August 13, 2023 – Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
There is no livestream this week. Previous livestreams and other worship and musical content is available on our YouTube channel.
Call to Worship
The Call to Worship is based on Psalm 119.
One: God’s word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our paths.
All: The unfolding of God’s word gives light.
One: In God’s word is our hope.
All: Come, Let us worship God.
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.
“Holy, holy, holy” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 303). Words Argentine traditional liturgical. Music (tune: “Sanctus (Argentina)”) anonymous. Arrangement by Argentine minister and composer Pablo Sosa (1933–2020). Words public domain. Music public domain. Arrangement copyright © 1980 WGRG The Iona Community (Scotland), GIA Publications Inc agent; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A. Copyright information given for information purposes only as the service was not streamed.
Adoration, Confession, Lord’s Prayer
O God in whom we live and more and have our being, we have gathered in your presence to sing your praise and listen for your word. Gather up the prayer of each heart, the praises of each mouth, into one harmony of worship and service, so that we might truly be one body in Christ. Accept the words of our mouths, and the thoughts of each of our hearts, for we are your people, in Christ Jesus our saviour and our friend.
God of mercy, as we come before you, we confess that we have not always listened for your word, preferring the easier messages that the world around us offers. We know that in your word is our hope, but we often think it asks too much of us, calling us to align our wills with your own, and to give ourselves in devotion and service to the building of your reign. Forgive us, we pray. Help us to hear and respond, to receive your word of life and then by grace to give ourselves to proclaiming it to the world through our words and actions. We ask this in Jesus’ name, and join together now in the prayer he gave us:
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
Friends in Christ, hear the good news. For those who confess their sins, God’s word is one of grace and forgiveness. Receive the new life God offers you in Christ. Amen.
One: The Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
All: And also with you.
Special Musical Presentation
Fun with the young at heart (children’s story)
The Life and Work of the Church (Announcements)
“Break now the bread of life” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 507). Words (1880) by Alexander Groves (1842–1909) and American Mary Ann Lathbury (1841–1913). Music (1877; tune: “Lathbury”) by American music teacher and composer William Fisk Sherwin (1826–1888). Adapted by David Grundy (1934–). Words and music public domain. Adaptation copyright © Church Society, London. Copyright information given for information purposes only as the service was not streamed.
Acts 20:7–12 <– this links to on-line text of the NRSV bible
7 On the first day of the week, when we met to break bread, Paul was holding a discussion with them; since he intended to leave the next day, he continued speaking until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the room upstairs where we were meeting. 9 A young man named Eutychus, who was sitting in the window, began to sink off into a deep sleep while Paul talked still longer. Overcome by sleep, he fell to the ground three floors below and was picked up dead. 10 But Paul went down and bending over him took him in his arms and said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.” 11 Then Paul went upstairs, and after he had broken bread and eaten, he continued to converse with them until dawn; then he left. 12 Meanwhile they had taken the boy away alive and were not a little comforted.
The scripture reading is followed by:
One: The Word of God.
People: Thanks be to God.
The story of Eutychus. Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of him. His name is in the Bible exactly once, in Acts 20. The name means “lucky”, but that must refer to some other incident in his life. His only claim to fame in scripture is that he falls asleep during one of Paul’s sermons. He has discovered, as some of you have, the cure for insomnia. The bad news for him is that he is sitting in an open third story window, and, unlucky for him, when he dozes off, he falls out. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
On this particular occasion, recorded for us in Acts 20, Paul is on such a roll, and he has built up such a head of steam that he preaches right to midnight, then thinks of some things he left out, and keeps right on going. Like many preachers, he has so much to say, and he is so impressed with his own ability to string words together, that he doesn’t even notice the hour, or how hot it is in the room, or how the poor young man who’s sitting back on the window ledge keeps nodding off.
Poor Eutychus. The longer Paul goes on, the deeper his sleep. We don’t know if he was partying too late last night, or put in a long day at work. We do know, though, that Paul’s sermon is like the Energizer bunny. It just keeps going and going.
Suddenly there’s a shout! The poor kid in the window has fallen out. Paul stops in mid-sentence. In all the confusion, someone runs downstairs, only to discover Eutychus is dead. “We’ll see about that,” says Paul. He goes down, takes up the limp body in his arms, and declares that there is life in him. And there is. He’s a little dazed, but fully alive, and in his right mind.
The text, which doesn’t even mention Eutychus by name again, tells us that Paul goes back upstairs, breaks bread with the gathered faithful, and runs over the main points of the sermon one more time just to make sure that no one has missed them. And it is dawn, mind you, before he finally gives the benediction and sends them all on their way. You have to wonder how many others had fallen asleep but were lucky enough not to be sitting in an open window, how many were shaking their watches, rolling their eyes. “These out-of-town preachers are all the same. When is he going to shut it down and let us go home?”
Wen Paul finally leaves, the boy Eutychus is alive. Luke, the author of Acts, is obviously a man of few words. He tells us, in a concise understatement which comes out in the original Greek and from which Paul could have learned something, the people were “not a little comforted”.
I’ve no doubt. that would be a worship service they would not soon forget. But it’s interesting to note that as Luke tells us this story, he tells us nothing about the content of Paul’s sermon, just how long it was.
For you, the people in the pew, there’s a moral to this story. Actually, it’s a good news / bad news moral. The bad news is that if you fall asleep in the sermon, nasty things may happen to you. But the good news is that they aren’t usually fatal. I know we’re on the ground floor here, but I think you should still take it as a warning. Pay attention, or you never know what will happen, and I don’t think I have the gift of healing quite like Paul did.
But for the preacher, there’s another message, and it’s pretty much all bad news for us. We preachers are all a little chastened by this story. I guess it’s a bit of a comfort that even the great Paul went on too long, and had people fall asleep in his sermons. It’s a bit of a reminder to us not to take ourselves too seriously, and that as good as what we have to say may be, if we can’t keep the congregation awake, we might just as well save our breath.
At a deeper level, for all of us, it’s a sober reminder that the word of God is life to us all, and is not something that should put us to sleep. The word of God, if we interpret it faithfully, should have us all squirming in our seats.
Psalm 119 tells us:
“God’s word is a lamp to my feet,
and light to my path.”
Hebrews 4 says:
“God’s word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword,
piercing, dividing, judging.”
II Timothy 3 says:
“All scripture is inspired by God,
and useful for teaching, reproof, correction and training.”
We preachers have to wonder about our legacy if what we can say about our ministry is, “Well, I preached sermons on the word of God, and it was a wonderful cure for my congregation’s insomnia.”
John Stott, the great British preacher, told the story of a prospective young preacher seeking the approval of his church to be ordained. Maybe not the brightest light in his class, he said, “Well, my sermons are not going to set the Thames on fire.” To which, one of his examiners said, “What I want to know is if we were to pick you up and drop you in the Thames, would it sizzle?” We need to be on fire with a passion for what God has to say to us all through Scripture.
For all of us — preached and preached to, to turn to God’s word is to enter dangerous territory, the territory of life and death, of good and evil, of illness and healing, of hope and despair, of love and hate. The things that make our hearts dance, and our stomachs turn. To submit ourselves to God’s word is to place ourselves under its judgement and its gospel, and to be pointed to the God of grace who wants only our devotion and love.
Preaching, the interpretation of Scripture, is crucial to all of us as we try to live as Christians in the world, and Eutychus is a reminder to all of us to be aware of that. None of us should ever take it lightly. Paul, in Romans 1 writes, “But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?” And in Acts, the Ethiopian eunuch, struggling with a passage of scripture, asks Philip, “How can I understand, unless someone guides me.” It’s an important process for all of us. Maybe those of us who come to listen to sermons need to come expecting not to be dazzled, entertained, or kept awake by the preacher, but for the sermon to be an instrument for God’s spirit to feed us, to give us life and hope and maybe even to jolt us out of our seats by the life-giving word of God.
Annie Dillard quote, “Teaching a Stone to Talk”: “Why do people in church seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute? … Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us to where we can never return.”
And maybe those of us who are in the business of writing and delivering sermons need to remember the people like Eutychus who need to hear from God’s word a bit of encouragement for the things they face everyday. And maybe we can also remember with humility and awe that it is a wonderful and dangerous thing we do, to handle the ancient sacred texts, and stand under the burden of what the Spirit will say through them.
And maybe what happened to Eutychus is a clue to all of us, preachers, and preached-to alike, about what we can expect to happen when God’s word is faithfully proclaimed. Sure it was a long sermon, and a hot night, but we could do a lot worse than to leave our worship fully alive and, as Luke put it, not a little comforted.
May that be our hope.
Now to the one whose word is life to us we give all honour and praise now and forever.
May we present our gifts to God in response to what we have received from God?
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
Our offering will now be received.
“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. Copyright information given for information purposes only as the service was not streamed.
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
We thank you, O God, for the word of life you have spoken to us in Christ, and for the abundance of the blessings that are ours. Accept these offerings, we pray, and use them to build up your church to continue to proclaim that word to the world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Prayers for the World
Gracious God, we praise and thank you for how abundantly you provide for us, for family and friends who care for and support us, for a country of opportunity where we are safe and secure, for excellence in education and health care, for jobs that provide for them, and summer rest to recharge our batteries, and for a community of faith where we can offer our gifts and learn of your love. For all your gifts we give you thanks.
And as we are reminded of our blessings, we remember those who are in need of an extra measure of your grace, and lift them up to you now in prayer.
We remember the poor and homeless, and especially those even within our own city. We think of the refugees from Africa, looking for housing, for Khalid Zia, looking for work, for those struggling with food insecurity. Use us as people of faith within the city to be their advocates and support.
We pray for refugees around the world, who find themselves without the security and protection of a home or homeland, that you would work to provide for them what they need and to alleviate the conditions and tensions that force them to flee.
We pray for peace where there is not peace, for the war in Ukraine, those who are wounded, those who are grieving. We pray for the people of Israel/Palestine, that mistrust and hatred will be replaced with respect and friendship. We pray, O God, for peace.
We pray for those who are sick or hospitalized, those within our congregation or families, and those who we alone may know. We pray for them your healing and presence, for peace and freedom from the anxiety that accompanies illness. We remember medical professionals who provide their care and family members who give their love and support.
We pray for family members and loved ones who are travelling in these summer months, that you would watch over them to keep them safe, and renew them in body and spirit in a time of relaxation. We pray for Rev. Chuck and his family, that this will be for them a time of rest and renewal.
And for ourselves, great God, we ask that you would instil in each of us a love for your word. Help us to look to it for guidance and inspiration, and give us the courage to form our lives around what it tells us of your will. May we find our own story within its story, and so come to understand the grace by which we live. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
“Lord Dismiss us with your blessing” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 468). Words by British theologian and hymnwriter John Fawcett (1740–1817). Music (tune: “Tantum Ergo”) from Antiphona (1792) by English composer Samuel Webbe (1740–1816). Words and music public domain.
Commissioning and Benediction
Go in peace to carry God’s word of love into the world.
And may the God of hope fill you will all joy and peace in believing so that you may abound in hope, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen. (Romans 15: 13)
“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. Copyright information given for information purposes only as the service was not streamed.
Copyright © 2023 Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church
Last updated 2023-08-13 02:40 – First version.