Worship Service for August 7, 2022

August 7, 2022 – Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

There is no video recording of a live stream for this worship service. Other livestream recordings and videos are available on our YouTube channel.

graphic of a movie film reel

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

This is the day that the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it.  Come, let us worship God.

Opening Hymn

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” (Book of Praise 1997 Hymn 321). Words: original text (1680) by German theologian and hymn-writer Joachim Neander (1650–1680); English translation (1863) by English educator and hymn-writer Catherine Winkworth (1827–1878). Music (1665; tune “Lobe den Herren”) likely based on a German folk melody. No copyright information provided as the hymn was not recorded or streamed.

You can enjoy this version of the hymn on YouTube:

graphic of a movie film reel
Click to listen to or sing along with the hymn at YouTube.
  • This video created by the Chet Valley Churches, in south Norfolk, England.

Prayers of Approach and Confession and Lord’s Prayer

Compassionate God, as a child is slowly formed in the waters of the womb, so we are changed by the Spirit who broods over us.  Yours is the labour that propels us into the light, yours the arms that embrace us from birth to old age.  All praise we give to you, O God, for you have borne us and carried us.

You invite us to new life in the Spirit.  We wonder what our friends will think if we are too serious about matters of faith. Sometimes we insulate our lives against the wind and turn away from the witness of those who speak knowingly of spiritual matters.  Other times we want to feel the winds of your Spirit, but we don’t want to be blown off our feet.  We want life on our terms.  We want to play your part, O God. But the role is too big for us.  Forgive us, God.  Help us to yield our lives to you.

We pray in Jesus’ name and continue to pray as he taught, saying:

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

Brothers and sisters, God so loves the world.  Know that you are loved. Know that in God’s love there is forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation.  AMEN

The Peace

The peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

The Life and Work of the Church (Announcements)

Scripture Reading

John 3: 1–17 <– this links to on-line text of the NRSV bible

Click here for additional scripture readings from today’s lectionary. Links courtesy of the Revised Common Lectionary, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.


Nicodemus is a big cheese.  He has it all.  He has it made in the shade.  He is a very important person, a Pharisee, a person of rigorous piety, and devotion to God.  He is a community leader, no doubt one of the 70 occupying a seat on the council of elders known as the Sanhedrin.  He is the Establishment and he has heard about what Jesus was up to in Jerusalem.  He has heard about this charismatic rabbi who has attracted such a following, this rabble rouser who literally whipped this year’s Passover festivities into a frenzy by driving the money changers from the temple, this miracle worker who was doing many signs and wonders throughout Jerusalem.  He has heard enough about this maverick teacher to make him think he ought to pay him a visit and find out more.

Could it be that Nicodemus, despite his prestige in the society, his knowledge of the law and the prophets, his adherence to the faith, senses a gnawing emptiness in his inmost being?  Some 400 years later, St. Augustine of Hippo would write: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you”.  In the 1600s Blaise Pascal, mathematician and Christian philosopher (interesting combination) wrote: “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person, and it can never be filled by any created thing.  It can only be filled by God, made known through Jesus Christ.”  Maybe Nicodemus doesn’t have it all.

So Nicodemus comes to meet with Jesus.  However, as a Very Important Person with a big theological reputation to uphold, he decides it might be just as well to pay this visit at night.  Better to be at least fairly safe than to be sorry, he thinks, and waits till he thinks his neighbours are all asleep.

“We” he says to Jesus, as in “we” the folks who run the show around here.  “We know you are a teacher who has come from God.”  And having said this, Nicodemus waits, carefully watching to see how Jesus will respond.  Will the new rabbi fit in with the rest of the teachers, elders, and priests, the religious establishment in Jerusalem?  Or was that stunt at the temple evidence of a lone ranger intent on bucking the system?  And what is it about this man that attracts so many?  Why do people leave their old lives and come, follow him?

At first Jesus was fairly patient.  “What the whole thing boils down to,” he says, “is that unless you get born again, you might as well give up”. “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again”

“That’s all very well”, Nicodemus says, “but just how are you supposed to pull a thing like that off?  How especially are you supposed to pull it off if you are pushing seventy?”  How do you get born again when it is a challenge just to get out of bed in the morning?”  He even gets a little sarcastic.  “Could a man” enter a second time into his mothers’ womb,” he asks, when it was all he could do to enter a taxi without the driver’s coming around to give him a shove from behind?

To Nicodemus it sounds like a bad riddle. Re-entering the womb is a physical impossibility.  But even as the Pharisee protests, Jesus persists, “I tell you the truth no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.  Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at me saying You must be born again.  (And here is where we need to read those fine print foot notes in our Bibles, or a variety of versions. The NRSV says born from above and footnotes it that is could be born again.  The NIV does the reverse.) The crucial word in Greek is anothen.  You must be born anothen.  It means either “from above” or “again”.  The ambiguity seems deliberate.  For when Nicodemus obsesses over the physical impossibility of this event, Jesus pushes the envelope. “Listen closely,” says Jesus, “Yes, born again. But this is not a physical rebirth, not a second trip through life. I am talking about being born from above, born of the Spirit.”  And a gust of wind happens to whistle down the chimney at that point, making the dying embers in the fireplace burst into flame, and Jesus says, “being born again is like that.  It isn’t something we do. The wind did it.  The Spirit does it.  It is something that happens, for God’s sake.”

It is an image that suggests we have little choice in the matter.  Many people treat the question, “Are you born again?” as if it involves making a decision for God.  Yet babies do not decide to be born.  The central feature of this image that Jesus uses, that Nicodemus is having such trouble getting his head around, seems to preclude our active role in the process. Instead, God is the primary player.

And Nicodemus still doesn’t get it.  He is so set in the establishment way of doing things where it is all up to individuals to appease an angry God, to earn brownie points with God.  “How can this be?”  he says, and that’s when Jesus lets him have it.

Maybe Nicodemus had six honorary doctorates and half a column in Who’s Who, Jesus says, but if he couldn’t see something as plain as the nose on his face, he’d better go back to kindergarten.  “I’m telling you like it is,” Jesus says.  “I’m telling you what I’ve seen.  I’m telling you there are people on chemotherapy walking around with the love-light in their eyes.  I’m telling you there are ex-cons teaching Sunday School.  I’m telling you there are alcoholics no longer filled with spirits but overflowing with the Holy Spirit, there are undertakers scared silly we’ll put them out of business.

Jesus says: “I’m telling you God’s got such a thing for this messed up planet that he’s sent me down so if you don’t believe your own eyes, then maybe you’ll believe mine, maybe you’ll believe me, maybe you won’t come sneaking around scared half to death in the dark any more but will come to, will come clean, will come to life. (John 3: 16)

You may have noticed that Matthew and Luke have stories that focus on the events leading up to the birth of Jesus.  John focuses on the spiritual birth of the Christian.  What does that look like?  How can we detect the presence of the Spirit in someone’s life?  That seems to be a difficult question to answer.  “It is an elusive thing”, Jesus tells Nicodemus, “for like the wind, you cannot see the gusts of air themselves but only hear the results of their passing presence.”

Perhaps then, being born from above is something that can only be discerned over time.  I’m thinking that after Nicodemus hears John 3:16 his own breathing quickens and his heart pounds and he hasn’t felt like that since his first child was born, or the time they’d told him he didn’t have cancer but just a touch of the flu.  Because 18 months later, (John 7: 50–52), there is a great row in the Sanhedrin.  The Pharisees are demanding that the temple guards imprison Jesus.  One of their own number, Nicodemus, speaks up and defends Jesus, “I don’t think our law condemns without first hearing him to find out what he is doing.”

And some time later, (John 19: 38–42) when Jesus is crucified, after he declares “It is finished”, and dies, after his body is removed from the cross, Joseph of Arimathea, a disciple of Jesus, with Pilate’s permission, comes and takes the body away.  Nicodemus is with him.  Indeed, Nicodemus brings a mixture of myrrh and aloes, 75 pounds of it. (today’s dollars $200,000.)  And taking Jesus body, Nicodemus and Joseph lovingly wrap it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews.

Nicodemus no longer hides under the dark of night.  He pays his last respects in broad daylight.  It was a crazy thing to do, what with the witch-hunt that was going on, but he decided it was more than worth it.  And I’m thinking that when he heard the next day that some of the disciples had seen Jesus alive again, he wept like a newborn baby.

Let us pray:

We praise you for the shocking miraculous truth, God,
that we can be born again; and
that daily you welcome us into a surprising new life,
the wonderful, creative, unpredictable world of your Spirit;
and that all we can do is allow ourselves to be pushed –
birthed, by your grace,
into new experiences of your reign.

Here we are, O God;
Let us be, once more,
in this moment, in this place,
Born yet again.

Musical Reflection


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

Gracious, giving God, accept our offerings of time, of talent and treasure. Use these gifts for the furtherance of your work. AMEN.

Prayers of Thanksgiving and Hope

God of Nicodemus, we pray for all the people in this world, especially ….
We pray for those in positions of power, those who lead us ….
We pray for the women and men who lay down their lives for the safety of brothers and sisters and neighbours ….
Birth us all anew, O God;
hear us and help us on our journey.


God of Nicodemus,
We pray for those of us who are searching for a deeper meaning to our lives
we pray for all those who long for a new beginning:
those who are imprisoned,
those who are estranged,
those who have left loved ones behind,
and those who are ill or infirm, especially ….
Give us all new life by the power of your Spirit.
Help us to see how we can be present to others
as your hands and feet.
Birth us all anew, O God;
hear us and help us on our journey.


God of Nicodemus,
we pray for your Church ….
Give us the faith to act on what we do not understand.
Bless us to be a blessing to everyone in your Name.

We pray for Chuck and his family on vacation.

May this be a time of rest and renewal for them.
Birth us all anew, O God;
hear us and help us on our journey.


Birth us all anew, O God.
Hear us and help us on our journey.
Help us to grow up again,
to accept not only earthly things but heavenly things,
to lift up your Son and be lifted up ourselves,
to let your Spirit move us beyond our understanding.
God of Nicodemus and all of us,
hear us and help us
even as surely as the Spirit blows among us,
to continue the work of your Son, in whose name we pray,

Closing Hymn

“O Master let me walk with thee” (Book of Praise 1997 Hymn 642). Words (1879) by American pastor Washington Gladden (1836–1918). Music (1874; tune “Maryton”) by English Anglican priest Henry Percy Smith (1825–1898). No copyright information provided as the hymn was not recorded or streamed.

You can enjoy this version of the hymn on YouTube:

graphic of a movie film reel
Click to listen to or sing along with the hymn at YouTube.


Benediction in spoken audio by the Rev. H. Smith. Click on the triangle at left to start listening.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. AMEN. (Romans 15: 13)

Choral Amen

graphic of a movie film reel
Click to listen to the Choral Amen at YouTube.
  • 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 2022-08-07– Updated information on hymns.