January 29, 2023 – Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
A livestream of this service will take place on our YouTube channel on Sunday, January 29, at 11:00 AM Eastern Standard Time. A video recording of the live stream will be available on our YouTube channel from 6:00 PM EST on Sunday, January 29.
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Call to Worship
One: God calls us to seek justice:
All: Let Christ’s love for the poor and hungry fill the earth.
One: God calls us to show kindness,
All: Let Christ’s light shine in places of brokenness and despair.
One: God calls us to walk humbly in the Spirit,
All: Let us join the work of the kingdom in humility and hope.
One: Called, blessed and inspired, let us worship God together.
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.
“Blest are they” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 624). Words and music (both 1985; tune: “Blest are they”) by American author and composer David Robert Haas (1957–). Arrangement by American organist and educator Norma de Waal Malefyt (1950–). Words copyright © 1985, music copyright © 1985, arrangement copyright © 1991 GIA Publications. All used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
Prayers of Approach and Confession, & Lord’s Prayer (sins)
God of wisdom and blessing, On this (cold) day we come into the warmth of your presence. Here we find shelter in the strength of your promises; here we find welcome in your tender care. Grateful for the protection you provide, thankful for the comfort of your community, we offer our praise to you. For you give blessing when the world condemns; you bring freedom when the culture confines. Embrace us with your love in this hour of worship as we offer you our love in return. Through Christ our Lord we pray.
God of the ages, we confess the world’s wisdom attracts us, in advertisement and argument. We fail to measure messages according to the wisdom in your Word. We find calls to do justice too demanding, for the world has taught us to look to our own interests first. Forgive us, we pray. Renew us with your mercy, so that we may walk more humbly with you and each other day by day. Amen.
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
Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Though God knows our failings, forgiveness is ours in Jesus Christ. Rejoice and be glad for his renewing love. Thanks be to God!
The Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
Guildwood Senior Choir Presents
“Peace like a river – Amen”. Words and music traditional. Arranged (1980) by American composer and arranger Douglas E. Wagner. Words and music public domain. Arrangement copyright © 1980, 2008 Shawnee Press; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
Fun with the young at heart (children’s story)
The Life and Work of the Church (Announcements)
The scripture reading is followed by:
One: The Word of God.
People: Thanks be to God.
Today we are looking at the Beatitudes.
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
I believe this teaching of the Beatitudes does not give us an easy answer but invites us to hear a question, in fact, many questions in our hearts. “What does it mean to be blessed? What does it mean to be truly happy? What does it mean to be alive? What is the point and purpose of our life? What does God have to do with our own happiness and our life?”
We know what our world teaches us what it means to be happy. We know what it means when we say he is so blessed and someone is so blessed. Being born into a good family, studying hard, going to a good school, getting a good job, a wonderful family enjoying life, enjoying good health, living in her own house, retiring early with a good pension plan, and being able to give to others occasionally and whenever he wants……dying well, dying in our own bed….
Yet, Jesus does not say any of that. Neither Jesus denies the importance of any of that. Jesus does not say it is better to live in poverty than in wealth nor it is better to be wealthy than to be poor. Jesus does not say it is better to be hated than to be liked. But, Jesus raises a question by telling us whether we are hungry, grieving and being persecuted, given a path to God’s blessing or happiness. Whatever situation we are in, wherever we are and whatever situation we are in, we are given something more precious than anything the world can provide us with. Perhaps Jesus reminds us that our happiness does not depend on money or food but depends on finding that precious gift God has given. Our happiness depends on fulfilling our inner calling and living in faith.
Yet, it is not clear what it means to be blessed or happy, according to Jesus. I also have to say it is somewhat unsatisfying. Why does Jesus say it more clearly by saying, “True happiness is found when we try to build a world where no one is hungry in this world. True happiness is found when we are willing to help one another. The haves share with the have nots. True happiness is found when God finds us?” I mean, happiness described in Psalm 1 is much easier to understand. Psalm 1 (verse from 1 to 3):
“Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path that sinners tread or sit in the seat of scoffers, 2 but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night. 3 They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.”
Although the kind of prosperity and abundance God promises in this first Psalm is not about worldly wealth, this is much easier to understand what it means to be blessed and to be happy. Those who follow God and those who live according to faith are blessed and know they are blessed because they will prosper. Whatever that means.
In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus redefines what it means to be blessed by God with a much messier and muddier picture of what it means to be blessed and happy. Perhaps Jesus is trying to tell us despite the chaotic life, God has blessed us….
I would like us to listen to other Christians and how they approached the Beatitudes.
“Having reached the end of the Beatitudes, we naturally ask if there is any place of this earth for the community which they describe. Clearly, there is one place, and only one, and that is where the poorest, meekest, and most sorely tried of all men is to be found — on the cross at Golgotha. The fellowship of the Beatitudes is the fellowship of the Crucified. With him it has lost all, and with him it has found all. From the cross there comes the call ‘blessed, blessed.’” (pp 113–114).
According to Bonhoeffer, the Beatitudes call us to deepen our commitment to our faith. These Beatitudes are meant to challenge us, not to settle with our earthly life and what they can offer us, do everything in our life to follow Jesus Christ who carries our cross.
According to Paul Tillich (in “The Shaking of the Foundations”), Jesus spoke to two kinds of people through the Beatitudes. One kind is people who were poorly adjusted to things as they were. They were suffering under the conditions of their lives. Many were disinherited, insecure, hungry, and oppressed. And the other kind is people who lived with their hearts in things as they are. They were well-established in their lives. They enjoyed prestige, power, and security. Beatitudes do not glorify those who are poor and in misery, neither they condemn those who are rich and secure, classes or individuals, because they are rich. But they show this tension we experience between two worlds and two dimensions. The Beatitudes are not meant to be comprehended completely. According to Paul Tillich, we are not meant to understand the Beatitudes completely, we are meant to struggle with them each day. The fact we are struggling with happiness proves we are spiritual beings searching for God eternal.
Joan Chittister believes that the Beatitudes tell us about the community happiness and communal spiritual dimensions of happiness, which comes from understanding God created all of us equally and God desires happiness for all of us, not just for me but for all of us. We, as North American Christians, need to know how much we have and how much others need in the rest of the world. She urges Christians to go beyond making ourselves happy and comfortable.
Archbishop Em Elias Chacour, a writer and Aramaic speaker, believes that the Beatitudes are not prayers of supplication for the gifts that are not yet given. He challenges the Western Capitalistic Christians’ approach; Jesus was not saying blessed are poor because one day they will become rich, but because God has given them something the world cannot provide. “Get up, go ahead, do something, move, you who are hungry and thirsty for justice, for you shall be satisfied. Get up, go ahead, do something, move, you peacemakers, for you shall be called children of God.”
You know what? I agree with them. I agree with all of them. The Beatitudes Jesus gave us are not meant to be a fixed condition on our human happiness, but a living gift for us to ponder each day. The Beatitudes offer us so much more than we ever imagined.
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
“Praise God from whom all blessings flow” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 306) Based on the tune “Old 100th” with words (1989) by English hymnwriter Brian A. Wren (1936–). Words copyright © 1989 Hope Publishing Co.; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A. Music public domain.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
praise God all creatures high and low;
praise God in Jesus fully known,
Creator Word and Spirit One.
Prayer of dedication
God of Life, from you all loving kindness, justice and mercy flow. Bless these gifts so that acts of kindness, justice and mercy flow from them, too. And bless our lives so the world may see in us signs of your kingdom at work in the church and community, in Christ’s name. Amen.
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Hope
Blessed are you, most holy God, for you give release to the captives and food to the hungry. Bless us as we hunger and thirst for your justice and righteousness. May all who are needy find their hope in you.
Compassionate God, we thank you for your mercy. You give pardon for our sin and call us to forgive others. Embrace with your renewing grace those who are resentful or discouraged. Help us serve as instruments of reconciliation when discord or conflict arises.
Righteous God, we thank you for your justice. You watch over all who suffer and empower your people to act for good. Bless the work of our church and its partners to advocate for justice and dignity in our communities and in your world. Keep safe all who live under threat of violence or struggle for life’s necessities.
Caring God, we thank you for your comfort. You strengthen us when we are weak and pick us up when we fall. Bless us as we support and care for one another in this community. Surround all who mourn with the warmth of your love and the light of our hope in Christ Jesus.
God of new life, we give you thanks for your enlivening Spirit. You give courage to the persecuted and inspire the weary. Bless us as we strive to make a difference as a community in Christ’s name. Unite your Church by the power of your Holy Spirit, and strengthen our common witness with the gifts you offer us through Jesus Christ. Amen.
“We cannot own the sunlit sky” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 717). Words (1984) by American pastor, theologian and hymn-writer Ruth Duck (1947–). Music (1869; tune: “Endless Song”) attributed to American hymn-writer Robert Lowry (1826–1899). Words copyright © 1984, 1989 GIA Publications, Inc.; 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.
“Celtic Blessing”. Words Irish traditional. Music by former GCPC Music Director Carmen Lappano. Words public domain. Music copyright © Carmen Lappano; used by permission.
Copyright © 2023 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church
Last updated 2023-02-05 19:00 – Corrected Musical Reflection info.