Worship for the weekend of Jan 31, 2021

This weekend we consider the significance and power of friendship in the life and work of Jesus, and in our own lives.

Words from the Song of Faith, about the Church:

We sing of a church

   seeking to continue the story of Jesus

   by embodying Christ’s presence in the world.

We are called together by Christ

   as a community of broken but hopeful believers,

   loving what he loved,

   living what he taught,

   striving to be faithful servants of God

   in our time and place.

Our ancestors in faith

   bequeath to us experiences of their faithful living;

   upon their lives our lives are built.

Our living of the gospel makes us a part of this communion of saints,

   experiencing the fulfillment of God’s reign

   even as we actively anticipate a new heaven and a new earth.

The church has not always lived up to its vision.

It requires the Spirit to reorient it,

   helping it to live an emerging faith while honouring tradition,

   challenging it to live by grace rather than entitlement,

for we are called to be a blessing to the earth.

We sing of God’s good news lived out,

a church with purpose:

   faith nurtured and hearts comforted,

   gifts shared for the good of all,

   resistance to the forces that exploit and marginalize,

   fierce love in the face of violence,

   human dignity defended,

   members of a community held and inspired by God,

     corrected and comforted,

   instrument of the loving Spirit of Christ,

   creation’s mending.

We sing of God’s mission.

We are each given particular gifts of the Spirit.

For the sake of the world,

   God calls all followers of Jesus to Christian ministry.

In the church,

   some are called to specific ministries of leadership,

   both lay and ordered;

   some witness to the good news;

   some uphold the art of worship;

   some comfort the grieving and guide the wandering;

   some build up the community of wisdom;

   some stand with the oppressed and work for justice.

To embody God’s love in the world,

   the work of the church requires the ministry and discipleship

   of all believers.

1 Thessalonians 5:5-18 (New International Version)

You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Learning Time: We need to know we are part of something beyond ourselves

I listened to a podcast this week from the series called “The Next Big Idea”, about friendship. There was a story about a woman named Paula, who’d retired from her career as a flight attendant, and found herself living a solitary existence. No close family, no close friends, because her work always had her in the air, flying from place to place.

One evening, after yet another day with no actual human contact, a lot of television, and supper alone, again, she’d just finished the dishes, and as she headed back to the living room for more television, she felt her chest tighten, and she could barely breathe. She became dizzy, and close to passing out. She feared she was having a cardiac event, and managed to call 911. When the paramedics arrived, she was relieved to learn that she was not having a heart attack, but a panic attack.

The panic attack was a jolt. She joined a church, and started to meet people. One of the people at the church told her about Generation Exchange, a non-profit that pairs seniors with under-served schools. During her training, she met a lot of people like her, retired, sedentary, lonely and anxious.  She heard how for these people, volunteering to go into schools and work with kids has helped them be happier, and improved their health.

Paula became a classroom volunteer, found that she loves helping the kids. She began having lunch in the staff room with other volunteers. One day she sat with a woman named Linda who lives just blocks from her. They made plans to get together, and a friendship was born. Paula said that she is no longer quite so lonely, or afraid. I love that she found her way by reaching out to help others.

Our Gospel reading for today tell a story of the adult Jesus, on a visit back to his home village of Nazareth. If you follow the story in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus has just concluded a soul-searching retreat in the desert. He faced temptations, and emerged with a clear sense of his mission in life.

He joined the folks from his home village for worship, and took his turn to read scripture. The reading was from the Book of Isaiah. Jesus stood, and read from the scroll,

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

The hometown crowd enjoyed his reading. I can imagine them smiling with encouragement, like we would, when someone we’ve watched grow up does good.  Jesus finished the assigned passage, and said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing,” which was not the traditional way to finish, but what what the heck, that’s our Jesus up there!

Then things took a turn. It was as if Jesus recognized they weren’t hearing him, when he said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled.” I think he was telling them, “We are doing this now. God is using me, to tell you, it’s time to bring good news to the poor, freedom to prisoners, and sight to the blind.”

The hometown crowd not only doesn’t get it, they become restless. And it got worse.

Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’”

“Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”

Jesus retrieved stories from their tradition, of prophets from the past. In both stories, the prophets are very selective about who they can help, and who faces hard times on their own. Jesus may as well have come out and said, “If you can’t understand what I’m telling you, how can I help you?”

Luke’s story tells us, “All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.”

Jesus proclaimed a year of Jubilee, a kind of social and economic re-boot, in which all debts are forgiven, slaves freed, prisoners released, and lands returned to their original owners. This is good news for those who are in debt, or enslaved, or in jail, or who had lost their land. It’s bad news for those of us who would have to give up our riches, position, and power, to make it all happen.

It’s not surprising the hometown crowd didn’t want to understand what their formerly favourite son was going on about. Even so, I wonder how it felt, to be Jesus that day.

“All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.”

If we were to read further in Luke’s Gospel we could follow Jesus as he kept walking, all the way to a new town, called Capernaum. In Capernaum Jesus does not go to the synagogue, where all the respectable people congregated. He spent his time amongst the poor, the sick, the homeless, those who were considered possessed by evil spirits. Pretty much the crowd he’d been talking about in Nazareth, who were due for some Good News. He healed the sick, cast out demons, and made new friends.

It wasn’t long before a fisherman named Simon invited him to his home, because his mother-in-law was in need of healing.  Simon became Jesus’ disciple, and as Luke’s Gospel continues, is one of the first to leave behind his boat and his nets, to follow Jesus, and become a fisher of people.

The people in Jesus’ hometown, and home synagogue weren’t ready to help with his work. Jesus could not do what God had in mind for him, all alone. His mission was all about bringing people together, and showing them their connection to God, and to each other, a connection that transcended typical concerns about wealth, position, status, power. Jesus brought that message of God’s unconditional acceptance and love, to people who were ready to hear it, and his mission took off. This was the beginning of something new.

God gave Jesus a job, and a way to live, that he could not do on his own. He needed friends.

In the last few years, and even moreso during the pandemic, psychologists have been taking a close look at the meaning and power of relationships and community in our lives. One study reported, after surveying people who were standing, looking at a hill they were about to climb, that for those who stood before the hill with a friend, the hill did not look as steep.

I love that image. We feel stronger, more able to face challenges, less afraid, when we know that we are not alone. That is true about hills, and likely, a lot of other aspects of our lives.

We need each other. It’s harder to climb the hills, even to imagine climbing the hills, on our own. When we work from that awareness, of this basic human trait, we may find that our vulnerability becomes kind of a superpower.

If we are lonely, or afraid, or bored, disappointed, feeling lost, having a friend equips for living better. If we feel kind of okay, but wish there was more to life than our four walls and what’s on tv, reaching out to offer friendship can help us find meaning. That’s just the way we are built, and it’s very much related to Jesus’ mission, of bringing people together, and helping them understand how their hearts and lives are connected to each other, and to God.

Maybe you aren’t lonely, or finding this pandemic time difficult. If that’s the case, I need your help. The congregation needs your help, because we do know some folks who are lonely, and who could use some friendly attention. If you are feeling like you are ready to climb hills, or help others to not feel quite so alone, as they face their own tough climbs, call me or email me, and we can set you up with a new church buddy, that you can call, or write, and let them know they are not alone.

Or maybe you are a little lonely, like many of us, and wonder if it might add some joy, purpose, meaning to your days, if you could connect with someone who also needs a little boost. Same deal. Call, text, or email me, and we will give you the name of someone to call. I can even suggest some topics for your first phone conversation, to make it a little less weird. Amen

Special Memorial Service

Here is the link to our November 22, 2020 worship service. On the Christian calendar, the Sunday before Advent is the last Sunday of the year, and is often called “Reign of Christ”. It is a day to remember that even when life seems messy, and chaotic, that ultimately, God is in charge. We took our theme for the service from the last line of the Lord’s Prayer as we say it in many Protestant churches, the “doxology”: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOSYmDyM_14

This was also the Sunday we at Harrow United Church chose to remember the members of our congregation and community, and those close to us, who have died since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, during which we have not been able to do funerals, and offer support to grieving families, in the way we wish we could.

We believe

that neither death, nor life,

nor angels, nor rulers,

nor things present, nor things to come,

nor powers, nor height, nor depth,

nor anything else in all creation,

will be able to separate us from the love of God

in Christ Jesus our Lord.     

(Romans 8:38, 39)

We lit candles in memory of those in our lives, our community, who have died since the beginning of the pandemic.

Wanda Delight Cracknell

Sarah Roberta Jane McLean

Mary Fay Defour

Annegret “Annie” Metcalfe

Nelda Virginia Vollans

William Arthur Gorick

Nancy Jean Whyte

Ronald William Reese

Edna Elizabeth “Betty” Reese

William Richard Herniman

Keith Chamberlain

David Bailey

Our service included readings by Nancy Colenutt, and very appropriate music from Barry Mannell, and Larry Anderson.

Here is the text for my learning time, as well as a teaching about the spiritual practice of Silence.

Learning Time: “for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever…”

Ever wonder why some Christians say the longer version of the Lord’s Prayer? The version we repeat most often in church, that many of us learned as children, includes a sentence that is not in the prayer as Jesus taught it to his disciples.

The extra line, which is sometimes called a “doxology”, was added sometime in the first 100 years or so after the earthly life of Jesus.

“For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen”

Scholars think that wording is based on words found in the Bible, either in the Book of Psalms, or from the part of Second Chronicles we heard read today.

A doxology is a formal word of praise to God, often part of a worship service.

The Lord’s Prayer begins with Jesus encouraging his followers to think of God as loving father, and to ask God for very personal things, like food to live for the day, and forgiveness, and the strength to forgive others. 

The doxology traditionally added to the Lord’s Prayer conveys ideas about who God is. It’s God’s Kingdom, God is the one with power, and we give glory, or praise to God. 

Unlike an earthly parent, who has human limits, and gets distracted by small human concerns, and is subject to illness, and pain, and death, God is God. God is the one who creates the universe, and gives us life, and who gives us the love we need for this life.

The early Christians, who lived in the first 100 years or so after the earthly life of Jesus, were mostly poor folks, on the fringes of society. If they were Jewish Christians, they experienced persecution from the Jewish authorities, for following their new faith outside the temple and synagogues. If they were Gentiles, non-Jewish citizens of the Roman Empire, they faced persecution for not worshipping the official gods of the Empire.

Many of the early followers were day labourers who did not own their land. They depended on finding work each morning, to earn their daily bread. Many others were slaves, who lived at the mercy of their masters.

Many of the early followers faced life and death issues on a daily basis. Life was hard.

Some of the early followers also remembered that even before Jesus was killed on the cross, he had promised his first followers that he would return to them, to save them from evil, and pain, and their daily struggles.

In the first centuries after Jesus’ earthly life, it was widely expected that Jesus would be coming back any day, and that life as his followers knew it would end, and history would be interrupted. A cosmic do-over, or re-set would happen, and an earthly kingdom of God would be established. In this new Kingdom of God, there would be no more pain, no more oppression, no more suffering, no more death, and no more grief.

Everything would be turned upside down. It’s the vision of the world we will hear about in the Magnificat, Mary’s Song, in a couple of weeks, as we move closer to Christmas.

For you have looked with favor upon your lowly servant,

and from this day forward all generations will call me blessed.

For you, the Almighty, have done great things for me,

and holy is your Name. 

Your mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear you.

You have shown strength with your arm;

you have scattered the proud in their conceit;

you have deposed the mighty from their thrones

and raised the lowly to high places.

You have filled the hungry with good things,

while you have sent the rich away empty.

If life is good, and you and your family are healthy and thriving, and have all you need, and all you desire, then the cosmic re-set is not all that appealing. But if life is hard, and your and your family have endured illness, and death, and grief, an interruption to history that restores all the good, and takes away all the causes of suffering may sound pretty good.

The hoped for cosmic do-over has not happened, so illness, and pain, and death and grief continue as part of our daily existence. Those of us who have have experienced grief and loss carry on, but we also may have questions.

Is my loved one who has died safe with God?

When will my sorrow, the pain of my grief be over?

When and how will things get better for our pandemic burdened world, where there continues to be oppression, and poverty, and war, and racism, and all the other ways people are cruel to each other?

We have questions, and the answers are beyond us, and we lean into God for hope, for comfort, and for compassion.

The answer, the reassurance we crave, is pointed to in our doxology, the words we add to the end of the Lord’s Prayer: “For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen”

God is in charge. God who loved us before we were born, who is with us, and loves each of us, each of our earthly days, who holds us close, and is with us as we die, and who welcomes us home. God is in charge of the past, the present, and the future. God loves us now, and always, forever and ever.  Amen Thanks be to God

Spiritual Practice: Silence

Each Sunday morning since September, when we returned to in-person worship, along with the learning time we’ve had a teaching about a spiritual practice. This morning, during a service in which we are remembering family members and friends who have died, it seems appropriate to consider the spiritual practice of silence.

Silence is under-rated.

Anyone who has suffered a loss can tell you sometimes, rather than a lot of words, the best way to offer comfort is to just be there, even in silence.

When words fail us, it’s okay to be silent. We needn’t fill every moment with the sound of our voice.

One of my all time favourite hymns expresses it very well:

Silence is a friend who claims us,

                     cools the heat and slows the pace,

           God it is who speaks and names us,

                     knows our being, face to face,

           making space within our thinking,

                     lifting shades to show the sun,

           raising courage when we’re shrinking,

                     finding scope for faith begun.

We are deliberate about taking a moment of silent reflection near the beginning of each Sunday morning worship service, to help us grow in our comfort with silence, and to train ourselves to listen, into the silence, for the presence of God.

Harrow United Church Worship for May 31, 2020 (Pentecost)

Link to this week’s worship video

link to our announcements video for May 31, 2020

gimmick pictureThe video opens with a great version of “Lean on Me” by Harrow’s own boy band, “Gimmick”: Greg Iler, Barry Mannell, Jeff Csikasz, and Jeff Gorick. We are so fortunate to have each of them as members and leaders in Harrow United Church.

 

 

May 31 is Pentecost Sunday. It’s the beginning of a new season on the liturgical calendar, and it is often celebrated as the “birthday” of the Christian church. The story from Acts 2 describes a moment in which a group of Jesus’ close friends and disciples have an experience of meeting the Holy Spirit, that fires them up to share the Good News of God’s love.

Here are the scripture readings for today:

John 20:19-23
20:19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”

20:20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

20:21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

20:22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

20:23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Acts 2:1-21
2:1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.

2:2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.

2:3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.

2:4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

2:5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem.

2:6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.

2:7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?

2:8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?

2:9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,

2:10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,

2:11 Cretans and Arabs–in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”

2:12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”

2:13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

2:14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say.

2:15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.

2:16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

2:17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.

2:18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.

2:19 And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist.

2:20 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.

2:21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

1 Corinthians 12:3b-13
12:3b No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.

12:4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;

12:5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord;

12:6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.

12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

12:8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit,

12:9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,

12:10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.

12:11 All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

12:12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.

12:13 For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

This week, the Harrow News will publish my newest pastoral message. I did something a little different this time- an exercise of imagination. What if one of the writers of the New Testament Epistles wrote a letter to the faithful in Harrow? 

To the people of Harrow, and surrounding communities, and all others created, loved, and blessed by God: Grace and peace to you. It seems such a long time since we have seen each other face to face!

I give thanks for the multitude of ways you are blessed, and in turn, offer numerous blessings to others, especially those in need.

We face many challenges. Much we take for granted has been disrupted. Your sadness over your losses is real, but do not allow your grief, your frustration to justify abandoning the efforts to keep the most vulnerable among us safe.

As Paul, our brother in faith once wrote, “I have the right to do anything,” you say- but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”- but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.”

I appeal to you to live out of a spirit of hope, and generosity, even in these trying times. Resist the temptation to follow the counsel of the loudest, the most extreme, those who care ultimately only for themselves. Resist also the temptation to grasp on to quick and simple solutions to complex problems. Avoid the trap of the “blame game”.

Place your real faith, your confidence in God, the Creator of the Universe, as revealed to us in love. Let “Jesus-like” love, that places the well-being of others before our own, guide and inspire us. This love is it’s own reward, and is most pleasing to God.

I continue to pray for those who have suffered the loss of loved ones, and were denied, by current circumstances, the consolation of the community gathered around them for a funeral. Our hearts are with them.

Pray for your elected officials, and those appointed to preserve the common good. We may not all be called to serve in positions of power and authority, but each of us, each day, can be kind. We can be unselfish. Let us not squander these opportunities, but instead, actively seek ways to be of help, and to show support to those who place themselves at risk on our behalf.

Some of you have asked, “How do we continue in the life of faith, when we no longer gather on the Lord’s Day? Are we not instructed to worship and pray together? Are we not to be devoted to  breaking the bread and sharing the cup?”

The way of faith, revealed to us in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus, is often difficult, but only becomes impossible when we attempt it without God.  God is always prepared to help us. God is always with us, even, and especially in these times when we cannot be with each other.

The people of the Way, followers of Jesus, grew as a movement long before we had the resources to build meeting places, which became our places of worship. In the earliest days, the homes of believers were the places in which faith was shared, taught, and lived.

You are not alone in your struggles, your questions, your anxieties for the present, and the future. We are all joined, united by God’s Spirit, who prays with and for us, often in sighs too deep for words, and with the wisdom of the One who truly knows us, for they were present as all things were created.

Do not abandon the ways of God, for God has surely not abandoned us. We share in the promise of God’s love, which is deeper, wider, higher, more encompassing than any of the things which frighten or threaten us. There is more to us than our fear, and there is more to our existence than the present situation.

You are God’s beloved. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. Amen

That “Epistle” was an experiment. The Learning Time for this week was another! There is no transcript, because instead of a prepared message, the Learning Time is a video of a conversation I had with the Rev. Robin Sherman, who is the minister at Tecumseh United Church. Robin and I have been friends for years, and it was a true delight to interview her, as part of my Pentecost Season series on “Spirited People”.

Here are my pastoral prayers for this day:

God of Creation, God who sent us Jesus, God who accompanies and guides us as the Spirit;

In this season of Pentecost we give thanks for the promise you have given, through the millenia, through the prophets, through the communities of faith, and in the hearts of those who seek to follow Jesus, that You are always with us. Your Spirit is wild, untamed, and not bound by the walls of certain buildings, or even by our sometimes small, and limited imaginations. You are so much more, and so much more available to us than we think. This is such a good thing, especially now, much of what we have come to expect from our church community is not possible. We miss getting together in the same physical space. We miss each other’s faces, and voices, and presence, not delivered on some little screen. We miss working together. We miss singing together, praying together, having conversation together after a worship service.

We worry about those who are even more isolated than usual, because of the pandemic precautions we are observing. We pray for those who spend all or most of their days and nights within the same four walls, in rooms that can feel very small. We remember those who have suffered losses recently, especially those who were also denied the possibility of all things we normally do, to honour a life, and mourn a death.

We pray for those who are sick. There are those who require elective surgeries and other procedures, who are now waiting to hear when they can be scheduled. There are those who need to see their dentist, their counselor, their therapist, or other specialist.

We pray for those who rely upon twelve step programs and other support groups, to help them in their struggles with addiction and co-dependency.

We pray for those who do not feel safe in their homes.

We pray for those who are feeling sad, lonely, dispirited. We pray they will know that despite the physical separations we are experiencing, that they are not totally alone. God is with each of us.

We pray for those who continue their efforts on the front lines. Paramedics and firefighters and police officers. Personal support workers, and nurses, social workers, medical technicians and physicians. Researchers and clinicians. Administrators and security staff. Maintenance workers whose jobs have never been so obviously essential.

We pray for our civic leaders, elected and appointed officials at all levels of government.

We pray that in these times of heightened anxiety and worry, that we will all be guided by compassion and decency. We pray that this time of crisis we can remember to be our best selves, and to expect the same from our decision-makers and public servants.

We pray with gratitude for the members of the Canadian Armed Forces, who are being called upon in these times to do work that is literally changing and saving lives.

We pray for the well being of the residents and staff of all long term care facilities, homes for the aged, and rehabilitation hospitals.

We pray for those who are compelled by circumstances to return to work, even though they are unsure about their safety. We pray for those whose jobs are in question. We pray for business owners and managers who are trying to navigate in this challenged economy.

In this Pentecost season, which in part is a celebration of the miracle that people from different places and varied backgrounds can, with the Spirit’s help, grow to understand each other- our prayers also include the lament that in recent days, stories have been appearing that remind us of the tragic evils of racism, and assumed white privilege. We pray for the family and friends of George Floyd, the man killed this week in Minneapolis while being subdued by a police officer.

We pray for all people of colour who live with the consciousness that too often there seems to be a different set of rules and laws for some. We pray with thanks for the courage and grace of Christian Cooper, the young man who survived a very real threat in New York’s Central Park, and who lived to accept the apology of the woman who tried to convince the police that an African American man was prepared to harm her.

We pray for a spirit of reconciliation and harmony, and justice.

We pray for the leaders of Harrow United Church, and the people we serve in Jesus’ name. Help us to find our way into this new time. There are questions about how to continue our ministries, and how to raise the funds we need to support them.

We pray for Rev. Robin Sherman, and the leaders and members of Tecumseh United Church, and the people they serve. Help her, and other faith leaders, to trust that the faithful work they do is sufficient and important.

We pray for all the faith communities, service groups, social agencies businesses, levels of government and public service who are striving to be of help. We pray for the Harrow Food Bank, and the Windsor Downtown Mission, and the people they endeavour to assist.

We make these prayers as followers of Jesus, who taught us to pray in this way:

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

The worship video ends this week with a powerful rendition of “We Are Not Alone”, from a recording of the Senior Choir from 2006.

Announcements for May 31, 2020

The big winner in the HUC online pub style trivia night, with a score of 69 out of a possible 80 points, was the “J-Squared” team of Janet and John Woodbridge. A donation of $69 will be made to the church’s general fund, in celebration.

 On Friday, June 5, from 10 am until noon there will be a Drive Thru Food Drive Drive at Harrow United Church, 45 Munger Street East, Harrow. We are collecting donations for Windsor’s Downtown Mission.

Drive up, pop your trunk and we will safely lift the food out of your vehicle, and into our pickup truck! Our volunteers will wear masks and keep a safe social distance.

The Mission has an urgent need for:

Canned fruit/vegetables/meats/protein

Cereal boxes and granola/protein bars

Fruit cups and Mr. Noodles

Gloves, masks, cleaning supplies, disinfectant wipes

We will also be accepting cash and cheques made out to Windsor’s Downtown Mission.

This will be Harrow United Church’s third Drive Thru Food Drive to benefit the Mission. Last time we collected over 800 pounds of food, which was delivered the same day, to help the front-line efforts of the Mission, who serve some of the most vulnerable people in our area.

If you’d like to volunteer to help on that day, email us at harrow_united@hotmail.com

Coffee with Rev. Darrow! 10:30 am this coming Thursday morning, June 4. Email him at revdww@gmail.com for your ZOOM invitation.

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 revdww@gmail.com

The Official Board will meet by conference call on Tuesday evening, 7 pm, on June 3.

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 24 worship service was read 163 times, and viewed 123 times.

The “opening theme” for our latest worship videos is a piece for guitar composed and played by the mult-talented Joel Woods, who also appears in the videos for our youngest ShoeBox Sunday School students.

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!

If you know of children who would like to be part of ShoeBox Sunday School, please let us know.

 

 

 

 

Harrow United Church Worship for May 24, 2020

Link to May 24, 2020 worship video

link to ShoeBox Sunday School video for May 24, 2020

link to announcements video for May 24, 2020

HUC logo color FINAL@2x

Introduction to today’s readings from Scripture

First we will hear the story of the end of the earthly ministry of a prophet of Ancient Israel, Elijah, which includes a moment at which he passes on the mantle of responsibility to his protégé’ Elisha. There are echoes of that story, in the two separate accounts we will hear from the New Testament, about the departure of the Risen Christ, as experienced by a group of Jesus’ disciples.

2 Kings 2:1-13

When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to Bethel.”

But Elisha said, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.

The company of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and asked, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?”

“Yes, I know,” Elisha replied, “so be quiet.”

Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here, Elisha; the Lord has sent me to Jericho.”

And he replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went to Jericho.

The company of the prophets at Jericho went up to Elisha and asked him, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?”

“Yes, I know,” he replied, “so be quiet.”

Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.”

And he replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them walked on.

Fifty men from the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan. Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground.

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?”

“Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied.

10 “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise, it will not.”

11 As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. 12 Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two.

13 Elisha then picked up Elijah’s cloak that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 14 He took the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and struck the water with it. “Where now is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.

Luke 24:45-53

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

 

Acts 1:1-10

In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with[a] water, but in a few days you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit.”

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Learning Time: “Now What?”

(Begins with a short clip from a movie)

That’s the end of Mary Poppins, the magical nanny worked wonders with the Banks family, helping parents and children re-discover their love for each other. Have you ever thought about Mary Poppins as a kind of Jesus figure? She left the Banks family, and her other friends behind, as she ascended into the London sky, high above the kites. She left something of her spirit, with them.

All our scripture stories for today are goodbye stories.

Elisha was a student of Elijah, a prophet of ancient Israel. Prophets were a bit like travelling monks, who taught about God, settled religious disputes, and reminded the people of Israel they were meant to follow God’s ways. Some, like Elijah, seemed to have special abilities, to heal people, to help them, and do things that looked like magic.

When Elisha learned his teacher was to leave him, he asked for “a double portion of his spirit”. He wanted Elijah’s blessing, and the assurance God would still be with him.

Elijah was known as a miracle worker. When he needed to cross the Jordan River, he took off his cloak, also called a mantle, rolled it up, and struck the water. The river divided, allowing them to walk across a dry bed. Which brings to mind another story, about Moses.

When Moses led the Israelites out of slavery, they were pursued by Egyptian soldiers, who sought to return them to forced labour. Moses held up his staff, and the waters of the Red Sea parted. The escaped slaves walked across the dry sea bed. When they were safe on the other side, the waters crashed back down, washing away the chariots, horses, and the Pharoah’s army. That began the Israelites’ long trek across a wilderness to find a new life.

After 40 years in the wilderness, the Israelites were about to cross the Jordan River, to enter the Promised Land for the first time. Moses stood at the edge of the water and told the Israelites he would not be joining them. He appointed Joshua as his successor, and gave him, and the people his blessing, before he died.

Powerful symbols from these stories have made their way into our culture. We talk about dying as “crossing over”. In the old days, a groom might carry the bride over a threshold, through a doorway, to symbolize the transition from one way of being, to another. In literature, crossing a body of water is often a symbol of a new start. In movies, the beginning of a hero’s travels will often include crossing a bridge. It’s a visual symbol of moving from the old life, to the new. Often it’s an act of courage, just to make the crossing. A bridge over troubled water. Sometimes it’s a fresh start.

We use water when we baptize people. Water has the power of life and death. We can’t live without it. We use it to clean, to refresh ourselves. We splash our faces at the beginning of a new day. Tears stream down our faces when someone we love dies.

I’ve been talking this weekend with my friend Margaret, who is recovering from the very recent ordeal of losing her husband to cancer. It all happened so quickly. Just when she was absorbing the news that he was very ill, they learned things were progressing much quicker than expected, and within just a few weeks, Don had died.

Margaret is doing the best she knows how, with help, to carry on. She has two new grandbabies, her career, good friends, and lots to keep her busy. She told me this morning that weekends are the hardest, that being alone in her house is still very difficult, and that right now, she cannot imagine ever being happy again.

We do not always welcome change, and we certainly do not relish loss. It is painful when loved ones die- even when death is also a release from terrible suffering and hardship.

Elisha faced not only the death of his friend, but the end of his time as a student of holy ways. With the death of his mentor, he also pondered the burden of carrying on Elijah’s prophetic work.

Elisha watched as Elijah was carried off to heaven in a chariot of fire, pulled by horses of fire. We have no earthly idea what that means, but Elijah was gone. All that was left behind was his cloak, which Elisha picked up. The cloak, or mantle became a symbol of leadership and mission, like a superhero putting on their cape before going on duty. The last image in this story is of Elisha taking the cloak, and striking the water, and once again crossing the dry river bed of the Jordan.

We also heard two versions of the story of Jesus’ last earthly day.  As Moses did not enter the promised land, Jesus would not physically be with the disciples as they moved on. Jesus said that they would be clothed with power from on high. That’s like the cloak, or mantle, Elisha inherited from his teacher.

In the ascension story from the Book of Acts, after Jesus disappeared into the sky, the disciples suddenly saw two men dressed in white standing beside them. The strangers asked, “why do you stand here looking into the sky?”

That sounds like the story in Luke’s Gospel of the first Easter morning, “very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.  They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.  In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

The story of Jesus’ Ascension, his saying goodbye to earthly life, has all the mystery and wonder of his Resurrection. Jesus passed from one way of being into another. We don’t necessarily understand it any better than his first followers did.

Jesus’ disciples, like Elisha, and any of us might rather time stand still, and things not change, and they need not face losing someone they love and rely upon. We might prefer to freeze time at a perfect moment, before the sad things happen.

The hope, and the comfort in these stories is there is life beyond grief, and loss and change. God does not abandon us, when we cross a bridge, move to a new place, begin a new chapter.

Before Jesus left the disciples, he promised they would not be alone. He passed on the mantle, the cloak of leadership, and said they would receive power of the Holy Spirit. We will hear about that next Sunday, as we celebrate Pentecost. It’s a day we remember we are never alone, because God’s Spirit is with us, always. Amen

I have sometimes talked about holy whispers, invitations from the Spirit to step outside of our comfort zone, and do something that is needed in the world. I encourage you to begin each day with a prayer, asking God what you should do today. The idea is to open our hearts, and imaginations to the possibility that God is with us, and has things for us to do, that perhaps no one else can do.

God may be waiting to guide you, perhaps take you across a bridge, into new territory.  I heard a great story this week, about someone from the congregation who did just that. I’ve asked Laura George to share her story with you.

(The video includes Laura’s story.)

Pastoral Prayers for May 24, 2020

Loving God;

Today we listened to the story of Jesus’ Ascension. Once more, he said goodbye to his closest friends, and to his earthly life. He left them with work to do. They were sent out into the world to make new disciples, to offer care, to baptize, to welcome new followers into the fold. We also heard about Elisha, left behind by his mentor, Elijah, to go back out into the world, and carry on.

God, how do we carry on, after loss, while we are in grief? We need the assurance that you are with us, as we dare to move towards a new reality, one that we were not asking for, one that we may not be ready to fully embrace.

Our world is in the midst of a big change. Many of us are leading daily lives that are very different from what we knew, just a few weeks ago. For some, the changes are less obvious.

We don’t know what the new life, the new world will be like. We don’t know how we are going do things we once took for granted.

We may feel, at times, like Elijah, like Jesus’ friends, wondering if we have been left to our own devices and desires, and not knowing if we have it in us, to make our way in this strange new territory.

Help us wake up to the realization that it has always been this way. Things are always changing, and you are always with us. Help us to realize that you are ever-present, and always ready to fill us with the love, the courage, the energy, the passion to live, even through the weird and confusing seasons of life.

Help us to quiet ourselves, so that we are able grow in our awareness of you in our midst,  in this shared worship time, and in the rest of our week.

Help us to grow in the desire to be faithful people,

to love in your name, to put you first in our lives,

to continue to learn and grow,

to take risks and make sacrifices to serve your people,

to call out for justice and mercy in the world,

and to pour our lives out in love, in response to your love for us.

 

We pray for all those, who like ourselves,

Have big questions about Jesus, and faith, and the workings of the universe.

 

We pray for those who are having an especially hard time these days. Those who have suffered recent loss. Those who are very sick. Those who are lonely, and isolated.

We pray for those who are caught in the traps of addiction, and despair, and co-dependence.

We pray for those who need encouragement and help to begin the work of changing their lives.

We pray for those who are aging, those who are chronically ill, those who are in pain.

We pray for those who are depressed, and those who care for the afflicted.

We pray for those who are on the front-lines of the efforts to care for those touched by the coronavirus, and for those who are working to keep us safe, and warm, and well-fed.

We pray for victims of violence, and those subject to terrorism in many parts of the world.

We pray for those who do not have what they need to live,

and for those who cannot seem to live without things they don’t actually need.

We pray for those who are unemployed,

and for those who work too hard, and for those who work,

and still do not have what they need to sustain the lives of those in their care.

We pray for our congregation, and all those who now join us for weekly worship and prayer, over the internet, in this unusual time.

Help us remember who we have been,

give thanks for who we are,

and be open to who you would have us be.

We make these spoken prayers, and the unspoken ones in our hearts, in Jesus name,

and we continue in prayer using the words Jesus taught:

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

 Over the past few weeks I have talked about Justin Weber, a man I knew during my time at the Earlham School of Religion, a Quaker seminary. Justin is the pastor of a Quaker meeting, or congregation, in Iowa. I have kept up with the story of his entrance into hospital as the first COVID-19 patient in his area, his days in an induced coma, the long weeks of recovery, and finally, this week, his release from the hospital. I want to share with you now some video shot by a local television station, of Justin’s farewell to the hospital staff who cared for him, and nursed him back to health, for 57 days.

 

At the end of the video, Justin, who loves to sing, leads a powerful rendition of the doxology. Let that be our blessing today, as we end this time of worship.

 

Announcements:

New time for coffee with Rev. Darrow! 10:30 am this coming Thursday morning, May 28. Email him at revdww@gmail.com for your ZOOM invitation.

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 revdww@gmail.com

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 harrow_united@hotmail.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.

To join the class, email us at revdww@gmail.com 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 17 worship service was read a staggering 216 times, and viewed 81 times.

The “opening theme” for our latest worship videos is a piece for guitar composed and played by the mult-talented Joel Woods, who also appears in the videos for our youngest ShoeBox Sunday School students.

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!

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. Check out Rev. Darrow’s article on this topic, in this week’s issue of the Harrow News.

Today’s worship service re-purposed videos of the Ascension Sunday Service from June 2, 2019. We thought it might do our hearts good to see the inside of the sanctuary, filled with life.

 

 

 

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