November 22, 2020 – Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost
The worship service may look a little different today, with more video segments and a different way of accessing them, but everything you’ve come to enjoy is still there.
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A message from the Rev. Helen Smith
This week we welcome the Rev. Deb Stanbury as our worship leader. Deb is the Executive Director of Arise Ministry. Arise Ministry is one of the ministries that we support in our mission budget, with a grant of $2,000. This ministry empowers individuals in the sex trade to reclaim their lives. It is a ministry of hope, involving outreach, case management and spiritual care. We are grateful to Deb for her leadership.
You may recall that we collected items for “pretty bags” last winter. These are given out to sex workers as part of the ministry’s outreach. Because of your generosity we were able to put together 40 bags and had hoped to give them to Deb at worship this week. With the temporary shut down of in-person worship, the bags were delivered to Arise this past week. Thank you for your generosity. And now … to worship.
Rev. Helen Smith
Call to Worship
Watch the responsive “Call to Worship” video; your responses are shown as subtitles on-screen in the video. You may also refer to the Call and response text below.
Call and response text
One: From mist and darkness, from restful waters
All: Gather us together in spirit, O God.
One: From living room sofas and computer screens, from comfort and isolation
All: Gather us together in safety, O God.
One: From health and sickness, from plenty and poverty
All: Gather us together in peace, O God.
One: From courage and fear, from stillness and longing
All: Gather us together in hope, O God.
One: Gather us together with your kingdom, O God, as we worship you this day.
Book of Praise – 274 “Crown him with many crowns”
- Video with on-screen words; with many differences from the words in the hymnbook; verse 2 is omitted entirely; follow along on the screen.
- Words (1851) by Anglo-Canadian hymnwriter Matthew Bridges (1800–1894) and English Anglican priest and hymnwriter Godfrey Thring (1823–1903); music (tune: “Diademata”; 1868) by English organist and composer Sir George Job Elvey (1816–1893). Words and music in the public domain.
- From an episode of the BBC programme “Songs of Praise”, recorded at Royal Albert Hall, London.
Amnesty International – more news
Prayers of Approach and Confession; Declaration of Pardon; The Peace
God of hope,
We give you thanks and praise,
Yours is a different kind of kingdom, with a different kind of king.
You reveal strength in vulnerability, you invite us to the freedom and possibilities that lay on the other side of fear.
Your glory shines as your love is at work all around us, giving us glimpses of your kingdom here among us.
Holy and Healing God,
We confess the times when we have been committed to building other kingdoms, hoarding for ourselves.
We confess the times when our eyes have not seen, our hearts have not opened, or are hands have not helped.
We confess the times when we have been filled with guilt or with pride, in the ways we have responded to the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick or the imprisoned.
Open our eyes, our hearts, and our hands that we may beckon and behold your kingdom coming here among us.
We pray in the name of Jesus, our sovereign and our saviour, who taught us to 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.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and forever. Amen.
Declaration of Pardon
Hear the Good News! Christ has come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.
May you know the forgiveness and love of God and find peace.
Not a simple peace. Not an easy peace. Not a half-hearted peace. But rather a peace that passes all understanding, the peace of Christ be with you.
Title: A Different Kind of Kingdom
On an ARISE outreach night, one that feels like a long while ago now, my outreach team and I approached a woman we had not met before. I introduced myself,
“Hi my name is Deb, and we are doing outreach tonight. Would you like an outreach bag?”
“How do I look tonight?” she asked in response, as she nervously tried to pull down her very short skirt.
She seemed unsure of herself and uncomfortable with the little she was wearing out on the cold street that night.
We assured her that she is beautiful as we offered her an outreach bag, hand warmers and kindness.
When I read the passage from Matthew 25 where Jesus talks about separating the sheep from the goats, I find myself reflecting on the verse which says, “I was naked and you clothed me.”
What does, “I was naked and you clothed me,” mean in the context of offering a ministry of outreach, case management and pastoral care to individuals involved in the sex trade? What does it mean and look like in this moment and the uncertainty of these times?
The more I reflect on it and on ARISE’s journey with so many, the more deeply I feel it involves looking beyond nakedness and clothing with unconditional love.
It means looking deeper, past all the lies that the sex industry, our society, Hollywood, patriarchy, purity theology and various other influences may have led us to believe. It means looking past the surface. It means looking beyond false assumptions about troubled teens and promiscuity to see the trauma and hurt.
It means beholding the beloved and beautiful child of God.
The sad truth is that few others my friends on the street encounter that night will see their humanness.
To her trafficker or pimp, she’s a commodity that can be bought, sold and traded.
To sex buyers she is objectified for their pleasure. She’s known some bad dates who believe she’s someone they can rape and abuse, believing it to be a victimless crime.
The other women on the stroll — some may look her up and down with judgment, kissing their teeth at the competition, others will keep an eye out — knowing if she got a bad date it could have been them.
The drunken bachelor party stumbling out of the strip club will mock her, deride her, and grind up against her.
Law enforcement, the local Businesses, the Residents groups, politicians, they all have opinions.
What about you, what do you see? Who do you see?
Do you see the scared and desperate 13 year-old girl, who ran away from abuse only to run into the empty promises and false affections of a trafficker who lures, manipulates, and exploits her in the sex trade?
Do you see the exploitation, desperation, objectification, and abuse?
Do you see the beautiful and beloved child of God, fearfully and wonderfully made?
Do you see the presence of Christ and glimpse His kingdom in the 30-second exchange of an outreach bag filled with gum, hand sanitizer, Kleenex and chocolate?
Do you hear Jesus in Matthew 25?
Sometimes we read Matthew 25 and we are prone to either pride or guilt. Pride at the good job we’ve done feeding the hungry and welcoming the stranger. Or we feel guilt at how we didn’t clothe the naked or take care of the sick, perhaps we didn’t pray hard enough. These feelings of pride and guilt present in acute ways during these challenging and uncertain times.
Both require us to hear again Jesus’ words.
“Come, you that are blessed by my Father,
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;
For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
I was naked and you gave me clothing,
I was sick and you took care of me,
I was in prison and you visited me…”
Christ’s presence is not embodied in those who feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick and visit the prisoner as crucial, vital, and important as that work is.
Those who do this work know how hard and sometimes thankless it is. There is always more work to do then time and resources allow. There are struggles with burnout, compassion fatigue, and vicarious trauma. There are people you cannot reach, ways you cannot safely offer services right now, people who fall through the cracks or get turned away.
The hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick and imprisoned aren’t this special class of Christ-like people. They are hard to serve sometimes.
Matthew 25 is an invitation to be blessed by Christ’s presence here and now. It is an invitation to behold Christ’s kingdom, here on earth.
Christ’s presence isn’t in the stranger or the one who welcomes — but in the stranger being welcomed.
In the action of the hungry being fed — Christ is there.
In the action of the thirsty being offered a drink — the Kingdom of Christ comes near.
In the meeting of needs, Jesus is present and his kingdom is here.
One of the best pieces of advice that I heard early in this pandemic is “Bring what you have and ask for what you need.”
In that sacred space of caring for the needs of others and of having our own needs met in profound ways we experience Christ’s presence. We experience the hope, healing and love God’s kingdom has to offer.
When Jesus talks about caring for the needs in Matthew 25, the needs aren’t just physical. Someone can have a fully stocked pantry and still be hungry, or a closet full of clothes and still feel exposed.
ARISE seeks to do more than meet the physical needs of individuals involved in the sex trade, we help those we journey with to reclaim their dreams, their worth and their hope.
We offer a goal-oriented, case management program. We look beyond the barriers and challenges to see the possibilities.
We dare to say “Yes,” to a future worth-having for each person we journey with and to actively build that future together, week by week and goal by goal.
One young woman I worked with hated setting goals. She was homeless, struggling with addiction and working the streets to support her habit. She was willing to talk with me about stress, anger and relationships. But when it came to setting goals she would run to the washroom or outside for a cigarette. She would beg me not to make her set goals.
She didn’t see the point. She felt like it was setting her up for failure. With tears in her eyes she said, “Deb, I can’t do this. Just give up on me.” She couldn’t see a future worth having.
Hope isn’t easy but it is worth it. We kept working together. She got housed, got sober, and left the sex trade.
When she found out she was pregnant, she invited me to help her set goals. She is resilient and resourceful.
She is a great mom and it’s amazing to watch her continue to live a future worth having, one that she once never dreamed was possible.
At ARISE, we affirm strengths and celebrate potential. We invite those we journey with to imagine, to dream, and to hope.
JC Chambers says, “Glance at weaknesses, gaze at strengths.” That’s good advice not just for ministry with marginalized people but for finding the places of hope in our broken and troubled world.
For seeing the places where God’s love shines through and Christ’s Kingdom comes near.
The world is filled with troubling and saddening stories — every time with turn on our TV, open the newspaper, sign onto social media, or hear the daily COVID count.
The political climate in the United States and its reverberations continue to expose deep divisions, embolden hate, and breed fear.
We need to gaze at the places of hope.
In the midst of violence, we must gaze at the peacemakers. In the midst of sickness, we must gaze at the healers.
Hope isn’t easy. But it is inspiring and it is contagious in the best way. Hope unites us in celebration!
Christ’s Reign is one of hope and love.
God’s kingdom is so much different than the powers and kingdoms in our world today that would divide, separate, and control with fear.
Christ’s is a different kind of kingdom, where it is not about overpowering but about redeeming.
The king comes not sitting on a gold throne in a marble room with the world watching, but in a cold and stinky stable surrounded by livestock and visited by shepherds.
God’s kingdom is not run on fear and hate, but on the freedom found in God’s radical and inclusive love.
Christ’s Reign is declared and presence made known through caring for others and allowing others to care for us. It is in this loving, caring and serving that we celebrate our kinship in God as children of God, and see the hope of Christ’s reign here and now.
Keep seeing, keep caring, keep loving, and continue to gaze at and participate in God’s kingdom here among us.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are God’s now and forever. Amen.
- “Poor Wayfaring Stranger”, (earliest known date: 1858) traditional American folk and gospel song.
- This arrangement by American composer Mark Hayes (ASCAP). © copyright 1998 GlorySound, a division of Shawnee Press, Inc.; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
- performed on the keyboard by Rachelle Risling, GCPC Music Director.
- This 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.
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Hope
As the shepherd who cares for the flock, O God,
you guide all things through Jesus
whom you have exalted over all creation as King.
Hear the prayers we now offer in his name,
We pray for those who are hungry,
those who do not know where their next meal will come from,
those facing the economic hardships and uncertainties caused by this pandemic,
those who rely on foodbanks and meal programs and the organizations that provide these essential services.
Your Kingdom Come, O Lord.
We pray for those who thirst,
those living in First Nations communities in Canada and the many other communities around the world who do not have access clean and safe drinking water;
those who thirst for justice for our earth and all life in it,
we pray for those who thirst for something more, whose deepest needs go unmet.
Your Kingdom Come, O Lord.
We pray for the stranger,
those who are immigrants and refugees,
whose homelands are destroyed by war, social unrest or natural disasters,
for those impacted by the flooding and typhoons in the Philippines and Vietnam,
for those impacted by the destruction of Hurricane Iota,
for the aid-workers and peacemakers.
We pray for our neighbours who have been made to feel like strangers — whose safety and freedom have been threatened by hateful words or hurtful policies.
Your Kingdom Come, O Lord.
We pray for the naked,
for victims of human trafficking and those involved in the sex
for victims of childhood sexual abuse,
for those who are mocked, insulted, and shamed,
for clothing banks and outreach workers.
Your Kingdom Come, O Lord.
We pray for the sick,
for those battling physical illness,
for the family and friends of those who have passed away due to COVID-19,
those who have tested positive, and those they have come in contact with awaiting test results.
for those on the frontlines, for doctors, nurses, hospital workers, and public health officials,
for those whose mental health concerns are exacerbated by the loneliness, isolation, and stress of this pandemic.
Your Kingdom Come, O Lord.
We pray for those in prison,
those who feel like the rest of the world has forgotten about them,
those who fear they will never be seen as more than their charges,
those living with an abuser facing increased violence and vulnerability through lockdown orders and stay at home measures,
Your Kingdom Come, O Lord.
Look upon your people who rejoice in your justice and mercy,
and grant that the prayers we make may reveal Christ’s reign in our time.
For the Kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen.
Book of Praise – 474 “The love of God comes close”
- Video with on-screen words taken from the hymnbook.
- Words (1988) by Scottish hymn-writer and Church of Scotland minister John L. Bell (1949–) and his Scottish hymn-writing partner Graham Maule (1958–2019), both affiliated with the Iona Community; music (tune “Rhosymedre”; 1840) by Welsh cleric and hymn composer John David Edwards (1805–1885). Words © copyright 1988 Iona Community (Scotland); used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A. Music in the public domain.
- Keyboard and vocals by Rachelle Risling, GCPC Music Director.
- Recording © copyright 2020 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church.
May the God of Sarah, Rahab and Deborah
Bless you with faith, courage, and wisdom.
May Jesus Christ who was held in Mary’s arms
Hold you in his loving embrace.
And may the Holy Spirit who comes sailing on the wind
Fill all your days with hope. Amen.
© Copyright 2020 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church
Last updated: January 15, 2021 – corrected surname of Rachelle Risling; typos