Order of Service for Sunday, September 12, 2021.
Words of welcome, announcements
Lighting the Christ Candle
We light this candle as a sign of God’s Spirit
that is at work in the world.
May we be rooted in God’s love
as we grow to be a blessing
for the healing of the world.
Call To worship
All of heaven and earth proclaim the amazing gift of God’s creative power!
We gather to Praise God for this world that is filled with such awesome beauty.
God has given us teachings
by which we can learn to live together in a spirit of peace.
In these words of wisdom,
God shows us how important it is for us to respect one another.
God is inviting us to live in harmony with all of life.
So open your heart to the wisdom of God.
Seek this deeper understanding
so you may learn how to have life in abundance.
For God’s teachings gives hope to all who hear it.
Let us rejoice in the goodness of God,
for God’s steadfast love endures forever. Amen.
Prayer of Approach
Loving and caring God, we gather this morning seeking wisdom for our lives. Open us to your words which offer us the gift of life.
May we lovingly proclaim with our tongues the love we know in our hearts.
In this time of worship, help us more fully understand
what it means to truly be a disciple.
We wish to be a follower of the way of Jesus, a follower of the path of wisdom. Strengthen us so we might better face the days that lie ahead,
so we might be guided by your spirit of compassion. Amen.
Hymn 409 Morning has broken
Scriptures: James 3:1-12 Mark 8:27-38 read by Linda Boldt.
Homily “Tongue Tied”
We thank you for your continued support of our congregation through the gift of your time, your talents and your tithes. Every gift we share is a blessing that helps to make this world a better place. Please contact the church office or our web site for more information about how to make a donation. May the words of our mouths
and the meditations of our hearts and the sharing of every gift show our thankfulness to you, O God our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
Hymn 560 O Master Let Me Walk With Thee
Pastoral Prayer & The Lord’s Prayer
Hymn 334 All Hail The Power Of Jesus’ Name
Jesus tells us that to walk with him,
we must be willing to take up our cross, and care for others.
May God give you the faith and love to put this into practice,
and the humility to permit others to do the same for you.
Go now in peace, to love and serve God in all you do. Amen!
Tongue Tied. Text: James 3:1-18
Preached by Rev. James Murray at Trinity-St. Andrew’s United Church, Sept. 12 2021
A week from tomorrow is election day in Canada. The Liberals and Conservatives are neck and neck, with the polls suggesting there will be another minority government. This is an election where every vote and every riding does matter. As a result there is a lot of posturing and scare tactics being used by many parties. It’s not been a pleasant campaign. Seeing people throwing rocks at politicians is a very disturbing development. We live in a society that has forgotten how to have a respectful conversation about politics. There are many forces that are encouraging us to become even more polarized about every issue that we are facing. Sadly there are not a lot of voices calling for mutual respect in the middle of an election. The Golden Rule tells us to ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. It seems like most politicians are following the Iron Rule, to ‘do unto others before they can do it unto you.”
One voice of reason that I have been listening to during this election is that of John Wesley. John Wesley was the founder of the Methodist Church. Wesley believed the role of Christianity is to make this world a better place. During one election in his native England, John Wesley was asked for advice about how to vote. He responded with three points that are still relevant today. Wesley told his people that first of all you should vote for the person you judge to be most worthy. He then admonishes us to speak no evil of the person you vote against. Thirdly, he encourages us to take care that our spirits are not sharpened against those that vote on the other side. When a politician attacks their opponent, they are trying to tell me I should not trust that person. They insinuate that the other leaders are lying. That I should be afraid of them. When people on social media attack their political opponents, they are also attacking the integrity of the people who do trust that party. We live in an era when politics has become polarized about everything. Fear and anger have replaced reason as the guiding principle of our politics. In a world driven by social media, far too many people act as if they don’t have to live with the consequences of what they say about others.
But I do. I still have to live with my friends and family and neighbours after this election is over. The people I know and love hold a variety of different opinions. But they are still part of my community. I am good friends with some devoted NDP members. Several members of my family are dyed in the wool Liberals. Other family members are true blue Conservatives. I also have friends who are going to vote Green. No matter who wins or loses the election next Monday, I still have to live with these people whom I love and care for. I don’t want a politician or one of their supporters to turn my heart against any of them.
In order to maintain a relationship, sometimes we need to learn to control our tongue, to mind what we say. In the letter of James, the brother of Jesus tells us we should learn to tame our tongue. For we have in our mouths the opportunity to speak both good and evil of others. We can never escape the potential for evil that lies within us. But if we want to seek the good, we’re going to need to bridle our tongue. Please notice how James says we should bridle our tongue and not muzzle it. A muzzle is used to silence us. A bridle is used to control a horse. It can still open its mouth, but it is guided as to what it should do. Sometimes silence is golden, and sometimes you need to say the right thing. It is possible to have a differing opinion and not be offensive. A bridle will guide you as to when is the right time to speak, and what is the right thing to say. It takes some skill to be able to speak the truth in love. The bridle which will guide our tongues in such moments is the spirit of wisdom.
Wisdom is the persistent pursuit of the deeper understanding. It comes from God, and it comes from experience. Wisdom is different from morality. Morality is a set of rules given to us by society. Wisdom is guided by compassion, a spirit of love which seeks the best for all things. And love is a little oblivious to morals. Wisdom helps us to see beyond this present moment we are caught up in. It sees the big picture through God’s eyes. Wisdom grows out of our experience, and it is something which is meant to be shared. Wisdom is a global phenomenon, for it contains the sage advice from the ages which teaches us how we can peacefully live together. If wisdom is not listened to, there are consequences. Without wisdom, unexpected events can strike us like a summer storm. Calamity can blow through town like a tornado. With wisdom to guide us we can survive any disaster. As people of faith we can draw wisdom from our scriptures which tell us to ‘overcome evil with good.’ (Romans 12:21) We can follow the sage advice which says ‘those who live by the sword shall die by the sword.’ (Matthew 26:52) When things get hot and heavy we need to trust the wisdom of Jesus’ advice to ‘love your enemies.’ (Matthew 5:44)
We can trust this great storehouse of wisdom, because God is still at work in this world. Jesus, as the child of wisdom, reminds us that we cannot forget the importance of the spirit in all we do. Jesus says “What good is it for you to gain the whole world, if it comes at the cost of your soul?” Even though our government and our economy are working according to secular principles, this does not stop our God from being an active force in this world. God is always seeking our healing when we are ill. God is always seeking our liberation when we are in bondage. God is always seeking our justice when we are being treated unfairly. God works to redeem every moment of our lives. Jesus came into this world as God’s anointed one, to make this persistent grace a reality for us all.
As a result, no matter who wins or loses the election, I will be praying for all of our political leaders to serve wisely. I know this is not an easy thing to do. There are politicians we don’t like and we disagree with. Still Saint Paul tells us we should pray for those who are in power and authority over us. This does not mean that God automatically blesses the party who is in power. Paul’s call to prayer is not meant to legitimate those who rule over us. Paul is telling us to pray for our leaders as a way of holding them accountable to God’s way of doing things. How we do politics does matter to God. By praying for our political institutions, we are opening up this part of our lives to God’s direction.
About a hundred years ago, the German politician Bismark said that ‘politics is the art of the possible’. It is always a messy mix of noble ideals and awkward compromises. Despite its imperfections, the goal should always be for the best possible outcome which seeks the common good of all. God understands that politics is a dirty business, since there are so many competing interests and points of view when we get together to make a decision. This is why God does seek to work with this world as it is in all its complexity, to encourage us to seek the best possible solution. As a result, we hold our politicians accountable when we see them feathering their own nests at the public expense. We are called to object to policies which pander to the privileged few at the expense of the majority who are in need. We always have to struggle between making the present moment easier, versus the need to make the long term investments that will build a better tomorrow. Given such competing demands, having a tongue that is a loose canon is not a helpful strategy. We must bridle our tongues in order to listen, to learn, and to figure out a helpful way forward together.
In this country, we all want our political system to seek “the greatest possible good for the greatest possible number of individuals”. That sentiment was expressed back in 1993 by Pope John Paul II when he issued a statement on the need for the common good in how we practice our political discourse. In his letter the Pope said good political leadership requires such virtues as truthfulness, honesty, fairness, temperance and a sense of solidarity with the community. I know it is a lot to ask of our politicians that they be truthful, honest and fair, but they need to remember this one fact: We’re all praying for them. Because we’re all in this together.