March 19, 2023 – Fourth Sunday in Lent
A livestream of this service will take place on our YouTube channel on Sunday, March 19, 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, March 19.
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Call to Worship
L: Just as the Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness,
P: the Spirit leads us into places of uncertainty where we confront our weakness and insecurities.
L: Here we are taught to pay attention to those whom others ignore.
P: Jesus insists that God’s grace is revealed in unlikely people.
L: God’s realm is a place where all are welcome, regardless of their state or position. In a world of disparity, we recognize that some receive what is denied to others.
P: Let us break through barriers that keep many from receiving the grace that they need.
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.
“Out of my bondage, sorrow and nigh” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 193). Words (1887) by American minister William T. Sleeper (1819–1904). Music (1887; tune “Out of my bondage”) by American gospel song writer George Coles Stebbins (1846–1945). Words and music public domain.
Prayers of Approach and Confession, & Lord’s Prayer (sins)
God of life and love, You are the Source of all that sustains us. You are compassion, embracing us when we call for mercy. You are mercy guiding us through anxious times. You are wisdom, revealing truth to challenge and renew us. Holy One, you bless us with your presence day by day, so we turn to you in worship, to seek your blessing once again. We offer you our love and loyalty, our prayers and our praise, for you are Love, Light and Life for us, and we belong to you. Amen.
God of life and love, these days we confess that events around us shake our trust in your love. When terror strikes and innocents fall, we wonder if love can defeat violence. When truth is twisted by misleading claims, we wonder if love can prevail over lies. When we face trouble, we wonder if you love us at all. Forgive us, God, when we lose our trust in your love.
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
Sisters and brothers, by the mercy of Christ, we are forgiven. Accept that we are accepted by Jesus Christ. Forgive one another and discover the peace of Christ.
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
“I will be a child of peace”. Words and music (2013) by American composer Elaine Hagenberg (1979–). Words and music © 1989 Beckenhorst Press, Inc.; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A. Music public domain
Fun with the young at heart (children’s story)
A Welcome Moment
The Life and Work of the Church (Announcements)
“The Lord’s my shepherd (Psalm 23)”. (Book of Praise 1997, hymn 11). Words Psalm 23; paraphrase, Scottish Psalter, 1650. Music (1872; tune: “Crimond”) by Scottish amateur hymn composer Jessie Seymour Irvine (1836–1887). Harmony by 1929 Scottish Psalter editor Thomas Cuthbertson Leithead Pritchard (1885–1960). Descant by Scottish organist and composer W. Baird Ross (1871–1950). Words, music, harmony and descant all public domain.
Psalm 23 <– 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.
A Psalm of David
1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;
3 he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.
The scripture reading is followed by:
One: The Word of God.
People: Thanks be to God.
Today we are looking at Psalm 23, which reminds us of the kind of God that David and the ancient people of Israel have experienced in their human history.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”
The ancient people of Israel experienced a shepherd-like God who guided their life’s journey and who provided them with protection and abundance. Although God did not prevent them from going through darkest valleys or facing evils, but God was always with them. And God brought them a sense of fullness and happiness.
For thousands of years, humans have found comfort in the message of Psalm 23, which does not promise that everything will be okay if we believe in God. Instead, it promises that God will actively guide us to become stronger or wiser, no matter what we go through. Even today, this Psalm is being read by people at weddings, funerals, hospitals, homes, young or old, giving them strength, comfort and meaning to go on with their lives.
However, we also want to acknowledge that is not how everyone experiences God. That is not how people look at God and themselves in 2023.
Accepting God as our shepherd means acknowledging that we are his sheep and require his guidance, and this can present numerous challenges.
One challenge is how the church and Christians failed to show who God is. We are good at telling what kind of God we must follow, but not always good at showing who God is through what we do. I don’t need to go through the list of abuses and hypocrisies the church has committed. That is not to discredit the many wonderful blessings the church has shared. But it is to accept our struggles and failures in showing who God is to each other.
Not only that too often, God has been portrayed as this angry, punishing, controlling, and micromanaging God who never forgets every little thing we have done wrong and always talks about what I am not doing right. As if God is this grumpy and never-satisfying boss, “Why don’t do you more? You are not doing enough.”
Another challenge is that we are living in a very individualistic society. I am actually glad to be a part of this individualistic society which allows me to value my personal right, freedom and independence, yet we are also aware of its own limitations. How easy it is to isolate ourselves from one another. How easy it is to say, “I don’t care whether he suffers, or she suffers, as long as I am okay. I am okay as long as I get what I want.” How easy our personal needs and feelings can become our own idol. The concept of following God or depending on God and on each other is becoming a foreign concept.
Another challenge is that we are a part of this culture that values external wealth, power, and success more than relationships, forgiveness, inner peace, faith, and compassion. Following God does not appeal to us as much as becoming successful or making more money.
Whoever wrote Psalm 23, whether it was David or the ancient people of Israel, the author of Psalm 23 is not trying to come up with a theological statement or argument about God, but the author shares the kind of God he has experienced in his life, and he invite us to engage a dialogue with God.
I don’t think the author of Psalm 23 cares whether we agree with him or not, but I believe the author of Psalm 23 invites us to open our eyes and see how God works in our life today and take a step toward serving God and loving God.
I believe this is how Jesus responds to Psalm 23, imagining, dreaming, and wondering who God is to him. The gospel of Luke 15: 3–7, “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
Jesus shares with us that God is the kind of shepherd who cares about us and who will put everything behind to find us. Jesus reminds us that God is the kind of shepherd who celebrates when we are found, not the kind of shepherd who punishes when we get lost.
I believe Psalm 23 invites us to deepen our conversations with the risen Christ, who cares about us more than we do for ourselves.
“This is my Father’s world” (Book of Praise 1997 Hymn 328). Original words (1901) by American Presbyterian minister Maltbie Davenport Babcock (1858–1901). Music (1915; tune: “Terra Beata”) by American Presbyterian hymn-writer Franklin L. Sheppard (1852–1930), based on a traditional English melody. This arrangement 1998. Original words and music in the public domain. This arrangement copyright © 1998 Pilot Point Music; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
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 our Good Shepherd, receive these gifts and bless them with your love. Use them to bring light and healing to the world you love for the sake of Christ, your Son, our Saviour. Amen.
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Hope
God, Shepherd of our Lives, We give you thanks for all the things you provide that make life good and full: For the rhythms of nature which water thirsty lands, producing food for all creatures; For energy to work and for community to share in the produce of work. Yet we are still thirsty in this land of plenty: thirsty for hope when work fails; thirsty for love when friends fail; thirsty for justice when sharing fails. Shepherd God, fill us with your love Lead us on your paths.
God, Shepherd of our Lives Thank you for the light you shine in a world filled with complexity to bring hope and increase understanding: Understanding to address human need and improve daily life; Understanding to deepen relationships and mutual respect; Understanding to tackles problems and seek solutions. And so we seek your light to lead us: the light of wisdom to bring people of different perspectives together; the light of courage to work for change in desperate situations; the light of hope to persevere when change is difficult. Shepherd God, fill us with you love. Lead us on your paths.
God, Shepherd of our Lives, Thank you for the purpose and potential you create for us in Christ: For creating friendships and neighbourhoods that support us, For creating co-operation to accomplish goals that seemed impossible, For creating gratitude for the gifts we discover in each other. And so we seek the gifts of the Spirit we need in these challenging days: The gift of confidence to renew our ministries in humility and hope, The gift of generosity to renew lives in need around us, The gift of faith to trust you for a future we cannot yet see ourselves. Shepherd God, Lead us on your paths.
God, Good Shepherd of our Lives, we give you thanks that Jesus walks beside us and leads us on the paths you set before us into the future. Amen.
“Lord, Jesus, you shall be my song” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 665). English words (1970; translated from the original French words of 1961) by Anglo-Canadian priest, musician and theologian Stephen Sommerville (1931–2015). Music (1961; tune: “Les Petites Soeurs”) by Les Petites Soeurs de Jésus. English words copyright © 1970 Stephen Sommerville. Music copyright © 1987 Les Petites Soeurs de Jésus.
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.
“For the Beauty of the Earth”. Words (1864) by English hymnwriter Folliott Sandford Pierpoint (1835–1917). Music (1838; tune: “Dix”) by German composer Conrad Kocher (1786–1872). This arrangement (2007) by American composer Joel Raney (1956–). Words and music public domain. Arrangement copyright © 2007 Hope Publishing Co.; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
Copyright © 2023 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church
Last updated 2023-03-20 22:50– Added sermon text; added Musical Reflection and Postlude info.