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
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.
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
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.