March 29, 2020 Service

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LIFE AND WORK OF THE CHURCH

Morris United Church  —  (204) 746-2422

Website:  www.morrisunitedchurch.ca

  Email: morrisuc@mymts.net

Secretary & Church Reservations:  

Debbie Swift:  (204) 712-6669

debbieswift27@gmail.com

Envelope Secretary:

Sharon Eadie      (204) 746-2100

Cards:

Marlene Buhler     (204) 746-2706

Custodian:

Grant Klassen       (204) 758-3210

Property:

Brian Pettapiece (204) 955-6583

Lutheran Church of the Cross

Box 90, Morris, MB   R0G 1K0

Phone:  204-746-2422

Email:  morriscrosslutheran@gmail.com

Chairperson:

  Larry Skoglund     (204) 746-8780

Envelope Secretary:

  Virginia Janzen      (204) 746-8495

 

Pastor Leslie Poulin

204-799-5629 [cell]

204-746-7474 [home]

Email: lestoil@mymts.net

SERVICE OF WORSHIP FOR SUNDAY, MARCH 29, 2020

BEFORE WE WORSHIP, WE REFLECT…

Some who look around congregations and see only gray heads, feel a sense of hopelessness about the future. Others who know the biblical story of the Exile approach the challenge from a different perspective. When the first wave of people from Jerusalem were taken into exile in Babylon, the people were saddened and humiliated. Five years later Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the whole city including the temple, and the people were completely devastated. It was into this devastation that Ezekiel prophesied the coming of a fresh breeze – the breath of God’s Spirit. Little did the exiles know that this 50-year period without a temple structure would later be described as the most formative of their history next to the Exodus. When the people, with the help of the prophets, accepted the Exile as a time of discipline and a call to repentance, it became a time for reflection and reorientation (a 50-year “Lent”) and the beginning of a new era. A similar opportunity is open to the Christian church today. Many are excited by the new breath that God can breathe into the church if we are willing to acknowledge and live in exile for a while. We do not need to fear the destruction of the church, as it has been, because we are a people of the resurrection. The grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

CENTERING PRAYER:

When things in life frighten us, help us to feel your presence, loving God. When there seems to be no hope, remind us you are with us always.  Amen.

MINUTE FOR MISSION:

Our gifts for Mission & Service work to create opportunities to be an intercultural church. Our gifts for Mission & Service work to create opportunities to understand what it means to be an intercultural church. Here is a story about one of those opportunities. Beth Baskin, Program Coordinator, Social Analysis and Congregational Engagement, in the Church in Mission Unit of The United Church of Canada, reflects on White Privilege: As someone who supported a delegation to the Global White Privilege Conference in May 2018 and supports the White Privilege Working Group, I spend a lot of time thinking about it. White Privilege is the norm that allows me to go through my day without really having to think about what I do or say. The systems work pretty well for me. This is a problem. The problem is that I (and lots of others) can go through life ignoring racism and the resulting oppression and exclusion. I will be a poorer person for the lack of diversity and understanding in my life and faith, but really, unless I go out of my way to be in relationships with those whom the systems exclude, I can live in my White bubble. This choice will give me occasional pangs of sadness for the oppressed but have no real consequences for my day-to-day living. It is my job and the job of the White Privilege Working Group, among others, to ask the questions that lead us to understand others’ cultures and experiences. We must find real, tangible ways to change our church to honour and incorporate ways of being, knowing, and deciding that are not the dominant church norm. If Mission & Service giving is already a regular part of your life, thank you so much! If you have not given, please join me in making Mission & Service giving a regular part of your life of faith. Loving our neighbour is at the heart of our Mission & Service.

PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION:

O God, you have walked with your creation through millennia; through bounty and scarcity, war and peace, pandemic and health.  Be with us now as we read your word.  Let it speak to our fear, fill us with hope, brighten our darkness and give strength for the day.  In Christ we pray.  Amen.

SCRIPTURE READINGS:

Ezekiel 37:1-14 — The dry bones of Israel brought to life

Psalm 130 — I wait for you, O Lord; in your word is my hope. (Ps. 130:5)

Romans 8:6-11 — Life in the Spirit

John 11:1-45 — Baptismal image: the raising of Lazarus

SERMON:

“Take away the stone.” “Excuse me?” “Take away the stone.” “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” “Take away the stone.” I believe it is safe to assume that those who rolled away the stone from Lazarus’ tomb had the thought, “Why me?” pass through their minds.  Surely this miracle worker just had to say the word and the stone would have moved of its own accord!  But no, Jesus wanted assistance.  And once the stone was moved, and the stench hit, I question whether anyone paid much attention to Jesus’ prayer that followed. Yet, the stone was moved.  The command was given, action followed.  The people had stood around and waited for the miracle, yet they did not think that they would have their role to play, no matter how small. From the darkness and odour of death walked resurrected life.  The miracle.  Just how should one respond after witnessing a miracle?  Applaud?  Shout praises to God?  Sing?  Dance?  Pray?  “Unbind him and let him go.” Always the pragmatist. Once again, someone from the ranks of the probable unwilling was called upon to remove the rags of death from the body of the living.  Even if I had been Lazarus’ best friend and closest neighbour, I do not believe I would have wanted this job.  He had already begun to decompose!  How gross! “Unbind him and let him go.” Again, the command of Jesus for assistance.  We are called upon to be a means for miracles in some of the most dark, dank, and frightening moments in life.  Or, like the woman who touched Jesus’ cloak, it may be that our presence will have an effect of which we will never know the miraculous results.  Such is the mystery and beauty of miracles. We are called to be a means for miracles. Sometimes this can be quite a challenge, yet, as at Lazarus’ tomb, in the most difficult moments, Christ is present.  It is a realization of the dominion of heaven that exists and is at work here on earth. As human beings this story is a marvellous reminder that we are not the miracle workers on this planet — God is.  It is also a marvellous reminder that miracles can and do happen, but maybe they are not as cut and dried, clean and nice smelling as we wish they would be.  And the most marvellous reality about this story is that God desires our help in the working out of miracles.  God wants us present, God wants us to get our hands dirty, our bodies smelly, by working with real things in life such as people, rags, stenches and death.  When you think deeply about it, it isn’t the raising of Lazarus that is the only miracle.  The other miracle is that the bystanders didn’t all run away at Jesus’ requests or at the appearance of the formerly dead!  “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” Yes, Jesus, you did.  And it is when my faith appears to be at its weakest that a moment of grace will occur which shines before me to remind me that, Yes! I do believe, and, Yes! I am a means for miracles. So, what are some of the miracles that still occur in our world?  Birth.  Any birth, human beings or animal beings, being born is a miracle, considering all the odds against coming out of the experience alive.  Each time a medical team helps bring another child into the world, each time the rancher assists another calf on its exit from its mother’s body, even the birth of another litter of barn cats, is a miracle! Our care homes.  Now there is a miracle.  The people who live there as well as those who work there.  Even those elderly people who just want to lay in bed and die experience a miracle by the fact that they are surrounded by those who do want to live, and by the living who care for them.  Sometimes, the activity of life inspires the most unwilling person to have hope.  Similarly, there are those staff who actually detest working in a care home, but they need the pay-cheque.  However, miracles are still occurring because even the hardest heart will sometimes be moved to love a particular resident.  We don’t always see the miracles – they are there. Death.  Death is a miracle.  But I do not speak of ultimate death.  I speak of all the little deaths we experience throughout our lives.  The death of stereotypes and prejudices  as we experience people and not labels; the death of God, or rather the death of the God that we want–not the one who is, to embrace who God really is and finding that God is larger than the box we made for God; the death of the love of things which helps us to focus on the source of true happiness–a relationship with God;  the death of fear, so that we can grow and change and learn and have life.  If we do not die, we do not live.  We may be a means for miracles for others, but as for each one of us, God reminds us of Christ who was sent to live out a miracle for us.  “I have already unbound you.  You are free.  Go and free others.”  Amen.  

PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION:

Out of the depths we cry to you, O God. We call out for those who are sick and suffering, who are hurting and scared. We bring before you our family members, friends and community members:  Rita; Mike; Brooke; Abbie; Tracy; Carolyn & Douglas; Don; Amber; Nicole; Gordon; Scott; Diane; Bryon; Elizabeth & David; Annie; Sandy & Ron. We lift up those who have the covid-19 virus, those dying from the virus, their families and those who care for them.  May they feel your presence and know they are not alone. Out of the depths we cry to you, O God. We cry out for justice and peace in a world that is ever-consumed with anger and violence. Help us to relax, to hear what others say before we lash out with hurtful words. Out of the depths we cry to you, O God. Make your presence felt through all creation, that we might know we are loved by you. Help us to translate that love into care and compassion for others. We pray in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

THE LORD’S PRAYER

BENEDICTION:

Go out into the world in peace, and in Christ’s name be –    the humble who make others proud    the poor who have riches to share    the weak who help others be strong    the empty who overflow with loving kindness. And the largess of the love of God, and the treasure of the grace of Christ Jesus, and the buoyant health of the Holy Spirit will be with you now and forever. Amen.

IN OUR PRAYERS THIS WEEK:

Rita Covernton; Mike Froese; Brooke Alexiuk; Abbie; Tracy Skoglund; Carolyn & Douglas; Don; Amber; Nicole; Gordon Dreger; Pam & Scott Brown; Diane Dreger; Bryon Clubb; Elizabeth & David; Annie Grossman; Sandy & Ron Lange; the Schoenfeld family.