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Our worship leader today is our own Robert Nicholson. Thank you Robert for leading us so frequently and so faithfully over the last 4 months!


Prelude:  performed by David Rogers. Interludium 2 from Ludus Tonalis by Paul Hindemith.

CLICK HERE to listen.

Your participation with us today is truly a blessing.  

Call to Worship:
Spirit, life, and soul of all creation, in moments of change, when everything we know starts to fade away and yet before we know what is coming, bless us with confidence in your wisdom and guidance. Remind us of the glory of the earth as the leaves begin to change. Help us to let go of what is no longer needed. Free us from holding tightly to old ways and habits when your Spirit calls to a new day and a new way in creation. We pray in the name of Jesus, who shows us the way. Amen.

Wendy MacLean, Christ U.C., Lyn, Ont.  

Acknowledgement of Territory
We have come a long way in the work of reconciliation, but there is still a long road ahead. As we prepare for worship, we acknowledge that the land on which our church and community is built is the unceded land of the Kwayquitlum Coast Salish people. May we work to build and deepen right relationship of thanksgiving and hope for the future. May God bless all with love. Amen  

Opening Prayer
God of the mountains and the seas,
of dry land and living waters,
may we always look for you
where your Spirit leads us, in truth.
May we always notice you
where hope does not disappoint us,
because we know that your love
has been poured over all, Amen.

Jim McKean, Orillia, Ont.

The Lectionary for today provides four readings. Psalm 114 repeats the theme of Exodus 14, so I haven’t offer a further comment following it.

First Reading: Exodus 14:19-31 (NRSV)
The angel of God who was going before the Israelite army moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and took its place behind them. It came between the army of Egypt and the army of Israel. And so the cloud was there with the darkness, and it lit up the night; one did not come near the other all night.

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided. The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.

The Egyptians pursued, and went into the sea after them, all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and chariot drivers. At the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and cloud looked down upon the Egyptian army, and threw the Egyptian army into panic. He clogged their chariot wheels so that they turned with difficulty.

The Egyptians said,
    “Let us flee from the Israelites, for the Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.” Then the Lord said to Moses,
    “Stretch out your hand over the sea, so that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and chariot drivers.”
So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at dawn the sea returned to its normal depth. As the Egyptians fled before it, The Lord tossed the Egyptians into the sea. The waters returned and covered the chariots and the chariot drivers, the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea; not one of them remained.

But the Israelites walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left. Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great work that the Lord did against the Egyptians. So the people feared the Lord and believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.

Comment: In 1956, when the movie The Ten Commandments was released, my family made the trip to the old Strand Theatre in Vancouver to watch it. I was 9 years old and reassured seeing that God was on our side and would destroy any enemies that might threaten us. God was indeed the “Kingdom, the Power and the Glory. Amen.” WW2 had ended in the previous decade and, thank God, we were on the side of the victors. I could sleep easily at night.

During the next ten years or so, it started the sink in that the Church was saying something different. God loved all of creation absolutely. It follows that God would have loved the Egyptians just as much as the Israelites. Would such a God murder the first born of all the Egyptian families and drown their entire army? Jesus taught and demonstrated nonviolence. There is a disconnect here.

These types of Bible Stories have been used to justify Apartheid, Colonization, Ethnic Cleansing and other evils undertaken by our western culture. Yes, God calls us to work to free the oppressed, but we need to take care that in the process we ourselves don’t become the new oppressors.

Hymn: MV 89: “Love Is the Touch”
CLICK HERE to listen.

Love is the touch of intangible joy;
love is the force that no fear can destroy;
love is the goodness we gladly applaud:
God is where love is, for love is of God.

2 Love is the lilt in a lingering voice;
love is the hope that can make us rejoice;
love is the cure for the frightened and flawed:
God is where love is, for love is of God.

3 Love is the light in the tunnel of pain;
love is the will to be whole once again;
love is the trust of a friend on the road:
God is where love is, for love is of God.

4 Love is the Maker and Spirit and Son;
love is the kingdom their will has begun;
love is the pathway the saints all have trod:
God is where love is, for love is of God.

Second Reading: Psalm 114 (NRSV)
When Israel went out from Egypt,
    the house of Jacob from a people of strange language,
Judah became God’s sanctuary,     
    Israel his dominion.
The sea looked and fled;     
    Jordan turned back.
The mountains skipped like rams,     
    the hills like lambs.
Why is it, O sea, that you flee?     
    O Jordan, that you turn back?
O mountains, that you skip like rams?     
    O hills, like lambs?
Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord,     
    at the presence of the God of Jacob,
who turns the rock into a pool of water,     
    the flint into a spring of water.

Suggested: VU 651: “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah”
CLICK HERE to listen.

Guide me, O thou great Jehovah,
pilgrim through this barren land.
I am weak, but thou art mighty,
hold me with thy powerful hand.

Bread of heaven, bread of heaven,
feed me till I want no more;
feed me till I want no more.

Open now the crystal fountain,
whence the healing stream doth flow;
let the fire and cloudy pillar
lead me all my journey through.

Strong deliverer, strong deliverer,
be thou still my strength and shield;
be thou still my strength and shield.

When I tread the verge of Jordan,
bid my anxious fears subside;
death of death, and hell’s destruction,
land me safe on Canaan’s side:

songs of praises, songs of praises
I will ever give to thee;
I will ever give to thee

Third Reading: Romans 14:1-12 (NRSV)
Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God.

We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written,
    “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,     
    and every tongue shall give praise to God.”

So then, each of us will be accountable to God.

Comment: Welcoming one another is one way we Christians show our love. This doesn’t work if we get hung up on enforcing a set of rules that we believe should apply to all. Dr. Bonnie often makes this point when she is asked how we should respond to people who aren’t following all of her suggestions. She reminds us to be kind.

We often need to be reminded that as Christians we do not have a calling to judge others. Our only authority comes from the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately many of us still have a way to go in welcoming all.

Suggested Hymn: VU 288 “Great is Thy Faithfulness”
CLICK HERE to listen.

1 Great is thy faithfulness, God our Creator;
there is no shadow of turning with thee;
thou changest not; thy compassions, they fail not;
as thou hast been thou forever wilt be.

[Refrain:] Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
all I have needed thy hand hath provided
— great is thy faithfulness, ever to me!

2 Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
join with all nature in manifold witness
to thy great faithfulness, mercy and love. [Refrain]

3 Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide,
strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow
— wondrous the portion thy blessings provide.

Fourth Reading: Matthew 18:21-35 (NRSV)
Then Peter came and said to him,
    “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven     times?”
Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying,
   ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’
And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said,
   ‘Pay what you owe.’
Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him,
    ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’
But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him,
    ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’
And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Comment: Matthew implies that we are to forgive each other (even our enemies) indefinitely. (Unlike in Father Brown, we don’t even have to insist that the sinner repent.) However, if we consider the behavior of the first slave towards the second, it appears that the failure to forgive is itself unforgivable. A conundrum. Matthew really does not address this problem. Jesus’ faithfulness even unto the cross, forgiving his adversaries for their action as they take his life, challenges us to follow a difficult path.

Suggested Hymn: VU 660 “How Firm a Foundation”
CLICK HERE to listen.

How firm a foundation, you servants of God,
Is laid for your faith in God’s excellent word!
What more can be said than to you has been said,
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

 “Fear not, I am with you, O be not dismayed,
For I am your God, and will still give you aid;
I’ll strengthen and help you, and cause you to stand,
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.”

“When through the deep waters I call you to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
For I will be with you, your troubles to bless,
And sanctify to you your deepest distress.”

“When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be your supply;
The flame shall not hurt you; I only design
Your dross to consume, and your gold to refine.”

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to his foes,
That soul, though all hell should endeavour to shake,
I’ll never no, never no, never forsake.

Minute for Mission: September 13
Our gifts for Mission & Service support the important work of reconciliation, including the National Indigenous Spiritual Gathering every three years. In August 2019 the Gathering was held on the territory of the Chippewas of Rama near Orillia, ON, where Indigenous members decided on the structure and priorities for the self-determining Indigenous church within the United Church. CLICK HERE to view video if having trouble viewing in the service email.

Prayers of the People:
In the Ecumenical Prayer Cycle of the World Council of Churches this week we pray for the peoples of Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay. In our own Pacific Mountain Region of the United Church of Canada we are praying for Fort St. James UC, Gibsons UC, Gilmore Park UC Richmond, and Gladwin Heights / St. Andrew's PC Abbotsford.
Let us pray: Take a breath God, our Maker, you shaped humanity and breathed life into your creation. Generation after generation you bring us to being and breathe life into us – your children – you see all the good that is in us.
Take a breath And we see how good it is, good that we can live full and fulfilled lives; good when there is fullness of life for all, for each of your children – food and shelter, fresh air and health.
Take a breath But we see that things are far from good: when our chances of life are so unequal, when those who care for others are at such risk, when lies from the powerful take our breath away, when cruelty becomes everyday. And when good people are taken before their time, we ask: Where are you God?
Take a breath Jesus, our Brother, sharing our human lives and our mortality, the world saw in you the presence of God. Your life and death show that God is with us where innocent people suffer and struggle for breath, as you did on the cross. You accompany us at each stage of our lives with deep compassion, with anger at injustice.
Take a breath Holy Spirit, Encourager, you are there in the care home, in the hospital ward, behind the counter, behind the mask, when we’re lost for words or overwhelmed by them, taking to the streets and in the loneliness of lockdown.
Take a breath You inspire us with the goodness of our neighbours, with gifts to serve the good of all, with the oxygen of hope, and love that is life-giving.
Take a breath God-with-us in every breath …
Take a breath in every breath. Amen Jan Sutch Pickard, Prayer – in every breath Voices out of lockdown, Wild Goose Publications We continue in pray with words Jesus gave to all of his disciples, knowing that you are our Mother, and you are

Our Father . . .                                                                          VU 921  

Commissioning: May Jesus Christ, who restores life in our planet, fill you with his presence to share in this restoration with all humanity. Go in peace, serve and love one another as we together care for one another on this planet called Earth. Amen

Doris Van Den Eeckhout, Richmond U.C., Aylmer, Ont.

Postlude:  Performed by David Rogers. "How Firm a Foundation" with a different tune from Common Praise #527.

CLICK HERE to listen.

Announcements and Additional service materials:


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