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A home for things I write

20190515_185448My first mystery novel, The Book of Answers, made the short-list for The Unhanged Arthur Ellis, an award for unpublished crime fiction. The annual competition is sponsored by Dundurn Press and CrimeWriters of Canada. On May 23, my wife and I attended a banquet at Toronto’s Arts and Letters Club, where I had the honour of meeting other authors who were nominated, as well as a number of editors, publishers, and authors. It was great fun!

The winning manuscript in my category, the Unhanged Arthur Award for best unpublished crime novel, was The Scarlet Cross, by Liv McFarlane. You can learn more about Liv at her website: https://livmcfarlane.com/

I look forward to reading The Scarlet Cross, and the work of the other nominees:

  • Hypnotizing Lions by Jim Bottomley
  • Omand’s Creek by Don Macdonald
  • One for the Raven by Heather McLeod

 

That the manuscript of my first ever novel was even considered for such an honour, has inspired me to improve my online presence. This site is a re-tooling of my old “Sharing Bread Along The Way” blog, along with old material from “The Fifth Page”, which is where I used to post what didn’t make it into my sermons, which are always a maximum of 4 pages. (I now call them “learning times”, to reflect the truth that I am still learning as I go.)

I am a minister in The United Church of Canada, currently serving the congregation and wider community of Harrow, in beautiful Essex County, Ontario. In the words of Max Marshall, a singer-songwriter from Harrow, it’s a “bread-basket town” in “fruit-stand land”. You should also check out Max, he’s great! 

https://www.maxmarshall.org/about

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The Palm Parade

20200405_120454The first photo challenge of Rev. Lexie’s Holy Week Scavenger Hunt is to re-create the scene of the Palm Parade- when Jesus was greeted by the crowds, as he entered Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, for the Passover Festival.

Here is a link to a video that Rev. Lexie and Rev. Darrow made after they set up the scene, using toys their kids used to play with. (Thank you to Naomi and Joel for the loan of these treasured collector’s items!)

Palm parade video

Rev. Lexie read the story from Matthew 21:1-11, as found in the International Children’s Bible. You can read it here:

Matthew 21:1-11

We hope that your family will take up the Holy Week Scavenger Hunt Challenge. You can read about it here:

The Holy Week Scavenger Hunt

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Palm Sunday Worship Video

The link on this page will take you to a YouTube video that is our worship resource for Palm Sunday. It includes a wonderful anthem from the senior choir, a reading by Gillian Lamoure, and a clip of the children’s time, all taken from last year’s Palm Sunday worship service.

On Friday afternoon, after our very successful food drive for Windsor’s Downtown Mission, I recorded a “tiny pulpit” learning time.

The video ends with a clip of “Mercy Now” as recorded by Steve Bell, who has granted permission for its use.

Link to Worship Video

20200404_185142Roberta McLean, a much-loved member of the Harrow United congregation is quite ill in hospital in Leamington. I ask for prayers for Roberta, and for her family.

 

 

 

If there are people or situations for which you would like prayer, or you wish to speak with your pastor, please let me know.

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A Holy Week Scavenger Hunt for Your Family

This post is the work of the Rev. Lexie Chamberlain, and is based on an event she created for the Sunday School and congregation she served for many years in Oakville.

When our children were younger, they loved scavenger hunts.  Some were designed with clues they had to solve, which gave them directions to the next clue, and the clues would ultimately lead to a reward at the end.  Others required them to hunt for, and gather special items.

One storm day, when school was cancelled because of a layer of ice, I created a scavenger hunt for which I gave the children my phone and they were tasked with taking photos of items of interest in the neighbourhood.  (e.g.  swing set, dog, nearest stop sign).

I thought it might be interesting to offer a scavenger hunt based on the events of Holy Week.  You might work with one story each day from Palm Sunday until Easter, or you could do all the stories in one day, perhaps as your Good Friday devotion time.  Either way, it would be great if on Easter Saturday you posted the pictures you create on Facebook.

Palm Sunday palms-story

There is a version of the Palm Sunday in each of the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) but they are not all the same.  If you asked four people to write a story about an event, each person would have their own style and approach.

One interesting example is that in Luke’s gospel, there is no mention of Palms. Instead, people took off their cloaks and lay them on the path ahead of Jesus.  You might want to read the story in all four gospels. You can find them here:

Matthew 21:1-11

Mark 11:1-11

Luke 19:28-44

John 12:12-19

If you are doing this with children, don’t read all four gospels to them!  (that would be a little much and since this is the first lesson you want to keep their interest!)  I suggest you stick with Matthew’s story.  If your children enjoy reading and you have a children’s Bible at home, you could perhaps read the story of Palm Sunday there.  If you do not have a children’s Bible, then here is a link to The International Children’s Bible which is found on BibleGateway.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+21%3A1-11&version=ICB

digital slr camera in hand clipartToday’s “Scavenger Hunt” Challenges:

Young Children:  Set up a parade picture with Lego, Little People, or some other toys. See if you have a donkey, if not improvise!  You could also colour or cut out palm branches to be place in the picture.

Older children and adults:  pose or create a picture representing humbleness, kindness.

jerusalem templeMonday:  Jesus in the Temple

In Matthew, Mark, and Luke (which if you want to impress people, you could call them the Synoptic Gospels) the Palm Sunday story is followed by the account of Jesus going to the temple and “shaking things up”.  This story offers a glimpse as to why some people found Jesus challenging.  We often think of Jesus as being calm and gentle but this story shows that Jesus had a whole range of emotions, and sometimes he may have gotten frustrated.    

In this story, you will hear the word temple.  The temple was where the Jewish people went to worship but it was also a center of all kinds of activities.  During Jesus earthly life, people thought they needed to offer animal sacrifices to God because their prayers would go up to God with the smoke from the sacrifice.  It may sound silly to us now, but that was part of their tradition from a long time ago.  People would travel long distances to get to the temple, and when they arrived they would have to buy animals to make their sacrificial prayers.  It was acceptable to buy and sell animals in the temple.  Jesus objected to people taking advantage of others.  You had to have Jewish shekels to purchase animals at the temple, and the money-changers charge high rates of exchange for the Roman coins most people carried. They were money gouging!  If you are reading this story to children, I would suggest reading it from Matthew’s gospel.  You can find the story here:

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+21%3A12-15&version=ICB

digital slr camera in hand clipartToday’s “Scavenger Hunt” Challenge:

Take a photo of someplace you collect coins in your house. i.e. drawer, piggy bank; jar.

SedertableTuesday:  Preparing the Passover Meal

Jesus was a Jewish person who grew up with the traditions and customs of his culture.  Each year, Jewish people would celebrate the Passover.  Families and friends would come together for a special meal and remember the story of how God had helped their ancestors a long time ago.  The story of Jesus celebrating the Passover meal with his disciples is found in all four gospels.  You can find the story in these places

Matthew 26:17-30

Mark 14:12-25

Luke 22:7-20

John 13:1-30

Today we are only going to focus on a part of the story.  Today, our focus scripture will be Luke 22:7-13.  Here is a link to that story:

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+22%3A7-13&version=ICB

digital slr camera in hand clipartToday’s “Scavenger Hunt” Challenge:

Take a photo of a dinner table set for either a meal or for tea.

Wednesday:  The Last Supperpicture-of-the-last-supper

We are going to continue the story of the Passover meal, which is the basis of our Christian tradition of communion.  As Jesus was eating with his disciples he took bread and wine and shared it with them.  In most of the gospels the story says that Jesus spoke of how the bread represents his body and the wine represents his blood.  When we share in communion we use bread and wine as symbols to remember God’s love for us.  God’s love nourishes our souls; God’s love helps to quench the deep thirst for love and meaning within our lives.

Today, we will read about the last supper here:  Luke 22:14-20.

digital slr camera in hand clipartToday’s “Scavenger Hunt” Challenge:

Take a photo of  bread and juice/wine.

maundy thursday clip artThursday:  Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday is a special day set aside to remember the story of Jesus washing the disciples feet.  This story only happens in the gospel of John.  The way John tells the story, Jesus was having his least meal with his disciples when he decided to wash their feet.  Read the story as found at this link: John 13:4-17.

 

A little later in John’s gospel, Jesus gave his friends instructions of what they are supposed to do.  Some people might say that this is the Christian Mandate. Mandate means command, or rule to follow.  The word Maundy, for Maundy Thursday, comes from the same Latin word.  The Mandate Jesus gave his disciples is this:

“I give you a new command: Love each other. You must love each other as I have loved you.  All people will know that you are my followers if you love each other.”  (John 13:  34-35)

digital slr camera in hand clipartToday’s “Scavenger Hunt” Challenges:

Younger children:  Take a photo of washing your feet or washing someone else’s feet

Older children/adults:  Take a photo to represent “Love one another”.

Good FridayGood Friday

This is a difficult day because the story of Good Friday is a sad story.  It is the story of Jesus dying.  Many people have asked why this day is called “Good” when it is actually a challenging day.  Some people will answer that question by saying that “the good” represents God.  Some people might even think that it was God’s plan for Jesus death to happen, but I don’t read the story that way.  The good that I can see in the story for today is that Jesus was willing to be a good follower of God’s way, even when the world was being mean.  I don’t think it was God’s plan for people to be mean to Jesus.  I don’t think God wanted people to hurt Jesus so badly that he died.  I think that God is love and that God wants us to show love to others.  Jesus didn’t lash out and hurt others when they were being mean to him.  Jesus didn’t say mean things when others were being rude.  Jesus continued to be faithful to God.  He continued to show love.  Jesus faced challenges with dignity.

This is a hard story to read and it is a long story.  The story of Jesus death is found in all four gospels.    All of the stories are long and I think they would be very disturbing for young children.  Before you read the story to a child make sure you read it yourself and decide if it is something you want to read with your child.  If you are comfortable, I would suggest reading from Mark’s gospel.  It is a shorter version. You can find it here:

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mark+15%3A6-47&version=ICB

If you find the story too difficult to read to your child then I might suggest you talk to your child about this story.  I have also written a “child-friendly” version:

Jesus was a teacher who taught people about God’s ways of love and justice.  He taught that all people were loved by God.  Rich people, poor people, sick people, healthy people,  old people, young people,  everyone is a wonderful child of God and loved by God.  Jesus also taught that we are to help one another.  Jesus was always going around helping people and he taught his followers that we were to do the same.  This sometimes challenged the leaders of his time because they liked to keep their own power and their own wealth.  Jesus teachings were so radical, that some people thought it would be better if they silenced him.

Jesus knew he was challenging some people but he would not stop talking about God’s love.  After he had had the special supper with his friends, Jesus went to a garden to pray.  While he was praying, some soldiers came and arrested Jesus.  They took him to the place where the Roman governor Pilate lived.  People saw Jesus being taken to Pilates place, and they started to yell at Jesus.  Some people were so mean, they called out “kill him”.

Pilate spoke to Jesus and Pilate couldn’t understand why the people were so upset.  He went out to the crowds of people who had gathered and said, “I don’t see anything wrong with this person.  He has done no wrong.”  The crowds would not listen.  They wanted Jesus silenced.  They were loud, and mean and Pilate listened to them instead of going with his own judgement.  Pilate decided to please the crowds so he told some soldier to take Jesus out to a hill and to crucify him.

The soldiers took Jesus and hurt his body.  They placed a crown of thorns on his head, they hurt his hands, his feet and they put him on a cross.  Jesus was so badly hurt that he died.

After he had died, some of Jesus friends took his body off the cross and they  put it in a cave.   Sometimes we say the cave was a tomb.  They put a great big rock in front of the entrance to the cave.  Jesus friends were very sad, and they were very scared.  It was a very awful day.

digital slr camera in hand clipartToday’s “Scavenger Hunt” Challenges:

Take photos of brokenness and sadness.  If this is too difficult for younger children you might ask them to draw a picture of what makes them sad.

 

facebook logoThank you for doing this Holy Week Scavenger Hunt with your family. Please take time to post your photos on Facebook, or send them to me at:  revlexie4@gmail.com

 

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Are you running in circles yet?

seabrook drive imageI once had to miss a half marathon for which I’d trained hard, so I ran it as 20 laps of the street we used to live on, which was actually part of a rectangle pieced together around a little park.

Advantages of a run in my neighbourhood included not worrying about traffic, and not having to wear my hydration belt- I left water bottles on a lawn chair on our front yard.

 

The disadvantages included wondering if my neighbours thought I was losing it, and getting very bored, running the same very short route, over and over.

james campbell in his back garden 2This morning I read about James Campbell, an athlete in Cheltenham, England, who celebrated his 32nd birthday, and also raised over 18,000 pounds for the National Health Service efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, by running a full marathon in his back garden.

Campbell worked out he’d need to do 7000 laps, because his yard is just 6 metres, or about 20 feet deep. (A full marathon is 42.1 kilometres.) He did it, over the course of five hours, while thousands watched, and cheered him on, via livestream.

james campbell in his back gardenIf I’d read this yesterday I would have assumed it was an April Fools joke, but it’s been reported by a number of credible sites, including the BBC.

I woke this morning with an urge to go outside, and work off some of the nervous energy that’s been gathering within me. I also want to hear birdsong, and breathe fresh air. My wife and I get out for evening walks, and I have also made good use of the treadmill in our basement, but I think I will be getting out later, on my bike. I probably won’t go 42 km. I am grateful that I can out, and move, and sweat.

I spoke this morning with someone from my church, who lives in a senior’s residence. She told me that residents are now confined to their rooms, and will have their meals brought to them. She hopes she will be allowed to use the hallway outside her door for her exercises.

I chatted with another person, who is an active farmer. He said while some folks he knows are doing jig-saws, he’s been working on the big puzzle of how to get all his spring work done.

What are you doing, with your nervous energy? How are you coping with your current circumstances? I’d love to hear.

I’d also like to know if there are things happening in your life, and in the lives of those you love, for which you’d like prayer. I will keep your requests confidential.

 

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Signs of Hope and New Life

sidewalk chalk

My wife and I were out for a walk one evening this week, and I began to take pictures with my phone, of the signs of hope and new life I saw. The image above is one of my favourites. The concrete driveway in front of this house was covered with messages and pictures. We talked (at a safe distance) to one of the homeowners, who said his daughter was having great fun putting happy things on their driveway. I asked him to tell her that she had made my evening.

I think the little girl has it right. It is important to put to positive images and words out there. Not to block out the bad news, but to keep it context.

Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are countless signs of hope and new life. I believe that, and I see it everyday.

I want your help in spreading the Good News. Please send me your photos, of things you encounter in your life, that are signs of hope and new life. I’d like to put them into a slide show that could be part of our Worship for Easter morning.

Please send your photos to me at:

darrow@revdarrow.com

 

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Filling up on Hope, Joy, and Faith

Let us keep ourselves open to the power that carries our life in every moment…that we may be filled with silent gratefulness. (Paul Tillich)

Paul Tillich was a theologian and philosopher who was born in Poland in 1886, and who lived until 1965. He was a thinker who sought to build bridges between the old ideas and symbols of Christian faith, and the questions and concerns of contemporary life.

That seems as important today as ever- how do we re-fill the empty places in our lives with hope, joy, and faith during this strange time in which we are living?

I can think of at least two ways.

#1 Number One Logo Text GraphicOne way is to talk about our faith- to share our joys, our sorrows, our hopes and even our fears. I had a wonderful experience just this morning. I met online with four young people who are very involved with Harrow United Church, for our first confirmation class. They were patient, and encouraging as the old minister was learning on the go to use the Zoom video conferencing platform. They were engaged, and open and honest with their responses as we talked about God.

Is God all powerful? How we reconcile that idea with the suffering we see all around us? Do we all think about God the same way? Do we think about anything the same way?

I feel so grateful to have the members of this class in my life. We will meet online once a week for the next while.

Number 2 on stage with 2 spotlights.A second thing that brings renewed hope, joy, and faith into our lives, is doing acts of mercy, kindness, justice. It does our hearts good, it lifts our spirits, it puts spring in our step, when we know we are making a difference. It is good for us to make movement from gratitude to generosity.

As a community of faith, Harrow United Church desires to uplift its members, and also care for others, in God’s name. When we do good works, we check both those boxes.

Speaking of boxes….empty-cardboard-boxes

Friday morning, from 10 until 12 noon, we will be filling boxes in the back of Jeff Csikasz’s shiny red pickup. 2019-red-Dodge-Ram-1500-LimitedWe are collecting food and necessities for Windsor’s Downtown Mission. The staff and volunteers at the Mission are front-line heroes, responding to the needs of hungry, homeless, and hurting people- and they are running out of supplies. The population served by the Mission face the same fears and worries about COVID-19, and the need to self-isolate, and keep clean, and eat healthy, as all of us. Imagine dealing with all of that, on top of being homeless.

(We will do this again, if needed, to re-stock the Harrow Food Bank, which our church, and others in the community support year round.)

Here are things we need: (Please watch for expiration dates.)

Laundry and hand soap, hand sanitizer, wipes

Canned tuna, salmon, chicken, ham

Peanut butter

Bread

Soups: Beef stew, chili, chicken noodle, vegetable, assorted soups

Canned beans

Canned fruit-in own juices or light syrup

Pasta, whole wheat pasta, White rice, brown rice, Macaroni and cheese

Canned Vegetables-Low sodium/no salt added

Pasta sauce, tomato sauce, gravy

Fruit & Vegetable juice: individual & family size
Tea, Instant coffee, Hot chocolate

If it is raining, the pickup will be under the church carport (the elevator entrance). The tail gate will be open. We will have people around, but at a careful, social distance, to keep everyone safe.

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Worship for March 29, 2020

Link to audio file for this at home worship

The audio file begins with Larry Anderson’s prelude, to help us prepare for worship.

(Once the audio begins to play, you can click back to this page, and read and listen at the same time, if you like.)

Let’s take a moment for quiet prayer. There is so much happening in the world, and we have so many questions, concerns, and anxieties. There is so much happening that still does not feel quiet real, and yet, here we are. And God is with us in the midst of it all.

I am continuing this week to look at the story of Jesus’ time in the wilderness. I think the desert could have felt to him, absolutely real, and at the same time, like a place outside of regular life and time.

Please listen as Sue Timpson-Mannell reads the story for us:

Matthew 4:1-11 from The Message

Next Jesus was taken into the wild by the Spirit for the Test. The Devil was ready to give it. Jesus prepared for the Test by fasting forty days and forty nights. That left him, of course, in a state of extreme hunger, which the Devil took advantage of in the first test: “Since you are God’s Son, speak the word that will turn these stones into loaves of bread.”

Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: “It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.”

For the second test the Devil took him to the Holy City. He sat him on top of the Temple and said, “Since you are God’s Son, jump.” The Devil goaded him by quoting Psalm 91: “He has placed you in the care of angels. They will catch you so that you won’t so much as stub your toe on a stone.”

Jesus countered with another citation from Deuteronomy: “Don’t you dare test the Lord your God.”

For the third test, the Devil took him to the peak of a huge mountain. He gestured expansively, pointing out all the earth’s kingdoms, how glorious they all were. Then he said, “They’re yours—lock, stock, and barrel. Just go down on your knees and worship me, and they’re yours.”

Jesus’ refusal was curt: “Beat it, Satan!” He backed his rebuke with a third quotation from Deuteronomy: “Worship the Lord your God, and only him. Serve him with absolute single-heartedness.”

 The Test was over. The Devil left. And in his place, angels! Angels came and took care of Jesus’ needs.

Sue is self-quarantined after visiting her friend in Indiana, but was able to record the scripture lessons for us on her phone, and send them in.

On Friday, I met with Larry Anderson and Jeff Csikasz, at a careful social distance, and we recorded some music. Here is Jeff singing and playing one of his favourites.

I asked for that song because of a line in the chorus that says, “In the desert you can remember your name”.

It seems to me that in his time in the desert, Jesus was called upon to remember who he was, and who he was meant to be. The tempter, or the tester offered him some shortcuts, some diversions from the path Jesus was meant to walk, and from the person he was meant to be- but Jesus resisted, and remembered his name, his identity.

The tempter knew their stuff, and the distractions offered to Jesus were pretty attractive. They are the classics, that people have always faced, and which we face today.

Jesus was offered food, a symbol for all material things. If he’d taken the devil up on the suggestion that he turn stones into bread, maybe he could have had at it, and turned the desert into a bakery warehouse. He could have turned rocks and stones, cliffs and boulders into baked goods.

Anything beyond what Jesus actually needed, to satisfy his physical hunger, would have gone to waste. There is a temptation to find comfort in having more than we need- as if we could make a strong castle out of the stuff in our lives, that would be a defense against the things that scare us.

The second distraction from his true life, from his true self, offered up to Jesus, was protection from pain and death. The devil brings him up to a high place, and says, “Since you are God’s Son, jump.”

The Devil also used scripture to suggest that if he did jump, God would send angels to catch him.

This is a tough one. We’d like to believe we are somehow protected from pain, from death. We might hope and pray the same thing for those we love- especially in these strange times. But Jesus resists the tempter on this one too. Jesus is as vulnerable, mortal, and subject to pain and grief as we are.

Jesus is a model for us, of how to live, and remember how we are meant to live, even in the face of hardship, terrible challenges, things that threaten to overwhelm.

The third challenge the tempter put to Jesus might also work on us, because it was about worldly power. What if the devil could have put Jesus in charge of all the countries of the world? The first problem, I think, is that his offer was a lie.  I don’t believe the devil could sign over all that power, because the devil is not in charge. God made all those people, in all those countries, as individuals with freedom to think, to feel, and make their own choices, for bad and for good.

We might, as we watch the news, and hear about the decisions leaders are having to make these days, wish we could have our say, or maybe take over, and do things better. If the devil appeared to me, and said, just worship me, and you can be in charge of the whole world, I might be sucked in. I might think, for a moment, that I could do better. But the reality is, I am not smart enough, creative enough, wise enough. Even if the devil had the power to put me in charge, which I think is a lie, it would be a terrible idea.

One human should not call all the shots. History is full of the stories of the miserable outcomes that occur when one person, one small group thinks they know what is best for everyone else.

All the minds, all the hearts, all the good will, of all people, are needed- not just the ego-driven desire of one person, who falls for the lie that the devil has put them in charge.

We need each other. We need to work together, in small things, and in big things, to make the world better safer, more habitable for our fellow humans, and all the other life with which the earth is teeming.

Jesus rejected the lies of the tester, and pushed back against the powerful distractions of the tempter. In the desert, Jesus remembered his name, and it gave him the strength and courage to carry on, to tell the devil to take off. And according to the story, the devil did leave, and angels came to take care of Jesus.

Jesus was still in the desert. The high places and tall towers, the piles of stones that could have been bread- all those lies, those illusions were gone. But the angels came to help him.

We are kind of in a desert. There are temptations. There are worries, anxieties, and the overwhelming sense at times, that the world is going to hell in a hand-basket, whatever that is.

But we are not alone, and the desert, as strange as it seems, is not all terrible. There is beauty here. There is life. Please click on the audio file for the hymn for today. Larry and Jeff played the instrumental part. The words are below, if you want to sing along.

jeff and larry making music

VU 222 Come, Let Us Sing

1            Come, let us sing to the Lord our song,

we have stood silently too long;

surely the Lord deserves our praise,

so joyfully thank God for our days.

 

2            O thirsty soul, come drink at the well;

God’s living waters will never fail.

Surely the Lord will help you to stand,

strengthened and comforted by God’s hand.

 

3            You dwell among us and cause us to pray,

and walk with each other following your way;

our precious brothers and sisters will grow

in the fulfilling love they know.

 

4            Deserts shall bloom and mountains shall sing

to the desire of all living things.

Come, all you creatures, high and low,

let your praises endlessly flow.

I especially like the line in that hymn that reminds us that deserts shall bloom and mountains shall sing. God is still at work. In that same spirit, Sue Timpson-Mannell has a second reading for us.

Isaiah 35:1-7  from The Message 

Wilderness and desert will sing joyously,
the badlands will celebrate and flower—
Like the crocus in spring, bursting into blossom,
a symphony of song and color.
Mountain glories of Lebanon—a gift.
Awesome Carmel, stunning Sharon—gifts.
God’s resplendent glory, fully on display.
God awesome, God majestic.

Energize the limp hands,
strengthen the rubbery knees.
Tell fearful souls,
“Courage! Take heart!
God is here, right here,
on his way to put things right
And redress all wrongs.
He’s on his way! He’ll save you!”

Blind eyes will be opened,
deaf ears unstopped,
Lame men and women will leap like deer,
the voiceless break into song.
Springs of water will burst out in the wilderness,
streams flow in the desert.
Hot sands will become a cool oasis,
thirsty ground a splashing fountain.
Even lowly jackals will have water to drink,
and barren grasslands flourish richly.

One of my favourite spiritual writers, Howard Thurman was a preacher and teacher, and college professor, who inspired many people, including the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior. Howard Thurman was an African American, born in rural Florida in 1899. His maternal grandmother had been a slave on Florida plantation. He was born into poverty, and his father died when Howard was 7 years old. He was raised by his grandmother, and his mother, who were women of deep faith.

Thurman wrote:

“There must be always remaining in every life, some place for the singing of angels, some place for that which in itself is breathlessly beautiful.”

I have been hearing all week about ways people are being like angels for each other, with words and acts of kindness and generosity. People are baking good things, and dropping them on the porches of neighbours and friends. Others are taking out the garbage, and bringing the cans back in, for those who are housebound, or just need help.

People are phoning, texting, writing letters to each other. Sending love, and showing concern as they can.

People are making extra donations to places like the Downtown Mission, who are on the front line, helping folks who have it much tougher than most of us.

We can each exercise our free will, our creativity, our compassion, to make the world a little more humane, more beautiful, and life that much more possible for others.

When we do what we can, it helps others, and that is good, but I think it also helps us to remember our name, who we are, and who we are meant to be, in these strange times, in this weird desert place where we all now live.

Let’s pray:

God of deserts and blooming flowers, of night skies and bright stars, help us, in these strange times, to remember you, and your presence with us. Help us to slow down, and breathe, and remember again who you have created us to be. May we, with our unspoken prayers, with our acts of compassion and kindness, with our careful, loving words, bring beauty and hope into the lives of others. We pray for those we know who are sick, those who are grieving. We pray for those who feel alone. We pray especially for those who are now behind the locked doors of nursing homes, hospitals, and hospice. We pray for front line workers who are tending to the needs of the sick, and who are leading the fight against COVID-19. We pray for our government leaders and their advisors. We pray for those who continue to work, so that we have what we need to live. We make all our prayers as followers of Jesus, and we ask for your blessing in his name. Amen

Before I finish this recorded worship resource, I want to thank Jeff Csikasz and Larry Anderson for their music, and Sue Timpson Mannell for the scripture readings.

I also want to announce that this coming Friday morning, April 3, from 10 am until noon, Harrow United Church will have a drive-up food and necessities collection for Windsor’s Downtown Mission.

Our goal is to fill the back of a pick-up truck with items that can help folks who face the same challenges as we do, but who may have it much worse than most of us in the county.

Imagine facing the need to self-isolate, and keep clean, and eat healthy, if you were homeless!

If you are currently sick, or under self-quarantine, don’t worry about donating to this food drive. Take care of yourselves.

We will likely do this again, if it is needed, to re-stock the Harrow Food Bank, which our church normally collects for every week.

If your household is running out of food, and you can’t get out to get to a store, please let us know, and we will do our best to help you.

This worship resource comes to you from Harrow United Church. Our building may be closed for now, but our ministry in this community continues. God bless you all.