February 28, 2021 – Second Sunday in Lent
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Message from the Rev. Bob Smith
Welcome to worship at Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church. Our lock-down continues, but that does not stop us from gathering as a community of faith, at least on line. At least it helps us to be safe and to fight off the pandemic, which has so limited our movements and activities.
In this season of Lent, we seek to follow in the steps of Jesus as he makes his solemn journey to Jerusalem and the cross that awaits him there. It is our prayer that these worship resources will help us all to draw nearer to him, and to give ourselves to him to join in building up his reign in the world.
Blessings to you all,
Rev. Bob Smith
Call to Worship: PWS&D Liturgy for Lent
Spoken by One (L) / Spoken by All (P)
L: Lent is a journey with Jesus toward Jerusalem,
toward the cross, toward resurrection and new life.
We will be transformed and blessed on this journey.
P: We are pilgrims on a journey.
We are travelers on the road.
L: We undertake the journey knowing we will not remain the same.
P: We are pilgrims on a journey.
We are travelers on the road.
L: The journey will take time.
We will feel the strain in our bodies and in our souls,
yet love will urge us onward.
P: We are pilgrims on a journey.
We are travelers on the road.
L: Let us start the journey with prayer:
All: God of all times and places,
as we begin the pilgrimage
from life to death to new life,
you will surprise us and nurture us.
We put our trust in you,
knowing you will guide and provide for us.
In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.
Book of Praise – 194 “Come, let us to the Lord our God”
- Video with on-screen words with some minor changes from those in the hymnbook, and quite a few changes in the fourth verse.
- Words (1781) by Scottish minister John Morrison (1750–1798). Tune (1831; “Kilmarnock”) by Scottish poet and hymnwriter Neil Dougall (1776–1862). Words and music in the public domain.
- Video recorded at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, London, England.
Prayers of Adoration, Confession, Lord’s Prayer
We come before you, O God, in the shadow of the cross, grateful for your great love for us. As you came to us in Jesus, showing us your grace and calling us to ministry, reveal yourself among us still. Give us courage to follow Jesus over rocky hills where we carry our crosses, and through green valleys where you restore our souls. Accept our worship, we pray, for we offer it in the name of the Saviour who gives us life.
God of steadfast love, we confess to you our unworthiness of your love. Instead of sacrificing, we promote ourselves. Instead of giving, we hoard our blessings. Too often we claim our faith in Christ as a badge to wear instead of a cross to bear, avoiding the costly acts that bear your grace. Have mercy on us, O God. Teach us to follow in the path of Christ. Through your Spirit give us grace to serve our neighbours as ourselves and to glorify you through faith in Christ. It is in his name that we pray, and that we join our voices to offer 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, it was to free us from our sins and to renew our relationship with God and one another that Christ came. Receive the forgiveness and new life that God is offering to you. Thanks be to God. Amen.
The peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
(And also with you.)
Peter is confused. Following Jesus? — Peter figured that’s what he did. For him, it all started a couple of years ago. He was at the side of the sea, cleaning up after a day of fishing with his brother Andrew. Jesus came along down the beach, chatted with them for a while about this and that — politics, the weather, fishing.
And then, like there was no big deal about it, he asked if they would like to come along with him, and fish for people. Peter kind of liked that image. There was something sincere about this man, something that made you want to trust him.
“Follow me,” he said, and just like that, Peter followed. He did that kind of thing — made snap judgements, shot from the hip, didn’t really care what others thought. He acted, then thought about it later. It made for a roller-coaster kind of life, but it suited him, and you could never say it was boring.
With the others, he followed Jesus throughout Galilee in all his travels. They listened to his teaching — ate and drank with him, chatted as they walked, watched as he healed the sick, helped him feed a crowd. One time, in the middle of a storm, and out in the middle of a lake, Peter had even been persuaded to follow Jesus walking on the water. It wasn’t what you’d call a complete success and he got a little wet — but he did it, and it was something he could tell his grandchildren someday.
They slept under the stars a few times. They went to sleep hungry once in a while. But it was an adventure, and Peter had learned a lot. All in all, this following Jesus wasn’t a bad life — something like being in the crew of a travelling road show. Adventure, travel, excitement, learning at the feet of such a wonderful teacher like Jesus.
It hadn’t always been easy, though. Sometimes Jesus confused them with his sayings, and sure enough, they had made some enemies, but they all knew where it was leading — didn’t they? At least Peter thought he did.
It was leading to Jesus having power, and being in control, and the disciples being the inner circle, with Peter the right-hand man. It was leading to Jesus being acknowledged by everyone as king, and instead of following him around the countryside and sleeping under the stars, it meant someday living in luxury and having people follow all of them around and wait on them hand and foot.
Following Jesus meant there was going to be a reward, a payoff, a patronage appointment, a big corner office with a view of Jerusalem, keys to the executive washroom and a chariot with a driver.
That’s why Peter was so proud, that he got the right answer a few minutes ag0 when Jesus asked the disciples who people said he was. They weren’t always sure what he was getting at, so they hesitated. “John the Baptist?” said one. “Elijah?” said another, “or one of the prophets?”
“Okay,” said Jesus, “but what about you? Who do you say that I am?” “I know,” said Peter, like a kid trying to hold his hand the highest so the teacher would ask him. “You are the Messiah.”
Jesus did tell him to keep quiet about it, but commended him. The others were impressed. None of them had figured it out, or if they had, didn’t have the nerve to say it. But Peter did, and everyone thought well of him.
Yes, Peter thought to himself, he was onside, he had things figured out, he was a model follower of Jesus. Things were unfolding as they should. Good times were just around the corner.
So now, when Jesus talks about how he will undergo suffering, and rejection, and even death, Peter is stunned. And he can’t be confused: Jesus often talked in parables and stories, but here he is talking plainly, openly, seriously, as if he wants to make sure they will get it. He is calling a spade a spade, and what he is saying is that he’s going to die.
That’s not the way it’s supposed to happen, thinks Peter — the Messiah isn’t supposed to die. That doesn’t fit the plan. Where’s the glory and power? This isn’t where following you is supposed to lead us, Jesus.
So Peter, undisputed leader of the group, takes Jesus by the elbow and ushers him off to the side where they can talk privately. “Jesus, come on, don’t talk like that — you’re scaring us. There isn’t going to be any suffering and rejection — this is about glory and power. I know we’ve had some scrapes, but everything’s going to be fine. You’re the Messiah, after all — aren’t you? You said I got the right answer, didn’t you?”
But Jesus shakes Peter’s hand off his elbow, and shoves him away so violently, Peter falls to the ground. “Get behind me, Satan,” he says. “Your mind is set not on divine things, but human things.”
No one is more shocked than Peter. As he lies there in the Galilean dust, he is thinking to himself, “Where did that come from? Satan? I thought I was thinking of divine things, following the Messiah, and the world. finally being ruled God way. You’re the one who brought up human things, Jesus, like rejection and suffering and death.”
Let’s leave Peter lying there in the dirt for a second. You know, if we are honest, we’ll have to admit that deep down, we and Peter sometimes have a lot in common. We’re often a bit confused on this point too. We often think that being a believer should produce some benefit for us, some privilege — that we should be able to get in on the spiritual equivalent of insider trading to get some dividend that the bad people don’t.
Otherwise, what’s the point? Sure, we know that Jesus suffered and died, and that we might even be called to act sacrificially. But when we get sick and complain to God, saying “Why me?” what we’re saying is that it ought to be different for followers of Jesus. When our kids get in trouble, and we protest, “But we took them to Sunday School,” we’re saying that we thought we were immune from the struggles of the world.
But before we and Peter can sort this out, Jesus calls all the others around, as if to say, “This is something that all of you should hear because it’s really important, and I want you to understand it.” So, maybe we should gather in with them so that we can figure this out too. Peter’s faux pas was about to become a teaching moment for the others…
Jesus looks at each of them, and us, in the eye. “If you want to become my followers, you must deny yourself and take up your cross and follow me. Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”
Peter and we misunderstand both Jesus’ mission and what it is to be a follower if we expect belief in him to be a religion of glory instead of a religion of the cross; or a position of privilege instead of service; or a life of success instead of sacrifice.
Just a quick note that this self-denial and sacrifice that are life-giving are for the sake of Jesus and the gospel and not to be endured in abuse or domination. A person needs to have a sense of self before we can talk about denying that self in following Jesus.
We do Jesus a disservice when we play down the demands of his gospel. Maybe it is in its demand that we give ourselves away, that it has its power. There was a commercial on the radio a while back selling cellular phones, I think.
It has a man and woman exchanging their wedding vows, that end with “for thirty days, with no commitment.” And it asks us, “Don’t you wish all your commitments were that easy?”
Well, frankly, no. I think there are people — maybe you’re one of them — who are tired of being asked for easy commitment, for support that costs us nothing, and you are eager to find something that matters to which you can give yourself away.
Are you prepared to be a follower of Jesus? Are you prepared to take on the role of the servant? to deny yourself? to take up a cross? Can you walk with him, knowing that his suffering may become your suffering? Can you follow him, knowing that you will not be able to sidestep the cross?
Sometimes I wonder whether one problem of the church today might be that we don’t ask enough of ourselves in Jesus’ name. It’s all just a little too comfortable.
We come to worship (when that’s allowed), vaguely remembering that for some in the world this is a dangerous activity; we say the creed almost unaware of its radical claims; we give as we are able, but our pocketbooks demonstrate many higher priorities; we may even take our place at a committee table or help plan a church event, which are fine in themselves; and then Jesus says to us, “I need you to leave behind everything that is safe and familiar to you, so that you can follow me.”
You know, we come to church, (some day!) and the last thing on our minds is the possibility of being jolted out of our complacency — and Jesus says, “You will find yourselves by giving your life away.”
That’s not language we hear a lot today. We’re more into doing, getting, experiencing just about anything we want (for now, so long as it is isolated, masked, and socially distanced.) So, when it comes to our faith, just what have we risked to be a follower? Just what have we denied ourselves so that God’s name is glorified? Just what cross of suffering have we taken up to lift up the good news of Jesus?
We say, “Jesus, I didn’t think it would be this hard.” And Jesus answers,
“But that’s what I called you to — self-denial. Did you think the kingdom would come without a cost?” We say, “So, Jesus, what about that corner office in the glory of your kingdom? And Jesus answers, “Sorry, friend, but all I offered you was a cross. Will you still follow me, and if so, how will the cost of your discipleship be demonstrated in your life?”
We misunderstand the call of the gospel if we think it will lead to glory and privilege. We misunderstand if we think God will be completely congenial to us and never scare us or shake us up.
But we’ve known that all along, haven’t we? It’s true in love, in life, and in faith, that the best reward — maybe the only reward — comes when we give ourselves away completely, to something other than ourselves.
Deep down, I don’t think we are particularly moved to follow a saviour who asks little of us and offers trinkets in return. We are inspired, though, to follow to the ends of the earth, and at any cost, one who asks everything of us and offers life in return.
- “Be still and know with Be still my soul (Finlandia)”. “Be still and know”, music anonymous and in the public domain. “Be still, my soul”, set to the tune of the Finlandia hymn written in 1899 and 1900 by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865–1957); music in the public domain. This arrangement by American composer Mark Hayes (1953–); arrangement copyright © 1995 Word Music, Inc, part of the Lorenz Corporation; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
- Performed on the keyboard by GCPC Music Director Rachelle Risling.
- 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
For all your goodness, God, we give you thanks. We return to you these our gifts as part of our stewardship of all that you have given us. We bring them with the prayer that you would use them to your glory, and so that the good news of your love can continue to be heard.
Great God, with gratitude and joy we acknowledge that you are the source of light and life in our lives, the one whose grace is the source of everything that is good. We praise you for everything that makes our lives so rich and abundant, for joys and experiences that remind us of your goodness, for challenges and opportunities and help us to learn to lean on you for our strength. We praise you for Jesus, his life and teaching, his example and encouragement, his sacrifice and death which was for us, and his resurrection which is the hope of our lives. For all your goodness to us we give you thanks.
In the name of the one who is life to us, we bring our prayers for the world, a world in such need, a world in which there is such suffering and grief, a world where there is brokenness and loneliness. And yet it is a world that you love, and came to us in Christ to save.
We pray that you would supply the needs of all who suffer, who are in want, who live without hope. Those in troubled areas of the world; those who fall between the cracks within our own society; those who cannot afford even the basics for clothing, housing and food; those who live with tension and bitterness in the home; those who have no friend or loved one with whom to share their life. We pray for ourselves, our loved ones, and people across our country and around the world, in the face of all the burden that the pandemic has placed on us all — physically, mentally, and spiritually. Be present to all for whom this has been a difficult time, O God. Lift them up and give them courage. Help them to know that in the life of your son Jesus, you also know about suffering, hardship and loss. And help each of us to commit ourselves to being involved in some way in the relief of suffering, and in bringing the spirit of your compassion into the lives of others who need it.
Great and loving God, in Christ, you invite us to a life of service and self-denial. As Jesus was confronted with a cross in his prime, make us willing to take up a cross, and pay the cost of discipleship in your name. Make us attentive on our journey to your purpose and your power, and the direction of your Spirit. If we find on our road a season of suffering, give us the courage to face it with grace, and to look for your blessing in it, for we know that you are working for good in all things. Help us, with Jesus, to will your will and to walk in your presence, all the days of our lives. In his name we ask it. Amen.
Book of Praise – 634 “Will you come and follow me”
- Video with on-screen words exactly as in the hymnbook.
- Words (1987) by Scottish hymn-writer and Church of Scotland minister John L. Bell (1949–), affiliated with the Iona Community. Music (tune “Kelvingrove”) traditional Scottish melody, arranged John L. Bell. Music in the public domain; words and arrangement © copyright 1987 WGRG Iona Community (Scotland), G.I.A. Publications agent.
- Recorded remotely in their homes by the Choral Scholars of St Martin-in-the-Fields, London, England, and edited together; released 2020.
Commissioning and Benediction
Go out into the world in peace, and whatever you do, whether you speak or act, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God through him.
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.
Copyright © 2021 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church
Last updated on 2021-03-04 at 11:58 – Minor typos corrected.