Worship Service for October 25, 2020

October 25, 2020 – Twenty-First 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,

Once again we are grateful to the Rev. Harry Bradley for providing the worship resources for us at Guildwood.  Harry recently retired from Knox Presbyterian Church, Agincourt.  It is our hope that these resources will enrich your day and your week, and unite us in our common faith and action.  As the saying goes, stay safe and stay well.

Rev. Helen Smith

Portait of Martin Luther
“Portrait of Martin Luther” (1528) by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553); from the collection of the Coburg Fortress, Coburg, Germany; taken from the Wikimedia Commons.

Welcome and Call to Worship

Spoken by One / Spoken by All

At several points in the worship service, Rev. Bradley uses a call and response structure. The minister speaks the words of One, shown in normal text, and the congregation responds with the word of all, shown in bold text. As here, the sections where this applies are prefaced with the “Spoken by One / Spoken by All heading.

Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
And blessed be God’s kingdom, now and forever.
There is one Body and One Spirit;
There is one hope in God’s call to us;
One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism;
One God and Lord of all.
Blessed be God who sustains and protects Christ’s Holy Church.
And blessed be God who guides and confirms in us our Faith. Amen.

Opening Hymn

Book of Praise – 315 “A Mighty Fortress is our God

  • video with on-screen words; some differences with the words in the hymnbook.
  • original German words (ca. 1529) paraphrased from Psalm 46 by Martin Luther (1483–1546); English translation (1853) by American minister Frederic Henry Hedge (1805–1890).
    Music (Tune: Ein’ Feste Burg, ca. 1529) by Martin Luther;
    words and music and in the public domain.
  • recorded at Grace Community Church, Sun Valley (Los Angeles), California.

Prayers of Approach and Confession

Spoken by One / Spoken by All

Wondrous God:

Thirteen billion years ago your creative spark called creation into being. Two thousand years ago you lit a spark of new creation in Christ. Five hundred years ago, your grace reignited the hearts of those with names like Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Knox.

Just when we think all is settled, everything is finished, closed, your power and presence explodes on the scene yet again, bringing newness, bringing life. Fill us with your power and presence, O God, so we may, like our grandparents in faith, carry your truth, your beauty,    and your justice to the world you so love — a world in such need.

O God, might we be open to the work of your Holy Spirit who calls to us today to be renewed and re-formed into a new people in Christ Jesus.

When we are tempted to view our fellow sisters and brothers in Christ as “different” from us; when we focus too heavily on what distinguishes our brand of Christianity from others in our neighbourhood, neglecting to appreciate the similarities of our faith that bring us together with one common witness to God’s love in Christ Jesus. O Lord, forgive us.

Help us to affirm that in spite of our diverse forms of expressions in worship that all Christian people belong to the One Body of the risen Christ and have a place in continuing his witness of God’s compassion to our world.

Gather us together in your Oneness, reminding us that you send us with one faith sharing one message of God’s love in Christ Jesus to show to one world in what we say and what we do. Together we affirm this unity of witness when we pray together:

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.

The Peace

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

Scripture Reading

Scripture reading of John 17: 1–6, 20–26 by Susan Tomkins. Click on the triangle at left to start listening.

John 17: 1–6, 20–26 <– 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.


“Is it Time for a New Re-formation?”

Many years ago, I was sitting in a hospital waiting room while an admitting nurse was gathering some basic information before admitting me. At one point in the proceedings, the nurse asked me: “What religion are you?”
I offered what I thought was a straight-forward answer. I replied, “Christian.”
“No,” the nurse said more firmly, “What religion are you?”
Again, I answered, “Christian.”
Before she could ask a third time, I finally clued into what was really being asked, and said,
“Oh, what you’re really asking is ‘What denomination of the Christian Faith do I belong to?’ In that case, I’m Presbyterian!”

This seems like an appropriate memory to share as we celebrate Reformation Sunday. What became known as the beginning of the “Protestant Reformation” is often located historically as beginning on October 31, 1517. On that day, a young German Augustinian monk named Martin Luther, who taught at the local university in Wittenberg, nailed his now-famous “ninety-five theses” or arguments onto the front door of the Wittenberg Church, an accepted form of academic debate.

Luther argued against a corrupt practice of selling “indulgences” to people in hopes of freeing themselves or their relatives from “purgatory” but, in fact, was an attempt by Pope Leo X to raise funds to assist with the rebuilding of St. Peter’s cathedral in Rome. In Luther’s opinion, pedaling indulgences in this way amounted to “selling salvation”; a crass commercialization of the Christian faith. He challenged the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church to reform their ways.

While the Reformation of the sixteenth century encouraged a sharing of ideas throughout Europe as well as increasing knowledge on matters of faith, eventually encouraging literacy among the common people so that they, and not the religious authority, could read and interpret the scriptures, not every result was a positive one.

Once those who “protested” the authority of the Pope broke away and practised their Christian faith in new creative expressions, they began to experience “family squabbles” among themselves. Over time, there were disagreements over different interpretations of the Biblical scriptures, their understandings of the meaning of the sacraments of baptism and communion, and how worship was to be conducted.

This led to a further splintering of the Protestant branch of the Christian tree. Now, more than five hundred years later, at latest count, there are more than thirty-four thousand protestant denominations in North America alone!

Of course, the fact that Christian denominations or groups of Protestants are increasing does not necessarily mean that the number of Christians is growing. In fact, study after study seems to suggest quite the opposite. While more people, many with organized church backgrounds, still profess a keen interest in spirituality, even before the impact of COVID-19 recently, very few Canadians belong or attend mainline Protestant congregations on a once-a-month or “regular” basis any longer. Simply put, there are more worship spaces available but fewer people to fill them!

More and more are starting to realize that the Christian Church as a whole, and Protestants in particular, is in decline both in numbers and community influence. Lately, some have dared to suggest that maybe now is a time of great change and for those who profess themselves to follow Christ, a time to take a hard look at the question:
Is  it time for a new reformation or “re-formation” of the church?

Important in this discussion is the scriptural passage that I read this morning out of John’s gospel. These words, attributed to Jesus, are part of a “farewell” prayer that tells us of Jesus’ vision for the church community, as understood by the faith community that John was writing for. Jesus is presented as not only praying for those who presently trusted in him, but also for future generations of believers or “those who will believe in me through their word.”

Envisioning that the Good News would be preached throughout the Roman Empire, gathering new converts from many people with different backgrounds, Jesus prays for a unity that would bound the many different people together as one people in Christ, “that they may all be one. This common witness to the “Good News” of Jesus’ gospel served the greater purpose of the Christian mission.

“As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us,
so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

That is how the message of Christ is to make a difference in the wider world. Not by dividing people into smaller groups but by uniting people of different lifestyles and backgrounds into one body of the living Christ!

Maybe it is time for the Christian Church to experience a “new Re-Formation,” a new understanding of what it means to be the Christian Community today?

One such person who is asking this question is the Reverend Dr. Harvey Cox, Professor Emeritus of Harvard Divinity School. At the end of a long-distinguished vocation as an academic and teacher, Harvey Cox published a book with the intriguing title, The Future of Faith (ISBN 0061755524; Toronto Public Library copy).

He understands the Christian Church, throughout its two thousand plus years, as going through three significant “ages” during its history. He views the first four hundred years as the “Age of Faith” as the new growing Christian movement expanded throughout the known world as encouraging others to enter into a relationship of trust in a living Christ and to live according to Jesus’ teachings and Way of living in community. Then, with the legitimization of Christianity in society under the influence of the Emperor Constantine,  came an “Age of Belief,” This was a time of orthodoxy that saw the rise of  complicated theological doctrines that served deciding whose belief systems were acceptable and whose were not. Lasting almost 1500 years, this “age of belief” resulted not only in establishing institutional Christianity as the dominant faith in society, but in time it led to  the splintering of the Christian community into a variety of slightly different church denominations, each particular group asserting that their distinctive way of interpreting the scriptures was the right or proper way.

Since the early 1960s, Dr. Cox suggests the Christian community is changing again. Now is the Age of the Spirit. The Christian community is being re-formulated in a new way as it seeks to become a relevant witness to Christ for a new time. During this time of dramatic change people are seeking God not through doctrines or beliefs about God but by experiencing God first-hand in the presence of God’s Spirit of the living Christ in community. Rather than learning about God, people want to know God in the actions of those who profess to follow Jesus.

Is it time for a new Re-Formation of how we witness
            to a wider world as Christ’s One Church?

Dr. Cox is not naive to think that this coming together of Christians from all branches of the Church will happen easily or quickly.From his many decades of experience in dialoguing among people of different world faiths, and among the various branches of the Christian Church,

Harvey Cox argues that it is much easier to encourage a meaningful conversation between Christians and people of other world faiths todaythan to have a productive and worthwhile conversation among Christians from different denominations!

Our “distinctives” or differences tend to keep us inside our particular group, stifling our conversation to affirm what we share in common with one another. Focusing on who brings us together — namely, Jesus the Christ — too many denominations stress their particular “brand” of Christianity, noting how more “biblical” they are or more “in tune” than their Christian neighbours across the road or down the street.

Meanwhile, as we play out this “holy competition,” the numbers in the pews keep dwindling,and to those who would rather not involve themselves in any denominationto avoid the fighting and bickering they see between different Christian groups,the Christian witness to the wider world seems largely irrelevant to their daily struggles. We staunchly hold onto our “Presbyterian heritage,” sometimes without knowing why,only to notice that the rest of our world has passed us by.

To those who presently live outside the Christian Church — meaning the majority of the people in our neighbourhood — it is far less important what Christian “tribe” that we belong to: Baptist, Anglican, Roman Catholic or Presbyterian or whatever. By and large, we are all lumped together as “Christian.”Maybe that’s not a bad thing?

When we mourn the loss of our Christian voice in the public square on the important social issues in our neighbourhood and the only moment when we enter the  wider conversation is when others point out how we squabble with one another, it might be the time to set our minor differences aside, to stop “majoring on the minors” of our respective faith in Christ and discover those parts of our Christian faith, such as showing our compassion to others in need, that will witness to our surrounding society that Christ’s Church might be One.

We need to build up our relationships with one another by listening to how, in spite of our differences in expressing our Christian faith, we are all serving the one mission of one living Lord.
Before we are Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Baptist, United Church, Pentecostal, or whatever, we are ALL followers of Jesus the Living Christ!
People will be more open to our message if they “see” the love of Christ in action long before they wonder what particular branch of the Church we belong to!
We need to find new ways of co-operating together rather than competing against one another in our Christian witness.

Tyler Edwards wrote in his blog an article called The End of Denominations. Hailing from a conservative branch of the Christian Church, he informs us that from the beginning of the Church Jesus’ followers were a very diverse group of believers.

“Jesus called different kinds of people to be His disciples because He intended for the Church to be diverse. God made us different. That’s the point.” he says.

He then goes on to suggest,
“There won’t be denominations in heaven, so why do we make a big deal out of them on earth? The Church is not about how we interpret the Bible — The Church is about Jesus. It is ever, only, always about Jesus. Rather than distracting ourselves (and everyone else) with all the different types of churches, we should be showing people what the Church is about: the love of Jesus. It’s time for the Church to get back on mission.”

St. Augustine, a wise theologian of the fourth century, was reported to have said:
“In essentials, unity;
in nonessentials, liberty;
in all things, charity.”

Maybe it’s time for a new way of being the Church of Christ.
            Maybe it’s time for a New Re-formation?

Painting of Martin Luther seated among other Protestant reformers
Martin Luther in the Circle of Reformers” (ca. 1625–1650) by an unknown artist, depicting among others Luther, John Calvin, Jan Hus, Philipp Melanchthon and John Wycliffe; from the collection of the German Historical Museum, Berlin; taken from the Wikimedia Commons.

Musical Meditation

Musical meditation of “You Say” performed by Delicia Raveenthrarajan (lead vocals) and Rachelle Risling, GCPC Music Director (harmony vocals, piano), as part of the Sunday, October 25, 2020 worship service.

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 – 471 “We are One in the Spirit

  • Video with no on-screen words; minor differences to the words in the hymnbook; the sung words are reproduced below.
  • Words and music (tune: St. Brendan’s / We are one in the spirit) completed in 1966 by American priest Peter Scholtes (1938–2009). Words and music © copyright 1966 F.E.L Publications, assigned to The Lorenz Corp, 1991, Dayton, OH.
  • recorded on September 15, 2019 at First-Plymouth Congregational Church;
    Lincoln, Nebraska, under the direction of pianist (and Minister of Music) Tom Trenney.


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,
yes 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,
yes 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,
yes 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,
yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

Words © copyright 1966 F.E.L Publications, assigned to The Lorenz Corp, 1991, Dayton, OH. Used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.


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

Spoken by One / Spoken by All

Now may the enlivening power that is in Christ Jesus, the renewing strength of the Holy Spirit, and the fierce love of God, our Creator, keep you in grace and truth, this day and always.


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: October 30, 2020 – added musical meditation video along with corresponding descriptive text