Trinity-St. Andrew’s United Church
Order of Worship
Sunday, September 19, 2021 – 17th Sunday after Pentecost
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 (based on Psalm 1)
Happy are those who follow the ways of God. They are like trees planted by streams of water which produce fruit every season, and their leaves never wither. God’s ways are just and merciful. Those who follow the way of wisdom are continually nourished in faith. In all that they do, they prosper. Come, let us open our hearts to God’s compassionate love. Let us celebrate God’s mercy and justice that has been offered to us all. AMEN.
Prayer of Approach
We draw near to you, O God, for you the source of all understanding. Teach us your wisdom that we may bear good fruit in our lives. We need this guidance because O God, we live our lives as best we can. Every day we deal with difficult relationships and situations. We try to put our failures and disappointments behind us, so we can move into each new day with as much goodwill as we can muster. But here, right now, we don’t have all the right answers. We confess that we seldom seek your higher wisdom in our lives. Forgive us for not being open to your insights. Fill us with your wisdom, we pray. Root us beside the streams of your wisdom, that our lives might bear the fruits of goodness that lasts. Amen.
Hymn God, Whose Love Is Reigning o’er Us VU 399
1. *God, whose love is reigning o’er us,
source of all, the ending true;
hear the universal chorus
raised in joyful praise to you:
worship ancient, worship new.
2. Word of God from nature bringing
springtime green and autumn gold;
mountain streams like children singing,
ocean waves like thunder bold:
As creation’s tale is told.
3. Holy God of ancient glory,
choosing man and woman, too;
Abr’am’s faith and Sarah’s story
formed a people bound to you.
to your covenant keep us true.
4. Covenant, new again in Jesus,
Star-child born to set us free;
Sent to heal us, sent to teach us
How love’s children we might be.
risen Christ, our Saviour he!
5. Lift we then our human voices
in the songs that faith would bring;
live we then in human choices
lives that, like our music, sing:
joined in love our praises ring!
* or, “God, whose love is ever with us,”
Scripture Reader: Margo Aubert
James 3:13 – 4:3, 7-8a
Homily “Map and Compass”
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 God bless every gift you share. Amen.
Hymn Come and Seek the Ways of Wisdom MV 10 (tune: Picardy)
1. Come and seek the ways of Wisdom,
she who danced when earth was new.
Follow closely what she teaches,
For her words are right and true.
Wisdom clears the path to justice,
showing us what love must do.
2. Listen to the voice of Wisdom,
crying in the marketplace.
Hear the Word made flesh among us,
full of glory, truth, and grace.
When the word takes root and ripens,
peace and righteousness embrace.
3. Sister Wisdom, come, assist us;
Nurture all who seek rebirth.
Spirit-guide and close companion,
bring to light our sacred worth.
Free us to become your people,
holy friends of God and earth.
Pastoral Prayer & The Lord’s Prayer
Hymn Great Is Thy Faithfulness VU 288
1. Great is thy faithfulness, God our Creator;
there is no shadow of turning with thee;
thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not;
as thou has been thou forever wilt be.
Refrain: Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed thy hand hath provided –
great is thy faithfulness, ever to me!
2. Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
join with all nature in manifold witness
to thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love. Refrain
3. Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide,
strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow –
wondrous the portion thy blessings provide. Refrain
May God bless and keep you. May God give you strength to keep the faith through troubled times. May Christ fill you with grace equal to every need. May the Holy Spirit grant us a spirit of wisdom for the living of these days. So you may go in to the world to seek justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. Go now in peace. Amen.
Map and Compass. Text: James 3:13- 4:10, Mark 9:30-37 . September 19 2021
Preached by Rev. James Murray at Trinity-St. Andrew’s United Church, Renfrew.
A friend of mine posted a rant on Facebook this week that got a lot of likes. In his post he says “The problem with children today is they love luxury. They have bad manners. They show contempt for authority. They show disrespect for their elders. They love to talk instead of exercise. Children are now tyrants. They no longer help out at home. They contradict their parents. They act disrespectfully even in front of company. They gobble up the food at the table before anyone else is served. They tyrannize their teachers.”
Do these complaints sound familiar to you? Everyone knows how hard it is to raise children today to be respectful, self-disciplined, and hard working. Changes in technology and a decline in public morals means today’s children live in a very different world than the one you and I grew up in. These are not easy times to be a parent. Then again I don’t know if there has ever been an easy time to raise a child.
Now I must confess the quote I shared with you is actually from an academic paper which was describing ancient Greece at the time of Socrates. So if you think your children or grandchildren are poorly behaved, you are not alone. Parents have been saying this about their children for the last 2,400 years.
The English writer George Orwell saw something similar happening when he looked at the younger generation after the end of the First World War. People were changed by that dramatic upheaval. The First World War changed the map of Europe and it destroyed the lives of a generation. George Orwell said “Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it” This is a humbling thing to hear. We like to think that our experiences are important. What we have gone through, and what we have learned are significant because they make us who we are. But it does not make us better than the generation that went before us. It does not make us smarter than the generation that follows us. Because we have different experiences, our perspectives will be different. What was a struggle for one generation can be a non-issue for the next generation.
Back in the 1960’s we talked a lot about the generation gap. The generation gap never really went away. We just see the gap expressed in different ways. If you were to talk to a university student today, you might be amazed at what the world looks like to them. The average university student today is too young to remember the events of 9/11. For as long as they have been alive, Russia has been a troubled democracy. The Cold War is ancient history and Communism has never been a threat to them. Computers have always been around. Getting their first cell phone was a real coming of age moment. Young people today consider musical acts like Britney Spears and Green Day to be nostalgia acts who play in Vegas. Women have always flown fighter jets and space shuttles. For young people today the human genome has always been decoded. They rarely watch TV or listen to the radio or read a newspaper, since you can do all that online. Since they communicate with their friends by text messaging, they know that only their parents will actually leave a voice message on their cell phone.
So are they better than us, or just different? They have missed out on some of the things which we have enjoyed. They have not been shaped by the same hardships which we have endured. Yet they have been exposed to such a variety of experiences and a wealth of information that we can barely imagine. Despite this wealth of new opportunities, they are largely pessimistic about what the future will bring. Most people under the age of thirty do not expect to be able to ever own their own home. They are facing different social pressures and financial challenges which will shape their future in very challenging ways. Some of our wealth of experience may not be very helpful in guiding them as they face their uncertain future.
For the Baby Boom Generation there was a very clear road map that we could follow. We knew how to get an education, find a good paying job and be able to afford to own a house and still be able to save money for retirement. That road map doesn’t work for young people today because they don’t have the same opportunities we did. Today’s generation is struggling to find a compass that will lead them out of the swamp they are currently stuck in.
So our task for today is not simply to look at the world and say “That is bad”. Our task is to look at the world to discern what is happening out there. Because something radically new is happening all around us. The world is continuing to turn, to evolve and to change. As people of faith we need to figure out how to navigate all of these changes. We need a moral compass that will lead us out of this time of great uncertainty. This is why we need to once more to seek God’s presence through our times of prayer and spiritual enrichment. We also need to search through our history, our traditions and our scriptures to find helpful ideas on how we can be faithful people in the face of today’s unfolding challenges.
One of the biggest challenges we face is that of desire. We live in a world that is consumed with desire. All of our media and consumer choices are priming us to want more and more things. We are taught from a young age to desire pleasure and profit and privilege above all else. We live in a world which is amusing itself to death. Many people are dissatisfied with this endless pursuit of trying to satisfy all our desires. Rather than just shaking our finger at this situation, we need to learn how we can we bridle our desires so we can harness their power for some greater good. Perhaps we need to be reminded that God’s wisdom can help us harness the power of our deepest human desires. As we read through the scriptures we can see how God believes desire is good, because it is what drives us forward. God wants us to enjoy this life. When God looked at the creation, said God “this is good.” Jesus says he comes to bring us life in abundance where all our daily needs are met. As Christians we can say that God’s wisdom does teach us what is truly worth desiring.
A famous example of this wisdom is found in the letter from Saint James. James says our desires are headed in the right direction when our behaviour enriches our relationships with all our brothers and sisters. Our desires are healthy ones when they help us to mend our broken relationships. Wisdom teaches us our desires are worthwhile when they lead to a life which is filled with gentleness, peace and mercy. And please notice these are all both individual and social virtues. Gentleness, peace and mercy are what make a common society possible. Progress is never made by our acting harshly in ways that leave others behind. It is always a good idea to respond to changing circumstances with a spirit of patience, gentleness and wisdom.
A shining example of this spirit of gentleness can be seen in how Jesus lives his life. When Jesus finds his disciples dreaming of greatness, he doesn’t shut them down. He doesn’t reprimand them for dreaming. He merely questions what direction their desire for greatness is taking them. Too often we as Christians view the desire for greatness the same way our society does. Power and prestige are what we as the church have usually wished for. Jesus says we should desire wisdom instead of those other riches. By placing the child in the centre of their circle he shows us that we are valued by God, even when the rest of the world treats us as invisible. He encourages his followers to be small instead of always wanting to be the greatest. Jesus defines greatness as being the last of all, the servant of all. It is to live a life of justice, peace and mercy. It is to have the eyes of compassion so you can see the small ones, the people society treats as invisible.
Our faith tradition offers us a helpful way of harnessing the power of our desires. Such a quiet simple way of being does have a hard time competing with the flashy electronic world which is entertaining us to death. But without wisdom, we can only look forward to more alienation. Without wisdom we will be less and less able to resolve society’s problems peacefully. Without wisdom we won’t be able to welcome the child, the stranger, the lost soul, and offer them a healing welcome. The cost of living without wisdom is killing us. Unbridled desire is killing us.
The Way of Christ is a more helpful compass that can point us in the right direction when we don’t have a clear map to show us what lies down the road. The Way of Christ teaches us how to let go of that endless cycle of desire. It points us to something greater so we may be satisfied with the things that do matter most in life. By dying to that false sense of self, we can be reborn into a more harmonious relationship that brings us life that is both abundant and eternal.
So open yourself to God’s wisdom, and God will draw close to you. Trust the compass that guides you towards gentleness, peace and mercy. For God seeks to satisfy your heart’s desires.