Words of Welcome & The Life and Work of Our Church
Acknowledging the Territory
Wherever we are in this wonderful province of Nova Scotia, we are reminded that we still gather on lands that are, by law, the unceded territories of the Mi’kmaq people. We gratefully and respectfully acknowledge this. We also respectfully honour the traditions and spirituality of all our indigenous brothers and sisters throughout this great land.
Time of Quiet Centering
As we prepare to worship together, let us take a moment of silence to prepare ourselves to enter this sacred time. Allow the care and concerns that you have brought with you this morning to be set aside, and allow the calm and the peace of gathering in the presence of the Divine, to wash over you.
Lighting the Christ Candle
As we light our Christ candle this morning, we open our hearts and our lives to the light of Christ. And we commit ourselves to taking that light with us and sharing it with everyone we meet.
Call to Worship
From the comfort of his bed, God called Samuel.
Samuel listened and answered God’s call.
From the comfort of their boats, Jesus called Simon, Andrew, James and John.
Leaving everything behind, they followed.
From the comfort of our comfortable lives God calls us.
In worship we seek the courage to listen and to answer.
Let us commit ourselves anew to answering God’s call and following Christ’s way.
Let us worship God
Sometimes, O God, we are so caught up in the busyness and noise of life that we do not hear you when you call. Sometimes we are so tired from the demands of daily life that we are too tired to care. Sometimes we are afraid of what answering your call might cost us. And sometimes when you call us God, we answer, but our response is reluctant and we resent what we are being asked to do. But sometimes, despite our busyness, our tiredness, our fear and our unwillingness to take risks, you touch us with your grace and we not only hear your call, but answer. Help us to hear you more clearly and follow you more closely. Amen.
Gift of Music
1 Samuel 3:1-10
The hymn I the Lord of Sea and Sky has the wonderful line in it “I have heard you calling in the night. This is the story of Samuel. Samuel is asleep when he hears a voice calling. He assumes it is his master Eli, but Eli realizes it is God speaking to him, and encourages Samuel to answer. I wonder how many of us would have answered as Eli did and how many would have simply dismissed the “voice” as the overactive imagination of a child.
Psalm 139:1-6 VU861
Psalm 139 offers us words of comfort and reassurance that God knows us and is constantly with us. But these same words can be challenging because, if God truly knows us, then God also know the parts of ourselves we would rather hide.
1 Corinthians 6:12-18
At the time Paul was writing to them, some of those living in Corinth claimed that, since all sin had been paid for by Christ on the cross, they didn’t need to worry about sinning. They could do what they wanted. Paul says no and warns against the sexual misuse of the body, gluttony, laziness and other ‘sins’ of the body. Paul also says, “your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and who was given to you by God”.
Our gospel reading this morning tells John’s version of the call of the first disciples. It is very different form the version told in Matthew, Mark and Luke who all tell of the call of the fishermen by the Sea of Galilee. John tells us that the first called were the followers of John the Baptist.
Hearing the Call?
When I was a student at Queens Theological College, I took a course in rural culture which involved spending a weekend in a small rural community. We met with local residents and heard stories of their lives and of the joys and challenges of living in a rural culture.
One of the people we met with was the United Church minister in the area. She told us that the only way to be truly effective in rural ministry was to get involved in absolutely everything that was happening. She said that if we were not out, involved in the community at least five nights a week, we could never be successful in rural ministry.
I spoke up and said that, as a single mother of two young children, I could not be out every night of the week. She then told me that if I was not willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of “the call” then perhaps I had misunderstood, and was not actually being called to ministry at all.
This attitude may appear shocking, but when we look at the story of the call of the first disciples, it may be understandable. Regardless of whether you talk about the call of the fishermen by the Sea of Galilee of the call of the followers of John the Baptist, when those first disciples answered the call to follow Jesus, they gave up everything to do so. Now, I doubt very much that any of them really understood the full impact of the commitment they were making or what it would eventually cost them. But when Jesus called, they left everything behind in order to follow him.
So, does that mean, like my ministry colleague seemed to believe, that if you do not leave everything behind you are not answering God’s call? Is this truly the only call to discipleship?
What about Samuel? When Samuel first heard God calling him, he was only a child. He was living in the temple and serving Eli, the priest. His mother Hanna had taken him there when he was probably somewhere around 3 or 4 years of age. He was being raised in the temple to serve God and was being taught how to become a priest. This was the future he was being groomed for and the direction that his life was intended to take.
When God called Samuel, he was not being called to leave behind everything he knew and head out in a new direction. He was not being called to leave the temple at all. God was calling Samuel to continue on the path he was already on. And although Samuel may not have known it at the time, he was being called to not only become a priest, but to also became a prophet, one who would speak to word of God to others. Samuel was not being pointed in a new direction. Rather he was being reaffirmed on the path that had already been chosen for him and he was being promised that God was with him on that journey.
If we believe that only those who give up everything, leaving behind their family, their friends and everything familiar are following the call of God, I think we are taking a very narrow view of God’s call. If we assume that only a call to “discipleship” identical to the one issued by Jesus to those first apostles is a ‘real’ call, I think we are underestimating God and trying to make God’s call fit into a nice neat little box of our own making.
What about those who feel “called” to pursue medicine, those who feel they are being led into a career as a doctor, a nurse, or any other medical professional? Is their call only valid if they leave everything behind and travel to a poor and remote part of the world? And what about those who feel “called” to become educators, to teach, to share their knowledge and their love of learning? What about those who farm or fish, who hear the voice of God calling to them through the land, the animals and the sea? Are these calls not just as valid as any other?
And what about the person who works at a job that they do not particularly feel called to, in order to answer the call to provide for their family? What about the person who feels called to do volunteer work? What about the person that is retired? Are they beyond the ability to answer a call? What about the person who is in poor health and cannot continue to serve in the same ways they have in the past? If they choose to join a prayer circle or volunteer to phone people who might need a call, is that not also answering God’s call?
I do believe that God does call some people to leave everything behind in order to follow a passion so great that it overshadows everything else. That is certainly what happened with the apostle Paul, but we don’t need to look to biblical times for examples of people giving up everything to follow a calling. For me the first name that comes to mind is always Mother Teresa. But there are so many others … doctors without borders, Christian Peacemaker Teams, Ecumenical Accompaniers … people who have travel to war torn or impoverished areas of the world, establishing clinics and schools or simply walking with those who are victimized and abused … people who have given up everything to follow where God is calling them.
But I do not believe this is the only way in which God calls people. Like Samuel, there are those who are called to follow a path that has been laid out for them since childhood, those who have chosen to carry on a family business or profession. There are those who have heard the call to follow a career that ignites their passion, and there are those who are call to follow a passion outside of their career as volunteers.
And I do not believe that any one call is somehow more valid or more sacred than any other. Just because your call came as a slow and steady call that began in childhood and led you to maintain rather than change a lifestyle you grew up with, does not make it any less valid, meaningful or important than a call that is sudden, overwhelming and life-changing, such as the call of those first disciples.
And I do not believe that each person is called once and only once or that if you are not paying attention and miss the call you are out of luck. I believe that God calls us and continues to call us throughout our lives. It may be a call to continue as we are, to veer slightly one way or the other, or to completely change direction. It may be a call to add something new to our lives outside of careers, or it may be a call to stop doing something we have been doing for a long time.
I believe that God calls us many times in each of our lives. Each call is important and significant regardless of how life altering or how mundane it may appear. One call does not necessarily supersede or eliminate another. One may be temporary and merely require that another be put on hold until it is completed. Or the two calls may both be answered without either one being sacrificed for the sake of the other.
I believe that God’s call can come in many different ways, big or small, startling or subtle, life-changing or life-affirming, challenging or reassuring. But regardless of how God’s call comes, I believe God’s call does come and that God continues to call each one of us over and over throughout our lives.
Even Jesus first disciples were not called once and then left to figure it out on their own. Following Jesus’ resurrection, we are told that Peter was called to a leadership role in the community of the followers of Jesus in Jerusalem. We are also told that Peter had a vision that compelled him to travel to Caesarea to share the gospel with people there. Peter was apparently also given the gift of healing. Surely all these were as much a call from God as was Jesus initial invitation.
In the Acts of the Apostles, we are told that Philip traveled to Samaria where a vision from God compelled him to take the road that traveled south. On the way he met an Ethiopian official with whom he shared the message of Christ and who he baptized in Christ’s name. We are told that John accompanied Peter both in his travels and in his role as a faith leader in Jerusalem.
Although we do not have biblical references to the remaining Apostles, tradition tells us the they spread out all over the known world sharing the message of Christ. Tradition also tells us that all except John, were eventually killed because they were not willing to stop spreading the gospel. Surely they could never have done all of this if they had not continued to hear God calling them forward to new and different challenges.
I believe that I have been called many times in my life. I have been led in directions that were not what I expected. Sometimes this has been through circumstances and sometimes it has been through an undeniable urge to do something I might not have otherwise considered.
So how did I answer that zealous minister who told me I could not possible be called to a career in ministry unless I was willing to give up everything else? I told her that I did indeed believe that God was calling me to ordained ministry, but that I also believe that God had called me to be a good mother to my children. The call to be a good mother had come first and I did not believe that God would want me to sacrifice one call for the sake of the other.
I believe that God has called and continues to call me in both large ways and in small ways. The challenge for me is to be open to hear that call and to have the courage to answer.
Gift of Music
We Offer Our Gifts
We believe that God has called and continues to call each of us. One of the ways in which we answer is through the gifts that we offer back to God. Those gifts may be the offering that we place on the offering plates at the back of the church, they may be offerings we make through Par or through online donations, they may be donations we give to others beyond the walls of this church. Or they may be the offerings of our time, our abilities and our commitment. But whatever it is that we offer God this day, let us asks God’s blessing upon it.
Let us pray; Loving God, bless and grow these gifts that we offer you today for your purpose and your glory. Amen.
We Offer Our Prayers
And now let us take a moment now to offer our silent prayers for all those named in our prayer jar and all those in our thoughts, our minds and our hearts … Amen.
Minute for Mission
Each year, at their annual meetings, congregations throughout the United Church of Canada set Mission and Service goals that are then sent in to the General Council offices. Using these goals, the Mission and Service Fund makes decisions on what projects they will be able to fund, how many requests for funds they will be able to answer and how much each recipient will receive. When churches are unable to meet their M&S goals, that means that the Mission and Service Fund must somehow cover the shortfall or make the difficult decision to withhold funds that have already been promised. 2020 has been a year like no other. Many churches across the country have been forced to close for a considerable part of the year. Weekly offerings have, in many cases, dried up. As a direct result, many churches have failed to meet their M & S goal for 2020.I am extremely proud to say that Beacon has not only met but exceeded our goal for this past year.
Ruth Ricker, our M&S treasurer, will share the details with you.
Prayer of the People
Our lives are good, O God, in no small part because of those who have gone before us who have dared to do what needed to be done, to be what the needs of the moment demanded, to stand up and be counted when their moment of truth arrived. We are thankful for those who have responded to life this way, without holding back or looking for someone who has less to lose. Their response has given us a way of life that is comfortable, safe and richly blessed.
But not everyone has been so fortunate. We know that there are many in our world who go hungry each day. There are many who have no secure shelter from the world around them. There are many who live in constant fear of violence and death. There are many who are sick, lonely and isolated, feeling that no one knows or cares about them or the reality of their lives.
Awaken in us the realization that the call to which you have called people in the past is the same call you extend to us today, to anyone who will hear it; a call to see and respond to the needs around us, a call to recognize your voice speaking to us today, a call to step out and meet life head on in faith.
Teach us to strive, not for easy tasks that are comfortably within our grasp, but for challenges that will keep us growing, learning the full extent of our own abilities when we allow your vision and your power to inspire us and move through us.
Touch us with your Spirit, ignite us with your passion and stir us to a new sense of commitment and hope as we strive to live each day answering your call. Amen.
Gift of Music
God is calling. We go out from here to answer. But we do not go alone. God is with us, Christ leads the way, and the Spirit is our companion and guide each step of our journey. So, as we go out from here, let us go with God.