Worship on the Third Sunday of Lent
03 March 2024 10:00 am
The Sacrament of Holy Communion
Online & Onsite (Mixed Presence) Gathering as a Worshipping Community
Led by the Rev. Brad Childs
Music Director: Binu Kapadia Vocalist: Rom Rhoad
Elder: Lynn Vaughan
We gather to worship God
L: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
P: and also with you.
Lighting of the Christ candle
Welcome and announcements
Silent preparation for worship
Call to Worship
L: On this third Sunday of Lent, we see Jesus, overturning the tables of the money changers as he drove them out of the temple.
P: We are surprised by his actions.
L: Yet there is much in our lives and the world that needs to be overturned and driven out.
P: In the name of Jesus, we work to overcome oppression, poverty, and injustice in our local communities and with partners around the world.
Opening praise: Here’s my heart, Lord.
Prayers of approach and confession
Faithful God, we give you thanks and praise because you are near to us.
It’s honestly hard to look up at the mountains and not see your handiwork and yet each sees it in a new way. For me, the fields of sunflowers and the violent storms of Kansas made it clear. For some, it is the ocean view, for others the stars and for many the first laugh of a new baby.
It’s hard not to see the flowers open and the peddles blooming and not feel like our world is Your canvas and you are the only painter to create something original. All else is a copy.
It’s hard to see a laughing child before us and not feel like we need to bow down and give you your due for created such a pure expression of innocent joy!
Life is far from perfect, and suffering is present, but You clearly are too.
You give so much and Lord we just want to return to you some portion of that.
But God like all people we get mixed up and confused and we try to do things by our own rules, or we misunderstand what you want for us.
For the most part, we are struggling through.
But if we really look at ourselves, we must admit that there are things we have done in the last few days that we knew weren’t right.
There are things that we suspect weren’t right.
There are things we feel sorrow about.
There are things we did wrong that hurt others… and hurt you.
And there are things we would like to do over.
God of second chances, help us to find the people we’ve wronged and set things right. Give us courage. Help us to be honest and gracious and to seek resolution. Help us to build better relationships. Help us bring down the barriers we’ve put up. Help us with the things we have done that we shouldn’t have. And point out to us the things we should have done but neglected to do.
Lord, we want to be your people. Perfect your image in us. Work on us and refine us. But first, in your great mercy, forgive our sins. Amen.
Response: We come to ask your forgiveness, O Lord
Assurance of God’s forgiveness
Hear the good news!
God knows you and loves you and God wants your life to overflow with love and joy for everyone around you to see.
Believe that you are forgiven, and let God’s Spirit live within you, equipping you to share that belief with everyone else who needs to hear it too. Amen.
Song: This is a story full of love (504, vss1-4)
We listen for the voice of God
Scripture readings (NRSV): 1 John:10-18 & John 14:6-12
Response: Jesus, remember me
Short video : Click here
Message: The unseen player
In the video, Dan is portrayed as “bad” – the worst!
We live in a bit of tension of course. Scripture says repeatedly that we are “saved by grace through faith.” The idea is that God has already done the work and all we have to do is accept it. BUT at the same time: how we live, the things we do or don’t do… still matter. Even the first generation of Christians dealt with this idea. It’s called antinominalism. The idea is that if we are saved by grace through faith as scripture says, the law no longer matters. But this is a false gospel. Even some in Paul’s time suggested that if we are already forgiven, we are free to sin more. But this is an obvious error in judgment. Romans 6:1 says, “Well then if God is shown to be gracious by forgiveness, then why should people not simply keep on sinning so that God can show us ever more of God’s wonderful grace and forgiveness?” Paul asks the question but immediately addresses it. His answer is “by no means” for “if we are baptized in Christ we have been pronounced cleansed and ‘buried’ with Christ just as we come out of the water as if resurrected with Christ.
The Old Testament is not to be discarded nor are principled implications of acts. Ethics, morality, and law; all still exist. It is just that they can’t save us. We already are saved. We just need to embrace it or rather He who brings it.
Law gives context to grace and grace fulfills the law. Without law, grace isn’t grace from anything. Without Grace, the law can only condemn. The Old Testament Law served a point. It told us that we are guilty of wrong things. But Grace takes that all away. But while we might be “free from the law” that doesn’t mean Christians can do whatever they want.
Moreover, as followers of Jesus, we are still meant to reflect the divine image. We are meant to be as the story of Genesis’ creation tells us, reflections of the true ruler of all things. We are meant to serve as God would over the world we inherited. And as the active body of Christ in the world today, we are still meant, not just to go to church but to Be the church. We cannot just come and worship and leave. Worship is deeper than that. And as my old article title from when I wrote for the Record states, “What about the other 6 days? Being a Christian is not a one-hour-a-week commitment. Our workplaces are also His realm.
While it’s true that our deeds cannot save us and take us to heaven, deeds do still need to reflect a spirit of thanksgiving, for our salvation. WHAT WE DO MATTERS.
Being, as some say, “saved” is about knowing God’s grace. But being a Christ follower is deeper yet.
The problem (or perhaps the opportunity) we face in Edmonton and indeed in Canada is that it’s a largely secular culture.
It is certainly true that if you drive through Abbotsford or Oklahoma you will find a church full of people on every corner. And that’s very 1958 (the height of “church attendance” in the Presbyterian Church in Canada) – the time when my former congregation in Regina built an education wing and a full court gymnasium for the 805 children registered for Sunday School.
Christians today often lament the loss of Christendom when Christianity was an accepted part of Canadian culture. We look around at a non-Christian world and wonder how we’re supposed to live out as lives devoted to Jesus in this context. But really, was John’s community any different? We are simply closer to the original context of the Bible now than we were 10 years ago.
John writes, “No one has ever seen God” (by which he means THE FATHER) “but if we love one another,”, then he continues, “God lives in us, and his love is made complete in us.”
Several years ago, I heard this story about a family of mice who lived all their lives in a large piano. And to them in their tiny piano world came the music of the instrument, filling all the dark spaces with sound and harmony. At first, the mice were impressed by it. They drew comfort and wonder from the thought that there was Someone/Something who made the beautiful music — though invisible to them. They loved to think of the Great Player whom they could not see.
Then one day a daring mouse climbed up part of the piano to the highest position and then the little mouse returned very thoughtfully. See, the little mouse had found how the music was made. He saw science. Wires were the secret; tightly stretched wires of graduated lengths and width which trembled and vibrated; each making a sound of its own. They must revise all their old beliefs: only the most conservative could any longer believe in the Great Unseen Player.
Later, another explorer carried the explanation further. This mouse too traveled the furthest realms of the piano world. Hammers were now the secret, numbers of hammers dancing and leaping on the wires – they made the sounds by striking the wires. This was a more complicated theory, but it all went to show that they lived in a purely mechanical and mathematical world. After some time, the Great Unseen Player came to be thought of as something of a myth. But the great pianist continued to play anyway, and the beautiful music continued to fill their tiny world with wonder, nevertheless. (The Mice in the Piano Blue 117)
We live in a world that largely believes it’s eliminated the need for the Great Unseen Player (or as Tillich might say, “the great Ground of all being”). No one has seen the God, is not the calling card of the skeptic. And fair enough so. For as the scripture says, “for God is spirit”.
In the context of the early Church both John and Jesus argued that the Father could be seen, just in a unique way.
In the book of John, Jesus’ disciple Philip asks him a very blunt question any regular BC or Alberta or Ontario person might ask about God. He demands of Jesus, “Show us the Father”; to which Jesus responds, “Phillip, how can you ask me to show you the Father, if you have seen me, you have seen the father.”
Now I hope I’m not speaking too much out of turn here but if I’m being honest, I bet that answer didn’t really and fully satisfy Philip. In hindsight, I get it and he probably did too but it’s not exactly what he asked for.
I believe what Jesus said to be true, but I also know that even today people want to see God. And I also know that offering up anything other than exactly what is expected falls on deaf ears. It’s that way for the average person and sometimes it’s that way for us too.
John writes, “But if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is made complete in us.”
Further, he writes to say that by this love for one another we, “testify that the father has sent his son into the world for its salvation.”
The point here is that Christ makes the Father visible, and we are supposed to make Christ visible. But do we even see Christ?
This certainly apocryphal tale was told long ago and is fairly well known.
One year there was a terrible flood that deluged a small Midwestern town located in a valley between two rivers. Both rivers had overflowed their banks and the rains continued to fall day and night. There was no relief in sight as the town slowly but surely was being flooded. Everyone was evacuated, except for one old man who refused to leave his house—which would soon become completely submerged.
“I have faith that God will save me,” the old man shouted at everyone who implored him to leave and flee to higher ground. The man believed in the power of prayer, and he trusted that God would somehow save him.
As the water covered the roads, making them impassable for the average car, a man in a very large four-wheel-drive truck stopped at the old man’s house and banged on the door. “Hurry,” he cried out. “Come with me and I’ll drive you to safety! You haven’t much time!” But the old man continued to pray. Hands folded… He would not leave his house.
Within hours, the water had risen several feet, completely flooding his home. The rain continued. The old man climbed up on the kitchen table and continued to pray. As the water was lapping at his heels, a man in a rowboat paddled up to the old man’s kitchen window and shouted, “Sir, get in my boat! I’ll take you to safety!”
“No,” the old man shouted back. “God will deliver me from this flood!”
The water got deeper and soon the old man had no choice but to climb up on his roof. The torrential rains persisted. While he was praying, he heard the chop-chop-chop of a helicopter in the sky. He looked up and saw the helicopter hovering over his house. A ladder had been lowered for him to climb.
“Go away,” yelled the man at the helicopter. “You will blow me off my roof! God is going to save me! You go save someone else. Find someone of no faith!”
The helicopter couldn’t wait forever, so it left the old man on his rooftop, still praying. Eventually, the water engulfed the house and the old man perished in the flood.
When the old man arrived at the gates of heaven, he asked immediately if he could talk with the Big Guy in Charge. Soon he stood before the throne of grace.
He was in awe, and he could not help but fall to his knees. But he also couldn’t contain his mouth and he blurted out loudly “Oh Lord, I prayed earnestly for the rains to stop and for your deliverance from the
But you left me there to drown. Why!
“My child,” God said, “I heard your prayers even before I sent the rain. That’s why 3 years ago I nudged Mr. Daniels to buy that silly oversized off-road truck he kept on the clean streets. I came for you in a four-wheel-drive, and you sent me away. I heard your prayer before the rain began. That’s why I got Denise to teach her husband to row a boat last year. He needed exercise, she needed the quiet, they needed the calm. And so, I came in a rowboat, and you waved me on. And finally, you should understand that I heard your cry before you were born. And not just you. I instilled in that retired helicopter pilot you glimpsed a great compassion and love for flight before you moved into that house down the street. Later I even came in a helicopter and dangled a ladder right before your eyes. The question is why did I not save you? The true question is, why did you not recognize me… when I came to save you?
While we may not always realize it, and while we may refuse to see God in certain people, God is here working in the lives of people all around us. In the lives of devoted and faithful Christians, Christ is showing us amazing miracles each day and showing his face in the lives of everyday people just like us… if only we take the time to recognize Him. (Help is on the Way Blue 84)
One of my all-time favourite quotes comes from Presbyterian minister and all-around wonderful person Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.
Fred once said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” When people ask where God is (be it in ancient Greece or Present-day Alberta), that’s the answer to where God is. In a time of crisis or a school shooting or a natural disaster I always think back to that statement.
If you want to know where God is when a school shooting takes place… “look for the helpers”. God is clearly at work in the helpers. And when we look back on life we do see those “footsteps in the sand” and “where God moved” before. And that’s not just from afar. We see it most clearly in our own lives – where God moved.
Many see no evidence. But I do. Do you?
Do you believe in the Great Piano Player? Is it just some strings out there that came from nothing: some hammers with nothing behind them? Are there no keys at work?
Have you “seen” the son, and so know the previously unknown player?
It’s not exactly the world’s greatest story but it does make an important point and so I’ll tell it.
Once upon a time, a little candle stood in a room filled with other candles, most of them much larger and much more beautiful than she was. Some were ornate, and some were rather simple, like herself. Some were white, some were blue, some were pink, and some were green. The little candle had no idea why she was there, and the other candles made her feel rather small and insignificant by comparison.
When the sun went down and the room began to get dark, she noticed a large figure, walking toward her with a ball of fire on a stick. She suddenly realized that the stick was getting closer to her, and the figure was a very large man. He was becoming clearer and clearer.
When the man backed away, the stick of fire was gone but the room filled with light and revealed the very clear face of the large man. She wondered where this light came from since the glowing stick was gone. And to her delight, she realized that the light now came from herself.
Then the large man struck another fire stick and, one by one, lit the other candles in the room. Each one gave out the same light that she did, each one coming from the same source.
During the next few hours, she noticed that, slowly, her wax began to flow. She was getting smaller and smaller. The little candle became aware that she would soon run out of wax altogether and she would no longer be. With this realization came a sense of why she had been created in the first place. “Perhaps my purpose here,” she thought, “is to give out light until I die.” And that’s exactly what she did.
Have you “seen the father”? Have your friends? Have the people down the street? If they see Jesus in you do they see the Father?
God created you to produce light in an often very dark world. Like that little candle, we can all produce the same amount of light, no matter how small we are or what color we might be or how old or young. Jesus Christ is the true source of the light of the World. Christ is the match that lights the many flames. And if we let him light the flames within us, we too can produce great light and share the face of the Large Man with those around us. (The Littlest Candle, Green 43)
The church is not a building. Church is, can do, and means nothing without every one of you. You are the church called into being by the Father and through the Son.
May you know the Great Unseen Player revealed in Jesus Christ.
May you see not just the strings and hammers but all the beauty that fills our tiny world – and the One behind its intricate designs.
May you recognize Him when He appears to hold a door for you, or carry a bag for you, or donate blood for you, or share a smile with you.
May others get a glimpse of Him because of you!
And may you recognize the light he lit inside of you and reflect that out for all the world to see.
It is by grace you have been saved. But… still… our deeds matter. And besides, nobody wants to be like Dan. Dan’s the worst. Amen.
Song: Lord of all power (626)
We respond to serve God: Our time of giving
Reflection on giving: Dayspring is empowered to carry out our mission of worship, service, and care by generously given volunteer time, talent, and treasure. Many thanks to all who give so generously!
Prayer of gratitude and for others and ourselves (partially re-constructed from the ZOOM transcript)
God of all creation, we praise you. We give you thanks. For all of the experiences that we have, glimpsing your glory and love.
We thank you for the many resources and gifts that we have and for the opportunities to share those gifts with others.
Bless our offerings that we make this week. So that everything we give will grow love in this world.
And help others to see you through us.
Lord, today we also pray especially for Kara and for Sylvia.and for those close friends and family as they struggle through a difficult time.
We also pray for Saima who has lost 3 different uncles in the last 14 months. For a family that must be suffering greatly. And for the kids that are left behind. We also pray for her and the others like her.
And we pray for all people who have lost someone and haven’t been able to see them first to say goodbye. Amen.
The Sacrament of Holy Communion
Friends, this is the joyful feast of the people of God! They will come from east and west, and from north and south, and sit at table in the kingdom of God. According to Luke, when our risen Lord was at table with his disciples, he took the bread, and blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him. This is the Lord’s table. Our Savior invites those who trust him to share the feast which he has prepared.
Song: I come with joy (530)
The Lord’s Prayer (469)
Loving God, through your goodness we have this bread and wine to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made.
May we know your presence in the sharing of this bread, so that we may know your touch in all bread, all matter.
We celebrate the life that Jesus has shared among his community through the centuries, and shares with us now.
Made one in Christ, and one with each other, we offer these gifts and with them ourselves, a single, holy, living sacrifice. Amen.
L: The Lord be with you.
P: And also with you.
L: Lift up your hearts.
P: We lift them to the Lord.
L: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
P: It is right to give our thanks and praise.
We offer you praise, dear God, and hearts lifted high, for in the communion of your love Christ comes close to us and we come close to Christ.
Therefore with the whole realm of nature around us, with earth, sea, and sky, we sing to you.
With the angels of light who envelop us, with all the saints before and beside us, with brothers and sisters, east and west, we sing to you.
And with our loved ones, separate from us now, who yet in this mystery are close to us, we join in the song of your unending greatness:
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is our brother Jesus, who walks with us the road of our world’s suffering,
and who is known to us in the breaking of bread.
Hear us, O Christ, and breathe your Spirit upon us, and upon this bread and wine.
May they become for us your body, vibrant with your life, healing, renewing, and make us whole.
And as the bread and wine which we now eat and drink are changed into us, may we be changed again into you, bone of your bone, flesh of your flesh, loving and caring in the world. Amen.
On the night of his arrest Jesus took bread and having blessed it he broke the bread and gave it to his disciples, saying,
This is my body, given for you.
In the same way he took wine and having given thanks for it, he poured it out and gave the cup to his disciples, saying,
This cup is the new relationship with God, sealed with my blood.
He whose table was open to all is now present in this bread.
He whose word welcomed friend and stranger offers friendship through this cup.
With people everywhere we affirm God’s goodness at the heart of humanity, planted more deeply than all that is wrong.
The gifts of God for the people of God …
Thanks be to God.
Sharing of the bread and wine
Song: One bread, one body (540)
The prayer after Communion
Living God, in this sacrament we have shared in your eternal kingdom. May we who taste this mystery forever serve you in faith, hope, and love. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ the Lord. Amen.
Hymn: Shout for joy! (557)
Sending out with God’s blessing
Go out in the strength and wisdom of God accompanied by the Holy Spirit willing and empowered to reveal the face of God wherever you go… and may the blessing of God, Creator, Redeemer, and holy Spirit be yours in all you are and all you do.
Response: The Blessing
The Communion liturgy is based on the liturgies of the PCC’s 1991 Book of Common Worship. Numbers in brackets after a song/hymn indicate that it is from the 1997 Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Those and other songs are being used in accordance with the specifications of Dayspring’s licensing with One Licence (3095377) and CLC (A735555).
The Rev. Brad Childs retains the copyright (© 2024) on all original material in this service. As far as Brad Childs is aware, all of the material that has not been attributed to others is his own creation or is in the public domain. Unacknowledged use of copyrighted material is unintentional and will be corrected immediately upon notification being received