ORDER OF SERVICE FOR SUNDAY, JANUARY 31, 2021

FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY

Due to copyright limitations, we are unable to print the words to 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 to one of your favourite hymns and listen for God’s voice. Those who have internet may find the songs on YouTube.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

If we want to know the Glory of God, if we want to experience the beauty of God, and if we want to be used by the hand of God, then we must LIVE in the WORD of God.

                                                                                                                        ~David Platt

 

BEFORE WE WORSHIP, WE REFLECT…

            Do you want to be right, or do you want to have a relationship? When a teenager spends $200 on the world’s coolest sunglasses is it the time to comment on the foolishness of the purchase or to simply smile and nod? May the people of Corinth eat meat sacrificed to idols? Paul seems to suggest that it does not really matter where the meat comes from. What matters is how the people you care about feel about that meat. Will it challenge their faith? Will it become a stumbling block to the weak? Do you want to be right, or do you want to have a relationship?

            This theme continues in the gospel. The laws prohibiting work on the sabbath carry deep meaning for many people of faith, and yet on this sabbath Jesus rebukes an unclean spirit and frees a man. Jesus chooses to care for the man and to free him, rather than worry over the details of the law. In this instance Jesus is not condemned for his choice, as he will be later. But his fame begins to spread throughout the region. That too will later prove dangerous, yet it is also a sign of the evangelical nature of the faith. This is not a private faith, held closely and kept hidden. Rather it is an outgoing faith spread from person to person throughout the world.

            To this day people continue to place barriers and restrictions on the faith. What are some of the ways people might be kept from a relationship with Jesus by the barriers we create?

CALL TO WORSHIP – By Joan Stott

Holy God, you invite us to come to worship you.
In your Holy Presence, we discover unlimited love.
Holy God, you invite us to come to worship you.
In your Holy Presence, we discover forgiveness.
Holy God, you invite us to come to worship you.

In your Holy Presence, we discover empowerment,
joy and peace. Come, let us worship our Holy God. Amen.

CHILDREN’S SONG   Our God Is An Awesome God

CENTERING PRAYER

Compassionate God, you gather the whole universe into your radiant presence and continually reveal your Son as our Savior. Bring wholeness to all that is broken and speak truth to us in our confusion, that all creation will see and know your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

 

A NEW CREED

We are not alone; we live in God’s world.

We believe in God:  who has created and is creating, who has come in Jesus, the Word made flesh, to reconcile and make new, who works in us and others by the Spirit.

We trust in God.

We are called to be the Church:  to celebrate God’s presence, to live with respect in Creation, to love and serve others, to seek justice and resist evil, to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen, our judge and our hope.

In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us.  We are not alone.  Thanks be to God.

CHILDREN’S TIME

When I was a teenager, Chinese finger cuffs were an “in” thing.  They look like a tube woven out of leaves – check it out on Google.  You put your index fingers in the ends.  Then, you try to pull out your fingers, only you can’t because the design of the cuff is that it tightens when it’s pulled!  There is a way to get out of it.  Most people I knew had a friend help them out.  Some people actually started to panic when they couldn’t free their fingers!  Those Chinese finger cuffs are a lot like life.

 

Sometimes we get stuck in attitudes and behaviours that stop us from living life to the fullest, keep us angry or have us blaming everyone else for our problems instead of looking at our own attitudes and behaviour.  Try as we might, sometimes we can’t seem to break free of being stuck and we start to worry, or even panic, that we will never be able to solve our problem or that life will ever be good again!

 

In those moments, it helps to have family and friends around us who will help us to see what the problem really is, and look at ways to either solve the problem or walk away from it.  It is hard to look at ourselves sometimes.  We are not always the people we believe ourselves to be.  Sometimes, what seems a difficult time, actually forces us to look at ourselves honestly. 

 

If you want to get out of the finger cuff you need to remain calm, push the tips of your index fingers together and push in the ends of the cuff with your thumbs while at the same time pulling your index fingers apart.  Such a simple solution, yet many panic and can’t figure it out.

 

No problem in life is beyond Jesus’ ability to help you.  The love of Jesus is in your family and friends.  Together you will overcome.         

 

MISSION & SERVICE

TRAFFICKED BY HER AUNT:  LAKSHMI’S STORY

 

            Lakshmi, a teenager from West Bengal, India, went missing from her family home just a few months ago. Struggling to survive, Lakshmi was trafficked by her aunt, who promised that she could earn money and become independent by “dancing.” Thankfully, Lakshmi’s parents contacted the Diocese of Durgapur, which runs an anti-human trafficking program supported by your Mission & Service gifts. The Diocese intervened, and on the threat of legal action, Lakshmi’s aunt returned her to her parents.  

            Human trafficking is a burgeoning crisis in India, where non-government organizations estimate that 20‒65 million people, especially women and girls, are exploited.

            Girls like Lakshmi are typically trafficked to be sexually exploited or forced into marriage. But they are also trafficked for labour and even for organ harvesting. Sometimes their own families traffic them. Other times, girls are taken by complete strangers, who often hunt for victims in places where it’s easy to poach them.

            Around the world, human trafficking is one of the fastest-growing criminal enterprises because it is relatively low risk and has a high profit potential. That’s because, unlike drugs, humans can be sold repeatedly.

            The pandemic has made the problem even worse, especially in parts of the world where the economy is suffering because of the COVID-19 crisis.

            “The pandemic has had many repercussions in India. Migrant labourers all over India have lost their jobs, and many have died trying to reach home for the lockdown. The economy took a hit with the largest drop in GDP of 23.9 percent. Every time India faces a crisis, there is a rise in trafficking in the country,” explains Raja Moses, a program coordinator with the Diocese of Durgapur.

            Your gifts through Mission & Service are making a difference. In partnership with the Diocese of Durgapur, your support helps the anti-trafficking unit find and free women and children who are being trafficked. Once they are freed, your gifts help victims seek justice for what they have been through and regain a sense of worth and acceptance. Your generosity is also preventative, helping provide the education that is needed to offer protection against predators.

            With your help, young women like Lakshmi have a second chance at freedom, and families like hers can get their children back safely. Now, more than ever, the world needs your generosity. Thank you for your gifts through Mission & Service.

 

 

PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION

Wondrous Spirit, gather our minds that they may be one with you.  Open our ears that they may hear your Word.  Soften our hearts that they may receive your wisdom.  Speak to us for we, your servants, are listening.  Amen.

 

Readings and Psalm

First Reading: Deuteronomy 18:15-20

Today’s reading is part of a longer discourse in Deuteronomy, an updating of the law for the Israelite community as the people wait to enter the promised land. Here Moses assures the people that God will continue to guide them through prophets who will proclaim the divine word.

            [Moses said:] 15The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet. 16This is what you requested of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: “If I hear the voice of the Lord my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.” 17Then the Lord replied to me: “They are right in what they have said. 18I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command. 19Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable. 20But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak—that prophet shall die.”

Psalm 111

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. (Ps. 111:10)

1Hallelujah! I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
  in the assembly of the upright, in the congregation.
2Great are your works, O Lord, pondered by all who delight in them.
3Majesty and splendor mark your deeds, and your righteousness endures forever.
4You cause your wonders to be remembered; you are gracious and full of compassion. R
5You give food to those who fear you, remembering forever your covenant.
6You have shown your people the power of your works in giving them the lands of the nations.
7The works of your hands are faithfulness and justice; all of your precepts are sure.
8They stand fast forever and ever, because they are done in truth and equity. R
9You sent redemption to your people and commanded your covenant forever;
  holy and awesome is your name.
10The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
  
all who practice this have a good understanding. God’s praise endures forever. R

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 8:1-13

Paul is concerned about the way some Corinthian Christians use their freedom in Christ as license to engage in non-Christian behavior that sets a damaging example to other, impressionable believers. Christians have a responsibility to each other that their behavior does not cause another to sin.

            1Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 2Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; 3but anyone who loves God is known by him. 

            4Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “no idol in the world really exists,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many gods and many lords—6yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. 

                7It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8“Food will not bring us close to God.” We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols? 11So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed. 12But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall.

Gospel: Mark 1:21-28

Forces that would bring death and disease have taken hold of a man, yet they recognize Jesus and know what his power means for them. Jesus commands these forces to leave and people are amazed at his authority.

21[Jesus and his disciples] went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.  23Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.”  25But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.  27They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”  28At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

 

SERMON 

I was visiting my pen pal in the Bahamas.  Yes, before the age of computers and Facebook, people wrote letters back and forth to each other.  Ancient practice, I know…

My pen pal, Barb, was Lutheran.  She lived on this tiny island in the Bahamas.  Since there was no Lutheran Church on this little island, we were attending the Baptist worship service.  I was lost in the liturgy.  Barb was up in the choir.  I leaned in to the woman on my left and whispered, “Where are we?”  She didn’t answer.  Instead, she just smiled at me.  I realized that the sanctuary had suddenly become very quiet.  I glanced up and realized everyone was looking at me.  The woman who was leading the worship service said to me, “We want to hear your testimony.”

“My what?”

“Your testimony!  We want to hear your testimony!”  To a round of enthusiastic applause, I was compelled to go up to the front of the church, face the congregation, and answer the question that was asked by the man with the unclean spirit – what did Jesus have to do with me?

Let me be clear.  I come from a mostly German background.  Proud, stubborn and hard-headed – giving testimonies was not part of the regular worship service at St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  Knowing that the people in the congregation believed in Jesus and talking about one’s faith were two very separate sides of the same coin.  So, to suddenly have a sanctuary full of strangers looking at me expectantly, waiting to hear what Jesus meant to me in my life gave me pause.  How do I put into words what I experience as a presence in my life? 

I recall very little of what I said.  I spoke for maybe 5 minutes, tops.  I went to sit down.  Apparently I hadn’t said enough.  It was too short!  Surely there must be more of Jesus acting in my life than that!  They wouldn’t let me go back to my pew!  I had to think fast!  I talked some more, again, I don’t recall what I said.  I must have finally satisfied the time requirement for they applauded, thanked me, and allowed me to sit down.  And there was Barb, up in the choir, her facial expression telling me that she had enjoyed every moment of my discomfort!!

I would like to review the question from the man with the unclean spirit.  Note, it is an unclean spirit, NOT a demon.  What exactly is an unclean spirit, scholars are still debating.  What matters is the question the man asks Jesus:  “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 

Has Jesus come to destroy people?  Who is us?  The people of Capernaum?  The members of the synagogue?  The Israelites?  Notice Jesus does not interject after the question.  Jesus immediately jumps in when the man identifies who Jesus really is!  Is it the news that Jesus is the Holy One of God that will destroy people, or is it what Jesus has already said in front of the congregation, words spoken with authority, that has created the concern?

Jesus frees the man from the unclean spirit.  Does Jesus want to silence the spirit because the people cannot bear the truth of who Jesus is at this time?  Or is it because Jesus wants them to hear God’s words for their own sake, not clouded by the possibility that Jesus is the messiah, the anointed one of God?  In truth, there is already prejudice against Jesus because he comes from Nazareth.  That is what shocks people.  This nobody from the nowhere town of Nazareth apparently has charisma, an air of authority, words of power and the ability to get unclean spirits to obey him!  Suddenly, this nobody is somebody.  Suddenly, everyone is so focused on Jesus that they forgot about the question from the man with the unclean spirit – “Have you come to destroy us?”

We who know the end of the story know that Jesus comes to set us free.  Yet in order to set us free, we need to acknowledge how we are bound!  In short, we are all left with the question, “What does Jesus, the Holy One of God, have to do with me, and I with him?”

You see, it is not enough to list off your church connections and a few faith moments for five minutes and think that Jesus will be satisfied with the answer.   Oh no!  What the folks at the Baptist church wanted to hear, what Jesus wants to hear, is how intimately you are connected.  What words from God has Jesus given you?  How has your faith walk honoured those conversations with the Lord?  Where have you left the path, and what was it that drew you away?  What happened that you came back to the path of faith?  How did you experience God in your life during that time?  What have you learned from your experience?  What does Jesus want you to share with others who are struggling on their faith journey? 

Oh yes, Jesus has come to destroy all that holds us in bondage, and that scares us to the core of our being.  In order to be free, we need to acknowledge the other gods in our life, acknowledge our shadow side, the unclean within us, face our fears, our unfulfilled hopes, our broken dreams and promises until we are left standing naked in our vulnerability before the source of love and life itself.  Following Jesus, hearing the Word of God and living it requires courage beyond the norm.  It requires our implicit trust, utmost loyalty and a willingness to remain vulnerable.  Out of the destruction of who we believe we need to be comes new life in who we actually are in Christ.

 

“What does Jesus, the Holy One of God, have to do with me, and I with him?”

What’s your testimony?

Amen.

HYMN OF THE MONTH  With One Voice #648 Jesus, Come! For We Invite You

 

PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION

Guided by Christ made known to the nations, let us offer our prayers for the church, the world, and all people in need.

For all who share the gospel and proclaim freedom in Christ throughout the world: prophets, teachers, pastors, deacons, and lay leaders; for the church and its ministries, let us pray.

Have mercy, O God.

For all God’s works in creation: plants and animals, water and soil, forests and farms; and for those tasked with protecting our natural resources and all that exists, let us pray.

Have mercy, O God.

For government and leaders: cities and nations, rescue professionals and legal aid attorneys, elected officials and grassroots organizers; for all responsible for the well-being of civil society, let us pray.

Have mercy, O God.

For those who suffer in mind, body, or spirit: those who are sick and hospitalized, those living with HIV/AIDS, those struggling with mental illness, those who are hungry or homeless, and all in any need especially Mike Froese, Brooke Alexiuk, Tracy Skoglund, Carolyn, Douglas, Debbie, Dwayne; Nicole; Sandy Lange, Matthew Grossman, Gordon Fulford, Jennifer & family; Lorraine & Walter Pokrant, Evelyn Watt; for all those infected with the corona virus, or whose loved ones have died because of it; for caregivers, hospice workers and home health aides, let us pray.

Have mercy, O God.

For the concerns of this congregation: those who travel, those absent from worship, those celebrating birthdays or anniversaries; for the people of God in this place and for other needs in our community, let us pray.

Have mercy, O God.

For the covenant God made with us in the waters of baptism, in thanksgiving for the baptized who have died in the Lord, let us pray.

Have mercy, O God.

Merciful God, hear the prayers of your people, spoken or silent, for the sake of the one who dwells among us, your Son, Jesus Christ our Savior.

Amen.

           

THE LORD’S PRAYER

BENEDICTION

God the creator strengthen you; Jesus the beloved fill you; and the Holy Spirit the comforter ☩ keep you in peace.  Amen.

 

SENDING SONG  Voices United, page 894  Holy God, We Praise Your Name

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