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 favorite hymns and listen for God’s voice. Those who have internet may find the songs on YouTube.


I know some people believe impartiality is key, and it’s necessary in some situations, but in others – if something is so fundamentally wrong, why do we have to make out we’re impartial?

~Stacey Dooley


     One of the slogans that has been printed on the shirts of employees at the home-organization chain The Container Store is “Contain Yourself.” The idea is that the merchandise the store provides can give customers the ability to bring order to their physical spaces. When Jesus heals the deaf man with a speech impediment, he tells him and his friends not to tell anyone. Contain yourselves! But their encounter with Jesus is so transformative there is nothing they can do to contain their enthusiastic proclamation. In what ways do we contain ourselves when it comes to sharing our faith? How might our works unleash our faith in ways that bring people into compelling encounters with Jesus, experiences they will not be able to contain?

     The waters of baptism wash away all distinctions. Like streams breaking forth in the desert, these waters surprise us with mercy in unexpected places. These waters open our eyes, unstop our ears, and loose our tongues to see, hear, and speak God’s partiality for the poor, the weak, and the outcast. Baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, the Spirit fills us with faith—a faith active in showing mercy that knows no limits.

     Around the table, rich and poor, haughty and humble, all who gather receive a feast fit for the family of God. All are honored and all are fed, because the Lord is the maker of them all.


We are called here this morning to learn of Christ’s healing love.
Help us, O Lord, to learn your lessons of compassion.
Every day there are many ways in which we can offer help to others.
Help us, O Lord, to be ready to reach out to all in need.
Come, let us worship the One who prepares us for service.
Let us sing our songs of praise to the One who has healed us. AMEN.




Gracious God, throughout the ages you transform sickness into health and death into life. Open us to the power of your presence, and make us a people ready to proclaim your promises to the whole world, through Jesus Christ, our healer and Lord.  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.


     In today’s scripture reading from James, he asks the people whom they serve, Jesus, or the world.  In other words, what does your behavior tell others about your belief in Jesus?  People pay attention to these things!

     When I was in middle school, one of my friends was being bullied by my next-door neighbor and her little gang.  My friend was a tiny person and very shy, and not able to defend herself.  I knew my neighbour would back down if I showed up because I stood up to her bullying. 

     I went to school early to meet my friend off her bus.  I walked her to her home room, met her and walked with her during recess and stayed with her after school until she was safely on the bus.

     This went on for a while until we were all called into the principal’s office and the situation was sorted out. 

     Afterward, my friend asked me why I became her body guard.  I told her that she was my friend, and that is what friends did for each other.

     Truth be told, I didn’t even think about it.  I just showed up early at school.  I believe it was Jesus talking to me, asking me to take care of my friend. 

     Following Jesus means that acts of kindness and standing up for people come naturally.  Love needs to be shared and grows stronger with the sharing. 

     Thank you, Jesus, for your love.



Your Faithfulness Is a Blessing: A Message from Sarah Charters, Director of Philanthropy

     “Faithful” is the word that comes to mind when I reflect on how the church lived out God’s call to discipleship through 2020.

     When the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic in March 2020, no one knew what to expect. But one thing was certain―whatever was unfolding would impact those who are already the most vulnerable, and the church would have to pivot quickly even in the midst of our own struggles to continue to live out our call to serve.

     As it turns out, the virus had no borders. But then, our love didn’t either….

     Thank you!

Your Generosity in 2020

Our collective heart has never been stronger. In 2020, total Mission & Service gifts―including congregational giving, will and life insurance gifts, special gifts, and support from the United Church Women―amounted to an amazing $26,471,000.





Gracious  God,  give us  humble,  teachable,  and  obedient  hearts,  that  we  may  receive  what  you have revealed,  and do  what  you have commanded.  Amen.

Readings and Psalm

First Reading: Isaiah 35:4-7a

These verses are a word of hope to the exiles in Babylon. Isaiah 34 portrays God’s vengeance on Edom, Israel’s age-old enemy, which makes the path from Babylon to Zion safe for the exiles’ return. The desert itself will flow with water to give drink to the returning exiles.

4Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
  “Be strong, do not fear!
 Here is your God.
  He will come with vengeance,
 with terrible recompense.
  He will come and save you.”

5Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
  and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
6then the lame shall leap like a deer,
  and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
 For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
  and streams in the desert;
7athe burning sand shall become a pool,
  and the thirsty ground springs of water.

  • Psalm 146

I will praise the Lord as long as I live. (Ps. 146:2)

1Hallelujah!  Praise the Lord, O my soul!
2I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
3Put not your trust in rulers, in mortals in whom there is no help.
4When they breathe their last, they return to earth, and in that day their thoughts perish. R
5Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help, whose hope is in the Lord their God;
6who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them; who keeps promises forever;
7who gives justice to those who are oppressed, and food to those who hunger.
 The Lord sets the captive free.
8The Lord opens the eyes of the blind; the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous. R
9The Lord cares for the stranger;
 the Lord sustains the orphan and widow, but frustrates the way of the wicked.
10The Lord shall reign forever, your God, O Zion, throughout all generations. Hallelujah! R

  • Second Reading: James 2:1-10 [11-13] 14-17

Faithful Christians do not show partiality to the rich and powerful of the world, especially at the expense of the poor and weak. Likewise, faith does not pay mere lip service to God’s will. Instead, a living Christian faith expresses itself in acts of compassion and mercy for those in need.

1My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? 2For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, 3and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” 4have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? 5Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? 6But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? 7Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?

  8You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 9But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. 11For the one who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery but if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. 13For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.

  14What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? 15If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, 16and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 17So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

Gospel: Mark 7:24-37

In Mark’s gospel, encounters with women usually signify turning points in Jesus’ ministry. Here, a conversation with a Syrophoenician woman marks the beginning of his mission to the Gentiles.

24 set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice,25but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. 26Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 28But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” 30So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

  31Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. 34Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”



James 2:1-17

True story:

The woman entered the sanctuary and sat 2/3 of the way up on the left side, right next to the aisle.  She was unkempt, smelled of alcohol and looked out of place.  Her hair was wiry and stuck out at all angles under her hat. 

There was a couple who sat across the aisle from this woman.  The husband turned to his wife and was heard to remark, “And you thought your hair was bad!”

People were aghast, to say the least, yet no one approached the woman nor spoke to her.  Too polite, I guess, or maybe they didn’t want to catch something. 

The service began.  The unknown woman stayed seated.  It appeared she was not familiar with a worship service.  At times, she seemed bored.  Then, the unthinkable happened – she interrupted the sermon!  You could have heard a pin drop, used a knife to cut a slice of tension from the air and handed out nitro glycerine pills so the hearts of the church members would resume beating after the shock!

The pastor took everything in stride.   He came down from the pulpit, sat in the pew ahead of the unknown woman, turned to face her, and proceeded to have a conversation.  After their conversation, as the pastor was heading back up the aisle, the woman stood up and announced, “I have something I want to say.”  The pastor invited her up to the front of the sanctuary, sat down in the front pew, and nodded at her to proceed. 

What was pastor thinking?!  This was insane!  What could this woman possibly say that was worth anything?!

This woman, it turns out, had been a prostitute.  Jesus had come into her life, and her life had been changed for the better.  True, she was still poor, yet she had learned from Jesus that she was loved, was valued by God and that her salvation was secure in the love and acceptance from her Lord.  She wanted everyone in the church to know that Jesus loved them too.  After thanking the pastor for allowing her to share her story, she proceeded to exit the building.  Before reaching the door, the pastor called out, “Friend, what is your name?”  Her reply, “Mary Magdalene.”

The unknown woman was my aunt, Ruth Zinck, in disguise.  The pastor, her husband, my uncle, Rev. Frederick Zinck.  The church was St. Mathew’s Lutheran in Kitchener, ON, and for the stunned congregation, the sermon was only beginning!

The writer of James’ letter makes it very clear that faith without works, is dead.  To that end, many years ago there was a bumper sticker that read:  “If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”  Good question, yet James wants to go deeper than just doing stuff to “prove” you are a follower of Christ.  Once again, we are back to the motivation of the heart.

At the time this letter was written, James’ audience was very much focused on social class.  Sadly, humanity has changed little in 2000+ years.  Power is deferred to the wealthy, and at times, wisdom.  How one attained their wealth, ethically or through the abuse of power, seems not to matter.    Whether one is actually wise, or just bullies people, may not be challenged.  To afford a person of wealth such power and deference is showing that one is not placing Christ first and foremost in one’s life.  To ignore the needs of the widow, orphan, oppressed and poor is to not place Christ first and foremost in one’s life, for Jesus makes it clear that God is always on the side of the poor and oppressed.

Professor Craig Koester, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota, clarifies the direction of James:

People may want to reduce faith to a series of statements that people profess to believe, but for James, faith is what is operative in a person’s life. People act on the basis of what they believe to be true. So if people say one thing but do something else, James would say their actual faith is the faith that underlies their actions. People must believe in something if they are to act at all. The question is whether the faith that actually shapes their lives is faith in Jesus Christ or something else.[1]

Take the situation with my aunt in the sanctuary at St. Matthew’s.  No one approached her.  The congregation stared at her, yet none approached her.  The man’s comment about her hair said more about him than the “unknown woman”.  Her appearance was noted, an assumption made about her worth and possibly her intelligence.  This total avoidance of a neighbor in Christ, a child of God, all happened in the House of The Lord by people who professed their faith in Christ!  Oh, yes, James has a lot to say to those of us in the pew! 

Do I always manage to live as Christ desires me to live?  No.  I struggle with the knowledge of my privileged life, learned prejudices and biases.  I catch myself making assumptions instead of looking at facts or getting to know someone.  Through my blundering, ignorance and sometimes spiritual blindness, I have caused not just offense, but harm.  I have made sincere apologies and where possible, amends.  I have come to dislike the term “politically correct”, when the reality is that choosing to change one’s words and phrases so that they are inclusive and kind is an act of respect toward my neighbor in Christ.  Which is also the point James is trying to get through to those who gather in the name of Christ. 

The good news in this section of John’s letter is that “mercy triumphs over judgment.”  What that means is the living out of loving our neighbor as our-self.  Do you desire a roof over your head, clothes on your back, food on your table, a bed in which to sleep, hot and cold running water, indoor plumbing, laundry facilities on the premises, a vehicle?  Then, in the sincerity of the new commandment from Christ, we truly desire the same for our neighbor no matter where they live, their social or economic status, age, ability, orientation, identity, gender, skin colour, religion or sins of the past.  There is no room for excuses, blaming, ego or political correctness when James is looking into our very hearts.  James wants to know whom it is we serve.  As people who profess their faith in Christ, I believe that is a valid question.

True story:

The pastor was Leo J. Ebinger.  The congregation was St. John Lutheran Church in Ottawa, ON.  The evening Lenten service was in progress.  An older man, inebriated, entered the sanctuary and proceeded to sit down next to the pastor’s wife, Gertrude.  As pastor Ebinger preached, the man punctuated the sermon with exclamations of “He’s right, you know!”  The ushers went to the man and apparently tried to convince him to move to the back pew, which was empty, or possibly asked him to leave.  Memories are vague these many years later.  What is very clear is that pastor Ebinger stopped preaching, addressed the ushers and said, “Leave the man be.”  I’m not sure how Gertrude felt about her pew neighbour, however, she focused on her husband’s sermon, which he finished without further commentary from the visitor.  The service concluded, and the man left with the other members.

Apparently, even an inebriated stranger can recognize the good news of Jesus Christ and celebrate it.

Amen to that.

HYMN OF THE MONTH  MV 45  You Are Holy       


Made children and heirs of God’s promise, we pray for the church, the world, and all in need.

Holy One, you bring your people together in worship. Enliven your church. Guide all evangelists, preachers, prophets, and missionaries who seek to share your love through word and deed.

Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

You provide water for thirsty ground and sunshine to feed hungry plants. Bless all who advocate for healthy forests, unpolluted air, and clean waterways. Inspire all people to show care for the world you have made.

Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

You show no partiality. Increase justice in all nations. Encourage leaders and governments to work with one another for the good of our common world. Unite us in seeking the health, safety, and dignity of all.

Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

You accompany those who are most in need. Shelter all fleeing violence or persecution, protect any who are in danger, and sustain them through uncertain and unstable times.

Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

You support the work of your disciples. Continue to nurture the leadership and ministries of this congregation.

Lord, in your mercy,

Hear our prayer.

We pray for our family, friends and community members who are in need of your healing touch; Sandy Belisle, Mike Froese, Brooke Alexiuk, Tracy Skoglund, Dwayne, Matthew Grossman, Lorraine & Walter Pokrant.

Lord, in your mercy,

Hear our prayer.

You embrace all who have died in the faith and brought them into your glorious presence. We thank you for their example and rejoice in their lives.

Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Receive these prayers, O God, and those in our hearts known only to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord.




SENDING SONG  MV 79  Spirit, Open My Heart


People of God, you are Christ’s body, bringing new life to a suffering world.

The holy Trinity, ☩ one God, bless you now and forever.





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[1] https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/revised-common-lectionary/ordinary-23-2/commentary-on-james-21-10-11-13-14-17-2