Worship for Dec 6

Trinity United Church

Second Sunday of Advent

December 6, 2020

Liturgy:

Isaiah 40: 1-11

God’s Words of Hope: God says,”Comfort my people! Speak out and do not be afraid. Man’s life is short but God’s words endures forever. The Lord God strengthens us with his Power. The Glory of the Lord will be revealed. It prophesies that God is coming!

Psalm 85: 1-2; 8-13

Our loyalty to God allows love and faithfulness to meet; we become righteous and peace will be with us.

2 Peter 3: 8-15 

Your lives should be holy and dedicated to God.

Mark 1: 1-8

The Preaching of John the Baptist – The one who will come will baptize  you with the Holy Spirit.

Opening Hymn

VU #7: Hope is a Star

Opening Prayer

Great God of Love and Wisdom, you are closer to me than my breath.

Your presence is behind the veil of my heartbeat. Bless me to see you there.

Embolden me with your strength to help even in the smallest way, the birth of this new earth:

Even if it is only by sharing a smile to anyone or a voice of concern to someone,

Even if it is only to place cookies or a loaf of bread at a neighbour’s door;

Even if it is only to open a door for a stranger.  Divine Mother, Loving Father, help me to use each moment of this short life, to be present with you, and to contribute to the well-being of this whole world just by my thoughts anchored in you. Amen

Reflection

Healing Our World

Dr. Anjanee Gyan-Dyck, LLWL

Daily, our planet with us the inhabitants on it, seem to be undergoing waves of changes. It is mind-boggling to pinpoint one change when they all seem mysteriously connected. Right now, we are experiencing another lockdown due to a surge of the COVID virus pandemic.  This has presented a confluence of many other societal changes from overfull hospitals, hundreds and thousands of deaths, and anger at having to wear a mask. Humanity is becoming increasingly fragmented. Our ideas of security in the material world are gradually eroding.

To talk about “healing our world” is really a misnomer. Our world, today, can only be healed and changed when we change in our perceptions and attitude of faith. Just like the people of Judah in the Isaiah reading, we too have forgotten that God can help us and is helping us. The people of Judah had been in exile in the wilderness of Babylon. Isaiah reminded them that God has witnessed their sufferings and tribulations. Now they must turn away from their evil ways and blindness and awaken to the power and glory of God.

The prophet assured the Israelites that God will set them free and take them home to Jerusalem to begin a new life. Speaking from God’s message to him, Isaiah explained to them that while human life is short, God’s words endures forever. Today, 4 000 years later, we too face unsettling events. At present, it seems as if we are in an exile with tribulations and God, the Ultimate Ground of Being, is just a fiction of our imagination. We too have turned away from Him.

The changes that are happening all around us are like watching a mystery show. Everyone around this world can watch current events in real time. We stare at the television in horror of everything that is unfolding like the social unrests, political divisiveness and deliberate refrain to help, sufferings from the virus while millions of people doubt the truth of these troubles. Conversely, we also watch the sacrifices of first-responders, many giving their lives to save others, while too many simply sit back and “yearn for some messiah to supernaturally deal with our problems” (Spangler, p. 17). The people of Judah were hoping for a military king to magically deliver them.

The reading in the New Testament from Mark 1: 1-8 brings our attention to the Holy Spirit, the active power of God, and the Spirit’s mystical involvement in the births of both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ. Today, we feel it impossible to believe in the mysterious much less to find God, to see Him at work, or to experience His presence. Some of us spend our time travelling to far-away places or searching for the right church, the right minister, the right book or the right church service in the hope of finding God. Some times it is even easier to fill our emptiness with material satisfactions.

Yet we yearn to know that we are not alone and we feel a compulsion within us to find what is missing. We believe that somehow we can find a way to connect to God and could find Him instantly. 2 Peter, verses 8-15 describes about God’s time. It explains that God’s time is not the same as how we look at time. It points out God’s time is right now, this second, this instant because God is omnipresent. He is Infinite and present everywhere at the same time. Jesus often referred to God’s presence as the “kingdom of God.” In verse 14 of Mark 1, Jesus teaches that “the kingdom of God is near.” The Pharisees believed that the Kingdom of God was an actual place to be built. In Luke 17: 21, Jesus replied to them that “the Kingdom of God is within you.”

Isaiah, the prophet, had a difficult time to describe the power of God within us to the people of Judah at that time. In his words of hope to them, he had to speak in a metaphorical way. For example in Verse 11, he stated: “God will take care of his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs together and carry them in his arms; he will gently lead their mothers.” Perhaps, the Infinite God may not be able to physically hold us but Psalm 85: 9-10 shows that when we do turn away from foolish ways and reach out to God within us our lives change because God’s “love and faithfulness will meet; and righteousness and peace will embrace.” God’s coming is in our awareness of Him. It is his power that flows out from us and into our world making it a new earth. This is our healing and the possible healing of our world.

To inwardly connect to God is open to every human being on earth whether you are Christians, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims or other denominations and faiths. He, is closer than our breath, nearer than hand or feet. When we become aware of God’s Spiritual Presence inside of us, in our hearts, we come face-to-face with the amazing

realization of God’s Holy Presence in us. I could not have told you this truth if I had never experienced this realization, just as many others have done. It is from this experience that each one of us can feel some of the good qualities of God. We can never be separated from the Spirit of God as long as we keep it alive in us.

God’s Presence within us is really the great mystery of love that Jesus tried so hard to give. The prophets of old, the psalmists, and the witnesses of the New Testament were often ridiculed and killed for explaining that God reigns in our hearts. The good news is that you can prove this truth. You can close your eyes and focus on the Divine within. Within a short time of practice, you will be able to experience God’s love, strength and tenderness.

The way of our world today is one of a divided society and of indecision, indifference and worry. The writer of 2 Peter 3:8, wrote this

second letter near the end of the first century, when Christians were asking, “Is the Second Coming ever going to happen?” Even today, Christians ask the same question. God’s plan for a new earth and a new heaven can only happen through us, God’s children. By reaching to Him with sincerity in quiet meditation, the Spirit of the Lord will be upon you. By being aware of God’s Presence, we acquire our salvation of love and compassion, faithfulness and truth, righteousness and justice, and the peace of shalom and wholeness.

These are the spiritual disciplines we need to experience and practice in our personal lives, families, communities, places of faith, and societies. It is only then, as the past messengers of God have prophesied, that we can bring the kingdom of the new heaven and the new earth at hand. May we prepare this way anew by healing ourselves and

changing our world.

To heal yourself 

Look within the cave of your heart. Here in a lowly manger and wrapped in swaddling clothes lies the baby Jesus. His dark eyes meet yours; his playful fingers touch your face; and his loving smile casts a magical glow that permeates every cell in your body washing you in love and peace and oneness in all. There is only peace. The Peace that passeth all understanding. God’s Peace is God’s Presence. 

Closing Prayer

God of wonder and mystery, I am ready to meet you in my heart and in the many faces I see in the streets and homes. I will shout your Holy Name to the wind and the sky, in the valleys and the mountains, and the trees and the seas, and Your Glory will be revealed. A new day has dawned for me and with your help, a new heaven and a new earth, for the place where we stand is holy ground.

“Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon us.”

A Blessed Christmas to you. Amen

Closing Hymn:

VU# 2 Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus

sermon Nov 29

Trinity United Church

Nov. 29th, 2020

First Sunday in Advent

Reflection

Denis La Rose

Readings

Isaiah 64: 1-9

Psalm 80: 1-7, 17-19

Mark 13:  24-37

1 Corinthians 1:  3-9

 

Opening Prayer

O Creator we ask for your blessing and support as we endure these troubling times of a pandemic.  We strife to find the Hope of Advent in the midst of many troubles throughout the world.  Help us focus on our faith and the teachings of your son Jesus Christ as we search for the courage to carry on and thrive in such tumultuous times. Remind us that gratitude and love are the path the Holy Spirit and your enduring love.  In Jesus name we pray. Amen.

Reflection

This week’s reading from Mark 13 has some very powerful prophesy attributed to Jesus.  He describes his return when he will gather his elect from the four winds, the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.  His arrival will be preceded by “the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” paraphrase “the Son of Man will come in clouds with great power and glory.”  Verse 30  I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”  Verse 32 proceeds to tell us that no one knows about day or hour, not even the angles in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  (paraphrased)  These particular verses of the reading are considerably beyond my theological understandings and are probably the subject of many books already written.  I also do not have the courage to take on the disparity between Verse 30 and verse 32.  I will instead focus on verses 33 to 37 as I can find a relevance in these verses that can be applied daily in our lives and is particularly pertain for the times we are in.

Verse 33 begins with “ Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know then that time will come.”  It is then followed by a parable about a man leaving his house and assigning each of his servants their task.  One servant is to keep watch at the door.  We are advised to keep watch because we do not know when the owner will return.  My interpretation is that we must keep watch and be alert because we don’t  know when that Judgement Day may come.

My concern is not about Judgement Day but about living my daily life in a manner that wold uphold the criteria that would be pleasing to God.  I believe that by putting my intention of living the life that Jesus has taught us I believe I will reap the benefits of such a life each and every day.  That said I am a human being will all the flaws that that entails.  Being on guard and being alert is a must if I am going to catch my mistakes and mistreatment of others.  I have to be alert to my prejudices, my judgements, of the times I blame others and especially when I allow fear to seep into my heart and taint my judgement.  Trying to be a follower of Christ is a lot of work!

A lot of that work happens when I pray, meditate or just reflect on my interactions with others throughout the day.  Was I truthful, was I respectful?  Did I offer the Lord some gratitude for the good things in my life?  Who did I offer prayers for, did I forget any one?  Am I sure that the prayers for myself doesn’t sound like a shopping list?  Did I ask the Lord for some guidance?  And did I take the time to listen to his guidance?  These are just a few ways that I try to stay alert, be on guard.  I am sure you can add to this list.

Lastly, we are in the first week of the Advent season, this week we light the candle of Hope.  It is in my view a very good time to reflect on the value of hope and how we can individually and collectively brighten the light of Hope this week.  That shall be your homework.

 

Benediction

Live your life with hope

Cast our fear

Let God’s love in

Share God’s love

Feel the Holy Spirits presence

Wherever you go.  Amen

 

worship for Nov 22

November 22, 2020 Reign of Christ Sunday – Trinity United

By Lorraine Doeleman

Scripture Readings

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24

Psalm 100

Ephesians 1:15-23

Matthew 25:31-46

Opening Prayer:

God of the lost and lonely, God of the secure and confident, gather us into your fold that we may be healed and transformed. Guide us in your world that we may be part of ministries of healing and hope, for we ask these things in Jesus’ Name. AMEN.

Sermon:

Visualize a small shepherd boy going to fight a giant looking man named Goliath.  If you didn’t already know the ending to this story, who would you guess would win?  You, like the rest of us would guess Goliath.  But as you know the small shepherd boy named David was victorious.  David was known to take very good care of his sheep.  In his new book, “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants,” written by Malcolm Gladwell, Goliath expects that his opponent will be as big as he is.  He is surprised when all he sees is a small shepherd boy coming towards him armed with a small staff.  In the book, Goliath says to David, “Am I a dog that you should come to me with sticks?”  David gets some small stones out of his bag and puts them in his slingshot and fires them at Goliath hitting him in the forehead.  He knocks him over and David rushes to get his sword.  He stabs him and then cuts his head off.

Malcolm Gladwell continues to say that most people get this famous Biblical yarn all wrong because they misunderstand who really has the upper hand. It is because of, and not despite, David’s size and unorthodox choice of weapon that he is able to slay the lumbering giant. In other words, Gladwell says, most people underestimate the importance of agility and speed. Taken from  https://www.inc.com/issie-lapowsky/malcolm-gladwell-david-and-goliath.html

In the scripture readings this week, they all look at towards a shepherd.   In the old testament of Ezekiel, God is the shepherd who searches for sheep who are worthy of him.  The ones who are weaker and not too strong.  These sheep he will bring back to him and help heal them.  He tries to help the weak sheep.  He is always looking for them even when they have gone astray.  In a sermon by Warner Pidgeon, he mentions a book written by Stephen Gaukroger.  “Stephen tells the story of a New York Methodist minister who saw the need to bring his ‘ninety-nine righteous’ sheep back into the fold. He put an advert in the local paper:

“Lost, stolen or strayed, a large flock of Methodist sheep. They have been gone for some time. When last seen they were browsing along the road of indifference. Anyone finding these sheep please bring them home, if possible, and you will receive ample reward. If they refuse to come home drive them to the nearest fold, lock the door, and report to the undersigned. Plenty of fodder will be provided on Sunday.”

Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (John 10:14).

Remember that you are to help the poorer people in your flock.  It doesn’t matter what they look like or sound like, you should stop to give a helping hand.  This is what God was doing in the gospel reading.  As I said before, he helped all of the weak sheep and nursed them back to health.  There was a short story that I read this week from David Dykes that went like this.  See if you can make a connection about the sheep to this story.

“A few years ago, at a Methodist Church in North Wales, as worshippers arrived at the church, they were distressed to see a dirty, drunk, smelly homeless man on the front steps. They didn’t realize this bum was actually their pastor, Derek Rigby, who had disguised himself as a homeless man. To prepare for that morning, Derek hadn’t shaved that week. He caked dirt on his hands and face and drew on tattoos. He went to a thrift shop and bought old clothes and ripped them, rubbed them in dirt and soaked them in beer. To complete his disguise, he donned a scraggly wig and put on thick broken glasses and hung a half-smoked cigarette from his mouth. Then he sat on the church steps clutching a can of beer. On that morning not one of the members of his congregation spoke to him or offered to help. You can imagine their shock when it came time for the sermon and this homeless man walked on staged and took off the wig. Then he told them they were a stingy lot. He talked about how Jesus said that when we help one of the “least of these” we are helping Jesus. It was a disturbing experience.”   Can you imagine how the people in that congregation felt after finding out that their pastor and the homeless man were one in the same?

God is always the shepherd especially on this Sunday which is known as the Reign of Christ Sunday.   The Reign of Christ Sunday marks the end of Ordinary time and the beginning of advent celebrations.  The first Sunday of Advent begins next Sunday – November 29th.  We celebrate the reign of God in his Kingdom and how that celebration can be continued throughout the coming year.  We sing Psalm 100 today and make a joyful noise all the earth!  If you have been at our church in person, imagine me playing it on the piano with a lot of enthusiasm and a glissando at the end of the song.  If you sing and have a copy of Voices United, look it up and give it a go.  This Psalm brings back lots of happy memories for me when we could all be together in the church building.

What are the qualities of a true shepherd?  A true shepherd should have a caring heart and protect his sheep.   A true shepherd’s flock will know his voice and listen to him.  Within the scripture readings from today, we understand that God is the shepherd, and we are the sheep.  There are 5 qualities that Jesus has that makes him a good Shepherd. Jesus is good, he protects, he guides, he nurtures and he lays down his life for us. We are the ones that need to know that God is always here with us to keep us safe and give us strength.  We should be the ones to go out and help bring back our flock to rejoin God in his kingdom. We are the ones that can take the time to listen and protect our flock (as community).

Jesus is a leader that can be trusted.  Jesus loves you.  He is the good shepherd.  He will never leave you.  You can trust him.

Amen!

Benediction:

Go from here as those committed to bring Christ’s reign closer.

We will be a challenge to the powerful;

We will be a support to the suffering;

We will be a word of hope to the despairing;

We will be a beacon of hope to the uncertain;

We will be an encouraging presence to the venturesome.

 

Go with confidence, go in peace!

 

 

Worship for Nov 8

Trinity United Church

November 8, 2020

Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost

devotion to God. Some time had passed since the nation had crossed the Jordan river and a number of Israelites had started to worship idols and new gods from their neighbours. The people agreed to throw away these idols and to commit to worship the God that had freed them from slavery and brought them out of Egypt and protected them in their 40 years journeying the desert. It is somewhat surprising how quickly a number of them had taken to new idols. Joshua then committed this new Covenant to stone slabs as a reminder of the commitment the Israelites had made to their faithful God.

As I write, history is being made with the election of a new president in the USA. The current president has been defeated. It is my view that there is an opportunity for a new covenant to be expressed and put into action when the transition of power occurs in the new year. It is clear that the devisions that surfaced during the past 4 years will need to be reckoned with. Under the leadership of the current president, the startling reality of a dark underbelly of the American soul has become very apparent. If ever we needed the power and love of Jesus Christ, it is now.

In a previous reflection, I talked of the power and importance of the first two commandments: To love God with all our heart, soul, and mind; and Love thy neighbor as thyself. I posed the question of how much love we really hold in our heart. Today, there is a great relief and rejoicing of the results of the election. Tomorrow, we need to focus on building the radiance of God’s loving presence to ease the tensions of the many who believed in the style and approach of the current president. The divisions that have grown or come out of the closet will remain and possibly increase if we fail to bring the light and spirit of Christ into the transition of power.

I say “we” because the better and stronger we become as followers of Christ, the more effective will our prayers, actions and resolve will be. Our new Covenant with God should be to action “thy will  be done on earth as it is in heaven” meaning that we are committed bringing an end to the suffering and inequalities that continue to persist. It is our collective efforts that make what is often a hope, a dream and a reality.

The fuel and sustenance of creating a powerful and positive healing energy is the power of love. The Love of Christ, God’s love and the output of our collective loving thoughts and energy. It is essential to understand the great healing authority we have been given by God, through Jesus Christ. Christ says that if we abide in Him, He will abide in us.

Now you need to stop and feel that deep abiding love, you will recognize its presence when you feel the certainty that everything is right, that brings an abiding sense of joy and safety. Making this power of love more conscious requires effort but brings tremendous peace and power, a power that is healing and healthy. One practice that builds this ability is not to focus on our lacks but to be overwhelmingly focused on gratitude and the abundance of what we have. Allow God to meet our needs, repent of pride and allow the grace of humility to flow in and feel the power of God’s love.

As I absorb the possibilities of  a new tomorrow, a resumption of caring for the whole world and a focus of better stewardship of the lands that we occupy, I can see a new earth possible. I know that there lies ahead many heartfelt prayers to heal the divisions. I am most prayerful that we can collectively, as individual communities, provinces, states, and eventually, countries, build a new vision of how to respect our environment and share our resources in a fairer and more equitable way. I know in my heart that this is doable with God’s love as long as there is a collective agreement and intent to do God’s will.

Lastly, we are approaching Remembrance Day, I always feel divided as I honour those who died defending our freedom. It is the recall of the wars fought and the thousands of lives lost that makes me very sad. I include a poem as a closing prayer in honour of those who have died in too many wars.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders Fields Poem

By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae 

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place; and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing, fly Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved, and were loved, and now we lie In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from failing hands we throw The torch, be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields.