June 27, 2021 – Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
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Message from the Rev. Helen Smith
Welcome to this opportunity for worship. May these common resources help to keep us together during this time when we are not able to meet for in-person worship.
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.
From the corners of the world, from the confusion of life, from the loneliness of our hearts, we come to worship. To feed our minds, to fire our imagination, to free our hearts, come, let us worship God.
Book of Praise – 27 “As the deer”
- Video with on-screen words. Verse one the same as in the hymnbook, but there are two additional verses; follow along on-screen.
- Words and music by American songwriter Martin J. Nystrom (1956–). Words and music copyright © 1984 Maranatha! Music, distributed by Capitol Christian Music Group; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
- Vocals and keyboard by GCPC Music Director Rachelle Risling.
- Audio and video recording copyright © 2021 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church.
Prayers of Approach and Confession
Gracious God, the wonders of your creation, the splendour of the heavens, the beauty of the earth, the order and richness of nature, all speak to us of your glory. The coming of your son, the presence of your spirit, the fellowship of your church, show us the marvel of your love. We worship and adore you, God of grace and glory, in Jesus’ name.
God of mercy, God of love, in humility, we confess our sins. We forget to love and serve you, and wander from your ways. We are careless of your world, and put its life in danger. We talk of our concern for others, but fail to match our words with action. Hear us now as in silence we make our personal confession… God of mercy, forgive us.
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
God loves us unconditionally, no exceptions, picks us up when we fall and puts us back on our feet, forgives us and gives us peace. Thanks be to God.
The Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
Athanasius, a third century bishop, once wrote about the psalms, “Nothing to be found in human life is omitted [from the book of Psalms]”. That’s a pretty strong claim.
I’m not sure if the psalmists had to deal with the DVP at 5 o’clock, or that awful feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you accidentally erase a critical computer file, but the psalms do cover the full range of human experience and emotion. The joy and the pain of God’s people, the ceremony and the searching, the praises and the complaints, the remorse and the rage, the celebration of victory and the thirst for revenge, the joy and the lament, they’re all there.
The Psalms do not give us a sanitized, politically correct slant on the faith. If we read them, and really try to put ourselves into the pain and struggle of the psalmists, and the whole people of God, we’ll find that they really do speak to us in just about any circumstance in which we find ourselves.
This is the hymn book / prayer book of the Bible, and it is a book that does not shy away from anything. That’s why, over the centuries, the psalms have been sung and recited in temples, synagogues, and churches, and have found their way into the hearts of faithful people everywhere. Many people have discovered a deep and meaningful devotional life based on the psalms, and if you are looking for a good tool for your time of devotion and reflection, your personal quiet time with God this summer, you could do a lot worse than spend your time with a few psalms.
The psalm we read today falls into a category known as a lament. Laments date back to the days when the temple was the place where disputes were settled. Through elders or the priests, God would rule on matters from small to great, and if justice was what you were looking for, the temple was the place to get it. Your complaint may be against your neighbour because the neighbour’s ox has trampled your grain, against a business rival for spreading malicious gossip, against the wicked Philistines for invading and burning down your barn, or even against God because life just isn’t fair. Sickness, suffering, death, these are all laid at God’s feet in the psalms of lament.
Suffering or disaster or wrongdoing provide the backdrop, but the real motive for the prayer is not the disaster as much as the alienation from God that it produces. Psalm 22 is probably the most famous lament, because Jesus recited it when he was dying on the cross. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And somehow, all of this has found its way into our bibles, and into the worship of God’s people, maybe because everyone of us knows the distance from God that we feel when our lives are in turmoil.
The victims in these psalms normally denounce their enemies, or the trouble that has come their way, and usually in very graphic and detailed terms, all the while insisting on their own innocence. They heap curses on the wicked, and ask God to do all sorts of nasty things to their enemies. They hold nothing back. They just let God have it. Emotions are raw and exposed.
Psalm 71 is a fairly mild form of this kind of Psalm. It is the prayer of an old poet, who has maybe mellowed a bit with age. The poet has come to know from experience that God does indeed care for those who do God’s work and follow in God’s way. The poet is in a tight corner, and calls on God for help, remembering the ways in which God has helped in the past. Three or four times the psalmist swings between the complaint about what’s wrong, and the confidence that God is able to set it right
The psalm begins “In you I take refuge”, and that is a theme of the whole Psalm. In God, and in the divine righteousness, I will put my trust. Even in the middle of all that is going wrong, the psalmist affirms that their life from the very beginning has belonged to God. The declaration of faith of this psalm is that even with all the evidence mounted up against it, this is still God’s world.
- V. 3: “You are my rock and my fortress.”
- V. 5: “You, O Lord are my hope, my trust… from my youth.”
- V. 6: “Upon you have I leaned from my birth.”
- V. 15: “My mouth will tell of your righteous acts… all day long, though their number is past my knowledge.
- V. 18: “You who have done great things, O God who is like you?”
Each time something threatens to shake the poet’s faith, the poet turns again to what the poet has been learning throughout all of their life, that God is there, God protects, God provides. The poet writes:
Since my youth O God, you have taught me,
and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.
Even when I am old and gray
do not forsake me, O God.
In you I take refuge.
I’ve done it in the past.
I’ll do it now in my time of misfortune.
And I’ll do it in the future, because you are a God
on whom I have learned I can depend.
That’s a great message, and as timely and necessary now as it has ever been. We may use different language to describe our troubles, but we are often just as unable to cope, just as desperate, just as stressed out, just as unable to explain it all, just as burnt out, just as ready to scream at the injustice of it all, as the psalmists in their rage and denunciations.
We may be able to cope for a while, but when it goes on and on, when one thing gets piled up on another, where do we turn? Where do we go for refuge?
The deteriorating health of ourselves or a loved one; the toll that extended illnesses take emotionally and physically on everyone connected with it; the realization that we are mortal, and that death may be close. Where do we go for refuge?
The pressures of doing well at school, maybe carrying a job while you’re at it; the competition to get into the right schools; dealing with the issues of substance abuse; the huge burden of life choices that must be made; the bleakness of a job market with no jobs. Where do we go for refuge?
The marriage that we entered into with such hope, that has now turned into a relationship of abuse. Family tensions, career pressures, financial worries. Where do we go for refuge?
And on a wider scale, what about people who are homeless in our city? What about those who mourn the children who never returned from residential schools and now lie in unmarked graves? What about the human rights of the Uyghurs in China? The eviction of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah? Where do we go for refuge?
We go to God who can bring comfort and peace to live with the tragedy and despair. We go to God who will befriend and stick with us when we’re lost and alone. We go to God who can give us guidance and direction for the choices that lie ahead. We go to God to remind us of the ways of giving love and forgiveness. We go to God to bring about miracles of restoration and healing that will begin to improve the relationships among the world’s peoples.
Let’s not soften the language of any of these situations. They are serious issues. And to find a refuge is to have a lifeline, something that will keep us alive and give us some hope when without it we would give up, and go under.
The psalmist’s trust rests solely on the assurance that God is righteous. He or she is convinced that God will set things right by turning around the fortunes of those who are suffering. It is not just that we are joining the side of the strongest ally. That person could be just the biggest bully. It is that we are placing ourselves in the care of the one who is the righteous judge, even when we have to hang on to that faith in spite of terrible opposition that is all around us.
One other thing to note is how much this psalm is infused with praise for the goodness, power, and trustworthiness of God. Even when the psalmist is so beset with problems, with wicked enemies and cruel accusers, praise rings right through almost every verse. That’s a good reminder to us, when we begin to think that nothing is going right. When nothing is going right by all means look to God for refuge, but also give praise for God’s goodness. Look for some evidence of the hand of God in your life, some blessing, some grace, some reminder that God is indeed with us, and full of compassion for us, and able to help us.
In you I take refuge, when I have nowhere else to turn, when I have no other way to get through the terrible things that have happened in my life, when there is no other way to make sense of the mess that is my life today. In you I take refuge, O God, because you are greater than my problems; because when I despair and am ready to give up you are still sufficient; because you hold the world and its struggles in your hands, and because you are a righteous God who wants nothing but the best for everyone, no exceptions, and nothing but the best for the creation. Judge me and the world around me, and work in us all to set things right, according to your will. And I will sing your praises, as you have enabled me to do for my whole life.
Remember to read the psalms as the voice of people of faith in the daily struggles of life. There is an earthiness to them, an honesty about the prayers of the psalms. Their writers were not so different from you and me, people who want to be faithful but make mistakes; people who want to trust in God but often find ourselves doubting; people who have trouble reconciling the anguish around us with the care of a loving God.
In the Psalms we will find prayers that can be our own, and we can find strength there too, by being reminded of the God in whom we can take refuge. The first couple of verses of Ps. 71 again, this time from Eugene Peterson’s wonderful paraphrase, The Message:
I run for dear life to Yahweh,
I’ll never live to regret it.
Do what you do so well:
Get me out of this mess and up on my feet.
- “Rock of Ages”. Music (1830; tune “Toplady”) by American composer Thomas Hastings (1784–1872). 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
We bring our gifts, O God, and we pray you take them and multiply them, that your grace will be felt in our community, in our city, in the world. Bless all who give, and all who receive.
Loving God, we give thanks for your goodness and great love towards us: for the joy of home and family; for the companionship of friends and neighbours; for the activities that fill our lives; for the strength that supports us, and the love that surrounds us, both when our joy is complete, and when it is touched by pain. We give you thanks for your creative power, for your redeeming power, and for the Spirit, at work in the church and in our hearts, revealing your truth and giving us the courage to live for you. We give thanks for vaccines and the hope that they bring to us. We thank you for all who are working hard to bring us through this pandemic.
We pray, O God, with thanksgiving for teachers and students, preparing for a well-deserved break after a very hard year. We pray for them rest and restoration. For all preparing to go on holiday, may they find this to be a time of renewal.
God of love and power, we pray for your church, for our congregation and the church throughout the world, that through courage and faith, your word may be proclaimed and lived. We pray for the Session and Search Committee as they prepare to welcome Rev. Moon, and for Rev. Moon and his family as they prepare to leave their home of many years, and join us here.
With sad and heavy hearts, we remember the children who attended residential schools, particularly those who never returned. Be with those who mourn. Help us to continue to work for truth and reconciliation.
We pray for leaders all over the world, that as they fulfil their duties, they may be guided by your spirit, be filled with your love, and be upheld by your grace. We pray for our community, our country, and the nations of the world, that they would follow the ways of truth and justice. May they be free from bitterness, hatred and violence, and by the power of your love, live in peace.
We pray for all who are in trouble, that those who are sick may be cared for, those who are lonely sustained, those who are oppressed strengthened, those who mourn comforted, and that those who are close to death may know their risen lord.
We pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Book of Praise – 18 “Through all the changing scenes of life”
- Video with on-screen words, with major differences from those in the hymnbook; follow along on screen.
- Words are a paraphrase of Psalm 34, first published in Tate and Brady’s New Version, (1696). Music (1797; tune “Wiltshire (Smart)”) by English musician George Thomas Smart (1776–1867). Words and music in the public domain.
- This video created in August 2020 by the Choir of St. Albans, Wickersley, in Wickersley, Yorkshire, 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 2021-06-26 21:30 – First Version.