March 29, 2020 - Fifth Week in Lent

Welcome to Church!

 

I feel the warmth of your light in the most mysterious ways...

Thank you for all that you are!

These are special times and they call for special measures. One measure will be that we will practice worship in new ways.

 

We would like to encourage you to worship with the greater United church of Canada and the Rt. Rev Richard Bott on Sunday March 29, 2020 by clicking on the link below when you are ready:

https://www.united-church.ca/blogs/round-table/moderators-online-worship-march-29-2020


Reflection "I Am Now"


Where ever you are, whom ever you’re with, no matter your age, height or thickness, whether you can read this or will have it read to you, ... welcome to Church. You are a deeply loved member of God’s family and you are cherished.


It is an honour for me to be with you today in this way!


Let us bring our hearts minds and souls together for worship...

Lent is a time of repentance and reconciliation,

a time to face all that which hems us in and holds us back.

We gather to name the knotted feelings of despair, fear and helplessness that surround us: our abuse of power; the harm we do to others and to the earth.

We gather to give voice to the knotted feelings of despair, fear and helplessness within us: the injustices that silence us; the pain that drains us of hope.

We gather to claim God’s liberating love in the face of all the knotted feelings of despair, fear and helplessness we know.

Come let us worship God.

(by William S. Kervin)


By now many of us are learning a new way in this time of change and unpredictable circumstances. I don’t know about you, but for me the shift to being at home whether I am working, resting, planning, praying or playing has invited me to spice up my routine a bit. I know that generally, in unpredictable times it is helpful to stick to a routine that is as close to our normal pattern as possible. Yet there is nothing normal about what we are being called to live right now.


As I played with my routine by placing work first, then some play, kind of like dessert after a meal, I noticed that I would spend much of my work time looking forward to the time for play. This was very distracting and at times very discombobulating. Finally, this past Thursday, I decided to go back to my regular routine which started with play followed by work. I was amazed at what I learned. As I went out with my canines into the woods just as the sun was peeking over the horizon, I heard the music of the earth greet these first rays of light. The birds were in full chorus and the squirrels were busy with their gathering. My two pups let me know that we were not the first in the woods that day, but that we followed on the heels of rabbits, deer, porcupines and even some fox. There was an aliveness there that I had grown so accustomed to that I had lost sight of its vibrance and mystery. By shifting my routine and getting uncomfortable, I was able to see again, as if for the first time, the mystery that enlivened creation in every moment. It felt like my heart was remembering the song God had sung into it when I was first born into this world.


I know that change and unpredictability can be confusing and challenging. I also know that it can awaken us to the majesty of God’s mysterious presence among us in every moment.


Our bible passages today speak about this. Take a moment to read them here from the translation of the bible called The Message.

Ezekiel 37:1-14

1-2 God grabbed me. God’s Spirit took me up and set me down in the middle of an open plain strewn with bones. He led me around and among them—a lot of bones! There were bones all over the plain—dry bones, bleached by the sun.

3 He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “Master God, only you know that.”

4 He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones: ‘Dry bones, listen to the Message of God!’”

5-6 God, the Master, told the dry bones, “Watch this: I’m bringing the breath of life to you and you’ll come to life. I’ll attach sinews to you, put meat on your bones, cover you with skin, and breathe life into you. You’ll come alive and you’ll realize that I am God!”

7-8 I prophesied just as I’d been commanded. As I prophesied, there was a sound and, oh, rustling! The bones moved and came together, bone to bone. I kept watching. Sinews formed, then muscles on the bones, then skin stretched over them. But they had no breath in them.

9 He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath. Prophesy, son of man. Tell the breath, ‘God, the Master, says, Come from the four winds. Come, breath. Breathe on these slain bodies. Breathe life!’”

10 So I prophesied, just as he commanded me. The breath entered them and they came alive! They stood up on their feet, a huge army.

11 Then God said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Listen to what they’re saying: ‘Our bones are dried up, our hope is gone, there’s nothing left of us.’

12-14 “Therefore, prophesy. Tell them, ‘God, the Master, says: I’ll dig up your graves and bring you out alive—O my people! Then I’ll take you straight to the land of Israel. When I dig up graves and bring you out as my people, you’ll realize that I am God. I’ll breathe my life into you and you’ll live. Then I’ll lead you straight back to your land and you’ll realize that I am God. I’ve said it and I’ll do it. God’s Decree.’”


This is an incredible passage from Ezekiel. Listen to the words of the dry bones in verse 11 again: ‘Our bones are dried up, our hope is gone, there’s nothing left of us.’ Does this ring out for you in any eerie fashion today, amid our current pandemic? Is your hope beginning to wane?

 

Yet listen to what God says to the dry bones, “I’ll dig up your graves and bring you out alive—O my people! Then I’ll take you straight to the land of Israel. When I dig up graves and bring you out as my people, you’ll realize that I am God. I’ll breathe my life into you and you’ll live. Then I’ll lead you straight back to your land and you’ll realize that I am God. I’ve said it and I’ll do it.”

 

Wow, God has said it and God will do it! Are there ways in your life that felt like dry bones until COVID-19 emerged? Are there dry ways, thoughts, and practices that you have been clinging to, to create a sense of normal in a time that is anything but normal? In Ezekiel, God is saying, “I’ll breathe my life into you and you’ll live.” You will live!!! This is huge and so exciting! This is our hope. At this time, God is walking closer beside us than ever before ... blowing into us each and every breath that we take.


Then we hear the text from the Gospel of John also from The Message.

John 11:1-48

1-3 A man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. This was the same Mary who massaged the Lord’s feet with aromatic oils and then wiped them with her hair. It was her brother Lazarus who was sick. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Master, the one you love so very much is sick.”

4 When Jesus got the message, he said, “This sickness is not fatal. It will become an occasion to show God’s glory by glorifying God’s Son.”

5-7 Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, but oddly, when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed on where he was for two more days. After the two days, he said to his disciples, “Let’s go back to Judea.”

8 They said, “Rabbi, you can’t do that. The Jews are out to kill you, and you’re going back?”

9-10 Jesus replied, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in daylight doesn’t stumble because there’s plenty of light from the sun. Walking at night, he might very well stumble because he can’t see where he’s going.”

11 He said these things, and then announced, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep. I’m going to wake him up.”

12-13 The disciples said, “Master, if he’s gone to sleep, he’ll get a good rest and wake up feeling fine.” Jesus was talking about death, while his disciples thought he was talking about taking a nap.

14-15 Then Jesus became explicit: “Lazarus died. And I am glad for your sakes that I wasn’t there. You’re about to be given new grounds for believing. Now let’s go to him.”

16 That’s when Thomas, the one called the Twin, said to his companions, “Come along. We might as well die with him.”

17-20 When Jesus finally got there, he found Lazarus already four days dead. Bethany was near Jerusalem, only a couple of miles away, and many of the Jews were visiting Martha and Mary, sympathizing with them over their brother. Martha heard Jesus was coming and went out to meet him. Mary remained in the house.

21-22 Martha said, “Master, if you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. Even now, I know that whatever you ask God he will give you.”

23 Jesus said, “Your brother will be raised up.”

24 Martha replied, “I know that he will be raised up in the resurrection at the end of time.”

25-26 “You don’t have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all. Do you believe this?”

27 “Yes, Master. All along I have believed that you are the Messiah, the Son of God who comes into the world.”

28 After saying this, she went to her sister Mary and whispered in her ear, “The Teacher is here and is asking for you.”

29-32 The moment she heard that, she jumped up and ran out to him. Jesus had not yet entered the town but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When her sympathizing Jewish friends saw Mary run off, they followed her, thinking she was on her way to the tomb to weep there. Mary came to where Jesus was waiting and fell at his feet, saying, “Master, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33-34 When Jesus saw her sobbing and the Jews with her sobbing, a deep anger welled up within him. He said, “Where did you put him?”

34-35 “Master, come and see,” they said. Now Jesus wept.

36 The Jews said, “Look how deeply he loved him.”

37 Others among them said, “Well, if he loved him so much, why didn’t he do something to keep him from dying? After all, he opened the eyes of a blind man.”

38-39 Then Jesus, the anger again welling up within him, arrived at the tomb. It was a simple cave in the hillside with a slab of stone laid against it. Jesus said, “Remove the stone.” The sister of the dead man, Martha, said, “Master, by this time there’s a stench. He’s been dead four days!”

40 Jesus looked her in the eye. “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

41-42 Then, to the others, “Go ahead, take away the stone.” They removed the stone. Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and prayed, “Father, I’m grateful that you have listened to me. I know you always do listen, but on account of this crowd standing here I’ve spoken so that they might believe that you sent me.”

43-44 Then he shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” And he came out, a cadaver, wrapped from head to toe, and with a kerchief over his face. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him loose.”

45 That was a turnaround for many of the Jews who were with Mary. They saw what Jesus did, and believed in him.


The part that really stands out for me is when Jesus is speaking with Martha.

21-22 Martha said, “Master, if you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. Even now, I know that whatever you ask God will be given you.”

23 Jesus said, “Your brother will be raised up.”

24 Martha replied, “I know that he will be raised up in the resurrection at the end of time.”

25-26 “You don’t have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all. Do you believe this?”


Listen to Jesus’ response to Martha, “You don’t have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life.”


Jesus IS right now! Can you hear this? The full essence of the being of Jesus is alive right now. Sure, he is saying this to Martha in a text written a couple of millennia ago, yet if he said it then is it not still true for us now? Jesus is still now! And Jesus is both Resurrection and Life. So just as God is life itself, so is Jesus. Just as God will resurrect at the end of time, Jesus will do this NOW!


For us this means that Jesus is doing this literally right now! “Do you believe this?” Not only was Jesus asking this of Martha in the first century, he is asking it of you right now. “DO YOU BELIEVE THIS?”


You see, Martha believed in the resurrection at the end of time. Here in this passage Jesus corrects her. He teaches that true resurrection and life are not waiting for the end of time, they are available for her now. In the same way true resurrection and life are available to us now.


So perhaps you wonder, how do I access this? How do I do this in a time of great fear and knotted feelings of helplessness? In Ezekiel, we hear God’s invitation to surrender to the breath of God breathing in you. In the gospel of John, we hear Jesus inviting us into the life he offers in his presence to us when he says, “I am now”!


I sat with this mystery this week. I wondered how to access this mystery in a way that would have many ripples. Then, I remembered something ... the youth of Nashwaaksis United Church. I remembered that this would have been the Sunday they would help with the service in the Church. So, I called them, each one. I asked them to help with this service for you today. With each youth, I wondered about where we had seen the presence of the creator, the great mystery we call God. This is what they noticed:

I’m finally getting enough time to read a really good book...

I noticed that people are walking around outside as families. This is new!!!

I’m finding new ways to connect with my friends. Even though we have always spent time together before, it was always focussed on sports or school projects. Now, we are just having fun and I am learning things about them that I didn’t know.

I’m able to help around home more. We have a horse farm and three of our horses are due to give birth this week. I will be there to see it. ☺

I’m able to spend more time with my family playing games.

I’m learning new ways to feel connected with friends.

I’m learning that we can’t take anything for granted. We are being invited to live in the moment, and to be grateful for what we have.

I’m finding new/old hobbies. You are not alone, ‘cause we are all in this together!

I’m creating a deeper relationship, like a friendship, with my sister.

I’m learning to find a new routine. My cat has become my new lab partner! I can bring colour into my home by decorating Easter eggs.

I’ve learned that entertaining myself is hard and that it is easier if I am with my brother.

I’m finding God in my relationships with other people. My love for people is growing because I have to be so careful about how to be with them.

I’ve noticed the sunsets and the beauty in the world. I walk now in the evenings when I used to be doing homework.

I’m learning how to cook and train my dog.


I met with the youth online recently and they really wanted to share with you that they are holding the hope for world.


We read together this passage from Matthew:

Matthew 5:13-16

13 “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God- flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.

14-16 “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God.”


After reading this we thought, we need to tell people that we are lucky to be living during this special time. This is why we are here. God has chosen us because we are made for this. We are here to bring out the God-colours in those around us. We decided that we are going public with this... and we want you to join us. Be a light bearer and find ways to shine!


As you go about your day to day, notice what you notice—take a moment to feel God breathing in you. Notice the mystery of the resurrection alive in your life NOW! Tell others!!


Benediction (From Joy Is Our Banquet, Keri Wehlander, pg 16 and pg 19)

Together we are witnesses and storytellers; We are part of the unfolding tale of faith. Precious words and sacred memories are carried by each one of us. If we "go and tell what we have seen and heard", each one can recite a chapter, a verse, a paragraph. When we risk spinning these yarns, when we listen and speak, when we carefully gather these fragments up. . .We discover that there is good news all over again!


PRAYER

O God, Keeper of stories and weaver of dreams:

set our voices free.

Grant us the courage we need to be tellers of truth

and speakers of the sacred.

Unstop our ears, that we might recognize the wisdom

of the witnesses in our midst.

Empower us with your love, that we might spin new yarns with confidence and grace.

Amen


Sending Love, Peace, and Hugs Alexa, Owen, Chad, Jacob, Kara, Gabby, Anna PG, Madden, Sheridan, Madelynn, Anna La, Ren, Alex, Abby, Claire, Anna Li, Olivia, Sarah, Kaitlyn, Evan, Andrew, Hannah and Priscilla


In our homes, as we participate in worship, we come with many gifts … some come with music in their hearts, others with an abundance of laughter, some with healing hands, others with keen minds, some share curiosity, while others enormous compassion. This bounty of gifts is symbolized in our offering.

 

Your offerings may be made in the following ways:

by PAR, through envelopes by dropping them in the mailbox at the Church or calling the Church office to let us know it is ready to be picked up, or by credit card at:

https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/nashwaaksis-united-church/ .