Read-along service for Sunday, March 19, 2023

Trinity-St. Andrew’s United Church
Order of Worship
March 19, 2023 – Fourth Sunday in Lent – St. Patrick’s Day

Words of welcome, announcements

Lighting the Christ Candle
As we journey towards the darkness of the cross, we light a candle to remind us of the Light that can not be put out. May this light remind us that we are not alone, in all the changing scenes of life. We do not make this journey from death to resurrection alone, for God is with us.

Choral Introit “I have decided to follow Jesus”

Call To worship

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, like Saint Patrick before us, we seek the power of God to guide us, The might of God to uphold us,
The wisdom of God to teach us,
The eye of God to watch over us,
The ear of God to hear us,
The word of God to give us speech,
The hand of God to protect us,
The way of God to go before us, and the shield of God to shelter us.

May we learn to trust how Christ is with me, Christ is before me,
Christ is behind me, Christ is within me.
Helps to know that Christ is beneath me and Christ is above me.
May Christ be at my right, and Christ at my left.
May we learn to see
how Christ is in the heart of every person who thinks of me,
Christ is in the mouth of every one who speaks to me,
Christ is in every eye that sees me,
Christ is in every ear that hears me.
May your holy presence lift us up in this time together.  Amen. 

Hymn                  This Day God Gives Me                                               VU 410

  1. This day God gives me strength of high heaven,
    sun and moon shining, flame in my hearth,
    flashing of lightning, wind in its swiftness,
    deeps of the ocean, firmness of earth.
  1. This day god sends me strength to sustain me,
    might to uphold me, wisdom as guide.
    Your eyes are watchful, your ears are listening,
    your lips are speaking, Friend at my side.
  1. God’s way is my way, God’s shield is round me,
    God’s host defends me, saving from ill.
    Angels of heaven, drive from me always
    all that would harm me, stand by me still.
  1. Rising, I thank you, mighty and strong One,
    King of creation, giver of rest,
    firmly confessing Threeness of Persons,
    Oneness of Godhead, Trinity blest.

Scripture Reader:       Sandra Comba
1 Samuel 16:1-13                  John 9:1-41

Special Music
Homily “Overcoming blindness”
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             Come, O Fount of Every Blessing           VU 559, v. 1

Come, O Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing your grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing
call for songs of endless praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount; I’m fixed upon it,
mount of God’s unfailing love.

Offering Prayer
God of light and love and peace, we praise your name for leading us in paths of righteousness, that we may come into your presence, forgiven and free.

We give you thanks for guiding us to this place: where we may rest beside the still waters of your grace, where we are filled with the good gifts of your goodness and mercy. We offer you these gifts, that you might bless them and send them out into the world, where ever your people are in need of the light of your love. Amen.

Hymn                  Precious Lord, Take My Hand                            VU 670

  1. Precious Lord, take my hand,
    lead me on, let me stand,
    I am tired, I am weak, I am worn;
    through the storm, through the night,
    lead me on to the light:
    take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.
  1. When my way grows drear,
    precious Lord, linger near,
    when my lift is almost gone,
    hear my cry, hear my call,
    hold my hand lest I fall:
    take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.
  1. When the darkness appears,
    and the night draws near,
    and the day is past and gone,
    at the river I stand,
    guide my feet, hold my hand:
    take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.

Pastoral Prayer
The Lord’s Prayer

Hymn                  Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound           VU 266

  1. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
    that saved a wretch like me!
    I once was lost, but now am found,
    was blind, but now I see.
  1. ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
    and grace my fears relieved;
    how precious did that grace appear
    the hour I first believed.
  1. Through many dangers, toils and snares,
    I have already come;
    ‘tis grace that brought me safe thus far,
    and grace will lead me home.
  1. The Lord has promised good to me,
    this word my hope secures;
    God will my shield and portion be
    as long as life endures.
  1. When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
    bright shining as the sun,
    we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise,
    than when we’d first begun.

May God our creator, who is present in all the things of this world, bless your eyes so you may see God’s glory all around you. May Christ, who looks upon you with deepest love, bless your eyes so you may see Christ’s compassion all around you.  May the Spirit of life, who perceives what is and what may yet be, bless your eyes so you may look upon this world with a spirit of hope.  May your eyes be open to all the wondrous things God will reveal to you this day. Go now in peace. Amen.

Choral Amen                                            VU 973

“Who is the blind one here?” Text: John 9:1- 41. Fourth Sunday of Lent
Preached by Rev. James Murray at Trinity-St. Andrew’s United Church, March 19, 2023

This morning we shared the rather unusual story of Jesus healing a man who had been born blind. The miracle itself is quite wonderful. But this remarkable healing is completely overshadowed by the religious arguments that follow it. The religious establishment use this miracle as an opportunity to question Jesus’ authority. They question if God is even present in Jesus’ life. They question if Jesus did the right thing by healing the man.  I find it quite interesting that in Jesus’ encounters with the religious authorities, that he lets them have the last word.  It is a great temptation to want to have the last word. To have the last word gives us power. We get to put the other person in their place, which means we get to show them just who is the boss. To have the last word is have control over others. This is why Jesus asks them who is the blind person now. And the religious authorities are left to come up with that last word. For the man who was blind can now see. No one can deny this. The question is if the authorities can see how God is behind all this. Jesus has clearly broken all the rules in order to do what God wants.  The leadership has to decide if it is more important to be right or to be helpful.

The scandalous news that the Bible shares with us is the fact that God is often willing to do what is helpful, even if it means upsetting the rules that we believe God wants us to follow. The prophet Elijah breaks all the rules when he selects David to be the King of Israel. Everyone expects the king to be the strongest and most powerful leader who can lead the army into battle. Elijah does the exact opposite of what the people expect. Elijah makes a point of choosing the youngest son of the last family from the smallest village in the least of the tribes of Israel. He chooses the smallest, youngest and least important child he can find to serve God’s purposes. This provocative choice changes the direction of Israel forever. That small, unimportant boy David becomes the greatest king his country ever had. Many decades later, when David has to choose his own successor, everyone expects him to pick his oldest son. Absalom is the perfect candidate for the job. Absalom’s mother was the daughter of the King of Geshur. So the boy has truly royal blood in him. Instead David chooses Solomon, who is the second son born to his last wife Bathsheba. Bathsheba was a Hittite woman. Her husband Uriah had been murdered by King David to cover up his affair with Bathsheba. Bathsheba was tainted by the sin of the adultery. But David goes against what is expected and chooses his youngest son from the least important wife to be his successor. And Solomon goes on to outshine his father as a great king. God keeps breaking the rules in order to do what is helpful.

To be right is like having the last word. If you are right, then the others are wrong. If you alone are right, then things must be done your way or not all. The problem with being right all the time is that being right isn’t always the most helpful thing to do. There is no denying Jesus does break the rules in order to heal the man. Jesus does violate the Sabbath laws, which is a serious offence. But Jesus chooses to break the rules in order to be a help to the man in his time of need.

It takes a certain amount of humility to admit that you are not right. It is not a reflection on you as a person when you make a mistake. You are not a bad person if you have a different opinion. We often demonize people who think differently from us, and that is not always a helpful way to treat others. Because the person you demonize for being wrong on one issue may be the person who has the right answer on another issue you want to address. Politicians have learned to use the power of demonizing their opponents because it is a great way to silence your opposition. The problem with demonizing your opponent is that it then makes it hard to work together on important issues that require bipartisan support.  As a result, trust declines and our choices for resolution quickly fade.

The only way to overcome this roadblock is through the power of forgiveness. Only forgiveness can heal the wrongs that have been done. Only forgiveness can mend our broken fences. This is why we have to look carefully at our desire to always be right. This is why we need to be mindful of the consequences of our desire to be in control. And this is why we often need to be willing to look for a more helpful alternative. As the popular psychologist Dr.  Wayne Dyer once wrote, “When given the choice between being right and being kind, we should always choose to be kind.”

Doing the kind thing is not always an easy choice. But all the ancient wisdom in the world points out the importance of being kind. About 500 years before Jesus the Greek philosopher Aesop said “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” A small act of kindness may seem very trivial in the grand scheme of things. It is often done simply with no expectation of being praiseworthy. Despite its humble appearance, kindness has often been called a super power because it has the power to uplift someone emotionally and in spirit. Kindness knows no boundaries. It is a universal language understood by all, regardless of race or religion. Acts of kindness are something even the deaf can hear and the blind can see.

Being kind is not a sign of weakness. To be kind is to treat others like they are your kin, you family. It is a sign of generosity to extend the gift of kindness to others. Even the great philosopher Plato said we should “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Jesus does the kindest thing possible, even though it means breaking the holiest of rules. He shows God’s kindness in a way that changes the life of the man who had been born blind. He shows God’s love in a way that reveals what is possible when we live out God’s kindness and mercy. God’s love is not a static set of rules that never changes. God is always seeking to respond to the reality of the challenges we are facing each new day.  God is not afraid to let go of what was, even if it was considered the right thing to do for a very long time. God is not afraid to do something new. God wants us to dare to be kind.  God wants to do something new with you so you can experience the fullness of life. Will you let God break the rules and do something new? The last word on this subject is up to you.