Worship at Home: April 26

Welcome to this resource for worship at home, in a time when we are not gathering to worship together. We can share this plan to pray and look to the scriptures as one, while apart.

Worship Welcome Psalm 27:1, 4

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?

One thing I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord,
and to inquire in his temple.

Hymn 251 Thine Is the Glory

Prayer O Christ: crucified and resurrected! We turn directly to You together, in need of abundance in our lives. O Light of the world, we bow before the light of Your glory, Your guidance, Your comfort, Your insight, Your energy for good, Your truth about the past, present, and future. Dear Eternal Son, we feel fragile in these days, but we also gather our strength – may we do so in Your name: by Your authority and power.

We share a Christian sabbath today so we can see things eternal, not just the temporary things. We have been earthly minded, and not always heavenly good, we confess. We bring our regrets to you, our fears, our grief and anger today. World events and local events press in on us! Lighten our darkness, we pray.

Mighty Maker, we are not alone, we live in Your world. As we pray and praise separately together, we remember the millions around the world with whom we worship You now. Today we pray in particular for the believers of New Beginnings Christian Ministries in Kingston, NS. May they not simply survive this upsetting, crisis time: may they thrive!

And may we all be brought together as one, in our praying together. Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name… AMEN.

Scripture Psalm 108:1-6, 10-13 – Sharon & Jeff White

Offering As a congregation offering a sacrifice of praise, we also offer our finances for our work and worship “together.” Our Church phone bill is a simple expense each month, but what an important tool it is in these days! Let us continue to share what we have, that our ministry may not only continue, but grow during this pandemic time.

LAMENT (Using Psalm 90)
(Amid Environmental Ruin)
Lord, you have been our dwelling place
in all generations.
But our dwelling place, the Earth, is coming to ruin!
Even the present relief of pollution
is but a blip in the downfall of the air.

Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
We are not God. We are not long-lived.
We are not paying attention to the centuries ahead.
We are not becoming good ancestors. Have mercy.

You turn us back to dust, and say,
“Turn back, you mortals.”
For a thousand years in your sight
are like yesterday when it is past,
or like a watch in the night.
For two hundred years we have been wrecking our world.
For fifty years Earth Day has called us to live better here.
Yet we forget yesterday, and imperil tomorrow.

You sweep them away; they are like a dream,
like grass that is renewed in the morning;
in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
in the evening it fades and withers.
Our own lives are short,
and the lives of the poor on the planet even shorter.
The failing environment fails them before us.
Yet the first ones harmed on the planet are not us,
but the plants, birds, insects, whales, and all…

(Amid Violence)
You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your countenance.
Oh, may there be mercy!
The violence one week ago in Nova Scotia alarms us in heart and soul.
The grief is too much to bear. The disaster struck far too many.

The days of our life are seventy years,
or perhaps eighty, if we are strong;
More than twenty people’s lives cut short.
More than twenty to mourn, and honour,
and mourn, and celebrate, and mourn.

even then their span is only toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away.
Oh, the terrible, heroic work that had to be done
by those who responded first.
Oh, the pain and trauma presented to so many.
Oh, the toil and trouble!

So teach us to count our days
that we may gain a wise heart.
We count every valuable day of those who were lost.
We count every tear, every plea for answers,
every candle lit in a window,
every tartan displayed and every bell rung.

(Amid a Virus)
Turn, O Lord! How long?
Have compassion on your servants!
How long, indeed, shall the pandemic live,
shall our isolations and quarantines go on,
shall our lone and fearful habits endure?

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
We look for ways to keep busy and helpful.
We long for ways to keep young ones learning.
We cry out for ways to help those in need,
whose lives are falling apart in this crisis.

We are desperate for joyful gatherings.
Make us glad as many days as you have afflicted us,
and as many years as we have seen evil.
Yes! We want to make up for these lost weeks.
We cry out for freedom to walk the earth.
We cry out to gather for joy and celebration.
We cry out to gather for mourning and burials.
We cry out to get to work again and to serve.

Let your work be manifest to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
Let there be real power for healing in:
the research and treatment of COVID-19,
the isolation and care we take, day by day,
the striving for safety in nursing home & prison,
the creative ways we struggle to get work done,
& worship, & fellowship, & to be family.

Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and prosper for us the work of our hands—
O prosper the work of our hands! AMEN.

Solo My Life Is In Your Hands – Joyce Marshall

Scripture John 1:1-18

Sermon Light Shines in the Darkness – Jeff White

I think of myself as a peaceful, non-violent person. You might say that about yourself. But I live, with you, in a world of Violence. The past seven days have alarmed us with this, shaken us.

Yet we live in a culture of violence. It’s like part of the air we breathe! Well, most of us breathe it.

This showed itself to me this week as we watched the National news program. Not something I had been doing much at all, until this year. ‘Tuned in’ on the computer. Some minutes of news about the horrible shootings in Colchester County. Then, even online, there is a commercial break, advertising the other TV programs on the channel. ‘Wild Bill,’ with images of police officers and guns threatening to shoot. 

More news, about the shootings and burned down houses in Portapique. Commercial break… ‘The Oland Murder,’ a commercial with images of blood.

More news, and now they turn to the virus outbreak. Then commercials – the same commercials over and over, I might add. ‘Luther,’another show with guns shooting, knives wielded, fists fighting, explosions, according to the ad.

We are entertained all the time with violence, with guns, ‘cops and robbers,’ twisted characters with twisted minds doing terrible things. And then we freak out when it really happens around us. 

It is a dark world. Perhaps people’s fascination with evil and violence is a way we try to figure it out, derive meaning from the meaningless, cope with the nastiness of humanity.

 The magnificent beginning of John’s Gospel in the Bible says 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. Those who are Greek scholars tell us these are rich, poetic, Bible phrases. This gets translated:

the darkness did not overcome it. (NRSV)

the darkness has not overcome it. (NIV)

the darkness did not comprehend it. (NASB)

the darkness has never put it out. (GNT)

the darkness couldn’t put it out. (MSG)

darkness could not diminish it! (TPT)

What is ‘IT’? What is this ‘Light?’ Jesus the Christ. The ‘Word,’ as it says also in this prologue. This powerful poetry gives us the light that the darkness cannot handle. Though we, of this world, see how the True Light does not get all the attention. John proclaims: 10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.

So the violence continues. Evil sometimes thrives. Trouble transfers from one person to another. 

For me, facing the mass shooting took time. It was a matter of wandering back into my memories, into relationships, into nature, and into scripture. 4 steps.

I thought back to many trips driving through Portapique; I lived west of there, in Parrsboro, for five and a half years. Going by and never stopping, I used to think the name of one of the little roads was interesting: Five Houses. 

Once, years ago, I stopped and walked along the beach there. And just once I travelled with a couple older friends from Windsor, where I lived, to the annual service at the United Church in Portapique. The minister happened to be an old friend of mine. With my landlady and her sister I went to an old family home in the area, and I took a photo for them of a painting there of the old homestead, where their mother’s ancestors had lived.

The church is now closed, and the building now privately owned. 

Then I thought of people I know now, with connections in the area of this terrible violence. For years I have known a woman from Short’s Lake whose daughter was the teacher killed on the weekend. I know two families who live at a place called Little Dyke, just 18 kms from Portapique. They are shaken up! And so on… we see many personal connections, only a few degrees of separation.

A third part of my facing this news was to get out in the woods, like I always do. I biked up the sandy railbed. I walked into the woods, off the trails. Wandered around some woody beaver ponds. Watched the birds. 

I hope you have your own quiet practices to give you time and space for letting your mind and heart wind down and quiet and be still and rest. And pray.

My own fourth way of processing this mess was to use scripture. I was sort of focused upon what scripture would speak to others, for others, who are hit closely by the tragedy. But it was for my heart too.

I looked for the laments of the Bible. I pondered Psalms 13, 22, 42 & 43, 94, 143. I rewrote Psalms 42& 43 for, well, for me, I guess. All about the shooting. 

Today we read Psalm 108. It has a bit of the lament element to it.

6 Give victory with your right hand, & answer me, 

so that those whom you love may be rescued.

‘I’m not rescued. I need to be rescued. Please rescue!’ That’s what many a lament sings, mournfully and energetically. This week has been such a time, for lament in our shock and grief.

We each may need to take a sabbath rest too. A sabbath from the news – TV, paper, internet, radio. One full day a week with none of it. Even each day we need to control our own schedule, and take breaks from the bad news, if we are prone to be getting it all day long. Perhaps you will be guided to take more than one day, and retreat for several days from the oppressive negative. Not to hide from reality, but to allow the Spirit of the Master to balance your soul. I still have posted in front of me on my desk 

Philippians 4:8-9. 

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things

Notice the light that is shining in the darkness.

I’ve talked a lot, here, about the violence of this moment. Let me just end with this consideration. God is peace, not violence. I know we have a lot of biblical material that is violent, forceful, militaristic, triumphant, judgmental and all that. We see it for sure in Psalm 108, a prayer for victory! The singers call out for the Almighty to help, and not abandon their military efforts:

10 Who will bring me to the fortified city?

    Who will lead me to Edom?

11 Have you not rejected us, O God?

    You do not go out, O God, with our armies.

All these centuries later, I wonder if Jesus would answer, “Yes, God will not go out with your armies. The days of those ways of winning are over. I submitted to violence and died, to end it.” So God has not rejected them, or us. God is rejecting our violence. How can we follow this Way, and reject violence?

The traumatic terror of this past week has come to us amids this Virus crisis, and makes it harder. Oh, to be with you, dear friends! To be near you, to face the terrible news we all face together. But we cannot. We must just speak at a distance, one by one, or by phone. We are sacrificing our togetherness for our lives. It is temporary, but it is long. 

Can you sense that we are still one in Christ? I know you can. Because we miss one another so much. We miss our worship together on Sunday mornings. So we know we are still family, the family of God.

John speaks to us from his first chapter.

12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

Children of God. I think there is a sense in which to be ‘a child of God’ means two things. Every human is a child of God. Part of the human race, created by the Father, Son and Spirit, made in the divine image. 

But there is also the coming home to God that is needed. The power to be adopted, to be grafted back into the vine, to be born afresh into this holy family – this is all gift, all grace. To become children of God is an act of God, so to speak. We get back to where we belong in the first place, by the work of Jesus. 

Psalm 108 says 12 O grant us help against the foe, for human help is worthless. Our foe so much and so deeply is separation, isolation, in spirit. Separated from God, from one another, even from our own selves. The ministry of reconciliation is Christ’s and ours! We are still one, even when we are alone now.

Right now, we cannot get together each week to celebrate this. One day, will will again. 

God seen as Three, the Trinity, is God as Relationship. This cannot be broken.

The third and final challenge of our week has been, for me at least, to celebrate Earth Day. Even the 50th anniversary of Earth Day! We hear the call of God in all creation to be a good and blessed part of our Environment on Earth.

I’ve already pointed out that God the Trinity, including Jesus the Christ, is the Creator. What does John proclaim?

2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.

In my early years of figuring out God the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I thought at least one Christian hymn made a mistake. Isaac Watt’s ‘Alas and Did My Saviour Bleed?” (#208)

Well might the sun in darkness hide,
and shut its glories in,
When Christ, the mighty Maker, died
for His own creature’s sin.

“Jesus is not the Mighty Maker!” I thought. “God the Father is the Creator.” But no. It is not quite like that. Christ was there too, before creation, part of the creative process. John’s prologue celebrates this. Of Jesus, the Christ, the Word, the Light, John says: 10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him

We, we humans, are part of the world that can know Him. And we realize we are known by Him.

It is important for us to be deeply in touch with creation. For the sake of creation, and for our own well-being. My times out there this past week were blessed opportunities for quiet, serenity, solitude, prayer, meditation, self-awareness, God-awareness.

Martin Laird tells the story of a driven ballet dancer who finally found solace…

The woman could blow like silk across the stage or drive like a storm through the corps de ballet. To watch this world-class ballerina was to behold light and grace in human form. But if you would ask her about her own experience as source of beauty and inspiration you would see only a vacant stare of shocked disbelief. She would speak instead of an obsessive and torturously perfectionist mind that left her grinding her teeth.

She had a lot of anger, and pain and fear inside her. But then: She did find solace. She took long walks out on the Yorkshire moors. If she walked long enough, her roiling mind would begin to settle. She described how on one occasion her anxiety began to drop like layers of scarves.

While this experience out on the moors happened only once, it proved a real turning point in her life and drew her into the way of prayer. She knew from her own experience that there was something in her that was deeper than her pain and anxiety and that when the chaos of the mind was quieted, the sense of anguish gave way to a sense of divine presence. (Laird, Martin, Into the Silent Land, 2006, pp.20-22)

Let us seek Jesus’ way of non-violence.

Let us trust our connection as the Family of God.

Let us walk gently upon the Earth together.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and let your glory be over all the earth. Ps. 108:5

Visual Prayer:

Song God of Wonders

Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the gentle night to you.
Moon and stars pour their healing light on you.
Deep peace of Christ, of Christ the light of the world to you.
Deep peace of Christ to you.

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