Virtual Service – January 17, 2021

8:30 am

January 17, 2021

Welcome to virtual church!

Each Sunday morning we will be sending an email to everyone in the congregation for whom we have email addresses, offering an abridged Sunday morning service — “virtual church.” For the latest news and updates from Walton, please check our Facebook page, Instagram and website.

Please contact office@waltonmemorial.com if you would like to be added to our email list.

Sunday Service Video (30+ minutes followed by the hymns)

Today’s service will be offered in 2 formats – a video and text. If you wish, you can download and print the service from this document – link – or you can read the complete service below.

The hymn-sing is at the end.


Announcements

• Wondrous thanks from the Outreach Committee – We are overwhelmed by the generosity of the Walton congregation to our White Gift campaign in our especially difficult year. Thank you for your contributions of knitting, toys, gift cards and donations.
– We delivered to Kerr Street Mission 50 hats, 10 scarves, 50 gloves/mitts, 50 pairs of socks.
– We delivered to Wesley Urban Ministries 18 hat/scarf sets, 146 hats, 53 scarves, 11 headbands, 16 gloves/mitts and 100 pairs of socks.
– As well you donated $615 in gift cards and almost $3,000 in donations to be spent by the agency where most needed.
Considering the extra effort getting all of this to the church – cheques and items, even through the mail slot, we are more than ever grateful for your response. Please know that every item and every dollar has been gratefully received as a welcome sign that people care about other people.

• Children and youth are invited to view this week’s Sunday School At Home virtual lesson online: Faith Fails: Oops, Jonah did It Again

 •  Walton’s prayer chain is open. Confidential prayers requests can be sent to office@waltonmemorial.com

 • Church office open by appointment only – Church office hours have been suspended to comply with the provincial government stay at home order. Staff members are working from home and may be reached via their individual email addresses. For general inquiries or to schedule an appointment please leave a message on the church voice mail at 905-827-1643 and/or email the church office at office@waltonmemorial.com. Both the voicemail and email are checked regularly.

•  If you need Rev. Jim for a pastoral emergency, please email him directly at jamescgillwuc@gmail.com


Welcome

Good Morning and welcome to the virtual service. Picture Val sitting quietly, in Yoga pose. In the background Jim is calling “Val, Val.” Val replies, “Yes Jim,” and he asks what she is doing. Val answers, “Listening for God to speak to me, trying to find a quiet place to hear God. That is quite hard to do, you know. Lots of noises take my thoughts and attention away from my quiet time.” You know that God says “Be still and know that I am God.” So take a minute now and be still and come before God as we join together in worship.

Call to Worship

One: We come here today to hear your word, Lord, and to listen for your voice in our lives.
Two: And yet we let the noise of the world–clanging with distractions, clamouring with lies–drown you out.
One: Still us Lord, to hear your quiet voice.
Two: Too often we are misled by our preconceived ideas of how you work and what you have to say.
One: Awaken us Lord, to hear your surprising voice.
Two: Stubbornly, we impose our views and plans on you, praying only with our demands and expectations.
One: Humble us Lord, to recognize your challenging voice.
Two: Give us today the courage to affirm the words of the prophets:
One: Speak, O Lord, for your servant is listening.

Opening Prayer

Persistent God, in disbelief, we thank you for never giving up on us. No matter how often we ignore you and turn away from your word, you call after us with love and mercy. When we don’t like what you might be saying to us, you encourage us with love and understanding. And every time we question or doubt you, you reach out to us with warmth and mercy. Abide with us, we pray, despite all our shortcomings, and open our hearts to hear your word. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

Youth Story – “Hearing Aids…. or are we listening?”

In Sunday School this month, our theme has been Faith Fails. Everybody has seen fail videos on TV or the internet, but who knew there were so many epic fails in the Bible? It’s kind of amazing that God ever managed to get anyone to do what he wanted!

Why do you think so many people struggle to keep their faith in God and do what he tells us? I have a theory…maybe we don’t always hear what he’s saying. God doesn’t always shout our names out loud – sometimes he speaks to us in a whisper, or in very subtle ways. And, sometimes we just aren’t listening. Val came up with a smart way for us to hear God better – hearing aids!

Lots of people in our families – and in the Walton congregation – have these amazing high tech-devices to help them hear better. Maybe one of your grandparents has one they could show you. They are so small, you often can’t even see them, but boy do they work! They especially help to filter out all the background noise so the person wearing them can clearly hear the voice of the person who’s speaking to them.

Maybe that’s what we need to listen to God better! Something to help us ignore all the distractions and noise and stuff going on in our lives, that often makes it hard to hear God’s voice saying. You don’t need actual hearing aids for that – just turn on your imaginary hearing aids in your mind – click – and focus on what God is telling you to do.

Scripture Reading: 1 Samuel 3: 1-20

Samuel’s Calling and Prophetic Activity
Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.

At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. The Lord called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

Then the Lord said to Samuel, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle. On that day I will fulfil against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.”

Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” He said, “Here I am.” Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.” So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then he said, “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.”

As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the Lord.

Morning Message: “Listening for God” – Gill Le Fevre

There is a famously bad knock-knock joke involving a series of fruit.

It starts off innocently:
Knock-knock
Who’s there?
Banana
Banana who?
Knock-knock

But then it rapidly becomes a tormenting groundhog day-esque misery as the response “banana who?” is only ever answered with another knock-knock loop. Eventually, mercifully, the joke-teller puts you out of your misery

Knock-knock
Who’s there?
Orange
Orange who?
Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?

The reading from 1 Samuel that we heard today reminds me in a strange way of this knock-knock, although it’s hard to know who would be getting more frustrated: Samuel, repeatedly rising and going to Eli only to be told Eli hadn’t called him, or Eli, constantly being disturbed by Samuel. Orange you glad Eli finally figures out what’s going on.

God wants to talk to humankind – even and perhaps especially when humankind might not want to hear from God.

The passage warns us not to expect a simple or straightforward conversation – “In those days, the word of the Lord was rare,” – and yet I’m still struck by the messy complexity of human interactions with God.

First, you have Samuel, uncertain as to what is going on, overwhelmed perhaps of the magnitude of what it might mean if it really wasn’t Eli who was calling to him. Now over Christmas, we’ve just read in the Nativity, a series of humans receiving visions or messages from God, and nowhere does God need three attempts to get their attention.

Then when Samuel finally does recognize God’s voice, things get more complicated because the message God is giving Samuel is not good news for Eli. It’s so bad in fact, that Samuel doesn’t want to tell Eli. His vision ends and rather than rushing back to tell Eli what had happened, Samuel lies down to wait for morning.

Samuel’s vision of God’s word will be validated by God’s condemnation, destruction even, of Eli’s family.

Samuel doesn’t want to hear this from God. But then Eli didn’t want to hear God’s word previously either. When God first warned Eli about the blasphemous behaviour of Eli’s sons, God’s warnings were ignored. God even pleaded with Eli, “Why do you honour your sons more than me?”

Hearing from God, then, is not always “good news and great joy.” Sometimes it is challenging and confronting, calling us to reassess what we want and how we live. Sometimes God says ‘no,’ when we want to hear ‘yes,’ or ‘wait’ when we would rather be told ‘now.’

We don’t always want to hear what God has to say to us, and we are frighteningly quick to try to rewrite the world and our faith to align with what we’ve decided must be true.

Around the world over the last year, time and again people have used and abused their faith, to attempt to make the Covid pandemic fall into line with their own beliefs.

Rigid church leaders have demanded their rights to assemble for worship, in all sorts of specific ways, regardless of the health risks posed by large groups. And over the hubbub of their legal claims, they don’t hear Jesus’ words, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

Back in June, at a civic meeting debating a mask mandate, one woman vehemently criticized masks as an insult to – quote – “God’s wonderful breathing system.” But over the ranting of her now-viral protests, she doesn’t hear Jesus’ words, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Too often, it seems, we are starting to resemble the Pharisees who were quick to condemn Jesus for not adhering to the laws of the sabbath, rather than to follow Jesus’ example and look for ways we can serve and heal.

And yet God never gives up on humanity. And in the reading from Samuel, we see the persistence and patience of God’s love for humankind. Not once, but three times, God calls to Samuel and waits – patiently – for Samuel to recognize God.

There’s nothing that God particularly needs from Samuel before he can go on to speak. There’s nothing in the vision that requires Samuel to do anything before God pronounces judgment on Eli and his sons. Indeed, the content of the vision is sufficiently stark that it could only come from the almighty.

And yet God waits for Samuel to recognize God.

As the theologian Robert Benson writes, “We are not here to show something to God. We are here because God— the One who wants to be completely known—has something to show to us.”

This is a God who wants a connection, a relationship, more than perhaps anything else. The judgment of Eli, as uncomfortable as it may make us, also shows us God reaffirming his relationship with humankind and the importance of the worship he calls the world to offer, and proclaiming God’s active presence in the world. Samuel is marked out as a prophet and entrusted with the knowledge of God’s purpose, not as an accidental bystander, but as one whom God persistently called.

The emphatic, encouraging, enabling message from this reading then is one of simple reassurance: God patiently persists in loving us. Despite Samuel’s confusion, Eli’s lax standards, and the blasphemy of Eli’s sons, God doesn’t give up on humankind but rather continues to call to us. Calling us to listen, calling us to follow, calling us to serve – then and now.

Frederick Buechner encourages us: “Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is … There is no event so commonplace but that God is present within it, always hiddenly, always leaving you room to recognize him or not to recognize him.”

Can you recognize God in a segment of orange?

The author Dean Nelson tells the story of a friend of his, Michael, finding God in one such tiny morsel of fruit. His friend was on a mission trip to Calcutta, volunteering at the Home for Dying Destitutes, where people were brought if they had no-one else to care for them at the end of their life.

Michael was feeding a diseased man who was too weak to feed himself, and after some bites of rice and fish, the man had barely the energy to go on. Dessert was half a tangerine, and slowly Michael fed the segments to the man, the sweetness bringing a smile to the dying man.

As Michael fed him the last few segments, he noticed another man, two beds away, gesturing to him. Michael went over and this man handed over his own half tangerine to be given to the other man.

“I will never, never, ever say again that I have nothing to give,” Michael reflects. “If a dying man can offer a few sections of fruit to relieve the suffering of another dying man, then I will always have something to give.”

Let us then in this coming week look to recognize God in the small and commonplace moments of each day. Let us listen to God calling us into relationship with him – patiently and persistently. And let us find both comfort and purpose in God’s message for us – that God’s love is present in our lives through the smallest gift to another in need.

Thanks be to God.

Pastoral Prayer

Caring God, you see the world with all its pain and suffering, plagued by fear and division — and you call us to help.

As we bring before you now our hopes and desires, our doubts and concerns, help us hear your call to us: your words of comfort and support; your promise of empowerment, strength and mercy.

Speak, O Lord, for your servant is listening.

We pray for an end to the suffering of creation. Inspire us to take better care of our planet and to recognize the damage that we have already done. Prompt us to accept the changes and sacrifices necessary to renew our natural resources. Help us to hear the creative love of God the Father in your calling to us.

We pray for an end to the hunger of the world. Encourage us to assist those who do not have enough to eat each day, especially in our local communities. Spur us to support food banks and school meal support and to take particular care of those for whom the pandemic has worsened their well-being. Help us to recognize the nourishing love of Jesus the Son in your calling to us.

We pray for an end to the violence against your children. Enable us to support and protect those who experience harm and aggression in their homes or at work. Give us the courage to stand up for those who are attacked and oppressed–verbally, physically or emotionally. Help us to accept the empowering love of the Holy Spirit in your calling to us.

Help us, Lord, to hear your voice in the cries of the world and to affirm our faithful response to your eternal love: speak, O Lord, for your servant is listening.

Amen.

Anthem: “God Speaks His Love”

Offering of Ourselves, Our Gifts, Our Tithes

This is our invitation to the offering, we offer our gifts, to support the life and ministry of the whole church both here in this faith community and beyond. Come let us now present our gifts.

♥ by secure online payment from your bank or credit card – waltonmemorial.com/donate

*Important Note*Please enter the donation in one person’s name (preferably the name shown on the credit/debit card) even if you give jointly with another person. As with cheques and cash, donations made online are automatically credited to both adults in the same household regardless of which one made the donation.

♥ by cheque through the mail slot at the Church office entrance or by Canada Post.
♥ by monthly PAR payments. To sign up contact stuart@waltonmemorial.com.

Offering Prayer

Compassionate God, help us to answer your call to love and to serve and to heal. Help us to hear the shouts of the hungry, and to answer with food and nourishment. Help us to hear the cries of those in pain, and to answer with comfort and healing. Help us to hear the sobs of the lost, and to answer with your welcoming love. Let our gifts today answer the cries of all those in need in our world. Amen.

Benediction

Go out this day open to the mystery and presence of God in our world. With God’s grace, be ready to see the face of God in the stranger. Ready to hear the voice of God in the cries of those in need. And ready to share the love of God with all whom we encounter.
Amen.


Walton’s Musical Message

This morning on Facebook and on YouTube, we’re sharing a video where Linda shares with us several of our favourite hymns! Sing along!

♬ Listen God is Calling
♬ Speak O Lord
♬ Lord We Hear Your Word with Gladness
♬ Will You Come and Follow Me
♬ We are Called

In case you missed it…

Here is Rev. Jim’s mid-week update from Wednesday, January 6th