St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church                                                                                    Oct 18, 2020

Rev Allan & Sharon Gault                                                      20th Sunday after Pentecost

Responsive Call to Worship

 

One: God knows us by name, and calls us to follow.

All: The presence of the Lord is with us as we venture out.

 

One: Just as Moses was led by God’s goodness, so are we guided.

All: God’s ways are sure and lead the faithful to righteousness.

 

One: Together let us seek God’s leading in Word and in prayer.

All: Let us worship God together!

 

Hymn: Shine, Jesus. Shine

 

Prayer of Adoration and Confession

 

Holy God, the mystery of your presence stretches far beyond us,

yet we know you draw near to us in Christ,

walking beside us, guiding us with wisdom, loving us with boundless grace.

Your Spirit encourages us as we follow Christ

and gives us the energy and insight we need to serve you.

Holy God, we are glad to gather in your presence,

to be embraced by your mystery and your mercy.

For we confess we do need your mercy.

We claim to be your people, but we forget to love as you do.

We claim to seek your guidance, but we often turn from your ways.

We ask for your forgiveness, but we fail to forgive as you forgive.

We claim to listen for your Word, but we ignore your wisdom.

Hear us as, in this silence, we offer you our personal confessions:

(A time of silence is kept.)

Forgive us, God of mystery and mercy,

amend who we are and direct who you would have us be

for the sake of Christ, our Saviour and Friend.

Assurance of Pardon

 

Friends, the good news never gets old. God knows us and loves us. It is as much and as simple as that. We are forgiven, loved and set free to start again. Thanks be to God!

 

Prayer for Illumination

 

God of Word and wisdom, as we turn to the scriptures, may we hear your voice calling us to deeper faith and truer devotion. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Isaiah 45:1–17

Psalm 96:1–19

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

Matthew 22:15–22

 

 

The World has changed

Everywhere we look, every time we turn on our radio or TV we are reminded that things are not the same as they used to be:  Masks, social distancing, NO hugs, NO large family gatherings. Each day it seems that there is another announcement limiting what we can and cannot do. There are protests against the government limiting our freedoms:  “ It’s a free country; I can do or go where I want regardless of the consequences of my actions upon others”.  It is a selfish world with selfish concerns, me first regardless of others’ health or well being. Everywhere we turn it seems someone is up in arms about restrictions by governments and health officials. We think we know more than the experts.

COVID is blamed for everything that goes wrong. Sharon and I were watching a church service on line a couple of weeks ago. The preacher was commenting on the recent upturn in the number of failed marriages as couples are forced to spend much more time together. His comment was that COVID did not break up any marriage, it just brought to light the flaws and problems that already existed; they were not able to run away from that fact.

A problem pops up and we need to blame someone or something else so the new buss word or phrase, COVID did it.  Most people need something other than oneself to blame.

But has the world really changed for us as followers of Christ?  Let’s focus on what has not changed. God is still God and still in charge. Jesus still died for our sins, if we accept that fact and accept Him as our Lord and Saviour. Our mission here on earth has not changed. We are still called to be Christ’s ambassadors showing and sharing God’s love to all those God puts in our path as we live each day for him.

How we are able to do it has certainly changed. But what we are called to do as followers of Christ has not changed.

So how do we reach out to others with social restrictions, limited gatherings and social distancing?   We lead by example and show others how to lead Christian lives by how we live out our lives in this pandemic.

When I lived in Montreal, one of the things I did was read the Montreal Gazette on the train going to work.   Each day they had a quote for the day which sometimes was right on. Now sometimes it bothers me that my inspiration came from the newspaper, not the Bible.   However, one day the quote read:

“You can preach a better sermon with your life than with your words”

So true; if someone’s actions do not match their words, we tend to ignore their words.   I was reminded this week about this as Sharon and I did our morning devotions, reading our Daily Bread passage for the day.

The October 7th reading by Joe Stowell tells the story of a stressed-out woman who was tailgaiting a man as they drove on a busy boulevard.  When he slowed to a stop at a yellow light, the woman hit the horn, cussing and screaming in frustration and gesturing angrily.  As she was still in mid-rant, she heard a tap on her window and looked up into the face of a police officer, who ordered her to exit the car with her hands up.  He took her to the police station and placed her in a holding cell.

An hour later, the officer returned and said, “I’m sorry, Ma’am.  This has been a big mistake.  When I pulled up behind you, I noticed your ‘What Would Jesus Do?’  licence plate holder and your ‘Follow Me to Sunday School’  bumper sticker.  When I saw how you were acting, I assumed the car was stolen”.

So true our actions do speak much louder that our words or bumper stickers in this case.

One of the other ways to say this is: The way we live our lives as Christians is the only BIBLE others might read.

The world is changed by our example NOT by our words or opinions.

The world has not changed for us as Christians; our calling is to be Christ’s Ambassadors. The way we do that is still the same, by how we live our lives.

A message by Henry Bosch of Our Daily Bread brings this to light.  Bosch writes:  “The Bible says that He (Jesus) ‘went around doing good’ (Acts 10: 38), and that He remained ‘pure’ even though He associated with sinners (Hebrews 7: 26). We are to imitate him in His Holiness of life, His obedience to His Father’s Will, His self-denial, and His compassionate response to people.  In word and action He humbly delighted to fulfill the purpose for which He was sent into the world.”

Christ was perfect; we are not; however, that should not stop us from striving for that goal.

If you or I were on trial for being a Christian, is there enough evidence to convict us?

Live as Christ lived.   He is our example.

 

Moment for reflection

Invitation to the Offering  the plate is at the doorway upon entering

Jesus reminds us to give to God the things that are God’s. Our God has been so generous to us. Truly we owe God our lives. So let us give back to God what God has shared with us, so that God’s goodness can spread in the world in the name of Jesus.

 

Prayer of Dedication

God of abundance, we bring what we have to share, the fruit of our lives, a portion of your goodness to us. Bless our gifts and our lives, so that generosity and justice will join hands and your goodness will be shared with those in need, in Jesus’ name.

Hymn  #422 – Sing a new song unto the Lord

 

 

Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession

 

God of our hearts and our hopes,

As the season continues to change and harvests are gathered,

we thank you for the beauty around us,

for brilliant colours, birds flying south, the crackle of fallen leaves, and the rhythms of this time of year.

We are grateful for your steadfast love amid so much that changes.

This autumn, we also face unpredictable changes as the pandemic continues.

Draw close to those who find the uncertainty unsettling

and help us preserve our connection to you and to each other.

God, in your mercy,

Hear our prayer.

 

God of our imaginations and insights,

We thank you for all the ways you inspire human minds to create things which improve the lives of your people.

We are grateful for all the medical efforts taken to manage COVID-19,

and for the scientists testing vaccines. Give them perseverance and success.

Guide politicians and policy makers so that breakthroughs and resources are shared with the most vulnerable.

God, in your mercy,

Hear our prayer.

 

God of neighbours and neighbourhoods,

We praise you for everyone working to build and maintain healthy communities:

for teachers and librarians, healthcare workers, coaches, construction workers, farmers and labourers, store clerks and wait staff.

So many have had their workplaces changed and their livelihoods threatened by the pandemic. Give them perseverance and encouragement.

Make us good neighbours to all who serve our community and remind us to say thank you.

God, in your mercy,

Hear our prayer.

 

God of comfort and compassion,

We pray for all those who are struggling this autumn, whatever the reason.

We remember before you those facing illness or waiting for treatment…

those who have lost income and worry about winter expenses and shelter…

those who are grieving the loss of someone close…

and those whose mental health is under pressure these days…

Awaken your people around the world to attend to the needs of those at risk in our communities so that they will know your comfort and compassion

God, in your mercy,

Hear our prayer.

 

And now with gratitude for your love poured into the world through Christ Jesus, we pray as he taught us,

 

The Lord’s Prayer

 

 

Invitation to Mission

We go from here with fresh eyes

Which see the light of Christ

And shine the light of Christ

So others may see and find the Way

 

 

Benediction: And now my the Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the fellowship of the Holy Spirit and the Love of the Father be with you and all you Love this day.

 

Go in Peace to Love and Serve the Lord.