Sunday September 24, 2023
Yarmouth Pride Weekend
Let us build a house where love can dwell and all can safely live,
A place where saints and children tell how hearts learn to forgive.
Built of hopes and dreams and visions, rock of faith and vault of grace;
Here the love of Christ shall end divisions;
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.
© Words and Music copyright Hope Publishing Company. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission. OneLicense #A723756
Acknowledging the Territory
We acknowledge that, here in Yarmouth, we live work and worship in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq People. This territory is covered by the “Treaties of Peace and Friendship” first signed with in 1725. By acknowledging this, we commit ourselves to live in Peace, Friendship and Respect.
Call to Worship
We are part of the Church universal – faithful people of every ethnicity, economic background, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, and ability.
We are an Affirming Ministry gathered to worship, to sing and to rejoicing in the good news that we are all loved and accepted.
There is a place in God’s heart, there is a place at Christ’s table, for all people.
Christ who gathers us here invites us to follow in the ways of justice, peace and love.
May our hearts be open to Christ’s leading in our worship and in our living this day and always.
Lighting the Rainbow Candles
Each week as we gather together in worship, we light our Christ Candle. This candle represents for us the Divine light that shines throughout our world and our commitment to allow this light to shine through us. Today we light rainbow candles as a symbol of our recognition that this world is filled with many different lights and that all of them as part of the One light that shines among us all. Rainbows embody all the colours of the world, all the beauty of creation. Rainbows serve as bridges between different realms: Heaven and Earth, secular and sacred, queer and non-queer. And so, as we light our rainbow candles, we reflect on what each of those colours mean.
Red is for life, life lived to the fullest, life that springs from the inner flame of who were created to be.
Orange is for healing, freeing us from the pain of judgement and criticism and challenging us to tolerance.
Yellow is for self-esteem celebrating who we are as a unique and beautiful part of creation.
Green is for nature and for love, because love is at the very heart of our nature, love in all its various forms and expressions.
Blue is for harmony and peace, a peace that comes from justice and equality and a harmony that comes from acceptance.
Violet is for vision, for wisdom, and for the amazing and intricate interdependence of the whole of creation.
Rainbows are a promise, and in the rainbow, we see all the hidden connections between Heaven and Earth. But rainbow colours also come together to make one light, freeing us from rigid categories and granting us the blessing of interwoven identities beyond our black and white thinking so that we may experience the whole wonderous spectrum of life. And so, as we recognize the one light that shines through all of creation, we light our Christ Candle, symbolizing Divine Light.
Holy One, we gather here aware that each of us is a beloved miracle of your divine creation. We offer our gratitude for the splendor of this world. We thank you that, interwoven through the tapestry of this earth are all the threads of human diversity. Created in your image with differences that illuminate all the breadth of beauty, wisdom, and love, we seek to find new ways to express our uniqueness and contribute our special gifts to your world. Free us from the fear of differences that divide and wound us. Move us to dismantle systems of prejudice and abuse. Renew our commitment to live in Christ’s image, loving, welcoming and accepting all. Give us minds and hearts eager to learn, reluctant to judge, and responsive always to the leading of your loving Spirit. We ask this in Christ’s name. Amen.
Opening Hymn Draw the Circle Wide MV#145
This morning we have 3 scripture readings. The first is taken from the letter to the Romans. It asks the question can anything separate us from God and then gives us a firm and solid NO.
Romans 8:31-35, 37-39 Good News Translation
If God is for us, who can be against us? Certainly not God, who did not even keep back his own Son, but offered him for us all! He gave us his Son—will he not also freely give us all things? Who will accuse God’s chosen people? God himself declares them not guilty! Who, then, will condemn them? Not Christ Jesus, who died, or rather, who was raised to life and is at the right side of God, pleading with him for us! Who, then, can separate us from the love of Christ? Can trouble do it, or hardship or persecution or hunger or poverty or danger or death?
No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us! For I am certain that nothing can separate us from his love: neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers or powers, neither the present nor the future, neither the world above nor the world below—there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Our second scripture comes from the book of Psalms. Psalms is a collection of poems and songs that celebrate God’s glory, that seek God’s help in times of trouble and that express love and gratitude. Psalm 139 is a psalm of wonder and amazement at God’s knowledge of us and care for us.
Psalm 139:1-18 New Revised Standard Version (Updated Edition)
O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it. Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and night wraps itself around me,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you. For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed. How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! I try to count them—they are more than the sand; I come to the end — I am still with you.
Our final reading is taken from the Gospel According to Mark. This scripture is actually divided into two very distinct sections. In the first, as Jesus and his disciples travelled the road towards Capernaum, an argument broke out among the disciples. When Jesus asks what it was about the disciples hesitate to answer.
In the second section, John asks about a man that is not part of their group, who is casting out demons in Jesus’ name.
Mark 9:33-41 Good News Translation
They came to Capernaum, and after going indoors Jesus asked his disciples, “What were you arguing about on the road?”
But they would not answer him, because on the road they had been arguing among themselves about who was the greatest. Jesus sat down, called the twelve disciples, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must place himself last of all and be the servant of all.” Then he took a child and had him stand in front of them. He put his arms around him and said to them, “Whoever welcomes in my name one of these children, welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me, welcomes not only me but also the one who sent me.”
John said to him, “Teacher, we saw a man who was driving out demons in your name, and we told him to stop, because he doesn’t belong to our group.”
“Do not try to stop him,” Jesus told them, “because no one who performs a miracle in my name will be able soon afterward to say evil things about me. For whoever is not against us is for us. I assure you that anyone who gives you a drink of water because you belong to me will certainly receive a reward.
Favorite Hymn Request For All the Children
People Like Us
It is not very often that I get to choose two of my very favorite scriptures in one service, but today I get to do that. The first of my two favorites this morning is Psalm 139. The idea that God is with us at all times, knowing not only what we do but why we do it can be a bit overwhelming at times. Let’s face it, there are times that I’m not sure that any of us want everything we do to be known!
But this psalm reminds us that there is nowhere we can hide from the Divine Mystery that we refer to as God. There is nothing that that Divine Mystery does not know. Now that could be rather frightening except for the assurance that the God who knows everything about us is also the God who created us, and that means every single part of us.
We are not male or female, straight or gay, binary or non-binary because we have chosen to be so. We are what God created us to be. And it is that assurance that makes it OK that we are fully and completely known by that power that created us, because that power that created us also loves us, exactly as we were created to be.
This is not a psalm of judgement, that challenges us to fit into the mold that others fit into or to reshape ourselves to be more ‘acceptable’ to God. This is a psalm that celebrates our uniqueness and individuality and tells us, it’s not only OK to be different from others, but it is something to celebrate because, that’s the way God made us.
My second favorite passage is the reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans. This letter to the church in Rome is more like a sermon or theological treatise than it is like an actual personal letter. It was written when Paul was planning to visit Rome and wanted to make sure that, before he arrived, they understood his theology and what he hoped to do in his ministry.
Now I have to admit that I am not always the greatest fan of Paul. I find much of what he wrote to be very narrow minded and judgemental, but there is one line in the passage we read this morning that, for me, has always been extremely powerful and comforting.
For I am certain that nothing can separate us from [God’s] love: neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers or powers, neither the present nor the future, neither the world above nor the world below—there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Although I love this passage, today I would like to add one thing to this scripture. Paul writes, nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God — I would add, not even the historically hypocritical, judgmental and homophobic attitudes of the Christian Church
Until we face the fact that our church has historically excluded people, people who are different from us, people we do not fit in our normal, comfortable circles, we cannot truly move forward.
For us, here at Beacon, this had been a huge part of becoming an officially Affirming Church. We have had to look at our unconscious prejudices and face them. We have had to ask and answer some tough questions not only about what we believe but about how we put those beliefs into action. But completing that process was not the end for us. We need to continue to be aware of the ingrained attitudes and practices that we often don’t even think about.
So often I have heard different people say, “Yes, of course we’re a welcoming church. Everyone is welcome to join us.” But when pushed, these same people admit that they welcome everyone to attend, but they just don’t believe that anyone, other than those who fit with the traditional ethos of their church should be allowed to hold position of power or responsibility.
Sometimes it seems that we assume that this is something that is unique to our present time and generation. But the truth is that this is an argument that goes back to the very beginning of our faith tradition. In the gospel reading from this morning, the disciples come to Jesus with a concern. “Teacher, we saw a man who was driving out demons in your name, and we told him to stop, because he doesn’t belong to our group.”
These are Jesus closest disciples. These are the ones who had followed him from the very beginning. These are the ones who would become the foundation of what would eventually be known as the Christian Church. And yet they got it so wrong. Like so many of us they excluded those who didn’t belong to their group, those who were not like them.
Jesus immediately corrected them saying, “no one who performs a miracle in my name will be able soon afterward to say evil things about me. For whoever is not against us is for us. I assure you that anyone who gives you a drink of water because you belong to me will certainly receive a reward.”
It’s not about who belongs and who doesn’t. It’s not about being part of the right group, following the right rules, believing in the right doctrine, or attending the right church. It’s not about where you belong. It is about what you do. As a follower of Jesus back in those earliest days and as par of what we call the Christian Church today, it is about doing the very best we can to follow the example given to us, by the one we call the Christ.
And we all know that doing our best does not mean we always do things right. Sometime we still continue to mess up. But that’s OK. Those first disciples didn’t always get it right, so we need to accept that there are times we won’t either. But we need to be willing to admit when we are wrong and we need to make whatever changes are necessary. We need to continue to grow and learn and to always keep trying to do better.
There is a wonderful quote attributed to Maya Angelou that says, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.”
This is a lifelong process. And it is a process that each one of us goes through in our own way and in our own time. We can only ‘do better’ when we ‘know better’ but in order to ‘know better’ we have to be open to accept that there are times we will get it wrong.
We cannot force anyone else to speed up their process. We can share our experiences and we can try to lead by example. We can call them on attitudes that are hurtful and unjust, but others must choose how and when they are open to learning to ‘know better’ and when they are ready to start trying to “do better”.
Psalm 139 reminds us that God knows us completely, the paths we take, the things we say and even the thoughts that we may never verbalize. God knows us and loves us. And God never gives up on us. But that also means that God completely knows everyone else and that God loves them too, even when they get it wrong.
For I am certain that nothing can separate us from [Gods] love: neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers or powers, neither the present nor the future, neither the world above nor the world below—there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God.
God continues to be with us, before us and behind us, leading us, and holding us. Even when we wander off track, God is still there trying desperately to lead us back. And that will never change. It’s up to us whether we are willing to accept and to trust that love. And I pray that in our efforts to do so, we will all learn to ‘do better’. Amen.
Hymn Sing a New World into Being
Statement of Faith
Within the United Church of Canada, we express our commitment to our faith and to the living out of that faith in our everyday lives through the words of our creed. I would like to invite those who are comfortable doing so to stand and share this creed together. For those who are not comfortable with this, do not feel you must take part, but I would encourage you to listen to the words as they are shared.
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.
Here at Beacon United Church, we no longer pass offing plates. This is a way of reminding ourselves that we do not have to pay for God’s love. It comes to us freely, regardless of who we are. The same is true for involvement in the church. We do not charge an entry fee or a membership fee. We invite everyone regardless of their ability or inability to contribute financially to our church.
However, as you all know, there are costs to running a church. Therefore, we ask you, if you would like to contribute to the ongoing work of this church, to place your offering on the offering plates that are located in the entryway. You can also put an offering in our Mission & Service piggy bank to help with our church’s work around the world. If you wish to support Beacon United church in an ongoing way, you can also make arrangements to give through Pre-Authorized Remittance or online.
But you can also give through the commitments of your time, your talents and your prayers. These gifts are just as important as the financial gifts we receive.
So now, let us take a moment of prayer to offer whatever gifts we bring to the One from whom we receive all life’s gifts and blessings.
Let us Pray;
Spirit of openness and affirmation, we dedicate the gifts of our hands, the gifts of our hearts and the gifts of our lives to the ministry of love and acceptance in our world. May we always seek to use all of your gifts and our resources to create a world and a church where all are welcomed, all are honoured, all are loved and all are fully known and fully accepted. This we pray in the name of Jesus, Amen.
We Offer Our Prayers
God is always as near as our next breath. God always listen when we pray, whether those prayers are written down and placed in our prayer jar or whether they as said in the silence of our hearts. So let us bring our silent, personal prayers to God with confidence, knowing that they are always heard … Amen.
Minute for Mission
One of the ways in which our church reaches out to the wider world is through the Mission and Service fund of The United Church of Canada. Each week during our worship service we hear one story about what that fund is able to accomplish with our help. (Marilyn)
Call to Prayer
Let us take a moment to center ourselves as we prepare to gather in prayer.
Lord, Listen to your children praying, Lord, send your Spirit in this place;
Lord, Listen to your children praying, send us love, send us power, send us grace
Words and music copyright Hope Publishing Company. All rights reserved. Used with Permission. OneLicense #A723756
Prayers of the People (Shelley)
Divine Creator, we come to you with both the joys and the sorrows of our hearts. We are grateful for the gift of life and the joy that it can bring. For families and friends who love us. For allies who stick up for us, even when we cannot risk sticking up for ourselves. For the great diversity you have created in our world. For the beauty of land and sea that surround us here and that enrich our lives. For the plants, animal, sea creatures and all other living beings that share this planet with us.
For all the varied people that populate this world, those here in our own region, those across this country and around the world. Yet even in our gratitude, we acknowledge that there are many in our world who seem to have little for which to be grateful. We pray for the hungry, the lonely, the sick, the destitute, those living in situation of fear and violence and all those who struggle to simply survive.
Today with think especially of those who suffer from discrimination because of their gender identity or sexual orientation, those who worry about their employment or who cannot find a job, those who must hide who they are in order to find housing, those who are not safe on our streets, and those who do not feel safe in our places of worship. Forgive us when we are part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Help us to end homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia, and all forms of discrimination and hate. Show us the way to make this world a better place for all. Gathering these and all our prayers together, those spoken and those unspoken we offer them to you now. And let us close our time of prayer by sharing together a paraphrase of the Prayer of Jesus as it appears on our screen.
Eternal Spirit, Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver,
Source of all that is and that shall be, Father and Mother of us all,
Loving God, in whom is heaven:
The hallowing of your name echo through the universe!
The way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the world!
Your heavenly will be done by all created beings!
Your commonwealth of peace and freedom sustain our hope and come on earth.
With the bread we need for today, feed us.
In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.
In times of temptation and testing, strengthen us.
From trials too great to endure, spare us.
From the grip of all that is evil, free us.
For you reign in the glory of the power that is love, now and for ever. Amen.
Closing Hymn My Love Colours Outside the Lines MV#138
We go out from here now into a world of wonderful, beautiful diversity. We go out from her trying to do our best to follow the example of love and acceptance that has been given us through Christ. We go out from here together, knowing that we are not alone. We are accompanied by the wonderous array of human identities, we are accompanied by the love of Divine Creation, by the example of Love lived out in human form and we are accompanied now and always by Divine Spirit that is with us and within us, wherever we go. Go now, with God.
Choral Blessing MV#209
Go make a dff’rence, we can make a diff’rence
Go make a diff’rence in the world
Go make a diff’rence we can make a diff’rence
Go make a diff’rence in the world
Copyright © 1997, Steve Angrisano and Tom Tomaszek. Published by spiritandsong.com ®. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission. OneLicense #A723756