Worship Service for February 12, 2023
“The United Church Creed” in Story and Song
Good morning and welcome to Beacon United Church. My name is Janet Sollows and I am a Licensed Lay Worship leader with Region 15 of the United Church of Canada as well as a member of this congregation. You will notice that this morning’s service will look a bit different than our usual services. It is entitled “The United Church Creed in Story and Song”. Most of the familiar elements of our service are present today but sometimes in different spots. This is due to the fact that I have tried to match elements of our service with phrases from the United Church Creed. The idea for this service was originally outlined in a United Church worship resource called “Gathering” years ago and it came from St. Paul’s United Church in Edmonton, Alberta. I have adapted it over the years as I have used it several times and again today, I have adapted it to fit the context of this worship service. We will begin our service with lighting the Christ Candle and Passing the Peace to illustrate the first phrase of our creed “We are not alone.”
We are not alone –
Lighting the Christ Candle –
Jesus said that we are the light of the world and that we should not hide this light. We light this Christ candle every week during worship to remind us that the light from Christ shines in us and through us for all the world to see. Let it shine!
Passing the Peace – Let us greet one another in the spirit of friendship, remembering that we are a church family and we are not alone as we share each other’s joys and burdens with God’s help. Peace be with you.
We live in God’s World –
Acknowledging the Territory –
This is God’s wondrous world. We give thanks to the First Nations people who have walked on this land for many years. Their relationship with the land is at the centre of their lives and spirituality. We are gathered on the traditional unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq and we acknowledge their stewardship of this land throughout the ages.
Acknowledging the territory where we gather and the people who have traditionally called it home for thousands of years is one way to continue to live out the United Church’s Apologies to the First Peoples of North America. May we, as a church, seek other ways to work toward right relations, and move towards becoming the community that God calls us to be together.
Let us reflect together on our life in God’s World as we listen to announcements from our church and community. David Sollows will share the announcements with us.
Let us join together in prayer as we centre ourselves for worship:
As we prepare to enter our time of worship, let us center ourselves. May we listen for the word of God, hold the hand of Jesus, our Guide and Friend and feel the presence of the Holy Spirit surrounding us. Amen.
As we continue to reflect on phrases of our Creed, let our statements of belief call us into worship.
Call to Worship:
One: We believe in God
All: Who has created and is creating
One: Who has come in Jesus
All: the Word made flesh
One: Let us worship our creating God.
Hymn: We Praise You, Creator VU#293
To reconcile and make new, let us join together in a Prayer of
We live in a broken world, God: a world that too often ignores you; a world that too often judges too quickly; a world of impatience and mistrust. We live in a world more concerned with self-satisfaction than with serving others and serving you. We confess that often we are part of the problem and not working on a solution. Forgive us. Transform us. Bring us to new birth as your people, empowered to proclaim your presence and your truth. Amen.
Words of Assurance
Hear what comfort God offers us! We are God’s own children, made in God’s image, forgiven and freed to start anew. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Who works in us and others by the Spirit. We trust in God.
Scripture readings are one of the ways that we have learned how God has worked in the lives of our ancestors throughout the ages. By reading these ancient Scriptures, we hear the voice of God working in our lives today. We trust that these ways of God will work in our lives and into the future. The Scripture passages this morning are from this week’s Narrative Lectionary readings. Jesus teaches through the use of parables. The passage this morning includes the Parable of the Weeds, the Parable of the Mustard Seed and the Parable of the Leaven. At the end of this morning’s passage, the Parable of the Weeds is explained.
Prayer of Illumination:
O God who makes all things new, as we listen to your word this morning, help us to hear it anew with an understanding that we can apply to our own lives and the situations that we encounter. We ask this in the name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.
The Parable of the Weeds
Jesus told them another parable: “The Kingdom of heaven is like this. A man sowed good seed in his field. One night, when everyone was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. When the plants grew and the heads of grain began to form, then the weeds showed up. The man’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, it was good seed you sowed in your field; where did the weeds come from?’ ‘It was some enemy who did this,’ he answered. ‘Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds?’ they asked him. ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because as you gather the weeds you might pull up some of the wheat along with them. 30 Let the wheat and the weeds both grow together until harvest. Then I will tell the harvest workers to pull up the weeds first, tie them in bundles and burn them, and then to gather in the wheat and put it in my barn.’”
The Parable of the Mustard Seed
Jesus told them another parable: “The Kingdom of heaven is like this. A man takes a mustard seed and sows it in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it grows up, it is the biggest of all plants. It becomes a tree, so that birds come and make their nests in its branches.”
The Parable of the Yeast
Jesus told them still another parable: “The Kingdom of heaven is like this. A woman takes some yeast and mixes it with a bushel of flour until the whole batch of dough rises.”
Jesus’ Use of Parables
Jesus used parables to tell all these things to the crowds; he would not say a thing to them without using a parable. He did this to make come true what the prophet had said,
“I will use parables when I speak to them;
I will tell them things unknown since the creation of the world.”
Jesus Explains the Parable of the Weeds
When Jesus had left the crowd and gone indoors, his disciples came to him and said, “Tell us what the parable about the weeds in the field means.”
Jesus answered, “The man who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world; the good seed is the people who belong to the Kingdom; the weeds are the people who belong to the Evil One; and the enemy who sowed the weeds is the Devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvest workers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered up and burned in the fire, so the same thing will happen at the end of the age: the Son of Man will send out his angels to gather up out of his Kingdom all those who cause people to sin and all others who do evil things, and they will throw them into the fiery furnace, where they will cry and gnash their teeth. 43 Then God’s people will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. Listen, then, if you have ears!
We are called to be the Church:
Being someone who is intrigued with proper grammar, the punctuation of this line caused me to stop and think about what it is saying. I expected that the colon would be after “We are called” and then a list of what we are called to do follows, with each phrase starting with the word ‘to’ – 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; and to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen, our judge and our hope. But the colon comes after “We are called to be the church”, therefore the list of what follows is how we are supposed to be the church. This morning, we will be taking time to reflect on these callings through words and through song. Notice that the creed doesn’t say that we are called to be ‘a church’. ‘The’ church means that we are all one body. The differing traditions and certain beliefs of denominations all come under the umbrella of “the church”. There is a saying that goes, “Every church is filled with willing people—some willing to work, and others willing to let them.” We all need to be willing to do the work of what we are called to do to be the Church. The hymn The Church is Wherever God’s People emphasizes that the church is not a building but rather a body of individuals who are individually and collectively called to do God’s work. In our creed, a list of what ‘being the church’ means follows. There are many hymns that speak about the work of the church but I chose this one because of its simple language and succinct definition. Let us remain seated as we sing:
Hymn: VU#579 The Church Is Wherever God’s People
To celebrate God’s presence
In 2018, Steen and I were both elected as commissioners to the United Church of Canada’s national General Council meeting in Oshawa, Ontario. At that event, there were booths set up where groups could promote programs and initiatives within the United Church of Canada. At one booth, there were magnets that said, “Surely God is in this place. Help me notice.” The idea was that people would put these magnets on fridges, filing cabinets or other magnetic surfaces as a reminder that God is in every place of our lives. Or, that whenever people entered a new space, they would get used to automatically saying, “Surely God is in this place.” It might sound strange to have to keep reminding ourselves that God’s presence is with us at all times but it is something that many people take for granted or do not give a conscious thought about. God’s presence is something special and needs to be celebrated in our lives. Our creed reminds us that God is with us throughout our lives and this is indeed something to celebrate. Hymn #312 in Voices United describes God as a God of justice, love, and peace, source and end of human knowledge. The hymn celebrates God as a triune God – three in one. Please remain seated while we sing Hymn #312 Praise with Joy the World’s Creator.
Hymn: Praise with Joy the World’s Creator#312
To live with respect in Creation
Reflection: This line, if memory serves me correctly was added to the creed when it was revised and some of the original language was changed to be more inclusive. It’s an important addition. If we are to celebrate God’s presence as the world’s creator, then we must be trusted to respect that creation and do everything we can to maintain and sustain it. There are many environmental concerns due to human lifestyle patterns affecting the planet Earth. Perhaps one of the most outspoken advocates of saving the environment is 20-year old Greta Thunberg who has been championing this cause for several years now. Listen to these 5 quotes from Greta:
However, the call to respect creation also includes the call to respect the rights of humans and animals. Whenever God’s creation is threatened, we need to take a stand. As we sing Hymn #27 in More Voices, please reflect on what these words mean to you in your life and what you can do to live in respect with creation. Please remain seated.
Hymn: Creator God You Gave Us Life MV#27
To love and serve others
Giving back to God, in thanks and praise, for the gifts that we have been given is one way that we, as church goers, show that we love and serve others. We give through our monetary donations as well as gifts of our time and our talents. Let us praise God as our offering is now received.
Offertory Hymn – MV #191
What can I do, what can I bring, what can I say, what can I sing?
I’ll sing with joy; I’ll say a prayer; I’ll bring my best; I’ll do my share.
We place before you, God, our gifts and offerings for the mission and ministry of this church. What we have and what we share ultimately has come from you. You call us to love and serve others, to risk and be generous in our sharing and to be enthusiastic and ready in our service. Receive and bless these gifts so that they may be used freely and widely for the good of all of your creation. Amen.
Today’s Minute for Mission focuses on the earthquake relief for Turkey and Syria. Giving to Mission and Service is another way that we show our love and service to others.
Minute for Mission – The Situation in Turkey and northern Syria
On Monday, February 6, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit southeastern Turkey and on the border with Syria. Followed by another tremor registering 7.6, the quakes were felt as far as Lebanon and Cyprus. More than 20,000 people have been killed in Turkey and northern Syria, and the toll is expected to rise on both sides of the border. The early morning 7.8-magnitude earthquake was centered about 20 miles from Gaziantep, a major city and provincial capital in Turkey. First responders and the international community are working hard to rescue people trapped under the rubble. Many homes and community buildings have been destroyed. Hospitals have also been damaged, and acutely injured and traumatized people are struggling to find help. The winter weather, damaged infrastructure due to the prevailing conflict, and previous displacements of people are making an already difficult situation worse.
The Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), which is a partner of The United Church of Canada, and ACT Alliance (of which The United Church of Canada and MECC are members) are responding in some of the hardest-hit areas in Turkey and northern Syria. The MECC is implementing a rapid response by meeting the needs of people seeking shelter in churches and in public schools with items such as blankets, mattresses, food, water, and hygiene items right now, until the situation becomes more stable and the longer-term needs of people are assessed. ACT Alliance members are active in Turkey and have initiated a rapid response. Thanks to previous donors to the Global Emergency Response fund, The United Church of Canada has made an immediate grant of $20,000 to support their efforts.
The impact of the most recent earthquake is all the more devastating because of ongoing conflict that has displaced millions of people and damaged much-needed infrastructure (such as hospitals), a severe economic downturn, and the COVID pandemic.
MECC and ACT Alliance continue to assess the immediate and ongoing needs of the communities. The United Church of Canada is committed to working with Mission & Service partners MECC, ACT Alliance, and the Canadian Food grains Bank. Through the Canadian Food grains Bank, we have joined the Humanitarian Coalition to call on Canadians to show tangible support for the people of Turkey and Syria.
We will share more information with you as soon as we can.
Thank you for your prayers and generous support.
Information on how to donate has been placed in the Narthex or can be found on the United Church of Canada’s website. Donations need to go directly to the United Church of Canada and cannot be processed through Beacon United Church.
To seek justice and resist evil
Reflection: This phrase sounds like the tagline for a super-hero movie – “to seek justice and resist evil.” We are being called to seek justice and resist evil. Yet, we don’t have to have superhuman powers or even a cape! Read the newspaper or look at the TV news and we hear the major injustices and evil forces in our world. But there are more. There are bullies, victims and bystanders in more places than just the school yard. Help us not to be bullies. We need to understand other points of view. Help us not to be victims or bystanders when confronted with injustice or evil. Sometimes it is not easy to speak up against injustice but it is the right thing to do. Archbishop Desmond Tutu maintains that we should not claim that we are neutral. He says, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has his foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”
The hymn #172 in More Voices, God Says reminds us to be still, look up, come here and reach out in order to attend to the voice of God. God will let us know how we are to respond to injustice, if we will only listen. Please remain seated while we sing:
Hymn: God Says MV#172
To proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen, our judge and our hope
Reflection: McKenzie, a little girl in a Sunday School class, wasn’t trying to start a theological debate, she just wanted to make a point about Jesus’ resurrection. Her Sunday school teacher had tried to encourage her class with the assurance that Jesus is everywhere. But for McKenzie, that didn’t sound right. So, she said, “I know one place where Jesus isn’t.” The teacher curiously replied, “Oh, really? Where is that?” The bright little girl declared, “He’s not in the grave!” What a great reminder!
We are an Easter people. Easter is the defining moment of our Christian belief. Our belief in Jesus, crucified and risen, is what identifies us as Christians. It may seem a bit odd to sing an Easter hymn in the season of Epiphany, however, we always need to sing of resurrection. Let us sing hymn #179 in Voices United Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Give Thanks. This hymn urges us to give thanks and praise that Jesus Christ has risen from death, every day not just on Easter Sunday. Let us remain seated while we sing
Hymn: Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Give Thanks VU#179
In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us
Let us join our hearts in prayer as we acknowledge that God is with us through all the phases and experiences of our life, including death and in life beyond death. Let us pray:
Prayers of the People
God of the Universe, look upon us this day, in love, and with mercy. You created this amazing world that we live in. You molded it and shaped it into a beautiful work of art, and we are blessed to enjoy it. You created all growing things, the trees and the flowers to delight our eyes and the grain, the fruit, and the vegetables to nourish us. And, you, Almighty God, created not only the world, but space for us to explore and to challenge our sense of adventure. How wonderful you are!
Many things, O God, you have kept a mystery to us – the gift of love, of death, of life after death, and the mystery of your redeeming grace. Many things we can prove through science, but then you challenge us to step out in faith, to believe in you and your love, grace, and mercy toward us. Give us courage, loving God, to step out in faith, to realize that we don’t have to understand everything and to trust in that wonderful love.
God of every day, our hearts are concerned for the needs of our friends and neighbours. Many are lonely and hurting from emotional pain. We remember those who are grieving. Many are ill, and some in hospital. God of miracles, hear those named in our hearts and in our Prayer Jar at this time (pause).
Around the world there are many more who are suffering from the ravages of war, famine and disease. We pray for those in Syria and Turkey who are living with the aftermath of a massive earthquake. May the survivors, the grieving and the rescue workers feel your comforting presence. We also pray for those affected by the incident at the day care centre in Laval, Quebec. We pray for those whose lives have been affected by climate change. We also pray for those whose lives have been threatened because of their religious beliefs or political affiliations. Have mercy and deliver each one in their time of trouble.
Challenging God, stir us each day to seek justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly with you, our God.
And now let us pray together the Lord’s Prayer:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day, our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us;
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil: for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
We are not alone
Reflection: We started our service this morning with this phrase and illustrated it with lighting our Christ Candle and passing the peace to one another. The repetition of this phrase at the end of our creed emphasizes its importance to our faith. This is something that is hard to remember in times of hardship. ‘We are not alone’ helps us to remember that God is always with us and that we need each other to lean on.
The following story is entitled ‘The Concert’:
When the house lights dimmed and the concert was about to begin, a mother returned to her seat and discovered that her child was missing. Suddenly, the curtains parted and spotlights focused on the impressive Steinway piano on stage. In horror, the mother saw her little boy sitting at the keyboard, innocently picking out “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” At that moment, the great piano master made his entrance, moved to the piano, and whispered in the boy’s ear, “Don’t quit.” “Keep playing.” Then, leaning over, he reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part. Soon his right arm reached around to the other side of the child, and he added a running obbligato. Together, the old master and the young novice transformed what could have been a frightening situation into a wonderfully creative experience. The audience was so mesmerized that they couldn’t recall what the great master played that night-only the classic, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” Perhaps that’s the way it is with God. What we can accomplish on our own is hardly noteworthy. We try our best, but the results aren’t always graceful flowing music. However, with the hand of the Master, our life’s work can truly be beautiful. The next time you set out to accomplish great feats, listen carefully. You may hear the voice of the God, whispering in your ear. “Don’t quit.” “Keep playing.” May you feel God’s arms around you and know that God’s hands are there, helping you turn your feeble attempts into true masterpieces. Remember, God doesn’t seem to call the equipped, rather, God equips the ‘called’.
Let us sing together a hymn that reminds us we are not alone. God is with us with arms around us, encouraging us as a Christian community to reach out and embrace all those around us. In More Voices, Hymn #214 uses two sets of pronouns (she and he) to describe God in human terms. I have asked that the hymn be printed on the screen without any reference to God using binary pronouns. Please remain seated as we sing.
Hymn: May God’s Sheltering Wings MV#214
May God’s sheltering wings, gathering wings protect you.
May God’s nurturing arms, cradling arms sustain you
and hold you in love, and hold you in love.
Thanks be to God
“Two friends met each other on the street one day. One looked forlorn, almost on the verge of tears. His friend asked, “What has the world done to you, my old friend?” The sad fellow said, “Let me tell you: three weeks ago, my uncle died and left me forty thousand dollars.”
“That’s a lot of money.”
“But you see, two weeks ago, a cousin I never even knew died, and left me eighty-five thousand dollars, free and clear.”
“Sounds to me that you’ve been very blessed.”
“You don’t understand!” he interrupted. “Last week my great-aunt passed away. I inherited almost a quarter of a million from her.”
Now the man’s friend was really confused. “Then, why do you look so glum?”
We can often come to the point where we expect to get certain blessings that God never promised us, and when they do not come, it is easy to get bitter.”
Our creed ends with a word of thanks. The phrase, “Thanks be to God” is one that should always be on the tip of our tongue as we learn to appreciate all that we go through in life and all that we are called to do. Let us stand and read with pride the creed of our church – The United Church of Canada. It can be found on p. 918 in your Voices United hymn book or read from the screen.
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.
And continuing to thank God, we will stand and sing
Hymn: Now Thank We All Our God VU#236
We go into the world to plant seeds of justice and love. We go into the world to help birth God’s creation. We go to serve our God. Know that wherever you go, you cannot flee from the presence of God: loving parent and trusted friend, who will care for you, sustain you and bless you always. Amen
Choral Benediction –May the Peace of God Be Your Peace MV#222