Above is the link to our worship offering for this week. The video opens with a praise song with a great message for the time we are living in, that ties in beautifully with the Gospel Lesson, and the Learning Time.
Beth Graham read John 20:19-31 for us, the passage that tells the story of the mysterious encounter two followers have with the Risen Christ, while walking the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. The anthem for this week, “Stay With Us Through the Night” was inspired by that story.
The Learning Time (sermon) is called “At Home with Jesus”, and is followed by pastoral prayers and the Lord’s Prayer. The text of the learning time and the prayers will follow below.
Our hearts are with all those who are suffering, and enduring the COVID-19 pandemic.
We especially hold in prayer the victims of the horrendous crimes in Nova Scotia, their families and friends, their communities, and the first responders, and law enforcement officials who are dealing with the aftermath.
John Woodbridge and Larry Anderson recorded a moving, prayerful tribute to all those folks, and others touched by this horror. Nova Scotia Strong!
Please keep watching for the announcements at the end of the video.
Learning Time and Prayers:
“At home with Jesus”
Just three days after watching Jesus suffer a cruel death on the cross, two of his followers walked ten kilometres from Jerusalem to their home village of Emmaus. 10 kilometres is a long walk.
I have been out walking with my wife a few nights each week, but we rarely go for more than 4-5 kilometres. Most people we see on the streets respect the rules about physical distancing that are part of our new normal. We cross the street when it looks like we might get too close.
These days, we would not think of doing what the two friends did while walking the road to Emmaus. They met a stranger, walked with them, and entered into a lengthy, and deep conversation.
The two travelling companions were heart-broken at the death of Jesus. They’d heard about Jesus having appeared to some of his followers, but did not know what to make of those stories.
It’s good to remember that when we hear the Good Friday story each year, we do so knowing what we will hear on Easter Sunday. These two followers of Jesus, did not know then, what we know now.
They were, in their time, a bit like we are right now. We are in the middle of this big story that is new for everyone, and we are waiting, and hoping for good things, and praying for a good outcome. We are on a journey, not really knowing where we are going.
The two friends walking from Jerusalem to their home in Emmaus took comfort in talking with the stranger they met, who became a new friend, and who seemed to know a lot about Jesus, and his God-given mission. He helped them see meaning and purpose in it all, and they began to feel better.
It seemed natural to invite their walking companion home for supper. (That used to be something we could do!) During the meal, the stranger took bread, blessed and broke it and gave it to them. Luke’s Gospel says that was when they recognized that Jesus was with them. An ordinary moment at the supper table became sacred.
That sounds a lot like communion, one of the sacraments of the Christian church. A sacrament is a special moment when God’s grace, God’s mystery, God’s love, touches us.
I have wonderful memories of standing at the communion table in the sanctuary of Harrow United Church, usually with kids gathered around the table, helping with the prayers, with the blessing, with the sharing of the bread and cup. When will we get to do that again?
I have had some preliminary conversation with our worship committee about how we can have a communion service via the internet. My strong preference is that we wait until we can do it as a livestreamed worship service, so we could all break and eat, pour and drink, at the same time, each in our own safe places.
“Communion” comes from the same latin word family as “community”. The “com” part means shared, or with, or joined. The “union” or “unity” part means one. So communion literally means joined as one. In the word “companion”, the “pan” part refers to “panis”, which means bread. A companion is one with whom we share bread.
During this time when our faith community is not able to meet in person, it seems especially important to hear today’s story. The Risen Christ was present with ordinary folks like you and me, gathered at a table in their own home, to share a meal.
I believe that God is always with us, and that there is potential in every moment of life to feel God’s presence. Any moment can be a holy moment, in which we can know that we are loved, and that we are not alone.
One of the blessings I am noticing during this strange time, when a lot of what I have taken for granted can’t easily happen, like getting a hair cut, or shopping just for fun, is that I am even more grateful for what I can do, what I do have. I am also a little clearer in my own mind and heart about what is actually important in life.
As I heard one wise person say, it doesn’t matter who has the nicest car, when you can’t really go anywhere. A lot of things that might have seemed important just a few weeks ago, are losing their glamour.
Most of us are so very fortunate, even now. We have food, and shelter, and safety. We have people who love us, who look out for us, who care what happens to us. We may get lonely, or bored, or feel stuck in one place, but we are mostly okay.
If you are feeling over-whelmed, or alone, or just need to hear a friendly voice, please, please don’t be afraid to reach out. If you send me a text, or email, or facebook message, I will be happy to give you a call, just to chat. I have had some amazing, beautiful conversations in the past few days, some with folks I had never talked with before.
We have people in our local community who are doing simple, beautiful, kind and generous things, to help other people, in this hard time. They have keyed in, consciously or unconsciously, to the basic human truth, that a very good way to cope better with our own challenges, is to help someone else. It may not lift our own burdens, but it gives us something else to focus on, to think about. It also restores our hope, because we are able to do something, even a small thing, to make a difference.
I have had great fun this week, working with my daughter Naomi, to create ShoeBox Sunday School, which we are offering to families as an interactive way for kids to keep learning about God’s love. Volunteers delivered shoeboxes containing crafts and lessons to homes on Saturday, and on Sunday morning, children will meet with Naomi in an online classroom
There are folks out there who are not as fortunate as most of us. There are people who may not put it this way, but who crave tangible signs that they are not forgotten, that they are loved, needed, noticed, remembered. There are also far too many people who are physically hungry and thirsty, and who are just trying to survive, day to day.
Harrow United Church is doing another “Drive Thru Food Drive on Friday, May 1, 2020, from 10 am to 12 noon. We will have a pickup truck in the church parking lot, ready to receive your donations of food for Windsor’s Downtown Mission. We will also accept cash and cheques made out to the Mission.
The first time we did this, a week or two before Easter, we collected over 500 pounds of food. An unexpected bonus was that some folks dropped by with special donations to support the work of our church.
We can’t do everything, but we can do something. In the spirit of the two friends who invited a stranger to join them for a meal, we can share from what we have. Amen
Prayers for April 26, 2020
Loving God; We have so many causes for prayer.
We begin with a moment to hold in the prayer the victims, the first responders, the family and friends, the communities of those in Nova Scotia who have been devastated and shocked by the murderous actions of a serial shooter.
We hold in prayer all victims of violence, and all those who live in fear.
We pray for those who struggle at this time of huge uncertainty;
for political leaders faced with unforeseen challenges, uncharted ways, difficult decisions,
We pray for those in situations never before experienced.
We pray for moms and dads who struggle with having children at home all day.
It is difficult to find new activities; it is hard to stay creative.
We pray for those whose day is radically different.
We pray for those who must leave their usual workspace,
for those breadwinners who must work at home.
We pray for those who have lost their jobs
We pray for those whose financial security has gone,,
who have anxiety around paying rent or providing for family needs .
We pray for those who have been affected by the Covid 19 virus.
Those who are sick at home and those who have been hospitalized,
in their suffering, and in their fear.
This prayer we offer in the name of Jesus Christ, and we continue in prayer with the words of 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