Smelly FIshermen

Worship on the Lord’s Day
10:00 am       21 January     2024
Online & Onsite (Mixed Presence) Gathering as a Worshipping Community
Led by the Rev Brad Childs
Music director: Binu Kapadia     Vocalist: Vivian Houg
Elder: Jane de Caen

We gather to worship God

Music prelude

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: I will give thanks with my whole heart.
P: Your work is full of honour and endures forever.
L: The works of Your hands are just.
P: Let us worship the Lord.

Opening praise: Her I am to worship

Prayers of adoration and confession

Gracious and loving God, we are drawn by your presence in this place and time of worship. You are our strong rock and our refuge. You are our hope and our salvation. All power and greatness belong to you alone. With humble and obedient hearts, we place our trust in you alone. You encircle us with your love. You bless us with your presence and surround us with your grace. We gather this day to honour your name and proclaim your greatness.

God of grace and mercy, and hear us as we confess. Through your Son, Jesus Christ, you have called us to repent of our sins. You call us to believe the good news and celebrate your kingdom’s coming. We confess that there are times when we hear Christ’s call, but we fail to respond. We say we obey you, but our actions betray us. We cling to our old ways instead of immediately dropping our nets and following Jesus. Forgive us for not listening and responding to your invitations to follow you. Forgive us for the doubts and problems we do not take to you and for not reaching out to the world’s needs with the good news of Jesus Christ. We pray all these things in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ. –Amen

Response: I waited, I waited in you, Lord

Assurance of God’s love

Hear the good news: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Hear then the word of grace and the assurance of pardon: “Your sins are forgiven.”

We listen for the voice of God

Children’s time

Response: My lighthouse

Story: The Lighthouse

Do you guys know that song? The original is Irish and they play a banjo in it. I love that song. Where does it come from? Do you know?

No? Does anybody?

Well, what’s the song about?

The lighthouse. Who’s the lighthouse? What does that mean?

You do know? No? Well, what is a lighthouse? I mean, it’s something that shines a light out and it gives direction and tells people where to go.

There, but also it’s the safe harbor. It actually comes from Psalm 46.

I have a version of it here. But I’m going to read this one, I think. It goes like this, and most of you will probably know some of it.

The Lord is our refuge and strength. Always ready to help us in times of trouble. So I won’t fear even if there are earthquakes that come. Or mountains crumble into the sea. Just let the oceans roar and foam, let the mountains tremble, the waters surge. The rivers flow. God Himself lives in the holy city and cannot be destroyed God protects those to the break of day even though nations are in uproar and fall and crumble. God thunders the earth. He is here and then it’s Be still and know that I am God.

Be still and know that I am God. The song My Lighthouse and the psalm are about the same thing It’s about where you turn to when there’s nowhere to turn.

And where do you turn? You follow the light to the lighthouse. Let’s say a little prayer.


Lord, we thank you for our wonderful time together for our families and our teachers. We ask that You would help us remember that you’re the lighthouse that you’re the ever-present help.

In our times of trouble and that when the world seems to be falling apart we can still turn to you and trust.

The Lord’s Prayer (535)

Transition music

Song: I rest in God alone (36)

Today’s Message

Scripture reading: Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Psalm 62:5-12; Mark 1:14-20

Response: Behold the Lamb of God

Message: Smelly Fishermen

Before joining the Presbyterian Church in Canada, I served at Millwoods Community Church, Moravian. Although there are few Moravian churches in existence today (9, in fact, in all of Canada), they are actually the oldest living protestant denomination in the world. The Moravian Seal features a lamb encircled by a Latin phrase, “Noster Agnus Vincit; Sequamur Eum.” In English, it says, Our Lamb Has Conquered; Let Us Follow Him.

As Joseph Jay once wrote, “The church is not a sheltered sanctuary for the saints. Rather, it is a survival station for sinners.”

Once celebrated English preacher Charles Spurgeon was asked by a woman in his congregation about how one might find the “perfect church”. Reportedly, Spurgeon replied, “You will not find it, Madam, this side of heaven, and if you do find it, don’t go near it; you’ll spoil it.”

North America has become a very different place spiritually in the last few years. Most people think Christianity is an old, outdated religion.

But as it turns out, it is neither outdated nor a religion.

It’s safe to say that when most of us read words like “Christianity” or “Church,” we read “religious institution.”

Many young people these days hear “Church” and think of “organization” or “crusty,” “old,” “outdated,” or “arrogant religious institution,” and a lot of other things that come to mind as well.

For a lot of people, those words “Church” and “Christianity” scream out visions of the crusades, power or war-hungry men, inflexibility, fundamentalism, the Vatican machinery, pews, steeples, organs, praise bands, cheesy evangelists with too much makeup, or moneygrubbers with personal jets.

That is what people say is Christianity. That they define as the “Church”.

But to truly understand Christianity… to honestly know the Church, we have to go way back to the beginning to put first things first.

For starters, Jesus the Christ was not a Christian.

What’s more, Jesus never asked anyone to become a Christian, never built a steepled building, never drew up a theological statement, never personally took an offering, never wore priestly religious garments, never incorporated his faith for tax purposes… and never indented to create a new Religion (to explain one).

He called people to follow him. That’s it. That, despite its simplicity… is it. He called people to follow him.

The first two were the ones we read about this morning… two brothers, Simon and Andrew.

Regular guys. Simply fishermen. The first two Christians ever. Those brothers didn’t consider becoming Christians or adopting a new religion.

Here was this thrity-year-old man (son of a carpenter) who said “follow me”.

And they did. They believed he was something special. They believed in him. So, they followed him. Not his rules or tradition or way of doing things or even his beliefs but Him. Honestly and physically, with their hands and work and words and dust-covered soar, callused, blistered feet – They followed him.

Our heritage had begun. What was handed down to the person who shared faith with you has either a miracle of revelation (hearing about Jesus through a dream, for example) or else it’s an absolute direct line from person to person, through countless others and yet always and ultimately leading back to this one moment with these two Labradors.

In faith, these two brothers gave their lives to him, literally, putting down their family-owned fishing nets and following him. They left home, a solid family company, security, a mother and father, probably marital prospects, extended relationships, practices, and their whole lives so that they might be this one thing (His follower) more than they had been before or ever would be anything else again – the choice that defined everything forever after.

Here was the birthplace of the way of life, a reality that would change the world forever. It was on the edge of the water, with the drying catch of the day, crisping in the sun with the flies. As Is. the prophet said, “How beautiful are the feet of the one who brings peace and good news.” How true that is to a world with a sinful, sick soul and where medicine is scarce and illnesses abound.

The passing momentary fear of what we think could happen, trembling and yet, much more closely aligned with the lives His first followers lived within. In the coming weeks, there will be chances for us all to serve others. Remember that the tired and aching foot of the follower of Jesus, worn out from her work, is the apple of God’s eye.

Before hurrying on with words and centuries of theology, we should pause at the cradle of what we call the Church, which is actually a gathering of people called into a relationship with one man, struggling to care for the world like Him.

It was then and has never been more than that. Not a building, not a faith, not a just tradition… but a simple relationship between the one who loves and the one being loved.

Jesus called, “Follow me”. And people respond by dropping familiar nets and following, in faith, a sandaled Jewish man.

Two thousand years of words can do nothing to that simple fundamental reality – this is true Christianity. This is the Church.

Our beginnings lay with two blue-coloured, dirty, finger-nailed brothers who probably never quite shook the smell of fish from their skin. And if all this topples to the ground, we can still be that again, which we perhaps most are.

Those first steps, dropping nets and following Jesus, are the birth of Christianity, not choirs or praise bands, Bible studies, prayer, and it’s long before Peter will ever declare “Jesus is Lord.” But he follows, nevertheless.

Like those first few men long, long ago, to us, Jesus too said, “Follow me,” and we did. Everything else has come out of that. Some are good, some are bad, some are neither.

But it all goes back to that one moment in time (not frozen or static but living and moving just as we do).

From there, they (a gathering of people called) went about a new kind of ministry  As Jesus went about his business, people responded to him in many ways: many crowds became intrigued by him and his healing and miracles. Some became dead-set against him and his teachings. But a few, hearing something undeniable in his call, left their lives to walk with him…  to follow.

People sometimes reverently use the word “disciples.” But disciple means follower. The first were a tax collector, a revolutionary guerrilla, a kind of lawyer and a bunch of fishermen. Yet, all of them people who left their homes to walk some dust-covered streets in a small section of the Middle East all because… they believed in Him.

Those we call disciples with great admiration were nothing more or less than simple people (like us) responding to Jesus’ call. They were just as the authorities accused of being… “Untrained, ordinary men”.

At times, they followed, listened, questioned, obeyed, walked with, learned from, doubted, and yet ultimately gave their lives to and, according to tradition also, all gave their lives FOR Him as well. However, I would argue that it should be tough to differentiate between them.

If, after all, one has entirely given their life over to their God, then what possible area of life could not be changed by that?

This following of Jesus proved to be such a thrilling adventure, proved to be so worth it that the initial Jesus followers couldn’t help but tell others all about it. And it didn’t matter that they didn’t fully understand it or have all the answers to go with it.

It had been news to them (what they heard from Jesus), But once they realized just how good that good news really was, they just had to tell someone else. They had to say to others; they had to share the εὐαγγέλιον euangélion  (evangelism) good news. It spilled out from them, and they couldn’t help but do it. It was done with no malice, judgment, or contempt but because they were excited and simply because they couldn’t help but do it.

And so this first band of followers told others, and when those folks believed and followed Him, they too told others. “Follow Him,” they said.

When the small band became larger, people had to refer to them somehow.

People started calling them “the Way” because the first followers of Jesus claimed to follow The Way, The Truth and The Life. It was He they followed.

To the surprise of others, The Way was to abandon themselves to drop their literal safety nets (they used to make a living) to follow this Jesus, who they unflinchingly believed was the long-awaited Messiah their people had hoped for.

Since the Greeks translated the word Messiah as Christ, some Greeks in Antioch started calling the followers of “the way,” “Christ-ones,” or “Little Christs’” as an insult. But when followers of The Way heard this taunt, they didn’t take offence. It was, for them, an honour to be likened to Christ (even a little version of the one they followed was a term of great joy to hear). They started calling themselves that, and the name stuck.

Still, Christianity… the Church was not a set of dogmatic principles, not a life philosophy, not an outdated religious institution, just a people… a people that followed Christ.

The Greek word Ekklesia (Ek-Lay-Sea-A) appears 118 times in the New Testament in 115 different verses. We translated the word “Church”. The references range from the Church being reminded that they are built on Christ, to them being told that they are the Temple, to being asked for funds to help gatherings of Christians in other cities. But not once… not one single time out of 118 mentions does the word “Church” in the New Testament ever refer directly to a literal building or even a structure of any kind… not once.

The word Ekklesia or Church literally means “Gathered ones.” The church is and always has been a gathering of believers and nothing more. This is why our Lord himself said, “Wherever two or three gather in my name, I am there.”

For the authors of the New Testament, a Church could never be anything more than that. We are intended to be the Temple. There are no longer special Holy Places; there is instead a Holy People called to be like Him.

When Paul writes to the church (the gathering in Corinth), he writes, “The gathered ones in the province of Asia send you greetings from our group. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house.” The Church isn’t the house. The Church… meets at their house. Because the Church is a collection of people trying to follow “The Way.”

Over the years, we have built great things of beauty: cathedrals and chapels, comfortable sanctuaries, liturgies and traditions, beautiful and worshipful art, music and many other great things that aid us in our worship, but these things are not themselves the church. The wood, the brick, the strings, the sounds the font – They never will be. They are expressions of The Church. The church has always been and always will be those who heard Jesus’ call and dropped our nets to Follow Him: a people.

As my friend, the Rev. Jared Miller, is fond of joking, “The church would be perfect if it weren’t for all the people.” It’s a clever take on Groucho Marc’s famous resignation from the Friers club, where he sent a wire reading, “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.”

And they are both very suitable. The Church is the last place you find hypocrites. This is the first place you will see where everybody admits openly to being a sinner, a mistake maker and a trying to do better attitude. We are imperfect, but He is not, so we’re here. Besides, the people are the only Church we have. There is no other. Yes, that means it’s sometimes messy. But it’s always been messy. The Presbyterian Church in Canada defines the Church as “Christ together with His people.” I will be a little more forthcoming to put a bit of spin on it. I say, “The church is Christ together with his screwups.” Of course, we don’t do him justice. We are aiming at perfection. But… we try, don’t we?

When the Church first began on earth, its first Minister was being executed as a criminal; the Clerk of Session (the Great Apostle Peter) was swearing he’d never been a part of the organization. Most Session members were missing or hiding. His Treasurer had just committed suicide. The rest of the congregation just went running away. The only two people who showed up on Sunday morning were a few dear women from the church support group, covered in tears.

Are you trying to follow him but abandoning him for easy outs and self-preservation sometimes? Probably the answer is yes but. If not, you should know you may be tested in the coming weeks. Your day is coming. We all have them.

Chances to follow Him are everywhere, even if we aren’t sure how best to do it. And that means chances to miss following him also abound.

It, us, and life are messy, and the Church is imperfect because we are the Church, and let’s face it, we’re all messy sometimes. The Church isn’t perfect, and how could it be? The church is the people, and people are not perfect. Although just like Will Smith in the film I Am Legend, we might respond to such comments likewise with “Well, you know, there was once this One Guy.”

It may sound odd and sometimes hard to remember, but you did not attend church today. You have never come to church. And you never will. If you follow Jesus, then You are the church.

This week, as the days go by, remember that you are the church in all you do. As you gather together after the service… You are the Church. As you walk across the street together… You are the Church. As you gather with friends for a meal… You are the Church. When the people in the booth next to you at the restaurant overhear you talking… You are the Church. As you gather with friends, talk to friends between classes, pay your taxes… or drive the frozen roads with people who probably shouldn’t arrive here “on time.” And when you are dealing with something painfully big, trying to, or sitting patiently with someone who needs nothing from you but your presence. You are always part of the Church. And every moment can become a “gathering of the imperfect.” As you ride the bus, visit your physician, stand in line for groceries at the store… whatever you do, good or bad. “Noster Agnus Vincit; Sequamur Eum” “Our Lamb Has Conquered; Let Us Follow Him.”

Because to all who follow Him, here or away… You are, and forever will be The Church. All you need to do is act like some old, smelly fishermen did years ago. Follow Him! -Amen.

Song: Lord of the dance (250)

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

Creator God, since the beginning of time, You have called Your people to repent. We thank          You for giving Jonah a second chance, and time and time again, You also give us a second chance.

We thank You for Your saving grace that came into   the world through Your Son, Jesus Christ, for the promise that if we turn from our sinful ways and follow Him that we will be given new life.

God, our rock and our salvation, give us a heart to love and serve You and help us show our gratefulness for the many ways in which we have been blessed by You.

Bless our congregation gathered here today. Give us a   sense of purpose and a deep desire to worship You. Strengthen us and help each of us to become more faithful.

Lord, bless also those who are not able to be with us here today. We lift up our prayers of intercession for those who are in the hospital; we pray for those who are sick and unwell at home. We remember in prayer those who mourn and grieve the death of a loved one.

We pray for people who are lonely, and people who are hungry and homeless, for those who are afraid, puzzled or anxious. We pray also for those who cannot believe that they matter or that anyone cares about them.

We want them to know Your love, and we ask You to use us to bring assurance of your hope to all in need.

Guide us by Your Holy Spirit.

Grant us wisdom when we lead.

Grant us strength when we serve. – Amen

Song: Who’s goin’ to tell the story (761)

Sending out with God’s blessing

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17)

Response: Amen, we praise your name, O God

Music postlude


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.

Posted in Recent Sermons.