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.



I do not at all understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.

~Anne Lamott




     Few of us want to hear a hard truth, and perhaps fewer of us want to be the ones called to deliver one. Today’s texts remind us that bearing God’s word is risky business. King Jereboam exiles the prophet Amos for calling him to account. Herod delivers John the baptizer’s head on a platter to his wife, Herodias, to fulfill a promise he never should have made. Speaking truth to power can cost us our lives.

     Yet this is exactly what God calls us to do. God’s prophets are ordinary people called to deliver an extraordinary message. Listen to the praise Paul heaps on the Ephesians, naming them as God’s blessed, God’s chosen, and God’s adopted children. It is the kind of pep talk coaches give their players just before sending them back into the game against a seemingly unbeatable team. Like Amos, who freely confesses his humble background and unlikely credentials, we are sent from worship each week to proclaim God’s in-breaking reign to all the powers that profess to rule this world.

     Still, beneath the apparent victory of power over truth, there is a hidden story bursting through the seams of this tale. Yes, John the Baptist dies, but the integrity of his witness outshines all of Herod’s corrupt court intrigues. Herod himself was drawn to John’s preaching, and in the end, it is Herod’s character that seems most tragic.

     Like Herod, we are each challenged to really listen to the challenging voice of God in our day and age, and to turn away from the lures and temptations that attempt to seduce us away from fidelity to God. Through us, God speaks words of peace, love, and faithfulness that challenge the world’s violence, hatred, and treachery.




The Spirit of God gave the universe birth.

The Spirit of God delivered the world.

Our God is the first; our God is the last.

No other god declares the word of creation.

Yet this same God invites us, saying, “Do not be afraid!”

Worship the One who banishes fear, who comforts the trembling and quickens the faint! Worship the One whose creation is renewed and whose creatures are never forsaken!

CHILDREN’S SONG   MV 45  You Are Holy




Ever-present God, this day enfolds us and surrounds us:  be in our speaking and in our thinking; be in our life and on our lips; be in our hearts and in our souls, today and forever.  Amen.





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.




     Do you know what a seal is?  I am not talking about the animal.  I am talking about something that closes a letter and lets the person receiving it know that it is an official letter, that the letter can only be opened by that person.   

     What a seal does is make it very difficult to steam open a letter to read someone else’s mail.  This is because steam would ruin the seal, the picture, in the wax, so it would be obvious that someone had tampered with the envelope.

     When you are baptized, the pastor takes water from the font, or oil for anointing, and makes the sign of the cross on your forehead.  In the Lutheran tradition, I would say the following words while making the sign of the cross: “(Name of child), you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever.”

     What those words mean is that God has claimed you.  Like a wax seal on an envelope, God is marking you as belonging to God and no one can take that away.  Even if you turn away from God, God will not turn away from you because you have the seal of Christ’s Spirit.  It is in your very being.   You are a child of God.  Forever.  You are loved, forgiven, hugged by God, forever. 

     Let us pray:  Dear Jesus, thank you for your Spirit.  Thank you for marking us as belonging to God.  Help us to stay close to you so that we will have your joy and your love in our hearts.  Amen.   



Creating a World without Hate

     On June 6, not far from the oldest mosque in London, Ontario, a family of five out for a walk were deliberately run over by a truck. Three adults and one teenager were killed. A nine-year-old boy is the sole survivor. Police say the family was targeted because they are Muslim.

     In a statement, The United Church of Canada condemned the horrific and hate-filled attack.

     “Many people in the United Church are weeping alongside the extended families and friends of the family members who were killed and injured in this premeditated hate crime and are grieving the innocent lives lost in this abhorrent attack,” the statement reads, acknowledging the fearfulness that some people in the Muslim community feel as a result.

     Did you know that 322 anti-Muslim hate crimes were reported in Canada between 2013 and 2019? And that’s just the crimes we know about.

     Prejudice runs deep. A 2017 study published by the Angus Reid Institute states that almost half of all Canadians have an unfavourable view of Islam, a perception evident in attitudes toward religious clothing. While 88 percent of Canadians support a nun wearing a habit, just 32 percent approve of a person wearing the niqab.

     Our United Church is deeply committed to working with Muslims and others for peace and justice. That’s why your Mission & Service gifts help us as a church to develop statements and educational resources to combat prejudice and discrimination.

     In 2006, for example, the church released the statement “That We May Know Each Other: United Church-Muslim Relations Today.” It was preceded by an important study document with the same name designed to help church communities deepen loving relationships with our faith cousins. Similar study guides have been created to foster interfaith relationships, including Jewish and Hindu faiths (respectively, “Bearing Faithful Witness” and “Honouring the Divine in Each Other”).

     Education begins with us. Your Mission & Service gifts help raise awareness and understanding that in turn contributes to a more peaceful world. One where no one is harmed by the hatred of another. Where no more children have to grow up without their family.

     In the words of our current Moderator Richard Bott, “Let us use all that we have and all that we are to stand in the face of the evil that would allow and cause this crime of hatred. Even as one man has been arrested for his actions, let us uncover and work against the beliefs, the worldview, the racism and the hatred that supported his choice.”


     Your gifts through Mission & Service help raise awareness and understanding that in turn contributes to a more peaceful world. Thank you.




God, source of all light, by your Word you give light to the soul. Pour out on us the spirit of wisdom and understanding that our hearts and minds may be opened. Amen.




Readings and Psalm


First Reading: Amos 7:7-15


Amos is not the kind of prophet attached to temples or royal courts. Rather, he is an ordinary farmer from Judah (the southern kingdom) called by God to speak to Israel (the northern kingdom). God’s word of judgment through Amos conflicts with the king’s court prophet Amaziah, whom Amos encounters at Bethel.

7This is what  showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in hand. 

8And the Lord said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said, “See, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by;
9the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”
10Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the very center of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words. 

11For thus Amos has said, ‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from his land.’ ”
12And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there;

13but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”

14Then Amos answered Amaziah, “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, 

15and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ ”

  • Psalm 85:8-13

I will listen to what the Lord God is saying. (Ps. 85:8)

8I will listen to what the Lord God is saying;
  for you speak peace to your faithful people and to those who turn their hearts to you.
9Truly, your salvation is very near to those who fear you,
  that your glory may dwell in our land. R
10Steadfast love and faithfulness have met together;
  righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
11Faithfulness shall spring up from the earth,
  and righteousness shall look down from heaven.
12The Lord will indeed grant prosperity, and our land will yield its increase.
13Righteousness shall go before the Lord and shall prepare for God a pathway. R


  • Second Reading: Ephesians 1:3-14

In Jesus, all of God’s plans and purposes have been made known as heaven and earth are united in Christ. Through Jesus, we have been chosen as God’s children and have been promised eternal salvation.

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 

4just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. 

5He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, 

6to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 

7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 

8that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight 

9he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 

10as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 

11In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 

12so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 

13In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 

14this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

  • Gospel: Mark 6:14-29

As Jesus and his disciples begin to attract attention, Mark recalls the story of John the Baptist’s martyrdom. Like John, Jesus and his disciples will also suffer at the hands of those opposed to the gospel of salvation.

14King Herod heard of  for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” 

15But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 

16But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”
17For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. 

18For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 

19And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 

20for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. 

21But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. 

22When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” 

23And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” 

24She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” 

25Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 

26The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. 

27Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, 

28brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. 

29When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.



July 11, 2021

Pentecost 7

Mark 6:14-29

Rev. Adam Snook
Assistant to the Bishop, Eastern Synod

Herod the king heard about these things, because the name of Jesus had become well-known. Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and this is why miraculous powers are at work through him.” Others were saying, “He is Elijah.” Still others were saying, “He is a prophet like one of the ancient prophets.” But when Herod heard these rumors, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised to life.”

He said this because Herod himself had arranged to have John arrested and put in prison because of Herodias, the wife of Herod’s brother Philip. Herod had married her, but John told Herod, “It’s against the law for you to marry your brother’s wife!” So, Herodias had it in for John. She wanted to kill him, but she couldn’t. This was because Herod respected John. He regarded him as a righteous and holy person, so he protected him. John’s words greatly confused Herod, yet he enjoyed listening to him.

Finally, the time was right. It was on one of Herod’s birthdays, when he had prepared a feast for his high-ranking officials and military officers and Galilee’s leading residents. Herod’s daughter Herodias came in and danced, thrilling Herod and his dinner guests. The king said to the young woman, “Ask me whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.” Then he swore to her, “Whatever you ask I will give to you, even as much as half of my kingdom.”

She left the banquet hall and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?”

“John the Baptist’s head,” Herodias replied.

Hurrying back to the ruler, she made her request: “I want you to give me John the Baptist’s head on a plate, right this minute.” Although the king was upset, because of his solemn pledge and his guests, he didn’t want to refuse her. So he ordered a guard to bring John’s head. The guard went to the prison, cut off John’s head, brought his head on a plate, and gave it to the young woman, and she gave it to her mother. When John’s disciples heard what had happened, they came and took his dead body and laid it in a tomb.[1]


Torah-defying decisions. Confrontation. Grudges. Admiration. An arrest. A questionable birthday party (even before you start to read between those scriptural lines). And ultimately the beheading of John the Baptist.

Needless to say—that there is A LOT going on in today’s gospel reading; a seemingly odd text perched precariously between the sending of the disciples…and their eventual return just in time for the feeding of the 5,000.

The good news—is that you’re certainly not alone if the gruesome details of today’s text have left you scratching your head—baffled as to their meaning. After all—even Matthew and Luke (the first to grapple with these words) struggled themselves. Matthew’s gospel shortens this account into little more than a footnote—and Luke’s gospel omits it altogether. Maybe we should heed their advice!

But Mark (on the other hand)—usually known for his brevity and immediacy—oddly chooses to luxuriate over the grim details surrounding John’s death for sixteen bleak verses.

Add to that the reality that this is the only story Mark tells in which Jesus doesn’t make an appearance…it is, for literary purposes, a strange sort of flashback…and (to put it bluntly) it just doesn’t fit.

I think that we are justified in our bafflement…our confusion…and our feelings of disorientation this morning.

BUT, and to paraphrase theologian Emerson Powery [2] – when we relegate these odd verses to nothing more than an interlude we’d prefer to sweep under the rug…we actually deprive ourselves of the rich opportunity to explore just how intimately the manner of John’s death is tied to Jesus’ mission—(and to go one step further) how intimately it is tied to the broader mission of God’s church!

Wise advice!

And so what do we do, then, with this Torah-defying…confrontational…grudge-filled…arresting …and gruesome story? What do we do with this portion of scripture which leaves us feeling quite unsettled? What do we do if, instead of sweeping this precariously perched text under the proverbial rug, we choose to dive deeply into the depths of its purpose?

Well—it’s going to involve some truth-telling. In fact, as David Lose[3] cautions: if we’re truly going to dwell with this text, we’re going to need to tell the truth…not once…but twice.

The first truth—is the reality that the kingdom Jesus preached, and the kingdom to which we have also been called to proclaim in our own time—doesn’t fit neatly into a world whose cultural presumptions set wealth…status…power…and fame over and above the work of justice…mercy…love…and grace. As hard as it may be to read these sixteen verses of Mark’s gospel—we need this story…because this story, is a part of our story. We know—ever more profoundly—that not only did Jesus meet with political obstacles…but so did his followers, and so did (and will) his radical message in a world so penchant for the status quo.

Or…and to put it another way…the gospel is transformational! But seldom does such transformation come easy.

And that brings us to the second truth with which we need to dwell this Sunday—the profound promise that God’s story doesn’t end with the gruesome demise of a beloved prophet. True, that in the story of John’s beheading…we are confronted with the realities of a counter-cultural gospel in a status-quo world: but it’s not the whole story.

In fact…maybe that’s why Mark tucked it so oddly mid-way through his sixth chapter—to remind us that God’s story doesn’t end here!!! Far from it!!

Jesus came:

…to make possible more than just the pursuit of wealth, power and fame;

…to announce a different way of being…and a different way of loving…and a different way of living in God’s world;

…to proclaim the assurance of a God who knows our pains…and the assurance of a God who has felt our pains;

Jesus came to show us that there is something more…more than heartache…more than power …more than struggle…more than division.

Jesus came to show us life—and life abundantly!

You know, it occurs to me that the sixteen verses with which we have dwelt today…they are not meant to scare us. Not at all! I wonder, if perhaps, they may be meant to free us—free us to know that even in the face of all that seems simply insurmountable…that even then God has written us into a story the likes of which we never could have imagined. A story bigger…and a story more beautiful…than we could ever comprehend.

And so let me ask you a question: how do these two truth manifest in your life? Better yet, how do these truths manifest themselves in the life of our church?

How have we…do we…and will we experience the realities of a counter-cultural gospel in a status-quo world?

It’s a tough question, I know!

But even more important—is the question of how we’ve been freed to participate in the still (and in the ever) unfolding story of God’s love in and of God’s love for this world!

Seeing the hungry—how does God’s mercy call us to set an extra place at the table?

Hearing the lonely—how does God’s compassion call us to be companions to one another?

Witnessing the pain of racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, gender-bias, and discrimination—how does God’s love call us to be allies in the work of justice?

Standing on land that does not belong to us, while our indigenous siblings still weep for their lost ones—how does God’s stillness call us to stop…and to listen…and to commit ourselves to the work of reconciliation?

Gathering inside walls that for far too long have turned people away—how does God’s example of radical welcome call us to live fully into that same hospitality?

As people—I hope that we will choose to wrestle with these questions. But as a church—I PRAY that we will. For in loosening ourselves from the fears of the first truth—we will be freed to live more fully into the second.

In her book, Learning to Walk in the Dark, author and professor Barbara Brown Taylor writes,

“The only real difference between anxiety and excitement was my willingness to let go of fear”[4]

To me, there is something strikingly beautiful about this quote that drives to the heart of the matter this morning. Christ has freed us, dear siblings and partners on this journey. Christ has freed us to let go of our fear: the fears of being ignored or judged…the fears of being disregarded or side-eyed…the fears of being thought strange or even dangerous to the status quo…and to embrace the excitement (THE EXCITEMENT) made possible by a gospel that beckons us out of those anxious places…and into the possibility of a world freed to live more fully all because the love of God has been whispered into its ears.

May we, the church, hear those whispers!

May we sense the Spirits leading!

And may we go forth, confident in the promise that the one who first wrote us into this story…continues to call us away from fear—and into a world set free.

For this we say—Thanks be to God.




Bottom of Form

HYMN OF THE DAY  VU 296  This Is God’s Wondrous World 




Let us come before the triune God in prayer.

Holy parent, you welcome your people into one family and gather all things to yourself. Bestow your grace upon your beloved church, lavish your wisdom upon us, and redeem us from our faults, that by our witness all might praise your glory.

Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Awesome Creator, you steadfastly tend to the smallest of seeds and the mightiest of sycamore trees. Spring up green growth from the earth, nourish the growth of fruit, grain, and other crops, and bless the work of farmers and laborers.

Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

God of the oppressed, turn the ears of those who are in power to the voices of prophets in our own day. Protect those who speak difficult truths when it is risky to do so.

Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

God of strength, you are near to those who endure difficulty. Comfort all who are survivors of violence, we pray especially for our Indigenous and Muslim sisters and brothers; guard the refugee and the immigrant, and protect all those who are victims of prejudice and discrimination.

Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.



God of love, we pray for this ecumenical shared ministry and all those who worship. We pray especially for those whose efforts behind the scenes often go unnoticed, or whose gifts may be taken for granted; for the custodian, secretaries and treasures, church members who willingly maintain the building and grounds, our church Board and Councils, for those who decorate the sanctuary for the seasons and celebrations of the church, for all who pray for our pastor and the ministries of this parish.

Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

God of healing, we pray for our family members, friends and community members that you may give comfort and wholeness: for Lil Schieman, Larry McCrady, Mike Froese, Brooke Alexiuk, Dwayne, Tracy Skoglund, Matthew Grossman, Lorraine & Walter Pokrant. You know their need.  We trust in your healing.

            Lord, in your mercy,

            hear our prayer.

We thank you, God, for the saints, martyrs, and prophets who have died in the faith. We remember those in this community who have recently died. United with them as God’s children, assure us that we are yours forever.

Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

We lift our prayers to you, O God, trusting in your abiding grace.




SENDING SONG  VU 240  Praise, My Soul, The God of Heaven


The blessing of God, who provides for us, feeds us, and journeys with us, ☩ be upon you now and forever.  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 Noncommercial Share Alike Licence. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/byncsa/2.5/ca.
[1] Common English Bible
[2] Powery, Emmerson. Commentary on Mark 6:14-29. Working Preacher. Available HERE
[3] Lose, David. Commentary on Mark 6:14-29. In The Meantime. Available HERE
[4] Taylor, Barbara Brown. Learning To Walk In The Dark. Harper One. (2014) P. 82