Summary: This sermon was written in the light of the death of Wilma Watson, the matriach of Yonge Street Mission and the longest-serving member of the staff team.
A Faithful Servant – Sermon for CATM – January 20, 2008
James 1:12 Blessed are those who persevere under trial, because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Today is a special day in the life of Yonge Street Mission. For those who are new to us or perhaps even brand new today to the life of the mission, it might be hard to appreciate some of the things that will be said today. If you are new here, perhaps it’s a good opportunity to get an idea of what the mission is about.
You see, today we remember someone of huge importance in the mission and who has been pivotal to our identity as a faith community and a mission. Today we remember Wilma Watson, both here in small measure and later today at a memorial service to be held at 2:30 PM at High Park Baptist church in Toronto’s west end.
This is Wilma’s room, named in her honour. Daily Wilma’s name is uttered many times in reference to this space that we squeeze into today. In this way and in others daily she is remembered.
Yonge Street Mission is both a faith community and a mission, you know. As a faith community we come together knowing that we are drawn together by the living God in the name of Jesus Christ. We gather to worship, we gather to affirm our faith in the Son of God who lived and died as one of us and who reigns in glory with the Father.
We come to affirm and reaffirm our profound allegiance to Jesus Christ. He is our Lord to the glory of God the Father. He is the One who beat a pathway for us to the Father.
He is the One who laid down His life for you and for me to bring us to a place of being able to know God as Abba Father.
But YSM is also a mission. That means that we take this relationship with God so seriously that we take it unselfishly. Jesus died for me, for us, but He also died for the world, and specifically for us, for our community.
Our life and purpose and joy are bound up in His magnificent life, but we understand that Jesus has called us to live in such a way as a people of faith that a great many others can come to know God through Jesus Christ.
If you know the mission at all you know that we live this truth and this commitment out very, very gently.
We never bash anyone over the head with the gospel. We are not known as Bible-thumpers, not in the slightest. That’s because we know that our greatest challenge and our highest calling is to live a life of love. So we focus on loving the community in Jesus name.
That’s precisely why we have a food bank and seniors programs and youth programs galore and housing and New Hope Fellowship and Evergreen Centre for Street Youth and that’s why we do a ton of education – ESL, computer training, spiritual formation and ministry-preparation and job training and that’s why we focus so much on helping the community around us in every single way that we can think of.
Whoever turns to God in Jesus Christ as a result is up to God. Are we ready at all times to give reason for the hope we have in Jesus? Yes. But whatever response anyone has to the love we try our best to offer, that’s up to them and God.
If that’s the case, then what, really is our role? Honestly, as I thought about today and I thought about the memorial service that will be happening in a few hours for Wilma Watson, and as I asked myself:
“What was it that Wilma brought to us and left with us? What really was her greatest contribution to the mission?”
And I realized it was kind of a simple thing is a way: she was a faithful woman. A faithful woman of God. What does that mean? What does it mean to be faithful?
Firstly, to be faithful means to take our commitments seriously. There’s an interesting synonym to faithfulness. It is trustworthiness. Luke 16:10 says this: 10 "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.