Worship Service for February 7, 2021

February 7, 2021 – Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

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We have a new feature this week!
To help us get in the right frame of mind for the worship service, Rachelle has prepared a musical prelude into which we have incorporated the welcome message from Rev. Bob Smith. Click the triangle on the audio link just below to begin your journey into worship.

Musical prelude and message from the Rev. Bob Smith

Musical Prelude (Rachelle Risling) and Welcome Message in spoken audio (Rev. B. Smith). Click on the triangle at left to start listening. See at bottom of page for attribution and copyright information.

Dear Friends,

Welcome to our service of worship this morning.  As I prepare for the service materials that we offer on our website, one of the tasks each week is to seek recordings on YouTube that will help to lead us our online singing.  As I sift through them, and select from a variety of recording settings from majestic cathedrals to much more modest worship spaces, I am always envious of whatever congregation or choir it is, that they are able actually to sing together.  That day will come.  In the meantime, we do what we can.  If it isn’t quite what we hope for, it is a way of being together, of being reminded of the faith that ties us together, and of a loving God who watches over us wherever we are, and whatever the shape of the worship we offer.

Grace and peace to you,

Rev. Bob Smith

Opening Hymn

Book of Praise – 290 “Immortal, invisible, God only wise

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Click to listen to or sing along with the hymn at YouTube.

Prayers of Adoration, Confession, Lord’s Prayer

God who made us and reaches out to us in love, we praise you.  God who has become flesh and dwelt among us in Christ, we worship you.  God who gave us the Spirit to empower your church for its mission in the world, we glorify you.  Almighty God, Creator, Saviour and Holy Spirit, accept the praise and worship of our hearts, for we are yours.

Gracious God, in Jesus Christ you have taken on our human existence, to redeem us from the brokenness of our sin.  Yet we hide from your light; we resist your rule.  We fail to proclaim the good news of your love.  Even when we try to live in your ways, we fall too easily back into pride and disobedience.  Forgive us, we pray.  Grant us your mercy, God of grace.  Do for us what we cannot do for ourselves:  renew us and establish in us those actions and causes which help to build up your reign on the earth.  Guide us by your Spirit, to lead us to follow in the steps of Jesus, to the glory of your holy name.  Hear us now as we join our voices in the prayer he taught us:

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

Friends in Christ, rejoice at the good news.  John tells us that Jesus came not to condemn the world, but so that the world might be saved through him.  Receive the new life that God offers to you in Christ.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

The peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
            (And also with you.)

Scripture reading

Scripture reading of Isaiah 40:21–31 read by Bruce Morrison. Click on the triangle at left to start listening.

Isaiah 40:21–31 <– 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.


Poor Isaiah.  He sounds like a frustrated teacher facing a classroom of idiots, or the weary parent of a child who stopped listening long ago. Isaiah is completely exasperated.

“Have you not known?  Have you not heard?  Has it not been told you from the beginning?

“How many times do I have to tell you?  What don’t you get about this?  Do I have to stand on my head to get you to listen?  Let’s start again, from the top, in short sentences so you won’t miss anything:

“It is God who sits above the circle of the earth… who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them like a tent to live in, who brings princes to naught and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.”

Now we have to imagine the kinds of things the people of Israel are saying to evoke this kind of tirade from the weary teacher-prophet.

We know that this part of the book of Isaiah is addressing the people in exile.  This is not an easy time for them. They are far from home, and everything that was familiar to them, everything that held meaning for them, everything that told them who they are, has been taken away from them.

So maybe they’re asking, “Was all that stuff about being a chosen people and having a promised land, just a lot of hot air?  What about our God, Yahweh, the one who made us and watches over us, the one who brought us out of slavery and gave us a home — was the whole God idea just wishful thinking?”

You can hear them saying, “I think we deserve an explanation.  Where is God?  Because if all that stuff were true, we wouldn’t be in this mess.  What do you say, Isaiah, because we’re not too sure anymore.”

You see, exile is not just a new address and less freedom to do what they want —a bit like our pandemic restrictions.  It is not just political domination, or a few temporary inconveniences — it is a crisis of identity and faith.  Israel no longer knows who it is, and whether God is.

It’s maybe not unlike the experience of the church today, even prior to the restrictions that Covid-19 has laid upon us.  Many I’m sure, even pre-pandemic, felt like you looked away for a second, and almost in an instant were plunked down in a world you don’t recognize any more.

Sometimes in the church we feel like we’re suddenly a long way from home.  We’re looking around in vain for the things that used to be familiar to us. the things that held meaning for us, the things that told us who we are — they all seem to have evaporated around us.

We haven’t been carted off into exile — maybe all this would be easier to understand if we had.  But we feel often like we don’t belong any more, we don’t recognize where we are, and no longer even know where to look for something that feels like home.

The church of our childhood — when it was the widely-accepted thing to do, when the pews were full, and our beliefs unquestioned, when its role in the world was obvious and made sense, when the things it taught had some convergence with what most people thought, when the church and the society around it seemed to be in synch with one another — where did all that go?  What happened to it?

Now, we’re not so sure.  Faith seems to be the thing you can’t talk about any more, like we almost have to apologize for who we are and what we believe.  And with what’s going on in our world — sometimes it feels like we don’t belong any more.

Now, maybe, we feel like strangers in a foreign land unable to muster up the courage to try to sing the Lord’s song in this place any more, starting to feel like the whole faith thing is a bit of a lost cause.

Is God still there at all?  Are the promises of God still valid?  Is the church still the body of Christ in the world? — because some days, it sure doesn’t look like it.

For many, they find themselves in a crisis of faith and identity.  And we want to join the people of ancient Israel in asking some modern prophet,  “I think we deserve an explanation.  Where is God?  Because if all that stuff were true, we wouldn’t be in this mess.  What do you say, prophet, because we aren’t too sure anymore.”

And the pandemic, on top of all that?  Our experience of living through the last year or so, as part of the church and also, simply as human beings who have no home apart from this globe we live on — it may not be a bad association to make for a people being in exile.  So much that was a part of our everyday lives is gone or unavailable, we have limited contact with those we are close to, so many of the touch-stones that shaped our lives are off limits, and we all carry the anxiety of a potential illness that has taken such a toll already — and all of this has been imposed by an outside force that we are powerless to influence.

Where is God, and what does faithfulness look like, in a time such as this?

To Israel, and to us, Isaiah gives the same message.  He says, “I know it doesn’t look good for us and nothing is familiar in this place.  It seems to place all of God’s promises in doubt.  But I’m here to tell you that everything you believed from the beginning is still true.

“It is God who sits above the circle of the earth… who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them like a tent to live in, who brings princes to naught and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.”

God is still the prime mover, the master designer.  It is God who acts to continue the work of creation who watches over the affairs of humankind.  God has not forgotten you, God has not forsaken you or abandoned the promises of old.  God is still with you.

So listen to the word of hope from one exile to another.  Remember the story you’ve heard from long ago, because it’s still true.  There will be difficult times in our journey of faith there will be a wilderness to cross an exile to endure, but through it all there will be God, walking with us watching over us giving us strength, helping us to endure.

Isaiah doesn’t down-play the difficulties of these times.  “Even youths will faint and be weary,” he says, “and the young will fall exhausted.  But…” and here we get the prophet’s advice for the discouragement and testing of exile living:

“But those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.”

Those who wait for the Lord…  Imagine.  We were discouraged and disheartened.  We weren’t sure this faith business was all even worth it any more.  Isaiah gives us a word of hope, and finally we’re pumped enough to get up and do something…and he says, “No, hold it.  You still have to wait for the Lord.  In time, God will equip you for whatever lies ahead.”

But why hold back now?

Well, there’s waiting and there’s waiting.  And they relate to two ways of thinking of time.  In the New Testament, they go by the two Greek words, chronos, and kairosChronos, from which we get the word “chronology”, is simply the measurement of time, the time left until lunch, or until sundown, the time until the next season of sowing, the time it takes me to walk into town to shop.

But kairos means a particular time, a moment of opportunity, a special moment when everything suddenly falls into place, a moment unlike any other, when extraordinary things can happen.  It is kairos time that is meant when Jesus says, “my time has not yet come,” or when the gospel writer talks about, “in the fullness of time, Jesus came.”

So when we talk about waiting, chronos waiting, is just plain, boring waiting. when there’s something that is going to happen, and we just have to wait for it.  Waiting for the light to change, waiting in line at the bank, waiting for Christmas, waiting to hear whether you got the job.

This is kind of waiting drives us nuts, it seems so unproductive.  It makes you wish you had a book with you so that the time isn’t utterly wasted.  We keep checking the mail box, and looking at our watch, but that doesn’t help.  We can try to distract ourselves, but nothing really changes the fact that it’s just plain, boring waiting.

But then there’s kairos waiting, which is entirely different.  That of course is waiting for the moment, for the right moment to act, for the precise moment when everything falls into place.  Kairos waiting is judging when you make your move, when to announce that you’re running for the leadership, when your product should hit the market, when to sell your stock.

It’s the waiting of a photographer, watching for the moment when the play of light between sun and cloud is just right to create the perfect picture.  It’s the waiting of a comedian for just the moment to drop the punch line for her joke.

It’s the waiting of the suitor for the right moment to ask the love of his life if she will marry him.

Kairos waiting is a focused waiting, an attentive waiting, purposeful waiting, a waiting that takes patience, waiting for the moment when something extraordinary can happen.  And it’s the kind of waiting that Isaiah is talking about when he tells us to wait on the Lord to equip us for living in these days of exile.

When the times are changing, and the landscape around us is unfamiliar, when we’re not sure whether the circumstances call us to soar, or run, or just to walk, we could do lots worse than wait on God who does not faint or grow weary and whose understanding is unsearchable.

For the exiles long ago and for us, seeking to be faithful in a changing world, our best and only hope is to stay close to God, and wait for God.  God will save and direct.  God will equip and guide.  God will give us strength and keep us from falling.  God will do for us what we need, and what we cannot do for ourselves.

To wait for such a God is to remain silent and receptive open and attentive.

It is to let God take the initiative in opening up for us a future of liberation and renewal.  It is to let God prepare us for the new thing that is coming for us.  To wait for God in uncertain times is an act of faith, a willingness to accept God’s gracious lordship over us, God’s loving desire to act in our favour, and God’s wisdom in directing our paths.

Isaiah is urging us not to take things into our own hands, scurrying around from one knee-jerk project to another trying to save ourselves with schemes of our own devising, but rather to wait for God, to show our confidence in the creator to be patient for the timing of the master designer.  He is inviting us to be ready when the time is right, for God to say, “Behold, I am doing a new thing.” (Isaiah 43:16–21)

Maybe God needs us to sit for a time in the strangeness of our exile, so that we can discover again who we are, and whose we are.  And maybe we will come to recognize that we never really were abandoned — that God has actually been with us all along.          

Maybe then, in the fullness of time, we will be ready.  Then, with the help of God,

we shall mount up on wings like eagles,
we shall run and not be weary,
we shall walk and not faint.

And so we will endure and find faith, even in the exile days of our living.


Musical Meditation

“On Eagle’s Wings” performed by Rachelle Risling and Evelyn Skripitsky. Click on the white triangle in the orange circle to start listening.
  • On Eagle’s Wings (You who dwell in the shelter)”, words and music by American priest and composer Michael Joncas (1951–). Words based on Psalm 91, Exodus 19, and Matthew 13. Words and music copyright © 1979, 1991 New Dawn Music; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
  • Performed by GCPC Music Director Rachelle Risling (keyboard) and Evelyn Skripitsky (vocals).
  • Audio recording copyright © 2021 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.

Prayer of Dedication, Thanksgiving and Hope

Lord, we praise and thank you for all that you have given us.  We stand before you with hands wide open, ready to receive you.  We bring before you, Lord, our modest gifts, not knowing how you might multiply them, what fruits you may bring out of them.  Bless our gifts and those who receive them, that together we may continue to make a difference in your world.

Almighty and everlasting God, you are strength to those who suffer, the comfort of those who grieve, the hope of those who struggle.  Let the prayers of your people who struggle rise to you, and through our prayers may we be united with them in love and concern.

In these days of pandemic separation, we claim your promises of wholeness as we pray for those who are ill or suffering loss, those whose work or circumstances place them at risk, those who long for your healing touch and a connection with others.  We pray that you would make the weak strong, the sick healthy, the broken whole, and confirm those who serve them as agents of love.

We commend our communities to your care, as a level of our life together where we can love and support one another, care for and help each other, lift up and encourage each other.  Give us strength of purpose and concern for others, that we may build communities where everyone is cared for, and your will may be done.

God of compassion, you know our ways and watch over all your children as we journey.  Even when we stumble and fall, even when our lives take terrible turns, walk with us and weave out of all these threads your wonders of goodness and grace.  Help us to know that in you is our life and our hope, and keep us faithful in uncertain times.  We know too well that life is fragile, and the future uncertain, and we look to you for hope to help us through times of sorrow, tragedy and turmoil.

Gracious God, whatever the circumstances of your people, may you give us grace to wait on you, so that our strength is renewed, and so that we shall mount up with wings like eagles, run and not be weary, walk and not faint.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

Closing Hymn

Book of Praise – 712 “Arise, your light has come

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Click to listen to or sing along with the hymn at YouTube.
  • Video with on-screen words exactly as in the hymnbook.
  • Words (1974) by American minister and hymnwriter Ruth C. Duck (1947–). Tune (1872; “Festal Song”) by William H. Walter (1825–1898).
  • Music in the public domain. Words copyright © 1992 GIA Publications, Inc.
  • Recorded by Grosse Pointe Memorial Church (Presbyterian), Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan.

Commissioning and Benediction

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

Now 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.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,
the love of God,
and the communion of the Holy Spirit
be with you all, now and forever.  Amen.

Choral Amen

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

* Musical Prelude and Welcome Message attribution and copyright information
GCPC Music director Rachelle Risling (keyboard) performing “On Eagle’s Wings (You who dwell in the shelter)”. Words and music by American priest and composer Michael Joncas (1951–). This arrangement by Lloyd Larson. Words and music copyright © 1979, 1991, this arrangement copyright © 2017 New Dawn Music / OCP; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
Spoken welcome message by Rev. Bob Smith.
This recording copyright © 2021 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church.

Copyright © 2021 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church

Last updated on 2021-02-06 at 22:20 – Added musical prelude into which the welcome message has been incorporated. Added Copyright and attribution information for this new recording.