September 13, 2020 Service

ORDER OF SERVICE FOR SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2020

FIFTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST / CREATION TIME 1

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.

I am happy to announce that in-person worship will resume at the Morris United Church on Sunday, September 20th at 11:00 AM.  Since we are still in the midst of a pandemic and desire to keep each other as safe as possible, we ask that you sanitize your hands when you enter the building.  Masks are mandatory as is social distancing.  We will speak the liturgy but will not be singing the songs.  The musicians will play the music.  You are invited to hum along, move with the beat and meditate on the words! 

We realize this is not our desired way to worship, yet worship does not depend upon our outward appearance and distancing.  It is our connection to God and each other that sets our hearts and minds to praise and worship our glorious creator!

If you are not feeling well, we request that you remain at home and continue to worship online or with the printed service.  We understand if you do not feel secure about in-person worship and choose to worship from home.

However you choose to worship, know that we are worshipping together and that we continue to pray for each other and look out for our neighbour.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

BEFORE WE WORSHIP, WE REFLECT…

Being a disciple requires an expansive perspective on forgiveness. Today our perspective is broadened by the good news that God’s forgiveness is not based on our idea of fairness, but rather on abundant, unimaginable grace. God “does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities”. The king forgives our entire debt, no matter how enormous it is. We also are challenged to stretch our perspective and forgive each other. With Peter, we learn to stop keeping score.

It’s not an easy thing to do. Again, and again we fall back on limited human understandings of what is “fair.” Looking at the story of Joseph and his brothers, it’s easy for us to say that his brothers really didn’t deserve forgiveness. Even their plea for forgiveness is dishonest and manipulative—have they really repented? Joseph takes the wider view and realizes that it isn’t his brothers’ intentions that matter, but God’s. God’s forgiveness is much greater than what is fair, what we deserve.

So, what does this new, broadened perspective look like in the lives of Christians and congregations? Paul provides a pragmatic glimpse: “Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them”. If all are truly welcomed by God, we are called to share the good news of that welcome in all we say and do.

Call to Worship

How blessed we are that God forgives us and loves us!
For all those times when we have fallen short of what God would have us be, we have been forgiven.
God makes us new in God’s Spirit!

Now is the time to joyfully accept the newness of life which God offers to us.
Come, let us worship and be thankful.

P: Let us open our hearts to the peace and joy of God. AMEN.

CHILDREN’S SONG:    WOV 673  I’m So Glad Jesus Lifted Me

CENTERING PRAYER

O Spirit, you swept through the ages: be among us now to fill us with radical amazement at the wonder of creation and creativity. Call to us that we may hear your voice in beauty, in witness, in song, and in prayer, and respond with all that we have to offer: body, mind, soul, and spirit. Whisper to us when we doubt your goodness and despair of hope in a world fraught with signs of destruction, that we may yet hear your still small voice. 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

During worship, at home, in the community and in the world, we hear the word “forgiveness” a lot.  But what, exactly, IS forgiveness, and what does it mean to forgive someone?!  We are told that Jesus forgives our sins, but what exactly does that MEAN?!

        That is a very good, and very deep, question.

        For Jesus, it is important that we be honest when we have used hurtful words and actions against someone else and are truly sorry for those words and actions and ask the person to forgive us.  It is very hard to have a relationship with someone who does not treat others with love and respect. 

        When we are truly sorry and ask for forgiveness, it is as if Jesus has a white board with our angry words and actions on it, and erases them so that the board is clean.  It is as if those words and actions never existed, and we begin to make a sincere effort to improve our words and behaviour from that moment on. 

        To forgive someone means to let go of any anger or feelings of revenge toward that person.   Not everyone asks for forgiveness.  We may think they need to ask for forgiveness, but the truth is, not everyone does.  When that happens, we could stay angry with that person while they just go on their merry way.  When we hang on to our anger, then that person’s words and behaviour begin to have power over us.  Every time we look at them, we feel angry.  Every time we think of them, we feel angry.  This is not how Jesus wants us to live.

Forgiveness is work.  It takes work to let go of negative feelings and thoughts and see the other person and not get angry.  It can take a while, AND, it is worth it.  Who wants to walk around angry, hurt or wanting revenge all the time?! 

Perhaps it would be worth our time to learn helpful ways of sorting out disagreements so that the urge to use angry words and actions would not happen so often.  It would also be worth the effort to admit when our words and actions have been hurtful and ask for forgiveness. 

Life is a lot happier when our relationships with our family and friends are loving, respectful, honest and forgiving.

       

MISSION AND SERVICE

Listening to and discerning the Creator’s plan

Our gifts for Mission & Service support the important work of reconciliation with Indigenous members of The United Church of Canada. One of the programs Mission & Service supports is the National Indigenous Spiritual Gathering. Many Indigenous members met on the territory of the Chippewas of Rama near Orillia, Ontario, in August 2019 to discern and decide on the structure and priorities for the self-determining Indigenous church within the United Church.

This fourth National Indigenous Spiritual Gathering provided opportunities for listening to and discerning the Creator’s plan, visioning, spiritual nurture, mutual accountability, inspiration, education, youth development, and expressing the voice of the Indigenous community on spirituality and ministry.

Using the Biidaabin* (“first light of a new day”) process of education, reflection and discussion, discernment, and decision-making, participants created and named a new national Indigenous church organization, elected a new National Indigenous Council, appointed a National Elders Council, and set priorities for the next triennium. The National Indigenous Council is an intergenerational group that includes two youth leaders.

As the planning team declared in its vision statement, the gathering would “inform, transform, and manifest healing and vitality. This is our act of decolonizing.” This vision and the decisions made at the gathering will help the Indigenous church to speak with a strong voice as its members continue to live into right relations.

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

Gracious God, as we turn to your Word for us, may the Spirit of God rest upon us. Help us to be steadfast in our hearing, in our speaking, in our believing, and in our living. Amen.

Readings and Psalm

First Reading: Genesis 50:15-21

After Jacob’s death the brothers of Joseph begged for forgiveness for the crime they had done against him. You intended to do me harm, Joseph said, but God used this as an opportunity to do good and save many lives.

15Realizing that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers said, “What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong that we did to him?” 16So they approached Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this instruction before he died, 17‘Say to Joseph: I beg you, forgive the crime of your brothers and the wrong they did in harming you.’ Now therefore please forgive the crime of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18Then his brothers also wept, fell down before him, and said, “We are here as your slaves.” 19But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? 20Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. 21So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.” In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them.

Psalm: Psalm 103:1-13

R:  Lord, you are full of compassion and mercy. (Ps. 103:8)

1Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless God’s holy name.
2Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all God’s benefits—
3who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases;
4who redeems your life from the grave and crowns you with steadfast love and mercy; R
5who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.
6O Lord, you provide vindication and justice for all who are oppressed.
7You made known your ways to Moses and your works to the children of Israel.
8Lord, you are full of compassion and mercy, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love; R
9you will not always accuse us, nor will you keep your anger forever.
10You have not dealt with us according to our sins, nor repaid us according to our iniquities.
11For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is your steadfast love for those who fear you.
12As far as the east is from the west, so far have you removed our transgressions from us.
13As a father has compassion for his children, so you have compassion for those who fear you, O Lord. R

Second Reading: Romans 14:1-12

This Christian community has significant struggles with diversity. Here Paul helps us understand that despite different practices in worship and personal piety, we do not judge one another. All Christians belong to the Lord Jesus Christ who died for all of us and will judge each of us.

1Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. 2Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. 3Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. 4Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

  5Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. 6Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also, those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God.

  7We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. 8If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

  10Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11For it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,

  and every tongue shall give praise to God.”

12So then, each of us will be accountable to God.

Gospel: Matthew 18:21-35

When Peter asks about the limits of forgiveness, Jesus responds with a parable that suggests human forgiveness should mirror the unlimited mercy of God.

21Peter came and said to , “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but I tell you, seventy-seven times.

  23“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; 25and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. 26So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. 28But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. 31When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. 32Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ 34And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. 35So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

SERMON:

It all began with the question, “If another member sins against me, how often should I forgive?  As many as seven times?”  He obviously expected Jesus to say, “Splendid, Peter!  You could not possibly act more nobly than that.”  After all, Peter had some kind of right to feel that he was doing well, for there was the Rabbinic saying, “If a neighbour transgresses once, forgive them; if a second time, forgive them; if a third time, forgive them; if a fourth time, do not forgive them.”  What Peter had done was to take the Rabbinic limit of forgiveness, multiply it by two, add one, and then sit back and say, “Am I not a wonderful person to be willing to forgive like that?”  Jesus put the answer in the form of this parable.  The point of the parable is this:  Those whom God has forgiven are obligated to forgive others.

The Christian understanding of forgiveness involves two parts, confession and absolution.  Forgiveness comes from the repentant heart (emphasis on repentant) the sharing of what has caused the individual to be repentant, and the proclamation of the forgiveness of the individual’s sin through Christ.  You will notice, however, that this parable seems to lack the repentance part of forgiveness.  Notice too, that the king forgives the debt of the one who owes an unpayable amount.  It is as if it never existed.

Now my question is this:  Was the first slave truly repentant, or was the slave, like Joseph’s brothers, lying to save himself.  Yes, I realize this is a parable and not a true story.  However, Jesus is a master storyteller and he always has a surprise twist up his sleeve, so, humour me!  If the latter is true, then how can the slave be forgiven?  And if the slave and Joseph’s brothers could be forgiven, then is repentance necessary?  The answer, of course, is yes.  Yes, the slave was probably more concerned about losing his life and property and it was this fear, more than repentance, which caused him to promise to pay back an impossible debt.  Yes, even though this slave was not, from outward appearances, repentant, this individual could be forgiven.  And yes, repentance is necessary — it is necessary for reconciliation, which is the fullest expression of forgiveness.

Here I stress the point of the parable.  Those whom God has forgiven are obligated to forgive others.  Those for whom God has forgiven much, such as overwhelming debts, are to be as generous in the forgiving of the debts of others.  To put limits on God’s forgiveness is to place limits on the forgiveness we receive from God.

Linda Maloney, in her commentary on the Genesis text, sums up the situation beautifully.  She writes: 

“Joseph’s brothers are so treacherous and mean spirited, they can never fully believe that Joseph is a better person than themselves.  They cannot trust anyone, because they know themselves to be untrustworthy.  Similarly, the slave in the Gospel illustrates by his behavior toward his fellow servant that he is a treacherous man.  We learn from his actions that he has not really experienced his master’s forgiveness.  He does not believe he has been forgiven, since his own actions illustrate that, in his heart, he does not acknowledge the possibility of forgiveness.  The vicious circle of pitiless violence perpetrated by people who have never experienced pity or compassion is an all-too-familiar phenomenon in our own day.  Jesus’ call is to break the chain of violence by relentless forgiveness.”

This is the crucial point.  You no doubt have heard people say, “I know God has forgiven me, but I can’t seem to forgive myself.”  Well, we are not in the self-forgiving business.  Right here is where I would say to such an individual, “Is it that you can’t forgive yourself, or is it that you have difficulty accepting the fact that God has forgiven you?”  We cannot forgive ourselves.  We can forgive others who have broken their relationship with us, but as for ourselves, it is God, through the mercy of Christ, who forgives us.  Our struggle is believing that God can forgive what to us is a debt that cannot be repaid. 

I remember watching a documentary on the Klu Klux Klan.  In this film it showed footage of when two Klan members chased down a young black man like an animal, tortured him, killed him, mutilated his body, and hung it from the tree in front of the house where he and his mother lived.  The mother of this man was remarkable.  In her heart she was able to forgive the two young men who had killed her son.  She most certainly would never forget what they did to her child, but she truly was able to forgive them.  Not only that, but she continued to pray that the hearts of the two men who had killed her son would be turned around.  And they were.  The murderers later visited this woman, confessed their guilt and shame, and asked her forgiveness.  She told them she  had already forgiven them, yet for their sakes, she told them to their faces that they were forgiven, and then she embraced them.  Reconciliation occurred.  The fullest fruit of forgiveness blossomed. 

You see, it is possible to forgive an unrepentant sinner, yet it is very difficult to maintain a relationship with someone who is unrepentant.  Therefore, the Church stresses repentance in order that relationships, not only amongst church members, but between the members and God, are kept whole so that the grace and forgiveness of God may flow freely.

“If you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart,” says Jesus, “God will be hard pressed to forgive you.”  Have you looked at your relationships lately?  Have you looked in your heart lately?  Have you seen relationships that need to have the Gospel and its forgiving word proclaimed?  Have you been the messenger?  Tough words to swallow.  But for God, relationships are sacred.  Love is sacred.  And forgiveness, well, it is nothing short of amazing.  Amen.

HYMN OF THE MONTH:  More Voices #12  Come Touch Our Hearts

PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION:

Drawn together in the compassion of God, we pray for the church, the world, and all those in need.

You welcome us when we are weak in faith. Uphold your church throughout the world; make it a place of welcome.

Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

The heights of the heavens show us the vastness of your steadfast love. Have compassion on your creation. Where human selfishness has brought ruin and destruction, we look to you to heal, renew, and redeem your world.

Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Make your ways known to the nations. Speak kindness to our bitter grudges. Settle our hearts when we want to settle accounts with violence. Bless our leaders with patience and wisdom.

Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Bring healing and justice wherever harm is dealt. Provide vindication for all who are oppressed. Free victims of human trafficking and forced labor; deliver all who are bound by debt. Feed all who hunger, and guard refugees fleeing famine, poverty, and war.

Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Teach us to forgive. Remind us that you do not always accuse us. Still our tongues when we are tempted to pass judgment and argue over opinions. Make this congregation a community of mercy for one another and for all our neighbors.

Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Tend to all in need of your compassion. Shelter all who are vulnerable in body, mind, or spirit.  We bring before you the Dreger family, Art Ganske; Mike Froese; Brooke Alexiuk; Tracy Skoglund; Carolyn & Douglas; Nicole and family; Gordon Dreger; the family of Diane Dreger; Debbie & Dwayne.  Grant them solace and healing.

Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Whether we live or whether we die, we are yours. We thank you for those who have showed us faithfulness, for the knees that taught us how to bow to you and the tongues that taught us to praise you.

Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

All these things and whatever else you see that we need, we entrust to your mercy; through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

THE LORD’S PRAYER

BENEDICTION:

May the blessing of Jesus, who announced God’s righteousness, of the Creator, who fills Earth with beauty, and of the Spirit, who nurtures awe, bless, inspire, and empower you. Amen.

SENDING SONG:  VU #679  Let There Be Light

 

 

 

 
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