February 5, 2023 – Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
A livestream of this service will take place on our YouTube channel on Sunday, February 5, 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, February 5.
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Call to Worship
One: Just as sunrise breaks through the darkness each day,
All: So God’s grace, mercy and justice shine forth.
One: We gather together, with devotion and doubt, with weariness and wonder;
All: trusting that God’s peace and love are present here.
One: Come and worship as you are, knowing you are loved.
All: We come, rejoicing, to praise God’s holy name.
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.
“All things bright and beautiful” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 435). Words (1848) by Anglo-Irish hymnwriter and poet Cecil Frances Alexander (1818–1895). Music (tune: “Royal Oak”) 17th-century folk melody, adapted (1916) by English conductor and composer Martin Shaw (1875–1958). Harmony (published in “The Hymnbook”, 1953) by John Ribble. Words and music public domain. Harmony copyright © 1955, 1983 John Ribble, admin Westminster/John Knox Press; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
Prayers of Approach and Confession, & Lord’s Prayer (sins)
Holy One, Light of the world, We praise you for blessing the world with such beauty and giving us a place within it. Renew us with your Spirit in this time of worship to grow in faithfulness and service. Grant that our lives can shine the light of Christ into these challenging times.
Holy One, we confess we have taken your creation for granted. We squander its resources as if they were only for us. We consume whatever we want, selfishly and carelessly. Forgive us, we pray. Shine your light on us so we see the ways of your wisdom more clearly and follow the path Jesus sets before us with more humble hearts.
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
One: Christ is the first born of creation, shining a redeeming light into the darkness of human sin. In him we are forgiven, restored and made new.
All: Thanks be to God!
One: The Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
All: And also with you.
Guildwood Senior Choir Presents
“We bring our thanks”. Words by American James Paul Williams (1937–2010). Music by American Ruth Elaine Schram (1956–). Word and music copyright © 1988 Harold Flammer; 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)
13 You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
14 You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.
15 People do not light a lamp and put it under the bushel basket; rather, they put it on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.
16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
17 Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.
18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.
19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
The scripture reading is followed by:
One: The Word of God.
People: Thanks be to God.
“Seek ye first” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 625). Words and music (1971; tune: “Seek ye first”) by American musician Karen Lafferty (1948–). Words and music copyright © 1972 Maranatha! Music, distributed by Capitol Christian Music Group; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
Jesus follows the Beatitudes and the questions with this: Matthew 5: 13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything but is thrown out and trampled under foot.”
Jesus uses two metaphors, Salt and Light, to teach us who we are in the eyes of God and what our life is for. In today’s sermon, we are just going to focus on the first metaphor, salt, that we are the salt of the earth.
According to Jesus, we are the salt of the earth.
I understand that we, as Christians, often romanticize being the salt of the earth. Yet, I am not so sure that being the salt of the earth is appealing and attractive. We are fully aware that salt was once a precious and expensive commodity. Wars have been fought over salt. However, no matter how valuable salt is, salt is never a main element or ingredient. Salt helps preserve other ingredients, and it helps other ingredients to shine.
No one comes home and says, “What do we have today? Isn’t it wonderful? We have a plate of salt?” “I had the best meal at this restaurant yesterday, and they served the best plate of salt I ever had.” No one does that, yet at times, I do think we Christians sound like that. We should never take anything away from the importance of salt, but neither should we overemphasize the role of salt as if Jesus were telling us that all you need in this world is salt.
Being the salt of the earth is to help others to shine. To be the salt of the earth, we must accept that we need others as much as others need us. Others need us as much as we need them. Perhaps we don’t like that idea in this world.
We are busy telling each other that “you can be anything you want, as long as you give your best. It is all about you and what you want.” But Jesus is telling us, “It is about us, all of us, yes you, me, and all of us doing our part making this world better.
In a world where we encourage each other, “you should become Moses, David, Esther, Peter, Ruth, and Elijah.” In a world where people want to be the main character and the center of the story, where we are asked to make a huge difference in this world, Jesus invites us to be the salt of the earth. Something so small, yet so essential.
I want to be clear that Jesus is not discouraging people from being a leader, but reminds all of us that there is no one who does not belong to God, and there is no small task that does not matter to God.
I don’t think Jesus is trying to discourage people from doing great and wonderful things in our life, but I believe Jesus tells us, “Don’t forget to do a small task we can do and we must do today.”
I think this is how the apostle Paul would explain what is being the salt of the earth. 1 Corinthians 12: 12–18 (the whole chapter):
“12 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. 13 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. 14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.”
I believe by telling us we are the salt of the earth, Jesus is telling us that the power of God is found in the work of everyone, not just with one powerful and charismatic individual. When the world was busy crying out for the next Moses and Elijah, a strong, powerful, and charismatic individual who could take us to the promised place, perhaps Jesus was telling everyone, “We need all of you to fulfill God’s dream.”
Some of us try to turn this teaching of being the salt of the earth into a lesson or an accusation, “You are not doing enough! Why don’t you do more?’ Why can you not do what she is and he is doing? But I am not sure that that is what Jesus is doing. I don’t believe that is what Jesus is doing.
I believe that being the salt of the earth is about being faithful to God’s unconditional love. It is about being sure of God’s love for us in whatever situation we face in our life journey.
A Lebanese writer, Khalil Gibran in his book, “Sand and Foam,” writes,
“You may forget the one with whom you have laughed, but never the one with whom you have wept. There must be something strangely sacred about salt. It is in our tears and in the sea.”
I too believe the saltiness of our life comes from the tears we share with Christ and with one another. I believe the saltiness we carry in our human hearts comes from the cross Jesus carried on Golgotha and the cross we bear for one another today.
When we understand where our saltiness comes from, being the salt of the earth becomes less about how much we do for others out of our strength, abilities, and power. And it becomes about trusting God in our human spiritual journey.
There is something that unites our humanity together. There is this desire for compassion, love, forgiveness, and acceptance in our human Spirit. The grace and forgiveness of Christ Jesus in our human Spirit connect us with one another and beyond.
Perhaps being the salt of the earth is more about understanding people’s tears, our human longing for God and each other, and our longing for true healing and God’s presence. Doing everything out of awareness allows us to be the salt of the earth.
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
Lord Jesus Christ, your love makes us salt for the earth and light for the world. Bless our gifts so that they bring light into dark days and salt to flavour the earth with your justice and mercy. Amen.
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Hope
God of justice and righteousness, Thank you for the gift of your son Jesus Christ who came to live out your love in this world. Thank you for his words and deeds which continue to challenge and guide us today. He called us to be light for the world and salt for the earth. We thank you for the ministries undertaken through Presbyterian World Service and Development and its many partners, for the light they bring to lives under so many different pressures, and the necessities they provide to sustain communities and make hope tangible. And so we pray for your world with all its wonders and its worries, which rest on our hearts and yours:
We pray for those who need your justice, Lord: For those who sleep on the cold streets, those who do not have enough to eat, and those who worry about how to make ends meet for their families. We pray for all those facing violence, In their homes or communities, for nations engulfed in conflict and for places struggling to recover after flooding, drought, storm or unrest.
We pray for refugees and political prisoners; for children who must work instead of going to school and for parents who long to give their children a better life.
Sustain each of these people with your hope that their needs can be fulfilled and rights restored. Empower us to use our resources to do what we can for them, and give strength and courage to advocates and aid workers who bring hope to birth in many places.
We pray for all who need your healing touch, Lord: For people who are confused or afraid, for those in hospitals and nursing homes and those who care for them, for all who are dealing with long-term disability or mental illness, long Covid and the many illnesses circulating this winter, and for those who have encountered loss through the death of a beloved, change in circumstance or disappointed hopes. Surround each one with your peace and comfort so that hope for healing will be renewed each day.
Compassionate God, Make us salt and light for the world, not by presuming we know best how to fix others but as compassionate and caring neighbours, unafraid to reach out. Encourage us with your grace and inspire us by your Holy Spirit, for you are always with us. Amen.
“When we are living”(Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 630). Original Spanish words paraphrase of Romans 14:8. Verse 1 anoymous; verses 2–4 (1983) by Mexican-American hymnwriter Roberto Escamilla (1931–). English translation verse 1 by American Elise S. Eslinger (1942); verses 2–4 by American George Lockwood (1942–). Music (tune: “Somos del Señor”) Hispanic folk song. English words copyright © 1989 The United Methodist Publishing House; 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.
“The Lord bless you and keep you”. Words from the Aaronic Blessing. Music by English composer John Rutter (1945–). Words public domain. Music copyright © 1981, 2015 Oxford University Press; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
Copyright © 2023 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church
Last updated 2023-02-07 22:15– Added Sermon text.