Words of Welcome & The Life and Work of Our Church
Acknowledging the Territory
As we gather in worship, we remember that we gather on lands that are, by law, the unceded territories of the Mi’kmaq people. We are gratefully to them for this land and we honour their traditions and spirituality.
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. We commit ourselves to living in that light and taking that light with us where ever we go.
Call to Worship
When the Sabbath came, Jesus entered the synagogue and stood up to teach.
Today we come to this church to hear and learn from the teachings of Jesus.
On the Sabbath Jesus healed those who were suffering and in pain.
Today we come seeking healing for our own pain and struggle.
Jesus never denied those who came to him humbly seeking God.
This morning we come, seeking God, and knowing that we will not be denied.
So as we gather here today, let us open ourselves to a new awareness of God’s loving presence.
Let us Worship God.
Opening Prayer (in unison)
Loving God we know that Christ’s ministry among us was full of struggle and pain as well as joy and fulfillment. Even when he sought to bring healing and peace, people often reacted with suspicion and anger. Yet he was faithful to your will and your call regardless of the cost. We know that we do not always show the same faithfulness and commitment. Grant us the courage to remain faithful as Christ remained faithful, and teach us the true joy of following your way. Amen
Gift of Music
The book of Deuteronomy is filled with the laws established under the guidance of Moses as the Israelite people traveled through the desert. But the people were afraid that if God spoke to them directly, rather than through Moses, they would die. So Moses promises that when he is gone, God will choose another to speak on God’s behalf.
Psalm 111 is a psalm of praise and thanksgiving but it begins with a reminder that thanks is to be offered not only in private but in the company of others.
When we think about the ministry of Jesus, we generally picture him preaching to a crowd while sitting on the side of a hill, in a small fishing boat pulled just off shore, or perhaps sitting under a tree surrounded by his disciples. We do not generally picture him standing up in the synagogue on the Sabbath, surrounded by rabbis, Pharisee, priests and other religious leaders. But according to Mark, that is exactly how Jesus begins his ministry.
Following the call of Simon, Andrew, James and John, Jesus and his small band of disciples went to Capernaum, a small fishing village at the north end of the Sea of Galilee. According to Mark it is here that Jesus first begins him public ministry by standing up in the synagogue on the Sabbath and beginning to teach.
Now although this may not fit with the image we have of Jesus ministry, it is exactly what would have been expected at the time. When Jesus first began his ministry, there were many traveling rabbis and healers who went from village to village teaching the Torah and offering healing to the sick, generally for a nominal fee. In order to advertise what they had to offer, the first cure or the first lesson were often offered free. The travelling rabbi would be invited to stand up in the synagogues on the Sabbath as kind of a ‘guest preacher’. Since there were no standard qualifications for anyone claiming to be a traveling rabbi, people never knew what was going to be said until the teacher stood up. People would gather to hear the rabbi and to discuss and argue point of scripture and law with him. If the rabbi did well, he might be invited to stay in the village where he might even be paid a nominal fee the next time he spoke.
When Jesus stood up in the synagogue and started teaching, the people were surprised. Mark tells us that he taught with ‘authority’, which basically means that when he stood to speak it was clear that he knew and understood what he was talking about. He had an authenticity and power to his words that few had ever heard from any rabbi, let alone an itinerant preacher.
And so, the people listened, and as they listened, they were more and more impressed by how Jesus spoke and by what he taught them about God. He was different from most of the rabbis they were used to hearing. But regardless of what they might think, traveling preachers came and went, and no matter how impressed one speech might be, it would take more than that to truly impress them.
The truth is that if Jesus had simply been a great teacher, the people would have listened and learned. They might have even changed some of their ideas and possibly even some of their actions. They might have returned time after time to hear him speak, trying to figure out where he had learned so much and how he knew the answers to their questions. They might even have committed themselves to his teachings. But when it came right down to it, their lives would likely have gone on pretty much the way they always had.
It was what happened next that changed all of that. A man came into the synagogue. He was probably known to most of the people gathered there. He was a man who was said to be possessed by an evil spirit, a man whose words and actions set him apart from others as being strange and perhaps even evil. He was a man who would likely have been despised and avoided if at all possible.
Whatever it was that was truly wrong with this man, something within him recognized Jesus as more than simply a talented scholar or a charismatic preacher. And so, as he entered the synagogue, he cried out in a loud voice, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Are you here to destroy us? I know who you are—you are God’s holy messenger!”
“I know who you are—you are God’s holy messenger!” This is a very powerful statement made by this strange man, and you’d think that Jesus might want to say something about it. I’m sure that everyone around was waiting for him to answer this declaration, or perhaps accusation, but instead Jesus simply looked at the man and then calmly and sternly said, “Be quiet, and come out of the man!”
As the people gathered around and watched, the man began to shake, let out a loud scream, and then went silent. Whatever it was that had possessed the man, whatever it was that had made him so different that people loathed and feared him, it was gone. He was completely healed.
The surprise and admiration the people may have had for a teacher who spoke with wisdom and authority now changed into wonder and awe. It was one thing for Jesus to be able speak well or to be able to capture a crowd with his words, but this was something totally different. And it was not simply that he was apparently a healer as well as a teacher. There were others traveling healers who would have passed through the village. What amazed the people was less that the man was cured as how it was done. He had healed the man by demanding that the evil spirit within him leave.
“This man has authority to give orders to the evil spirits, and they obey him!” Mark is very specific in his choice of words here. Once again, he stressed the word authority. Mark wants to make it very clear that there was something different about Jesus, something that no one else seemed to possess in quite the same way. Authority.
But what exactly does that mean? Real authority is almost always hard to define and even harder to explain, but it is generally pretty easy to recognize. It is not always loud or forceful. It doesn’t always come in the package you might expect. But authority, true authority simply cannot be argued with. On those rare occasions when you meet someone who speaks with real authority they are hard to ignore. You simply have to listen.
When Jesus stood up in the synagogue to teach, the people were amazed. “He taught them as one having authority.” He didn’t look the part of an educated teacher. He didn’t flash around his credentials. He didn’t demand that people be quiet and listen. He simply spoke with authority.
But Jesus authority went far beyond words. The man who was possessed by demons recognized Jesus authority without even having to hear him speak. As the man entered the synagogue, he cried out, “I know who you are – you are God’s holy messenger!”
What that man recognized was not Jesus ability to speak persuasively or to convince the crowd that what he said was true. What the man recognized was the authority of “God’s holy messenger!”
For this man, and for many others who were touched by the life of Jesus, there was no question as to who he was. There was no doubt that his words were true and somehow, they understood how he spoke with such complete authority. There was no way of explaining how they knew this or why they accepted it without question. They simply knew beyond any doubt that Jesus spoke with the authority of the Divine.
It is an awesome experience to hear someone speak with Divine authority. The man in the temple knew this. He recognized that voice of the Divine, speaking through Jesus. Although he could probably not have explained how he recognized it, he knew that what was being said was true and that the one saying it spoke with Divine authority.
I believe that the Divine still uses the voices of people of faith and conviction today to speak the words that we need to hear. I believe that it is the Divine that gives those words their power and authority. But I’m not sure we always recognize Divine authority when we do hear it either. Perhaps there are time when someone speaks to us in such a way that we do recognize the voice of the Divine within what you hear.
But there may well be other times when you do not recognize that voice. Sometimes we do not recognize it because we do not want to hear what it has to say. Perhaps we do not want to accept the challenge it offers us or we do not what to believe an uncomfortable truth. Or perhaps we dismiss the words because of their source, not able to believe that the Divine could speak through someone we do not see as worthy.
But perhaps an even greater challenge is to recognize that the power of Divine authority might just choose to speak to someone else through us. That may sound very presumptuous, but I believe that when we speak, not out of our own sense of power or certainty, but rather out of the conviction that the words we say are inspired by the Divine, and the conviction that we must speak those words, we too may just find ourselves speaking with Divine authority.
The idea may be frightening and a bit intimidating, but God has chosen to speak through Jesus, though Moses, through the Psalmist, through Paul and through many other faithful followers throughout history. And each one has spoken with the authority of the Divine.
I believe there are many people today who continue to speak with Divine authority; the environmental activist that calls us to stop destroying God’s creation, the political activist that calls on us to put laws and policies into place that will put people ahead of profits or the social activist that calls us to stop treating some of God’s children like they are somehow less valuable because of their gender, their sexuality, their skin colour, their ethnicity, or any other factor used to define and separate people. I believe that Divine Authority continues to speak … but are we listening?
May God grant us the wisdom to recognize Divine authority when it speaks to us no matter who or what the source may be, and may God grant us the grace to allow Divine authority to speak through us when the opportunity or necessity arises. Amen
Gift of Music
We Offer Our Gifts
God calls and we answer. One of the ways in which we answer is through the gifts that we offer. 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; Divine Love, bless the gifts that we offer you today that they may become more that symbols, that they may become actions taken to further your purpose and your vision for us. 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
Prayer of the People
Divine Mystery, we know that your voice speaks to us in many different ways. Sometimes you speak to us through our worship. Sometimes you speak to us through music and song or through the beauty of nature. Sometimes you speak to us through something we read or through something we see on TV or in the media. Sometimes you speak to us in prayer or in the midst of silence. And sometimes you speak to us through other people, not always through the people from whom we expect to hear your voice. Open our hearts and minds to listen for you message for us, no matter where it comes from.
But remind us also, that there are times when you ask us to speak for you. Give us the grace to recognize and respond to your call to us. Give us the courage to speak up and share your wisdom and those we meet. We ask that through us and through others you will speak to those who are suffering and bring them relief. That you will speak to those who are frightened and bring them courage. That you will speak to those who are restless and bring them peace. That you will speak to those who are discouraged and bring them hope. That you will speak to those who are sick and bring them healing. That you will speak to those who are lonely and bring them comfort. That you will speak to those who are questioning and uncertain and bring them reassurance. That you will speak to those who are searching and bring them direction. That you will speak to those who feel empty and fill them with joy.
Divine One, speak to us and through us that your words may become our words and your voice may be heard loud and clear, not only in what we say, but in what we do. We ask this in the name of the one whose example we follow, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Gift of Music
God chooses messengers and prophets in every age. God’s work needs our voice and our commitment. And God provides what it needed to do God’s work. So, go out from here into whatever task is yours to do, knowing that you are not alone. God is with you, Christ shows you God’s love lived out in human form, and the Spirit walks with you and equips you for whatever journey lies ahead. Go with God.