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We had help this week with our worship service from the members of the online confirmation class, who did the readings for the video.
We began most of our online confirmation classes by reading or hearing “A New Creed”. It was on page 6 of our confirmation resource, called Jesus 24/7. This creed, or statement of faith has been part of the life of the United Church of Canada since 1968. In 1998, a line was added to indicate that we are called to live with respect in creation, an idea that seems even more important these days.
A New Creed
We are not alone,
we live in God’s world.
We believe in God:
who has created and is creating,
who has come in Jesus,
the Word made flesh,
to reconcile and make new,
who works in us and others
by the Spirit.
We trust in God.
We are called to be the Church:
to celebrate God’s presence,
to live with respect in Creation,
to love and serve others,
to seek justice and resist evil,
to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen,
our judge and our hope.
In life, in death, in life beyond death,
God is with us.
We are not alone.
Thanks be to God.
First Scripture reading for today:
This is a reading from the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, which contains stories about the adventures of Paul, and other early missionaries, as they brought the message about the Jesus Way of living, to people in countries in the Middle East, and Europe. Saint Paul was a convert to the Jesus Way who had once persecuted those who strayed from the Jewish faith. In our reading from the version of the Bible called the message, we hear him speaking in a town square in Athens, to people who have not yet heard of Jesus.
The above photo is the place outside of modern Athens identified as the location, in ancient times, of the Areopagus.
Acts 17:22-31 The Message (MSG)
So Paul took his stand in the open space at the Areopagus and laid it out for them. “It is plain to see that you Athenians take your religion seriously. When I arrived here the other day, I was fascinated with all the shrines I came across. And then I found one inscribed, to the god nobody knows. I’m here to introduce you to this God so you can worship intelligently, know who you’re dealing with.
“The God who made the world and everything in it, this Master of sky and land, doesn’t live in custom-made shrines or need the human race to run errands for him, as if he couldn’t take care of himself. He makes the creatures; the creatures don’t make him. Starting from scratch, he made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find him. He doesn’t play hide-and-seek with us. He’s not remote; he’s near. We live and move in him, can’t get away from him! One of your poets said it well: ‘We’re the God-created.’ Well, if we are the God-created, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to think we could hire a sculptor to chisel a god out of stone for us, does it?
“God overlooks it as long as you don’t know any better—but that time is past. The unknown is now known, and he’s calling for a radical life-change. He has set a day when the entire human race will be judged and everything set right. And he has already appointed the judge, confirming him before everyone by raising him from the dead.”
May God bless us, and helps us find hope and meaning in this story.
Second Scripture Reading for Today:
Our Second reading is taken from the 14th chapter of the Gospel of John, which scholars believe was written down at least 90 years after the earthly life of Jesus. The editor who gathered and arranged the stories may have included this passage to be of help to people who were trying to understand a new way of thinking about God at work in the world. People spoke about seeing God in the life and the words of Jesus, and in the Creator of the World, the one Jesus taught them to call Father. In this passage, Jesus introduces a third way of talking about God, as a “friend, or the Spirit of Truth”. Followers of Jesus have puzzled ever since about how to think of God as a Trinity- one God, with at least 3 different names, and ways of relating to us.
“If you love me, show it by doing what I’ve told you. I will talk to the Father, and he’ll provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you. This Friend is the Spirit of Truth. The godless world can’t take him in because it doesn’t have eyes to see him, doesn’t know what to look for. But you know him already because he has been staying with you, and will even be in you!
“I will not leave you orphaned. I’m coming back. In just a little while the world will no longer see me, but you’re going to see me because I am alive and you’re about to come alive. At that moment you will know absolutely that I’m in my Father, and you’re in me, and I’m in you.
“The person who knows my commandments and keeps them, that’s who loves me. And the person who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and make myself plain to him.”
We pray that God the Creator, God the Spirit, and God we meet in Jesus, will be with us, and help us to grow in understanding. Amen
Learning Time for May 17, 2020
At the beginning of the Jesus movement, the first missionaries told people they met, who were fellow Jews, that Jesus was this remarkable person who encouraged them to think about God not as a forbidding judge with an endless list of rules, but as a gracious, loving parent. Jesus taught them they could call the creator of the universe Abba, which in Aramaic means “Daddy”. Jesus spoke kindly, and looked upon people with the eyes of love, and when they were near him, they felt God was with them.
The Jesus movement grew, and soon there were hundreds, thousands of people who’d met Jesus, or heard him speak, or heard someone who knew Jesus talk about him, and the effect he had on them. That’s how it worked during the earthly life of Jesus.
Today we heard a reading from John’s Gospel, which scholars believe was first composed anywhere from 90 to 110 years after the earthly life of Jesus. It was written to bring the Good News to a community of people who never had the chance to meet Jesus in the flesh.
I think that when the writer put the Gospel of John together, they were working as a good preacher. They gathered stories about Jesus, and told them in such a way that they would help their own small faith community- these folks who had never met Jesus in person, but who longed to feel connected to him, and his message about God’s love.
90 years before, Jesus had burst upon the scene. He gathered a following, and told them about a new way of living, and about a kingdom of God that would never end. But it all ground to a halt when was arrested, tried, and sentenced to death. People who knew him watched him die, and helped to bury him. That was a tragic, sudden end to the Jesus Way.
Just as his closest friends were coming to terms with his death, and they sunk into the depths of sadness, they began to hear that he had been resurrected- he was back. Some of Jesus friends met him again, talked with him, even ate a meal with him. It must have warmed their hearts, and given them hope. But, Jesus said he couldn’t stay. He had to leave. How could what he started carry on without him?
That would have been hard enough for the original disciples to comprehend. The people for whom the Gospel of John was written were 2 or 3 generations removed from those times. They only had the stories. They did not have the benefit, the blessing of seeing Jesus in the flesh. How could they connect with him, and his message?
John told them about the Last Supper, in which Jesus made a series of short speeches to his closest friends, which scholars now call the Farewell Discourses. In the portion we heard today, Jesus seemed to talk about things that hadn’t yet happened. He talked about leaving, and returning, before he’d gone anywhere. I wonder if the gospel writer included these words to encourage the people in his own faith community, to help them see how they could be part of what Jesus had started, even though he was not physically with them. He quoted Jesus as saying,
“I will not leave you orphaned. I’m coming back. In just a little while the world will no longer see me, but you’re going to see me because I am alive and you’re about to come alive. At that moment you will know absolutely that I’m in my Father, and you’re in me, and I’m in you.”
Jesus seemed to say that even after he was gone, he’d make sure the God he called Father would still be present with his friends. There were two parts to being aware of God’s presence. The first part was Jesus’ commandment to keep on loving each other as he had loved them. The second part was a promise that God would send another Friend, who would always be with them, called the Spirit of Truth.
This short passage laid the foundation for the development of ideas about the Trinity, which two hundred years later became an official church teaching. The doctrine of the Trinity describes God as three persons in one.
God the Creator, who Jesus called Father. Jesus, the Son, in whom God shone so brightly, and the Spirit, who is with us, guides us, and bridges the gap between us and God, and us and other people.
When we talked about the Trinity in Bible Study this week, one person said they think of the Spirit as love. I do too. I think of love as a force in the universe, that begins with God, and flows through everything, including you and me, and connects all things. We are always in the midst of, surrounded by, immersed in, God’s love.
The Spirit connects us, and inspires and empowers us to keep on loving each other. In this strange time of isolation, when we are unable to sit around a table and share a meal with people we long to see, unable to gather as a faith community in one place, it seems important to remember, that we are always connected, and we are always surrounded by God’s love.
Saint Paul was an early missionary of the Jesus Way. He travelled to Athens, the intellectual and cultural centre of Ancient Greece, where he met and talked to people who were not Jewish, and who had never heard of Jesus. He looked for a way to share the basic message of his faith.
Athens was home to a large number of temples and gathering places, for many kinds of religions, and schools of philosophy. In his wanderings around the city, Paul noticed a shrine dedicated to “The God Nobody Knows”, an invisible god.
When Paul had the opportunity to speak at the Areopagus, a kind of open-air meeting place, where philosophers gathered for deep thought and discussion, he said,
“The God who made the world and everything in it, this Master of sky and land, doesn’t live in custom-made shrines or need the human race to run errands for him, as if he couldn’t take care of himself. He makes the creatures; the creatures don’t make him. Starting from scratch, he made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find him. He doesn’t play hide-and-seek with us. He’s not remote; he’s near. We live and move in him, can’t get away from him!”
Another translation says it this way. “God is the one in whom we live and move and have our being.”
In the times we feel alone, it is good to remember that God is with us. When we grieve because we can’t gather with people we’d love be with, it is good to remember that on a deeper, spiritual level, we are all connected- we are all part of something bigger than us.
We are always with God. We are surrounded, immersed in God, wherever we are. Thanks be to God for that. Amen
Today I’d like us to take a silent moment to remember those who are very ill, those who are dying, their families, and those who care for them. How unfathomably sad it is, to consider the situation of those who die alone, and those who find themselves grieving, under strange conditions, in these strange times.
Lord, have mercy.
I’d like to continue in prayer with a prayer of thanks for Health Workers:
We give thanks for those who care for the sick at this difficult time.
For diligent family practitioners and experienced specialists,
we thank you.
For care-full nursing staff
We thank you.
For cheerful housekeeping workers,
We thank you.
For attentive care aides,
We thank you.
For skilled X-Ray Technicians,
We thank you.
For administrators and support staff,
We thank you.
Holy One, we know that in hospitals and care homes,
in emergency rooms and in intensive care units,
the work of healing is dangerous and challenging,
and we thank you for those willing to serve.
(time of silent reflection)
We acknowledge the sacrifice and continual pressure that is
the lot of those who care,
and we thank you for work they do for us, and for the communities to which we belong.
May your Love sustain them, your Peace surround them
and your Holy Spirit inspire them through the most challenging times,
I offer thanks for the recovery experienced by my former classmate, the Rev. Justin Weber, who pastors a Quaker congregation called Honey Creek-New Providence Friends Church Waterloo, Iowa. He also runs an antique business called “The Pickin’ Preacher”.
We continue now with the words of the Lord’s Prayer.
The Lord’s Prayer: (together)
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
I pray that in your coming week you have moments of joy, and peace. I pray that you continue to know that you are blessed, and that you find opportunities to be a blessing to other people, in Jesus’ name. Amen
Announcements for May 17, 2020
Something new! Join Rev. Darrow for coffee time, 10:30 am this coming Tuesday morning, May 19. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org for your ZOOM invitation.
Are you game for online Trivia? Rev. Darrow will host a Pub-Style Trivia quiz, with questions of local interest, most written by members of Harrow United Church. You are responsible for your own snacks and other refreshments! Next Saturday night, May 23, starting at 7:30 pm. Send an email to email@example.com to register your team. Pick a team name, for extra points.
Do you know of someone who is sick, in need of food or other necessities, or could just use a pastoral phone call? Contact Rev. Darrow at firstname.lastname@example.org
Harrow United Church will hold another Drive Thru Food Drive, from 10 am-12 noon, on Friday, June 5. If you’d like to volunteer to help on that day, email us at email@example.com
The Official Board will meet by conference call on Tuesday evening, 7 pm, on June 3.
Online Bible Study continues each Wednesday morning, starting at 10:30 am. This coming week we will talk about the story of the Ascension, the final moment in Jesus’ earthly ministry, as described in Luke 24:40-53, and Acts 1:1-11. It has interesting parallels with a story about Elijah, found in 2 Kings 2:1-13. To join the class, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a ZOOM invitation.
Thank you to Dennis Graham, John Woodbridge, Larry Anderson, and the Virtual Choir, for all the work they do to make these worship resources possible. Our May 10 worship service was read 156 times, and viewed 92 times.
ShoeBox Sunday School, led by Naomi Woods, has 27 children registered. There are online classes at 9:30 am and 10:30 am each Sunday morning, using materials delivered to households in, you guessed it, ShoeBoxes!
The video we posted last week on YouTube for the youngest children has been viewed 13 times. (We hear that some of the kids like to watch it more than once.)
If you know of children who would like to be part of ShoeBox Sunday School, please let us know.
Harrow United Church is definitely not part of the group of Ontario churches pressuring Premier Ford and his cabinet to allow them to re-open their buildings for worship services. In fact, not one United Church congregation has signed on to support this effort. The leadership of the United Church of Canada, at a national and regional level, supports making these decisions based on science, and the best advice of public health officials.
We have concluded the online Confirmation Class. Rev. Darrow asked the members of the class to help with the readings for today’s worship service. Thank you to Keira, Ben, Lilia and Lauren.
Welcome to our brothers and sisters in faith from Essex United Church. Rev. Darrow is the pastoral charge supervisor for their congregation while they are in search of a minister, and attends their board meetings. Rev. Lexie Chamberlain was doing Sunday Supply at Essex before the coronavirus changed things. Last week, Essex United gave Rev. Darrow room in their weekly newsletter for an invitation to join us in our online worship.