August 22, 2021 – Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Whenever you see this movie reel symbol, you can click on it to view a video segment on YouTube. If you experience any difficulties, please contact our webmaster.
Message from the Rev. Bob Smith
Welcome to our service of worship at Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church. Some of you will be receiving this service in print, and others through the wonder of the internet — we thank God for those means of keeping in touch, and for the individuals who have faithfully worked to make them happen. But the exciting thing for us today, is that, for the first time since mid-November 2020, some of us will be able to worship in person. As you know, there are restrictions still, and there is some distance to go before we put the pandemic completely behind us. But it is a start, and we thank God for having been with us throughout this process, and for this step today in opening our doors.
Grace and peace to you.
Rev. Bob Smith
Call to Worship
You can listen to the audio recording of the Call to Worship with Rev. Bob Smith while consulting the text below (the audio is part of the Welcome message recording above); or just use the text below.
What does the Lord require of us?
God calls us to do justice, to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with our God.
Let justice roll down like waters,
And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Come, let us worship God.
Book of Praise – 814 “Morning has broken”
- Video with on-screen words, with some differences from those in the hymnbook in the second verse.
- Words (1931) by English author Eleanor Farjeon (1881–1965). Music is a traditional Scottish Gaelic tune, “Bunessan”. Words and music in the public domain.
- This recording by the Diocese of St. Benedict, Old Catholic Missionaries
Prayers of Adoration and Confession, the Lord’s Prayer
O God, as we worship you, lead us into life in all of its fullness. Help us to worship with all we are and have. Let our laughter and our tears be instruments of prayer. Let our loves and our delights paint our world and our worship with colour and sound. Make our doubt the clay from which you shape our faith. Let our fears boil within us until they emerge as shining hope. And let the light of the world be born within us until we radiate the love that we have found in Christ.
God, you love us steadfastly, but we have trouble loving in return; you call us, but we aren’t listening; you reveal yourself, but our eyelids are heavy; you lead us toward our neighbour, but we build walls around ourselves; you hate evil, injustice and alienation, but we let ourselves get used to it. O God, we pray, help us to see ourselves both as we are and as we might be, and draw us by your Spirit’s tether into your forgiving, renewing and serving grace, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who taught us to pray:
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, Psalm 103 reminds us that, as far as the east is from the west, so far does God remove our transgressions from us. Receive the forgiveness that God offers you in Christ, and be thankful.
The peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
Amos 5:11–15, 21–24 <– these link to on-line text of the NRSV bible
Edict of Induction – Rev. Chuck Moon
The Presbytery of Pickering, having completed the necessary steps for the Induction of Chuck Moon, called to be minister of this congregation, notice is hereby given that the said presbytery will meet in Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church on the first day of September in the year two thousand and twenty one, at 6:45 o’clock pm, for the purpose of inducting the said Chuck Moon into the pastoral charge of the said congregation, and notice is hereby given to all concerned that if any of them have any objection to offer to the life or doctrine of the said Chuck Moon, they may repair to the presbytery, which is to meet at the time and place aforesaid, with certification that if no valid objection be then made, the presbytery shall proceed without further delay.
J P (Ian) Morrison
Clerk, Presbytery of Pickering
We hope you have been enjoying the summer hobby that Helen and I indulged with you, which is to use our sermons to look at some of the minor players of the Bible.
We may all know lots of Biblical characters, good and bad whose names come quickly to mind, from Abraham and Sarah to Mary and Joseph, great kings like David and judges like Deborah, and great scoundrels like Jezebel or Herod. But sometimes I think it’s hard to identify with the big names like that — we’re neither nearly as good as the good ones nor as bad as the bad ones.
This has been our chance to look at the people who were on the sidelines or hiding in a corner when something more important was going on amongst the people that matter, and for some reason have a minor part to play.
So it’s those sorts of people we wanted to look at, to give them their fifteen minutes of fame.
I am going to finish this series today with Amos, one of the minor prophets, who just happened to be a shepherd. There were some great Biblical shepherds — Abraham and David, for example — but they were a bit mainstream for our series. Nobody would call Amos mainstream.
Shepherd is a wonderful, comforting Biblical image — the still waters and green pastures of the 23rd psalm, and Jesus identifying as the good shepherd who loves and cares for the sheep. But I don’t think “comforting” is the word that comes to mind when you look at, or especially listen to, this shepherd.
Amos was a herdsman, a shepherd, in Tekoa around 750 BC, in the southern kingdom of Judah, but he spoke mainly to the northern kingdom, Israel. And he is one of the minor prophets, meaning there is a biblical book of his prophecies that bears his name, but it is one of the short ones toward the end of the Hebrew scriptures. And the distinctive thing about Amos, when he got wound up in a prophetic rage, was that nobody was safe, nobody was comfortable.
You’ve got to admire a guy like Amos. Not love him, but admire him. He’s the kind you don’t want to get too close to, in case you’d be the next one in his sights, but you want to be around when he lets loose his next barrage, because you know it will be a good show. You might not like him, but he sure gets a reaction.
So when he is not busy shepherding, he’s prophesying, and if there is a theme to his prophecy, it is about living a life of justice and righteousness. It’s about how the people treat one another, about how they look upon their servants, about how they care for those who are poor.
In the Hebrew Scriptures, the call to justice is not about getting a favourable ruling in a court of law — it is about dealing fairly with all people, and particularly the poor and the vulnerable — those who have no defense, no one on their side. It’s about doing the right thing… for them.
Amos in our text, has a lovely verse which calls us to right and just living. “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” God, as the righteous judge, calls God’s children to righteous living. And our justice and righteousness are to be so ungrudging, so generous, so over-the-top, that they are overflowing. That sounds nice enough — so where it the prophet with the acid tongue?
Well, that nice bit about justice follows a section in which our prophet lays out a list of damning charges against the people for their unjust living. You see, while justice sounds like a good thing, this kind comes with a high price. Amos attacks the people of God for trampling the poor, for imposing a heavy burden of taxes on those who can least afford them, and for gorging themselves on the produce of their land while their workers starve.
But what infuriates the prophet more than anything is that these rich merchants and landlords who oppress the poor, still line up in the temple with their sacrifices and offerings for their solemn liturgies in worship of almighty God. Their empty piety enrages Amos to the point that he isn’t even polite, (and this is where we don’t want to get too close). “God hates your festivals,” says Amos, “your selfish offerings, and your meaningless songs of praise — they are completely disconnected from how you live your daily lives. Faith in God is infinitely more than just so many words and actions without any understanding of what they represent.”
Amos denounces the holy symbols of the rituals of his day, and lays bare the moral vacuum beneath them. He rages against them: “As long as you oppress the poor, God is not listening to your worship. You must let justice and righteousness not just occur to you once in a while, but cascade in floods that flow over all that you do.”
Imagine, something so offensive, so putrid in God’s sight that it even invalidates our worship. And for us in the church today, something so alien to our calling as followers of Christ that it will prevent the music of our praises from reaching God’s ears. And that something is injustice, unrighteousness, and Amos’s calling is to remind us that God hates it.
As much as God values the worship of the people, what God values more highly is their practice of justice. If the righteousness isn’t there, the worship just doesn’t cut it. We might just as well save our breath. Do we think we are better than the people in Amos’s day? You don’t have to use a lot of imagination to find the parallels.
We still have people who are poor, perhaps institutionalized in that state even more than in Amos’s day. Even in an economic struggle that has come in the wake of the pandemic, most of us in Toronto are living in relative affluence, while something like 8,700 in our city are homeless.
We suffer from being overweight — even our pets are overweight — while the lineups at the food bank are long. And all the while, we Christians, wearing our nice suits and dresses — well, maybe not so much today as a generation ago —and gather for worship in our beautiful buildings —well, not so much in a pandemic — and recite our respectable liturgies. I wonder what Amos would say to us.
But let’s be clear. Amos is not saying that worship doesn’t matter. I think God loves to hear us recognize and proclaim God’s goodness. The Bible encourages our gathering together to hear God’s word. Worship is vitally important, but only, Amos would say, only if that worship is an expression of a faith that infuses all of our life.
And that will be demonstrated by the way we set our life values and priorities.
Worship that is genuine will go with us when we walk out of church and will affect everything that we do, even when it is costly.
Amos invites us to make some kingdom choices. Is our desire to let justice flow strong enough to have it reduce our income so that those who are poor would be a little better off? Will we let it affect our life-style so that the world’s wealth might be distributed a bit more evenly?
Is our desire for the overflowing streams of righteousness enough to have us really come in contact with those who struggle, and enter with them into their suffering? Or to make them so welcome in our worship that they are truly one of us? Or to make our church budget reflect a genuine commitment to change the lot of those who are vulnerable in our midst and beyond?
Because, says our friend Amos, that is where justice is proven, and it is what true worship requires.
You know, it seems to me that we tend to find the time, money and commitment that are required for the things that really matter to us. It’s amazing what we can afford when we really want it. Amos challenges us to look again at what we really want, and to ensure that pretty high on that list is a desire to place ourselves in a radical way in a path that aligns us with God’s picture of kingdom-building.
I picture our shepherd of Tekoa taking us by the hand through those quarters of the city where poor people live, inviting us to look into the eyes of the lonely widow, the hurting orphan, the hungry beggar, the single parent working in a minimum-wage job; introducing us to the families with little kids lined up for a meal and a bed at a shelter.
Or he guides us to a program for troubled kids whose young lives have already been scarred by the world’s injustices; to an apartment that a young family is about to lose because a job was eliminated; to a nursing home, where a lonely hand reaches out to be touched; to a survivor of residential schools, who still can’t shake the demons of his time there; to a safe injection site, where people tormented by substance abuse trying desperately to start on the road to recovery, to the arrivals lounge at the airport where a refugee family appears with next to nothing, hoping to make a new home here.
And Amos will ask us, “Does your worship take you here, to these places? Do your prayers bind you to these people? Does your singing sound a note of hope to them?” These are the kind of questions to which we need continually to return, because it’s tricky, and the ground is always shifting.
But Amos, the shepherd of Tekoa, preaching from his prophetic soapbox, would be very clear. He would say: if in prayer we are making an honest effort to keep our priorities in order, personally and as a church; if we allow God’s voice of justice and righteousness to guide us in all our decision-making; if we let our worship move us into action that touches and lifts up the lives of those who struggle; then God will be listening.
And, to God’s glory, “Justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
The musical meditation will be captured live at the service on August 22 and added to this virtual version afterwards.
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
Lord, we praise and thank you for all that you have given us. We stand before you with hands wide open, ready to receive you. And we bring before you, Lord, our modest gifts, not knowing how you might multiply them, what fruits you may bring out of them. Bless our gifts and those who receive them, that together we may continue to make a difference in your world.
Loving God, we give you thanks for your goodness and love towards us; for the joy of home and family, for the companionship of friends and neighbours for the activities that give our lives fullness, 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.
God of love and power, we pray for the church: this congregation, the churches of this community, and around the world, that through the courage and faith of your people, your word may be preached and lived and shared. We pray for all those whom you have placed in leadership over us, that in fulfilling their duties, they may be guided by your Spirit and upheld by your grace. And may we keep before us your calling to be on the side of those who are vulnerable or victims, that your justice would be done in us. Help our worship to carry us forward into our choices of how we live our lives, and may all that we do help to build up your kingdom.
We pray for our communities, our city, our province, our country, and the nations of the world, that following the ways of truth and justice, they may be free from bitterness and violence, and by the power of your love, live in peace.
We pray for all who are in need, that those who are sick may be cared for, those who are hungry fed, those who are homeless given shelter, and that those who are oppressed would be strengthened. We remember those who work to improve the life of people who lack so many of the basic of life’s needs, and to provide assistance to those who are the victims of disasters. We thank you for the role you give even to us, to continue your work of kingdom-building, and we pray that you would strengthen us so that even through us, justice would roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.
Book of Praise – 722 “Lord, whose love”
- Video with on-screen words, exactly as those in the hymnbook.
- Words (1961) by English minister Albert F. Bayly (1901–1984). Music (1844; tune: “Beach Spring”) attributed to American singing master Benjamin Franklin White (1800–1879). Words copyright © Oxford University Press; music in the public domain.
- This recording by Bel Cantanti, Washington D.C.
Commissioning and Benediction
Go out into the world in peace,
and whatever you do, in word and in action,
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.
- “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 2021-08-21 16:20 – First Version.