May 17,2020 service



Rural Life Sunday is celebrated on the third Sunday in May. It calls the church to celebrate its heritage, to affirm worldwide the people and communities who work with and on the land by raising food and fiber, and to recognize the ongoing crisis occurring in rural areas of the nation and the world today.


     Mission is at the heart of the New Testament. The early Christian communities were the result of the dynamic missionary proclamation of the apostles. That sense of mission left its mark, with a wide range of understanding on virtually every page of the New Testament. This diversity is presented to us today through the lectionary readings. There is the image of mission as a “sending forth” to cross boundaries and proclaim the gospel to the entire world, which is the perspective of Acts and the apostle Paul. There is also the image of mission as “being a witness to Christ” right where you are. This is the perspective we read about in 1 Peter where an early Christian community is exhorted to see its responsibility within the wider and somewhat hostile Greco-Roman world of which it was a part. And finally, there is the perspective of John’s gospel where the church is seen primarily as a healing and reconciling community whose mission is expressed in its openness to all who seek new life in Christ.

     In his book, Turning to Christ: A Theology of Renewal and Evangelization, Episcopal theologian, Urban T. Holmes, wrote, “Mission is the mobilization of the church in the cause of Christ… The wholeness of humanity is the objective.” These days, because of the environmental crisis of our planet, many of us would want to press this objective even further. Along with the apostle Paul we would argue that the cause of Christ and the objective of Christian mission includes the well-being of the entire cosmos. (Romans 8) Whether we are missionaries in a foreign country or hospital visitors within our own hometown, whether we are truck drivers or environmental activists, one thing is becoming abundantly clear; we must acknowledge that the Spirit of God is already at work in the world we seek to serve. Our job is one of humble partnership – making connections and cooperating with this Spirit that is always moving ahead of us as well as within us.


Alleluia! Christ is risen!  Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!


Call to Worship

Taken from the earth…

like lumps of clay.

Made from the soil…

like lumps of clay.

Moulded and fashioned…

like lumps of clay.

Worked and re-worked…

like lumps of clay.

People of God, look around you!  Look and see what God has made—creations of beauty!

The birds of the air, the fish of the sea… creations of joy!

Every star, every planet, every atom, every quark… creations of love!

As part of this love-given, joy-filled, beautiful creation, let us give thanks to the Potter who gave us life and form—Alleluia. Alleluia! ALLELUIA!



Creating God, provide us with all that we need to grow into who you have created us to be: As the womb of the earth nourishes seeds, may we be nourished by our community and the assurance of your holy presence. As the sun provides energy, leading seeds to transformation, may we find the courage to embrace new life through the example of Jesus. As water refreshes and replenishes growing seedlings, may we be restored by the movement of the spirit. In times of drought, when we cannot feel your warmth or taste your goodness, protect us from harmful attitudes and actions that may secure our well-being at the cost of others, and lead us again to abundant life. In your name we pray.  Amen.


In the worship of the Church we often use the word “sacred”.  I like to think of sacred as meaning “touched by God”.  Where we worship is sacred because Jesus is with us as we worship, and so the space in which we worship has been touched by Jesus’ Spirit and is sacred.  The bread, wine and grape juice we eat and drink during communion is sacred because it has been touched by God’s word and Jesus’ Spirit. 

In the garden of Eden, God took the dirt, touched it and formed it into Adam and Eve.  The earth is sacred because God touched it and blessed it.  Everything that grows is sacred because God breathed into being all the trees and bushes and all the plants that bear seeds.  From seeds comes new life. 

If you have seeds that you are going to plant once the weather warms up, put them on your kitchen table.  Put a glass of water and a bowl of soil on the table.  If you have started some plants indoors, put a few of them on the table as well. 

Seeds are a reminder that God is always creating in ordinary and extraordinary ways. (Explore with the children why seeds are awesome).

  • Seeds (although small) are filled with hope and the promise and potential for new life.
  • Seeds are unprotected, and many seeds depend on the love and nurture of the rest of creation.
  • Seeds are powerful and have the ability to bring new life and transformation.
  • Different seeds grow in different conditions (e.g., have a seed that sprouts in water and a seed that sprouts in soil).
  • Seeds are used in different ways (e.g., seeds that we eat for nourishment or medicine, seeds that we use for musical instruments, seeds that we plant).

Seeds are little miracles; they are sacred gifts from God.  Put some seeds in your hand.  Look at how small they are compared to the size of the plant that grows from one seed (think of a sunflower!).  Amazing!  Now, while holding the seeds, touch the plants, soil and other seeds on the table as someone reads the following prayer:

We hold these seeds in our hands as a present and future gift. They remind us of the power of dreams to grow in unexpected ways. Their growth will help us celebrate life, and God’s promise for a world where all are fed and all are loved. May these seeds remind us that we, too, are sacred seeds planted in God’s garden. Thank you, God, for the gift of these seeds, plants, water and soil.  Touch them and bless them. Amen.

When the weather is right, you will plant what is on your table.  Remind yourself, when they go into the ground, that these seeds and plants are sacred – and so are you!


Almighty and ever-living God, you hold together all things in heaven and on earth. In your great mercy receive the prayers of all your children and give to all the world the Spirit of your truth and peace, especially as we now read your word and hear your voice, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Readings and Psalm

Acts 17:22-31

In Athens, Paul faces the challenge of proclaiming the gospel to Greeks who know nothing of either Jewish or Christian tradition. He proclaims that the “unknown god” whom they worship is the true Lord of heaven and earth who will judge the world with justice through Jesus, whom God has raised from the dead.

Psalm 66:8-20

Bless our God, you peoples; let the sound of praise be heard. (Ps. 66:8)

1 Peter 3:13-22

The author of 1 Peter encourages Christians to remain faithful even in the face of defamation and persecution. In baptism we are made clean to act in accordance with what is right.

Gospel: John 14:16-21

In final words to his disciples on the night of his arrest, Jesus encourages obedience to his commandments and speaks of the Spirit, who will be with them forever.



Athens is the only place where Paul’s preaching did not provoke persecution, and, significantly perhaps, the only place where he met with almost complete failure.  Athens at the time was of no political importance, nor was it a commercial center comparable with Corinth.  But it was still the seat of a famous university and was the world’s intellectual mecca.  Above all it was famed for the number of religious cults to which it gave hospitality. 

The congregation was unlike any congregation Paul had ever addressed.  These people lived on lectures.  They were kept alive by a diet of speculation, argument, and discussion.  They dealt in ideas like we deal with computers.  We would call these Athenians ‘intellectuals’.  Paul was at a distinct disadvantage among them because they listened to him as if he were another professional peddler of ideas.  He was on the defensive from the beginning.  They had the intellectual curiosity which makes for a good audience, but it was the curiosity that is content to remain in the abstractions of the mind.

So long as one is satisfied with the discussion of religion, and finds neither the need nor the incentive to practice it, one will listen to people like Paul with the critical ears of an impartial investigator. 

This sermon was Paul’s sincere effort to reach an unfamiliar congregation of intellectuals.  He began by telling them how religious they already were.  The city was filled with objects of worship; one might almost say that it was cluttered with altars.  These altars indicated that there was in the people some deep-seated desire to worship something.  They were not blind to the mystery of life, nor were they totally deaf to the music of the heavens.  The impulse to adore was still strong in them, and could not be successfully hidden by their intellectual desires. 

Not all who say, “I am not a religious person”, are intellectuals.  By claiming not to be religious they think they can separate themselves from people of faith.  Religion, in their minds, translates to rules for living, having to have some incredible experience of Christ affect their lives, or going to church.  The World Wide Web defines religion as follows:

~the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.

~a particular system of faith and worship.

~a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance.

Sometimes, being a pastor can be a bit of a downer.  Not, I hasten to clarify, while doing ministry.  Rather, if I am going out for the evening, there have been situations where, in response to the question of what I do for a living, stating, “I am a pastor”, leads to people finding another seat across the room, or the diatribe of how believing in a supreme being is stupid, or, and perhaps the most draining, ending up listening to some person’s life story for the remainder of the evening, and their desire for absolution.  This usually happens when I most want to relax, have a glass of wine and chill with my friends.

What I find interesting is that the more a person tries to prove to me they are not “religious”, the more they convince me they are desiring a relationship with Christ.  We are made of body, mind and spirit and no matter how much we want to deny it, the spirit part of us fights to be heard.  So, to these people I would like to say, “Perhaps you are not religious in the formal sense of the word; perhaps you belong to no church and profess no creed.  Yet, have you ever come home late at night and suddenly caught your breath as you looked up at the stars, or the Northern Lights, and felt awe at the beauty and expanse of it all?  Have you ever planted a garden and been deeply moved by the mystery of growth?  Have you ever listened to music and been drawn closer to the human condition as the melody took over your emotions?  Have you ever stood beside a baby’s crib and wondered at the mystery of life, where it comes from and where it goes?

The answer to such questions is most often “yes”.  It is then I am able to tell that individual how religious they really are. 

In the ordinary experiences of life, these individuals, like the Athenians, have come very close to the threshold of worship.  They have a secret altar somewhere in their life before which they unconsciously, yet longingly, worship.  It is the altar to an unknown God.

Paul went on to tell the Athenians that they were wasting their precious capacity for religion.  They were worshiping unworthy gods, small ones that could be contained in an idol or an image.  He told them about the God who was the maker and ruler of the universe, the source of all life, the Sovereign of all nations, the indwelling Spirit of every single individual.  It was as if he said to them:  “If you are going to be religious, be religious in a big way.  If you are going to adore something, adore something overwhelmingly good and great.  If you are going to have a god, as you all secretly have, have the real God.  If you have the capacity for religion, develop it, make the most of it.  Just as a person who has the ability to walk is never satisfied to creep or crawl, do not be satisfied with a religion that uses only about one tenth of your religious capacity.  Never be satisfied with a gold or silver shrine.  The God of the universe is too much alive to dwell in a thing like that.  God once dwelt in a person, and that living image of God is the only image that is worthy of your serious devotion.”  In other words, “Go big or go home”.

What, or who are our gods?   No, not even Christians are exempt from placing a god before God.   Fear is a prime motivator to place a god before God.  We are in the midst of a pandemic, after all!  There have been over 300,000 deaths in the world so far.  More will be coming.  While the economy may slowly be opening up, our trust is not.  Fear rules.  Our “normal” has changed dramatically, and so have we.  God, we are so very scared.  Help us to trust you.

Our spirits cry out to God for comfort.  God hears, God helps.  I have been reading the stories of people who have done acts of kindness for others during the pandemic.  From the sharing of meals to the sharing of jokes, many have put their faith first, along with face masks and gloves, and continue to love and share with others in order to bring smiles and joy and ease the fear.  Unknown God – nope.  The Source of all life and love – yep.  It is easy to get stuck on Good Friday.  I remind us all that we are resurrection people!  We are post-Easter people who live in the hope and promise of Christ and strength in the now!  Our God is BIG, and we are HOME. Right where we are.

Be conscious of your thirst for God.  The one who stands awe-struck beneath the stars grows into a person who worships the God in whom we live and move and have our being.  Take the time to admire the greatness of the Almighty, allow yourself to be drawn into the mystery of life, be embraced by it, and then praise your Creator.  Amen.



Uplifted by the promised hope of healing and resurrection, we join the people of God in all times and places in praying for the church, the world, and all who are in need.

Abiding God, you have revealed yourself to us in the form of your Son, Jesus Christ. Embolden your church, as your followers, to reveal your love to everyone in our speaking and in our living.

Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

You are the creator of heaven and earth. Revitalize the health of oceans, rivers, lakes, springs, glaciers, and other bodies of water that give life to your creatures.

Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

You call all people of the world your children. Judge the nations justly, show mercy to the oppressed, and speak truth to power through your prophets.

Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

You come near to us when we are lost, and you hear our distress. We pray for those who suffer in any way. We pray for all those affected by the shootings in Nova Scotia and for victims of violence everywhere.  We pray for all the front-line and essential workers of this pandemic and for their families.  Give them strength, courage and a renewed sense of purpose in a medical situation that seems unending.  We pray for the families of all those who have died from the corona virus.  Embrace them with your love and grant them inner peace.  We bring before you our family members, friends and community members who are in need of your peace and healing hand at this time:  Myrtle & Art Ganske; Ruth Murry & Lillian Trappitt on the death of their brother, Wilfred; Mike Froese; Brooke Alexiuk; Abbie; Tracy Skoglund; Carolyn & Douglas; Don; Amber; Nicole; Gordon Dreger; Scott Brown; Diane Dreger; Debbie & Dwayne; Elizabeth & David. 

Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Your commands are good and merciful. Give us courage to take hold of our baptismal promises to work for justice, advocate for the voiceless, and free the oppressed and imprisoned in body, mind, or spirit.

Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

With bold confidence in your love, almighty God, we place all for whom we pray into your eternal care; through Christ our Lord.




May the Christ who walks with wounded feet, walk with you to the end of the road.

May the Christ who serves with wounded hands, teach you to serve one another.

May the Christ who loves with a wounded heart, be your love forever.

And as you begin to re-enter the world, may you see the face of Jesus in everyone you meet, and may everyone you meet + see the face of Jesus in you.  Amen.


Our gifts for Mission & Service bring Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth together.

     Our gifts for Mission & Service make the Wampum-Neechi program at Five Oaks Education and Retreat Centre in Paris, Ontario, possible. This week-long program brings together 10 Indigenous and 10 non-Indigenous youth (ages 12–14) for six days in the summer. They forge new friendships across cultures, enjoy summer days together, and learn about Indigenous (Haudenosaunee and Cree) history and cultural values.

     The project’s vision is for these young people to be continually engaged in activities, workshops, and play—all in a creative, learning-enriched, fun, and safe environment. Wampum-Neechi creates a positive space for friendships to grow, which in turn fosters healthy dialogue, reconciliation, and relationship-building between Indigenous and non- Indigenous people.

     The adventure includes these activities:

  • a trip to Kanata Village, a cultural centre
  • spending the day in Six Nations of the Grand River
  • learning Haudenosaunee and Cree songs
  • learning about the church’s role in residential schools and ongoing work toward reparations, healing, and reconciliation
  • rafting on the Grand River, swimming in the pool at Five Oaks, and learning traditional arts, crafts, and games

     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.


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