ORDER OF SERVICE FOR SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 2020

TWENTY-FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST / CHILDREN’S SUNDAY

 

Due to copywrite 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.

People of God:

Now, more than ever, in the midst of a provincial Code Red, we need to “…encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing”, states the Apostle Paul!  Now is the time for regular phone calls, waving at one another while walking, praying for each other, showing acts of kindness…  Rather than focusing on what we cannot do, let us focus on what we are able to do:  write down a list of those things for which we are thankful; look through photo albums and rejoice at the memories you have made and the life you have lived; start a project; finish a project – whatever it is, do it with joy in your heart and thankful words on your lips!  Do not give in to despair!  Focus on God and the strength you have been given to overcome!  History has taught us of the resiliency of the human race.  We have survived pandemics before, we will do it again!  So, turn up your favourite music and sing as loudly as you can and let God know – and possibly your neighbour – that while there is breath in your body, you will celebrate this day that God has made!

 

QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”  – Albert Einstein

 “Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.” – Christopher Reeve

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.”

 – Vivian Greene

BEFORE WE WORSHIP, WE REFLECT…

Linked with the reading from 1 Thessalonians and Psalm 90, Jesus’ parable of the talents invites a full-hearted response to God’s lavish gifts of faith and purpose: “Use ‘em if you’ve got ‘em!” The people of God are meant to be engaged, alert, and ready to share what we have received from our prodigally (wastefully) generous God. While the parable has sometimes been interpreted in the context of judgment, a careful reading also spotlights the beauty of the faith-generated response to God’s lavish grace.

 

Call to Worship

(The line “Christ plays in ten thousand places” is drawn from the Gerald Manley Hopkins poem “As Kingfishers Catch Fire.”)

When children play on the streets of Kenya and Afghanistan, Tuktoyaktuk and Alert, and here in Morris,

Christ plays in ten thousand places.

When children create their own spaces for mystery and wonder,

Christ plays in ten thousand places.

When children play outdoors for the pleasure and joy of being able to,

Christ plays in ten thousand places.

 

When children tumble and chase, play-fight and climb trees,

Christ plays in ten thousand places.

We gather in worship celebrating in God’s eye what in God’s eye we are — Christ—

for Christ plays in ten thousand places.

CHILDREN’S SONG:    He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands

CENTERING PRAYER

Creator God, you have made each of us in your image, and yet we fail to reflect your love and justice.

You have created every child in your image, and yet we don’t treat every child as a precious reflection of you.  We see some children as valued treasures, and others as lost causes.  We invest our time, money, and hopes in some children, while we squander the great potential of others.  Open our eyes, we pray, to see that every child is made in your image and belongs to you.  Help us to love, protect, and nurture all children.  We pray these things in the name of the One who came to us as a child. 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

Here is a link to a video of the Sesame Street book, The Monster At The End Of This Book.  Watch the video first and then we will continue ?. https://youtu.be/lo1y2X7kUtY

Maybe you don’t think about the end of the world much, or the end of your life much, although, maybe you have had a grandparent die, or someone close to you die, or know someone who has.  Death can be scary.  There is so much we just don’t know!  And yet, we do.  As a pastor, I have sat with people who are dying.  I have sat and held their hand until their last breath.  I will tell you this:  the actual moment of death is very peaceful.  It is not scary at all.  Poor Grover was so scared to have the pages turned because he was afraid of the monster at the end of the book – who turned out to be himself! 

Yes, when we think of our grandparents not being with us any more, or anyone else we love, we can feel scared.  I will tell you this:  when we die, we are with Jesus.  Jesus who loves us, forgives us, hugs us close and takes away all fear, all sadness, all pain.  Like Grover, once we come to the end of the book, the end of our life, we discover that death is not scary at all.  We will know great joy! 

Can I prove this?  Nope.  Do I know this is true?  Yep.  How do I know?  I know because I have had so many experiences in my life where Jesus was present in other people that I could feel the love surrounding me.  Can I prove this?  Nope.  Do I trust this?  With my life.  That is what faith is – trusting in the promises that God has given us through Jesus.  Not sure about all this?  I will tell you this:  trust God anyway!  God will surprise you!

 

           

MISSION AND SERVICE

Our gifts for Mission & Service provide opportunities for children to explore faith in a safe and fun environment.

     Our gifts for Mission & Service provide opportunities for children to explore how they can change the world, one step at a time.

     High Country United Church in Mono, Ontario, became a place of fun and laughter when it hosted the GO Project Adventure Camp for children in Grades 2 to 7. Children explored their faith and justice through unique service projects. One program involved shopping at a local grocery store and then delivering the food and diapers to the Orangeville Food Bank. Participants’ eyes were opened to what it means to need a food bank in their community. 

     This program is presented as a day camp experience with trained camp staff facilitating. It offers fun camp experiences, such as games, songs, crafts, small groups, delicious food, and a fun time in a safe, intentional community. It is a great way to engage the children of your congregation in what it means to be called to love our neighbours.

     Thank you for your gifts for Mission & Service that provide opportunities for children to explore faith in a fun and safe environment.

     If Mission & Service giving is already a regular part of your life, thank you so much! If you have not given, please join me in making Mission & Service giving a regular part of your life of faith. Loving our neighbour is at the heart of our Mission & Service.

PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION

Righteous God, you created the earth and all its peoples and you give us all that we have. Inspire us to serve you with justice and wisdom, help us to listen to your word with our hearts as well as our ears and prepare us for the joy of the day of your coming, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Readings and Psalm

First Reading: Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18

Zephaniah (like the prophet Amos in last week’s first reading) presents the day of the Lord as one of judgment and wrath. Descriptions of the last day in the New Testament include details taken from Old Testament accounts of the day of the Lord.

     7Be silent before the Lord God!  For the day of the Lord is at hand; the Lord has prepared a sacrifice, and has consecrated the guests.  12At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will punish the people who rest complacently on their dregs, those who say in their hearts, “The Lord will not do good, nor will God do harm.”  13Their wealth shall be plundered, and their houses laid waste.  Though they build houses, they shall not inhabit them; though they plant vineyards, they shall not drink wine from them.
     14The great day of the Lord is near, near and hastening fast; the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter, the warrior cries aloud there.  15That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, 16a day of trumpet blast and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the lofty battlements.
   17I will bring such distress upon people that they shall walk like the blind; because they have sinned against the Lord, their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung.  18Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the Lord’s wrath; in the fire of God’s passion the whole earth shall be consumed; for a full, a terrible end God will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.

 

 

Psalm 90:1-12

R:  So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom. (Ps. 90:12)

1Lord, you have been our refuge from one generation to another. 

2Before the mountains were brought forth, or the land and the earth were born, from age to age you are God. 

3You turn us back to the dust and say, “Turn back, O children of earth.” 

4For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past and like a watch in the night; R
5you sweep them away like a dream, they fade away suddenly like the grass: 

6in the morning it is green and flourishes; in the evening it is dried up and withered.
7For we are consumed by your anger; we are afraid because of your wrath. 

8Our iniquities you have set before you, and our secret sins in the light of your countenance. R
9When you are angry, all our days are gone; we bring our years to an end like a sigh. 

10The span of our life is seventy years, perhaps in strength even eighty; yet the sum of them is but labor and sorrow, for they pass away quickly and we are gone. 

11Who regards the power of your wrath?  Who rightly fears your indignation? 

12So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom. R

Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Though we do not know and cannot calculate the day of Christ’s return, we live faithfully in the here and now as we anticipate the day when we will be given eternal salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. 2For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3When they say, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! 4But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; 5for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. 6So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; 7for those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. 8But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 9For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. 11Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.

Gospel: Matthew 25:14-30

Jesus tells a parable about his second coming, indicating that it is not sufficient merely to maintain things as they are. Those who await his return should make good use of the gifts that God has provided them.

 14“For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ 21His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 22And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ 23His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 24Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return, I would have received what was my own with interest. 28So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”

SERMON:

“The point, ladies and gentlemen, is that greed, for lack of a better word, is good.  Greed is right.  Greed works.  Greed clarifies, cuts through and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.”  So said Michael Douglas as the character, Gordon Gekko, in the film, Wall Street.

Can I hear, rightly, today’s Gospel parable in a context of greed and a money economy?  Parables can have different meanings depending on the context in which an evangelist placed it, so what message am I getting today?  Usually one is given to understand this parable in terms of initiative and taking a risk.  Responsible action that pleases the master.  But in a suggested context of greed and within a ‘myth of endless economic progress,’ how might I hear the compliment, “Well done!”?  How grasp the different results of money management–share what joy?

The Gordon Gekko character points out that greed can be focused on any number of ideals.  In the game called life, the object is to make yourself happy.  Greed becomes the mechanism to get what you want.  It’s also about becoming aware of your resources and spending them in ways that bring you the most satisfaction.  One can have greed for life, love, independence, money – whatever.  Greediness is next to godliness, as far as passion goes.  It’s not just about money.  You may be the greatest person, have a good work ethic, be kind-hearted, but at the end of the day money talks.  With money in the bank anything is possible.

Sadly, we have seen the proof of this statement all too often.  Christians get caught up in this way of thinking.  It leads to a theology of glory.  Or, as Christians we don’t do our homework, and as people watching our dollars, we often go for the bargains, which usually means the cheapest items, totally unaware as to why they are the cheapest.  I will tell you why.

A core part of the global market is what might be called the “Nike Economy”:  companies that play countries against one another while seeking subcontractors with the lowest wages and conditions.  Consider Ava-Line Company of Whippany, New Jersey, a lapel-pin manufacturing firm that was named one of Entrepreneur Magazine’s “Hottest New Small Businesses in America” in 1999.  When Ava-Line’s president Irwin Gordon was asked by Business Week to explain his success, he told the truth, and I quote:

“We have a factory in China where we have 250 people.  We own them; it’s our factory.  We pay them $40 a month and they work 28 days a month.  They work from 7 AM to 11 PM, with two breaks for lunch and dinner.  They eat all together, 16 people to a room, stacked on four bunks to a corner.  Generally, they’re young girls that come from the hills.” 

(John Sweeney, President AFL-CIO, CTA/Spirituality Justice Reprint, July 1999.)

 

So, is a “Well done!” due to that which “has built one of America’s hottest companies” by keeping young girls in bondage and paying them nine cents an hour to work fourteen-hour shifts, seven day a week?

Along with initiative, taking a risk, responsible action, there needs to be discernment, a sense of value, justice, depth and compassion.  That is why more and more investment companies are looking at ethical funds.  But surely there must be more to this parable than money.

Suppose the talents represented life in God.  What then?  God has given each of us the extraordinary gift of life, love and self in Jesus Christ, with the promise that as we invest ourselves in Christ, Christ will invest himself further in us.  We will grow, mature and become like him.

This parable is a clear statement about the economy of the life in God’s reign and an invitation.  To the extent that we invest ourselves in God’s reign, we will know the power and joy of God’s presence. We will “enter into the joy of our master.”  To the extent that we bury the gift in the ground, we will one day discover that what had been entrusted to us has now been taken away.   We will awaken unsure of what we believe or if we believe in anything.  Faith employed, engaged in and invested in grows.  Bury it and it is taken away.

Dirk Lange, Assistant General Secretary for Ecumenical Relations with The Lutheran World Federation in Geneva, Switzerland, sums up the judgement element of this parable well.  He writes: 

“What then can be said about the third servant? The judgment still appears to be very harsh. However, if we consider the parable as a parable of invitation, perhaps his plight takes on a different perspective. If, as I have argued, the master is inviting, continually inviting into superabundance, grace, and joy (which is nothing other than inviting into discipleship) then the only conclusion that can be drawn is the third servant is not able to hear or accept the invitation. The third servant has not only hidden the talent, he has buried himself. The third servant is not so much condemned as he condemns himself to a place — a life — that knows not joy, that knows only darkness and wailing and grinding of teeth. This place, as such a life, is self-created.”  (Dirk G. Lange, Textweek, November 16, 2008)

Invest yourself in the one who has invested his life in you.  Taste and see what the risen Christ can do in and through you.  Amen.

 

HYMN OF THE MONTH:  MV #127  I Saw The Rich Ones

PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION:

Children play to understand the world around them.  Let us pray that adults remember their play and commit to supporting children’s play.  May we refuse to dismiss play as frivolous or a luxury or attempt to restrict it through fear.

God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Children’s play is fundamental to survival, well-being, health and development.  Let us pray that all children have time, space, and licence to play.

God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

War, violence, discrimination, abuse, exploitative labour, water and food shortages, and other toxic stressors are obstacles to play.  Let us pray that adults take action to reduce these and protect the right of children to be children.

God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Children need a play environment that gives them the feeling that the world is full of things to explore, where space and resources evoke imaginative play.  Let us pray for the provision of safe playgrounds for all children and especially for child refugees, disabled children, and those from minority groups. May safe play space be restored quickly following natural disasters and emergency situations.

God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Children, as children, have a different way of seeing, feeling, and acting in the world. This comes alive in their play.  Let us pray that in supporting children’s right to play, we pay attention not simply to the outward expressions of play, but to the conditions in which “playfulness” thrives.

God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Children use play to make order in a chaotic world.  Let us pray for children whose daily lives are chaotic, unpredictable, or violent.

God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

All children play.  Let us pray for the children we hold close to our heart.

God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

God, we are all children at heart.  We love to play, laugh, be reckless.  The older we get, the more the memories of our youth mean to us.  As adults, we grieve when the child in us is ill and can no longer play.  We pray for our family members, friends and community members who are ill in body mind or spirit and can not enjoy life they way they would like to.  We pray for Mike Froese, Brooke Alexiuk, Tracy Skoglund, Carolyn & Douglas; Gordon Dreger; Debbie & Dwayne; Nicole; Sandy Lange; the Bisson family.  Grant comfort, healing and strength. 

God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Jesus, you told the disciples to let the children come to you.  You embraced them and blessed them.  Remind us that children are our present, not our future.  Remind us that we need to include our children now, embrace them now, teach them that you are an important part of their life, now, so that they will continue to walk in your ways until their life’s end.  Grant this, Jesus, we ask you.  Amen.

THE LORD’S PRAYER

BENEDICTION:

Go into the world: Dance, laugh, sing and create.

We go with the assurance of your blessing, O God.

Go into the world:  Risk, explore, discover and love.

We go with the assurance of your grace, O God.

Go into the world:  Believe, hope, struggle, and remember.

We go with the assurance of your love, O God.  Thanks be to God!

(Assembly, Uniting Church in Australia.  Used with permission. Also reprinted in Celebrate God’s Presence.)

 

SENDING SONG: WOV #722  Halleluiah!  We Sing Your Praises

 

 

 

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