Read-along Service for Sunday, September 26, 2021

Trinity-St. Andrew’s United Church
Order of Worship
Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, September 26

Prelude

Words of welcome, announcements

Next Sunday, October 3rd is TSA’s Anniversary Sunday. There will be juice & cookies served on the Quarry Avenue lawn following the service, weather permitting. The service will also include the sacrament of Holy Communion. We will be using hygienic pre-packaged communion pods to ensure everyone’s safety.

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

If it had not been God who was on our side, the troubles of our world would have swallowed us whole. If it had not been God who was on our side, the sorrows of our times would have swept us away. Are any among us suffering? Come and pray. Are any among us cheerful? Come sing songs of praise. Are any among us sick? Come and ask for healing. Our help is in our God, the One who made heaven and earth. We gather for worship, to give thanks for the gift of life and to seek healing for us all.

Prayer of Approach

Creator God, your healing power amazes us. Be here with us now. Help us to understand how much we need you.  In Jesus Christ, you show us that you are on the side of all people, but never at the expense of the weakest among us. Forgive us when we try to control who has access to your love. Forgive us when our behaviour keeps others from knowing you. Redeem us and transform us, O God. Open our hearts to your Spirit that is with us always. Teach us to be Christ to the world, so we might all be healed by the gift of your love.  Amen.

Hymn Let Us Build a House (All Are Welcome)                            MV 1

1.      Let us build a house where love can dwell
          and all can safely live,
          a place where saints and children tell
          how hearts learn to forgive.
          Built of hopes and dreams and visions,
          Rock of faith and vault of grace;
          Here the love of Christ shall end divisions;
                   All are welcome, all are welcome,
                   All are welcome in this place.

2.      Let us build a house where prophets speak,
          and words are strong and true,
          where all God’s children dare to seek
          to dream God’s reign anew.
          Here the cross shall stand as witness
          And as symbol of God’s grace;
          Here as one we claim the faith of Jesus:
                   All are welcome, all are welcome,
                   All are welcome in this place.

3.      Let us build a house where love is found
          In water, wine and wheat;
          A banquet hall on holy ground,
          Where peace and justice meet.
          Here the love of God, through Jesus,
          Is revealed in time and space;
          As we share in Christ the feast that frees us:
                   All are welcome, all are welcome,
                   All are welcome in this place.

4.      Let us build a house where hands will reach
          Beyond the wood and stone
          To heal and strengthen, serve and teach,
          And live the Word they’ve known.
          Here the outcast and the stranger
          Bear the image of God’s face;
          Let us bring an end to fear and danger:
                   All are welcome, all are welcome,
                   All are welcome in this place.

5.      Let us build a house where all are named,
          their songs and visions heard
          and loved and treasured, taught and claimed
          as words within the Word.
          Built of tears and cries of laughter,
          Prayers of faith and songs of grace;
          Let this house proclaim from floor to rafter:
                   All are welcome, all are welcome,
                   All are welcome in this place.

Scripture Reader:       Peter Raaphorst

James 5:13-20              Mark 9:38-50

Hymn Your Hands, O Christ                                                 VU 622

1.      Your hands, O Christ, in days of old
                   were strong to heal and save;
          they triumphed o’er disease and death,
                   fought darkness and the grave.
          To you they went, the blind, the mute,
                   the palsied and the lame,
          the leper set apart and shunned,
                   the sick with fevered frame.

2.      And lo! your touch brought life and health,
                   gave speech and strength and sight;
          and youth renewed and health restored
                   owned you, the Lord of light.
          So, living Christ, draw near to bless,
                   compassionate as before;
          that we may touch your garment’s fringe,
                   walk in our streets once more.

3.      O be our gracious healer still,
                   our God in life and death;
          restore and strengthen, soothe and bless
                   with your lifegiving breath.
          To hands that work and eyes that see
                   Teach wisdom’s healing lore,
          that whole and sick, and weak and strong,
                   we praise you evermore.

Homily                          “Healing Help”

Musical Response

The offering

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 Spirit, Spirit of Gentleness                      VU 375

Refrain:     Spirit, Spirit of gentleness,
                   blow thro’ the wilderness calling and free,
                   Spirit, Spirit of restlessness,
                   stir me from placidness,
                   Wind, Wind on the sea.

  1. You moved on the waters, you called to the deep,
    then you coaxed up the mountains from the valleys of sleep;
    and over the eons you called to each thing;
    wake from your slumbers and rise on your wings.              Refrain
  2. You swept thro’ the desert, you stung with the sand,
    and you goaded your people with a law and a land;
    and when they were blinded with their idols and lies,
    then you spoke thro’ your prophets to open their eyes.      Refrain
  3. You sang in a stable, you cried from a hill,
    then you whispered in silence when the whole world was still;
    and down in the city you called once again,
    when you blew through your people on the rush of the wind.  Refrain
  4. You call from tomorrow, you break ancient schemes,
    from the bondage of sorrow the captives dream dreams,
    our women see visions, our men clear their eyes,
    with bold new decisions your people arise.                          Refrain

Pastoral Prayer & The Lord’s Prayer

Hymn We Have This Ministry                                                         VU 510

1.      We have this ministry
                   and we are not discouraged;
          it is by God’s own power
                   that we may live and serve.
          Openly we share God’s word,
                   Speaking truth as we believe,
          praying that the shadowed world
                   may healing light receive.
          We have this ministry, O God, receive our living.

2.      O Christ, the tree of life,
                   our end and our beginning,
          we grow to fullest flower
                   when rooted in your love.
          Brothers, sisters, clergy, lay,
                   called to service by your grace,
          different cultures, different gifts,
                   the young and old a place.
          We have this ministry, O God, receive our giving.

3.      The yoke of Christ is ours,
                   the whole world is our parish;
          we daily take the cross,
                   the burden and the joy.
          Bearing hurts of those we serve,
                   wounded, bruised and bowed with pain,
          Holy Spirit, bread and wine,
                   we die and rise again.
          We have this ministry, O God, receive our loving.

Benediction

May God save you from all that would harm you;
May Christ Jesus heal all that afflicts you.
May the Holy Spirit anoint you to be a blessing to others in their time of need.
Go now in peace to love and serve others in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Choral Amen 967 “Amen, amen, amen”

Postlude

“Healing Help” Text: James 5:13-30
Preached by Rev. James Murray at Trinity- St. Andrew’s United Church, Sept 26 2021

As Christians we talk a lot about prayer because prayer is at the heart of what we do. To pray is to be connected with God in the most intimate way possible. After two thousand years of praying together as Christians, we are still talking about it because it is something many people continue to  struggle to understand what it is all about.

To put it simply, prayer puts our faith into action. We can see its impact quite clearly especially when there’s been a health crisis. In that moment of feeling helpless we reach out for a life giving connection with others. To reach out for the thoughts and prayers of others also sets off a chain of connection with God. 

I saw this great chain of connection come together when my wife Christine had to deal with her breast cancer. When she got her diagnosis in June, she put out a call for prayer. The response astounded her. Friends and family from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island reached out to us. People we knew from as far away as England and the United States answered the call. Then their church circles started to pray. Then friends of friends started to pray.  Christine was quickly wrapped in a blanket of prayer, sustained by the good will of literally hundreds of people.  These prayers came as a gift of support at a very frightening time.

This need for connection is what drives us to pray. This morning we heard about the importance of making prayerful connections from the earliest days of the Christian movement. James was the younger brother of Jesus. After Jesus’ death it is James who becomes the leader of the Christian community in Jerusalem. As Saint James puts it, ‘Are you hurting? Pray. Do you feel great? Sing joyful songs of thankful praise. Are you sick? Call the church leaders together to pray and anoint you. And if you’ve sinned, you’ll be forgiven—you’ll be healed both inside and out.’ (James 5:13-15, paraphrased)

James believes prayer is what can draw us into the presence of God in a very intimate way. Prayer also binds us to one another into a great chain of connection. The love of God flows through that chain, giving strength to all who join in.

Prayer is possible because we believe that the God who created life itself and everything in the universe can also be experienced personally. For some people prayer is a time of conversation with God as they share their joys and concerns. For others prayer is a time of quiet reflection. Some people use music to make a deep emotional connection with the divine. I start each day with twenty minutes of Christian meditation. That time spent in silence helps me feel grounded in God’s presence. This sense of peace gives me strength to face the challenges that each new day brings.  Some people get direct answers when they pray. Many just find a sense of assurance they can draw great strength from. Regardless of how you pray, the goal is communion. Communion is our common union, which is our coming together as one. The spiritual practice of praying lifts us up out of our individual self and unites us with God and all of life.

This great chain of connection opens the door to a new way of relating to the world. As a result many people strive to master this important skill. I once met a devout believer who felt he had unlocked the power of prayer. He believed that if we just say the right words then all our prayers will be answered. For him the point of prayer was to get God to do exactly what he wanted. He wanted to control God like a puppet on a string. Sadly, there is no magical formula we can recite that will give us such power over God or other people.

Despite all these setbacks, we are still drawn to this promise of healing. The promise of healing is a central message of Jesus Christ. He comes to heal our broken hearts. He comes to mend our broken bodies. He comes to restore broken relationships.  We believe God’s goal in all things is to mend this broken world. Sometimes we see this belief fulfilled when our illness is cured. Sometimes it is our lives which are made whole, even when our body cannot heal itself.

Knowing what to pray for is a big challenge. A minister I know told me about the troubles she had with her own brother. Her brother had accidentally cut off the top of his thumb with a table saw. The brother didn’t want to go to the doctor because he believed all he had to do was pray to God and his thumb would miraculously grow back. Try as she might this minister couldn’t convince her brother that God does not heal amputees because our bodies are incapable of growing new limbs. There are some Christians who think you just need to believe hard enough and you will get what you ask for. This puts incredible pressure on the person who is hurting, especially if the desired outcome doesn’t happen when we want it.  Just because we don’t get the outcome we want does not mean that we did not have enough faith. 

At moments like that it is hard to admit something is out of our control. That life is fleeting and fragile. It is scary to admit some things are beyond our understanding. Even doctors will tell you they are often at a loss to explain why one patient recovers while another slips so quickly away.

I saw this first hand when I dealt with a man who was a lifelong devoted believer. When his adult son got very ill he prayed ever day for his son’s recovery. When the son died, he became very resentful towards God and the church. He felt he was owed a miracle after he had lived such an exemplary life of faithfulness. It was easier for him to blame God than to admit he couldn’t control God. It makes us feel small to speak of things which we are not the master of.  And still we pray, because it connects us with something far bigger and more powerful than our selves.

To be part of the great chain of connection is an amazing feeling. There have been many times when someone has told me of a profound spiritual moment which has changed their life. Most of those conversations start off with them saying, “You’re not going to believe what just happened…” And yes, I do believe these conversations, because I’ve been there as well. 

When we learn to trust in these experiences it can change how we live. When Saint Teresa of Calcutta welcomed a guest at her hospital, she assumed God had sent that person as an answer to her prayers. Many people volunteered at her hospital because they wanted a deeper experience of God. So she did not hesitate to put all guests immediately to work caring for the sick and dying who came to the hospital for help. She believed we are all able to ask for much in prayer. She also believed that when we share in prayer God is able to ask much of us in return. For Saint Teresa, her morning prayers were spent in silence listening to God. In her journals she admitted that there were long spells when she felt as if God was silent. Despite this apparent lack of direction from God, she did believe everyone who came to volunteer was there as an answer to her prayers. Saint Teresa believed we as people of faith are all called to help answer the prayers of others in their time of need.

It is a bold act of faith to say you believe prayer does change things. Not every prayer will be answered the way we want. Our past actions may prevent the prayer from being answered.  We need to recognize how our behaviour has consequences that can affect what happens next. This is because God works with the world as it is, in order to make it into all it can yet be. For this reason, miracles are still possible. With God we learn to expect the unexpected.

This belief that we can have a better future together is expressed very beautifully in the Lord’s Prayer. This prayer asks for food for today as well as for forgiveness and strength. It even asks for God’s kingdom to come here on earth. That’s a bold belief that this world can be changed for the better. As a consequence we are not afraid to pray for an end to the selfish greed that is ruining our planet. Saint Paul assures us prayer can overthrow the principalities of oppression that dominate the world around us. Our prayers help to open us up to God’s will. It’s been said many times that some prayers change God’s mind, and some prayers are there to change our minds.

This is why the act of praying is so important for us all.  It has the power to heal us inside and out. It brings us into spiritual communion with God. It links us with the great chain of being so we can develop  a deeper sense of connection with the world around us.  What a gift it is to be able to experience this life giving connection with God.

Sweet hour of prayer,
Sweet hour of prayer,
That calls me from a world of care
And bids me at my Father’s throne,
Make all my wants and wishes known
In seasons of distress and grief,
My soul has often found relief
And oft escaped the tempter’s snare,
By Thy return, sweet hour of prayer.

 

 

 

 

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