PRELUDE "Our Father in Heaven" G. Bohm
Responsive Call to Worship
The Lord is faithful in all his words, and gracious in all his deeds.
Our eyes look to you, for you sustain us in every season.
The Lord is near to all who call on him in truth.
You open your hands, O God, and satisfy the desire of every living thing.
The Lord fulfils the desire of all who fear him and watches over all who love him,
Our mouths will speak the praise of the Lord, and the God’s holy name forever and ever.
Prayer of Adoration and Confession
Mysterious and merciful God,
we praise you for the many ways you come to us
and offer us abundant life.
When the sun rises and the earth blooms around us,
we are filled with grateful thanksgiving for your gift of a new day.
When evening falls and we find ourselves in deserted, lonely places,
we count on you to provide for our needs.
For the times you show us the way when we are in need of guidance,
we praise you.
For the times you provide healing when we are broken and hurting,
Your grace makes the poor rich, the hungry satisfied, and the weak strong;
and so we worship you as the source of life and love, comfort and courage.
Gracious and merciful God, as we gather to worship,
we are aware that we have fallen short of the life you desire for us.
We confess together:
Through Christ you have shown us the way of compassion,
generosity and forgiveness,
yet we neglect the suffering of others.
We blame and judge in the very moments you call us to act
with kindness and mercy.
We cling to what we own rather than share our blessings with others.
Free us from greed and from grievances.
Open our hearts so that we may embody the teachings of Jesus, your Son,
our saviour in whose name we pray together saying:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name;
your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory,
forever and ever. Amen
Hymn 315 “A mighty fortress is our God” (PCC Hymnal)
Helga Morrison, soprano and Stephanie Burgoyne, organ
Words: Psalm 46; paraphrase, Martin Luther (1483-1546), translation, Frederick H.Hedge (1805-1890), alt Music: Martin Luther; arr. Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612)
Words: this version, (c) The Presbyterian Church in Canada, 1997 Music: public domain.
Used with permission CCLI License #11200173
Reading: Romans 9:17-27
I had a call not too long ago from my dentist’s office. Because of the Covid pandemic all appointments were being cancelled until further notice. I don’t know about you, but I hate going to the dentist. My dentist is a great guy. My wife and I have known him for over 30 years. He’s good at his job, has a terrific personality etc. It’s just that I don’t like suffering any kind of hurt or pain. Given the choice, none of us would ever choose to suffer, would we? Yet, scripture often suggests that as Christians we should expect to suffer as Jesus suffered.
In life, we tend either to suffer from something or suffer with someone. None of us are attracted to suffering from something, are we? It’s a suffering over which we have no choice. It grabs us---often by surprise---and holds us unwillingly captive. It usually comes in the form of physical, emotional, or mental struggle and in the form of pain that attacks us through the actions of other people, or by an accident, in illness or in a heart attack or a pinched nerve at the base of the spine. Sometimes we suffer hurt from criminal activities or from the betrayal or loss of a spouse or friend. However it comes, this suffering is unwanted and unwelcome, but it comes to us nonetheless.
There is another type of suffering that scripture tells us distinguishes the Christian from others. It’s the deliberate choice to suffer with other people, to share in someone else’s sufferings. Here, we decide whether we will hurt or not. We have a choice; we’re free either to enter into the suffering of another or run from it. If we suffer here it’s because we choose to empathetically share in someone else’s suffering, and often, it hurts just as bad as suffering from our own pain.
In all of life, Jesus is to be the Christian’s model, and suffering is no exception. Jesus suffered both ways---at the hands of other people, and with other people, and its here that we witness his uniqueness, what made him our saviour and gives him the right to also be lord over life---his willingness to suffer with us. Jesus looked at people who suffered and said: “there, there I am also”. He felt the pain of others to such an extent that he equated the sufferer with himself. Jesus is our hurting neighbour, our hurting child, even our hurting enemy. He’s anyone who suffers from anything not of their own doing or choosing. So, when we feel empathy with someone’s situation, when we feel their hurt, really feel it, we suffer with them, but more importantly, we suffer with Jesus, and when we choose to suffer with God’s hurting children we can count on our being true children of God.
We each have our share of problems and faults and hurts in life. Frankly, we can be so tired from the weight of our own load that we might resent God asking us to take on someone else’s burden as well, especially someone who isn’t an immediate family member or close friend. Yet, we all need to love more than we do. But God is love, we are not. We need God. We need God to move us beyond self; beyond our own weariness and personal struggles. We need God to move us beyond self-pity, into the life of another in order that we take some of their pain and suffering into ourselves.
Living as we currently are under the restrictive, suppressive cloud of covid-19, everyone is struggling; many are suffering in some way, to make sense of it and to find a way through it all, it is becoming clearer to us what scripture affirms: never mind that we don’t always feel like doing it, even that we don’t like doing it; never mind that we don’t feel it’s our responsibility; never mind that most of us are not very good at empathy, are not very good at sharing in someone else’s pain. All that really matters, scripture says is: when we have empathy, when we share in someone else’s struggles, we’re on the right track, the track that will eventually lead us all the way home, the track that’ll lead us to where we’ll all share in our promised inheritance, not just as children of God, but as heirs of God, co-heirs with Jesus.
Hymn 494 “Lord, be thy word” (PCC Hymnal)
Helga Morrison & Kaitlin Vandertuin, soprano
Stephanie Burgoyne, organ
Words: Christopher Wordsworth (1807-1885); Music: Maria Tiddeman (c1837-1915).
Words & Music: public domain.
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession
Gracious, merciful and loving God, we give you thanks for your goodness in all the situations and times of our lives. Even in the uncertainties of this present moment, restricted and governed by necessities arising from the Covid pandemic we are grateful for the strength and courage we find to persevere, knowing you are right beside us.
Give us the wisdom and patience we need to endure and to face a future filled with many questions and challenges. Aware of our own needs today, we are reminded by Christ’s compassion that so many others nearby and much further away experience even greater struggles and so we lift up our prayers for the world, seeking your guidance so that we may do our part to bring comfort, healing and hope.
We pray for all who are sick or in pain, that they may have the medical assistance they need and the gift of healing in body, mind, and spirit. We pray for those who are grieving, that they may know the comfort of your presence and find hope in your promises. Especially we remember those whose lives have been changed by covid-19 and ask that you will support their recovery and heal relationships affected by this disease.
We pray for those who are hungry or homeless, and all those experiencing the stress of poverty and economic uncertainty. Give those of us who have more than enough resources the confidence to share generously.
We pray for leaders in our communities and in our nation, as they seek ways to recover well-being in the face of the global pandemic. Sometimes it seems to us as if no-one is in control or at best are simply in the confusing unknown of what is happening around us seem to be making rules up as they go along. Give them wisdom and courage to make decisions for the well-being of the most vulnerable.
Lord Jesus Christ, we know that you walk with us through all the days of challenge and celebration, especially during these times of covid-19. Be our strength and our hope. Be our focus for the future. Be bread for the journey of life, to sustain us and encourage us, whatever the days, weeks and months ahead hold for us. Amen
Hymn 651 “Guide me, O thou great Redeemer” (PCC Hymnal)
Kaitlin Vandertuin, soprano and Stephanie Burgoyne, organ
Words: Welsh, William Williams (1717-1791); translation by William Williams, Peter Williams (1722-1796), alt. Music: John Hughes (1873-1932). Words: public domain.
Music: reprinted by permission of C.A. Webb for The Presbyterian Church in Canada 'Book of Praise'. Used with permission CCLI License #11200173
Go in peace. Go in hope.
Thanks be to God.
POSTLUDE “Allegro” G.F. Handel
In Our Prayers
Online service and bulletin is © 2020, Alexandra Presbyterian Church, Brantford, ON
Hymns from “The Book of Praise” Pew edition, © The Presbyterian Church in Canada, 1997
CCLI License #11200173