June 13, 2021 – Third Sunday after Pentecost
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Message from the Rev. Helen Smith
We read or listen to these worship resources on our own time. We are in our daytime or our night time pyjamas. Coffee hour can be on the couch, even during the service. It is not exactly corporate worship. But it is what we have, and we pray for the Spirit’s presence to use what we have to bring us together, to keep us all safe, and to give God glory.
Rev. Helen Smith
Call to Worship
You can listen to the audio recording of the Call to Worship with Rev. Helen Smith while consulting the text below (the audio is part of the Welcome message recording above); or just use the text below.
(adapted from Isaiah 43: 1, 2)
“Do not fear”, says the Lord, “for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”
When we pass through the waters, God will be with us, and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm us. Come, let us worship God.
Book of Praise – 651 “Guide me, O thou great Redeemer”
- Video with on-screen words the same as in the hymnbook, except for at the end of verse 1.
- Original Welsh words by Welsh by William Williams Pantycelyn (1717–1791); English translation (1771) by Welsh Methodist Peter Williams (1723–1796). Music (1907; tune “Cwm Rhondda”) by Welsh composer John Hughes (1873–1932). Words and music in the public domain.
- From an episode of the BBC programme “Songs of Praise”, recorded at Royal Albert Hall, London.
Prayers of Approach and Confession
God, our companion, our guide, we would be lost without your direction, wanderers in wildernesses of our own making. We praise you for dealing so graciously with your people in the past, when you guided them to freedom and new life. We are heirs of that promise fulfilled in Jesus, our Redeemer. Through him you have given direction for our lives. May our worship be a joyful response of praise and thanksgiving for all that you have done, all that you are doing, and for all that you will continue to do for us and all people through the power of the Holy Spirit.
God of pilgrims, you brought the children of Israel out of slavery and despair. Deliver us from the prisons of selfishness and bring us home to justice, sharing and compassion. We have failed to live into the promise of new life. We have been afraid to enter waters to help others. We have sought ease and comfort, ignoring the hungry and sick in the world. Forgive us when we have seen our faith in such narrowness, as adhering to certain doctrines rather than stepping out into the water, living for others, risking ourselves for the sake of others.
We pray in Jesus’ name, and continue to pray as he taught:
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.
Assurance of Pardon
In Christ we are a renewed community. Old things are done away with, all things become new. We are agents of grace and reconciliation. With every step or stumble, God will be with us and we move forward with confidence. Thanks be to God.
The Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
- “The Lord’s My Shepherd”. Words are Psalm 23, paraphrased from the Scottish Metrical Psalter (1650). Music (c. 1872; tune: Crimond) by Scottish hymnwriter Jessie Seymour Irvine (1836–1887). Harmony (1929) by Scottish organist and composer Thomas Cuthbertson Leithead Pritchard (1885–1960). Descant by W. Baird Ross (1871–1950). Words, music, harmony and descant in the public domain.
- Performed by the GCPC Senior Choir. Keyboard, direction and video production by Music Director Rachelle Risling.
- This video and audio recording copyright © 2021 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church.
The Bible functions on many different levels at once. There is the overarching story of salvation with its soaring themes:
- God’s creative and creating power,
- freedom and liberation,
- the call to justice,
- God become human in Jesus Christ, or the incarnation of God’s love,
- the renewal of creation and the new heaven and the new earth.
Within this overarching story, there are several large, governing stories within the Bible:
- The Exodus and journey to the Promised Land,
- The reign of the kings, especially King David
- and the rise of Jerusalem,
- The exile to Babylon and the restoration of the people to their home,
- The call of the prophets to justice and true worship,
- The birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ,
- And the birth and rise of the Christian Church.
And within each of these stories, there are details that can change lives.
The story of the crossing of the River Jordan is part of the much larger story of the Exodus and the journey to the promised land. There are a lot of sticky questions in this story. On one level, the journey of the Israelites through the wilderness to the Promised Land is loaded with questions about favouritism, conquest, colonization, the reaction of an oppressed people to the prospect of power and the God who seems to condone violence. These are not issues to be ignored! But they are also not issues that we can tackle in the space of a single sermon. While it is extremely important to acknowledge them, today I want us to look within the larger story to some details that can change our lives and help us along our faith journeys.
The Bible inspires these overarching stories of purpose, but it is also concerned with the microcosm of our own lives, the decisions we make in faith every day, and what we need on the journey.
The story we read from the third chapter of Joshua is about being on the edge of new possibility. It is about being on the brink of newness. This story is a culmination story, the end of a long, complex journey, that begins with slavery in Egypt. This story is also about the beginning of a whole new complicated adventure. As Green Day sings: “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”
Culmination stories can be epic like this one, but they can also be every day stories: Stories of moving house and home, of giving birth, of retiring, stories of graduations, of the end of formal learning. I don’t know if they still do this, but when I graduated from high school, (back when Noah was coming off the ark) they called the ceremony “Commencement”. It was the end of my high school days, and the beginning, the commencing of something new. Endings and beginnings. –
This little story from the book of Joshua is about being on the brink of something incredible. It is about risk-taking. It is about taking a step, trusting that God will honour that step forward, and do something amazing in response.
The Israelites stand on the edge of the River Jordan, at harvest time. The river is known to overflow its banks at that time, as it flows down toward the great salt sea. After 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, following the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, setting up camp after camp in the desert, looking for water, wondering where on earth they are with no GPS to guide them, they stand on the edge of the water. After 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, leaving behind a life of slavery and back-breaking labour, banking their lives on the promise of a place they could call home, they stand on the edge of possibility.
After 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, the Israelites stand on the edge of new life looking across the banks of the Jordan River to the Promised Land, the land of milk and honey. When the Israelites fled from their slave masters in Egypt, there were a great many obstacles between them and the “promised land” that God spoke about in prophets, dreams, and visions. Now, however, there were only two obstacles remaining between the people and the Promised Land: The River Jordan and their fear.
The Lord speaks to Joshua and tells him that when the priests of the people start to move with the Ark of the Covenant, he should be ready to follow so that, as God says, “you may know the way you should go for you have not passed this way before” (Joshua 3:4). Now the Ark of the Covenant was a large wooden box, overlayed with gold. They had carried it throughout the latter part of their journey in the wilderness. It contained, among other things, the tablets of the Ten Commandments, the words of their covenant with God, and signified for them the presence of God with them “And when the priests get to the edge of the water,” the Lord tells Joshua, “it is a sign that I am on the move. Have the people all assembled and ready to go. There is no bridge or causeway or tunnel. Just stand on the edge. Then get your feet wet. I will make a way through.”
And here is where it gets particularly interesting: “When the priests, the ones who carry the Ark of the Covenant, dip their toes into the water, when they place the soles of their feet down in the rushing river, then I will act in an amazing way.” In this case, God won’t just part the water all on God’s own, without any initiative from humans. God will wait for the priests to dip their toes in, to take a step. That is the catalyst. They won’t hold a staff over the water to make it part, the way that Moses did with the Red Sea, and they won’t strike the water with their cloaks to make it part, the way that both Elijah and Elisha will do later on the banks of this same river. They just have to start wading into the water.
And so, the story goes, the priests dipped their toes in the water, and when they did, God made the waters stop flowing, piling up the waters in a heap. And all the people crossed over the River Jordan on dry land.
It is the season of Pentecost. And we remember and celebrate that the Holy Spirit has breathed holy breath into each of us, and we are all priests. And what that means is that we are the ones who carry the presence of God. When we move, it may well be the sign that God is on the move. And when we dip our toes into the edge of new beginnings, taking a risk in faith, God will act. God will do amazing things. And like the priests before us, we need to make that first move, having confidence that we are being faithful to what God wants us to do. If it is the will of God, it will likely be a risk, it will feel significant and maybe even a little scary.
So what might it look like for you to “dip your toe in the edge of the waters” that stand between you and the plans God has for you? What washes over your feet, reminding you of the distance between where you are and where you want to be, the distance between who you are and who God gifted you to be? Where is God calling you to take a step in faith?
Maybe it has to do with raising a family, bringing a child or children up in the world, or letting go of a child who is about to take wings and fly off into the world. As opportunities improve, maybe it is a job, after a pandemic layoff. Maybe it has to do with retirement, the end brings a new beginning. Maybe it has to do with vocation and making a change that will help you use your gifts better, serve God’s world better, or turn a corner. Maybe it has to do with beginning a project, or a ministry, that you have always dreamed of doing, that you know God is calling you to try, but you have never found the time or resources to start.
What might it look like for us, for Guildwood Church, to “dip our toe in the edge of the waters”? Surely, we are on the edge of something new as we anticipate extending the call to the Rev. Chuck Moon. Surely, we are on the edge as we anticipate returning to in person worship after a long time away. Surely, we are on the edge as we think of the work that was being done with regard to our damaged windows, (remember that from before the pandemic?) and the opportunities proposed of new ways of engaging in God’s mission in the world with our building. Our feet are getting a little bit wet.
And here is what God has promised: First, God has promised to be present. In the Joshua story, that presence is represented by the Ark of the Covenant, a sacred box that journeyed wherever they journeyed, camped in the centre of every tent village they built as they moved their way through the wilderness. In the Pentecost story, the presence of God comes to us as Spirit, a Holy Spirit that is breathed into each of us and is within us. The presence of God is everywhere among us, behind, before, beside, within. God’s primary promise to God’s people is, always has been, and always will be to be there with us: in danger and in quiet, in the “same old same old”, in the possibilities of newness that are ever before us, in risk, in success, and in failure.
Second, God has promised to act, to remove the water, the obstacles. Our God is not a passive God. God doesn’t sit back and fold the divine arms and observe what will happen to us next. Our God has promised to act on our behalf, to lead us in the way of life and hope, and to help us become the people that God intends that we become.
All it takes on our part is a first step into the water, into the rush of the flooded banks, into a world that needs us to speak out. And God will act. God will create new possibilities for us, and make a way forward for us. And that is especially true when we take a risk, make a move. God will respond.
Individually we may be on the edge of possibility, on the brink of newness. Certainly, corporately, our congregation is on the edge of possibility. As with the Israelites at the crossing of the Jordan, take a step, and God will honour that step forward. Get your feet wet, and God will be with us, as God was with Joshua and the children of Israel, and with Moses before them. We shall cross into new territory, knowing that among us is the active, living God.
- “The Water Is Wide”. Scottish folk song, first published in Folk Songs From Somerset (1906). Tune is called “O Waly, Waly”. Music in the public domain. This arrangement copyright © 2021 Rachelle Risling; used by permission.
- 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.
Prayers of Dedication, Thanksgiving and Hope
Receive, O God, our gifts of our money, our gifts of our time, our gifts of our talents. With these gifts, we are dipping our feet into the water. Bless these gifts, use these gifts, for the building of your reign.
God of spring and strawberries, of fragrant flowers, of hope and new life, we give you thanks. Creator God, from whom all life springs forth, we give you thanks. We thank you that the old has passed away and everything has become new. We thank you that you are with us, in our despair and fear, that you sigh and weep with us and wipe away our tears. We thank you that you are with us in our joy, that you laugh and dance with us, and celebrate the freedom that is ours in Christ.
Loving God, we offer up our prayers of hope for this day. For those who are afraid to move forward, for those struggling to rebuild their lives in the midst of this pandemic. Help us to walk with each other, to hold up each other.
We pray for those struggling with illness, those undergoing treatment, those who are receiving palliative care. Bring your wholeness, your healing peace into their lives.
We pray for those who mourn the loss of a loved one, or the loss of a relationship, or the loss of their livelihood. Comfort them with your presence.
We pray for people who are having trouble keeping their housing, people who do not have enough food to eat. Help us to share what we have.
We give thanks for teachers, for health care workers, for cleaners, grocery store clerks, for all those essential workers who are keeping us safe. We pray for strength and energy for them.
We pray for our Muslim brothers and sisters in Canada and around the world, reeling from the latest hate that has been hurled their way. Gracious God, help us to reach out to them in friendship and in love. For the young boy who has lost those closest to him, we pray for your arms around him. For the young man, whose heart is poisoned with hate, who used his truck as a weapon of death, for all those who let the hate of racism rule in their hearts, we pray for restorative justice, for a change of heart.
As we stand at the edges of rivers, individually and as a congregation, give us courage to enter the waters. And as we move forward, may we know your presence.
In Jesus name we pray. Amen.
Book of Praise – 641 “One more step along the world I go”
- Video with on-screen words, with a few, minor differences from those in the hymnbook
- Words and music (1971; tune “Southcote”) by English poet and songwriter Sydney Carter (1915–2004); both copyright © 1971 by Stainer & Bell Ltd.
- This video created by the Chet Valley Churches, in south Norfolk, England.
May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing so that we may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen. (Romans 15:13)
- “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 2021-06-13 01:10 – Updated Call to Worship.