March 14, 2021 – Fourth Sunday in Lent
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Message from the Rev. Helen Smith
Welcome to worship. Today we are grateful to the Rev. Dale Henry, Chaplain at Evangel Hall, for providing our worship resources. Evangel Hall is one of the ministries our church supports, with a grant of $1,900. It is good to have this opportunity to hear about their work.
Rev. Helen Smith
Call to Worship: PWS&D Liturgy for Lent
Spoken by One (L) / Spoken by All (P)
L: The journey to Jerusalem is long. This is a wilderness journey and we are not always comfortable. But we trust and we persevere.
P: We are pilgrims on a journey. We are travelers on the road.
L: God’s people are familiar with wilderness. After Egypt, they wandered in hunger and thirst— confused and tired—waiting for the promised land. Our destination is different. We aim for Jerusalem—where it all ends— and where there will be new beginnings.
P: We are pilgrims on a journey. We are travelers on the road.
L: Let us pray.
All: God of the wilderness, give us strength when we wander. When we stray and grieve, hunger and thirst, you have promised to make water spring up in the desert. Quench our thirst. Feed us with manna. Strengthen us when we are tired or lack trust. In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.
Book of Praise – 202 “We lay our broken world”
- Video with on-screen words, with just one word different from the hymnbook.
- Words by English author Anna Briggs (1947–), sister-in-law of our own Rev. Bob Smith! Music (tune “Garelochside”) by British music teacher Kenneth George Finlay (1882–1974). Words copyright © Iona Community; music copyright © Broomhill Church of Scotland, Glasgow.
- Video recorded at St Ninian’s Cathedral, Perth, Perth, Scotland, for an episode of the BBC Televison programme Songs of Praise.
Prayers of Approach and Confession
Gracious God, Great and wonderful are your deeds! Your steadfast love is everlasting. You have come among us in Jesus the Christ to save us. Where there is darkness, you bring light. Where there is sadness, you speak words of hope. Where there is despair, you bring new possibilities. You heal the sick, and forgive the sinner. You bring justice for the troubled, and show us the way. So make alive in us with your Holy Spirit, in this time of worship. Awaken our delight and admiration as we offer you our songs, our prayers, our words and our praises, for you are our loving God, Creator, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.
Merciful God, even as we worship you, we are aware of our failures. We take your love and approval of us for granted. We are often not careful; not loving with our relationships, we are more centered on ourselves, than on you, or on our neighbours. We spend our days caught up in the news, rather than seeking your light and your way. So forgive us. Awaken our spirit of commitment and compassion and love. Give us an improved vision of your intentions and our place within them, so we may serve you more faithfully, more loving, day by day.
We pray in your name and continue to pray as you taught your disciples:
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.
Assurance of Pardon
Friends in Christ, by grace we have been saved through faith and God’s love. This is not our doing, but God’s gift to us. Know that God forgives you, and so forgive one another.
The Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
Psalm 107: 1–3, 17–22 <– these link to on-line texts of the NRSV bible
Numbers 21: 4–9
John 3: 14–21
Click here for additional scripture readings from today’s lectionary. Links courtesy of the Revised Common Lectionary, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.
“A Message from Evangel Hall Mission”
I have learned over the years that many Christians, from various cultural, racial and denomination perspectives, take great interest in memorizing key verses of the Bible. Today’s Gospel reading includes one of the most memorized and professed verses from the Bible – John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
And from a North American perspective, John 3:16 is also greatly covenanted. In fact, one of my earliest exposures to this verse was watching an American football game on the television as a youth. I will never forget when the cameras focused on a spectator in the stadium who was waving a cardboard sign with “John 3:16” printed on it! This spectator certainly wanted to share this verse’s good news with everyone who was watching the football game.
But, today’s Gospel reading is much more than just this one verse. In fact, all three of today’s readings beautifully combine together to paint a picture that teaches us and others on how to live together with, in and through Jesus the Christ and God. This picture shines out pure light to show us and others the path; the way to truly live a meaningful life. The picture reminds and cautions us and others that the world’s darkness may overcome all of us when we are distracted or tempted away. The picture shows us and others when we or others fall into this darkness that believing in God and Christ will raise all of us up from the deep. And the picture leads us to act like Christ, be like Christ, to live like Christ to save others from their distress and deliver them from their destruction and heal them.
Wow what a picture to gaze upon and live in. In these three Bible passages, we can truly find eternal life, and we can live and share this life with others. And this leads me to give you thanks for the blessings and life that you have provided to Evangel Hall Mission in the past and to the others who need and use its resources. At the same time, I have been given this opportunity to share with you how Evangel Hall Mission remains to be a symbol of hope to others, “just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so … [that others] may have eternal life.”
It is interesting to note when I joined Evangel Hall Mission nearly a year and a half ago, I really did not know what it truly did. I did not know all of the Mission’s origins, mandate, and all of its activities. I did not know who were the clients or its partners and donors. I did not know that a significant support came from volunteers and students. And when I give church groups a complete tour of the facilities and explain all of this to them, their response is, “I did not know!” So let us begin our Evangel Hall Mission journey to learn what we do not know.
As some of you do know, Evangel Hall Mission was founded in 1913 by the Presbyterian Church in Canada. It is a community service agency that delivers programs that address homelessness and poverty in Toronto. It strives to be a safe haven where people living with mental and physical health challenges, fighting addictions, and fleeing abuse that can take a rest from their burdens and access supports to work towards brighter futures.
Evangel Hall Mission offers a range of care, meeting the immediate needs of people experiencing homelessness and poverty. At the same time, we attempt to provide them with tools and community support to attain stable housing, financial independence, and self-sufficiency. Our purpose is to build community with poor, homeless, and socially isolated people in Toronto through support, housing, services, and advocacy. Our values include acceptance and respect, and to treat people with dignity and … and with love. And from a duty of care, we undertake our obligations in a faithful and consistent manner, with integrity and tolerance. And above all, we are there to do God’s will.
And so, if we return to our reading from the Book of Psalms, we can see that God’s will is very present at Evangel Hall Mission. Yes we have clients or participants who come to us “sick through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities endured affliction.” At Evangel Hall Mission, we view their illness with God’s compassion and love, and with a mental health, abuse and addiction lens. Many of our clients and participants are troubled souls, who at an early age were victims of family dysfunction, poor choices and unfortunate addictions. For some of them, they may even consider themselves drawing “near to the gates of death.” And so we attempt to be with them in their trouble and their distress and maybe “deliver them from destruction.” It is interesting to note, that this past summer we had a drug overdose occur in our driveway. Fortunately, we had a Narcan (naloxone) kit available and it was used to prevent one more tragedy; one more destruction.
So what do we do at Evangel Hall Mission in practical terms? We provide meals, and a place to eat, where it is warm in the winter and cooler in the summer. With the addition of sandwiches, we can feed a person for the entire day.
We provide client support in the form of finding housing for clients. Staff will assist clients in their search for appropriate housing given their economic options. We also operate a residential building that has 84 units of safe, self-contained, and affordable rent-geared-to-income housing units. In our residence, we have tenants from diverse backgrounds, with many different lived experiences. To assist our tenants we have staff that provide 1:1 support encouraging tenants back to the work force if possible, reconnecting with family, or to develop a hobby, skill or significant volunteer commitment. Residence staff also provide activities such as gardening, coffee hour, a resident creative group, and celebrating holiday events such as Christmas.
We also have a financial trusteeship program, where staff meet with clients regularly, to help with bill payments, manage their disposable money, undertake tax reporting, and to teach financial management skills. Staff take the time to listen to and understand each client’s complex story and help them to achieve their goals. And each year, at tax time, we open up our CRA Community Volunteer Income Tax Clinic to all people who qualify for this free program.
Given that a portion of our community are not housed or sheltered, we continue to provide some of the basic necessities of life such as a hot shower, free use of laundry machines and clean clothing. In addition, these clients have a higher frequency of losing or having their identification stolen. Therefore, we assist our clients in obtaining new ID.
We also provide a sense of community by having a women’s group, a men’s group and a creative arts group. These groups decide what activities they would like to undertake and the time, space, materials and leadership is provided by us to help instil this sense of community.
And yes, believe it or not, Evangel Hall Mission is still operating a Dental Clinic that provides free dental hygiene care to some of Toronto’s most vulnerable citizens. By providing care for one’s teeth is a step closer to helping individuals live a more healthy, dignified and independent life.
Of course, very little of this could happen without the generosity of our partners and donors. Our food partners include: Second Harvest, Daily Bread, North York Harvest Food Bank and Cobs Bread. Our health partners include: Toronto Central LHIN (nurse on site once a week; pre-pandemic), Narcotics Anonymous (meetings; pre-pandemic), Alcoholics Anonymous (meetings; pre-pandemic), Toronto Public Health (regular flu shots) and the Toronto College of Dental Hygiene.
We also partner with the University of Toronto, Faculty of Law (pre-pandemic) to bring in law students into Evangel Hall Mission to increase the accessibility of legal services to our clients and participants. Their services are available, free of charge, to low-income individuals who need assistance with a legal matter that falls within the clinic’s area of practice.
And as mentioned before, very little of this could happen without donors and donations. Each year, over a million dollars is raised through generous donors. Cash donations are received as major gifts, bequests, on-going monthly donations, and one-time donations. Donations come from individuals, churches, foundations, and corporations. And yes, we even have Special Fund Raising Events such as the Annual Golf Tournament and the Scotiabank Marathon.
And of course, we provide Spiritual Care. We have unique Sunday services alongside our community dinners. During the service, with masks on, the participants are asked a specific question catered to their needs from the Gospel reading. Responses are provoking and usually meaningful for others to hear. Over the past six months attendance has very been strong.
Of course, we cater to one-to-one spiritual care togetherness. This enables us to listen and possibly attend to participant’s spiritual needs, other needs and questions. Where need is identified, we can connect clients and participants with other community agencies, faith-based programs, and support networks And always, prayers are provided when asked for. There is never a day that passes without at least one prayer request being made.
As a special note, during the past seven months, we have accepted a student from Emmanuel College who is seeking a Masters in Pastoral studies that focuses on Spiritual Care and Psychotherapy. This has allowed us to spend more time with our participants and possibly allow them to find better spiritual and other meaning in their lives.
There are also the unfortunate times where clients or participants die and pass on. Spiritual Care seeks out into the community if there is a need for a memorial service to honour the person and to remember and celebrate their life. At the same time, the service may provide a space for grief and comfort for the people present. It is to remind them they are not alone and that life does not end in ashes and dust.
So, “Can any good thing come from Nazareth?” (John 1:46) or from Evangel Hall Mission? Absolutely! I am privileged everyday to see improvements that are being made in people’s lives. People are fed, clothed and sheltered. But it is more than that. People feel safer, live in a community and are welcomed for who they are. But it is more than that. People feel respect, have dignity, and most of all are loved; with God love.
Evangel Hall Mission may be a Presbyterian “Bronze Serpent” that is raised high for people to come and see and do and believe, but it is more. It is a place where God is present and sharing God’s love. It is a place where “God so loved [it] that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” It is a place where churches are invited to participate and engage and share God’s love. But, but, more importantly, it is a place to receive God’s love.
Yes Moses created the “Bronze Serpent” and God provided God’s son to show all of us the way that we are loved and cared for. But, we have been given the ultimate gift of eternal life through loving God and our neighbours, and by carrying out kindness and justice, and walking humbly with our Lord. Amen.
- “Lamb of God”. Words and music by American singer-songwriter Twila Paris (1958–). Arranged by American composer Mark Hayes (1953–). Words and music copyright © 1985 Straightaway Music/Mountain Spring Music, administered by EMI Christian Music Publishing, part of Capitol Christian Music Group; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
- Keyboards 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.
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Hope
Generous and gracious God, with your great mercy, you have made us alive together in Christ. You have shown us and others infinite riches through your grace and mercy, and we offer you our deepest thankfulness. We pray that each person will know the fullness of your gifts in ways that touch their deepest needs.
We pray for those dear to us and all those who have assisted us during the past year of the pandemic…
We pray for those who continue to struggle in isolation or frustration…
for all those who experience illness or pain in body, mind or spirit…
for all who have lost someone or something significant their lives
and have to deal with grief and loss…
May all these, your children, know your grace and mercy.
We pray for peace and safety in the world…
for countries struggling to care for their citizens and to rebuild their economies…
for all who do not receive the respect and consideration they deserve…
for all those persecuted for their faith or their view and long to live in freedom…
May all these, your children, know your grace and mercy.
We pray for churches all around the world and for the congregations we know…
for the work of presbyteries across Canada and the faithful ministries they lead in this time of “lock downs,” masks and physical distancing…
for the learning we have gained through “pivoting” during the pandemic and all who have connected to church in new ways…
and for ministers and other leaders who are finding this time of planning, and providing pastoral care and worship stressful…
May church in all its many expressions, including our Evangel Hall Mission, know your grace and mercy.
We pray for the concerns on our hearts this day,
for the fears and frustrations we struggle with…
for any troubled relationships…
for the doubts and the hopes which challenge us…
for the need of healing and support…
May we, your children, know your grace and mercy.
God of all times and situations,
We bear on our hearts concerns for many around us,
people we know and situations we care about,
where suffering exerts its power and challenges seem overwhelming.
Hear us in this time of silence as we open our hearts and their needs to you:
Let us pray for: …
And may God bring comfort and peace to all families who have lost love ones recently. Gracious and Merciful God, bind up the broken hearted.
Bring justice for the vulnerable.
Send your Holy Spirit of healing and hope to embrace those who need you.
Of course, we ask all this in the name of your Son, Jesus the Christ our Lord, who is our hope and our peace, and our joy, and our love. Amen
Book of Praise – 758 “Christ’s is the world”
- The hymn is also known as “A Touching Place”.
- Video with on-screen words as in the hymnbook, but with verse 3 omitted.
- Words (1989) 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 (Scottish traditional; tune “Dream Angus”) arranged in 1989 by Bell. Words and arrangement copyright © 1989, Iona Community, GIA Publications, Inc. agent.
- Performed by the Choir Of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral with Northern Irish soloist Joanne Hogg, and recorded at Selby Abbey, Selby, North Yorkshire, England, for an episode of the BBC Televison programme Songs of Praise.
May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord turn towards you and provide you God’s love and God’s love for others. Amen
Copyright © 2021 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church
Last updated on 2021-03-13 at 11:55 – First version.