Due to copyright limitations, we are unable to print the words to many of the songs. However, our musicians have chosen music to fit the scriptures. We invite you to look up the words in your worship book and ponder them. If you do not have a worship book, ponder the words of one of your favourite hymns and listen for God’s voice. Those who have the internet may find the songs on YouTube.
“Nothing teaches us about the preciousness of the Creator as much as when we learn the emptiness of everything else.”
~Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, Based on the English Standard Version
It was one of those thought-for-the-day-calendars you find in your Christmas stocking. The sayings mostly were trite and pithy, but every so often there was a truth worth repeating, for example: “Decide what you want and what you are willing to exchange for it. Set your priorities and go to work.” In other words, if we’re serious, saying yes to one thing often requires saying no to something else.
Jonah—after fleeing from the mission to which God was calling him (and three days and nights in the belly of the fish!)—now says “No!” to his former urges and “Yes!” to God as he sets out as God’s prophet to Nineveh. Paul invites us to say “No!” to trivial matters and “Yes!” to the things of God that have serious and eternal consequences. Jesus calls the disciples to say “No!” to their boats and nets and families and much of everything else they have known and to say “Yes!” to his “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”
We feel a kinship with Jonah’s situation, because he struggles. He runs away from God and only relents after a huge fish vomits him onto a distant shore. The call-response stories of Simon, Andrew, James, and John make it all seem so easy. One little word of invitation from Jesus and these men turn in an instant from fishers to disciples.
But most of us live somewhere in the middle, not resisting God’s call with the vigor of Jonah but certainly responding more slowly and ambiguously than the disciples. So a question for today is: To what is God calling us to say “No!”? Remember, it’s not just the ugly stuff but often good things that must be denied for the sake of following Jesus. And then we must also ask in faith: To what is Jesus inviting us to say “Yes!”?
We acknowledge we gather and worship on Treaty 1 Territory, the original lands of Anishinaabeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dene peoples, and on the homeland of the Métis Nation.
God of all creation, as we journey together, we pray for healing, forgiveness and unity, creating a path of good will, with justice and compassion.
Jesus, through the power of your love, you have given us the courage, wisdom and strength to share our gifts and talents in humility. In peace and understanding we reconcile with each other.
Creator Spirit, we come together in prayer and thanksgiving for the many blessings we have received. Allow your Spirit to wash over us and give us strength to walk together as one. Amen.
This Reconciliation Church prayer was written by a small group of Aboriginal Elder women and Reconciliation Church staff members in 2014.
CALL TO WORSHIP – By Nancy C. Townley
Christ is calling you as disciples
Lord Jesus, let us follow you faithfully.
You will be led into fields of mission and service.
Lord Jesus, where you lead us, we will go.
Listen for Christ’s call to you.
P: We are ready to serve the Lord. Amen.
CHILDREN’S SONG: VU 341 Beautiful Saviour
Almighty God, by grace alone you call us and accept us in your service. Strengthen us by your Spirit, and make us worthy of your call, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
MISSION & SERVICE: Providing Tuition Assistance
For a long time, I have been so proud of the justice work we do through Mission and Service. Yes, we offer important emergency aid, but I believe that our best work happens when we help bring long-lasting impacts to the lives of individuals and communities.
One of the areas I am passionate about supporting is education. As Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful we can use to change the world!” I like that. Providing tuition assistance to young people in Lebanon is life-changing and will have lasting impacts on the whole community!
—Roger Janes, Community of Faith Stewardship Officer
Almighty God, by grace alone you call us and accept us in your service. Strengthen us by your Spirit, and make us worthy of your call, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
First Reading: Jonah 3:1-5, 10
The book of Jonah is a comedy starring a reluctant prophet who is given a one-sentence message: Nineveh will be destroyed in forty days. Much to Jonah’s dismay, the people of Nineveh repent. The point of the story is to get the reader to wrestle with the question “On whom should God have mercy?”
1The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time, saying, 2“Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” 3So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. 4Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” 5And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.
10When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.
Psalm 62:5-12
God alone is my rock and my salvation. (Ps. 62:6)
5For God alone I | wait in silence;
truly, my hope | is in God.
6God alone is my rock and | my salvation,
my stronghold, so that I shall nev- | er be shaken.
7In God is my deliverance | and my honor;
God is my strong rock | and my refuge.
8Put your trust in God al- | ways, O people,
pour out your hearts before the one who | is our refuge. R
9Those of high degree are but a fleeting breath; those of low estate can- | not be trusted.
Placed on the scales together they weigh even less | than a breath.
10Put no trust in extortion; in robbery take no | empty pride;
though wealth increase, set not your | heart upon it.
11God has spoken once, twice | have I heard it,
that power be- | longs to God.
12Steadfast love belongs to | you, O Lord,
for you repay all according | to their deeds. R
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Paul does not disapprove of marriage or other human social institutions. He does, however, want Christians to live in the present in fervent anticipation of God’s future, which even now has dawned through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
29Brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, 30and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, 31and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.
Gospel: Mark 1:14-20
Before Jesus calls his first disciples, he proclaims a message that becomes known as “the gospel” or good news from God. God is ready to rule our lives. Those who realize this will respond with repentance and faith.
14Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
16As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 17And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” 18And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
HYMN: VU 120 O Jesus, I Have Promised
Our first reading and the gospel today have a number of similarities. First of all, they are both fish stories. In the case of Jonah, we remember that God preserved his life by providing him with a whale hotel during his maritime travels. Thanks to this great fish hotel, Jonah’s feet touched land again. God gave Jonah another chance to be the prophet that God called him to be.
In our gospel, Jesus calls four fisher-folk away from their nets, away from the water and onto the land to start fishing for people. Sometimes God calls us to go places that we had not planned. Sometimes God gives us another chance to do God’s will and follow God’s ways. Sometimes God calls us to fish in ways that we’ve never imagined.
The second similarity in both of these passages is the pattern of God’s message. In the first reading, Jonah preached an eight-word sermon. The people of Nineveh heard the message and took it to heart. The king and all the people of Nineveh responded in faith and repented. God then saved their city.
The gospel has a similar pattern. First, Jesus preached a nineteen-word sermon. Then, he sought out Peter, Andrew, James and John. Jesus addresses them with ten words: “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” As in the Jonah story, the four fisher-folk ~ like the people of Nineveh ~ hear Jesus’ message. Then, they ~ like the people of Nineveh ~ respond in faith to that message.
I am guessing that the majority of us are here today because someone preached the Gospel to us. We heard the Good News of Jesus Christ and we responded. Others were sent out by Christ to fish for us.
The third similarity is that the content of Jonah’s message and the content of Christ’s message are the same: repent and believe in God. In other words, commit to changing your life to trust God implicitly.
Sometimes God’s love and grace cause us to change our lives, and our opinions, too ~ especially about people whom we tend to write off or judge too quickly. We discover God loves them and calls on us to do the same.
The most important change is in the Jonah passage. We are told that when God saw how the people of Nineveh turned from their evil ways God’s mind was changed. God chose to let the people of Nineveh live. The radical repentance of Nineveh moved God deeply. We have a God who is compassionate and merciful. We have a God who desires a relationship with us, who wants us to have an abundant life serving all of God’s creation.
The fourth similarity is that God cares for outsiders. When Jonah first heard God’s instructions to preach to the people of Nineveh, Jonah was indignant. Why would God send him to Nineveh? They were the enemy, they were Assyrians, they were outsiders. Why should Jonah or God care about them? Why not let them continue in their sinful ways so that they would destroy themselves?
In Mark’s gospel, Jesus deliberately chooses four outsiders to be his disciples. Why would Jesus want to choose four fisher-folk ~ of all the people available to him ~ to spread the Gospel? Why didn’t Jesus choose kings and queens and other influential people? Would not the rich, the powerful, the highly-skilled leaders, the movers and shakers who have it all together ~ would not they be far more effective in spreading the Gospel than these four, stumbling, inarticulate fisher-folk?
God often chooses the least likely, the outsiders, the most ordinary of people to accomplish the extraordinary for God. God has us carry out the work of spreading the Gospel. God has created us and has called us good. Who are we to say that God has chosen wrongly?
The fifth similarity of these passages is that they’re both missionary stories. Yet they are more than that ~ they are humorous missionary stories! God seems to have a wonderful sense of humor! Reluctant, rebellious Jonah goes to an enemy city and preaches God’s word like some crazy fanatic. Even more humorous is Johah’s response when the Ninevites actually believe this message and act accordingly. Johnah wanted death and destruction and is mighty peeved when grace abounds!
Jesus’ choosing four fisher-folk to be his disciples is equally humorous. As the disciples spread the Good News, we laugh because they often stumble along, say the wrong things, do the wrong things, and mingle with the wrong sort of people. Yet, through, in, and with these four humble men, God is able to work miracles!
The four disciples go fishing for people and the Gospel is spread to every corner of their world. We laugh at this because we too are humble folk; we too stumble; we too have said or done the wrong thing, have mingled with the unpopular crowd. Yet, miracle of miracles, God is at work through, in, and with each one of us. The Gospel continues to reach the hearts, minds and the lives of human beings in every corner of the earth.
God’s ways are certainly not our ways. God’s love and grace pursues us until we ~ like Jonah and the four disciples ~ say “Yes” and follow wherever God leads us. God’s love and grace are downright humorous, and irresistible. For that, we can give our thanks and celebrate, as the Good News reaches out to every corner of the earth during this season of Epiphany. For our God shall not be satisfied until all peoples come to see, know, and experience the message that they are God’s chosen and they are loved! So, people of God, let’s continue to fish for our all-loving God! Amen.
HOM: MV 33 Jesus Came Bringing Us Hope
As we celebrate Christ embodied in human form, we pray for God’s blessing on the church, the world, and all of creation.
God our rock and deliverance, do not let your church be shaken. We trust you never abandon your promises to the most vulnerable among us. Give your church wisdom and empathy in its varied ministries. God of grace,
receive our prayer.
God our hope and refuge, you placed the fish in the sea. Guide our care of oceans and all creatures that live in them. Hold us accountable for actions that endanger water sources and the people who depend on them. God of grace,
receive our prayer.
God who proclaims judgement and offers mercy, be a model to the leaders of our nation and the world. As they lead, may they follow in your way of justice and truth. God of grace,
receive our prayer.
God who cares for the suffering, care for survivors of assault and sexual abuse and sustain all who minister to them. Keep safe any who live under threat of violence, those living in poverty, and any among us who are ill or in pain. God of grace,
receive our prayer.
God of resurrection and new life, as the first disciples shared the good news, empower us and this faith community to be open to your call. When we are uncertain of your call, assure us. When we have strayed from your ways, redirect us. God of grace,
receive our prayer.
God who holds the saints against your tender bosom, we trust you welcome them into your care. Comfort those who grieve, even as we place our hope in your salvation. God of grace,
receive our prayer.
Knowing the Holy Spirit intercedes for us, we offer these prayers and the silent prayers of our hearts in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
SENDING SONG: VU 642 Be Thou My Vision
God who names you, Christ who claims you, and the Holy Spirit who dwells in you, bless you and remain with you always. Amen.

Copyright © 2016 Augsburg Fortress. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission under Augsburg Fortress Liturgies Annual License #SAS011617.
© 2011 The United Church of Canada/L’Église Unie du Canada. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike Licence. To view a copy of this licence, visit: