Stewards of Mysteries (Roland De Vries)

Worship on the Lord’s Day
Students and Colleges Sunday
10:00 am October 17, 2021
Online & Onsite (Mixed Presence) Gathering as a Worshipping Community
Message: The Rev. Dr. Roland De Vries
Music Director: Binu Kapadia          Vocalist: Vivian Houg
Elder: Jane de Caen
Children’s time: Lynn Vaughan

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

Opening words

L: The Lord is might light and salvation

P: whom shall I fear?

L: The Lord is the stronghold of my life

P: of whom shall I be afraid?

Opening praise: Here I am to worship

Light of the world,

You step down into darkness.

Opened my eyes let me see.

Beauty that made this heart adore you

Hope of a life spent with you.

 

Here I am to worship,

here I am to bow down,

 Here I am to say that you’re my God,

You’re altogether lovely, altogether worthy,

Altogether wonderful to me.

 

King of all days, oh so highly exalted

Glorious in heaven above.

Humbly you came to the earth you created.

All for love’s sake became poor.

 

Here I am to worship,

here I am to bow down,

Here I am to say that you’re my God,

You’re altogether lovely, altogether worthy,

Altogether wonderful to me.

Songwriter: Tim Hughes © 2000 Thankyou Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Reprinted with permission under CCLI, License #3095377​. All rights reserved. Permission to stream the music in this service obtained from CCLI

Call to worship

L: Who is like the Lord among the heavenly beings?

P: O Lord Almighty, who is like you?

L: Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne.

P: Love and faithfulness go before you.

Prayers of Approach and Confession

Our God,  creator of everything good and true and beautiful. We come together this morning in your presence. We gather before you because you have drawn us to yourself in love. Help us, O God, to be a people of faithful worship, today and in each day.

Receive our worship in the songs of joy we sing.

Receive our worship in our moments of silent awe before you.

Receive our worship in work done well in the world you have created.

Receive our worship in our active bodies walking, sitting, running, standing.

Receive our worship in compassion offered to friend and stranger.

Receive our worship in our laughter at the beautiful ironies or life.

O great and glorious God – Father, Son and Spirit dwelling together in love, in light, in beauty – receive the worship of our lives, in each and every day.

Oh living God, hear us also as we offer our prayer of confession. We confess that we often walk through life as if you are far away—as if you haven’t drawn near to embrace us in Jesus Christ. We prefer to live as if you weren’t the Lord of life. We trust ourselves more than we trust your grace. We think the future is ours to define and control. Forgive us our sin, we pray, through Jesus Christ our Lord. And give the grace to walk in his way. Amen.

Response: Lord Jesus Christ, son of God (traditional prayer-song)

Assurance of God’s Pardon

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. God’s mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning, new every morning. Great is God’s faithfulness. Thanks be to God, in Christ we are forgiven

Response: Be still and know (Words and music: anonymous and public domain)

Prayers for God’s help and guidance

God who accompanies us day by day; God who in Jesus Christ has drawn near to us; God who by the Spirit is as close to us as our own breath. In this day and every day, we ask that you would speak to us, teach us, comfort us, and lead us. So that in all things we would be faithful to the kingdom of Jesus, and would live for your glory. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Prayers for Ourselves/Others

With the words of the Psalm-writer we turn to you again this day, O God. it is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night, to the melody of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre. For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.

We declare your love in the morning, O God, for it is carried us through the night, to this new day. For some of us this night was a difficult and restless and sleepless night. For others of us, O God, you know that we slept soundly and peacefully. In either case, it is by your Spirit you have sustained us through the night and brought us to the gift of this new day. The day of our Lord’s resurrection, a day to celebrate the triumph of life and love, of peace and justice, through Christ alone.

Today, O living God, we continue to celebrate the gifts of this Thanksgiving season. It has perhaps been an unusual Thanksgiving season, and perhaps a difficult one. Yet in this moment we praise you again for the gifts of creation. For the wind on our faces, reminding we are alive by your grace. For gardens still alive with flowers and vegetables. For sunshine, clouds, and cool days this past week. We praise you for all good gifts, that come from your hand.

Gracious God, we are reminded that you set us in communities, and thank you for the democratic process that allows us to participate in determining those who lead us. We pray for the municipal elections in Edmonton, that those who are elected on Monday will serve with diligence and wisdom, and for the wellbeing of all. We pray that the new mayor, especially, will pursue a path and policies that embody the goodness and righteousness and compassion of Christ.

We pray finally, O God, for a world that is full of pain and suffering. We think particularly of those countries that do not have access to Covid treatments or vaccinations that we have come to take for granted. We pray for Lebanon and for peace and stability in the face of increasing violence and the breakdown of civic life. We pray for Afghanistan as the Taliban consolidates is power in that country, praying for protection for those who are vulnerable, for equal treatment of women and girls, for freedom from oppression. Gracious God, may your kingdom come in the length and breadth of the earth.

We are grateful that you hear all of these prayers, as well as the prayers that we offer wordlessly, or with groans, by your Spirit. Hear and answer, we pray, in the name of your beloved Son Jesus, our Lord, Amen.

We listen for the voice of God

Children’s time

Gradual: Open our eyes, Lord (Words and music: Bob Cull; © Maranatha! Music 1976; The Copyright Company. Reprinted with permission under CCLI, License #3095377​. All rights reserved. Permission to stream the music in this service obtained from CCLI

Story: The Rainbow Fish

Prayer

The Lord’s Prayer

Song: Teach me God

Teach me, God, to wonder; teach me, God, to see; let your world of beauty capture me.

Refrain: Praise to you be given;

love for you be lived, life be celebrated; joy you give.

Let me God, be ready; let me be awake,

in your world of loving, my place take. Refrain.

 Teach me God, to know you, hear you when you speak,

see you in my neighbour when we meet.. Refrain

Words: Walter Farquharson © Worship Arts, 1973. Music: Ron Klusmeier © Worship Arts, 1973. ) Reprinted with permission under CCLI, License #3095377​. All rights reserved. Permission to stream the music in this service obtained from CCLI

Scripture readings

Psalm 89:1-15

1 Corinthians 4:1-5

Response: Behold the lamb of God (Words: public domain. Music: Iona Community (Scotland) © WGRG the Iona Community, 1988. G I A Publications. Reprinted with permission under One License, License #A735555. All rights reserved, Permission to stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE)

Message: “Stewards of Mysteries”

This has not been designated as Stewardship Sunday for you at Dayspring, but this morning we are actually going to explore the theme of stewardship—doing so, I trust, from quite a unique point of view.

Most of us Presbyterians have been well trained in the notion of stewardship—we’ve experienced more than a few Stewardship Sundays. So we know what that word means. To be a steward of something means taking responsibility for some gift God has given. Stewardship means taking care of some gift that has been placed in your hands. And we know that the God of creation and covenant has placed so many gifts in our hands to steward and care for:

The gift of creation – of water, air, land, soil – living creatures of every kind.

The gift of family – parents, siblings, great aunts, great uncles, children, grandchildren.

The gift of body – hands to offer care; feet to carry us into lives of goodness and beauty; minds to work intelligently and imaginatively and faithfully.

So many gifts that have been placed into our hands – so many treasures handed to us for safekeeping.

We know that stewardship caring for the gifts of God. Receiving them with gratitude. Treasuring them as the remarkable expression of generosity they are.

Now this morning we want to explore a particular expression of stewardship we find in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. But in order to get there we have to back up a bit to provide some context. And the context we have to provide isn’t very encouraging context.

As you may know, in his letter to the church in Corinth, Paul responds to the fact that these Christians have been setting Paul and other Christian leaders against each other. The Christians of that church are divided into at least three camps, and they are claiming Paul and Apollos and Cephas as their figureheads. We follow Paul, says one group. We follow Apollos, says another group. We follow Cephas, says a third group.

And in response to these divisions in the church, Paul writes to the Corinthians, and he says:

You have your petty squabbles with one another.

You are divided from one another on theological grounds.

You are divided from one another on cultural grounds.

You are divided from one another on ethical grounds.

And here you are trying to conscript Apollos and Cephas and me into your squabbles, as if we are simply pawns on your chessboard.

But, Paul continues, if you think we are just figureheads to be conscripted into your battles – if you think we can just be used by you – then I think I need to tell you who we really are.

Let me put it this way. If you wanted to describe who we really are, you could call us servants of Christ.

Or you could call us co-workers with God.

Or you could say that we are those called to build up the church.

Already with this you should realize we aren’t here simply to serve your squabbles.

Even so, let me give you another way to describe us, says Paul.

We are stewards of mysteries. If you really want to know who we are – if you really want to know what defines the life of Apollos and Cephas and myself – if you really want to know what excites us and animates us – then you should get your heads around this possibility – that we are stewards of mysteries.

At the outset this morning we already noted what it is to be a steward – it is to receive and care for and treasure and share with others some gift of God.

And Paul is saying: If you want to really know what it means that I am an apostle, or want to know who I am, this is it: I am a steward of mysteries.

What I hold in my hands is a mystery. An apostle just is someone who holds mysteries in her hands – who treasures those mysteries – who celebrates those mysteries – who shares those mysteries with others.

What are the mysteries I hold?

What are the mysteries I treasure?

What are the mysteries that I am compelled to share with others?

In the first place we might say that it is the great mystery of God’s own life and being. This mystery: that in some profound sense God is beyond our grasp and our intelligence and our rationality and our feelings and our reflection.

The poet and novelist Rainer Maria Rilke, in one of his prayers written as a young man, speaks of  the mystery of God in this way:

You’re so vast that nothing’s left of me

when I stand anywhere near You.

You’re so dark that my little brightness

makes no sense along your seam.

Your will flows like a wave

and every day drowns within it.

Rilke speaks of the deep darkness of God, beside which our little brightness is as nothing – the greatness of God beside which our capacity for making sense is dwarfed and over-shadowed. The poet speaks of the unknowable God who is vast and powerful and glorious and beyond reach.

But we may speak of the mystery of God, not only in terms of darkness, but also in terms of light. We are in midst of gorgeous Autumn days here in Quebec. Last weekend my wife and I, with our kids, did the drive from Montreal to Toronto and back. They were glorious sunny days, with the sun illuminating the trees in red and yellow and orange. The sun, in a very real sense, was giving us the gift of those colours as we looked at the trees.

But if we had turned to look at the sun illuminating those trees, well, it would have blinded us.

Human eyes are not formed to look at the sun – human eyes will be damaged looking directly at the sun. The capacity to look directly at the sun is not part of our physiological makeup.

So it is with God – either God is a great darkness beside which our little spark is as nothing. Or better perhaps, God is the greatest light – and we simply do not have the capacity to look directly  at God. We are not constituted in such a way that we are capable of looking directly at God. Our calculations; our observations; our judgments; our evaluations; our thoughts…cannot find God – cannot reach God. It is too much.

Paul says: I am a steward of mysteries – I carry as a treasure in my hands the knowledge that God is great and glorious and beyond our comprehension. It’s for this very reason that Paul could write to the Christians of Rome:

O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him, to receive a gift in return? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.

The mystery of God’s being and God’s glory. The mystery of God.

But there is another mystery of which Paul must speak. Yes, he is is a steward of the deep mystery of God’s being as dark and light. But he is also a steward of the mystery of the cross.

Paul has already written about this mystery to the Corinthians, with these words:

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jew and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is  wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

Paul declares: This message is a mystery. This message is a treasure to be handled with care. And this message is one that I am compelled to share. How can I not share it – this mysterious and beautiful message that the God of deep darkness and bright light has embraced the foolishness of the cross – this God has become human among us in Jesus.

The message I must share is the impossible message of the cross – that in the birth and life and service of Jesus; that in the suffering of Jesus; that in the crucifixion of Jesus; that in the life and death and service of this man is the goodness of God most fully on display:

This dead man on a cross means life.

This dead man on a cross means forgiveness.

This dead man being taken down from the cross for burial mean’s hope.

This is a mystery. It’s impossible.

But this is the message I’ve been given to preach.

This is the message that declares the truth about God and God’s love.

This is the message of which I am a steward.

This is the mystery that has been placed as a gift in my hands.

Paul might say that it would be much easier to be a steward of some other message. It would be much easier to be steward of a generic message that God is out there and loves everyone. or some vague message that God will make everything better one day. or a simple message that we should be nice people. or a hard message that God will condemn us if we don’t measure up.

All of those messages would be so much easier to share. But that is not the message that has been placed in our hands – that is not the treasure we are to treasure and share – that is not the message of which we have become a steward. The message we preach is the message of the cross:

That the answer to our brokenness is the brokenness of God.

That the answer to our ugly words is in the ugliness of Christ crucified.

That the answer to our fears is his journey through the valley of the shadow of death.

That the answer to our loneliness is life together with the crucified one.

Paul says to the Corinthian Christians: You want to conscript me into your squabbles with each other. You demand that I stand on one side or another in your divisions. That is not who I am.

With Apollos I am a servant of Christ.

With Cephas I am a co-worker with God.

With Apollos and Cephas I am called to build the church.

And with my fellow-apostles, I am a steward of mysteries. This treasure has been placed into our hands – the mystery of God, the mystery of the cross – and we share this treasure with you. May it be power and wisdom for you – new life to share.

I know that for all of you at Dayspring there are so many good things that fill your lives. In these  days there are also very real struggles that fill you lives.

You are raising children, with all the joy and challenge that represents.

You may be working in challenging circumstances, perhaps from home.

You may be looking for work or other opportunities.

You may be a student, bringing your best energy and time to studies.

You may give time as a volunteer to community organizations.

Today my simple suggestion is: That in all of the good and important and challenging things in your life—before all of them, and in the middle of all of them, and after all of them—that you remember that you are stewards of mysteries. Before everything, and in everything, and after everything, you have mystery your carry and treasure and may share.

The deep mystery of God, who is more than we can grasp or understand.

The mystery that the crucified Jesus means life and forgiveness.

The mystery that this crucified one is risen and vindicated.

The mystery that this Jesus, crucified and risen, is hope for the world.

How might it change our lives, if in the midst of it all, we understood ourselves to be carrying this treasure with us—holding this mystery, sharing this mystery, living in this mystery. Indeed, it would make all the difference. Stewards of a mystery, that’s who we are. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Song: Take up your cross

Take up your cross, the Saviour said,

if my disciple you would be; deny yourself,

the world forsake, and humbly follow after me.

Take up your cross, nor heed the shame,

nor let your foolish pride rebel: f

or you the Saviour bore the cross,

to save your soul from death and hell.

Take up your cross, then, in Christ’s strength,

and every danger calmly brave;

’twill guide you to a heavenly home,

and lead to victory o’er the grave

Words: C.W. Everest: public domain Music: H. Baker; public domain

 We respond to serve God

Prayer of gratitude

Our God, you are the giver of good gifts. Your love and generosity toward us are beyond measure. As we experience your generosity, may we live in that generosity toward others. As we experience your grace, may we extend grace to others. As we experience your forgiveness, may we seek reconciliation with others. As we experience your love, may we live in love toward all in our lives. We pray in the name of the one in whom your love is perfectly embodied, even Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Response: Now thank we all our God (words: Catherine Winkworth; music: J. Cruger) public domain for both

Reflection on giving

We have been giving faithfully even though we have not been passing the Offering Plate since the beginning of the pandemic. It may be a while before most of us return to the sanctuary, but we are all 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 contributions, which come freely from hearts full of gratitude.

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.

Song: To God be the glory

To God be the glory,

who great things he has done!

God so loved the world freely

sending the Son,

who yielded his life

an atonement for sin,

and opened the life-gate

that all may go in.

 Refrain: Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,

let the earth hear God’s voice!

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,

 let the people rejoice!

Oh come to the Father

through Jesus the Son,

and give God the glory,

who great things has done!

Oh perfect redemption,

the purchase of blood!

To every believer

the promise of God;

that when the offender,

repenting believes,

through Jesus’ atonement

full pardon receives.               Refrain

Great things God has taught us,

great things God has done,

and great our rejoicing

through Jesus the Son;

but purer and higher

 and greater will be

our wonder, our gladness,

when Jesus we see.                Refrain

Words: Fanny Crosby © The Presbyterian Church in Canada, 1995; Music: William Doane, public domain. Reprinted with permission under One License, License #A735555. All rights reserved, Permission to stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE

Sending out with God’s blessing

Response: God to enfold you (Words: J. Bell, G. Maule; © WGRG Iona Community, GIA Publications Inc.Reprinted with permission under ONE LICENSE, License #A735555​. All rights reserved.  Permission to stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE)

Music postlude

Jesus: “I am the Good Shepherd, the Good Shepherd lays down his life for the Sheep.”


Roland De Vries retains the copyright on the prayers and message presented in this service except as noted in the text. Unacknowledged use of copyrighted material is unintentional and will be corrected immediately upon notification being received.

Posted in Recent Sermons.