Kaitlin Vandertuin and Stephanie Burgoyne
PRELUDE “Meditation on ‘Be now my vision’ ” W. France
Responsive Call to Worship
Gracious God, you are all mercy and grace;
Slow to anger and rich in love.
God is good to one and all;
Everything you do is filled with grace.
God provides help for us in moments of trouble;
And gives a fresh start to those who feel like giving up.
Come, let us worship God!
Let us lift our voices in praise and thanksgiving.
Hymn 274 “Crown Him with many Crowns” PCC Hymnal
Kaitlin Vandertuin, soprano
Stephanie Burgoyne, organ
Prayer of Adoration and Confession
How wonderful are your works, O God! How great are your ways! You are generous in love and kindness, endless in goodness and power, overflowing with grace and mercy.
You fill the world with truth and justice and offer all people hope and new beginnings.
Lord of all things, we praise and adore you as Creator, Redeemer, and Holy Spirit, this day and always, for in Christ we know you are always near.
As Jesus welcomed all who were tired and heavy laden to lay down their worries at his feet,
we confess to you, O God, our sins and burdens,
to find the freedom Christ promises.
God of compassion and understanding,
although our lives have slowed down during the covid-19 pandemic, we still struggle to hear your voice.
We are caught up too often in our own personal situations and fail to consider what others are facing.
Distracted by daily news and the uncertainty around us,
we forget to come to you in prayer, raising that uncertainty and the concerns it brings to you.
Forgive us, God;
Forgive the many things that we allow to come between us and you;
and in these slower days of community life,
teach us how to experience and enjoy the freedom of your presence.
Hear our prayers, offered through Jesus, our risen Lord,
whose words 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 358 “There is a Redeemer” (PCC Hymnal)
Helga Morrison, soprano
Stephanie Burgoyne, piano
The Gospel according to Matthew 18:1-5
I am a baby boomer, a part of the generation that emerged following WWII. As children, we had rationing books, state-supplied orange juice, polio, measles and whooping cough. As teenagers, we grooved to Cliff Richard and the Beatles; we rocked to Frankie Vaughn, Bill Hailey and the Comets and the Rolling Stones; we protested with Bob Dylan, tripped out to the grateful dead, got political and protested against all kinds of things. More than any generation before it, instead of leaving school at age 14 or 15, baby boomers pursued a post-secondary education. We were going to change the world.
Ah well, so much for good intentions.
Prior to the Kennedy assassination, the Vietnam War, Watergate, and Richard Nixon in the 1970s, most people trusted people in positions of authority and leadership. It all unraveled in the wake of the 1960s. Since then people tend to have a lack of trust in government, a lack of trust in the church, religion, and even in God. Whether it was presidents, prime ministers or premiers, congress or parliament, rabbis, priests or pastors, we just don't trust any more, and in this light, we reflect the people of Israel as they are described in the passage from Exodus.
Not only do we complain about God (or dismiss God altogether), and not only do we fail to have trust in our leaders, we, like Israel, are wandering in a wilderness that is to a considerable part one of our own making. Our thirst is caused by a runaway sense of individualism and narcissism. We are bombarded with messages that tell us we must meet our own needs before meeting the needs of others. The hunger we suffer is for a sense of life-direction, purpose and stability. Yet we are often unable to move forward because we are unable to trust.
We need to trust more, to have more faith; we need to risk more, so that we might all move forward. Does this mean we’re to be naive? Perhaps a little. But this naiveté is not a purposeless and mindless one; it’s an intentional deliberate choice to be naive.
We must, as Jesus says, have the trust and openness of a child. We’re called to be childlike, but not childish. We’re called to be less cynical and more accepting. We’re called first and foremost to be open to and ready to trust in God. This is God we are speaking of, our Lord: the one who through Jesus spoke words with such awesome power that they forgave and erased your sin and mine. The one who still today, in baptism, with water poured on the head of an infant claims and seals the child for his very own! This is God, our Lord: the one about whom St. Paul wrote, "nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” This is God, our Lord: the one who in Jesus forgives his people and grants them a promise of life eternal to come.
What happens, we may well ask, if we trust someone and they betray us? What happens if we love someone and they hurt us? What happens if we follow a leader and they turn out to be leading us where we’re unsure of going? Well, as Moses quickly found out: if you trust, your trust is certain — sooner or later — to be betrayed. But life without trust is far more desolate than any pain of betrayal. If you love, the person you love will – sooner or later – wound and hurt you in some way. But the beauty and wonder of being in love usually far outweighs the pain that comes from love's wounding. Stepping forwards in trust and openness, does not in any way ensure that we will have an unscathed life. Moving forwards in trust and openness involves risk, and also involves faith. For Christians, belief and faith in God and in Jesus Christ isn’t an insurance policy against the ills of this life. Life still happens but life without faith, life without trust, life without risking what it takes to have faith and trust, is often a barren, painful and paralyzing thing indeed.
Whatever else the experience of Israel has taught us; whatever else the experiences of Jesus’ disciples, Paul, the early church, and Christianity through centuries have taught us; collectively they teach us that nothing, not our failings or our disappointment to God, not a diagnosis or a depression, not our hypocrisy, or our smallness of faith and fragile trust, not a pandemic like covid-19, not even death itself will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
As we continue our journey through much of life in a wilderness of our own making, maybe we could try to trust a little more? Perhaps we could risk a little more? Who knows? Maybe if we try risking and trusting more, we could transform together even a small part of this wilderness we each live in (a wilderness of cynicism, doubt and disbelief) into a garden of faith and trust, joy and thanksgiving. Amen.
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession
Gracious God of mystery and meaning, we acknowledge and declare that we are indeed fortunate and grateful to live in this wonderful country we call Canada, this country that we call home.
Help us to rediscover your purpose for our lives and the potential that we each have in the abundance of freedom that we as Canadians enjoy. Free us from the limits set by past expectation and experience and keep us open to all possibilities that the future might bring to us.
Bless those who extend the boundaries of love and respect, who show kindness to strangers and forgiveness to people who hurt them. Work among us by your spirit to heal the invisible wounds of the heart.
We pray for those who suffer from the influence of anger, jealousy, resentment or bitterness, their own or from others. Work among us by your spirit to create mutual respect and good relations.
We pray for your wisdom to inspire the people who govern us, especially during these difficult, challenging times in which we currently live, our politicians, judges, lawyers, and all who form and keep our laws. Work among us by your spirit to employ justice and common sense and to recognize injustice and respond to create systems of fairness and trust.
We pray for your healing for those who are ill or in chronic pain, for those grieving the many losses of the pandemic, and for all who feel afraid for the future. Work among us by your spirit to renew hope and sustain our support for each other.
We pray for those whose workplaces are recovering from the lockdowns and economic shock during the pandemic. Give courage to those who have lost so much, and creativity to those reorganizing and rebuilding their lives.
Lord, in all things and at all times, in your mercy hear our prayers. Amen
Hymn 765 “We’ve a story to tell to the nations” (PCC Hymnal)
Kaitlin Vandertuin & Helga Morrison, soprano
Stephanie Burgoyne, organ
Go in peace, Christ is with you.
Thanks be to God.
POSTLUDE “Fanfare” J. Lemmens
In Our Prayers
Online service is © 2020, Copyright publication Alexandra Presbyterian Church, Brantford, ON
Hymns from “The Book of Praise” Pew edition, © The Presbyterian Church in Canada, 1997
CCLI License #1310999