Worship at Home – Trinity Sunday, June 7 – ‘Love & Peace in Days of Hate & Violence’

Welcome to this plan for worship at home that we can share. Somehow, we pray and sing, study and give, in ways that unite us, while we are separate. More information is available in this Sunday’s Bulletin.

Worship Welcome John 14:26-27 Words of Jesus:
“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled,
and do not let them be afraid.”

Hymn # 2 Holy , Holy, Holy

Prayer O Advocate, Helper, Spirit, in the name of Jesus we ask You to guide us to the Father today. So many distractions catch us. So many concerns fill our hearts. So many temptations call us to choose poorly. The old hymn takes some of us back to the days when each Sunday began with these same words. Make holy these moments we share, in word and deed, for worship. May words ancient and modern be used in our conversation now, we pray. Including the prayer Jesus taught. Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name… AMEN.

Song # 4 Father, I Adore You – Margo Nesbitt & Jeff White

Children’s Time God is Spirit – Pastor Jeff

Scripture 2 Corinthians 13:5-13

Hymn # 1 I Bind Unto Myself Today

Scripture John 15:18-27 – Bev & Peter Dickie

Sermon Love & Peace in Days of Hate & Violence

Today is, in the Church calendar, Trinity Sunday, celebrating and worshipping God in three persons, blessed Trinity. What does the minister of the word preach on this day? I saw three options (at least). A nice sermon just about the Trinity, working to explain the simple but inexplicable Father-Son-Spirit who is One God. Use a three-leaved clover. Or an egg with yolk, white, and shell. Or water, in frozen, liquid, and gaseous form.

Second, I looked at Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians and thought about how to examine ourselves, to test our faith. Maybe strengthening our faith in this way would be good for us. We could try out a ‘prayer of examen’ in the service. 

Third, take Jesus’ words about hate and Paul’s about agreeing peaceably with one another, and preach about love and hate in a divided world, filled with hate and violence. This is what was chosen. In light of world events, I needed to go here. 

Now, I like the ideals of peace and serenity. Perhaps you love these too. But our world is not filled with these, and you and I can only avoid conflict for so long. Paul dealt with conflict and opposition in Churches. Christ said His followers would face hatred. Let’s start with Jesus. 

John’s Gospel gives us so much of what Christ said to his disciples, in the week before His execution. At one point  He speaks at length about abiding in Him, and of loving one another (this is my commandment, that you love one another). Next, Jesus turns immediately to talk of hate. ‘If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.’ 

Love, and then hate. There will be hate, Jesus warns. Opposition. Enemies. What He calls ‘the world’ is that element in humankind that does not know Him and God, and attacks the good things of God. His ‘haters’ are about to get rid of Jesus, actually. The disciples don’t expect this; Jesus does.

It could be said (I guess it certainly has been said by others) that those who closely, very closely, follow the Way of Jesus will end up in trouble on earth like He did. And that was big trouble, wasn’t it?

Though I offered, online and in the bulletin, a communion service one month ago, I decided against it for today. Remember now, what we monthly remember. The suffering or ‘passion’ of Christ, and His death. The scenes you can read from John 18 and 19 tell of the successful torture and killing off of Christ. You may well remember this was not the first attempt upon His life. Yet there had also been attempts to acclaim Him as king, which He also had avoided. Check John 5:18, 6:15 & 7:1. While He was active, Jesus faced supporters and enemies at every turn, and some of these people clearly were switching sides! 

John’s Gospel preserves for us many words about people not understanding Jesus, the Messiah. Jesus’ talk here in chapter 15 is more of the same. “They do not know him who sent me.” He is speaking of people who do not understand who God is, and that Jesus is the Son of God.

We face the same challenges, when we ‘walk with Jesus.’ There is actual hatred of our attitudes and actions, and of us. There is misunderstanding of our motives, of the Source of the good we strive to accomplish. There are people who are for us, and against us, as well as the undecided and the confused. 

Jesus’ warnings about hatred are of comfort to us, in case we get comfortable & expect our Christianity to go well, when it does not. His message is echoed by Peter, when he writes, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. (1Peter 4:12)

In this midst of his pep talk to disciples, Jesus speaks a few times of the Holy Spirit. Today, we read this: But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me; and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning. Here we find the Son, the Spirit, and the Father all on our side, supporters and guides of we who follow, we who have stepped out in faith to abide in Them, love Them, rely upon Them, and serve Them – the Trinity.

Well, this all can sound very inspiring… until we notice how people who are all supposed to be Christians, all on the same team, disagree and even hate!  From the sublime to the ridiculous, we believers still believe in disagreeing, and disliking.

Here is a cute example. A couple months ago, I noticed on Facebook two of my friends (they are from the same local church) posting things about the gasoline industry. It struck me funny, in a way, because they were opposite attitudes about one problem. First post that was shared:

Second Post, on the same day:  

We, quite naturally, have different attitudes. This is not even a serious example. Other disagreements arise that get us really stirred up. Ours is one of many congregations that could tell its story of having a row, years ago, in which members did not agree, and a bunch left the church. Windsor Baptist had a similar story. Parrsboro had faced something similar.

It is when we truly get hostile toward one another that the problems arise. Jesus’ speech about the haters was not about fellow Christians. It is the conflicts among believers that our other New Testament reading touches.

So, let us turn now to Paul, and a few of his words at the end of the letter we call Second Corinthians. This letter has some treasured verses in it (in Chapter 4, for example). It also expresses the stresses, and some kind of conflict, that had come between the little church in Corinth and their founding Pastor, Paul. From a distance (Macedonia), Paul writes to defend his ministry with them, and counteract the activity of some who oppose him there. “False apostles,” Paul calls them, and even (tongue-in-cheek?) “super- apostles.” But, by this time, Paul has received some good reports about the believers in Corinth, and seems happily relieved (7:6-7).

Amid all the strong language in these dozen pages, the letter ends with some final advice and traditional words of blessing. “Examine yourselves” Paul says. Pay close attention to your faith in Christ. He speaks of his frequent theme of strength and weakness. He honestly writes, “What we pray for is your improvement.”

I chose this text for today not for all this, but for the so-called trinitarian benediction, at the very end. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Today is Trinity Sunday, after all. But the civil unrest and calls for racial justice in the US & Canada have called for our attention over the past two weeks. 

If the words of Jesus, today, call us to face enemies with patient endurance, the words of Paul’s letter call us to be firm and clear and persistent with the truth. Including the truth that people matter, all lives matter to God. Paul spoke strong words at some length to his friends; he did so because he knew and loved them well. Our speaking out, acting out, standing up for someone, ‘taking a knee,’ protesting, writing a letter, or whatever action, will be more powerful and blessed the more we know those of whom we speak. Or those for whom we want our actions to speak louder than words. 

So, there is a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate… (Ecclesiastes 3:7b, 8a)

I have never been an activist. Not been the sort to write letters to government, or join marches for causes. About the time I turned 18 years old, I had moved to a town to go to college. Back in the 80s, my mother was quite involved in the Pro Life movement, and she told me, that October, about a Pro Life rally happening on my campus, at the Chapel. Of course, she was suggesting I could go; it so happened she was not coming up for it. So I went. 

I don’t remember the rally being particularly important for me. I think that’s because I was not devoted to the cause. I knew about it – anti-abortion activity was in the news a lot back then – but it did not happen to be a cause I had invested myself in very much, as a teenager.

I don’t mean to suggest you not take part in some campaign or movement unless you are devoted to it. Taking part in a rally or march could be an important introduction to you – a closer look at an important movement in our society. I simply believe that Jesus will lead us into authentic activity that flows from deep in our mind and heart. The actions of others – prophetic actions at that – can inspire and instruct us. And we may become the next prophet in our own neighbourhood. Or the next great follower in a right direction.

And, as we may have seen today, we are to expect opposition, and be prepared for hatred, towards us, and towards those we support and/or follow. Christ, and Paul, will lead us to speech and action that is going to be clear and constructive. Sadly, the deep grief and hurt in crowds of people can too easily become nasty violence, as we see in the rioting and trouble of the past two weeks. When people are “sick and tired of being sick and tired,” (Fanny Lou Hamer) they (we) can accomplish great and brave things, and they (we) can also accomplish great violence and vengeance.

The human responses to the terrible events of 2020 show us how we are made in the beautiful image of the triune God, and at the same time have fallen into failure. Here are just three disasters that are having a wide impact, with diverse reactions.

The outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus. Ongoing responses to this pandemic are good, bad and ugly.

Violent shootings kill 22 in Nova Scotia. The mourning and coping will go on. 

George Floyd is killed by a police officer in Minnesota. The response to this continues to flare up and intersects with so many other violent and racist events. 

It is a troubled world; this is to be expected. All the more reason for us to look to a ‘Higher Power,’ One who can do more for good and for human togetherness than we are capable of on our own.

At the end of his serious letter, Paul tells his readers to agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. My best and most basic hope for humanity is in this God, a God of love and peace. Strong promises about what is Ultimate in the universe. Love is a verb, not just a thing. “Peace, like war, is waged,” it is action.

There is a God of love and peace. A God I know in Jesus Christ, who sends the very presence of God, the Spirit, to us. Let the Spirit of Truth tell, once again, of Jesus, crucified and risen. Alleluia!

Offerings come in almost every day of the week – dropped off at the Church, the Parsonage, to the Pastor delivering bulletins on Sundays, and in the mail. Some of our budget each year goes towards the upkeep and expenses of the Parsonage. Last week, a repairman visited to fix the clothes dryer, which had quit. It was an easy fix… for $75. 🙂

Prayers of the People There are many ways our prayers become ‘world-wide.’ Today, add this prayer to all those of our own local community: http://worldinprayer.org/2020/world-news-in-prayer-thursday-4-june-2020/

Hymn Holy Spirit (Getty, Townend, 2006)

Benediction
Through the creative power of God,
the Word spoken in Jesus,
and the love the Spirit pours into our hearts,
may you be strengthened and filled
to do the ministry to which you are called.
AMEN.
(Ruth C. Duck, 1999)