May 24, 2020 Service




     In these days between Ascension and Pentecost, we gather with the disciples in the upper room, waiting for the Spirit to transform the church around the world. In today’s gospel Jesus prays for his followers and for their mission in his name. Amid religious, social, and economic divisions, we seek the unity that Jesus had with his Father. Made one in baptism, we go forth to live our faith in the world, eager for the unity that God intends for the whole human family.

     The presence and activity of the Holy Spirit has always been both comforting and disturbing to the church. The work of the Spirit provides wonderful continuity with the past and yet it also confronts us with the reality of change and growth in the present and future. Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza refers to this characteristic of the Spirit-filled community as a “tradition of radical newness.” The challenge for the early church and for us today is to recognize the “new thing” that God is doing, to trust it and cooperate with it. 


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


Call to Worship

Forty days after the resurrection, Jesus left the disciples and returned to be with

God in heaven.

Why are you staring at the heavens?

Jesus is not only in heaven but is here among us, even now.

Jesus has promised that wherever we are,

his Spirit will be in our midst.

Lord Jesus, breathe on me; give me strength today.  Holy Spirit, work in me. For this I pray.   



We come here to offer you glory and praise, loving God. You have created us and all the universe, and you invite us to share it with others that life might be good and full. Your amazing wonder can be seen all around us in the things you have made and the things that you do. Lead us to hold as sacred all that is good and to care for it in ways that give you continued glory. Amen.



Go outside and stand in your yard looking up at the sky.  While keeping your eyes on the sky, walk around your yard.  How hard is it to walk around when you can only see straight up?


Now, take a sun hat or a ball cap and tape two pieces of paper into your hat, one on each side of your face so that you can only see straight ahead.  If you don’t have a cap, make a pair of binoculars by taping two toilet rolls together.  Once again, walk around your yard without moving your head.  What noises do you hear that you would like to see the source, but can’t because you can’t turn your head!  You can only look straight forward!  How much of the view are you missing because of your tunnel vision?


When Jesus went up into the air, into the clouds, to return to God, the disciples just stood there, heads up, looking into the sky.  They stood there so long that two angels came along and said, “Um, guys, why are you standing here looking up at the sky?” 


The Spirit of Jesus is everywhere!  Take the blinders off and look around you!  Look for Jesus in all of creation, in everyone you meet.  Living life with the Spirit of Jesus is far more exciting than standing and looking up at the sky!   (Besides, it’s safer.)


Living God, help us so to hear your holy Word that we may truly understand; that, understanding, we may believe and believing, we may follow in all faithfulness and obedience, seeking your honor and glory in all that we do; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Readings and Psalm

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.

Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35

Sing to God, who rides upon the clouds. (Ps. 68:4)

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.

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.



One of the youth members of my internship parish 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 guess 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 our 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 many 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 over a hundredfold for the simple reason that it has taught me to be aware!  It 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 and work space.  I have always arranged my office so that my desk was against a wall, never between me and the people I serve.  Conversations happened in chairs 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 a long 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 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 call.  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.



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.

O God, call your people to be one, as you are one. Unite your church in the truth of your gospel, the love of our neighbor, and the call to proclaim your reign to all people. Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.


Breathe life into your creation. Guide your people as we explore the mysteries of the universe. We pray for the work of scientists and mathematicians whose skill enriches our understanding. Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.


Make your justice known among the nations of the earth. Protect the vulnerable. Redirect those who use violence and greed as weapons. Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.


Come to the aid of your children. We pray for those engulfed in grief, those without supportive families, and for all who are isolated, powerless, or afraid, that all may rest their anxieties in your care. Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.


Give courage to all who embark on new ventures. We especially remember this day those who risked their lives to serve in our armed forces. Grant safety to those serving at home or abroad, and assure them of your never-failing strength. 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 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.

Raise all your saints to eternal life. Until that day, we give you thanks for the faithful examples of those who have listened to your voice and now rest in you. 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.  Amen.





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 support partners working to unite North and South Korea peacefully.


Over 65 years ago, the Korean War ended in an armistice agreement. The agreement created the Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ: a place where the two parts of the country can come together. The two parts of Korea, North and South, have very different political and economic systems and ideologies. Some may think the differences are too great for the two countries to overcome and unite.

Mission & Service of The United Church of Canada supports partners like the National Council of Churches in Korea that are working to unite both countries through a path of peace. There have been non-violent gatherings at the DMZ as well as walks for peace.

We are thankful to be in partnership with Korean Voices for Peace and the World Council of Churches, which lift up the plight of families who are divided and a region that is still in conflict. The United Church is part of Korea Peace Now! Women Mobilizing to End the War, a global campaign to get a Korean peace agreement by 2020. We pray that reunification will take place and are thankful that we are able to support this path through our gifts for Mission & Service.

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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