Thursday, May 17, 2007

Order of Service for May 13th 2007


HYMN # 373 As Comes the Breath of Spring

One: Greetings to our brothers and sisters in the faith.
All: We come to celebrate God’s presence,
One: and God’s love expressed through Jesus Christ.
All: We come remembering Christ’s life and ministry,
One: and the life we are called to live.
All: We come as a pilgrim people
searching for ways to live out our faith.
One: We have gathered to worship God.
All: We come seeking comfort,
inspiration, community and insight.
One: We open ourselves to the power of God’s presence in our midst.
All: We come to offer up the seasons and the turnings in our lives
One: We come seeking the strength to carry on our journey.
All: Let us rejoice in God’s gift to us!

One: Easter morning has taken us by surprise,
awakening us to the doubt and despair
that have been rooted in our lives.
Let us now confess to God.
If, at times, we deny you, God forgive.
When the risks of discipleship are high,
and we are nowhere to be found:
All: God forgive.
One: When we wash our hands of responsibility:
All: God forgive.
One: When we cast our lot with powerful oppressors
and seek to buy freedom with silver:
All: God forgive.
One: When fear keeps us from witnessing to your truth,
or prejudice keeps us from believing it:
All: God forgive.
One: In the bright light of Easter morning, O God,
Our sin is exposed, and your grace is revealed.
The world and all that is in it, glows with your glory O God.
All: As life bursts forth from the darkness of earth’s soil,
so Christ bursts the darkness of despair.
One: Sadness ends, hope abounds, joy springs forth.
All: Strength is found to face every tomorrow:
God’s wholeness brings healing to all.
One: Tender God, raise us in your love so that, with joy,
we may witness to your awesome deeds,
in the name of Jesus the Risen One. Amen

HYMN # 268 Bring Many Names

SCRIPTURE READING: Acts 16: 9 – 15 & Psalm 67 (pg 786 VU)

CHOIR ANTHEM: In This Very Room


HYMN We Are the Church
I am the church! You are the church! We are the church together!
All who follow Jesus, all around the world! Yes, we’re the church together!

vs 1: The church is not a building, the church is not a steeple,
The church is not a resting-place; the church is a people!

vs 2: We’re many kinds of people with many kinds of faces,
All colors and all ages, too from all times and places.

vs 3: And when the people gather, there’s singing and there’s praying,
There’s laughing and there’s crying sometimes, all of it saying:

vs 4: I count if I am ninety, or nine or just a baby;
There’s one thing I am sure about and I don’t mean maybe:

SCRIPTURE READING: Revelation 21: 10, 22 – 22: 5 & John 5: 1 – 9

HYMN # 382 Breathe on Me, Breath of God


Right now, in the lectionary cycle, that is the readings we use for our worship services, we have been reading from the book of Revelation, where we are encountering the vision of what WILL come in the fulfillment of time. The author of Revelation, John of Patmos is giving a glimpse of the new heaven and new earth and the reign of God that will come when history draws to a close. It will be a place where things will not be like we live and encounter in this realm.

Revelation offers us a glimpse of the world the way God wants it to be – not the way we think it should or would be. We hear these readings and tend to think – “oh that’s nice … how quaint …” or we dismiss them as the mystic vision of someone who lived long ago …

In the process, we dismiss the stirrings of the Holy Spirit. We wave off the potential of what COULD be if only we believe. By taking lightly the visions of people like John of Patmos, we are simply accepting the world as it is and no longer being daring in the living out of our faith …

In our reading of Acts and in our Gospel Readings we encounter the living out of this courageous and daring faith in a way that opens the door for us to reclaim our enthusiasm and passion …
In the Gospel readings we have an interesting story – to recap – there is a man who had spent 38 years crippled, and trying to get into the healing waters of the Pools of Bethsaida. Now, we’re not sure what the pools of Bathsaida were – they may have been a place where a hot springs periodically bubbled up and stirred up the waters. But whatever the cause – the understanding was – that when the waters were agitated, you could be healed of your ailments.

I’m not personally one to dismiss such a thing easily. Since I hit puberty, I have suffered from eczema on my hands and at times on my feet. During times of stress, it can get very bad – but there was one time in my adult life when I was clear of all eczema. It came in the weeks AFTER I went for a swim in the Dead Sea in Israel during my study tour. It may have been the complete freedom from stress – it may have been the minerals and salts in the water – it may have been any number of factors – but whatever it was – for a wonderful time, my eczema simply went away.

So reading the story of a man yearning to be healed, and spending hours waiting by the pool to be able to slip into the water and receive that healing makes sense to me. The problem was that the man couldn’t get into the water. He was too slow. Others crowded in, or he simply couldn’t get there … for 38 year he waited – and waited and waited …

For an entire lifetime this man was at the Pool of Bathsaida wanting to get into the waters … no one helped him … thousands of people stepped over him … he simply sat and hoped and waited … For 38 years in a time when living to be 40 was an achievement. For an entire lifetime the man sat by the pool waiting to be healed …

Then along comes Jesus. They have a brief conversation and Jesus simply says – “take up you mat and walk …”

“Take up you mat and walk …” Simple instructions … and with that, the man is healed. He takes up his mat and walks. He is healed.

But. This is where the story gets interesting. The religious authorities are offended. Not that this man is finally healed. Not that after 38 years someone has stopped to help him. Not that for the first time in ANYONE’S memory this man is healed. They are offended because he is carrying his mat on the Sabbath.

He is breaking a rule!!!

They are so focused on the rules and regulations of faith that they simply MISS the miracle that has just occurred.

The man who for 38 years has sat by the pool as a crippled beggar, is healed, and the authorities are worried about him carrying his mat.

It’s one of those – What the??? Moments.

Yet in this story we can find ourselves … How often do we encounter the miraculous and we simply can not see it ??

How often do we encounter something majestic, and we pick fault?

How many incredible achievements are dismissed because we find something tiny to pick at??

The authorities at the pool are just like us … Comedian Robin Williams in a recent stand up routine cites Mother Theresa as an example of a person who lives a faith of love, and in the process has changed the world – he then notes that there are many WITHIN the church who say – “Mother Theresa isn’t a real Christian …”

Williams then says – there are probably people in India who say “Gandhi wasn’t so great …”

Think of any great man or woman and you will find people trying to tear them down …

Stan McKay, the former Moderator of the United Church likened this process to an old man from his village fishing crawfish out of the river. The old man caught the crawfish and tossed them in an ice cream bucket. He had his bucket almost full when a couple of young boys came along and said – “hey, old man you’re crawfish are going to escape …” The old man standing in the water shook his head and said – “not those crawfish. They’re Nishnabee crawfish … when one of them starts to climb over the edge, the others all pull him back down …”

Stan went on to say that his phenomena, while not limited to native communities, is one that dogs communities that are seeking to better themselves. Instead of encouraging and backing our leadership – instead of standing up for, and helping those who have stepped forward to lead – we tend to pull down those who we think are getting too “high and mighty.”

We use gossip, rumours, and utter untrue nonsense to call others down … Instead of supporting one another, too often we engage in salacious gossip that serves only to tear another person down.

This is the same phenomena being exhibited by the authorities who are harping about the restored and transformed man carrying his matt. They can not, or will not see the miracle – the greatness of this moment. They instead focus on some mundane detail and make that their entire focus … The man was HEALED, and they – the authorities – are focused on the breaking of a law and are saying to the man – “we don’t care that you are healed after 38 year of us stepping over you – you’re breaking a law !!”

So how shall we live our faith??

Shall we be open to the potential and possibility of the miraculous transformations that God promises??

Or shall we be like the crawfish and the authorities at the pool, and pull one another back down rather than embracing the fullness God offers???

The reading from the book of Acts perhaps offers us an inspiring answer to those questions. Paul is visiting a community of faith that is essentially women. The fact that the other Christian communities were meeting in Synagogues, and Phillipi’s met by the river, would suggest that there were not enough men form a Jewish congregation, which required 10 men. There may have been 10 people in the church at Phillipi, but perhaps NOT 10 men. So, Paul met with the followers in Phillipi by the river – and the leader of this group was a woman named Lydia.

Lydia then invited Paul and his entourage to stay in her home for a time.

So in these six verses, on this Mother’s Day we are reminded and challenged to see the world in a radically different way …

Women in leadership … Women constituting the core of the faith community … and women offering unconditional hospitality … This jars with the 1900 years of Church history that lie between that moment and us.

I grew up in a time when the Church Board was ONLY men.

I grew up in a time when you seldom saw women Clergy.

I grew up in a time when the women of our church were marginalized …

Not so today … The fullness of God WILL break free of petty small minded constraints. The Spirit will and does regularly break the chains and the barriers, and ensures that God’s ways will prevail.

We’re living the very proof of that throughout the church today.

In the book of Revelation we have the vision of what WILL be. Around us today we have the first stirrings of that Kingdom … if only we dare to open our eyes, our spirits and our beings to it …

To return for a moment to Stan McKay’s story – our challenge is to realize that we are like those crawfish more often than we care to admit. We pull each other down – often without even realizing it. The challenge we must face and live – is the challenge to help one another so that the first person over edge of the ice cream bucket will be able to help the rest of us break free from our constraints …

The paralyzed man at the pool offered a glimpse of that reality – but too many focused on his mat instead of the miracle … our challenge is to open our eyes to what God wants of us …

May it be so … thanks be to God …


HYMN # 783 To Bless the Earth


HYMN # 710 Shall We Gather at the River


SUNG RESPONSE: HYMN # 962 May the Blessing of God…

The worship has ended….
…the work of God’s people has just begun.
Go in peace.

No comments: