Welcome to this resource for worship at home. We can share this plan to pray and look to the scriptures together, while apart. This week, we welcome Lic. Sharon White to our virtual pulpit.
We now begin a month of attention to our mental and emotional well-being. This Sunday we also remember the Lord’s Supper, which we have not celebrated together since March 1st. To share the Lord’s Supper today, at home, you could use some bread or cracker or muffin, and some juice (grape, cranberry, apple, whatever).
Worship Welcome Psalm 119:1-8
Happy are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the Lord.
Happy are those who keep his decrees,
who seek him with their whole heart,
who also do no wrong,
but walk in his ways.
You have commanded your precepts
to be kept diligently.
O that my ways may be steadfast
in keeping your statutes!
Then I shall not be put to shame,
having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
I will praise you with an upright heart,
when I learn your righteous ordinances.
I will observe your statutes;
do not utterly forsake me.
Hymn 244 Easter Song
Prayer Hallelujah! Amen! Hosanna!
We praise You from our homes, aware again of Your grace and power in our lives. Precious were all those moments when we gathered together because of You. Now, as we miss one another, draw us close to You. As we long to be together in our familiar pews, we also long for the ways we hear from You when we worship. Though we cannot sing together, may our souls sing today. Though we cannot clasp one another’s hands, may our prayers embrace one another now. Though we cannot smile as we send one another out, may we be guided to speak an encouraging word to one another all this week long.
As we share worship today, we pray for others who do the same. May the folks of Sisson Ridge Baptist Church, Plaster Rock, NB, be blessed by Your presence and Your word today. And let all the words and meditations of our service be accepted in Your sight. In the name of Jesus the Lord. AMEN.
Solo You Carried Me – Sharon Marshall
Offering As we consider our individual offerings for the month, pray also about what we, the Church, offer to our neighbourhood in this cautious season.
Scripture Romans 8:35, 38 & 39
Message “Stronger Together” – Sharon White
Well today May 3rd, we start our 7th week of isolation and in some ways, it does not seem like we’ve been isolating that long, yet in other ways, it seems longer. As we feel lonely and isolated, when we can’t meet together, and our regular routines are gone, sometimes our perceptions of time can get distorted.
In Canada, the first full week of May is designated as ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’ by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). They have been promoting this specific mental health week each year since 1951. Which is why I feel that next week’s theme of Mental Health is very important, especially now with the current events, the loss of close friends or loved ones, the Portapique tragedy, the crash of an Armed Forces helicopter taking the lives of its crew of 6, and facing more weeks of isolation because of Covid-19. In all of this, we may be feeling weary, frustrated, sad, angry, or just feeling down and unfocused. When we do not have control over what is happening around us, having any or all of these emotions is understandable, and it’s okay to not feel okay! This is why I think the timing of Mental Health Week is a good reminder to focus on our mental health!
Mental health, mental illness, and self-care need to be talked about more often, otherwise, how will our feelings and the issues get out in the open, how else do we break the stigma of “looking like we have it all together when we don’t.” So, my message this morning is one that I hope starts discussions around mental health within families and amongst friends.
But there’s a problem in speaking on this topic today, mental health is too broad of a category to cover it all here in the time that we have because there are so many layers and they overlap with one another that can make talking about it very confusing. So, imagine mental health as a circle made up of wedges. In one wedge place the 9 types of mental illnesses [anxiety disorders, depression & bipolar, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, anxiety disorders, PTSD, postpartum depression, schizophrenia, and children/youth & self-injury]. In another wedge place, the treatments [medical, psychotherapy, ECT’s, spiritual] and supports; a 3rd wedge could focus specifically on care for the caregivers; a 4th wedge narrows in on addressing the area of addictions [where a person with a mental illness also has a substance abuse problem]; and then we could group all the feelings around mental illness in wedge #5, (for example the feelings of anger or rage because a person doesn’t want the mental illness they have or it’s disrupting their life or ruining their marriage). And the final wedge that I want to focus on this morning is the wedge of self-care that’s needed for one’s overall mental health, which as you know is a continuum; (take a look here at the model of this continuum).
Self-care is the most important aspect that affects all the wedges within mental health because self-care is what we do for ourselves and others to care for our mental health, and it builds our resilience against the stresses of life! (Take some time this week to look over the CMHA website, link here).
Mental health & illness, disease & sickness, isolation, death of family/friends, tragedies, loss of employment all have something in common. Suffering! Suffering is experienced by every person, unfortunately, we suffer many times in our lives, and sometimes it is downright gut-wrenching! However, suffering is also a key emotion that binds us collectively as one as we try to find meaning in it! When I looked through the scriptures for today’s message I realized it was difficult to narrow down on one or two verses that deal with suffering. The Bible describes community and individual suffering throughout its pages. For example, we could use any number of these Psalms of lament [44, 60, 74, 79, 80, 85, 90], or the trials that Job endured. The reasons for the suffering don’t matter, but in it, we share the same feelings of weariness, sorrow, confusion, numbness, anger, or hopelessness. I want us to see with fresh eyes someone who suffers, to understand them from our own sufferings – because we realize that deep down, we are the same because every heart has or will endure some suffering. We were all made in God’s image, we all suffer, and through our pain, we can reach out to offer understanding and empathy to a loved one, neighbor, friend, and even a stranger.
How does this tie in with Mental Health Week and Covid-19 isolation? Take a look at the picture provided here. It shows how our present-day sufferings from Covid-19 can be a trigger for increased mental health concerns with increased anxiety, fear for the lives of vulnerable loved ones, decreased job security, decreased financial security, it’s moved us into a state of survival mode, and the necessary isolation for our health worsens the feelings of aloneness and despair that were major concerns in our society before Covid-19 existed.
However, right now we struggle because we can’t meet and reach out, we can’t give and receive the important relational connections to share our burdens and grief, and we are missing our sense of belonging in a family. We’re unable to mourn our losses together, neither can we worship as a congregation in ways we’ve become attached to and it can make us question the church’s sense of purpose; sometimes it makes us question our sense of worth and purpose. Suffering and isolation can trigger a variety of feelings and when this happens the relational connectedness, that sense of belonging and sense of worth and value that’s so vital for life between humans is temporarily lost! The remedy to this is human re-connectedness! It is important, even critical for our mental health; and it’s also important for us as a faith community! The CMHA has a good short article on the benefits of social connectedness (link here); they state that social connectedness is the cure! Connectedness binds us back together as families, groups, congregations, and as communities.
When we struggle we can also go back to our basic Christian teachings, that each one of us is a child of God, that He knew us as He formed us in the womb, and from that children’s song that tells us “Jesus loves the little children”. God has always and will always love us, especially in our pain, suffering, and also in all the joys of life. This points me to a verse in Romans chapter 8: in verse 38, “…that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.” That answers the question asked earlier in verse 35, “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? No! Nothing can separate us from His love. It is because of our suffering, that our doubts lead us to feel we have lost favor with God. My research on these verses denies this possibility of God not loving us, stating that the point of such sufferings is the evidence of a union with Jesus, who has also endured sufferings, and not a cause for doubting a loss of God’s love because of them. Rom. 8 Verses 38 to 39 reminds us “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come. Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
So, why do we still feel alone when we suffer? Let’s be honest, maybe because our western society is an individualistic one that lacks the promoting of deep social connections. Add to this our present-day Covid-19 health protocols for safety that create more isolation and loneliness. Without deep human connections of care, we lose our footing to the foundation of love and hope that help us endure our present sufferings. Connections allow us to share our burdens and lighten our loads! Relationships built upon trust, concern, sharing, support, and time together all create a family that isn’t always based on blood relatives. These kinds of relationships bind the hearts and they are worth their weight in gold! They allow us to build resilience and bounce back!
Our province has found some ways to be stronger together and bounce back in our loneliness of these recent tragedies! We have candles in our windows to show we remember those who died on April 18/19th, we post rainbows and hearts on Facebook to thank our frontline healthcare workers, we join online virtual vigils and musical events to have a sense of community and togetherness in our common grief to lighten the burdens in the hearts of families grieving their loved ones. We can, in our own areas reach out to friends and family members to help them build their resilience, by encouraging them to:
- Stay informed, but to limit exposure to news and social media
- Keep threats in perspective
- Access reputable sources of information only
- Establish a routine, exercise for 20 minutes 3 times a week
- Engage in meaningful and enjoyable activities
- Reach out for help when struggling
- Practice gratitude with self, with family, and with strangers
- Eat well, avoid alcohol & stimulants as a means of coping
- Practice mindfulness or meditations
- Daily count your blessings
And we can go to Christ in our prayers, our music, and in our devotions to connect with the One who loves us unconditionally, to the Creator who gave us life and who gave His life out of love; from God, we get the strength to rise again and continue the journey to do the right next step!
As we virtually celebrate communion this morning, gather yourself some bread and juice or water, knowing that your church family, as well as many other Christians, also gather in remembrance. Today, through our communion, we remember the sacrifice given by Jesus out of love for us, we remember to connect with his suffering through our present pains to connect with Him again; and may we feel the strength from knowing that others within their own homes receive the elements. May we feel a sense of unitedness again and a renewed hope knowing we are stronger together in Him and each other! Amen.
Prayers of the people
O God, in Christ You are reconciling the world to Yourself: may the Spirit of Truth speak to our hearts, and remind us of our great hope. We confess the doubts and fears we have… The words we spoke or typed that hurt others… The lazy prayers we gave…
Renew me; renew us; renew Your world, we pray.
This day we pray for people who are facing hard times. Those suffering from illness or injury…
Those who do not have enough to live on…
Those who face depression, or anxiety, or dementia, or addiction, or other such health issues…
Those who need some spiritual hope or even a breakthrough in their lives…
Those who mourn a loss, especially those who mourn untimely deaths in these days, including the losses in our Nova Scotia communities and our military…
Our prayers are also for us, Your Church, because we still need to deepen our habits of prayer and study. May we find this an opportune time to develop our life of prayer and scripture, meditation, fasting, silence, and even worship.
And now, we each worship to share a holy communion, a fellowship that reaches across the globe, remembering and honouring the body and blood of Christ. In His name we pray. AMEN.
Hymn 708 Blest Be the Tie
Home Communion We who truly and earnestly repent of your sins, who have love and concern for our neighbours, who intend to lead a new life, following the commandment of God by walking in holy ways: we draw near with reverence, faith and thanksgiving and take the Supper of the Lord to our comfort.
We are come together today, in obedience of Jesus’ command, to partake of the Lord’s supper. To its blessing and fellowship, all disciples of the Lord Jesus, who have confessed him before others and desire to serve him, may come. This is not our/my table, but the Table of our Lord.
1 Corinthians 11:23-24 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
Prayer of thanks for the Bread (from The Didache, 1st Cent AD)
We thank Thee, our Father, for the life and knowledge which Thou hast made known to us through Jesus, Thy Servant : to Thee be the glory for ever and ever. As this bread was scattered over the hills and having been gathered together became one, so let Thy Church be gathered together out of every nation, and every country, and every city and village, and house, and make one living catholic Church. To the praise and glory of Thy holy name, through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.
Eat of this Bread in remembrance of Christ’s body, broken for you. (Eat the bread.)
1 Corinthians 11:25-26 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Prayer of thanks for the Cup: Spirit of life, in the name of Jesus we share the fruit of the vine, remembering His sacrifice at Calvary. We bow to worship the Saviour who died. O help us remember. Though we are separated today, in You may be know we are One in Christ. AMEN.
Drink this in remembrance that Christ’s blood was shed for you, and be thankful. (Drink the juice.)
The Lord’s Prayer 632 Our Father… AMEN.
Benediction Jude 24&25 Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.