August 9, 2020 —Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
A message from the Rev. Bob Smith
While we still need to exercise great caution, there is a great relief in gradually being able to reduce some of our restrictions from the Corona virus. Slightly larger gatherings, restaurants being able to open, even playgrounds and splash parks are open. It feels like we are making progress.
One thing we have noticed, when we have visited a favourite restaurant for the first time in months, is how profoundly grateful the staff is for our business. They are as relieved to be able to serve us and we are to eat there. It is like coming out of hibernation after a winter of sleeping, like new hope where we thought there was no hope.
We are not quite able to worship together yet, but we continue to connect with one another by sharing these worship resources. We hope they are a way to experience how we belong to one another, and to God who has promised to be with us at all times and in all circumstances.
Grace and peace to you,
Rev. Bob Smith
Book of Praise – 291 “Thou whose almighty word”
- video with on-screen words with minor differences to the hymnbook.
- words (1813) by English poet and clergyman John Marriott (1780–1825); music (Tune: “Moscow”, also called “Italian Hymn”) by Italian composer Felice de Giardini (1716–1796).
- audio portion of this video from https://www.smallchurchmusic.com/.
Prayers of Adoration and Confession, Lord’s Prayer
Gracious God, who invites us to gather together in worship and to make our entire lives a spiritual offering of praise you, we come before you in this hour. Receive our worship, we pray, and speak your word of life and hope to us, so that we may be filled and empowered for life in your name. All praise be to you O God, Creator, Redeemer and Holy Spirit.
God of abundant love, we confess as we come that we have come to take your presence and provision for granted, that we forget to see our well-being as the miracle of grace that it is, that we move about in the beauty of your creation and fail to notice its incredible diversity and beauty, that we are fearful in a time of separation and forgot the your promise to be with us, that we are surrounded by signs of your presence and opportunities for service and hesitate to give ourselves to you in all that we do.
Forgive us, we pray. Teach us to acknowledge your goodness, to give ourselves as your co-workers in the world, and to praise you with our whole lives, for it is in Jesus’ name that we ask it. And hear us now as we join together in the prayer that he taught us:
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 and the Peace
People of God, hear the good news. Anyone who is in Christ is a new creation. the old life has gone; a new life has begun. Friends, believe the gospel, that a new life is offered to us in Jesus Christ.
The peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
(And also with you.)
Acts 16:11–15 <– this links to on-line text of the NRSV bible
While Christian Education Coordinator Laura Alary is on holidays, we’ll be featuring a few resources she has recommended. This week, it’s the “Godly Play” YouTube channel. She notes that “Godly Play” has a similar philosophy and style to the “Children and Worship” program we use at GCPC.
We know just a few things about Lydia.
She is a perfect “little person” in the Bible
with her name appearing only in this short text,
and in a little concluding verse at the end of the chapter.
We know that she is a woman.
And that she hails from Thyatira in Asia Minor
but lives now in Philippi in Macedonia,
which would one day be called Greece.
She is a worshipper of God,
meaning, in the Jewish faith.
The practices of Judaism it seems
have travelled a long way from the region of Palestine.
Philippi is more than 1,500 kilometres by land
from the roads that Jesus walked.
And Lydia is drawn to these beliefs
maybe as an oasis of hope and meaning
in a culture pretty much devoid of spirituality.
She is attracted
to the worship of a God who created and delivered a holy people,
to the laws of a God who desires for that people compassion and justice
to the community formed by a people of common faith.
She is one of a group of women in Philippi,
who, although they are not Jewish,
have come to believe in Yahweh,
the God of Israel.
And each Sabbath day finds them
at a peaceful spot down by the river,
studying the law,
and offering their prayers.
And the last thing we know about Lydia
is that she is a dealer in purple cloth.
What’s significant about purple cloth
is that it’s expensive.
Such a rich, deep colour requires particular dyes
that need to be imported from far away,
at great trouble and cost.
Normal people don’t wear purple.
We wear browns and greens and yellows.
The dyes for those
can be found in the weeds out in anybody’s back yard.
But purple? —
that’s another matter.
The reason it has become associated with royalty
is simply because of how rare and precious it is.
If Lydia is a dealer in purple,
that means that her clientele
are not exactly the ordinary folk like you and me
who buy their clothes at Winners or Walmart.
Her shop is more like the Holt Renfew of Philippi
and her customers are the movers and shakers of that city.
And that makes Lydia herself
a mover and a shaker.
She’s a highly regarded and influential person,
something like a fashion designer for the stars.
At civic functions,
people want to be seen with her.
She is on first-name terms
with the wives of all the city’s politicians.
She never appears in public in anything but the latest fashion,
looking pretty much the way that
all the other women wish they could look.
Her beautiful gowns are dyed, you can be sure,
with some of the best and richest colours,
so that the people who can afford them and have an eye for them
will know that in her shop they will find them.
Lydia is a successful business woman
who moves in the circle
of the people who matter in Philippi.
Now about that time,
Paul, along with Silas and Timothy, are in the middle of their travels
as the first Christian missionaries.
With a real sense of the leading of the Spirit,
they sail around the Mediterranean
sharing the good news of the love of God
made know in Jesus Christ.
Urged on by a dream,
they come to Macedonia,
pass through a couple of smaller towns
and arrive in the city of Philippi.
It is Paul’s first stop in Europe,
a chance to share the good news
in a place and culture
that has never been exposed to it before.
In their first few days in Philippi
they have found no synagogue,
but have heard some people speak
of a few women who gather by the river for prayer.
So on the Sabbath
they go looking for them.
They find them,
at a spot where the river winds tightly around
making a natural small amphitheatre.
It is to these women, one of whom is Lydia,
that Paul proclaims the first Christian sermon
uttered in Europe.
Exactly what he says is not recorded for us,
but we can imagine that it is about
Jesus the Messiah, the hope of Israel
and his life, death and resurrection
and also about how the Spirit came upon the believers,
and inspired them to go out and share this good news.
The women listen attentively.
Lydia particularly is touched by the Spirit
through Paul’s preaching
and responds immediately.
Together with her whole household of children and slaves,
she is baptized — the first European convert to the Christian faith.
Lydia is so taken with Paul and friends
and with the message that they have brought
that she insists that they permit her
to show them some hospitality.
“If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord,
come and stay at my home.”
It’s a little forward of her, maybe,
and a little unusual for a visiting rabbi and company
to go to stay at a strange woman’s house.
But then again,
maybe not for a woman of her stature.
She has the means to provide for them.
She is a person of action and authority,
who can make a decision in a second.
And she is a woman of faith —
she has just been baptized into the body of Christ,
and wants to give some practical expression
of the change that has made in her.
She is a person who gets her way,
and it’s almost as if her invitation
is a test of Paul’s confidence in her:
“I have believed what you have said to me,
now show that you believe my response.”
So Paul and Silas accept the gracious offer,
and for the next few days,
make Lydia’s house their home base.
What can we learn from Lydia?
One thing would be the place of hospitality
as a Christian virtue.
When Paul and his companions are friendless in a strange city,
this woman of God takes them in.
It is unlikely that the good news would have spread
in those early days
as quickly as it did
without people like Lydia
opening their doors to those first missionaries
and giving them the means to do their work.
When the church had to go underground
It was the people who took the risk of extending hospitality
that kept it alive.
It is a model based on the ministry of Jesus,
in what he proclaimed and in how he lived.
To be hospitable, even today,
means opening your heart, as well as your home, to another.
It is an attitude that builds up the church
in its openness to others,
and in its commitment to how Jesus told us
about our part in establishing the reign of God:
“I was hungry and you gave me food.
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.
I was naked and you gave me clothing.
I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
Hospitality is a central part of the Gospel message.
But Lydia holds another important place in the early church.
She represents a few important qualities
about the church as it is being established,
qualities that make it quite different
from the world around it.
She is not the first,
but one of the first converts to belief in Christ
who were not born into the Jewish faith.
And she is the first convert
outside of Asia.
She symbolizes the appeal that the gospel has
to people of every nation and race,
and of how the light of the God’s salvation in Christ
will shine well beyond Israel.
In the church,
the world’s peoples will be drawn together.
Lydia is a woman of substance and influence.
In places the gospel is critical of the rich,
and warns them not to think
that their wealth will save them.
The church seems to appeal especially
to the poor, the powerless, the outcast.
All of that is true and helpful.
What a blessing to the poor
that they have a place in the kingdom.
But there is also a place for the more well-to-do,
who are called to bring their wealth
into the service of the gospel.
And Lydia falls into this camp.
People who permit their wealth
to be baptized along with their souls
can be a great blessing to the church.
In the church,
distinctions based on status or privilege fall away.
And Lydia is a woman.
Jesus seemed careful to include women in his ministry,
and went far beyond the practices of his time
in treating them like people,
honouring their contribution,
and accepting their leadership.
Not only is Lydia baptized,
but she leads her family and household into the faith as well.
And it is likely as its first member
that she went on to leadership
in the new church in Philippi.
In the church,
women and men will be full partners.
Most of Paul’s letters were written
while on the road on his missionary journeys.
It’s very likely that his letter to the Galatians
was written during this visit in Macedonia.
Maybe from the guest room in Lydia’s house.
I wonder if Paul had in mind the church in Philippi
and maybe especially Lydia herself,
when he wrote to the Galatians
these strikingly revolutionary words
about the shape of the new church.
“As many of you as were baptized into Christ
have clothed yourselves with Christ.
There is no longer Jew or Greek
there is no longer slave or free,
there is no longer male or female;
for all of you are one in Christ Jesus
This is a new way of thinking,
and it is embodied in the church of Jesus Christ.
Especially as the gospel is announced
in new, uncharted territory,
it will be a something radically new and different.
something that upsets the way things are done,
something that draws together
people that the world tries to keep apart
something that challenges our way
of keeping things straight
by excluding and separating them.
Lydia, a dealer in purple,
reminds us that the church is a place
where we are all one in Christ Jesus.
In the fellowship of the church
the barriers of race, status, and gender
have no place.
All are children of God.
All have something to give
and something to receive.
All have a gift to bring
and a blessing that they need to take away.
And all of us,
Jew and Greek
rich and poor
men and women
are called to that ministry that so appealed to Lydia —
to proclaim the good news of the love of God
made known in Jesus Christ
and offered by grace,
to all people.
Music from the Senior Choir sing-along
The Senior Choir, under the direction of GCPC Music Director Rachelle Risling, had a sing-along for fun on Friday, August 7, 2020, after months of not having been able to get together. It was held outdoors, and the weather cooperated wonderfully. Enjoy their rendition of “Amazing Grace”. Thanks for sharing Senior Choir!
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 love, you have made us, you have come to us in Christ, you have given us your spirit, all to show that you love as we are, and invite us to find in you our life. We praise you that you have blessed us in this way, and pray that you would help us to show your presence to everyone, and especially to those who are alone and lonely.
You draw all the world together, to be one family. Teach us to be open to welcome and include everyone. Help us to reach out, to break down the barriers that divide the words peoples, races, classes and religions. Help us to seek a unity in our society and around the world where all are welcome, all are safe and secure, all have enough of the things they need, all have opportunities to be all that you call them to be.
You give us great gifts – of time, resources, talents and insights. Help us use these gifts to tend and care for all you love. Help us to minister to those who are alone, hungry, homeless, without hope, or in danger. Give us a generous spirit, a caring heart, and open arms to welcome in your name all who are in need. In this time of pandemic we pray for the sick and hospitalized, that you would bring your healing, and that they would know your peace; and for those who work to prevent the continuing spread of the virus. We thank you for how blessed we are in spite of these threats, and give thanks for all who serve us and help to meet our daily needs for living.
You sent your Child, Jesus, to be with us as a teacher, companion, and leader. Help us remember his ways of being open and unafraid, and to have that same spirit in our dealings with everyone we meet. Make your church community a place of meeting and oneness, where the unity that we have found in your son will be the mark of our life together, and evident to all.
Great God of hope, you have given us new hope in your son Jesus. May the world see a sign of that hope in us, and be led to the life in him which is your gift. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Book of Praise – 635 “Brother, sister, let me serve you”
- video with on-screen words identical to those in the hymnbook.
- words and music (1977) by New Zealand composer Richard Gillard (1953–).
- This audio recording by The Northumbria Community from their album “Waymarks: Songs for the Journey” (2001).
Go from this place in peace,
and to give yourself
in the sharing of the good news of Jesus Christ.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,
the love of God,
and the communion of the Holy Spirit
be with you all, now and forever. Amen.
© Copyright 2020 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church