Eric the Eel (Brad Childs)

Worship on the Lord’s Day
Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
10:00 am  August 14, 2022
Onsite & Online (Mixed Presence) Gathering as a Worshipping Community
led by the Rev. Bradley Childs
Music director: Binu Kapadia                 Vocalist: Sam Malayang
Elder: Darlene Eerkes

We gather to worship God

Music prelude

Greeting
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: Long ago, a vineyard was planted. The ground was prepared, and all was made ready.
P: But the vines grew wild, the ground was unable to support the wild grapes.
L: What happened in that place of promise?
P: People forgot the One who planted the vineyard. They chose their own ways and failed.
L: Let us again turn to the Lord, who will again plant, prune, and cause us to grow in faithfulness.
P: Let us open our hearts to God, trusting in God’s ways and God’s word. Amen.

Opening praise: Bless the Lord, O My soul

Prayers of approach and confession

God of majesty and mystery,

we gather today in the presence of that great cloud of witnesses

who have worshiped you in song and service for centuries.

Our praise joins theirs as we fix our eyes on Jesus

and wait for your Spirit to guide us.

We praise you for your tremendous love and mercy,

revealed in Christ, at work in us through the Spirit.

Holy One, we offer you all glory and honour in our worship,

seeking to renew our faith and commitment

to serve you in the world that belongs to you. Amen.

Attentive God,

you care for us like a gardener tending a beautiful vineyard,

blessing us with what we need to be fruitful.

Yet we confess we fail to live up to your hopes for us.

Instead of love and kindness, we produce anger and resentment.

Instead of generosity, we produce greed and jealousy.

We get upset. We say things we don’t mean. Like Paul before us, We do things we don’t want to do. And we don’t do all the things we should.

Forgive us, O God.

In your mercy, renew in us the fruit of the Spirit

through the grace of Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Response: We come to ask your forgiveness

Assurance of God’s forgiveness

Hear the good news! Although we have not always been faithful to God, God remains loyal to us. In Jesus Christ, God offers us forgiveness. Through the gift of the Spirit, God renews us to live faithfully in Jesus’ name. Thanks be to God!

We listen for the voice of God

Children’s time

Gradual: Jesus, we are gathered (514)

Story: Once upon a time there was a boy named Jimmy who was walking in the desert when he found a magic Lantern on a pile of old rocks. Jimmy thought to himself, maybe if I rub the Lantern, the genie will come out and grant me 3 wishes. He tried it and sure enough a genie appeared. Jimmy was really excited and ask the genie for three wishes.

But the genie replied I’m not that kind of genie. I give advice.new paragraph oh said Jimmy then give me some advice. Pick up as many rocks as you can and take them home with you said the genie before he disappeared. This is ridiculous said Jimmy have a long way to go in these rocks are heavy I’m not gonna pick up any rocks. He did pick up one small rock however and stuck it in his pocket.

But Jimmy finally got home he took off his dirty clothes to be washed. His mother went in picked up the pants went through the pockets and found the rock. After looking at it closely she asked Jimmy where he got it. Oh let Jeannie told me to pick up a bunch of these things but I just got the one. Jimmy his mother cried this isn’t a rock this is a diamond. It’s worth thousands of dollars. But unfortunately Jimmy was never able to find that pile of rocks again.

There are many things in life that seem like rocks, but in reality, their diamonds. The classes you take in school for example sometimes feel like ordinary rocks but the things you learn or more like diamonds. Although things are sometimes hard now that education will someday become extremely valuable to you.

Being a Christian is much the same. When we serve Jesus, a lot of what we do hardly seems like it’s worth much time or effort. Sometimes being obedient to God is hard and might even be painful. But it’s worth it. We not only are blessed by God now but someday all these rocks we see around us will become diamonds in a heavenly crown. First Corinthians 9 verse 25

Prayer

The Lord’s Prayer (535)

Transition music

Song: Open My Eyes (500)

Today’s Message

Scripture readings: Isaiah 5:1-7 and Hebrews 11:29-12:2 (NRSV)

Response: Jesus remember me

Homily: “Eric the Eeel”

One of the most exciting moments in the Sydney Olympics was when Eric “The eel” Moussambani swam in the 100-meter freestyle race. There he stood, the 22-year-old, very fit-looking, crouched in his position, ready to dive into the water. And when the gun rang out, he dove in and began to swim as fast as he had ever done. The crowd cheered; almost uncontrollably, but there was clearly something off about this race.

Eric moved from one edge of his lane to the other edge as he swam. His head barely ever went under the water as if he couldn’t hold his breath. Unlike other Olympic swimmers, his feet almost never kicked above the water, making it look as if he’d just learned how to swim. His turn at the end of the pool was a bit awkward, and he was visibly tired and out of breath.

Fifteen meters from the end of the race and he stalled for a moment making the crowd wonder if he could even finish. The announcer for the BBC can actually be heard on tape saying, “he’s not going to make it.” But the crowd roared like mad. And it seemed to make a difference.

The author of the book of Hebrews writes to encourage the followers of Jesus not to get too bogged down with the troubles of this world. That’s not to say that this letter argues there are no troubles. In fact, it’s just the opposite. But what it does say is that no matter what your problems are… you’re not alone.

The thing is… it doesn’t always feel like it.

This world of ours can be a challenging and lonely place. When hard times hit, more often than not, we feel like we are on our own.

As one might expect, the letter points to Jesus’ crucifixion as proof that hard times fall on all of us. He writes, “look to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” And when it says that, it means to look to Christ not just as an example of suffering (saying Even Jesus suffered so you’re in good company) but also as an example of faithfulness and ultimately redemption by seeing things to the end. So it’s not just “you’re not alone”; it’s also “you can get through this.”

As one translation puts it, “Keep your eyes fixed upon Jesus the architect and the builder.” And that’s a pretty good rendering. The word sometimes translated as “author” is Archegos (R-Ka-Gos) which strictly speaking means “prince” or “leader”, but it’s also where the word “architect” comes from.

There is something extraordinary about that line… if you’re worried about how things are going to work out in life…

why not go to the architect – why not look to the guy that designed the plan in the first place.

But while that is undoubtedly true… let’s not pretend that that’s easy: things are rarely that simple.

Enter Thomas Carlyle: Carlyle was a Scottish philosopher, a social commentator, a writer and a historian. He also had some very famous friends like Charles Dickens and John Stuart Mill (one of the most influential voices for freedom of speech, anti-slavery and a women’s right to vote). But what most people don’t know is that when Carlyle finally finished his most important work (The French Revolution – the basis for Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities) and after two years of intense struggle, Carlyle gave the manuscript to his friend John Stuart Mill to read and critique. Then the unthinkable occurred. One of Mill’s employees used the entirety of Carlyle’s only manuscript as kindling to start a fire.

As Mill reported the devastating news, Carlyle’s face paled. Two years of his life lost, literally “up in smoke.” Thousands of long, lonely hours spent writing had been wasted. He could not imagine writing the entire book over again. And he lapsed into a deep depression.

Carlyle quit writing and pretty much just wandered the streets to fill his time. That is – until one day, while walking the city streets, Carlyle noticed a massive stone wall under construction. He later wrote in his journal that he became transfixed on this wall, unable to move. That tall, sweeping wall was being raised one brick at a time. It was a “eureka” for him. If he just did one thing at a time, wrote one page, one day at a time, he could write the book again. And that is precisely what he did.

Carlyle re-wrote a masterpiece… one page at a time.

Author Rich Christian observes, “When faced with seemingly impossible situations in life, we often see the wall and not the individual bricks…but taken day by day, task by task, one sees that it’s all just done one brick at a time. (Perfect Ill. Pg206)

There is no doubt that we will face hardships. But with the help of God, we can meet them one step at a time. The author of Hebrews says the same. It ain’t always easy, but you’re not alone. Instead of dwelling on the things that threaten to stop you, God says, “drop ’em”.

In Hebrews it says, “let us also lay aside every weight.” And the word he uses means something burdensome and heavy is agkos (Ag-Kos). We have examples of this word being used to describe a “travellers bag.” It’s not the stuff one wears, the purse one keeps, the tunic one has, or even the outer coat. It’s the “agkos”; it’s an extra bag someone took on a long trip. It’s the extra stuff

Don’t carry all that extra stuff!

One commentator writes for this section of Hebrews 12:1, “when things get hard, don’t give up hope, give up the baggage.”

A while back, National Geographic aired a special about how eagles catch fish in lakes. They fly high above the water, but their eyesight is so good they can spot fish in the water below. When they see one, they fold back their wings and aim directly for the water, going as fast as 200 Km/ph. When they reach the water, they spread their wings, reach their talons, grab the fish, and begin flying back to the shore.

On this particular special, they showed a film of a very unusual occurrence. An eagle made a dive for a fish and grabbed it in its talons. But the fish was much larger than the eagle realized. As it began to fly to the shore, you could see the strain as the eagle barely hovered over the face of the water. It was not going to make it to the beach with this giant fish. In the footage you see the bird then tried to drop the fish, to let go of it. But the eagle’s talons had dug into the flesh of the fish so profoundly that it could not pull them out. It struggled but to no avail.

Slowly the eagle begins descending into the lake and captured on film, it drowned, unable to let loose its catch.

Our reading says to cast off every sin but also that other stuff. Cast off that extra baggage (whatever it might be that keeps you down). Like the eagle, many times in life, we grab on to something that seems normal but can be dangerous. We weigh ourselves down with a lot of guilt and extra stuff that we don’t need. And that stuff weights us down, weakens our faith, and kills our hope. But the scripture says, “Don’t give up hope; give up the baggage.” (Ht Ill Blue)

Of course, I understand that that can be hard. Even figuiing out what’s carry on and what’s better left at home can be hard. But our passage says that even though it’s hard, no matter what else happens, “You are not alone.”

We can make it through the race “since so great a cloud of witnesses surrounds us.”

Now the writer of Hebrews packs the 11th chapter of this letter with examples of people who overcame significant challenges. He or she wants everyone to remember.

The text says, remember Abel, Enoch and Noah and Abraham. Remember Isaac and Jacob and Joseph. Remember Moses and even Moses’ parents, who we don’t know anything about but who acted “in faith.” Remember the people who passed through the sea and Rahab at the wall, and the people that entered the holy land from the desert. Remember Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets, the people who watched lions shut their mouths, and the people who saw the furnace flams go out and “escaped the edge of the sword.”

On and On it goes.

In other words, the great cloud of witnesses are all those who have lived before us – who have lived lives of faith, leaving us a rich spiritual legacy.

And just because they die don’t mean that ends. Not only are we not alone, but we can’t ever be.

And while I find comfort in that, I think that list is just a taste. I think it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

In reality, that “Great cloud of witness” includes any person of faith that helped or inspired you along the way. And it consists of the people that still do that. That verse says, “we ARE [right now] surrounded” by them. The word is here Neph-os, and it’s a common word, but it’s also the word the Greeks used to use to describe the people who filled the amphitheatre. Like a cloud, it is this vast mass that’s actually made up of little individual parts. It’s the great cloud of witnesses watching us and cheering us on and we become more and more like Jesus’ example to us.

And what more it says these fans of our are “Echo”. In language studies that’s Present, Active, Participle. In other words, it’s occurring now, in actual time; there is an actor and an acted upon. Our scripture says, we, here in this room, right now, are surrounded by a great cloud of witness (each of us with an invisible amphitheatre full of fans cheering us on in our walk of faith). And while that’s amazing to me that – Moses is cheering me on – it’s way more impressive and humbling for me to know that so is my old Sunday school teacher from second grade.

While it’s great to hear that the Apostle Paul is cheering you on, I think it’s absolutely tear-jerking to believe that so are the parents and grandparents that guided you and the spouse that supported you and the long lost friend that cried with you. And perhaps just as unique as that is that this list also includes the person sitting next to you today just as much as it does any other person who ever lived.

This is not “a witness” or “some witness.” This is “that great cloud of witnesses beyond all time and space.” And just as much as that person next to you is meant to cheer you on, you too are a part of that great cloud of witnesses for them and meant to cheer them on.

You might feel alone sometimes, but you are not – You are surrounded by support.

When Eric the eel finished the race, he did so with a final race time nearly three times slower than any other qualifying athlete. His 100 meter time was slower than the winner of the 200-meter race… … the slowest time for his event in Olympic history. But the crowd… and the camera crew… went absolutely crazy.

Though for a moment there, with 15 meters left, Eric thought he was going to drown, until he heard them cheer, and he mustered enough strength to finish the race.

Despite everything I just Eric won the race.

Eric was the only swimmer not to be disqualified due to an early start. Eric was the fastest that day and Eric won that race, because he was the only person racing.

Honestly, being the fastest was never really Eric’s goal anyway. Finishing the race was what Eric came to do.

See, Eric is from a small Spanish-speaking nation in West Central Africa called Equatorial Guinea, and truth be told… he didn’t even make the qualifying time that earns a swimmer a spot in the race at the Olympics. Eric only got to race that day because of a special “wildcard” program designed to help developing countries compete on the world stage.

Eight months before the Olympics, Eric had barely ever tried to swim before. Three months before the Olympics (when Eric showed up at a hotel swimming pool to compete for the opportunity to represent his country), he got the job… because he was the only person to show up. All Eric had to do was prove that he wouldn’t sink in order to win… so he doggy paddled. When Eric got to Sydney, he’d still never raced a single lap in a pool with lines. He’d never even seen an Olympic-sized pool before. He practiced in a lake. And he had never raced anyone more than 50 meters in all his life.

So when Eric won his round of the 100-meter freestyle, quite frankly, the crowd didn’t care one bit that he was slower than the others. From the moment Eric jumped into the water, that crowd went absolutely crazy for him! They didn’t need him to be perfect to be proud of him.

Before Eric collapsed in the changing room, he said through his interpreter, “I want to send hugs and kisses to the crowd. It was their cheering that kept me going.”

I don’t know… I don’t know what all of your personal struggles are. Even if I did, I can’t say I could ever possibly understand them. I don’t know what weights you down. I don’t know what battles you are fighting. But I know this in the very depths of my being. I understand that the author, finisher, architect, and builder knows your struggles. I know that when things get tough, it helps to keep your eyes fixed on him. I know that it’s not always easy. That life has bumps and pains and sorrow. But I also know that many of our troubles come from holding on to things we shouldn’t.

I know it’s better to keep your hope and give up the baggage. I know your past is filled with people who love you and still cheer you on. That is true today, whether near or far, alive or on the other side of paradise. And I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that no matter what… you are not alone. You never can be. Because I know that not only do you have a great cloud of witness beyond all time and space… but also that… you… are great cloud of witnesses for everyone else in this room, just as they are a part of that great cloud of witnesses for you… and we are all cheering each other on. Keep going.

Amen.

Song: Let all things now living (338)

We respond to serve God

Reflection on giving: We have been giving faithfully since the beginning of the pandemic and we are committed to continuing the ministry and mission that define Dayspring – using the various ways described on the screen and in Dayspring Weekly News. Thank you all for your support of our shared vision and mission. For those in the sanctuary, if you have offering envelopes with you, simply put them in the offering plate at the back of the sanctuary as you leave the service today.

Thankful for the good gifts God gives us in Christ and creation, let us present to God the fruit of our labour for God’s work in the church and the world.

Prayer of gratitude

Faithful God, bless the gifts we offer to you today. Use them to plant seeds of faith, hope and love in the world, so that your goodness will grow among your people, and your name be honoured for Christ’s sake. Amen.

Transition Music: Be still and know that I am God

Prayer for others and ourselves

God in whom we live and move and have our being:

As we gather in your presence today, we give you thanks for your faithfulness to your people across many generations and in so many situations.

Thank you for the commitment we meet in the world around us,

  • In friendships that endure,
  • In communities that pitch in when someone is in trouble,
  • In workers who go that extra mile,
  • In countries who offer safety or sustenance when disaster strikes
  • and strangers are in desperate need.

Faithful God, hear our prayer, and renew our faithfulness.

Compassionate God, we are aware of many challenges in our own lives, in the lives of those we care about and in the world around us.

Show us how our care and concern can respond to the prayers of those we love: in faithful silence, we lay before you the concerns on our hearts this day:

We pray for those who have been in the headlines lately, whose situations concern us deeply, whose lives cry out to you for help…..

… silence …

Faithful God, hear our prayer, and renew our faithfulness.

We pray for those who are suffering behind the scenes in our community:

  • those who are ill or waiting on treatment;
  • those who are bereaved;
  • those struggling to make ends meet or find the right job;
  • those who are lonely,
  • those who are moving this summer & will need new friends. …

… silence …

Faithful God, hear our prayer, and renew our faithfulness.

  • We pray for those looking forward to a new beginning this coming Fall:
  • those starting at a new school or in a new College or University program;
  • those beginning new work or new activities;
  • those settling into a new home and neighbourhood;
  • those welcoming new members into the family through birth, adoption or marriage

…  silence …

Faithful God, hear our prayer, and renew our faithfulness.

We pray for our congregation and for a time of reorganizing after being distanced from each other.

Gather us into new and renewed friendships.

Show us how to reach out with your love and generosity.

Equip us to meet every challenge we face with faithfulness and commitment. Amen.

Song: Take time to be holy (638)

Sending out with God’s blessing

May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have the strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Response: Go forth into the world

Music postlude

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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 specified licenses with One Licence and CLC.

The Rev. Brad Childs retains the copyright (© 2022) on all original material presented by him.As far as Brad Childs is aware, all of the material presented 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.

Posted in Recent Sermons.