ORDER OF SERVICE FOR SUNDAY, MAY 21, 2023

7th SUNDAY OF EASTER / Asian Heritage Month 3 / ASCENSION OF OUR LORD

Due to copyright limitations, we are unable to print the words to many of the songs.  However, our musicians have chosen music to fit the scriptures.  We invite you to look up the words in your worship book and ponder them.  If you do not have a worship book, ponder the words to one of your favourite hymns and listen for God’s voice. Those who have internet may find the songs on YouTube.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.

~African proverb

BEFORE WE WORSHIP, WE REFLECT…

Jesus came to Earth, nourished those around him, tended to those who followed him, and stewarded a growth of understanding that God is love. After his death and resurrection, he ascends to be with God but leaves the people and places he touched forever changed. Water makes a similar path. Rain falls to the earth to serve a multitude of purposes: nourishing all living things, tending to the growth of vegetation, and serving as a necessary element to steward all of God’s creation. Then, when the atmosphere is right, water evaporates, leaving the place where it fell forever changed, to then one day fall again. We rejoice in the waters of baptism and in our call to care for God’s creation. We rejoice in the promised coming of the Spirit, just as we rejoice in the incredible ways this planet nourishes all living things.

LAND ACKNOWLEDGEMENT 

We acknowledge we gather and worship on Treaty 1 Territory, the original lands of Anishinaabeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dene peoples, and on the homeland of the Métis Nation.

O God, Great Spirit and Creator, we praise you for your gifts that surround us – For the gift of the land that gives us food, shelter and water; For the gift of the sun that gives warmth and light to all that grows; For the gifts of the moon and stars which you have arranged for your glory; For the gifts of language and culture, through which your peoples praise you, and share the most deeply held values you have engraved on their hearts.

Jesus, gentle Saviour, forgiving and humble of heart, Good Shepherd, Divine Healer, Great Lover of all peoples: We offer you our sorrow for the wrongs committed against our First Nations’ children in Canada’s Indian Residential Schools. We offer you our desire to walk with our First Nations brothers and sisters; to journey with them on the path of truth, healing and reconciliation. As we share this earthly pilgrimage to our heavenly homeland, where every tear will be wiped away and every sorrow will be turned to joy, we pray for all our relations.  Amen.

CALL TO WORSHIP

Clap your hands, all you peoples!

God has gone up with a shout of joy.

The Lord Jesus Christ has risen to reign;

His is the name above all names.

We are witnesses: the Lord is risen!

Christ has ascended to reign on high.

            ~Austin D. Hill Top of Form

CHILDREN’S SONG:  VU 377  Holy Spirit, Hear Us

CENTERING PRAYER

Creating and Loving God, today we thank you for the many different peoples of your world. Help us to live together with respect for all creation, including the human family. Help us to love one another and to honour the unique gifts of each person. Forgive us when we judge others by our own standards, forgetting that your ways are not our ways and that You love all people. Forgive us when we prejudge those who are different from ourselves. Teach us your ways of love and justice, that we might be the human family as you intended; that we might be bringers of your kin-dom.

MINUTE FOR MISSION:  Rainbow Camp Welcomes 2SLGBTQIA+ Young People and Allies

Rainbow Camp® in northern Ontario has welcomed young people of all sexual identities since 2012. From the beginning, Mission & Service has supported Welcome Friend Association, which runs the camp.

“Initially, we wanted to bridge the local LGBTQ community with area churches. We started the association, and then we launched the camp. We had no idea what we were doing at the time. Only one person on the board had camp experience, but we knew that young people would benefit,” says Chris Southin, one of the camp’s co-founders.

Originally a one-week camp with 14 youths, Rainbow Camp® now serves up to 50 youth each week for four weeks. Expansion plans are in the works; Rainbow Camp® Atlantic is launching in August 2023 in Nova Scotia, and a pilot is planned for the west coast. “We’ve had an invitation to duplicate the Rainbow Camp® experience in Australia and in the UK too. It’s exciting!” says Harry Stewart, also a co-founder.

Above all, Rainbow Camp® provides campers with a safe space to be who they are without judgment. “I’ll never forget our first year of camp. It was the second full day. A camper told us his mom had found a dress in his closet. He lied to her and said that it belonged to his girlfriend. He had brought the dress to camp and said he would like to wear it. High heels and sand don’t mix!” Stewart explains, laughing: “But the warmth, love, and compassion that the camper received from everyone at camp was amazing. We tell all of our staff ‘Your job is to make sure that each and every camper has the best possible time at Rainbow Camp®.’”

Southin and Stewart want the camp experience to be memorable, fun, soul-searching, and supportive. “We don’t want any camper to feel afraid to be who they are. I think that’s why so many now call it their home.” This important work was recognized with a Governor General’s award in 2021, an award that recognizes “great Canadians for exceptional deeds that bring honour to our country.”

Your generosity through Mission & Service supports safe, welcoming spaces like Rainbow Camp®. Thank you!

CHILDREN’S CHAT

Jesus taught his disciples to pray.  Jesus would go off by himself to pray.  Sometimes, after preaching and healing hundreds of people, Jesus would take the disciples to a place by themselves to rest and pray.

Prayer, for Jesus, was a big thing.  Jesus needed to talk to God often so that he knew exactly what God wanted him to do, and gave Jesus the strength to do it.

Prayer can be done with words, with song, with action or with silence.  Prayer is a way we can say, “Thank you” to God.  It can also be a way of saying, “I’m sorry”, “Please help me”, “I am grateful”.

The beautiful gift of prayer is that everyone has their own style for talking to God.  Attending worship teaches us how the church prays as a faith family.  Through our prayers, we all stay connected to God.

Here is a short prayer you can use at meal time:  Hold your arms up in the air while looking up.  Then, pat your tummy.  Finally, clap your hands.  You have just prayed, “God, for food, thank you!”

Now, create your own prayer.  ?

PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION

Almighty God, in you are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Open our eyes that we may see the wonders of your Word; and give us grace that we may clearly understand and freely choose the way of your wisdom; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

READINGS AND PSALM

First Reading: Acts 1:6-14

Today’s reading is part of the introduction to the narrative of the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost. These verses tell of the risen Lord’s conversation with his disciples on the eve of his ascension, in which he promises that they will receive the power of the Holy Spirit.

6When  had come together, they asked , “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

12Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. 13When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.

Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35

1Let God arise, and let God’s enemies be scattered; let those who hate God flee.

2As smoke is driven away, so you should drive them away; as the wax melts before the fire, so let

     the wicked perish at the presence of God.

3But let the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; let them also be merry and joyful.

4Sing to God, sing praises to God’s name; exalt the one who rides the clouds; I Am is that name,

     rejoice before God! 

5In your holy habitation, O God, you are a father to orphans, defender of widows;

6you give the solitary a home and bring forth prisoners into freedom; but the rebels shall live

     in desert places. 

7O God, when you went forth before your people, when you marched through the wilderness,

8the earth quaked, and the skies poured down rain, at the presence of God, the God of Sinai, at the

     presence of God, the God of Israel. 

9You sent a bountiful rain, O God; you restored your inheritance when it languished.

10Your people found their home in it; in your goodness, O God, you have made provision for the

     poor. 
32Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth; sing praises to the Lord.

33You ride in the heavens, O God, in the ancient heavens; you send forth your voice, your mighty

     voice.
34Ascribe power to God, whose majesty is over Israel; whose strength is in the skies.

35How wonderful you are in your holy places, O God of Israel, giving strength and power to your

     people!  Blessed be God! 

Second Reading: 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11

Our faith in Christ does not make us immune from the scorn of others. Nevertheless, we are to resist the designs of evil when we experience disparagement from others because we trust God’s grace will strengthen and guide us.

12Beloved, 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. 13But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. 14If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.

5:6Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. 7Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. 8Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. 9Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. 10And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. 11To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.

Gospel: John 17:1-11

On the night before his crucifixion, Jesus prays to his heavenly Father, asking that those who continue his work in this world will live in unity.

1After Jesus had spoken these words , he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, 2since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. 5So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

6“I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”

HYMN:  VU 382  Breathe On Me, Breath Of God

SERMON

One of the youth members of my internship congregation was going through a rough time and wanted to talk.  We decided to go to McDonald’s.  After our talk, I bought us some ice cream cones.  As we sat enjoying them, I admired the tropical fish in the huge tank that was in the center of the eating area.  All of a sudden, my youth member yelled, “My God, we’re being robbed!”

When the police questioned me, I was not the best eye witness.  I was so focused on the fish that I missed everything!

During university, my friends and I had planned to go to Jimmy’s, a place off the downtown of Calgary that was known for its fried chicken and chips.  We said we would meet at 6 PM.  I arrived a bit early and, since it was a lovely evening, stood outside to wait for the rest of my party.  Time went on.  While I was waiting, several cars drove up, slowed down, stopped in front of me briefly, and drove on.  I checked my watch.  It was 6:30 PM.  By this time, I was getting a little annoyed.  I decided to go into Jimmy’s and phone to find out where everyone was.  I glanced at the parking lot before heading into the restaurant.  There, under each lamp post, was a prostitute.  Men were slowly driving around the lot, stopping in front of each prostitute to see if there would be any action.  To my horror, I looked to my right and discovered that I was standing not too far away from a lamp post!!  No wonder the cars had slowed down when they reached me!!

Note to self:  ALWAYS pay attention to my surroundings when sitting or standing ANYWHERE!

The disciples stood gazing up at the disappearing Jesus.  Perhaps they were grieving.  Perhaps they were in awe.  Perhaps they were confused.  Whichever it was, the angels stepped in, interrupted their ruminations and basically told them to move on.  Ministry wasn’t going to happen with them standing there like lost puppies looking up at the sky!  Jesus had prepared them for his leaving.  The disciples had work to do!

I’m glad that “certain women” were included in the disciples’ inner circle, along with Jesus’ mother.  It is always prudent to spend time in concentrated prayer before embarking on ministry.  It is good to be aware of what is going on around one so that one’s prayers can be specific, one’s conversation with God focused, one’s ministry goals clear.

Over the years I have been asked, numerous times, “What does a Theatre degree have to do with the church?”  To which I respond, “What DOESN’T a Theatre degree have to do with the church?!”  My Theatre degree has enhanced my ministry a hundredfold for the simple reason that it has taught me to be aware!

My theatre training has taught me to be aware of body language.  Many is the time I could tell something was bothering someone by a small change in body language.  My theatre training has taught me to be aware of my personal space and work space.  I have always arranged my office so that my desk was against a wall, never between me and the people I served.  Conversations happened in chairs, facing one another, away from my desk.  My theatre training has taught me to be aware of the emotions that lie underneath words.  Fear is often hidden under anger.  Emotional pain is often hidden under humour.  Anger is often hidden under biting wit.

My theatre training has taught me to be aware of people’s energy around me.  It is a gage for good or ill.

My theatre training has taught me to pay attention to detail.  It has also taught me to complete a task thoroughly and properly the first time.

When you read of Jesus’ ministry, one of the teaching goals that strikes me is that he was trying to get the disciples to be aware!  Pay attention!  When it comes to ministry, to God’s people, all is not what it appears to be on the surface or at first glance.  Do not be distracted by the pretty fish, a person’s appearance, their wealth or status!  If there is a woman standing under a lamp post, there is most likely a painful story as to how she got to be there!

When developing a character for a play, the actor must make up a history for their character, figure out what motivates them, what drives them; what do they fear, covet, what in their past has brought them to this present moment.  Then, the actor must dig down deep within and pull all of that emotion out of themself.  Think that this is easy?  I dare you to try.  It requires one to look at their shadow side and be willing to put it “out there”.  A task not for the faint of heart, I can tell you!

Am I always on the ball, alert, observing, aware, ready for action?  Nope.  Sometimes I am like the disciples, standing still, looking up at the sky, waiting for instructions from God to fall on my head.  Sometimes I see the cues, and my brain, even though I see what is in front of me, refuses to engage my awareness.  Fish come in many shapes and colours.  I am human after all.

Which is why we are a community of the faithful.  What cue one misses may be picked up by another.  We can pray for each other, remind each other to stay alert, support one another.  We can ask questions and stand still and focus on the answers.  Ministry is a joint effort.  I thank God every day for all of you!  I am grateful for the phone calls to let me know someone could use a pastoral visit.  I am grateful for the jokes people send me to brighten my day!  I am grateful for the prayers that give me the energy to do what God wants me to do.

“Discipline yourselves, keep alert”, says the writer of 1 Peter.  Indeed, we will.  Amen.

HYMN OF THE MONTH:  MV 106  I Am The Dream

PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION

Loving God, we give thanks for all that we have learned from you. Help us to learn to love as you have loved us. Help us to grow beyond narrow views that regard the stranger as an enemy and restrict the scope of your love. Give us instead the embracing love of Jesus, who lived and died that the whole world might be saved. Show us a new path—a path not divided by race or creed, but a path united by love, goodwill, and a concern for the good of all.

God, in your love, hear our prayer.

And so we pray for peace in a world marred by violence,

we pray for unity in a world divided by class, borders, race, and religion,

we pray for hope in a world that often seems short on good news,

we pray for comfort in a world that seems full of tears.

God, in your love, hear our prayer.

Holy God, you have given us your peace—but not as the world gives have you given to us.  You have given us the peace of Christ that disturbs us; you have given us a Spirit of restlessness that stirs us from placidness; you have given us a vision of peace that turns us from shaking our heads and asking, “Why?” and moves us to ask instead, “Why not?”  Help us to move toward that vision.

God, in your love, hear our prayer.

God, hear our prayers for those who suffer oppression and discrimination and for those whose lives are narrowed because they oppress and discriminate.  We pray for all who lack the necessities of life: not only food, clothing, and shelter but also acceptance, respect, and dignity. And God, hear our silent prayers for the many needs and concerns that weigh heavily on our hearts.

God in your love, Hear our prayer.

This we pray to you, our Parent God.  Amen

THE LORD’S PRAYER

SENDING SONG:  WOV 755  We All Are One In Mission

BENEDICTION

 

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