Worship Service for September 27, 2020

September 27, 2020 – Seventeenth 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,

September 27 is Presbyterians Sharing Sunday.  Some of our worship resources today were written by the Rev. Amanda Currie, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Canada.  Not only will these resources unite us in our congregation, they can also unite us with our Presbyterian community across the country. 

Rev. Helen Smith

“Adam and Eve with Cain and Abel” (1512) by Italian painter Fra Bartolomeo (1472–1517); from the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art; taken from the Wikimedia Commons.

Opening Hymn

Book of Praise – 471 “We are one in the Spirit

  • Video with no on-screen words; minor differences between the sung words and those in the hymnbook; the sung words are re-printed just below
  • Words and music completed 1966 by American priest and author Peter Scholtes (1938–2009). Words and music © Copyright F.E.L Publications, assigned to The Lorenz Corporation, 1991, Dayton, OH. All rights reserved. Words and music used in the Book of Praise by permission, license #401891. Words from the hymnbook with additional transcription from the video reprinted below by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
  • This recording made by First-Plymouth Congregational Church, Lincoln, Nebraska, on September 15, 2019.


We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord (2×)
And we pray that all unity may one day be restored,
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love,
and they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand, (2×)
And together we’ll spread the news that God is in our land.
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love,
and they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

We will work with each other, we will work side by side (2×)
And we’ll guard human dignity and save human pride
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love,
and they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

All praise to the Father from whom all things come,
And all praise to Christ Jesus, God’s only Son,
And all praise to the Spirit who makes us one.
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love,
and they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

Prayers of Approach and Confession, Lord’s Prayer

God of desert days and wilderness nights, we rest in the comfort of your presence and trust in the sustaining power of your love.  We come to you today, seeking the help and hope that comes only from you.  We long to be fed and nourished by your Word.  We want to be filled with your Spirit of peace and joy.  We ask only that you will provide us with all that we need to live abundantly and to serve with abandon.

Continue to hear us as we join together in our prayer of confession:

[repeat bold text in unison]

O God we stand at the brink of what has been and what is yet to be.
We long to receive the gift of your liberation
and to taste the sweetness of your promises.
But the way forward is unknown, and so we hesitate:
discouraged, frightened, insecure, complaining.
Still, we know we must move ahead on our journey.

Make us mindful of your sustaining presence
And, like a bird in full flight,
may this assurance soar within our faith
so we can rise above the challenges of this moment
and follow you together in faith and obedience.
This we pray in Jesus’ name and continue to pray as he taught us, saying

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.

Declaration of Pardon

God rains down manna in the wilderness and squeezes water from a rock.  With fire and cloud God leads us out of the bondage of our past into a future of freedom and safety.

God has been with us in the past, is with us in this present moment, and will be with us forever and ever. Thanks be to God.

The Peace

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

Scripture Reading

Scripture reading of Matthew 21: 28–32 by Bonnie Horton. Click on the triangle at left to start listening.

Matthew 21: 28–32 <– 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

Though the wonderful Laura Alary has now resigned from the post of Christian Education Coordinator, after eight dedicated years, we are grateful to be able to feature 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.


I am amazed at how often two sons show up in the Bible, Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, the prodigal and the older brother, and today’s parable. Perhaps I’m particularly sensitive to this because Bob and I have two sons.

Jesus tells this parable in the temple to the chief priests and the elders.  Once upon a time, a man had two boys.  He goes to the one and says, “Son, I need you to work in the vineyard today.”  The boy stubbornly replies, “I don’t want to,” but later on he thinks better of it and goes.

The father also sends his other son to do the work.  He answers, Yes, sir, nothing would please me more than to work in the vineyard.  I’ll be right there.”  Two hours later, the polite son is still lying on the couch watching reruns of The Simpsons.

Now which of the two did what the father wanted?  It’s a no brainer.  The first one. Then Jesus tells the pastors and the deacons and the elders which brother they are.  And later that week they crucified him.  Jesus says to these good church people, who say the right things, believe the right things, and stand for the right things, but who don’t do the things God asked them to do: “I tell you tax collectors and prostitutes are going in to the kingdom of God ahead of you.”

And I can think of some re-enactments of today’s parable with regard to my sons and emptying the dishwasher, taking out garbage, putting away laundry.  Obviously, I should have printed this story up and posted it on our refrigerator, right next to the list of chores.

The first son … These people have heard God’s call to go work in God’s vineyard, yet they have refused.  But later, later, given a second chance, third chance, fourth chance or opportunity, they change their mind and heart and go.

One member says, “I don’t want anything to do with this new mission program; I think it’s wrong for the church to take over the work of social agencies. Why should we provide daycare for children who aren’t even members of our congregation, just because they live in the neighbourhood?  Don’t come to me for help with this!”  and then, a few months later, you realize this member is showing up every afternoon to teach the kids how to play chess, and the kids are clamoring for it, and this member has started dragging other retirees to the church with their chess sets; and there’s more energy and excitement in that fellowship hall than there has been in years.

And then there’s the second son:  These people have told God they will go, yet they have not gone.  In worship they sing, yet fail to sing from their hearts; they bow to pray, yet don’t really pray.  It is all outward posturing, with no reflection in action. We may master the art of saying the right thing, but our actions fall short.  Paul in Romans asks us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice.  The missionary Elizabeth Elliot writes: “The problem with living sacrifices is that they keep creeping off the altar.”

Now showing up to work in the vineyard is not always easy.  2020 has been the year from you know where.  The COVID-19 pandemic swept through the world and through our communities, disrupting our plans, testing our capacity to adapt, and challenging us to be the church outside our buildings without our usual gathering for worship and fellowship.

When the second son said he would go to work in the vineyard, he might have had every intention of doing so.  Maybe he became ill or injured or had to give priority to a more urgent task at that moment. (Maybe I was just kidding about watching the Simpsons).  And the other son who decided he could help … was that because he saw that his brother was suddenly unavailable?

Maybe he realized he had more time and energy than he expected.  Or was it because he loved his father deeply, and he suddenly saw how desperately his dad needed his help?  Although we don’t know why the second son didn’t show up, we do know that showing up is important, and we can imagine how delighted the father was when the first son was able to be there.  Jesus’ parable reminds us that faith is more than just words.

We’ve endured months of restrictions, economic impacts and social isolation, and at times we have become frustrated and impatient just wanting everything to go back to “normal”.  Like the children of Israel, in the wilderness for 40 years after they left Egypt, we don’t know how long the journey will take, how may challenges we will face, or how many needs will arise that we will be called to respond to.  We may feel scared and ill-equipped to deal with all the issues.  But just as God was in the cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night, with the children of Israel so God is with us.

And we can continue God’s work, even in a pandemic.  I think of all who work behind the scenes to keep us connected.  Committees still meeting by ZOOM, updated website, Rob Quickert, Carolyn Ward, Lisa Milroy, the people who deliver the hard copies of the service.  Rachelle providing recordings of special music.  The Search Committee working so hard under these unprecedented conditions, such diligence.

Last week Don MacOdrum, the chair of the mission committee, reported on the work we do through that committee, continuing even under these conditions as we support Evangel Hall, Arise, Boarding Homes Ministries, Scarborough Centre for Healthy Communities, Knox College, and on it goes.  Not only do we keep ongoing projects going, we introduce a new fund to help provide for secular projects in our community, mission and outreach fund. Your donation may be matched by your employer if they participate in this program.

One of our youth, Maggie Donnelly, took on a COVID-19 project, the Heart Garden.  She has beautified our grounds, helped us in understanding, and she has been invited to share her experience with us in morning worship in a few weeks.

The Craft Group has been busy sewing over a hundred masks for Michael Garron Hospital and knitting toques for the premature babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Units at Centenary and Mount Sinai Hospitals.

Today is Presbyterians Sharing Sunday.  The work of the larger church continues providing resources on services on the web, reopening your church building, calling a minister.  We continue to support health, theological and Christian education, evangelism, leadership development, Bible translation, and other ministry initiatives of our international partners.  Although the international mission staff were called back to Canada, they are staying in touch with partners and providing support from Canada.  Extra funds were sent to support the Near East School of Theology when COVID restrictions and the explosion in Beirut put the seminary in a precarious situation.

We’ve provided essential grants which train Indigenous women for ministry in Guatemala, offer spiritual and physical care for prisoners in Malawi and provide a safe space for people with mental health issues in rural Nepal.  Our partners ask us that we keep their work in our prayers during these challenging times.

Mission and ministry in Canada continue because of our gifts to Presbyterian Sharing.  Grants continue to support new and renewing congregations and specialized ministries which support vulnerable populations such as refugees and people living in poverty.  When physical distancing guidelines temporarily suspended in-person programs run by Indigenous ministries with the PCC, a special grant helped them shift to drop-of food programs to ensure that some of the most vulnerable community members could access healthy meals and personal supplies.

Due to the pandemic and cancellation of the General Assembly, the Rev. Amanda Currie was asked to continue to serve as Moderator for a second year.  She invited Presbyterians to join her every day of the summer to walk and pray for the church and its ministries.  More than 100 people joined the pilgrimage of prayer, lifting up congregations and ministries from the West coast to the East, with additional prayers for our ecumenical partners.

Walking and praying across the country and considering our diverse ministries brings to light the reality that some communities have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and are struggling more.  In the last few months, we’ve all become more aware of the inequalities that persist in our country and the devastating effects of systemic racism. We tend to assume that Canadians value multiculturalism and diversity, but we are learning that people, particularly Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour, still endure discrimination, hatred, and even violent racism in our communities.

Seeking justice is an important part of our shared ministry that is funded by Presbyterians Sharing.  National Staff, the International Affairs Committee, the National Indigenous Ministries Council, the ecumenical social justice agency KAIROS (with whom I travelled to Palestine last year), and other partners are just a few who provide leadership and resources for our work towards the justice and peace that God desires for the world.  In 2020, statements and resources to help congregations sow seeds of hope and respond to the justice imperatives of the gospel include a study guide on racism and hate in Canada, as well as resources for understanding and responding to the final report on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

The community that first sang Psalm 78 proclaimed their commitment to “tell the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that God has done.”  Remembering the journey of the Exodus through the wilderness, they sang about how they experienced the presence and help of God as they made the difficult journey together.

When we tell the story of the COVID-19 pandemic some years from now, or when our grandchildren tell their children about it even later, what will we say?   Will we talk about the economies that crashed, the grim daily statistics, the hardships that people endured, the complaining and quarrelling that surfaced, the marches that protested about wearing a mask?  Or will we share stories of God’s presence among us during this time?  Will we tell the coming generation about how we stayed together, how we looked out for each other’s needs, how we put our faith into action and gave generously as we were able to the continuing ministry and mission of the church, and how God enabled us to do that?

“Departure of John the Baptist” (first half of the 19th century) by an unknown painter. Taken from the Wikimedia Commons.

Musical Meditation

Musical meditation of “Nocturne in B-flat minor, Op. 9, No. 1” performed by Rachelle Risling, Music Director of GCPC, in the sanctuary of GCPC during the September 27, 2020 worship service.
  • The Nocturnes, Op. 9, were completed between 1830 and 1832 by Polish-French composer Frédéric Chopin (1810–1849) and were dedicated by him to the Belgian pianist Madame Marie Pleyel (1811–1875). Music in the public domain.
  • This arrangement by Rachelle Risling, © copyright 2020; used by permission.
  • Video recording © copyright 2020 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church.

You can enjoy all our previously recorded music on our Music playlist on YouTube (our videos with audio) or on SoundCloud (our audio-only pieces).


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, 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.

Closing Hymn

Book of Praise – 674 “In the bulb there is a flower

  • Video with on-screen words, identical to those in the hymnbook.
  • Words and music (tune: “Promise”) by American composer Natalie Sleeth (1930–1992). Words and music © copyright 1986 Hope Publishing Co; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
  • This recording made at First-Plymouth Congregational Church, Lincoln, Nebraska, on July 13, 2014, led by the Doane College Alumni Reunion Choir.


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

Last updated: October 15, 2020, to add YouTube video of musical meditation and associated information.