Read-along Service for Sunday, January 15, 2023

Trinity-St. Andrew’s United Church
Order of Worship
Sunday, January 15, 2023
Second Sunday after Epiphany

Words of welcome, announcements
Lighting the Christ Candle

 Choral Introit                 Lord, Prepare Me to Be a Sanctuary                MV 18

Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary,
pure and holy, tried and true;
with thanksgiving, I’ll be a living
sanctuary for you.

Call To worship
Jesus invites us to Come and see, come and see! We come to see for ourselves who this Jesus person is. Andrew invites his brother Peter to Come and see, come and see! So we come with open hearts to experience the gifts of grace Jesus offers us. In every generation we are invited to Come and see, come and see! Each of us are invited to follow Jesus so we might deepen our relationship with God. So Come and see, come and see! God’s love is being shared for all to see.

Hymn                            All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name                    VU 334

  1. All hail the power of Jesus’ name!
    Let angels prostrate fall;
    bring forth the royal diadem,
    and crown him, crown him, crown him,
                      crown him Lord of all.
  1. O seed of Israel’s chosen race
    now ransomed from the fall,
    hail him who saves you by his grace                 Refrain
  1. Crown him, you martyrs of your God,
    who from his altar call;
    praise him whose way of pain you trod,           Refrain
  1. Let every tongue and every tribe,
    responsive to the call,
    to him all majesty ascribe                                  Refrain
  1. O that, with all the sacred throng,
    we at his feet may fall,
    join us in the everlasting song,                          Refrain

Prayer of Approach
Loving God, we thank you for this invitation to come and see. Help us to see Jesus and to learn from him, that we might draw closer to you. Give us patience and courage for the living of these days. May your spirit of wisdom deepen our appreciation for the gift of salvation that has the power to unite us all. Be with us in this time of worship, for we seek the assurance that only your unconditional love has to offer. Amen.

Hymn                  Jesus, You Have Come to the Lakeshore                  VU 563

  1. Jesus, you have come to the lakeshore
    looking neither for wealthy nor wise ones;
    you only asked me to follow humbly.

Refrain:     O Jesus, with your eyes you have searched me,
                   and while smiling, have spoken my name;
                   now my boat’s left on the shoreline behind me;
                   by your side I will seek other seas.

  1. You know so well my possessions;
    my boat carries no gold and no weapons;
    — you will find there my nets and labour. Refrain
  1. You will need my hands, full of caring
    through my labours to give others rest,
    and constant love that keeps on loving.            Refrain
  1. You, who have fished other oceans,
    ever longed for by souls who are waiting,
    my loving friend, as thus you call me.               Refrain

Scripture Reader:       Susan Humphries
Psalm 40              John 1:29-42

Special Music

Homily “Absolute Beginners” 

Musical Response  

The offering
We give thanks for everyone who continues to support TSA during these challenging times. Your gifts of support and encouragement mean a lot to us.  You can get more information about making a donation by contacting the church office or by visiting our website. For all the gifts you share, for all the people you bless by your serving and giving as a disciple of Jesus, we give thanks.

Offering Song             What Can I Do?                                        MV 191

What can I do? What can I bring?
What can I say? What can I sing?
I’ll sing with joy, I’ll say a prayer.
I’ll bring my love. I’ll do my share.

Offering Prayer
Generous God, you have already given us all that we need. Help us trust your continued care, that we may share with others the abundance of your blessings. Strengthen us so we might serve others the way you have cared for us. May the act of giving remind us of the great joy that awaits those who answer your call. Bless the givers and these gifts that they will help others to see your love in action.  Amen.

Hymn                  Make Me a Channel of Your Peace                  VU 684

  1. Make me a channel of your peace:
    where there is hatred, let me bring your love;
    where there is injury, your healing power,
    and where there’s doubt, true faith in you:
  1. Make me a channel of your peace:
    where there’s despair in life, let me bring hope;
    where there is darkness, only light;
    and where there’s sadness, ever joy.
    O Spirit, grant that I may never seek
    so much to be consoled as to console,
    to be understood as to understand,
    to be loved as to love with all my soul.
  1. Make me a channel of your peace.
    It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
    in giving to all that we receive,
    and in dying that we’re born to eternal life.

Pastoral Prayer
The Lord’s Prayer

Hymn                  Take Up Your Cross                                           VU 561

  1. Take up your cross, the Saviour said,
    if you would my disciple be;
    take up your cross with willing heart,
    and humbly follow after me.
  1. Take up your cross; let not its weight
    fill your weak spirit with alarm;
    Christ’s strength shall bear your spirit up,
    and brace your heart, and nerve your arm.
  1. Take up your cross, heed not the shame,
    nor let your foolish pride rebel;
    your Saviour once accepted death
    upon a cross, on Calvary’s hill.
  1. Take up your cross, and follow Christ,
    think not till death to lay it down;
    for only those who bear the cross
    may hope to wear the glorious crown.

Go in the love of the One who strengthens us for the work to which we are called. Go in the peace of Jesus Christ, who claims us as sisters and brothers. Go in the community of the Holy Spirit, who binds us together with all the saints. Go with grace to shine God’s love into all the world.  Go now in peace. Amen.

Choral Amen                         Amen, Amen                                    VU 966


Absolute Beginners     Text: John 1:29-42
Preached by Rev. James Murray at Trinity-St. Andrew’s United Church, Renfrew. January 15 2023

I once met a man named John. John was a chef at a restaurant in Paris France. He had a beautiful girlfriend. They shared a nice apartment in the trendy part of the city. That was before things fell apart. Things fell apart for John when his mother died suddenly. His mother was the only family he had, and now she was gone. In the days following her death, John lost his job, his girlfriend and his apartment. John felt very lost and alone. At his mother’s funeral, John remembered how his mother had found great hope during a difficult time in her life by walking the ancient pilgrimage trail in Spain called the Camino de Santiago. So just a few days after her burial, John left everything behind and flew to Spain. He bought some walking shoes and began a journey that would take a million steps to complete. When I met him on the Camino, John said he felt completely free for the first time in his life.  He was an absolute beginner, just starting out into the world.

We don’t always chose to start over. I know my friend Shirley certainly didn’t want to become an absolute beginner. There was a time in her life when Shirley and her husband had it all. They had built up a successful business. They had two great kids together. They bought a nice house that had a lot of potential. When the business was going well, they decided to renovate the house to create more space for their family. They drew up the plans. They rented an apartment to live in during the extensive renovations. The day after Shirley moved the children in to the apartment, she discovered that her husband was not planning on moving in to the apartment with them. There were no renovations going on at the house. It had all been a ruse by her husband to move her out of the house. He announced that he was leaving Shirley and he was selling the house and the business. Shirley was deeply hurt. Thankfully her friends in her church were very supportive.  After the divorce finally came through, Shirley spent a lot of time praying about what she wanted to do next with her life. I met Shirley that September when she enrolled at the Queen’s Theological College in Kingston. At the age of forty Shirley was an absolute beginner, and she was going to study to become a minister.

When we are young, we are absolute beginners at everything. Someone has to show us how to read and how to count. We have to be shown how to play music and sing for the first time. Learning is easy when we are young because we don’t presume to know anything. When we are older, though, we assume we know how to do things. So learning something new can be a challenge, because we aren’t used to failing. When a child is learning how to ride a bike, everyone assumes you will fall down and you will scrape your knee. It is just part of the learning process. When we are older, our egos aren’t used to getting those kinds of scrapes. As we get older, our brains are actually just as capable of learning something new as they were when we were young. The only problem is our mature egos don’t like being bruised when we fall off our bike.  The challenge is whether or not we are willing to take the risk of being an absolute beginner. Only when you are willing to be an absolute beginner can you embark on the adventure of a lifetime.

Jesus knew what it was like to be an absolute beginner. As the son of a carpenter, Jesus started helping in his father’s workshop when he was a small child. By the age of ten he was an apprentice learning his trade. By the age of thirteen he was doing the work of a man. By the age of thirty, Jesus the carpenter had seen many apprentices come and go under him. When Jesus hears his cousin John the Baptist speak, something deep within him stirs. After spending the better part of twenty five years in that carpenter’s workshop, Jesus puts down his tools for the last time. He becomes an absolute beginner when he goes to the Jordan River to be baptized.

Back then good decent God loving people like you and me didn’t get baptized. Baptism is what dirty foreigners do in order to be welcomed in to the family of God. Baptism is what evil sinners must do in order to have their sins forgiven. Baptism is what absolute beginners like Jesus do when they are starting over. John baptized out at the far side of the Jordan River. That was the border of Judah. So when he baptized you in Jordan River you entered in to the Promised Land. With John’s baptism there was the clear message that in in order to be reborn, you must start again. Like many people who felt lost in his generation, Jesus felt the need to start over in his life. He needed a new beginning which opened the door to God in his life. Jesus carries on with this message when he starts his ministry. In his first sermon, Jesus invites everyone to repent. He is inviting us to turn around and begin again. Jesus wants us to go on a holy adventure with him and become absolute beginners in the Kingdom of God.

The Bible tells us that the Kingdom of God is in heaven. If you believe in God your sins are forgiven and you will be welcomed in to heaven when you die. So if you were to die tonight you would know where you are going to be spending eternity. But if you don’t die tonight, what are you going to do about tomorrow? Because the Kingdom of God is also here on earth.

So tomorrow we can choose to trust Jesus to walk with us through all these challenges we are facing. Or we can try to handle it on our own. Tomorrow we can learn from Jesus how to begin again. Or we can try to handle things on our own. Tomorrow we can listen to Jesus’ teachings on mercy, forgiveness and righteousness. Or we can try to handle everything on our own. We all face difficult situations that are even more complicated when we have to handle them on our own. When we trust in Jesus, it changes how we face our relationship problems. When we trust in Jesus, it changes how we approach our challenges at work. It changes how we look at social and political problems in our larger society. The good news Jesus is proclaiming is that we can live as part of God’s Kingdom here on earth today. How we face the challenges of today can be guided by his spirit of mercy and grace. How we face the problems of today can be guided by his gifts of healing and forgiveness. Jesus is inviting us to be his humble disciples who learn from his example. The Bible shares with us the good news that Jesus is inviting us to experience God’s Kingdom as part of our lives here today.

There are many things in this life that we think we can deal with on our own. But when illness strikes, we need the help of others. And then we become absolute beginners all over again, whether we want to or not. This was the case for Bob Mills who worked as a Vice President of Wake Forest University in North Carolina. At the age of 48, Mills was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He had suffered from a history of depression. Mills sought treatment when he suffered his first manic episode. It took Mills a year to stabilize his condition using medication but that did not bring him peace. Many churches shun those with mental illness. There is a stigma in society and in the church towards those who suffer from conditions like anxiety, depression, PTSD and similar conditions like bipolar disorder. It took Bob Mills a few years of wrestling spiritually with what his illness meant for his relationship with God before he could find peace. In time he was encouraged by one of his pastors to start a support group to minister to others affected by serious mental illness. In fifteen years, over 1500 people have been helped by Mill’s group. The group gathers for prayer and conversation each week. Mills says it is a chance for broken people to open up to God and each other. It provides a supportive community that invites Jesus to work through them to heal them and then help them to become healers.

When mental illness strikes, we are all absolute beginners. Mental illness comes unannounced. We are all unprepared for the toll mental illness takes on the individual and on their relationships. Mental illness often leaves a person isolated and fearful. There are not a lot of resources out there for people who are suffering. Therapy is expensive and people can wait years to finally see someone. And one in every five Canadians will suffer some form of mental illness in their lifetime. One of the most effective forms of treatment is the healing power of a supportive community. As Saint Paul assures us, we have all been given a gift of grace. By sharing in this fellowship we call a church we have been given spiritual gifts which can strengthen us. Such support groups demonstrate how God seeks to be part of our healing. They are a living example of Jesus’ invitation for us to experience God’s Kingdom as part of our lives here today.  The call of Jesus, his invitation to be his disciple, means we don’t have to face such challenges alone.

For Jesus promises to walk with us even in the most difficult of times. Even our Saviour Jesus Christ was an absolute beginner at one point. So no matter what situation you are facing, it is never too late to begin again.