July 5, 2020 – Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
A message from the Rev. Helen Smith
Some of us may be on the road on vacation, or at home on staycation. Some of us may still be unable to go to work, or working from home, or enjoying retirement in an even more relaxed way than usual. Wherever this finds you, it brings the care and prayer of your sisters and brothers at Guildwood, the staff, the elders, the Care Team, and the person with whom you share your pew. We are all in this together.
Rev. Helen Smith
Book of Praise – 314 “God is love: come heaven, adoring”
- video with on-screen lyrics; major differences to the words in the hymnbook; follow along on the screen
- Words: by English clergyman Timothy Rees (1874–1939); music: by English clergyman Cyril Vincent Taylor (1907–1991), tune Abbot’s Leigh, 1941.
- This recording from an episode of the BBC TV show Songs of Praise.
Prayers of Approach and Confession
Portions of this prayer are from Psalm 51, David’s prayer for cleansing and pardon after a visit from the prophet Nathan.
Great, giving God, your compassion for us is never-ending, and your mercy is life to us. We praise you that in love you have made us to enjoy you and the creation, you came to us in Christ to restore us to you and one another, and you gave us your Spirit to be your presence to us, and to inspire us in our living. All praise be to you great God, Creator, Redeemer, Spirit.
We confess our sins to you O God. We have acted selfishly, and thought that our desires take precedence over everything else. We ignore the well-being and enjoyment of others, trampling on their rights and ignoring their needs. We have gone against your will and your way, against you we have sinned and done what is evil in your sight. Have mercy on us, according to your unfailing love, according to your great compassion, blot out our transgressions, cleanse us from sin and set us on our feet again, renewed and restored to live in righteousness for you.
We pray in the name of Jesus, and continue to pray as he taught,
Our Father, in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those
who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours
now and forever. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon
If we confess our sins, the One who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. God restores unto us the joy of God’s salvation, and renews a right spirit within us. Thanks be to God Amen.
The Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
2 Samuel 11:26–12:7a <– this links to on-line text of the NRSV bible
This week, Christian Education Coordinator Laura Alary has crafted two videos, about which she writes:
“Here are two stories for this week, both based on the metaphor of growth (planting, seeds, fruitfulness). They seemed appropriate, both for the time of year, but also to honour and celebrate our graduates who will find their own ways to make the world more beautiful.
Second, we have the story “Good Fruit” from my own book, Read, Wonder, Listen: Stories from the Bible for Young Readers (Wood Lake Books, 2018).
The South African theologian John de Gruchy
writes in his book, “Led into Mystery”:
“Moments of the highest import pass among people
who are so marginal that conventional history
would not have noticed them:
aliens, the enslaved,
people themselves utterly unaware
that their lives could have consequence.
Mystery is hidden in marginal events,
ambiguous sayings and contradictions,
in the lives of obscure and sometimes unkempt prophets,
of aged sages, tragic and fallible heroes and heroines,
and of heart—broken people
talking with a stranger
about the death of a friend that shattered hopes
as they shared a meal
(a reference to the story of the road to Emmaus).
This is the nature of mystery.
Its disclosure is always veiled within the ordinary.”
Nathan, was an ordinary, obscure, little man.
And he liked to tell stories.
A story can be such a powerful thing.
It’s impossible not to listen to a good story,
and days later we can find
that it is still teaching us its truths.
Maybe that’s why Jesus used stories
to teach us about God.
So he did not say to the disciples,
“Today I’m going to teach you about forgiveness,”
which might have put them to sleep really quickly.
Instead he said,
“Once upon a time there was a man who had two sons.
The younger one decided to take his share of his father’s money
and seek his fortune in the world.”
And the disciples all lean forward to hear more.
And Jesus did not say,
“Today’s lesson is about loving the people around you,”
which might have caused them to yawn
and get a little too comfortable.
Instead he said,
“One day a man was travelling down a deserted road,
and robbers jumped out and mugged him,
leaving him half—dead in the ditch.
And some people happened along and found him.”
And he has his students in the palm of his hand.
Nathan is a storyteller.
No, that’s not what it says on his business card —
it’s really more of a hobby, I guess.
As much as he loves telling stories,
Nathan’s business card declares that he is
“Court Prophet to the Royal House of King David.”
That makes him a very important person.
A sort of indentured chaplain for the King.
the holy man on retainer.
He’s there to provide theological reflection
on the affairs of the day
to give the spiritual perspective on current events,
and to bring a word from God
whenever the situation calls for it.
Sure, he’s a bit of a pain at times,
but it’s there somewhere in the rules —
every king has to have his prophet.
It’s a recognition that there is a power even higher than the king,
and the prophet is the spokesman for that power.
But Nathan can also tell a story.
He loves to tell them.
He told them to his children when they were little —
they’re a bit older now, but still ask for them.
And today, in his job as Court Prophet to the Royal House of King David,
he will use the power of a story
and show the courage it takes to be the story teller.
Nathan’s story is actually the second one we need to look at.
The first is the sad tale of a person of power and influence,
losing sight of what is right and what is wrong.
It’s a sordid account that would fit right in today.
The person of influence is King David,
a servant of God, chosen and anointed to lead God’s people,
a man of wisdom and courage.
probably the greatest leader in Israel’s long history.
Well, this great king, standing on his balcony one day,
sees a beautiful woman, Bathsheba, bathing,
and in that instant decides he must have her.
Because people in high places can get what they want,
and believe that the rules work differently for them,
he arranges to have her share his bed with him,
despite the fact that both of them are married.
David as king has many wives.
And Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, is a soldier in David’s army
and is now off at the front,
risking his life in defending the king’s cause.
Bathsheba becomes pregnant,
so King David arranges for Uriah to come home,
supposedly to bring news of how the battle is going,
but really to sleep with his wife, Bathsheba
so it might be assumed that Uriah is the father of the child.
The foot soldier Uriah shows himself
to be infinitely more honourable
than the king and commander in chief.
He remembers the code amongst soldiers
that while a battle is on,
they refrain from sleeping with their wives.
If his buddies in the trenches
are unable to enjoy the comforts of the marriage bed
then neither will Uriah.
After a couple of days of sleeping on the couch,
he goes back to the battle.
King David’s plan has failed —
he is unable to cover up his sin.
But he’s the king.
He can make things happen.
So he arranges a second wrong to try to cover the first.
He orders Uriah’s commanding officer
to put him on the front line where the fighting is the fiercest.
And pretty soon, Uriah is lying dead on the battlefield.
Back in Jerusalem,
there is a military funeral, with full honours for the fallen soldier.
The King attends because it’s a photo opportunity
and to show his concern for the little guy in his realm.
He sheds a few crocodile tears,
and says something about the strength of Israel
being built on the courage of such heroes as Uriah
who put their lives on the line… and blah, blah, blah.
After the shortest appropriate period of mourning,
the beautiful widow Bathsheba becomes the wife of King David,
and not long after, a bouncing baby boy arrives,
who bears a striking resemblance to the king.
So that’s the first story.
The rap sheet on the great King David?
Adultery and murder.
All in the royal court who have eyes in their heads
can see what has been going on.
God is not happy.
God is wounded with this situation.
But who can say anything to the king?
Who will confront David?
Remember who God has called
to provide theological reflection on the affairs of the day
to give the spiritual perspective on current events,
and to bring a word from God whenever the situation calls for it,
Let’s just pause for a second to imagine what is going on in Nathan’s mind.
He may be the court prophet but David is the king.
The king could have his head lopped off in a second if he felt like it,
and no one would question his right to do it.
Killing the bearer of bad news, let alone accusing news,
is pretty standard in this day.
Nathan may have God in his corner, but could still end up dead.
That morning at breakfast,
makes extra sure to tell his wife he loves her
and gives his kids big hugs.
He knows the odds are pretty good that by supper time,
this household could be short a husband and father
But to his credit, the prophet Nathan, like Uriah,
is also more honourable than the king.
He is faithful to his calling, whatever the cost.
Whether or not Nathan lives to see another day
the king will know that what he has done is wrong.
He takes a deep breath, says a little prayer,
and walks into the king’s office.
The king is feeling pretty good about himself these days.
“Nathan, old friend. What brings you here today?”
Nathan has thought about how to approach this,
and decides to lean on his story—telling skills.
“Your highness,” he begins, “let me tell you a story.
There were these two men,
one a huge operator with the biggest and best ranch in 500 miles,
with more flocks and herds than you could possibly count.
To him, farming meant sipping wine beside his swimming pool
and not even getting his hands dirty.
while all his hired hands did the work.
“The other farmer is poor, with a grubby little plot of rocks and dust,
that produced barely enough for him and his family to survive.
And flocks? — well, he had one solitary lamb.
And it was so cute, and his heart so soft,
that it really became more a family pet —
he let it lick the plates after dinner
cuddle with him in his favourite chair.,
and sleep at the foot of his bed every night.
“One day the big—shot farmer has a friend roll into town.
The farmer suggests roast lamb for supper,
but doesn’t feel like depleting his own overstuffed freezer.
Instead, he sends one of his lackeys over to the poor man’s house
has him seize the pet lamb, and cooks it up nicely on the barbecue.”
Nathan stops, leaving the story hanging in the air.
And the king blows a gasket.
All those virtues that make him such a great leader
kick into action: his quick analysis
his decisive judgement
his sense of right and wrong
his role as the defender of justice for the nation.
He leaps to his feet in righteous indignation
“That’s outrageous,” he says.
“What scum would be low enough to do that?
He deserves to be strung up,
or at least he needs to restore what he took four times over.
Who is this guy anyway? — Tell me!”
This is the moment,
the time to spring the trap.
Nathan takes another deep breath
Does he have the nerve to keep going?
He must finish what he has started.
“You are the man!” he says.
The colour drains out of David’s face.
There is a long silence
Even before Nathan lists in detail the evidence against him.
and points out that it is all a sin against God…
the king knows that he is guilty,
and even worse, that he has convicted himself.
No amount of explaining or justifying will let him escape.
No longer can he hide his sin.
Such is the power of a story
And such is the courage of the one
who takes the risk of telling it.
There are some values
some basic norms for how our common life works
so important that not even kings can set them aside.
And there will always need to be people who will be the prophets,
who will have the courage to pursue justice
wherever that journey will take them
who will do the right thing,
whatever the personal cost to them.
Nathan reminds us
that God calls all of us to do the right thing,
to focus on those things that are true and honourable
and just and pure
to speak the truth in love,
to speak the truth to power
regardless of what others may say or think,
to speak the word that God calls us to speak.
There are actually two people here
who, in the end, do the right thing.
Nathan, who risks his neck to confront wrongdoing
and speak out for those who are victims.
And David, who does not lop off Nathan’s head in a fit of rage,
or even quietly send him to a posting far away.
David makes no excuses.
He owns his sin,
and accepts his responsibility.
The 51st psalm records his confession,
“It is against you alone, Lord, that I have sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight.”
It is the first step, and an indispensable one,
in his restoration before God and the people,
as a fallen, but redeemed, child of God.
David goes on, in spite of his great sin,
to be a gifted leader
and to accomplish great things as king of Israel
But it is the courage of the storyteller Nathan,
together with the grace of God
that creates an opening for that,
that allows it to happen.
Nathan’s story had the power to convict and expose
but also to release and offer a future.
That’s because it is just part of a larger story,
a story as old as time itself
a story that embraces all of us
and that we are invited to claim as our own.
It is the story of the love of God
which for every one of us, saint and sinner alike,
reaches out, forgives, redeems,
and makes us whole.
- “Just a Closer Walk with Thee”, arranged by American composer and arranger Mark Hayes. © 1998 GlorySound, a division of Shawnee Press Inc., part of the Hal Leonard Corporation.
- Music used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
- Video recording © copyright 2020 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church.
We remind everyone that we must continue to pay our bills; in the absence of Sunday worship, you may sign up for pre-authorized remittance (PAR), donate online via our CanadaHelps page, or drop off your offering envelope in the mailbox at the church. Do not leave a cash donation unattended in the mailbox; instead, please call the office (416.261.4037) to ensure someone will be there to receive it. The building will be checked daily for mail and phone messages. If you are not comfortable leaving an envelope, you are welcome to contact the office (once again, 416.261.4037) and someone will pick up your offering.
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Hope
God of abundant gifts, we thank you for your bounty poured out upon us, for the gifts of the members of this community of faith, for the blessings of love, community and support that you bring to us just at our times of need, to remind us of your grace, and to direct us to your love. And above all, we thank you for the good news of your searching, forgiving love, which has found us and brings us life. That we are blessed to be witnesses of your activity, and participants in your work in the world, we praise you and give you thanks.
Loving God, we remember in prayer those who are in need of strength and encouragement for the things that they face. We pray for people who lack even the most basic requirements of food, clothing, housing, education and medical care. Supply their needs, we pray, and build up the compassion of individuals like ourselves, churches, institutions and governments so that all your people can live with peace and justice.
We pray for those for whom life holds little hope or promise: the disappointed, the rejected, those who have been let down, those who have been left victim by those in power, those who always seem left out on what life has to offer. Stand close to them, give them someone to speak for them, remind them of the identity and infinite worth they have as your children.
We remember those who are struggling with illness and aging, those in hospital, nursing homes or hospice. From our own congregation we pray for Gord Lidgold in hospital. Give to all the suffering peace and freedom from pain. Bless and give your wisdom and skill to those who care for them, and may they know that you are present with them in their suffering. We pray for the people who struggle with the corona virus, for their healing and comfort. We remember those who have died, and those who grieve for them. Hold them close, reassure them with the hope that we have in Christ, and grant to them the peace that is beyond this world’s understanding.
We pray for those who are working in essential services. We pray for their health and their safety, and we thank you for their courage.
We offer prayer today with the concerns of areas of turmoil on our hearts and minds. We think of Palestine and we pray for peace. As we are connected within the whole web of creation by your divine spirit, O God, we seek your wisdom in finding resolution in areas of war and conflict, we seek your wisdom in caring for the earth.
We pray for our congregation, our families, those on holiday. Pour out on each of us your gifts to fill us up and give us life. Give us the courage to live abundantly and enthusiastically in your name, to speak your word in confidence and do the right thing, whatever the cost. So may we be your ambassadors in the world to build it up in your name. We pray in the name of Jesus who lives in us as we participate in your loving care for all creation. Amen.
Book of Praise – 726 “May the God of hope go with us every day”
- video with on-screen lyrics; words as in the hymnbook.
- Words: by Colombian Alvin Schutmaat (1921–1988); music Hispanic folk song (tune – Canto de Espereanza)
- recorded May 31, 2020, by Lincroft Presbyterian Church; Lincroft, New Jersey.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. AMEN (Romans 15:13)
© Copyright 2020 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church