Worship on the Lord’s Day
10:00 am 19 November 2023
Online & Onsite (Mixed Presence) Gathering as a Worshipping Community
Led by the Rev Brad Childs
Music director: Binu Kapadia Guest Pianist: Yvonne Boon
Vocalist: Linda F-B Elder: Sam Malayang
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: In the morning, as the clouds gather and break,
P: We open our eyes and stretch our arms to a new day.
L: As we gather, and the papers rustle and the pews creak, and old friends whisper together,
P: We become the beloved community again.
L: In our words and songs and silence and prayers,
P: We open ourselves to wonder, and gratitude, and praise.
Opening praise: Reckless love
Prayers of approach and confession
you take the night and give us day.
You take our strife and give us peace.
You take our sadness and give us joy.
You take our fear and give us courage.
You take death and give us new life.
O God, you give and you give and you give.
So we come to praise you
and offer our love and loyalty as your willing servants
in the name of Christ who enriches our lives with grace
and in the power of the Spirit who prays within us
when we cannot find the right words to honour you,
God most kind and generous.
you placed your mission in our hands
and gave us gifts to accomplish amazing things in Jesus’ name.
We confess sometimes we’ve taken credit for what your love has done.
Sometimes we’ve called our own desires your will.
Sometimes we’ve stepped back and let others carry responsibilities.
Forgive us when we’ve failed to honour your trust in us.
Response: Glory, Glory, Hallelujah
Assurance of God’s grace: Hear the good news!
Who is in a position to condemn?
Only Christ – and Christ died for us; Christ rose for us, Christ reigns in power for us, Christ prays for us.
So trust God’s promise.
In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven and given a new start by God’s generous grace.
Musical Offering: Yet not I but Christ through me
Warren Garbutt (piano), Linda F-B, Lynn Vaughan, Brad Childs (guitar)
We listen for the voice of God
Response: Jesus loves me (373)
Story: It said that in this small country church in a little village, there were 2 young boys who worked in the church for the priest. They were called altar boys and they would go and set up some of the things like putting the candles up – that kind of stuff. And so they helped out in the church.
One day, before the Sunday Church Service, the 2 boys bumped into each other and they accidentally spilled the wine out of that big cup and it went all over the place.
Now, the priest really liked the one boy, but didn’t really care too much for the other.
So he told the one boy that dropped the wine: “Leave and don’t come back again.”
And then to the other boy. He said: “It’s OK. In fact, I think someday you’re going to be a priest.”
Now that seems very, very unfair, doesn’t it?
Well, a few years go by and the one boy actually does become a famous priest. He becomes a man named Archbishop Fulton Sheen who was a great Catholic theologian.
The other boy grew up to be General Tita, the commander of the Yugoslavian Communist Party who took his country to war.
You know, one little sentence. 2 different people.
In our book for today in Thessalonians there’s a verse from chapter 5 and it says Therefore go out and encourage each other and build each other up. Just as in fact you are in the habit currently of doing. Whatever you do in life, remember, this week, you’re going to encourage somebody.
If you want to say something bad, don’t. Encourage them instead because you might just change somebody’s life forever.
Prayer: God, we thank you for our friends, our families, and for our loved ones everywhere, for teachers and mentors and grandparents and everyone else who cares for us and loves us.
We pray that we would be encouraging to our friends and even to people we do not know. God make us encouragers. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer (535)
Song: Follow me the Master said (645)
Scripture reading: I Thessalonians 5:1-1 & Matthew 25:14-30
Response: Glory to the Father
Message: Love others into being
Presbyterian Minister, the Reverend Fred Rogers was the creator of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” a children’s television show that began airing in 1968 and ran until 2000—that’s 895 episodes. In 1997, just before retiring his show, Mr. Rogers won the Emmy’s Lifetime Achievement Award. This is an excerpt of his speech.
So many people have helped me to come to this night. Some of you are here. Some are far away. Some are even in heaven. All of us have special ones who have loved us into being. Would you just take, along with me, 10 seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are? Those who have cared about you and wanted what was best for you in life. 10 seconds of silence. I’ll watch the time.
Whomever you’ve been thinking about, how pleased they must be to know the difference you feel they’ve made.
In the video recording of that event, you can see actors and actresses tearing up during and after those ten seconds of silence.
All of us have special ones who have loved us into being children of God; helped us along the way and encouraged us. Some here. Some far away. Some are even in heaven where they join the saints around the throne still praying and offering intercession for us. We all have had spiritual parents. Will you be that for someone? Will you be a spiritual parent that raises children to follow Jesus and invite others to follow him or gently nudge someone else along?
1 Thessalonians was written around 51-52 A.D. and was the first letter Paul wrote to a church.
Paul arrived in Thessalonica in the winter of 49 A.D. after a very difficult experience in the city of Philippi (as in the book of Philippians). Paul stayed just a short while in Philippi and then was forced to leave by government officials. This meant that the church in Thessalonica would be without support just a few months after its very first Christian gathering in the entire city had begun.
It was almost doomed not to survive. How could it.
It was young, had no organizational structure and was worried about death, very worried about being killed for their interest in Jesus, and obsessed with the “end times” (which they thought would come so soon that they quit their jobs believing it pointless since Jesus could arrive at any time!).
Paul’s young student Timothy (as in the books of 1st and 2nd Timothy) joined Paul in; Athens relieving Paul of his loneliness. BUT Timothy was almost immediately sent to Thessalonica (as in the book of Thessalonians) to encourage them in a difficult time. After a short visit, Timothy once again joined Paul. This time Timothy met Paul in the city of Corinth (as in the books of 1st and 2nd Corinthians). And in Corinth, young Timothy gave his mentor Paul very good news. The Church was still alive and more than that, it was thriving. The people were still sharing the gospel. Yes, the church in Thessalonica had some worries but they were doing unexpectedly well.
They were doing astonishingly well and for a very simple reason, the two ministers agreed: They didn’t pick on each other. They didn’t complain. Not even a little complaining. They did the old, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all” deal! They seemed to have also thought of saying negative things like we might consider an exceptionally contagious virus. And they were right! People die from physical viruses; congregations die from negativity and gossip and bickering (we’ve all seen that at some point) and often from an otherwise absolutely beautiful human being who somehow came to self-justify a “helpful critique” that’s just “food for thought” yet also just so happens to be mentioned to everyone but the person being secretly evaluated and being given the supposed “help”.
We have all encountered this behavior at some point in our lives. Most people grow out of it by the end of Jr. High School but not everyone. We all know the person that tells you all the stuff they don’t like (which is probably about 10% of things) while neglecting all the stuff (probably around 90% or so) that they do like but regrettably and disappointingly and inauspiciously somehow also failed to mention.
In every church from this one, to the clandestine congregations meeting in North Korea (a consequence of which visiting demands a penalty of public execution). Negativity breeds negativity. And it’s poisonous to communities.
In its place, the Thessalonians tried encouraging each other. And to boot, it’s not like they all thought the same things about everything, or they all loved the same things. I am certain they had disagreements. They just appear to have largely conversed about those matters which coincided most between congregants. In other words, they spoke about what they agreed upon rather than what they were unhappy about.
I rather think of this like they are discussing a metaphysical Kindness Virus. The congregation is doing great. They are “full of joy” from what Timothy told him. They’ve replaced a disruptive virus with a spread of congruence and praise. They replaced the virus with encouragement.
1 Thessalonians is intensely personal. Instead of the typical focus on adjudicating between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians, or correcting doctrine that didn’t fit with what the witnesses said happened: instead of impressing upon people the importance of freely accepting forgiveness rather than foolishly rejecting that gift while we simultaneously try to work off that same debt that’s already been paid. Instead, In 1 Thessalonians, Paul speaks almost entirely about interpersonal relationships. He’s not philosophizing so much as he is chatting.
It’s only in the final chapter (the part that we read from today) that Paul in conclusion addresses the people’s big questions and concerns about what happens to people to die before the return of Christ and their obsession with the end times. Still, this is caged within Paul’s point about the importance of the community.
Fundamentally, everything in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians is about how Christians relate to one another in the community. How we are great and how we are less than at times.
In verses 10-11, Paul wrote, “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, (dead or alive) we may still live together with him. [Death and life are nothing.] 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are already in the habit of doing.”
In a nutshell, Paul says, ‘that other stuff, isn’t that big of a worry. The stuff you fight over and the worrying about what a Just and Loving God will do with people who seek Him out and die before His return. Things that may happen someday don’t change anything that has to do with how we live as the church in the very present here and now. Our job isn’t to worry about death or fire from below, golden streets and harps above or the “end of days”. We are just meant to be spiritually preparing for any possibility believing that someday God will shake things up again and bring about a conclusion.
From Paul – to the congregation meeting in Thessalonica – he says that no matter what else until such a miraculous event takes place (and it could be 5,000 years away just like it could be tomorrow so, go get a job already you mooches). And then basically he just says that people should spend whatever time they have (be it a day like the Thessalonians fear, or 10,000 years away) encouraging each other and building each other up.
William Arthur Ward said, “Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will never forget you.”
Encourage me… and I will never forget you.
The importance of encouraging each other simply cannot be overstated. Who wants to be around a bunch of people who tear each other down or whisper about one another in secret or fight over the 10% instead of celebrating the 90%?
In one of his sermons on this very text, Charles Spurgeon wrote the following words, “Fault-Finding is dreadfully catching: One dog will set a whole kennel howling.” What’s that old line about “Judge not” again?
By contrast, building each other up is a major theme in the bible. The word for encourage here is (Pa-Rocka-Le-Oh) “parakaleo” in koine Greek. It appears 114 times in the New Testament. Encouragement, 114 times. The word most literally means, “to come beside”. This is a variation on the word most often used to describe the Holy Spirit. Again… Encourage each other… 114 times!
To me, it sounds like God is pretty serious about the encouragement thing. I’d perhaps go so far as to say that if we are not encouraging each other… then we’re not being the church.
In agreement, at one point the author of the book of Hebrews writes similarly, “Encourage one another daily, as long the day is called Today-” (Hebrews 3:13.) In other words, never stop encouraging each other. Never stop.
The beauty of it is threefold:
1) It’s easy.
2) It’s free it costs you nothing and
3) Everyone needs it.
For the moment I’ll remind you that I’m American so maybe this story has more weight with me, than you but I’ll tell it anyway. The night Second term Republican President, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated at Ford’s Theatre, he had on his person several small items. These were:
-Two pairs of glasses.
-A small velvet eyeglass cleaner.
-An ivory pocketknife.
-A large handkerchief with “A. Lincoln” stitched on it; in red.
-A tiny pencil nub.
-A brass sleeve button.
-The same simple pocket watch given as a “standard issue” to everyday soldiers (my grandmother has one of these).
-And a brown wallet with a Confederate five-dollar bill inside.
And one more thing. President Lincoln (perhaps the most important leader in American History) also carried with him 8 tiny newspaper clippings that he had cut out and kept for safekeeping. All those clippings praised him for one act or another. I love that. And I think we all do that. I think we all carry words of encouragement with us written down or not. And everybody needs encouragement, from the youngest child to the immensely powerful. We all need it.
Now that doesn’t mean we’re all good at it. And I get it, some people are good at it. Some people couldn’t be forced to say something bad to somebody else if you put a stick of dynamite to ‘em or threatened to tie them to the railroad track. Others not so much.
One day 2 men were talking as they saw a woman walking down the road. One of the men said, “That’s Mrs. Jones. She always has something good to say about everyone.” The other man decided to test her, so when she got close he hollered, “Mrs. Jones, what do you think about the devil?” Mrs. Jones thought for a second and then answered, “He sure keeps busy doesn’t he; hard worker that one?”
Encouragement may not be everyone’s gift but If Mrs. Jones can find something nice to say about the devil then I promise you, you can find something nice to say to the people in the pews next to you or even the person you’ve just met. So why not start now. Encourage someone. Encourage everyone. (Pa-Rocka-Le-Oh) Parakaleo (come up beside someone).
In the fall of the year, Linda, a young woman, was travelling alone up the rutted and rugged highway from Alberta to the Yukon. Linda didn’t know you don’t travel to Whitehorse alone in a rundown Honda Civic, so she set off where only four-wheel drives normally venture. The first evening she found a room in the mountains near a summit and asked for a 5 A.M. wakeup call so she could get an early start. She couldn’t understand why the clerk looked surprised at that request, but as she awoke to early morning fog shrouding the mountaintops, she understood.
Not wanting to look foolish, she got up and went to breakfast. Two truckers invited Linda to join them, and since the place was so small, she felt obliged. “Where are you headed?” one of the truckers asked.
“Whitehorse,” she said.
“In that little Civic? No way! This pass is DANGEROUS in weather like this.”
“Well, I’m determined to try,” was Linda’s gutsy, if not very informed, response.
“Then I guess we’re just going to have to hug you,” the trucker suggested.
Linda drew back. “No offense but no thanks!” she said.
“Not like THAT!” the truckers chuckled. “We’ll put one truck in front of you and one at the rear. In that way, we’ll get you through the mountains safely.”
All that foggy morning Linda did what everyone in Alberta does from time to time.
She didn’t so much drive as she just followed the two tiny little red dots in front of her (and luckily too, had the reassurance of a big escort behind her) as they made their way safely through the mountains.
Life is messy. We all have issues. Everyone in this room, has some secret worry; some desperate hope. Caught in the fog of our dangerous passage through life, everybody needs to be “hugged” from time to time. And so together we move forward, with fellow Christians who know the way and can lead safely ahead of us; with others behind for us to lead the way. We too can be imitators of Christ, who come beside each other and constantly encourage each other.
And then who knows, maybe someday, when someone else takes 10 seconds to think about the special ones who were their spiritual parents, who helped “love them into being”, they’ll think of you. Amen
Song: Father, we love you (300)
We respond to serve God: Our time of giving
Reflection on giving: In the Church that bears Christ’s name, we receive the legacy of faithfulness offered to us across many generations. Our gifts continue to build up the inheritance we share in for generations we will never meet, so that they will meet Jesus and reach out to others in his name.
Prayer of Dedication: Faithful God, we offer humble thanks today for your generosity to us through the Church that bears Christ’s name. Receive our gifts as tokens of our love and loyalty. Use them to sustain the mission of the Church in ways we cannot yet imagine, in a future that you are creating through Christ, our Saviour and Lord. Amen.
Prayer of gratitude and for others and ourselves
God of all life and each life,
We thank you that you are with us every day, in each challenge and opportunity.
In our weakness, you are strength.
In our confusion, you light the path ahead.
In our questions, you offer wisdom for our choices.
Stay with us in these days when so much seems uncertain, and help us to serve you faithfully, when and as we are able.
God of loving kindness,
Thank you for each moment of joy and celebration in our lives: for love given and received, for friendships which bring meaning and happiness, even from a distance, and for family members who show us glimpses of unconditional love.
In all our relationships and interactions, keep us mindful of your call to see you in each another.
God of the nations,
we worry for the world filled with conflict and division, when the earth itself is put at risk by destructive human actions.
Guide diplomats and politicians to look beyond short term interests, and keep the well-being of vulnerable people and the planet in focus.
Open our leaders’ minds and hearts with wisdom to develop more equitable ways of ordering our common life.
God of healing,
we pray for those who are suffering in these days when winter is closing in.
Draw close to all who fear the future.
Comfort those with pain or problems that seem overwhelming.
Shine the light of your love into our sadness and sorrows and show us how to comfort and support each other.
God of life,
We thank you for your saints of every age who continue to inspire us, and for all who have meant the world to us and now live with you.
Keep us in communion with them and, at the last, bring us all to dwell together in your light. Amen.
Song: We are one in the Spirit (471)
Sending out with God’s blessing
Be a kingdom builder this week. Find a way to offer your time and talent to a project worthy of God’s hope for the world God loves!
And so may the blessing of God, Creator, Christ and Spirit, fill you and overflow through you to touch others with God’s renewing love.
Response: God to enfold you
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 (© 2023) 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