May 9, 2021 – Sixth Sunday of Easter
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Message from the Rev. Bob Smith
Welcome to worship today as we celebrate Christian Family Sunday, or Mother’s Day. Families come in lots of sizes and shapes. At their best, maybe what they all have in common is that they are groups tied together by kinship and love. And where they are not, that can be our hope.
While we are still apart from one another physically, we come together through print and the internet, in the hope that we will soon be able to do so face to face. May God be present to us in our midst today, and by the Spirit make us one.
Let us worship God.
Call to Worship
You can listen to the audio recording of the Call to Worship with Rev. Bob Smith, joining in unison with him and Rev. Helen Smith, while consulting the text below (the audio is part of the Welcome message recording above); or just use the text below.
Spoken by One (L) / Spoken by All (P)
L: We come together in the presence of God,
P: from whom every family in heaven and on earth receives its name.
L: We come with a prayer for the peace of God,
P: that it would dwell in our families.
L: We come with a prayer for the love of God,
P: that it would build up the life of the whole human family.
L: May the grace of God fill us all,
P: our hearts, our lives, our families, and the world, to the glory of God.
Book of Praise – 314 “God is love: come heaven, adoring”
- Video with on-screen words; major differences to the words in the hymnbook; follow along on the screen.
- Words (1922) by English clergyman Timothy Rees (1874–1939); music by English clergyman Cyril Vincent Taylor (1907–1991), tune Abbot’s Leigh, 1941.
- This recording from an episode of the BBC TV show Songs of Praise.
Prayers of Adoration, Confession, Lord’s Prayer
Great God, as we come together in worship, we thank and praise you for the love you have shown us, and especially on this Christian Family Sunday, for the love we share in our families. We give you thanks for them, for families rooted in love, where character is formed and values are learned, where lives are filled with hope and laughter. They are gifts of your grace, and we praise you for them, great God, Creator, Redeemer and Holy Spirit.
Loving God, as we lift up the relationships in our families and celebrate the love in our homes, we acknowledge that our families sometimes disappoint us. We fight, we hurt one other, we say and do things that are unloving. Forgive us, gracious God. Where there is pain or resentment, enter in with your healing love. Where we have let one another down, help us to forgive, and to rebuild our life together. Show us how to be forces of your love and reconciliation, so that our families may be a source of your abundant life, given to us in Christ Jesus. We join together in the prayer he gave 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.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours
now and forever. Amen.
Declaration of Pardon
Friends in Christ, hear the good news. Jesus tells us that he came not to condemn the world, but so that the world might be saved through him. Receive the forgiveness that God offers you in Christ. Thanks be to God. Amen.
The peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
(And also with you.)
It’s the middle of Saturday morning, and the whole day is stretching out before them. There’s nothing especially pressing to do — it’s a perfect lazy day. Mother and father are sitting at the kitchen table, reading the paper. He has not shaved and is dressed in jeans and t-shirt She is still in her housecoat, has given no attention to her hair yet. As they read and drink coffee, sounds of superhero violence drift from the rec room where their 7-year-old daughter, Jessica, is watching TV.
Eventually, Jessica gets bored with the cartoon carnage, and wanders into the room. “I’m hungry,” she says.
“Would you like some cereal?” suggests the mother.
“How about some toast?” asks the father, trying to be helpful.
Neither adult has lifted their eyes from the newspaper. Father is checking the Friday night sports scores and mother is dreaming of a Caribbean cruise, just to celebrate the end of the pandemic, whenever that happens
Mother tries again, “There’s some fruit in the basket there, dear.”
“No. Can I have some ice cream?
“No,” replies the father, immediately — there is something wrong with ice cream before lunch time even on a lazy Saturday. Jessica just stands there. They continue to read the paper.
Mother discovers you can get a week-long cruise for under $2,000 each, not including airfare. If they save their income tax refund, and wait until next year for that new fridge, maybe they could swing it. He’s going through all the analysis of the Leafs’ chances in the playoffs and who might be traded before next year.
Then there is their daughter’s little voice again. “Can we get a puppy soon?”
They had to put their old dog down a couple of months ago. Someday, they had said, they’d get another, but there was always something else to do.
This time mother looks up from the paper. “Yes, honey, sometime soon. You miss old Buster, don’t you?”
The child’s eyes are a little moist. She nods and comes over to snuggle beside her mom who puts an arm around her.
A few more seconds go by. What would the price to Vegas be? And what other teams might they face in the playoffs?
Then Jessica’s little voice again, “We’re all going to die, aren’t we?”
The newspapers come down this time, right down. They are folded and tossed onto the table. Mom and Dad exchange a quick look.
Why do children have to grow up as fast as they do? Why do they have to ask the questions they do? Why can’t they just stay in their childhood world of innocence, of ice cream and Saturday morning cartoons? Why do their dogs die, and why do they have to learn so young that we will all die? How do you answer such a question? Is this the time to talk about illness, and suffering, and mortality? Is this the time to talk about God, and everlasting love, and the power of God to defeat even the biggest, meanest enemies and bring light to even the darkest night? What kind of information. what kind of comfort, what kind of love is their little 7-year-old Jessica needing this Saturday morning?
It is a critical parenting moment. It will take wisdom and gentleness, love and sensitivity, to get through this moment. They will stumble on as best they can.
“Well, sweetheart, you’re right. We are all going to die,” the dad has taken the first plunge.
Then mother steps in to help, “But you know, it’s probably not going to be for a long, long time.”
Then father picks up the ball, “And we know that whatever happens, God will hold us close.”
They wait. There is a long silence. Jessica has a far-away look in her eye. Then she brightens a bit and says, “You know what I want to do?”
The parents are smart enough just to wait.
“I want to play a video game with you, Dad, and don’t worry, we’ll keep it on an easy level for you.”
A sigh of relief from the parents. The moment is over. They did okay, but there will be more. More times when they will need to be there to hold her hand, to assure her of their love and presence for her, and to help her grow in love. At the very least, their daughter has learned that their family kitchen table is a safe and hopeful place.
“I think maybe I’d like a video game,” says the dad, “but first I think we should look and see if there’s any ice cream in the freezer.”
And the mother adds, “And maybe this afternoon would be a good time to look for a puppy.”
This is a day when we look at our families, at our roles as a parent or child, a husband or wife, a brother or sister.
It is a day to look at the love that we share in our homes, the way we relate to one another. the life that we share. In our families is where we look for and give support, the place we go to share our joy when we are on top of the world; the place we go to for a shoulder to cry on when we are feeling crushed; the place where we learn how to trust, and how to be true to our promises; the place where we first learn about love — love for one another in our homes, and the love of God over us all.
John tells us that our love for one another is grounded in God’s love for us. He challenges us to love not just in word or speech, but in truth and action. Talk is cheap but love that is shown in action is what really counts. Isn’t that the truth, and aren’t our families a place where that is put to the test.
When they are at their best, that kind of love is what grows in our homes, and keeps us close in our families. It’s the place where we don’t just talk about love – we practice real love day by day, year by year, in the caring things we do for one another.
An eight-year-old boy was asked how to make love endure. “Be a good kisser,” he said. “It might make your wife forget that you never take out the trash.” Well, kissing is great, but John would say that true love is demonstrated by taking out the trash.
Family is the place where we learn love, seated on our parent’s knee gathered around the kitchen table. And to be honest, it is sometimes the place where it is hardest to love. That’s because it’s the place where we are known for who we really are. Our families know all our faults. They know who we are when our masks are down – and not just our Covid masks – they know who we are when we are not as civil or respectable as we would like the world to think we are, when we are tired and crabby. They know who we are, and if we are blessed, we learn that they love us anyway.
When I think back to my childhood and the memories I have of good times or times when I felt loved or that I belonged, what stands out are simply the times we were together.
They were the ordinary moments that turned out to be extraordinary and memorable: raking the leaves with my dad out in the back yard, summer camping adventures together as a family, walking with my brothers to school, taking up a whole pew in church each week (I come from a large family) sitting together around our big dining room table, playing football together on Sunday afternoons in the park.
Love in action in our families, for parents and children, is going to mean a thousand things, big and small. It will be in acts of kindness, words of forgiveness, and deeds of thoughtfulness, and they will be done for love, not recognition. It will be in the respect we show to one another – and that’s not just children respecting their parents, but parents respecting their children, their dreams, their individuality, their likes and dislikes.
Maybe in this day and age, the most precious action of love we can have in our families, young and old, is to make time for one another. There is a lot of talk about quality time. Quality time can’t be fabricated or ordered up on the spot. It comes first from spending time together, a lot of it pretty ordinary and every day, doing the dishes, walking to school, eating meals together. And once in a while, a look is given, a question is asked, a tear is shed, and suddenly a door opens, an opportunity is given where hearts can meet and love can grow.
The gift of love in action at that moment is to be there, to put the paper down and to be as fully present to the other as you know how. Those moments can change lives, and might be remembered decades later as being a turning point, a moment when a light bulb went on in the head, or when an identity was discovered.
Why do we idolize the people who put in too many hours at work, who are never home, who miss all the important moments with their children? And somehow we have begun to think that is good. I read some time ago about a businessman, who was trying to show people how committed he was to his work. “My daughter told me the other night that she had just earned her green level in swimming. I didn’t even know that she was taking swimming lessons.”
I can remember well the day that one of our children filled out the little pew card in church, only partly in fun, and ticked off the box that said, “Would like a visit from the minister.”
Every child, not to mention every adult, needs at least one person, who thinks they are the greatest, who is willing to give intentional, unconditional love, who will take time to be there, and who, once in a while, might even be willing to break the rule about no ice cream in the morning.
Just one person can make the difference between your becoming well-adjusted, with a realistic sense of peace and well-being – and one who is defeated and fatalistic; between your being someone who is loving and giving – and one who is critical and demanding and possessive; between your knowing the grace and love of God in your life — and one who cynically rejects it.
Who is it who has shown you what love is? Who took the time to be with you to tell you about life and death, and love and loss? Who is it who has loved you in truth and action, who modelled God’s love for you?
On this Christian Family Sunday, maybe we can thank God for the times and lift up those people who have loved us. Maybe we can commit ourselves to being that kind of person within our own families and beyond, for those who live in homes where love does not grow easily.
There is no better gift that we can give each other than love. And no better place to let it grow than in our homes.
And now to the one who first showed us what love is
we give all honour, glory, majesty and power,
now and forever. Amen.
- “Salut d’Amour (Liebesgruß)”, Op. 12. Music from 1888 by English composer Edward Elgar (1857–1934). This arrangement for piano by Rachelle Risling. Music public domain. Arrangement copyright © 2021 Rachelle Risling.
- Performed on the piano by GCPC Music Director Rachelle Risling. Pictures in the video by Angela Lattanzio.
- Audio and video recording copyright © 2021 Rachelle Risling; used by permission.
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
Thank you, God, that you have made us and remade us, and that we can share in your creative power, by having the chance to build your reign on earth through our gifts. Because you have loved us, we have much that we can give. We ask you to bless these gifts for your good uses, in Jesus’ name.
Loving God, you who are a parent to us, and who has called us into your family of faith, in this time of prayer we thank you for your love. We thank you for Jesus who taught us of your all-encompassing parents’ love; the love that waits with anxiety for us to return home; the love that also runs down the road to gather us in your arms; the love that searches until we are found; that loved us so much you sent us Jesus.
We give you thanks for our own families, remembering especially our own mothers and fathers who took care of us, who selflessly met our needs, nurturing us and surrounding us with love and security. We pray for our children, whether they are in their formative years under our care, or who have set out on their own to make their own lives, to study, to find a career, to fall in love, to raise their own children, that you would watch over them, guide them in the decisions they make, and give them grace to face life’s challenges.
Remembering the world-wide family of humankind, we pray for those places where families are torn apart or face terrible hardships through poverty, political upheaval, or natural disasters. And closer to home, we pray for all families in the struggles and challenges that they face. We pray:
- for marriage partners, that they may live with respect, tenderness and a love grounded in your love for us, and with the commitment to honour their marriage vows. For marriages in tension, we pray for understanding and reconciliation. For marriages that have come apart we ask for healing and renewal. And for those whose partners have died we pray for your peace and presence.
- for parents rejoicing in the birth of a child that you will give them all they need.
- for parents who are stretched in patience and love, who find things hard, with too much to do and not enough time to it, and who are running out of energy and patience.
- For parents who have trouble providing for their household, whose children do not have enough food to eat, clothes to wear, or proper medication, and maybe not even clean water or safe housing, that you would provide;
- For couples unable to have children, or who know the sorrow of losing a child, that you would hold them in love and sustain them in other loving relationships.
Loving God, in you we find hope, healing and love. Grant that in our families, and in all our relationships, your love would bind us together and give us the courage to face the challenges. May the love we share be a reflection of your love, strengthen our society, and help to build your reign, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Book of Praise – 600 “When love is found”
- Video with on-screen words identical to those in the hymnbook.
- Words (1978) by English hymnwriter Brian A. Wren (1936–); music (tune “O Waly Waly) based on a Scottish folk song, first published by English musician and composer Cecil Sharp (1859–1924) in Folk Songs From Somerset (1906); this arrangement by Rachelle Risling. Words copyright © 1983 Hope Publishing Co; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A. Music public domain. Arrangement copyright © 2021 Rachelle Risling, used by permission.
- Vocals and keyboard performed by GCPC Music Director Rachelle Risling.
- Audio and video recording copyright © 2021 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church.
Commissioning and Benediction
Go now in peace, to love one another as Jesus loved us.
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.
- “Go Now in Peace”. Words by American educator, lyricist and composer Don Besig (1936–) and American lyricist Nancy Price (1958–). Music by Don Besig. Words and music copyright © 1988 Harold Flammer Music, a division of Shawnee Press; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
- Performed by Rachelle Risling (keyboard) and the GCPC Senior Choir. Audio and video production by Rachelle Risling.
- Audio and video recording copyright © 2021 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church.
Copyright © 2021 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church
Last updated on 2021-05-08 at 13:30 – First version.