Learning Time for July 3, 2022

Audio recording of Scripture reading and Learning Time

Gospel Reading:  Luke 10:1-11, 16-20 (The Inclusive Bible) 

Jesus appointed seventy-two others, and sent them on ahead in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit.  He said to them, “The harvest is rich, but the workers are few; therefore, ask the overseer to send workers to the harvest.

 “Be on your way, and remember: I am sending you as lambs in the midst of wolves.  Don’t carry a walking stick or knapsack; wear no sandals and greet no one along the way.  And whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be upon this house!’  If the people live peaceably there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will come back to you.  Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you, for the laborer is worth a wage. Don’t keep moving from house to house.

“And whatever city you enter, after they welcome you, eat what they set before you and heal those who are sick in that town. Say to them, ‘The reign of God has drawn near to you.’  If the people of any town you enter don’t welcome you, go into its streets and say,  ‘We shake the dust of this town from our feet as testimony against you. But know that the reign of God has drawn near.’

“Anyone who listens to you, listens to me. Anyone who rejects you, rejects me; and those who reject me, reject the One who sent me.”  The seventy-two disciples returned with joy, saying, “Rabbi, even the demons obey us in your name!”  Jesus replied, “I watched Satan fall from the sky like lightning.  Look: I’ve given you the power to tread on snakes and scorpions—even all the forces of the enemy—and nothing will ever injure you.  Nevertheless, don’t rejoice in the fact that the spirits obey you so much as that your names are inscribed in heaven.”

Learning Time: “What is our Mission?”

Our daughter Naomi just graduated from her Master’s program in Library and Information Sciences from Western. She was not able to attend the ceremony since she’s moved to Halifax for a job at their new central library.

Our family had a Zoom celebration in her honour. Naomi and her partner Max, and Joel in Waterloo, and his girlfriend in Vaughn, and Lexie and I in Kingsville all ordered sushi, and we ate together, with purple and white decorations all around us.

Lexie reached out to some of Naomi’s friends, relatives, and co-workers, and asked them to send memories, best wishes, and words of advice. Here are some of my favourites:

Take the opportunity to travel (or maybe even live) internationally if you can. That was from a family friend who currently lives in Egypt.

Be sure to find room for joy. Invest in loving relationships. Seek out genuine community.

Know that you are amazing.

Let happiness be the great surprise of your life, rather than a daily goal.

If you ever have leftover cake, try making French toast out of it!

Lexie reminded me of advice I have always given our kids, and almost anyone else who asks, which is “make your world big”. By that I mean stretch beyond convention, push boundaries, take risks, and work to have a wide range of interests and relationships in your life. That way if one area in your life is not going well, you have other sources of confidence, affirmation, meaning for your life.

What we heard in the gospel story was Jesus giving the 72 he sent out, some words of advice before they hit the road.

They were sent out in pairs to every town and place Jesus intended to visit. It’s a good strategy. Send out advance scouts so you know what kind of reception your larger group may expect. They could also cultivate relationships, so when Jesus and his whole group arrived, they would have an idea about what kind of hospitality, and support might be there.

Jesus encouraged his missionaries to embrace the adventure but be smart about how they travelled. He told them he was sending them out as lambs in the midst of wolves. I am grateful no one said that to Naomi!

Jesus told them to travel in pairs, which was safer than going alone. They were to carry nothing of value, like a walking stick or a bag, or even sandals. The roads they walked were hunting grounds for bandits. Remember the situation described in the parable of the Good Samaritan?

Jesus encouraged them to make friends and accept hospitality when they arrived at a village or town. He specifically told them to eat or drink what they were offered. It could be that a host would offer something outside of what was normal for Jesus’ followers. They were to open their minds, their hearts, and their mouths. Set aside scrupulous adherence to the dietary laws of their faith, just be grateful. Set aside their misgivings about new foods, and just dig in.

Right after the first mention of food, Jesus told his missionaries not to keep moving from house to house. I wonder if that was a way of saying- don’t go looking for meals you are used to, just accept what is given. Don’t worry so much about doing things the way you’ve always done them.

Jesus also said to tell the people in each new place the reign of God has drawn near to them, and to heal those who are sick. 

They had real work to do, helping people along the way. They weren’t only advance scouts, they were part of the Jesus movement.

They were to teach people, by word and deed, about God’s love, and how love could change how they connected to God, what they believed about themselves, and how they treated one another.

Did the missionaries ever wonder how they could live up to the role, of representing the love of God? Did they feel up to it? Did they see themselves as part of the reign of God, the Jesus movement spreading from town to town?

Even so, and likely because they were the real deal, Jesus warned them they would face opposition. He said,

“If the people of any town you enter don’t welcome you, go into its streets and say,  ‘We shake the dust of this town from our feet as testimony against you. But know that the reign of God has drawn near.’

It’s beautiful language, that may inspire each of us to remember moments when we have felt drawn near to the reign of God, when God, and God’s love have felt real in our lives, and that has made a difference.

We are all gathered here this morning because in some way, we have heard the call of God’s love, through the message of Jesus. Someone in our life first brought us to this church, or another one, or taught us about the love of God, maybe at their house, or out on a tractor, or beside a lake, or out in a backyard under a blanket of stars. Somehow, we got the message, and we joined the movement.

It matters enough to us that we come here, even on a hot, sunny Sunday on a holiday weekend. Maybe we come out of habit. Maybe we come because we crave community. Maybe we come to get our spiritual batteries recharged. Maybe we come to be reminded that we are part of something bigger than ourselves.

We are part of the Jesus movement, that has the job of loving the world in God’s name. Jesus keeps inviting us in, and sending us out again, to spread the word. Amen

Feb 7, 2021 Worship Video

Worship Service for Sunday, February 7, 2021



I am happy to offer a Lenten study based on Jesus, Friend of My Soul, which offers short readings for each day of Lent. Sr. Joyce Rupp is a popular author, and speaker, whose work has nurtured the spiritual lives of thousands. 

Her writing conveys ideas about faith that are easy for ordinary people to understand and work toward in our own lives. 

The book is available through Kobo, Indigo/Chapters, as well as Amazon/Kindle, for about $15.00

We will meet for online discussion each Wednesday, starting with Ash Wednesday, February 17. 

If we get enough folks registered, we will meet at from 10-11:30 am, and/or 7-8:30 pm. 

The dates are: Feb 17, 24, Mar 3,10,17,24,31

Let me know if a day time or evening session is best for you. 

Our team is working on our next set of Sunday School videos, based on some Dr. Seuss stories: Horton Hears a Who; Yertle the Turtle, and possibly The Lorax.

Lari Sabbe and her crew are hard at work getting the videos made.

We also want to make up “book bags” that will contain the craft materials your kids would need, to take part.

Like last time, we will post the lessons on YouTube, so that your kids can watch them at a time that works for you. We know that some kids watched them again and again, which is great!

Please let me know if you want your kids to be part of this new set of lessons. We need to know how many bags to deliver, and the first lesson will be posted for February 14.

Our worship video today takes the place of our Annual Meeting. We will hear reports about the work of our congregation, all the ways we live out or mission. We will also celebrate a virtual communion, so you may want to stop the video for a moment, and get your own bread and juice ready for later.

Here is the link to the worship video:

Mission Statement:

The mission of Harrow United Church is to offer nurturing experiences of God’s live through worship, learning and sharing. In thankful response, we will reach out as disciples and stewards of Jesus Christ in God’s world.

Sharing Virtual Communion

I have been reflecting on the idea of virtual communion. On one level, it’s the best we can do right now. On another level, it goes against our United Church sense of community- it is something we are meant to do together. That is generally true, but ministers have also been known to offer private communion, in hospital rooms and in homes, when there is a pastoral necessity. 

Watching communion on a worship video may be a bit like watching a cooking show, and trying to make the dish yourself at home. That can be very rewarding, but it can also be a little underwhelming. For most of us, what we cook at home does not look as good as what the chefs on the Food Channel can do, with their team of assistants.

It seems to me that watching other people cook, and other people eat is always something less than doing it ourselves, and in the case of what is meant to be a shared experience, less than being part of a community. 

It may be that virtual communion will ultimately be less than satisfying- and leave us hungry for the real thing. I’d like to think that hunger is a sign that we still long for community, and for God’s presence with us.

Jesus spent a lot of his time at tables, at gatherings at which sharing food was a focus. 

Last week I made a quick reference to his desert retreat. One of the temptations he faced was a moment when the tempter challenged him to turn stones into bread. Jesus responded that humans do not live by bread alone, but by every word from the mouth of God. I don’t know whether Jesus could actually have turned stones into bread- the idea that he could may have been part of the tempters’s lie. The fact remains that he didn’t do it.

Actually, in all the stories when Jesus is involved in sharing food, he never actually makes it appear magically. The meal always begins with sharing. People are asked to make their contribution. In the stories where crowds are fed, before food was blessed, divided, and shared, it was first gathered. In the very last feeding story, when the Risen Christ appears to some of the disciples who were fishing, they are asked to contribute some of what they caught, to the food that was already cooking on the fire.

I think that’s important to notice, that Jesus’ follwers are not just passive receivers of gifts, they are active contributors- they, and what they can offer, are absolutely necessary.

So maybe it’s okay, as we do this virtual communion thing, that you have to provide your own bread, and your own cup of juice. I think its also okay that you have to hold up your own hands, and say your own prayers, and ask God, in your own way, for a blessing.

Let us give thanks to God!  Let us pray!  

We thank you for sending us Jesus,

Who came as a baby, and grew to show 

Your love with all kinds of people.

We thank you that his light shines in our world.

Jesus came to live with us,

                    to bring hope in times of fear,

          to bring peace in times of danger,

          to bring joy in times of darkness,

          to bring love – your love – in every time.

 Though poor, Jesus was rich in you, 

          and taught us to share our wealth.

          Though often without a home,

          Jesus always lived in you, and taught us

          to welcome everyone to every table.

          Though living in a time when many people 

          felt lost and confused, 

          Jesus showed us all the way to your realm.

Even when people did not understand 

          Jesus words of life and light,

          Jesus loved us.

          When people in ignorance put Jesus to death

          on the cross, you in your love

          broke open the tomb

          and gave new life to everyone.

  On the night before he died, 

          Jesus had supper with friends,

          and took bread, saying,

          “Blessed are you, Holy God,

          Maker of all, 

          for you bring forth bread from the earth.”

          Jesus broke the bread and gave it to all saying,

 “This is my body which I give for you.”

Jesus took the cup, saying,

          “Blessed are you, Holy God, Maker of all,

          for you give us wine to gladden our hearts.” 

          Jesus gave it to them saying,

          “This is my blood, which I give for you.

          Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup,

          do it in memory of me.”

          With this bread and this cup,

          we remember the life, and death, and resurrection of Jesus,

          and we offer ourselves to you in him.

Send your Holy Spirit on us and on these gifts,

          and make them holy, so that we, your people,

          being fed by holy things,

          may share hope and peace, joy and love with the world;  

May the light of the world live in and through us.

 We pray together, 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,

for ever and ever. Amen

Commissioning and Blessing:

Jesus responded to God’s call, to live a life of witness and service.

We are invited to follow his path.

We are called to offer love, and hope, caring and light.

We know there are many who need God’s love.

God blesses us, and desires we be a blessing to others.

Jesus shows us the Way.

The Spirit guides us and inspires us to move forward.

We are blessed, and we bless. Amen