Worship Service for August 16, 2020

August 16, 2020 – Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

A message from the Rev. Helen Smith

Welcome message in spoken audio by Rev. H. Smith. Click on the triangle at left to start listening.

Dear Friends,

Almost to the day, five months ago, on March 15, we held worship in the church building, and then the building was closed because of COVID-19.  We are excited, but careful, about worshipping in the building again today.  We are also committed, to the best of our ability, to continue to provide these worship resources on paper and on-line, for those of you who prefer to worship at home.  The community of GCPC continues in this common worship.  Interesting times call for interesting efforts!

Rev. Helen Smith

Christ in the House of Simon” (ca. 1450) by Flemish painter Dieric Bouts (ca. 1415–1475); from the collection of the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin; taken from the Wikimedia Commons.

Opening Hymn

Book of Praise – 466 “Praise the Lord with the sound of trumpet

  • video with no on-screen words; sung words as in hymnbook, verse one, part of verse one repeated; words to match video are re-printed just below
  • words and music by American composer Natalie Sleeth (1930–1992); words and music both © 1976 Hinshaw Music Inc.
  • recording by the New Creation Choir of St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin


Praise the Lord with the sound of trumpet,
praise the Lord with the harp and lute,
praise the Lord with the gently sounding flute.
Praise the Lord in the field and forest, praise the Lord in the city square,
praise the Lord anytime and anywhere.
Praise the Lord in the wind and sunshine, praise the Lord in the dark of night,
praise the Lord in the rain or snow or in the morning light.
Praise the Lord in the deepest valley, praise the Lord on the highest hill,
praise the Lord; never let your voice be still.

Praise the Lord with the sound of trumpet,
praise the Lord with the harp and lute,
praise the Lord with the gently sounding flute.
Praise the Lord in the field and forest, praise the Lord in the city square,
praise the Lord anytime and anywhere.
Praise the Lord in the field and forest, praise the Lord in the city square,
praise the Lord anytime and anywhere.

Words © 1976 Hinshaw Music Inc. Used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.

Prayers of Approach and Confession

Gracious God here we are – you have called us and we have come.  We have come to add our human voices to the chorus of praise raised to you by wind and sun and water. We come as we are, some distracted and weary, some hopeful and open – knowing that you accept us as we are and call us into new ways.  Still in us now the many voices that clamour for attention so we can center ourselves upon you.  Speak to us, Spirit of life, in word and music and quiet, that we may be renewed in our faith and strengthened for your service.

God you are extravagant in your love for us.  We hoard and cling tightly to our love, doling it out often grudgingly.  Forgive us for our selfishness, our neglect of our neighbour.  Teach us how to break open alabaster bottles and spread your grace to all in need.  Forgive us when we have turned our wants into must haves and our homes and our lives are choked with stuff.  Teach us how to share.  Forgive us when we have ignored your call and gone our own way.  Open up our ears and our wills to hear You and to follow you.  We pray in the name of Jesus, and we join together in the prayer which Jesus 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

God’s extravagant grace is doing a new thing.  Can we not perceive it?  Behold God makes all things new.  Thanks be to God for the gift of new life. Amen

The Peace

The Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.


Scripture reading of Mark 14: 1–9 in spoken audio by Bonnie Horton. Click on the triangle at left to start listening.

Mark 14: 1–9 <– this links to on-line text of the NRSV bible

Click here for additional scripture readings from today’s lectionary. Links courtesy of the Revised Common Lectionary, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.

Children’s Story

While Christian Education Coordinator Laura Alary is on holidays, we’ll be featuring a few resources she has recommended. This week, it’s “Tucked In: Bedtime Stories and Prayers with Episcopalians and Others”, a Facebook page with stories and more. You can check it out here.


          That’s what it was.
                    Pure extravagance.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines extravagance as “excessive”,
          “immoderate”, and
                    “beyond the bounds of reason”.
The extravagance of the situation was apparent in the fact that
          none of this should have happened.
It went against all the norms of propriety,
          all the bounds of reason.

Our little person for this week
           is a woman who interrupted a dinner party.
Women in the first century did not go about
          barging into private dinner parties
                    in order to communicate with men.
She is a nameless, uninvited, unknown woman,
          and she is out of place.
If it was an emergency,
          or if someone important had had a message for Jesus,
                    it may have been appropriate
                             to interrupt the dinner party.
But this is not an emergency,
          and she is not an important person.
And, of all things,
           she interrupts in order to communicate a personal message.
Now, if one must communicate a message
          to a guest at a dinner party,
                     one seeks the most unobtrusive method possible —
                             by slipping the guest a note,
                             by whispering the message,
                             or by relaying it through one of the other guests.
The woman in question does none of these things.
          Her actions speak volumes.
Think of the audacity of her act.
I’m wondering how she even got into the house of Simon the leper.
If he’s having dinner parties, Simon the leper must be healed of his leprosy
          And if Jesus is a guest, I’m thinking Jesus probably did the healing.
Perhaps this is a celebration of good health for Simon —
          His way of saying thank you.
In any event, according to Mark,
          during the dinner party,
                    this woman walks up to Jesus as he is reclining at table
                    (that was the posture for eating in Jesus’ day).
She bends down, alabaster flask in her hands,
          breaks the seal, and,
                    using her hands to guide the oil,
                             pours it on his head.
Such a personal act by an uninvited woman
          does not belong in the midst of a dinner party.

If her actions speak volumes,
          the fragrance did so even more.
                    Pure nard — mega aromatherapy —
John’s gospel records an anointing with pure nard
          and comments  that the house was filled with the fragrance.
Think of the effect!
          Long after she leaves the house,
                    her statement still lingers in the air.
The message of her act could not have been more pervasive
          had she shouted out her love for Jesus.

Her actions cause such discomfort to the disciples
          that they can only grumble about the price of the oil.
It is not considered appropriate for one to antagonize
          the guests at a dinner.
And they do have a point.
The gift is indeed much too expensive.
          The price of the oil is more than a worker’s annual salary.
A more moderate expression would have sufficed.

And extravagance is not limited to the woman in question.
          Jesus begins to participate in it as well.
Jesus’ reply just should not have happened.
          As some of the dinner guests point out,
                    the woman should have been chastised.
Jesus might have said,
          “I really cannot accept this gift.
                    Why don’t you sell it and give the money to the poor?”
Instead, he tells those who murmur against her to “Let her alone.”
Or he might have said,
          “I’m sorry, I can’t see you right now,
                    why don’t we make an appointment for lunch tomorrow?”
Or he might have moved away from her,
          out of reach of her touch.
Instead he says to everyone there,
          “She has done a beautiful thing to me …
                    she has anointed my body beforehand for burying.”
And whereas he might have simply said, “thank you,”
          instead he says,
                    “Wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world,
                             what she has done will be told in memory of her.”

That’s a pretty extravagant statement.
An act, out of place and excessive,
          and a woman, nameless, uninvited and unknown,
                    are suddenly part of the sacred story
                             to be remembered forever.

Have you ever broken the alabaster bottle,
          and spilled out the precious nard?
Have you done something maybe out of character for you.
          maybe off the wall?
                    not part of regular schedule or routines.
You are always the practical one, not one to waste.
          and then for some reason you find yourself writing that big cheque,
                    for the refugee fund
                             or volunteering at a food bank,
                                       or buying a cup of coffee
                                                for a person who is homeless.
Because if you have, listen to Jesus’ response:
          “She/he has done a beautiful thing to me.”

This extravagant love is the essence of the gospel.
When all the Hebrew baby boys were being killed
          to comply with a decree from the Pharaoh of Egypt,
          Pharaoh’s daughter defied her father’s decree
                             and put her own life on the line
                                       by drawing the baby out of the water.
In the exodus from Egypt,
          God listens to the cries of a small group of oppressed people
                    and liberates them.
In Jesus healing of a foreigner’s daughter,
          or stopping the stoning of a woman “caught” in adultery,     
in Phillips’ baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch,
in the dinner party crasher who anoints Jesus
           ethnicity, gender, sexuality — there are no barriers
These extraordinary events happened against all odds.
These are the acts of extravagant love.

Paul of Tarsus, Paul the Jew,
          came face to face with God’s inclination
                    to break through the expectations of what “should be.”
Paul relinquished his expectation of a triumphant political messiah,
          for his experience of the crucified Christ as Lord.
In 1 Corinthians 1:23f he articulated this radical change
          when he said that Christ crucified is a stumbling block to some
                   and folly to others.
That is, it was an act out of place,
          by a man without connections, a nobody from Nazareth —
                    “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” scripture asks.
But Paul’s experience of the risen Christ
          revealed the extravagance of God’s act in Christ.
Paul says that while it appears to be folly,
          it is really the power and wisdom of God.
In other words, it is the extravagant way God acts.
God’s disregard for propriety
          God’s inclination for extravagance
think of the woman with her ointment –
          leaps out at us in the story of the prodigal son,
          where the son who had so wronged his father,
                    returns home
                             and the father throws him a great party
                                       and puts a ring on his finger
                                                and sandals on his feet —
God’s disregard for the way we’ve always done things,
          his call to move beyond the bounds of reason —
                    to be extravagant
                             shows up in the story of Jewish Christians at Antioch,
                                       who initially believed
                    that they should never have table fellowship with gentiles,
                             with people who were different from them,
                    but who ended up eating with them.
And when Rosa Parks
          who knew that propriety dictated
                    that blacks go to the back of the bus —
when Rosa Parks went beyond what culture said was reasonable
          and said, “No,”
                    the wall of “what should have happened” cracked,
and extravagant love shone through.

It is an exciting way to live.
It is a risky way to live.

Yet it is the way of the one we choose to follow.
The story of the woman who anointed Jesus at Bethany
          is part of the larger story.
It is tucked between the scheming of the chief priests
          and the teachers of the law to arrest Jesus and kill him,
                    and the results of that scheming,
          Christ’s death on the cross.
Located there, it foreshadows the extravagant love of Jesus
          in giving his life for the world.
Her extravagant love is part of his extravagant love.

Jesus had healed the sick and raised the dead.
          He ate with the outcast and despised of society.
He could have called on the armies of the angels
          at his disposal to vindicate himself,
                    to free Judea from Roman occupation.
But he didn’t.
God incarnate chose the way of service even to death.
          teaching us the way of life and life in abundance.
                    the way of extraordinary, extravagant love.

Extravagant love.
Have you been shown such love?
          a surprise of blessing comes your way?
                    an unexpected gift of joy?
Have you passed on such love to a friend or a stranger?
Have you heard Jesus say:
          “She has done a beautiful thing for me.”

And how shall we receive the extravagant gift of life that is ours
          now and forever
                    as a result of Christ’s exemplary life
                             a life which meant death for him,
                                       but which means life for us.
Cast aside any bonds of propriety which keep you at arms length,
          which keep you from pouring out the expensive ointment
                    from embracing the extravagant love of God.
Turn your eyes to the life of Christ
          and declare with joy and with wonder:
                    Christ has done a beautiful thing for me.

Loving God, how lavishly you pour out the costly gift of your grace upon us.
Fill our homes and our lives with the fragrance of your love,
so that we may show your glory and serve your people;
When we see the body of Christ still broken in this world,
may we meet it with grace and pour ourselves out
with extravagant love, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  AMEN

“Supper in the House of Simon” (ca. 1480–1488) by Spanish painter Maestro Bartolomé (1450–1493); from the collection of the University of Arizona Museum of Art; taken from the Wikimedia Commons.

Musical Meditation

Meditation of “This Is My Father’s World” performed on the piano in the sanctuary of GCPC during the live worship service of August 16, 2020, by Rachelle Risling, Music Director of GCPC.
  • This is My Father’s World”. Text (1901) by American Presbyterian minister Maltbie Davenport Babcock (1858–1901). Set to music (tune: “Terra Beata”) in 1915 by American Presbyterian hymn-writer Franklin L. Sheppard (1852–1930), based on a traditional English melody
  • This arrangement © 1998 Pilot Point 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 we give thanks this day for you have blessed us richly, with grace upon grace.  We thank you that we have the freedom to come to worship this day.  We thank you for music and for the mystical power of prayer.  We give thanks for the warmth of the summer sun, the growth we see in the fields and in our lives.  We give thanks for friends, for family, for our church family and the strength and support you give to us through those worshipping with us with these worship resources.  Thank you for your mercy – mercies that never come to an end but are new every morning.  Thank you for your extravagant grace shown in the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

God for all your gifts to us … for the meaning of them for each of us, know our gratitude, hear our expressions of praise in word, in song, in the silence of our hearts.

This day, O God, hear our prayers for the world which you love.  We pray for the church, for your servants working around the world to spread your gospel and bring hope and healing where there is none.

We pray for those who seek to care for creation.  For those who farm the land, for conservationists, for those working for sustainable energy.

We pray for those who tend your gifts of human life:  for air traffic controllers and bus drivers, medical staff, grocers, social workers.

We pray for those in need of food, of housing, of friendship.

We pray for ourselves, charged by you with stewardship over all things.  Make us extravagant in our giving.  Give us the grace to be patient gardeners, faithful and watchful shepherds, advocates for those who are marginalized, committed nurses of a thirsty and hungry world. Fountain of life and example for us all, we offer up ourselves to your generous work. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Closing Hymn

Book of Praise – 665 “Lord Jesus, you shall be my song

  • video with on-screen words, with minor differences to those in the hymnbook
  • English words (translated from the original French) by Anglo-Canadian priest, musician and theologian Stephen Sommerville (1931–); music by Les Petites Soeurs de Jésus
  • English words © 1970 by Stephen Sommerville; music © 1987 Les Petites Soeurs de Jésus
  • the audio for recording by the Cumberland Valley Chorus


Benediction in spoken audio by Rev. H. Smith. Click on the triangle at left to start listening.

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)

Danish Choral Amen. Book of Praise 780. Music director Rachelle Risling (keyboard); Robert Quickert (vocals). Click triangle at left to begin listening.

© Copyright 2020 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church

Updated: August 18, 2020 – added musical meditation video and descriptive text