’s right and good, solid and strong, consistent and caring.  Compared to Jesus, we see how misaligned we are.  The more out of whack we are, the more dangerous and destructive we become.

 

Finally, integrity not only means that we’re not only to be pure, consistent, and true, we must also be whole.  When we are whole people, we are complete in ourselves, intact, and unbroken.  The wounds of our past have healed.  We live in the present with consistency of character and faith.  We don’t fear the future because we are mature and independent, and we know God will be with us. We’re able to love others regardless of their lack of wholeness.  Scripture tells us many stories about people who are whole, people who are not whole, people who are becoming whole and people who are fragmenting.  In the Christmas story, Mary is a whole person.  She is fearless – a little freaked out by the angel and a little confused by the details, but able to receive the fullness of the angel’s message without a thought of the consequences to herself.   Mary is complete in herself – she is strong and independent which is the root meaning of the word “virgin”.  Because she is whole, she is free to choose to be God’s servant, a hand-maid of the Lord.   On the other hand, King Herod was a talented, intelligent, political genius but he was not whole.  He was a paranoid man who killed off a number of his relatives out of fear for his throne.  He was so threatened by the birth of a baby, he ordered a mass killing spree.    Like most of us, those who are becoming whole are the largest group in the scripture.   Moses goes from being a stuttering murderer to a leader of God’s people.  David slips from being a child of faith to becoming an adulterer and murderer, and yet rises to God’s good graces again.  Elijah, a depressed man, is used by God in powerful ways.  In fact, the whole people of Israel move like a wave through history; their faith is in constant flux between turning away and betraying God, to returning to God in faithfulness.   Adam and Eve are the standard for people who are fragmenting.  They begin life in perfect whole and unity with God and end up thrown out of paradise for introducing the spiritual destruction of sin into the world.    For us to be integrated people, we need to be healed and whole.  To do that we must return to the Lord.

 

Being whole within ourselves is only part of our calling.  We also need to be a unified, whole community.  The Church is to be at peace within the body.  We’re to be consistent and steady in our witness to the world.  The church fails terribly in our efforts to be a community of integrity.  Without judging past history, which needs to be examined in context, the present duplicities of Christians show how out of line we are.  Priests who sexually abuse children; TV evangelists who scam people for money or make a display of their faith while living in un-Christlike ways; Christians who are filled with vehement hatred for those they believe are sinful; Christians who work towards a “holy war” so Christ will return; Christians who live day to day excusing actions that are unacceptable, such as spousal abuse, alcoholism, impatience and anger, vengeance, cheating and corruption.  Then of course, there are the divisions in churches, the church-hurts that cause people to leave, the lack of attempt to reconcile and the lying about our own part.  There are Church conflicts.  People fight about everything from theology to toilet paper and often split in two over them.  The Church has a lot of growing to do to be unified.  We have not followed through on the advice of Paul, “If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care—then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends”. 

 

In our time, integrity is losing its importance.  Politicians are made of Teflon.  Those whose causes are just, use unjust, violent and even cruel means to achieve them.  The narcissism of people is growing.  We can’t trust others to keep their word.  People lie to cover up their secrets or find “scapegoats” to cover up their guilt.  The righteous are self-righteous and unloving.   People are more concerned about a car that a kid accidently paints, than about a kid who lies and cheats.  To be honest, morally consistent, solid enough to be soft, uncorruptible, whole and unified are rare traits in our world.  They should not be rare traits among Christ’s followers and within his church.   Remembering, as God does, that we’re people made of dust, and leads us to have grace for ourselves and compassion for others, Christians have the opportunity to be a refreshing, integrated presence in our world.  Are we up to the task?  Do we have the mind of Christ?  Let’s pray every day that the Spirit will mold us into people of integrity so the Church of Jesus Christ will be a light to the world.

 

Silent Prayer and Reflection

 

Offertory Prayer

God of mercy, you have given us your Son, who is a measuring stick of our virtue.  Now, we offer you these gifts.   It’s tempting to see our wealth as a stand in for our acts of service.  Give us integrity so that all we have and all we do will align to give you glory and bless our world.  Amen. 

 

Hymn: Trust & ObeyThere

 

Prayer of Thanksgiving and Intercession

God of each and every life,

We thank you for the everyday blessings you give to us.   There are people and privileges we too often take for granted so we pause now to envision and thank you for our

family,

friends,

food,

clean water,

clothing,

homes.

We thank you for your love for us.  You are always present to give us strength, comfort us and care for us.

We are grateful for your grace which is undeserved and for your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who laid down his life for us.  Show us how to be like him in integrity and maturity.

 

We thank you for your Church throughout the world, for our congregation and for the churches of our area.  Give us energy and hope for new life.  Teach us new ways and help us to let go of what we like in order to draw new people to Christ.  Be with those we know who once knew you and have fallen away.  Be with those without faith and those you are drawing to us.  May we welcome them with open hearts and the love of Christ.

 

We thank you for the wonders of the seasons as they change and we enjoy their beauty which is an expression of you, their artist.

We pray for the earth as it struggles to support your many creatures.

Make us better stewards in creation,

and kinder neighbours to both friend and stranger.

 

God of justice,

We thank you for our country where people are free to chose our leaders, to live in community and to participate in decisions which impact our future.

So many places in the world suffer in the midst of struggle and conflict.

Differences of ideology, skin colour, gender, religion and race create division.

Many carry deep burdens for themselves and their children.

So many are struggling with the economic impact of the pandemic, a need for affordable Many bear the stress of these days in deeply personal ways.

Show us how to support those in difficulty

Where there are divisions, mend relationships in our own community, and in our congregation.

 

God of compassion,

You look with tenderness on those who suffer due to physical or mental illness.

We see challenges for health care all around us,

and know many still face the effects of COVID-19

or other illnesses and complications.

We pray for those we love …

 

Give strength and compassion to all who offer treatment,

and courage and hope to all who wait for healing.

 

God of wisdom,

We live in complicated times.

We see countries locked in old animosities

and communities overwhelmed by fresh upheaval.

We pray for the millions displaced by current conflicts or natural disasters,

and for leaders here and around the world.

We think of the Middle East and particularly Beirut, of those in BC who are without homes due to the forest fires, of the families of those in Taiwan killed in an apartment fire, and of the people of La Palma who live in the path of the erupted volcano.

Give us willing hearts to participate in solutions to heart-breaking situations.

 

And so, we pray for your kingdom to come in the words Jesus taught us:

 

The Lord’s Prayer

 

Hymn: There is a Redeemer

 

Invitation to Mission

We leave from here with a renewed commitment

to live lives worthy of God

who calls us into his kingdom and glory.

We go to be imitators of Jesus Christ,

so that when he returns,

we will bring him joy.

 

Benediction   May the Triune God bless you and keep you.  Amen. 

 

Postlude:  Bless the Lord O My Soul