The Caretaker (Brad Childs)

Worship on the Lord’s Day
7th Sunday after the Epiphany
10:00 am February 20, 2022
Online & Onsite (Mixed Presence) Gathering
as a Worshipping Community
Led by the Rev Brad Childs
Music director: Binu Kapadia
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

Brad: As the story goes, three long-time friends were out fishing on a boat. After a couple of hours without as much as a nibble, they were starting to bet bored.

“Guys I have a confession to make” said one of the men. “I just have to get this off my chest. I’m plagued with lust. I’ve been cheating on my wife for years now and it’s eating away at my soul.”

“Oh”, said the second man, “To be honest, I’m sort of relieved to hear that. I always thought you had the perfect marriage and the perfect life. I’ve always felt like a terrible husband and a terrible person around you. But I suppose I’ve got a confession to make too. You’re plagued with lust but I’m plagued with greed. I can’t stop myself. I’ve been embezzling money from my company for several months now. Wow, it feels good to finally get that off of my chest.”

“Well”, said the third friend as the other looked to him with shame in their eyes. “I suppose I might as well confess too” said the third man. You’re plagued with lust and you’re plagued with greed; I supposed I’m plagued with a deadly sin too. And thank you both for trusting me and sharing with me. I have something to get off my chest. I confess that I’m plagued by the sin gossip – and boy I can’t wait to get back to my phone.

Silent preparation for worship

Call to Worship

L: Children of God: welcome!
P: Welcome to this place of love and grace. Welcome to this place of hope and perseverance. God invites all of us to be a part of the beloved community.
L: God invites all of us to share in the good news: we are welcome, just as we are. We are loved, just as we are.
P: In gratitude for all of this, let us worship God.

Opening praise: Everlasting God

Prayers for others and ourselves

Lord, we thank you for the record of the biblical witness which documents your love affair with humankind. We thank you for the words of Jesus which remind us of our need to be welcoming and forgiving just as we’ve been welcomed and forgiven. We thank you that you continually stretch us to reach beyond ourselves, to do better, to act better, to speak better, to be better.

God, continue to stretch us. Widen our hearts to include others of your children whom we might naturally or unintentionally exclude.

Stretch us to grasp for more than we can reach on our own.

Stretch us to believe in ourselves and others more than would normally be dreamed of.

Stretch us to support and encourage one another; to measures beyond the traditional boarders.

Stretch us to offer a cup of cold water, food, shelter, a simple smile – and a feeling of safe-haven in your name.

We pray that we might learn the lessons of Christian community and teach and share as much as we receive.

Help us to learn exciting new behaviours and new ways. Temper our penchant for holding resentments. And Help us to be instructed by the errors of the past in order that we may be saved from repeating them.

Teach us that life does not have to be marred permanently by resentments.

Teach us that life is much more positive and meaningful and satisfying when it is focused on You and shares in Your love.

Teach us that turning the other check and asking for forgiveness are not signs of weakness but of strength.

Teach us to build more expansive souls which can reach out and embrace the least of your little ones.

Send your peace and love and overwhelm and transform all of the bitterness and anger which we so often want to hold close. So lead us in your higher ways.

For all who suffer and need your special grace we lift up our prayers today.

We pray for those who face bombs and war; for the innocent and young. We pray for the elderly and the widowed. We pray for the orphans and those imprisoned. We pray for the oppressed and the outcast, for the poor and for the abused. We pray for those who face floods or starvation; drought or wild storms. We pray for our world leaders, our Prime Minister, our government, our mayor, our lawmakers. Lord, bring clarity and wisdom to their minds. We pray for the hurt and the lonely and the heart broken. We pray for those facing loss, or death or great changes and stresses in life; for those moving or facing loss of independence. We pray for mobility and we pray for continued respect for those whose age and experiences should not be cast aside but rather inquired of. We ask for mercy and for grace and we ask that you might use us, your humble and loving children to affect your world for your will and your vision of what we can be.

Lord be with humanitarian workers in Ukraine and with Young people being told to harm other by their government. Be with Morley MacCalder and his family as he eats less and less. For Lynn in hospital but recovering well. We pray for peace and care as the Tansem’s bring new joy into their family and for Riley and Hayley. Be close to Renita and rest upon Bonnie letting her know that for the first time Tony is whole again and giving her a peace that simply cannot exist without You. For everyone Lord, send care and let us be the first responders.

Amen

Response: Open my eyes that I may see (500)

We listen for the voice of God

Scripture readings: Isaiah 66:10-14  and I John 1:1-10

Response: Glory to the Father

Homily: “The Caretaker”

Traditionally speaking 1 John was written by the apostle John; the son of Zebedee probably around 85AD or shortly thereafter. If you aren’t specifically searching this small epistle, it’s very easy to miss (not as easy as 3rd John being that it’s only made up of a few run-on sentences) but still 1 John is easy to miss too being that it generally rounds out at a whopping 4 pages long. If you want to feel really spiritual for a day just read 1,2, and 3rd John. It will take you 10 minutes and you will have read 3 entire books of the bible in one sitting (which is how I’d sell it).

The teaching of 1 John is fairly simple. He is arguing against some variation on pre-Gnosticism (a group that rejected the resurrection among many other things). For this reason, John continually reminds them that he and his friends were eye-witnesses to the physical resurrection. His main thrust of augment though deals essentially with the conditions for true Christian discipleship. The two main divisions of the letter explains John’s take on True Christian Discipleship. Two things. In the first half of the book John says, “live in the light” (1:5–2:29) and in the second half says to do this as “children of God” (3:1–5:13).

For you grammar people, John is also grammatically interesting. He makes quick, point / counter-point arguments and even throws in a poem in chapter two just for good measure. The way he writes certain portions just has a particular flare to it. Twice he uses this thing called a Hetrodox(ic) form, where there are three bold statements made – each with its own “But if” response. Verse 6 “if we_____” corresponds to verse 7s’ “But if we____” and 8 “if” this – to verse 9 “but if” this instead and verse 10’s “if” to 2:1 “but if”.

The three assertions which John cites are what philosophers call “straw man arguments”. It’s where you state the oppositions point for your oponant in an overly simplistic way so you can prove it wrong, in a seemingly sinple way. It’s basically John making these straw men with the sole purpose of burning them down.

In our bibles and in English it reads from left to right like everything else but the Greek could easily be put into two side by side columns. In fact, commentators usually show these verses written that way. I’ve got a sample for you here.

6. If we claim to share fellowship with him, while living in darkness, we are lying and not practicing the truth. 7. But if we live in the light as he himself is in the light, then we share fellowship with each other; and the blood of Jesus his Son purifies us from every sin.
8. If we claim to be sinless we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth has no place in us. 9. But if we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and righteous, so that he will forgive our sins and purify us from every kind of unrighteousness.
10. If we claim that we have not sinned we are making him out to be a liar, and his word has no place in us. 2:1. But if anyone should sin, we have an intercessor with the Father: Jesus Christ, who is righteous.

John says that we should do our best not to sin (of course). So what is a Christian to do. Well in Johns day the solution was to lie about it and claim to be perfect.

Seriously that seems to have been an issue. Just justify everything.

But for John, the answer wasn’t and isn’t to lie and pretend like we’re perfect like some of the high and mighty apparently did in John’s community (and like probably still happens today). It’s to admit our sin, confess and be freed from it.

And that’s John’s main point. Not just don’t sin… but when (not if) but WHEN it happens – our God forgives.

John writes, “5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.”

John says that If we follow the God of light, then we should also walk in the light. But of course we all know… life’s not that easy. In fact it’s impossible. Not only do we continually do wrong but more to the point, when we do wrong, we tend to just do more and more wrong as we attempt to dig our way out of it. And then we lie to ourselves about how good we are. But why do that?

One episode of the old “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” television show was about a particularly pretty woman that was serving a life sentence in prison. Angry and resentful about her situation, she had decided that she would rather die than to live another year behind bars. Over the first three years inside she had become good friends with one of the prison caretakers. His job, among others, was to bury those prisoners who died. And he would bury them in a graveyard just outside the prison walls. And he always did it in exactly the same way.

Whenever a prisoner died, the caretaker rang a large hand bell, which was heard by everyone. The caretaker then got the body and put it in a casket and put the loose top of the casket in place. Next, he entered his office to fill out the death certificate before returning to the casket to nail the lid shut. Finally, he put the casket on a wagon to take it to the graveyard and bury it. Prisons being a breeding ground for disease and injry, dying prisoners were far from unheard of. Knowing this routine, our heroine devised an escape plan and shared it with the caretaker in the hopes her plan would be safe with him.

The Plan: The next time the bell rang, the woman would simply pick the lock to her cell and sneak into the dark room where the coffins were kept. Quietly she would slip inside the coffin with the body of the dead prisoner while the caretaker was away in the office filling out the death certificate. She would carefully pull the top back into place. Next, when the caretaker returned, he would nail the lid shut and take the coffin outside of the prison walls, with the woman in the coffin along for a short ride with the body. Next the caretaker would bury the coffin as normal.

The prisoner believed that there would be enough air for her to breathe until later in the evening – at which time the caretaker would return to the graveyard (under the cover of darkness), dig up the coffin, open it, and set her free from prison.

The caretaker was reluctant to go along with this plan, but since he and the woman had become good friends, he eventually agreed to do it. The woman waited several weeks before someone in the prison died. Luckily it happened in the early evening so she knew there would be plenty of air to make it until dark. She was napping in her cell when she heard the death bell ring. So she got up, picked the lock of her cell, and slowly walked down the hallway. She was nearly caught a couple of times. Her heart was beating fast. She opened the door to the darkened room where the coffins were kept.

Quietly, feeling around in the cold and in the dark, she found the coffin that contained the body. So carefully she climbed into the coffin, and pulled the lid back in place to wait for the caretaker to come and nail the lid closed. Soon she heard footsteps and then the pounding of the hammer and nails. Her heart beat fast in the confined space with the body. Even though she was very uncomfortable in the coffin with the dead, she knew that with each nail she was one step closer to freedom.

The coffin was lifted onto the wagon and taken outside to the graveyard. She could feel the coffin being lowered into the ground. She didn’t make a sound as the coffin hit the bottom of the grave with a thud. Finally, she heard the dirt dropping onto the top of the wooden coffin, and she knew that it was only a matter of time until she would taste sweet freedom at last. The drops of dirt got quieter and quieter still. After several minutes of absolute silence, she began to laugh. She did it. She was free! She was free!

Hoping to find a way to get at least a little more comfortable in the box, she decided to quickly light a match and check her surroundings. When to her horror, she discovered that she was lying next to the caretaker.

The final scene faded to black as you heard the woman’s laugh turn to screaming. (Hot Ill. 100Kindle)

Like many of us trapped in some kind of sin, we tend to think that more sin can actually free us, but that’s not how our God made things to work.

Most of us know from childhood experiences that we can’t lie our way out of a lie.

Romans 6:23 says “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

John continues on. He writes “6 If we say that we have fellowship with God and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth”?

But wait, is John really saying that true Christians are perfect and sinless in every way? Lucky for us that’s not what he’s saying. Things are not always so simple as they first seem. John uses a specific tense saying literally “if we walk in darkness” meaning continuously. In other words, if we just keep intentionally refusing to do right.

Cambridge University’s Johnnian Greek Scholar Dr. Stephen Smalley writes that the best translation of this passage would read “Living habitually in darkness” and says that this verse “implies a determination to choose sin (darkness) rather than God whom John has just describe as being light”.

So it’s not that we have to be perfect it’s just that we need to be really aware of the things we know are wrong but do anyway.

“Sin” is like a complete “no-no” word these days. We’re so afraid of looking judgemental we cringe whenever we just hear the word “sin” But the thing is, we all do it. Nobody is exempt and there are consequences to that.

Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. John’s point is just that you can’t sin your way out of sin. You can’t lie and pretend to make it go away.

The great “prince of preachers” Charles Spurgeon used to tell this story: “A certain Duke once boarded a galley ship. As he passed the crew of slaves, he asked several of them what their offenses were. Like with any place of imprisonment, almost every man claimed he was innocent. They laid the blame on someone else or accused the judge of yielding to bribery. One young fellow, however, spoke out, ‘Sir, I deserve to be here. I stole some money. No one is at fault but myself. I’m guilty.’ Upon hearing this, the duke seized the guilty man by the shoulders and shouted into his face, ‘You scoundrel, you! What are you doing here with all these good; honest men? Get out of their company at once!’ And with that the Duke set the man to his liberty while the rest were left to tug at the oars.”

The key to this prisoner’s freedom wasn’t his perfection, and it wasn’t his innocence. Freedom came when he admitted his guilt.

The same is true for us.

It’s surprising how many people today find no need for the confessing of sin. I grew up in a Baptist church and in those days I heard a lot about sin but as far as I can remember (outside of perhaps the once a lifetime sinner’s prayer) we never did any kind of prayers of confession that I can recall.

We didn’t really confess but (to steal that famous line from Jonathan Edwards) we sure knew we were all “sinner in the hands of an angry God”.

Maybe it felt that way because back then I didn’t have a time to sit with others and admit being sometimes broken?

The opposite is often true these days. Perhaps more like in John’s day – Many people don’t believe they commit sins at all.

Donald Trump pretty famously once said that he didn’t think he’d ever done anything he needed to apologise for. After his very public and very obvious; long-running affair with Marla Maples I suspect his ex-wife Ivana would disagree with that statement.

But is he really that unique?

Today the very word “sin” in frowned upon and tends to make people uncomfortable. For a while in the 80’s it became sort of Hip to say “wrong things” instead. But the reality is the word “hamartia” which we translate to sin covers a whole host of things. It covers everything from bad things we do on purpose to habits we hold, to things we do on accident and/or don’t even know we’ve done. Hamartia (sin) means literally “to miss the mark” or to “go off the path”. But . Well who hasn’t done that? The word sin doesn’t bother me one bit. Because we all do it. More to the point… Not admitting to our sin as John says, is to “call God a liar”. Walking off the path is one thing… but claiming to be perfect is a whole different thing altogether.

When I was a kid and I hid my brother’s GI Joe that I broke, it ate away at me. But when I finally took it to him and said the hardest words in the world to say… “I’m sorry” even though he was mad at me, I started to feel a lot better about it. And that shouldn’t be a surprise. That’s just how God designed it to work. Hiding our sins won’t make them go away. But confessing them will.

John writes, 8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. “But if” we confess – we are made free from sin.

John says that our God’s saving action, in response to acknowledged sin, operates in two distinct directions: 1) immediate forgiveness, and 2) purification from “every kind of unrighteousness.” In fact the word he uses in Greek (katharizo) is the same word used in Matt. 23 for washing dishes. It’s also used to describe the scrubbing of one’s clothes. It literally means “removal of a stain” and also “to release the dirt” or “let go”.

Immediately John promises, we are forgiven and made clean. He writes, 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Do we have time for another short little story?

Okay

One day a little boy named Julian LaSour fell down while chasing butterflies in a field of tall grass. Soon afterward, the boy’s eye started hurting so he was taken to a doctor. The doctor couldn’t find anything wrong so he gave the boy some ointment and sent him home with his mother. Eventually Julian’s eye problem went away. About a year later though, the boy started complaining of cloudy vision. His parents took him to an eye specialist, who was stunned by what he found. Apparently when Julian had fallen a year earlier, a tiny seed of some kind had implanted itself inside his cornea. Slowly the seed had grown and had actually sprouted two little leaves inside Julian’s eye. The seed had to be removed immediately in order to save the boy’s vision.

Sometimes when we fall into sin, we tell ourselves that it’s not really a sin. We tend of think of our deeds as “wrong things” and “sin” as some nasty thing other people do. We might justify our sins with circumstances; claim it “didn’t really hurt anyone” or blame the judge. We try to lie our way out of lies. But sin has a way of implanting itself into our hearts and growing into something that can do permanent damage to our lives. It has a way of coming back to us.

BUT IF, On the other hand – we confess, it does a body good. It shows honesty with one’s self. It shows ownership of one’s own life and deeds. It liberates the soul. And in the end, it’s a whole lot better to face your maker with a clear conscience, than it is to trap yourself in the coffin with the caretaker.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But if we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and righteous, so that he will forgive our sins and purify us from every kind of unrighteousness.

Amen. Praise God. Amen.

Song: Let all things now living (338)

We respond to serve God

Prayer of Confession: Let us bow in a time of confession

God, as we bow in Your presence we come with the realization that Your giving to us knows no ending.  And yet, Lord, if we are honest, we will confess that we are hesitant, sometimes even resentful, to give back to You. We do in fact serve to masters. At times we serve a lot of masters. With our money, with our time and with our resources, with our Sunday morning, we are stingy and withhold the best of what we have and release to You only what is left over.  We tells lies, we gossip, we bicker and fight and refuse to give in to others. We gorge on all-you-can-eat while others starve, we know where to find the homeless yet we do not go there and do not dare interfere.

We may or may not steal but we certainly find ways to get what we’ve not earned. And we covet what we don’t have. We may not murder but we have hated and looked down our brothers and sisters in our hearts. We have cleaned the outside of the cup and forgotten about the inside. Worried about clothes but not the person inside them. We’ve thought about our wants and been selfish and neglected others. We participate with this world and it’s sloth and pride and envy. And when we think we might be caught, we double down.

We neglect the things we should do and do the things we shouldn’t. Sometimes we don’t even realize that we’re doing it.

We do wrong things. We hamartia, we walk off the path, we miss the mark. We sin. We error.

And now in the silence we pray to you in confession.  (Silent Prayer)

Loving God, we give thanks that You hear all of our prayers, whether they are spoken or unspoken, that you know and forgive our sins, even if we don’t know them, for we believe the promises of your word and we pray in the name of Jesus our Saviour and our Lord who already prepared the way and took our sins on the cross and made them his. Amen

* Praise #201                 “We come to ask your forgiveness”

Assurance of God’s grace

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

To all who confess…

There is no guilt, no trap of sin, no stain remaining.

We are forgiven… but even more than that… according to our God – we are declared righteous and perfect.

Amen

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.

Prayer of gratitude

Lord, we thank for Your faithfulness. Thank you that we can always trust in You. You are an abundant God and out of Your great mercy you have given us so much. We give you this offering today. With it we worship You and give our whole selves to You. Please now take it and use it for Your kingdom and Your glory. Extend and multiple its reach and influence we pray. May it be a great blessing to many. We ask all this in the powerful name of Jesus. Amen.

Transition Music: Be still and know that I am God

Communion

Invitation

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.

The Great Payer

It is truly right and our greatest joy to give you thanks and praise, eternal God, our creator. You have given us life and second birth in your Spirit. Once we were no people, but now we are your people. You claimed Israel as your chosen nation and raised up the church as a witness to the resurrection, breathing into it your life and power. From worlds apart, you gathered us together. When we go astray, you welcome us home. Always, your love has been.

Jesus healed and taught, challenged and comforted, welcomed and saved. He formed a community, promising to be with his disciples wherever two or three were gathered, and sending them on his mission of hope and healing in the world. Jesus trusted his life to you, and went freely to his death, so the world might be set free from suffering and sin. You raised him from death and raise us also to live a new life with him. In the power of the Holy Spirit, you send us out to make disciples as he commanded. Remembering all your mighty and merciful acts, we take this bread and this wine from the gifts you have given us and celebrate with joy the redemption won for us in Jesus Christ.

Accept this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving as a living and holy offering of ourselves, that our lives may proclaim the One crucified and risen. Great is the mystery of faith.

Gracious God, pour out your Holy Spirit upon us and upon these your gifts of bread and wine, that the bread we break and the cup we bless may be the communion of the body and blood of Christ. By your Spirit unite us with the living Christ and with all who are baptized in his name, that we may be one in ministry in every place. As this bread is Christ’s body for us, send us out to be the body of Christ in the world.We give thanks for the life and witness of those who have died. O God, today you have called us together to be the church. Unite us now at your table, and in one loaf and a common cup, make us one in Christ Jesus. Let your Spirit empower the life we share and ignite our witness in the world. With all who have gone before us, keep us faithful to the gospel teachings and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Give us strength to serve you until the promised day of the resurrection, when with the redeemed of all the ages we will feast with you at your table in glory. Through Christ, all glory and honor are yours, almighty God, with the Holy Spirit in the holy church, now and forever. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Sharing of Bread and Wine

The Lord Jesus, on the night of his arrest, took bread, and after giving thanks to God, he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying: Take, eat. This is my body, given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. In the same way he took the cup, saying: This cup is the new covenant sealed in my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this in remembrance of me. Every time you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim the saving death of the risen Lord, until he comes.

Song: One bread, one body (540)

Prayer

Gracious God, may we who have received this sacrament live in the unity of your Holy Spirit, that we may show forth your gifts to all the world. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Transition music

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

Sending out with God’s blessing

May the immortal, invisible, God-only-wise, go with you, going before you, behind you, around you and within you; may the God who made all things, who sustains all things, rules all things, sees all things, knows all things, forgives all things, give you insight and understanding from this time forward and for evermore.

Response: Amen, we praise your name, O Lord

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. 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.