June 19, 2022 – Second Sunday after Pentecost
There will be no livestream this week. Previous worship services, as well as music and other videos, are available on our our YouTube channel.
The sermon this week is by Rev. Dr. Bob Smith, and will be preached in-person. The call to worship, scripture reading, and hymns will be identical to that in-person worship. However, the prayers and other elements of the service may be different from what is published here.
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.
Call to worship
One: O come, let us sing to the Lord;
All: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.
One: Let us come into God’s presence with thanksgiving;
All: let us make a joyful noise to the Lord with songs of praise.
One: For the Lord is a great God,
All: and a great Sovereign above all gods.
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.
“I’ll praise you Lord” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 100). Words taken from Psalm 138; paraphrased (1989) by English Anglican priest and hymn-writer Michael Perry (1942–1996). Music (tune: “Highwood”) by English organist and musicologist Sir Richard Runcimen Terry (1865–1938). Words copyright © 1989 by Hope Publishing Co.; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A. Music public domain.
Prayers of Approach and Confession, & Lord’s Prayer (sins)
Creator God, In Jesus Christ, you show us how much you love your creation and how we can live by your love. By the power of your Spirit, give us new eyes to behold the wonders you have made and teach us how to share in the praise your creation offers you day by day.
Forgive us when we ignore diversity and differences you have planted in our humanity. Forgive our familiar assumptions, and open our minds and hearts to the stories of others and the cries of suffering throughout the earth.
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.
Declaration of Pardon
God offers forgiveness and peace to us. Thanks be to God!
The Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
The Life and Work of the Church (Announcements)
Sermon for June 19, 2022
By the Rev. Dr. Bob Smith
This all started with the auction that was held here back in May. There were lots of great and appealing items up for grabs — restaurant meals, tickets to Blue Jays games, getting a cottage getaway, or your car detailed.
And then, there was my humble offering. For the highest bidder, I would prepare and preach a sermon on a Bible text of your choice. I know, I know, it’s not a Blue Jays game, but you know, you do what you can, and it’s for a good cause, right?
I know it’s a bit risky — who knows what random or crazy text the top bidder might pick?
Maybe it’s some obscure text that has baffled even the best biblical scholars for centuries, and it’s picked just so that you can watch the preacher squirm.
And then, I needed a place to preach this sermon. I talked to Rev. Chuck, and it wasn’t easy, but I finally persuaded him to give himself a day off, so here we are.
Cindy Similas was the successful bidder, and — thank you, Cindy — she did not pick an obscure or perverse text, but quite a wonderful and challenging selection from the letter of James, which we just heard.
James is a very down-to-earth Christian and his letter is famous for its very practical focus, and its concern for the actual, daily, living out of the faith. He’s the one who gave us the great line, “Don’t deceive yourselves by just listening to his word; instead, put it into practice.” (1:22) He grounds that practical focus in the grace of God, but he knows only too well that, even this early in the church’s history, when the faithful get together — well — whatever can go wrong, sooner or later does.
It feels here like James is a fixer sent in by the presbytery to put out fires around the realm, to reign in the trouble-makers, and clean up after all their misdeeds.
What really gets under the skin of James the fixer, is not just how the people’s beliefs are going off the rails, but how they are behaving toward one another. The trick for James, is not just knowing the truth, but honing our skills in living it in practical ways, in our everyday lives.
In the passage Cindy selected and read from Chapter 2, James zeroes in on a problem, with which we probably still need his help in solving — that is, playing favourites — the bad habit of preferring one group over another, and usually without even realizing we’re doing it.
Stop discriminating, he says. We don’t know the context, whether it’s in the synagogue, the marketplace, or their homes. Maybe it doesn’t matter.
Don’t cozy up to the rich, James says, hanging on to their every word, following them around like lapdogs, giving them the best seats… all, while you ignore those who are poor, and shove them aside, out of your field of vision.
In so honouring the rich, says James, you dishonour the poor, forgetting that it is in God’s image that all people are made. You have made yourself judge over others whom God has invited to be heirs of the kingdom. And it is inconsistent with the faith to which God calls you.
Now, before we go any further with this, let’s zoom out, and enlarge our frame of reference. And I don’t think James would mind if we do this. We may be guilty of bowing down before wealth and ignoring the needs of those who are poor. But there all sorts of other examples of how we favour one group (often the one that we are in), and discriminate against, and even demonize, another.
Our newscasts are full of the stories of that unequal treatment:
- people who live in poverty, lacking food, housing, and even access to the supports that do exist, often are completely overlooked in our society;
- people of colour face huge hurdles in education, the workplace, the courts;
- people of certain religions, especially Muslims are particular targets for violence;
- women still receive less pay and fewer opportunities in the workplace; and are targets of violence in the home;
- indigenous people in Canada face particular challenges with the shameful legacy of residential schools and still unresolved land claims;
- LGBTQI people have been demonized and excluded in many spheres of life;
- and we could go on.
Yes, as the light of public scrutiny is focused on these matters, some of those circumstances are improving, but in all of those examples, and more, there is still much to be done. And let’s be honest and point out, the churches have often been part of the problem.
That these separations and estrangements are so widespread, must mean that they come to us pretty easily. Maybe there is in us a natural fear of someone who is “the other” — whose language, accent, colour, faith or culture are strange to us, different from what we grew up with; and where we quickly slide into prejudice — “pre-judging” them somehow as worth less than ourselves.
To be part of a dominant culture makes that process hard even to recognize, and it takes humility and courage to look critically at our own behaviour and take steps to change. And as we take those steps we might offer up a prayer of confession for those times when we were not as inclusive or welcoming as we might have been.
Let’s go back to James calling out the early church for cozying up to the rich, while ignoring and dishonouring those who are poor. I think he gives us a straightforward handle for thinking about how to approach this.
He calls them back to the words of Jesus, when he was asked about the greatest commandment. Jesus, you may recall, gave a two-part answer: first, love God with every fibre of your being; and second, (and this is what James lifts up) love your neighbour as yourself.
Treat your neighbour the way you would like to be treated. And that means, love all your neighbours, and not just the ones who look, sound and behave like you. Love all your neighbours, and not just the ones who will return your favour or make you look or feel better about yourself. Love all your neighbours without prejudice or partiality.
Helen has a wonderful t-shirt, which quotes this verse, and then pushes a bit to underline the radical call to justice that it is. Helen was wearing that shirt when we were out for walk this past week, and another pair of walkers who overtook us thanked her for the reminder. Sharing a message of hope is easy to do.
On the front it says, Love your neighbour. And then, on the back, enlarges on that: your Homeless neighbour, your Muslim neighbour, your Black neighbour, your Gay neighbour, your White neighbour, your Jewish neighbour, your Transgendered neighbour, your Christian neighbour, your Atheist neighbour, your Racist neighbour, your addicted neighbour. all your neighbours.
Have you ever noticed how frequently that was how Jesus actually worked? How often he reached beyond the barriers of what was acceptable, to include the outsider, while scandalizing even those who saw themselves on the right side of God’s favour: speaking to the foreign woman at the well; taking the hand of a leper; going to eat at the home of a tax collector; breaking the Sabbath rules to offer healing to a man with a withered hand; taking time for the children; and in Luke’s gospel, where the line about loving your neighbour leads into the parable of the Good Samaritan — a title which itself would be offensive to Jesus’ congregation, using as a positive example a character to whom they would not give the time of day.
To his congregation who are so ready to judge, James has a line, “mercy triumphs over judgement.” Jesus consistently reached out with mercy to those whom others judged as “other”, “no good”, or “not our kind of people”. And he reached out to them, healed them, welcomed them, valued them for who they were, and included them in his circle.
I have always thought that it’s better to focus on some positive steps to which we can aspire, rather than just trying to avoid some unhelpful behaviour. I think there are proactive goals we could aim for in the church that honour James’ and Jesus’ calls to love our neighbour.
In others, we can look for the mercy and favour which God has already shown to them, and look for what they might teach us or how they might enrich our common life. We can take every step we can to make our fellowship completely barrier free, so that absolutely everyone is included. We can welcome those whose appearance or customs or accent are new to us, and celebrate the diversity they bring to our fellowship.
An even more challenging step for us if we want to be a truly welcoming family of God we can watch for those who seem to be on the edges, or wondering if they might have a place here.
We can ask: Is there anyone we are overlooking? How can we include someone who is so new that they haven’t figured out how things work here yet? Who is missing from our circle? Who is standing alone at the coffee hour? Who comes to worship a few minutes late, and leaves a few minutes early? Who isn’t as well-dressed as the rest of us, or looks like they aren’t getting enough to eat or may have slept rough last night?
And for all of these: How might we help meet their needs? How can we give to them a message of acceptance and belonging? How can we affirm them by giving them a voice, or listening to their story? How can we honour them by treating them as neighbour and reaching out with the love of Christ.
We can take for ourselves and carry with us this practical advice of James which he derives directly from the ministry of Jesus, and not just what the Saviour said or taught, but what he did, how he lived.
We can show that we have a living faith, demonstrated in how we reach out to our neighbour, and celebrate the wideness of the circle of the fellowship that God has given us.
“Innocuous”. Composed (2022) and performed by GCPC Music director Rachelle Risling. Music and performance copyright © 2022 Rachelle Risling; used by permission.
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
Loving God, accept the gifts we offer you, today and every day. In the name of Jesus Christ we offer ourselves to you. Amen.
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Hope
God of healing and hope, We pray for all those who are ill or in pain, for the anxious and discouraged, for those facing death or the loss of someone dearly beloved, and for those struggling to make ends meet in these uncertain times.
God of the faithful future, bless this community of faith and guide us as we plan for the future in changing times. Bless students and teachers as another challenging school years ends and lift the stress from their lives this summer. Give us a time of rest and enjoyment in the summer months and restore our hope and our energy to serve in your world.
We offer all our prayers, spoken and unspoken, through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.
“We are God’s people” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 472). Words (1976) by Anglo-American minister and composer Bryan Jeffery Leech (1931–2015). Music (1877; tune: “Symphony”) by German composer Johannes Brahms (1833–1897). Arrangement (1976) also by Leech. Words and arrangement copyright © 1976 Fred Bock Music Company; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A. Music public domain.
Changing the Light
Now, it is time to change the light. The light that was in one place can now be
in every place and every time going with you wherever you go.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ (the risen 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 2022-06-20 – Added link to Musical meditation.