January 23, 2022 – Third Sunday after Epiphany
A recording of a video version this virtual worship service will be available on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CtOxUl6LOW8 from 12:15 AM on January 23, 2022.
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Call to worship
One: In mystery and grandeur,
All: we encounter the God of all creation.
One: In renewed justice and the promise of new life,
All: we know deep love of Christ.
One: In the wonderful diversity in every community,
All: the Spirit of God moves among us.
One: Let us worship the God of beauty, love, and wisdom.
All: We will praise God, ever Three and ever One, now and always.
Lighting of the Christ Candle
This is the Christ Candle. We light the candle to help us remember that Jesus Christ, the light of the world, is with us in every place and every time.
Prayers of Approach and Confession
Creator, Christ and Spirit; We worship you for the gifts of peace and healing that You bring into troubled lives. You have shown us the way to work for justice, to love friend and enemy alike, to build a better world. In this time of worship, inspire us to believe our work in your name makes a difference. So may we live to bring glory to you through our commitment to you and the communion we share with so many around world as your faithful disciples.
God of grace and unity, we confess we can be divisive when you have called us to unity, quarrelsome when you call us to seek peace, and critical rather than caring. Forgive us for not allowing your spirit to offer your forgiveness to each other. Show us how we can witness to your love through working and worshipping together. We pray in Jesus’ name.
Declaration of Pardon
God’s mercy is from everlasting to everlasting. It shines into the world and scatters the darkness. Know that you are forgiven and forgive one another. Be at peace and walk in the newness of life, led by God’s light.
Thanks be to God.
Saint Augustine is believed to have said, “Church is not a place for saints but a hospital for the sinners.” Jesus in the gospel of Matthew makes everything more precise by saying, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:12)
Church is a place and community for people who need God and love God despite their many flaws, struggles, and imperfection, just me and us! It is not a place for those who think they have everything and know everything. Church is far from perfect; there are many cracks and issues in every church because we humans are far from perfect. Starting from a minister to every person in a church, we have many flaws and shortcomings. Yet, that is where we experience God. God often reveals God’s grace and love through those cracks, struggles, and imperfections.
Today we read the first Corinthians chapter 12(:12–31), which invites us to think more about the church? The First Corinthians was a letter that the Apostle Paul wrote to the early Christians in Corinth to teach them about the Christian faith and address their church problems. The church in Corinth faced many challenges and problems from both outside and inside. From the outside, idolatry of money and power, cultural immorality, and persecution toward Christians; from inside, the church was considerably divided. It was divided between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. It was divided between the rich and the poor. People in the church could not agree on how to use their resources. There were power struggles within the church. Chapter 12 addresses the divisions and factions that existed in the Corinthian church. I want to highlight verses 12 and 13:” For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” The apostle Paul emphasizes the importance of unity using the image of our body. Paul reminds us that we are one body and interconnected with each other. No one is useless or not needed. We belong to God. All of us belong to God. We belong to each other. So we need to work together. He emphasizes unity, a different kind of unity. As we know, during the time of the Roman Empire, unity was created no other than by a military force, by forcing ones with less power and wealth to follow ones with more. Their unity was created by oppression and eliminating ones who disagreed. Their unity was about maintaining the power and the wealth of Rome.
However, the kind of unity the scriptures encourage us to build does not eliminate our differences but embraces and respects our differences. It is clear, according to the scriptures, problems are not our differences but our unwillingness to respect, value, and work beyond our differences. It is not our differences but our fear of them and our unwillingness to learn from each other.
According to the Apostle Paul, the problem was Not their differences but their fear of each other. Paul identifies two voices of fear that we need to confront with God’s mercy. Here are two voices of fear and darkness that the Apostle Paul invites us to confront gently from our hearts: First, Verse 15 and 16: “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” Second, Verse 21 and 22, “The eye saying to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head saying to the feet, “I don’t need you!”
The first voice of fear we need to pay attention to is this self-inflicting and self-punishing voice of, “I am not good enough. I am not good as him or as her. You will be surprised how many of us struggle with this voice in our own place. We know what happens to us when we are consumed by this voice of fear, the fear of not being liked and accepted. That is when we try to please others. That is when we do things out of guilt. That is when we stop listening to God but our fear and our desire to please.
When we hear this voice in our hearts, we need to remember that it is not the voice of God. That is not what God is telling us. The voice of God that Jesus always listened to is “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17) Jesus did his ministry not to please God but out of his confidence in God’s love for him. That was the voice of God that guided and led the life of Jesus. We get it that some of us were taught that God is this petty God who becomes upset with us when we miss one Sunday morning worship. We will get punished when we forget to say grace before a meal. We need to put that image of petty God behind and listen to what Christ always listens to. “This is my son and daughter I love, with whom I am well pleased. I believe the love of Christ will transform our voice of “I am not good enough” to “I am struggling right now. Could you help me?” “This is all I can offer now, but in God’s loving hands, you never know what God can do with what we offer.” The second voice of darkness we need to confront is this: Verse 21 and 22, “The eye saying to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head saying to the feet, “I don’t need you!” We heard this voice around us and in us, “I don’t need you, because you are not good enough,” I am doing this and that, how come you are not doing this? Sometimes that is how we make ourselves feel better by putting others down. In this competing society, for us to win, others have to lose. Other times we put unhealthy expectation on others because that is what we think God is doing with us. God is asking us to do what we can not do. Whatever the case, that is not what God is telling us. So often we are preoccupied with what we are doing, not listening to what they are going through.
Philippians 2:1-8, If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was[a] in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross.
The scripture teaches us that God has placed people in our life, and we are to love them, and by doing so, we may deepen the love of Christ for us and in us. You never know what the other person can teach us about God and God’s grace. Each person brings the unique gift of God to our lives. Perhaps not the kind of gift we want to see from them, but the type of gift God that God has placed in them. I believe each person we meet reveals God’s love for us. I believe the love of Jesus Christ will transform our voice of “You are not doing enough. I am doing this and that, what are you doing?” to “I care about you and I want to hear what is going on.” I am sure that our wonderful and loving congregation also has inevitable cracks, flaws, and challenges, just like our sanctuary has these cracks in the windows. Yet, may we not be afraid of our faults, challenges, and cracks. We will experience the grace of God through them. I actually don’t worry about it because you welcomed and accepted me, this person with many flaws and shortcomings. I am sure if you could work with me, you could work with pretty much anyone. I trust the ability of our congregation to love and forgive each other; more precisely, I trust God will empower our members to love and forgive each other. I am not saying we should ignore any problem or issue, but I trust we will say, “Let us talk about it. I am here to listen. May we pray about this together?” I trust that we will invite each other to solve the issue by trusting that God has placed every one of us here.
“One bread, one body” (Book of Praise hymn 540). Words and music by American Jesuit priest and composer John B. Foley (1939–). Words and music copyright © 1978 John B. Foley, the Society of Jesus and New Dawn Music; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A. Arrangement copyright © 2022 Rachelle Risling, used by permission. Organ and piano performed by GCPC music director Rachelle Risling.
We remind everyone that we must continue to pay our bills; in the absence of being present at 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.
Dedication of our Gifts
Prayer of dedication
God of grace and mercy, receive all our gifts, offered in thanksgiving. We share the fruit of our labours with you, asking that you will multiply their effects in and through the Church. And we share the fruit of our time and talent, seeking to know how you would have us serve in Jesus’ name.
Prayers of Thanksgiving, People and Lord’s Prayer
God of mercy and forgiveness, You call us to live together in peace and unity. Help us share our gifts with each other so that churches within our community may flourish and our common mission will find new energy after months of challenge. Lead us to reach out to those of other faiths and no faith so that, together, we may be a blessing in the world you love.
God of healing and hope, we pray for our neighbourhoods and our nation. Where people are divided and bitterness turns into resentment, show us how to work for reconciliation. Inspire our leaders at every level of community life to work together for the care of the most vulnerable and to restore the goodness of our common life as we recover from the effects of these months of pandemic. Make us generous citizens and careful stewards of the land you entrust to us together.
God of justice and mercy, we pray for the world you love, the world Christ died to redeem, so deeply divided by religious and political animosities, by ancient bitterness and current conflict. Encourage world leaders to work for peace and understanding, especially in places torn by violence, and areas still struggling with the effects of the pandemic, by poverty, hunger and the effects of natural disasters. May the hope Jesus embodies encourage us all to work for positive change.
God of courage and comfort, In silence, We remember those of our congregation and community in need of your special attention today….
Use us as agents of your healing and hope as we offer ourselves in Jesus’ name in the words he 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.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you always. 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 © 2022 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church
Last updated on 2022-01-22 00:30 – First Version