Remembrance Sunday: Forgiving Others

(Link to the You Tube video of the service)

https://youtu.be/XTnGRezei8o

Harrow United Church, like many other congregations, honours those of the local community who died while serving in the military during war-time. Worship on the Sunday closest to November 11 has a Remembrance Theme.

We’ve had to adjust the service because of COVID-19. We missed having the cubs, scouts and beavers bring the flags forward in a colour party, lead in by our piper, John Woodbridge.

We had to forego the time in the service when Bill Shea, the only member of the local Legion to serve in World War Two, stands near our memorial display as members of the congregation come forward to place their poppies on a small cenotaph.

Our video producer Dennis Graham worked with our church musicians to put the “Last Post-Silence-Lament-Reveille” sequence on-screen, because of course we could not have a live piper or trumpeter perform.

Our congregation “rolled” with the creative adaptations.

The learning time, entitled “As we forgive those…”? was another in the ongoing series on The Lord’s Prayer, and included a teaching called “Just Like Me,” based on work I have been doing in Cultivating Compassion Training.

For the first time since we have been back to in-person worship, we included hymns in the service, during which we sat and listened while our musician, Larry Anderson, play the melody on the organ, and we silently read, and pondered the lyrics.

Worship Service for Remembrance Sunday, Nov 8, 2020

Prelude

O Canada   VU 524

Lighting the Christ Candle

Jesus came into the world, amongst people like us.

Jesus shone a light of hope, a light of love.

That light still has the power to draw us closer to God.

We light this candle to now, as a sign that God is with us.

Time of Silent Reflection (ringing the prayer bowl marks the beginning, and end of a time of silence)

Opening Prayer

God is with us in our proud and noble moments.

God is with us in our sad and desperate times.

God knows both the good and the evil of which we are capable.

God hears our prayers of thanks, and our cries for help.

God loves us, when we are at our best, and when we are at our worst.

God will always be with us.

We give our thanks and praise to God.

Video: In Flanders Fields, by John McRae, recited in 2015 by veteran Fred Stevenson (he was 104 at the time, he died a few months later in June 2016, at the Veteran’s wing of Sunnybrook Hospital )      

Offertory Prayer

Hymn: 527 VU   “God As With Silent Hearts

1            God! As with silent hearts we bring to mind

              how hate and war diminish humankind,

              we pause, and seek in worship to increase

              our knowledge of the things that make for peace.

2            Hallow our will as humbly we recall

              the lives of those who gave and give their all.

              We thank you, God, for women, children, men

              who seek to serve in love, today as then.

3            Give us deep faith to comfort those who mourn,

              high hope to share with all the newly born,

              strong love in our pursuit of human worth:

              ‘lest we forget’ the future of this earth.

4            So, Prince of Peace, disarm our trust in power,

              teach us to coax the plant of peace to flower.

              May we, impassioned by your living Word,

              remember forward to a world restored.

Matthew 5:38-48 from The Message (read by Bob Lounsbury)

 “Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.

 “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

Matthew 6:5-14 (New International Version) (read by Bob Lounsbury)

 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

 “This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

Learning Time: “As we forgive those…”?

Take a moment, and join me for a short experiment.  It may help, for you to close your eyes, or just keep them slightly open. You can also relax your face, your neck, your shoulders. Unclench any part of you that is tight.

Take a deep belly breath, hold it a second, then let it go. Do that again. Big belly breath, then let it go. Let go of tensions, and worries.

Now, with your eyes closed, or just slightly open, picture the face of someone you feel close to- a friend, relative, loved one.

Remember a time when this person was struggling, or suffering, having difficulty. How do you feel when you think about that?  Do wish you could help them, do or say something to ease their suffering?

Think about the person, and say to yourself:

This person has a body, and a mind just like me.

This person has feelings, emotions, and thoughts just like me.

This person has at times been hurt, or sad, or disappointed, or lonely, or confused, just like me.

This person has known moments of joy, peace, happiness, just like me.

This person wishes to have fulfilling relationships, just like me.

This person wants to be free from suffering, just like me.

This person wants to be healthy, and loved, just like me.

Take a moment to check in how you are feeling about this person.

Take a moment to wish the person well. Perhaps say to yourself, May they be well, may they be happy, may they be free from suffering.

Now think of a person from whom you feel very distant. It might be someone you do not know well. It might be a person with whom you have had conflict. It might even be a person you find it hard to like.

Think about the person, and say to yourself:

This person has a body, and a mind just like me.

This person has feelings, emotions, and thoughts just like me.

This person has at times been hurt, or sad, or disappointed, or lonely, or confused, just like me.

This person has known moments of joy, peace, happiness, just like me.

This person wishes to have fulfilling relationships, just like me.

This person wants to be free from suffering, just like me.

This person wants to be healthy, and loved, just like me.

Take a moment to check in how you are feeling about this person.

Take a moment to wish the person well. Perhaps say to yourself, May they be well, may they be happy, may they be free from suffering.

Focus again for a moment on your own breath. Take in a deep belly breath. Hold it a moment, then feel it release.

Think of a moment in your own life, when you have struggled, or suffered, had difficulty. We all have these times, because we are human.

Take a moment to wish yourself well. Perhaps say to yourself, May I be well, may I be happy, may I be free from suffering.

Take another cleansing breath, in and out, and then, if you have had your eyes closed, blink them open.  Thanks for taking that time with me.

On Wednesday there will be a Remembrance Day Serivce at Veteran’s Park here in Harrow starting at 11 am. We also take time this morning, to remember those who served, those who died, and those who were left behind.

With all that is happening in this world, it is important we pause, and remember the terrible costs incurred, when relations between people and nations, go off the rails.

We can’t help but think, and worry, and pray, about things happening in the nation to the south of us, in the aftermath of an election whose results point to monumental divisions between people.

Since September I have been meeting online once a week with people from Wyoming, Texas, Minnesota, Alabama, Louisiana and Ohio, for meditation, and conversation, and learning in a course called Cultivating Compassion Training. The experiment we just did is based on that work.

This past Wednesday evening, one day after the election, my classmates looked weary, and worried, but several also spoke of their determination to continue the work of compassion. We need to work at knowing, loving, living with each other. I am grateful to these living reminders that there are so many faithful people in the world.

On February 28, 1954 at Second Baptist Church, on Monroe Street, in Detroit, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., just 25 years old, preached a sermon entitled “Rediscovering Lost Values”. You can listen to it on YouTube. He was such a brilliant thinker, and a powerful preacher. He said,

“The great problem facing modern man is that, the means by which we live, have outdistanced the spiritual ends for which we live. So we find ourselves caught in a messed-up world. The problem is with man himself and man’s soul. We haven’t learned how to be just and honest and kind and true and loving. And that is the basis of our problem.” 

It was 1954, so King said man, but we know he’s talking about the basic human problem- what is in our soul, and what we allow to rule our lives.

King went on to say,

“We, we never doubt that there are physical laws of the universe that we must obey. We never doubt that. And so we just don’t jump out of airplanes or jump off of high buildings for the fun of it—we don’t do that. Because we, we unconsciously know that there is a final law of gravitation, and if you disobey it you’ll suffer the consequences…  so we just don’t jump off the highest building in Detroit for the fun of it…

But I’m not so sure if we know that there are, are moral laws, just as abiding as the physical law. I’m not so sure about that. I’m not so sure we really believe that there is a law of love in this universe, and that if you disobey it you’ll suffer the consequences.”

He was right. We can’t sustain our relationships, our families, our communities, our country, or the relations between countries, unless we abide by the moral laws. When asked about the most important law, the ultimate commandment, Jesus said, in Matthew 28:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Anyone who tries to love another person knows it is not always easy. We are not always good to each other. We have differences of opinion. We make mistakes. We hurt each other. We put ourselves ahead of others. We break the moral laws of the universe, and the consequences are as real as if we jumped off the highest building in Detroit, or Harrow, for that matter.

It can be hard, hard as the ground we’d land on, if we jumped. Relationships can be hard. Families can be hard. Relations between groups of people can be even more difficult. We get polarized, separated because of our beliefs, our political views, our ethnic backgrounds, our sexual orientation, our gender identity.

Differences of opinion or belief, or attitude can become entrenched. We can become convinced of the correctness of our position, the wrongness of those on the “other side”. Strongly held viewpoints can make it near impossible for people to get past barriers they themselves have erected.

People end up hating each other. When that happens, the most horrible things result. We are gathered here to mourn what happens when humans act on the worst of their impulses, and situations arise when peaceable solutions no longer seem an option.

Jesus offered us a teaching that would help us in these times when we become so hurt, so stuck, so polarized. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Forgiving a person does not always mean we forget. We often have good reasons to remember, and to be cautious. When Jesus sent out his followers to do mission work, he warned them there would be trouble, and they would encounter bad behaviours. He told them to “be as shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves.”

If we go into a situation and get hurt, it serves us to remember that, and pay attention. It is a survival skill, to learn to avoid places where we might get hurt, and those who might not have our best interests at heart.

At the same time, living with that kind of vigilance can wear us down. Many a preacher and counselor has made the point that forgiveness is as much for ourselves as it is for the other person. It is important for the health of hearts and souls to not become all crusted inside with bitterness and resentment.

It seems to me that what Jesus was getting at, with the teaching imbedded in the Lord’s Prayer, is the connection between being forgiven, and offering forgiveness to others. Recognizing our own brokenness, our own tendency to fly off course, or miss the mark, we can recognize that in others. If we can accept and forgive ourselves, we are more likely to do the same for others. I think it may also be true, that as we learn to forgive others, to accept their limits and brokenness, we may be less hard on ourselves. These things are steps on the road to peace. Amen

Ministry of Music:

Remembering Harrow’s honoured dead: (read by Brian Ciphery)

1914-1918

Robert Bailey

Carmen Hauser

John Baxter

Robert Martin

Frederick Cookse

A. Murray

Charles Cornwall

W. Mickle

Eli Gerard

1939-1945

Leonard Andrew

Stewart Elford

Ross Baltzer

Francis Hicks

Albert Burling

Ray McCarthy

Ernest Ciphery

Eugene McClellan

Charles Darby

James Monk

Henry Craig

Clifford Robertson

Albert Day

Arthur Stepharnoff

Anthony Deverecker

Max Wright

Prayer for Peace

God of all of us, help us to remember who you are, and who we are meant to be.

Help us to love others, and to see the good in others.

Help us to resist the temptation to label other people and nations,

And to see them only as problems to be overcome, and enemies to be vanquished.

May we remember the costs incurred when we rely only on human solutions.

Help us to work for peace in the world. Amen

Please stand for the Last Post, Silence and Reveille           (video)

Words of Remembrance:

They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old.

Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

we will remember them.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.

Prayer:

Eternal rest grant unto them, O God,

and may perpetual light shine upon them.

May their souls, through your mercy, rest in peace.

Hymn  VU 679 Let there be Light

1         Let there be light,

           let there be understanding,

           let all the nations gather,

           let them be face to face;

2         open our lips,

           open our minds to ponder,

           open the door of concord

           opening into grace;

3         perish the sword,

           perish the angry judgement,

           perish the bombs and hunger,

           perish the fight for gain;

4         hallow our love,

           hallow the deaths of martyrs,

           hallow their holy freedom,

           hallowed be your name;

5         your kingdom come,

           your spirit turn to language,

           your people speak together,

           your spirit never fade;

6         let there be light;

           open our hearts to wonder,

           perish the way of terror,

           hallow the world God made.

Commissioning and Blessing

Jesus challenges us to love, not just our friends, but also our enemies.

Jesus calls us to live beyond our own ego, our own biases, and our fears.

This is a holy calling, to be peacemakers.

We cannot do it on our own. We need God’s help.

We pray together seeking the strength, the peace, the blessing of God.

We give thanks for all the ways we are blessed by God. Amen