January 21, 2024 – Third Sunday after the Epiphany
A livestream of this service will take place on our YouTube channel on Sunday, January 21, 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 21.
Previous livestreams and other worship and musical content is available on our YouTube channel. You can also check out our entire worship services archive. Our SoundCloud channel has yet more music and worship content.
Today we welcome guest organist Jennifer Pos.
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.
Call to Worship
One: God our rock and our salvation.
All: We will not be shaken!
One: Trust in God at all times, O people.
All: We will pour out our hearts to God, our refuge.
One: Today, let us turn to God and accept the good news.
All: We will listen for Christ’s call and follow him.
“God of mercy, God of grace” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 39). Words (1834, paraphrase of Psalm 67) by English Anglican divine and hymnwriter Henry Francis Lyte (1793–1847). Music (1838; tune: “Dix”) by German composer Conrad Kocher (1786–1872). This arrangement (1861) by English organist William Henry Monk (1823–1889). Words, music and arrangement public domain.
Prayers of Approach and Confession, & Lord’s Prayer (sins)
Lord Jesus Christ,
you have called us together as your people, and invited us to follow you. Your church has grown from scattered homes in ancient times – to a worldwide community, embracing men and women, young and old, from many nations and cultures. We marvel at the miracle of your church, and praise you for our place among your people. Your love keeps drawing us to you and to each other, and so we offer you our wonder and praise with millions of those who also gather in your name this day, our Saviour and our Lord.
God of mercy and mystery,
we confess your mercy can disturb us. We sit in judgment on what we hear, and cannot imagine offering forgiveness for dreadful actions. We prefer to think that your judgment matches ours. Forgive us for presuming we see as you see, and understand all that you understand. Have mercy upon us, O God, when we give up on the power of mercy.
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
The mercy of our God is from everlasting to everlasting. Friends, hear the good news of the Gospel. In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven and set free to begin again. Let us give thanks for God’s most generous love. Thanks be to God!
One: The Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
All: And also with you.
The Life and Work of the Church (Announcements)
Mission Moment (By the Mission and Outreach Committee – Don MacOdrum)
Guildwood Senior Choir Presents (or A musical Reflection: Solo)
Fun with the Young at Heart (children’s story)
We sing verse 1 of “Jesus loves me this I know”.
“Jesus loves me, this I know” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 373). Words (1859 or 1860) by American writer Anna Bartlett Warner (1827–1915). Revisions to v2 and v3 by Canadian Anglican priest David Rutherford McGuire (1929–1971). Music (1862; tune: “Jesus loves me”) by American musician William Batchelder Bradbury (1816–1868). Words, revisions and music in the public domain.
Mark 1:14–20 <– this links to on-line text of the NRSV bible
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the good news of God 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea, for they were fishers. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of people.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
Today, we are looking at where and how Christianity began. It began in Galilee and started with Jesus and a few fishermen.
Mark 1:14–15, 14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the good news of God 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
Jesus begins his ministry from Galilee, not from Jerusalem where the temple of God was built and located, but from insignificant, abandoned and forgotten Galilee. For many of us who live in a great place like Toronto in North America cannot imagine what it was like to live in Galilee two thousand years ago. But even today we witness many troubled places in the world just like Galilee, desperate for the good news.
Galilee was a sad and suffering place. Galilee had long been associated with war and invading armies. It often became a battle ground. Over the history, Galileans became socially and economically disadvantaged, disinherited, and dissatisfied. The region of Galilee was treated as a foreign land.
Jesus begins his ministry from the forgotten Galilee with the disheartened Galileans, by proclaiming the good news of God, not the good news of the world, but the good news of God, that God has heard their prayers, and the kingdom of God is near to them, God’s promise is about to be fulfilled.
I would like to highlight the word, proclaiming, Kay/roo/so. Kayrooso means announcing publicly in words and actions. Jesus does not begin his ministry by talking about the good news. Jesus does not begin his ministry by describing what the good news of God is about…. He does not begin his ministry by giving a good sermon. Jesus proclaims the good news of God. Jesus becomes the good news.
In our world, we separate the messenger from the message, but in the Bible, the messenger is the message, and the message is the messenger. They are inseparable.
If I borrow Evelyn Underhill’s approach, proclaiming the good news is done when our thinking, feeling, and willing become one. If we borrow Aristotle’s understanding, it is accomplished when our ethos, pathos, and logos merge into a unified whole. The proclamation is fulfilled when speakers and listeners become one. It is the process of words and actions becoming one. It involves our thoughts, emotions, actions, prayers, dreams, and intentions emerging into one.
How do we describe this? …. Proclaiming the good news is not about the kind of sound we make with our speech; rather, it is about showing, revealing, and disclosing the presence of God through all of us — in the choices of our words, the tone of our voice, the way we walk, the way we talk to others, the way we listen, the silence we carry in our hearts, the feelings we carry, the actions we take, the choices we make, and the intention behind our actions.
It is important to know Jesus did not begin ministry by with a special sermon or an impressive rhetoric, but he began his ministry with the Spirit of God and the presence of God within him. Jesus did not have to begin his ministry from Jerusalem. His ministry did not have to be blessed and approved by the high priests and the power of Jerusalem. He began his ministry in the forgotten Galilee.
The text we read today invites us to think more about how we should respond to the proclamation of the good news by Jesus. Mark 1:14–15, 14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the good news of God 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
We are invited to repent and believe in the good news. To repent is to change, to transform, and to return to God. To believe is to trust, to put confidence in God.
According to the gospel of John, we may begin to follow Jesus when we are willing to come and see. But according to the gospel of Mark, we may begin to follow Jesus when we begin to repent and believe in the good news.
To repent is to change the direction of our lives; it is not about condemning and punishing ourselves again and again. To repent is to leave behind anything that does not help us to live our lives as the beloved children of God. To repent involves leaving behind the destructive thoughts about God and us, to allow God to plant the life-giving understanding of God’s unconditional love. To repent is to start making decisions each day that reflect God’s love, compassion, and mercy, and reorganizing our priorities in life by trusting God.
Believing in the good news is trusting that we are loved by God, regardless of our disappointments. It involves trusting that God has placed us where we are today to make a difference according to the desires of God. It is not about trusting our own strength and knowledge but trusting that God will work with us and use every part of our lives, even the aspects we are not proud of—our failures, weaknesses, struggles, and questions.
To trust God is not about trusting ourselves less but trusting God beyond our own struggles and shortcomings.
Henri Nouwen believes the parable of the prodigal son demonstrates what it means to repent and to believe in the good news. To repent is to return home, to come home where God is waiting for us. To repent is to move away from the place of condemnation to the place of welcoming and acceptance. This is how he summarizes what it means to follow God in his book, ‘the return of the prodigal son.
“For most of my life I have struggled to find God, to know God, to love God. I have tried hard to follow the guidelines of the spiritual life—pray always, work for others, read the Scriptures—and to avoid the many temptations to dissipate myself. I have failed many times but always tried again, even when I was close to despair.
Now I wonder whether I have sufficiently realized that during all this time God has been trying to find me, to know me, and to love me. The question is not “How am I to find God?” but “How am I to let myself be found by him?” The question is not “How am I to know God?” but “How am I to let myself be known by God?” And, finally, the question is not “How am I to love God?” but “How am I to let myself be loved by God?” God is looking into the distance for me, trying to find me, and longing to bring me home.”
May we allow God to lead us, deepen us and walk with us? May we respond to Jesus, “Yes, Jesus, I don’t know what it means to follow you, but help us to take the step we need to take. Here is what I thought my life was about, show me what I need to see today. When we get behind, wait for us, God, when we get discouraged, be patient with us.”
“Will you come and follow me” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 634). Words (1987) by Scottish hymn-writer and Church of Scotland minister John L. Bell (1949–) and his Scottish hymn-writing partner Graham Maule (1958–2019), both affiliated with the Iona Community. Music (Scottish traditional; tune “Kelvingrove”) arranged in 1987 by Bell. Words and arrangement copyright © 1987, Iona Community, GIA Publications, Inc. agent; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A. Music public domain. Arrangement copyright © 1987 GIA Publications; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
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.
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, you called ordinary men and women join in the work of God’s reign on earth. We offer you our gifts to share in the work you began through them. Bless our gifts and work through us, that the world may know your love is still active among us all. Amen.
The Prayer of Thanksgiving and Hope
God of fishers and farmers and factory workers, God of those who work in health care, hospitality and at home, God of our offices and businesses, our stores and our streets, our schools and rec centres, of emergency services and entertainers, we thank you for the many ways we can serve your purposes. And we thank you for all the ways others offer us goodness to sustain our lives and support our community. Remind us to offer our thanks to them, not only to you.
God of purpose and promise, Jesus called his first followers to change their livelihoods and so they did. Today we pray for those whose work has changed without their choice: those who have lost their jobs, those whose businesses are in jeopardy, and those who face increased demands at work with less support. Give them courage and perseverance as the future unfolds.
God of all churches who bear your Son’s name, whatever tradition or perspective that shapes us, we thank you for the fellowship we share and the gifts of the Spirit we receive. We pray that the differences between us will not blunt our witness to Jesus and the love he proclaims. Teach us to value diversity in discipleship and honour what unites us more than what divides us, so that the world may see Jesus reflected in all our lives.
God of our cities and towns, our villages and reserves, God of all cultures and clans that shape our identities, you created us for community. We thank you for the enjoyment and support that we find by coming together. We pray for all those who suffer because others judge something key to their identities, language or religion, orientation or status. Help us learn from each other through our differences, and recognize the face of Christ in those who challenge our assumptions.
God of all times and situations, We bear on our hearts concerns for many around us whose challenges seem overwhelming. Hear us in this time of silence as we name them before you:
Send your Spirit of healing and hope to embrace those who need you. We dare to ask all this because we trust in the name of Jesus, your Son, Amen.
“Make me a Channel of Your Peace” (Book of Praise 1997, Hymn 740). Words and music (1967; tune: “Make Me a Channel”) by South-African songwriter Sebastian Temple (1928–1997). Words and music copyright © 1967 OCP Publications; used by permission of One License, license number 722141-A.
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.
“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.
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