Sermon: A Time for Every Purpose – December 31, 2017

A Time for Every Purpose
December 31, 2017
Rev. Erin Klassen

Lighting the Diversity Candle
Welcome and Words of Introduction

Sung Call to Worship: VU 91 The First Noel

Opening Prayer and the Prayer of Jesus

One: “Out with the old and in with the new,” the old saying goes. But we all know the joys and sorrows of the past calendar year cannot be discarded with such cavalier indifference. Each day contains within it the possibility of the ordinary and the extraordinary, and a year presents us with 365 of these beautiful opportunities. 2017 has been a year of profound change, growth, grief, and celebration; 2018 is a blank book, waiting to be filled with possibilities all its own. So, let us gather together in this space, around this table, with these people to join with the writer of Ecclesiastes and honor the purpose and meaning of each season under heaven.

One: God of Time, we stand here on the edge this morning, teetering between one year and the next: holding fast to what was, looking with anticipation toward what will be. In all the movements of life, Gracious God, we know you have been present with us. In all the things which are to come, Creating One, we know that you will be with us. Send your Spirit upon our hearts this day, that we might be united with you through Christ, and with all believers across time and space in this celebration of the ordinary and extraordinary. Thanks be to you, amen.

Hymn: VU 238 Great is Thy Faithfulness

Looking Back

ONE: 366 days have passed since the last time we gathered around fireworks, noisemakers, and glittering parties to celebrate the arrival of 2018.  In those many, many days so very much has happened.  There have been moments of tremendous triumph and valleys of deep loss.  Before we can look ahead into the unknown of 2018, it is good to give thanks, to grieve, to name and remember, and of course to confess all that has been in 2017.  So, together, let us follow the guide the writer of Ecclesiastes has set before us as we bear witness to all that was.

Hebrew Bible Reading (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)[1]
and Responsive Prayer of Witness

TWO: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:  2 a time to be born, and a time to die;”  We honor the lives of the people who have entered the world this year.

ONE: I would invite us to name the newest ones who have entered into the welcome of our community through baptism: Harvey and Isaac

And, of course, we know each year brings with it the loss of those whom we have loved.  We think, of course, of celebrities: of Gord Downie, Tom Petty and Chris Cornell, and so many others who have blessed us with their art and passion.  We remember, with grief, those whose lives ended too soon.  We remember those whose lives were full, long, and beautiful, and we give thanks through our grief.  Let us, together, give thanks for the lives of those we have loved:  Sandra, Florence, Joan, Betty, Hendrina, Margaret and David.

(name those who have been lost to you, within your community or in the wider world, in 2017)

TWO: The writer continues, there is “a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;  3 a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;”

ONE: O Lord, we know that we have experienced the full range of human emotion in this year.  We have watched as our kindred have fled their homes in Syria and Myanmar, fleeing governments that should be protecting them. We have seen the beauty of families reunited.  As we have have celebrated our country’s 150th, we have recognized that we still have much to do to reconcile ourselves as a whole people.  We have seen the lovely and the horrific, and we raise both to you, gracious God, as we name the events of our community which have shaped our year:

(name those events which have, in good and evil ways, shaped your experience of 2017)

TWO: There is “4a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;  5 a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;” and, yes this year has meant all of these things to us.

ONE: We have seen the arguments on social media, the vitriol of negative campaigning in our city, we have experienced the divisions within our own families and friend groups as our different modes of engaging the political world create space between us.  But, Gracious God, we have also experienced hope!  We are so thankful for the moments when people of generosity and faith have differed with one another compassionately, with a listening ear and an inclined heart.  We are filled up when we experience the goodness of the diversity you have created and ordered within our beautiful world.  We ask that your grace and wisdom be given to the leaders whom we have elected and called, and we name them before you: Our mayor and city councillor, Naheed Nenshi and Evan Woolley, our school board trustee, Richard Hehr, our MLA Kathleen Ganley, MP Kent Hehr and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

TWO: There is “6 a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; 7 a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;” and in this year that have been so many words spoken: words of kindness, words of hate, words which build up, words that have torn down.  There have been words thoughtfully spoken and words thrown away without a thought.

ONE: Together, gracious God, we offer before you the words of this year which we will remember:

All: (name the phrases and words which come to mind, for you, as you allow your mind to remember this past year: the good and the bad, and offer them up to God)

TWO: Finally, beloved, there is “8a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.”  We have known all of this in the year that was.  Love and hate, war and peace.

ONE: We have known all of it on the grand stage of the world, the private spheres of our families, and within the dark, quiet, secret of our own hearts.  And so together we offer you this, our prayer of thanksgiving, lament, and confession. Glory be to God: the one who was, who is, and who will be.  Amen.

Hymn: MV 16 Come and Fill Our Hearts

Looking Forward

ONE: On this day of new things, new resolutions, new beginnings, a new year, we carry in our hearts the seeds of what will become reality in the 365 days ahead.   So let us gather our hopes and dreams, the wishes and longings of our heart and present them before Jesus, trusting that all things are held together in Christ, our beloved brother and friend.

Epistle Reading (Colossians 1:15-20) and Responsive Prayer of Hope

One: Let us join together in prayer:

All: “Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.”

One: Yes, O Christ, we know that you are, indeed, the firstborn of all creation, the apple of the eye of God, the treasured One of the Most High God.  We know that in you “all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through [you] and for [you].”  Gracious Christ, firstborn of all creation, we come before you humbly, offering you what little we have, the tender and new hopes born of our own heart.  Together, I would invite all of us to share in a few minutes of silence as we gather together and name the hopes we are carrying for this year which is to come.

You may wish to put out pens and paper, crayons or other art supplies, and give your congregation the space to write/draw/color as they ponder their hopes.

All: (Keep an intentional, lengthy silence as you ponder your hopes for the new year.)

*Again, you may wish to use a hymn, in whole or verse by verse, to transition between the elements of this prayer of hope.

One: (after several minutes of silence) The writer continues, “17Christ himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”  All of these nascent hopes and dreams are already known to Jesus.  They are already held together in the one who is the firstborn of all creation.  These hopes did not come from nothing, and they will not go to nothing, they are dreams born of the Spirit of God, gifted to each one of us, held in the loving hands of the One who is before all things, in all things, and holds all things together.  So, if you feel so led, I would invite us into a time of offering our hopes for the year to come into the gracious and compassionate hands of Jesus.

You may wish to do this sharing in smaller groups (turn to people next to you…) if your congregation would feel safer sharing in a more intimate space.

All: (in this space, name your hopes for the year to come)

One: (after you have given sufficient space for sharing) “18Christ is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.”  Yes!  My friends, this is such good news!  The fullness of God dwells in Christ, and through Christ all things will be reconciled to God!  The good work of the kingdom has been and will continue to be underway each and every day of this year which is to come!  Let us give thanks to God, together in song, for the gift it will be to partner with Christ, the head of our church, in the daily labor of bringing God’s Kingdom here and now! Hallelujah! Thanks be to God!

Hymn: VU 87 I am the Light of the World

Scarboro News and the Ritual of Friendship

Call for the Offering

One: We begin this new year with such richness given to us: a community of faith, a table filled full, stories and songs to sustain the journey ahead.  Let us respond to the graciousness of these many blessings by giving back to God from our own hearts.


Song of Thanks

Dedication Prayer

All: God of Compassion and Creation use these gifts of our hands, wrought of our own work and labor, to create moments and spaces of mercy in this world.  Use our time, our talent, our money, and our voices in the building up of your kin-dom—in order that all people might come to know and experience the richness of your beloved community.  We pray this in the name of Christ, Amen.

Song Before and After Prayer: MV 19 Maranatha

Prayers of the People

Holy child
God from God, Light from Light
Wisdom from before all worlds began
Pain bearer
Soul healer
Life giver
Challenger and Comforter
Love beyond Love, beyond Love:
Bless us all….

May the stars sing Your love into every heart, this day and always. Amen.

Response: VU 59 Joy to the World


And so, let us go out into 2018 holding fast to these good words: take pleasure in your toil, because whatever God has already done endures forever.  That which is to be, it already is!  That which is, it already has been.  For everything there is a season, and a purpose under heaven.  And as we go, let us always remember, that in each and every season we go out with the love of God, the communion of Jesus Christ, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, now and always!  Amen!

Copyright 2016, The Young Clergy Women Project.  Permission is granted to churches to reprint individual prayers and liturgical texts for worship provided that the following notice is included: Reprinted by permission of The Young Clergy Women Project. Copyright 2016.

[1]  All Readings are excerpted from “The New Revised Standard Version,” copyright 1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

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