November 8, 2020 – Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost
A message from the Rev. Helen Smith
We begin our service this week with a time of remembrance, remembering those who served in Canada’s wars, and as Canadian peacekeepers. We remember those who paid the cost of war with their lives, with their bodies, with their minds. We come to mourn great loss and we pray for peace.
Peace be with you.
Rev. Helen Smith
A Time of Remembrance
Ode of Remembrance
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
we will remember them.
Hymn of Praise
Book of Praise – 662 “Those who wait on the Lord”
- Video with no on-screen lyrics; you can follow along using the words in your hymnbook, or the ones reprinted just below.
- Taken from the “Book of Praise” (Hymn 662, p 846, Presbyterian Church in Canada, 1997). Music: Tune “Eagle’s Wings”, with irregular metre, by Scottish composer John L. Bell (1949–). Arrangement copyright © WGRG The Iona Community (Scotland). Used (in the hymnbook) by permission of G.I.A. Publications Inc., exclusive agent. All rights reserved. Used in the recording by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
- Recorded by GCPC music director Rachelle Risling on the electronic keyboard on May 21, 2020.
1, 6. Those who wait on the Lord…
…shall renew their strength;
they shall rise up on wings as Eagles;
they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint:
help us, Lord; help us, Lord, in your way.
2. Those who serve the suffering world… [Chorus]
3. Those who live the risen life… [Chorus]
4. Those who love the Mystery… [Chorus]
5. Those who die on the march… [Chorus, then back to verse 1]
- Words: Public domain.
Prayers of Approach and Confession
We praise you, O God, Creator, Redeemer, Comforter, for all that you give to us, and for all that you call us to do and to be. Receive our worship and speak to us your word of life.
We confess that we have not done all that is possible to promote peace and justice in your world. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves and we have let hatred for our enemies overrun us. Our anger is greater than our compassion, we tear down and do not build up, we take more than we give.
Forgive us and lead us in the way of worshipful living, of appreciating the good that is ours, of standing for justice. Energize our vision of the good we can achieve in our time.
This we pray in Jesus’ name and continue to pray as he taught us, saying
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power, and the glory forever. Amen.
Declaration of Pardon
Friends, believe the good news! Anyone who is in Christ is a new creation; the old life is fading, the new life has started to emerge — in us. Know that you are forgiven, and so have the courage to forgive one another.
The Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
The Life and Work of the Church
It has been said that society is a great silent compact between the dead, the living, and the unborn. What makes a society hang together? It’s the stories, the values, the remembrances. Sometimes they’re recorded, but probably the most important, and the most foundational ones just get passed from generation to generation, almost through the air that we breathe together. They are passed on from parent to child while you’re walking the kids to school, or driving them to hockey or music lessons, or going shopping together. In the idle chatter that we use to fill the silences, we pass on the basics of what it is to be a part of our family, our church, our country, our world. A good deal of the time, we’re not even aware that we’re doing it, nor I suppose are our kids aware that day by day they are soaking up this understanding of who they are and how they fit in to the world around them. We build the fabric of who we are as a people on the stories of where we came from, on the dreams, gifts, achievements of our forebears, and we in turn pass it on to our children.
This is true for us as Christians when we pass on the stories of faith, when we remember that Christmas when Bruce Morrison played Herod and gave a very convincing death dive on the set, or for our youngest son, the six year old theologian, how, at communion, he held on to his bread until he got the juice so he could re-member Jesus, put Jesus back together, or how we celebrated Easter, the festival of new life, on-line during a pandemic.
This is also true at Remembrance Day. Because for me, and for my generation, and those that come after us, which is pretty well most people, as reflective and thankful as we may be about what was accomplished in the wars the men and women of Canada and other nations fought, we really cannot remember, at least not in the usual sense that that word is used.
Unless I am told the story, unless those of the generations that have gone before me fill me in on the legends, the ideals, the selfless drive that made them do the things they did, unless I am told the stories of heroism and tragedy, of hope and despair, of how it felt to go away to war, of how it felt to watch loved ones go away and to stay at home to wait, of how it felt to receive that letter from the king, that letter that said your child would not return…unless I am told the story, I will not understand it.
The story of Joshua and the people of Israel at the Jordan River talks about this need. It is not a story of war, but it is a story of an experience foundational in the life of the children of Israel.
Finally in their wilderness journey they come to the Jordan River, a destination they thought they would never reach. They have been wandering, lost for the most part, across the deserts of the Middle East, for so long that virtually all of them who now stand at the Jordan were born on the journey. Their lips are parched and dry, their feet ache, their stomachs are empty, they have had so many disappointments and setbacks, that they can scarcely trust their eyes with the sight of the rich and fertile land that awaits them.
Just like at the Red Sea, the Lord parts the waters of the river, and the weary travellers cross without even getting their feet wet. This is the beginning of a new chapter in their lives.
So after the crossing, the Lord instructs them to construct a memorial of stones, one for each of the twelve tribes, to mark this great event. And the reason? So that, in future years, when one of the children asks, “What do these stones mean?” one of the elders who can remember, will tell them the story again.
They will tell them of the mighty acts of the Lord in hearing their cries while in captivity, in leading them out of Egypt, with great signs and wonders, in bringing them through the desert, providing food and water to give them strength on the way, and finally, bringing them here. Never one to miss a teaching moment, God builds into the story of who they are a way to keep that story alive.
As grateful as they were at the moment, the memory would fade, their thankfulness would die away. And unless they had a memorial, a symbol that would somehow pull them back, the story would no longer be told, and their identity as a people would be lost.
And notice the role of the children. Their natural curiosity, their infuriating practice of always asking questions, that’s what is going to keep the story alive. Just like the child’s question starts the ritual of the Passover, it is the child who is the key. “What do these stones mean, mommy?” “Well, I’m glad you asked that, and I hope you have lots of time. Let me tell you about how we were no people, and the Lord made us a people, about how we were captive in Egypt and the Lord raised up Moses to lead us to the promised land.” A way to remember their debt to the past.
“What do these stones mean?” Our children could ask the same of our cenotaphs, our memorial plaques. What does this annual ritual on Remembrance Day mean? What do the wreaths and poppies mean? What does it mean, in non-pandemic times, that soldiers with tears in their eyes stand outside on a cold November day beside those stones? It’s the same kind of question that the Lord said would be asked on the banks of the Jordan. Because if the younger generations don’t ask it, and remind the older generations to tell the story again, we will forget, and lose part of who we are and what God is calling us to be.
So those who can remember need to tell us again, that the stones stand as monuments to those who lost their lives ensuring the peace and security of following generations. The crosses stand for those who believed in their country and its life and future so strongly that they would die for it. The wreaths remind us that there were men and women who believed in the cause of freedom so passionately that they would fight and die on strange and distant soil, far from loved ones, because the rights and land and lives of innocent people had been violated. And the ones with tears in their eyes? Well, they are the ones who can remember.
And so the memorial ritual becomes, especially for me and my generation, and for our children, a ritual for learning, and an opportunity, we pray, to learn the lessons of war without having to go through the horror of war.
“What do these stones mean, mommy?” Well, what they mean is that there was a terrible war, two of them in fact, and other incidents as well, and many people died in them, fighting to protect things that were important. They were people who had parents and children, and lovers and friends, people who cared deeply about them. The stones mean that many brave people, and in fact entire countries, paid a huge price to protect the things that were important to them.
A life given for another is a priceless gift, a gift from young men and women, full of promise and potential, who believed that some things are worth defending, who died so that those who came back, and we who were to come after could live in peace.
May we never take our peace for granted. May we, as followers of the Prince of Peace find in the stories and symbols of Remembrance Day God’s call to be peacemakers
As grateful as we are for what they accomplished, no one could deny that it would have been a whole lot better if those lives could have been invested in peaceful pursuits.
Micah was a prophet in a country if not at war, at least with the threat of war constantly looming over its head. To him, God gave a vision of peace, a peace where swords would be beaten into ploughshares, where spears would be made into pruning hooks, where instruments of death would be transformed into implements of life, where threats would be replaced by security, and where war would be known no more. It was to be a peace wrought by God, won by the fact that the people would walk in the name of the Lord.
God is calling all of us to be peacemakers, and to tell the stories of loss again on Remembrance Day reminds us of that. Maybe especially in the day when human ingenuity has reached the absurd with its ability in a moment to end all life on our little planet, God is calling us more than ever to understand, to reach out, to talk to our neighbours, Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, atheist, to learn to be reconcilers and bridge builders, to welcome differences and in love learn to live together.
The road to peace is not easy. The human capacity for hatred, violence and revenge seems endless. International movements are incredibly complicated. May God grant to us God’s resolve that love can overcome hate, that understanding can replace violence, that forgiveness can answer revenge. It’s called the reign of God. There are signs of it all around us, in the essential service workers, the health clinics for refugees, Heart Gardens, and it’s what God put the church in the world to build.
“What do these stones mean?” They mean that the world is a tough place, that sometimes there may be things that are worth defending, maybe even worth dying for. These stones mean that when that has happened, when people have given all they have for others, we need to pause to remember and give thanks.
And these stones also remind us that God is calling his people to show the world another way, to live the way of love and understanding and reconciliation, and work toward that day when, in the prophet’s words, “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more; and no one shall make them afraid.”
Now to you, O God, the one who draws all people together,
and whose will is for their well-being and peace,
we give all praise and glory, now and forever. Amen.
- “Let There be Peace on Earth” (1955), words and music by Americans Jill Jackson-Miller (1913–1995) and Sy Miller (1908–1971); words and music © Copyright 1955, 1983 by Jan-Lee Music, ASCAP. International copyright secured. All rights reserved; 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, 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.
Dedication of our Offerings
Through our offerings, O God, we identify with the cause of your son, Jesus. We offer here this morning both our money and ourselves, with the prayer that they may extend the work of the body of Christ beyond this place to the world around us. In this way, may people come to live in peace and well-being, and know the love that you have shown to us in Christ. We pray in Jesus name. AMEN
Prayers of the Thanksgiving and Hope
God of all times and all people, we give thanks today for the freedom we have in our country. We thank you for the reverence of justice, equality, human dignity, for understanding power as the ability to serve rather than the ability to control.
We thank you for the Canadian Armed Forces, for their role as peacekeepers, for their willingness to serve.
We give thanks for the natural beauty of our country, for the trees, the rivers and lakes, the mountains. We thank you for the bounty that is ours in the harvest.
For the mystery that living as citizens of your kingdom makes us better citizens of our world, Lord, accept our thanks and love.
And as citizens of your kingdom, we pray for peace. We bring to you our inner turmoil, whether caught between a number of good options, or lured by temptations, or struggling to meet the needs of others which are at odds with our own. Grant that we may use the tension to grow in faith, love and truth. Lead us in your way.
We bring before you a relationship in which we are in conflict. Show us if there is a way with integrity for us to work for peace. May your good will be done. Deepen our courage and love so your truth may become evident.
We pray for our circle of friends and family, focusing on tensions and conflicts we know about. We hold the tensions in your love, seeking the good you intend, the justice you envision, the unexpected resolutions that may unfold.
We pray for peace in our country. We pray for our armed forces, for our police forces, for justice, support and wisdom.
We pray for peace in areas of conflict. We think of terrorist attacks in France and Austria, of the tensions in the Middle East. Having experienced how hard it is in our small circle to live peaceably, we seek the miracle of peace in these situations. We pray for wisdom and creativity among the world powers.
We remember before you those who face danger in the defence of peace, order, and justice. Watch over those whose lives are in danger, comfort those who are anxious for themselves or loved ones.
We pray O God, for those who are ill. We pray for them your healing presence to bring them wholeness. We remember those who care for them, family, medical staff. Give them strength and peace. We think of those suffering from with the coronavirus, those who are essential service workers, those who are losing patience with restricted living. Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the living of these days.
We offer our prayers through Jesus Christ. AMEN
Book of Praise – 651 “Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer”
- Video with on-screen lyrics; minor difference at the end of verse 1; also, video repeats the last line of the last verse, verse 3.
- Words: original Welsh text by Welsh hymn-writer William Williams (1717–1791), English translation by William Williams and by Welsh Methodist Peter Williams (unrelated to William; 1723–1796); music: tune Cwm Rhondda by Welsh composer John Hughes (1873–1932).
- Recorded at Royal Albert Hall for an episode of the BBC programme Songs of Praise.
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
Updated: November 12, 2020 – added special music video along with corresponding descriptive text