Sunday Guided Tour - Sixth Sunday of Easter / Victoria Weekend. -  May 17, 20120

Here is the link to the You-Tube worship service 

Read the text below at your leisure or follow along with Rev. Jim McKnight and and Rick Young, Music Director.

                          https://youtu.be/XmIBR5n8Cds

 

You can also access this at Facebook : Friends of TrinityUnitedChurchThorold.

Good morning, everyone, and welcome to our Sunday Guided Tour for this Sunday, May 17th.  We hope the days are treating you well, and that we can soon be together in person and not in spirit only.  We’re here again today in the sanctuary of Trinity and we pray that you feel close to one another in the sacred soul that joins us.

 

Please join with me as we begin today’s service with prayer:

Loving God, today, in spirit, we gather as your people, mindful of the faith we share together, and of the wonder of a living faith in which we live and move and have our being.  We give our thanks for all the faithful who have gone before, whose legacy is ours to honour always, especially the courage and commitment to live out a faith of freedom found in Christ.  

Guide us in the strength and deep compassion of your love, that we might bear the Christ-light ever new in this our generation.  We pray in Jesus’ name, for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

 

Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise.  Hymn #264 

As you can appreciate, every one of our Sunday Guided Tours has a theme.  Very often the theme is established by the calendar, but, for people in the church, there is more than one calendar to consider.  There’s the regular calendar we have hanging on the wall or fridge.  There’s the calendar of the world-wide Christian Church hanging in the Vatican or the offices of the World Council of Churches; and there’s the calendar of The United Church of Canada hanging somewhere else, and complicating the other two.  The United Church of Canada is frequently accused of complicating everything.  Maybe that’s why we appreciate it so.  We’re not too fond of being followers, or bland.  We maybe give due heed to Jesus as disrupter.

 

Anyway, with all these thoughts in mind, we would note that this Sunday is variously designated as Sixth Sunday of Easter, Rural Life Sunday, International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, and the Sunday preceding Victoria Day.  We can see, then, that this Sunday is a day of real significance in different ways to different people.  But the Bible readings designated for this Sunday are the same for all; and so we rightly ask:  What is the Good News of the Gospel that speaks to life, and every life that hears it?  It is the question that we bring to what we hear today and, in faith, we know that, in response, we’ll hear the living truth.

 

Please join with me in our prayer for illumination.  Let us pray:

Gracious Holy Spirit, lend to us your grace and strength of purpose, that the words we hear will be your word, and guide us in the living of our days.  This we pray in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

One of the things that I have come to appreciate about preaching the lectionary is that the non-gospel readings interpret and inform our understanding of the gospels and, conversely, the gospel readings inform our  understanding of the readings from outside the gospels.  Scripture can be used to interpret scripture, and it often is.  The non-gospel readings are the psalm, the Old Testament reading, and the letter or epistle.  Today, the lectionary replaces the Old Testament reading with one from the Book of Acts.  So let’s see what each one tells us.

 

Before we do that, I ask that a couple of things be kept on mind.

First: Each reading has been given a title.  I ask each of you to look at today’s readings (they are all on the church’s website), give them a careful read, and decide what title YOU would give them.  The beauty of doing this is that it reveals what YOU see as the priorities expressed on the reading; and these could be completely different from someone else’s.  When someone says:  THIS is what the reading means, you can rightly say:  That’s what it maybe means to you, but not to me.   

 

Second:  Take the opportunity to read each reading slowly.  Read each reading sentence-by-sentence.  Take your time to breathe, and ponder, and reflect, and see what depth and insight each reading provides.  After all, the Bible is the shared expression of the faithful through 2000 years, and we get 2000 years to draw on.

 

[So, getting back to things:]

 

In the reading from the Book of Acts (Acts 17:22-31), we hear of Paul referring to the so-called “unknown god” deduced by Gentile thinking.  And then we hear Paul’s explication of the unknown god as God of life and of Creation, the God not made of human hands but of making human hands, and all they might create.  

 

The author then goes on to say that we “would seek and then perhaps reach out for God and find, though God is not far from any one of us.  “In God,” he says, “we live and move and have our being.”  And then, “We are God’s children.”

 

The author of the Book of Acts assures us of God’s presence and God’s closeness and God’s intimate and loving connection to our lives.

 

The reading from 1st Peter is the one we’ve chosen as our congregational reading today.  Rick and I will share it with you.

 

Congregational Reading:  1 Peter 3:13-22. (New International Version)

The search for meaning in suffering

   

Rick:    Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?

Jim:      But even if we should suffer for what is right, we are blessed. “We do not fear what they fear; we are not                              frightened.”

Rick:    Revere Christ as Lord in your heart.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the              reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that                those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Jim:      For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.  For Christ also suffered once for                     sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God.  Christ was put to death in the body but made alive                 in the Spirit. 

Rick:    After being made alive, the Lord went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— to those who were                    disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.  In it only a                  few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—                not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God.

Jim:      It saves us by the resurrection of Christ Jesus, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels,              authorities and powers all submitting.

 

Sung Response:            #635, verse 1

All the way my Saviour leads me;

what have I to ask beside?

Can I doubt his tender mercy

who through life has been my guide?

Heavenly peace, divinest comfort,

here by faith in him to dwell,

for I know, whate'er befall me,

Jesus doeth all things well.

 

Ministry of Music  -  There is a Balm in Gilead

 

The reading from 1st Peter speaks of suffering.  “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?” the author asks.  And in this day and age, we probably would answer, “We don’t really know.”  We have seen “truth for good” attacked by forces who are threatened; who promote a different, selfish, self-promoting narrative, and we can worry that those forces might prevail.  But 1st Peter tells us, “even if we should suffer for what is right, we are blessed .. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.  For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God.  Christ was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.”

 

Of all the things that we might query in this reading, we could question what it means to say “God’s will”.  If it is “God’s will to suffer,” writes the author of 1st Peter.  And I believe the psalmist and John’s gospel speak to us of what that really means.

 

Psalm 66 tells of hardship, and deliverance, and God.  Hear what the psalmist says:

 

        Bless our God, all peoples,

        and let the sound of praise be heard.

        God has preserved us among the living,

        and kept our feet from stumbling.

        For you, O God, have tested us;

        you have tried us as silver is tried.

        You led us into the desert,

        you laid a burden upon our back,

        you let sickness furrow our brow,

        we passed through fire and water;

        but you brought us out to a land of plenty.

        I will come to your house with burnt-offerings;

        I will pay you my vows,

        the vows which I made with my lips,

        and swore with my mouth when I was in trouble.

        I will offer fat beasts in sacrifice, a savoury offering of rams;

        I will prepare you an offering of bulls and goats.

        Come then and listen, all you that fear God,

        while I tell what God has done for me.

        I cried aloud to God; high praise was ready on my tongue.

        If I had cherished evil in my heart,

        God would not have heard me.

        But truly God has heard me,

        has given heed to the voice of my prayer.

        Blessed are you, O God,

        for you have not rejected my prayer,

        nor withdrawn from me your steadfast love.

 

The first thing that the psalmist talks about is hardship  -  the fact of life the psalmist interprets as God’s test:

 

        For you, O God, have tested us [the psalmist says];

        you have tried us as silver is tried.

        You led us into the desert,

        you laid a burden upon our back,

        you let sickness furrow our brow,

        we passed through fire and water;

        but you brought us out to a land of plenty.

 

“We passed through fire and water,” the psalmist says.

 

Fire:     alludes to the Exodus from Egypt, the arduous trek through the wilderness;

 

Water:  recalls the crossing of the Jordan into the Promised Land.

 

And through the suffering, the psalmist gives assurance that deliverance is the final word.  Redemption, health and wholeness are the promise of the Living God.

 

       “But you brought us out to a land of plenty,” says the psalmist.

        “Blessed are you, O God,

        for you have not rejected my prayer,

        nor withdrawn from me your steadfast love.”

 

The problem, though, is not about suffering.  The problem really is the notion of the test; the notion that the hardships that we face are of God’s testing and God’s will.  The psalmist proffers that the hardships that assail us  -  the agonies and losses, the deaths, the hurts, illness and betrayals and the lies are all of God and tests .

 

But the psalmist can’t be right.  The psalmist wrote his psalm long before the birth of Christ, and Jesus tells us something different.  Jesus tells us what the psalmist writes just can’t be so.  God doesn’t test us in our suffering.  In the living Christ, we know God joins us in our suffering and bears it with us.

 

Gospel Reading:  John 14:15-21   (New International Version)

Jesus Promises the Advocate, the Holy Spirit

       [Says Jesus:]  “If you love me, keep my commands.  

       And I will ask the Father, and you will be given another advocate

       to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. 

       The world cannot accept this Spirit of truth, because it neither sees nor knows. 

       But you know, for the advocate lives with you, and is in you. 

       I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 

       Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. 

       Because I live, you also will live. 

       On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 

       Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. 

       The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

 

       This is the promise of the God who loves us and who lives in us and with us in the Risen Christ.

 

  Blest Be the Tie That Binds.  Hymn #602

 

“The advocate,” says Jesus, “lives with you and is in you ..

I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.”

 

You can never be condemned or tested because my life and love and promise are within you .. you will live because I live .. and this is so because God’s will is that you live!

God’s will is you have life, and have it in abundance!

 

Loss and hardship are realities of life.  “Jesus wept,” the Bible tells us, when he heard about the death of his dear friend.  And we can know the God in Jesus didn’t will it.

 

The death of Lazarus was a fact of life, and real; but the promise of the Gospel is that death is not the final word!

 

God’s will is life and love, deliverance and redemption, health and wholeness, caring and compassion and life restored, made new, and the promise of the life to come for all.

Suffering is a fact of life; and the promise of the Gospel is that God in Christ is with us.  The Risen Saviour knows our hurt and pain because he’s shared them with us; he understands and cares, and holds us soul by soul and life by life in the healing of his promise and his strength.

And so we say, no matter what they say, the promise of the Living God is life, and life together; life we find embracing one another, and life for evermore.

This is the Good News of the Gospel.  This is the faith that we profess.  Thanks be to God!

 

Love Divine, All Loves Excelling.  Hymn #333

 

Commissioning and Benediction:

       Oh Lord, open the windows of our mind

        and fill us full of light.

        Open wide the door of our heart

        that you may come in and abide with us forever.

        Oh Lord, shine upon our minds as the sun shines upon the trees;

        and as they lift up their branches to your light

        so may we lift up our hearts to your love.

        May the love of the Lord Jesus

        draw you closer to himself and to one another.

        May the power of the Lord Jesus

        make you better able to serve him day by day.

        May the joy of the Lord Jesus

        ever fill your heart.

        And may the blessing of God  -  the Father, Son and Holy Spirit  -

         abide with you forever.  Amen.

 

Postlude:  The Maple Leaf Forever

Bible Readings for May 17

 

Reading from the Book of Acts:  Acts 17:22-31   (New International Version)

Paul speaks about an “unknown god”

Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens!  I see that in every way you are very religious.  For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god.  So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

 

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.  And neither is God served by human hands, as if God needed anything.  Rather, it is God alone who gives everyone life and breath and everything else.  From one couple, God made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and God marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.  God did this so that they would seek and then perhaps reach out for God and find, though God is not far from any one of us.  ‘For in God we live and move and have our being.’  As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are God’s children.’

 

“Therefore since we are God’s children, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill.  In the past, God overlooked such ignorance, but now the Lord commands all people everywhere to repent.  For the day has been set when God will judge the world with justice by the One who has been appointed.   The Lord has given proof of this to everyone by raising Jesus from the dead.”

 

Congregational Reading:  1 Peter 3:13-22. (New International Version)

The search for meaning in suffering

   

One:     Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?

All:       But even if we should suffer for what is right, we are blessed. “We do not fear what they fear; we are not                              frightened.”

One:    Revere Christ as Lord in your heart.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the              reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that                those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

All:       For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.  For Christ also suffered once for                    sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God.  Christ was put to death in the body but made alive in              the Spirit. 

One:    After being made alive, the Lord went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— to those who were                    disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.  In it only a                  few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—                not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God.

All:        It saves us by the resurrection of Christ Jesus, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with                           angels, authorities and powers all submitting.

 

Sung Response:      #635, verse 1

All the way my Saviour leads me; 

what have I to ask beside?

Can I doubt his tender mercy

who through life has been my guide?

Heavenly peace, divinest comfort,

here by faith in him to dwell,

for I know, whate'er befall me,

Jesus doeth all things well.

 

 

Gospel Reading:  John 14:15-21   (New International Version)

Jesus Promises the Advocate, the Holy Spirit

       “If you love me, keep my commands.  And I will ask the Father, and

        you will be given another advocate to help you and be with you

        forever—the Spirit of truth.  The world cannot accept this Spirit of

        truth, because it neither sees nor knows.  But you know, for the

        advocate lives with you, and is in you.  I will not leave you as

        orphans; I will come to you.  Before long, the world will not see me

        anymore, but you will see me.  Because I live, you also will live.  On

        that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me,

        and I am in you.  Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the

        one who loves me.  The one who loves me will be loved by my

        Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

 

 

Reading from the Book of Psalms:  Psalm 66:8-20. (from Voices United)

Hardship, deliverance, and God

       Bless our God, all peoples,

       and let the sound of praise be heard.

        God has preserved us among the living,

        and kept our feet from stumbling.

        For you, O God, have tested us;

        you have tried us as silver is tried.

        You led us into the desert,

        you laid a burden upon our back,

        you let sickness furrow our brow,

       we passed through fire and water;

       but you brought us out to a land of plenty.

       I will come to your house with burnt-offerings;

       I will pay you my vows,

       the vows which I made with my lips,

       and swore with my mouth when I was in trouble.

       I will offer fat beasts in sacrifice, a savoury offering of rams;

       I will prepare you an offering of bulls and goats.

       Come then and listen, all you that fear God,

       while I tell what God has done for me.

       I cried aloud to God; high praise was ready on my tongue.

       If I had cherished evil in my heart,

       God would not have heard me.

       But truly God has heard me,

       has given heed to the voice of my prayer.

       Blessed are you, O God,

       for you have not rejected my prayer,

        nor withdrawn from me your steadfast love.

Morning Prayer  for  May 17, 2020

 

Loving God, we thank you that, despite our separation from each other, we can come together in spirit and in heart to join in prayer.  We thank you we are one in faith, and hope, and promise and, in that promise, we are assured you hear the praying of the faithful. 

Loving God, we are your faithful people; hear our prayer.

 

We thank you for the promise that is ours in Christ that the hurts and hardships, the losses and the illnesses and failures that are ours in life are not inflicted by the Lord of Life as tests, but rather shared and understood and borne with us.  We thank you for the promise of the faith that this pandemic is not some deadly test inflicted by a jealous God, but a reality of life that God shares with us and bears with us and faces with us.  This is the sacrifice and promise of the One who lived with us as sacred Friend and Son, and wounded, Risen Saviour.  Gracious Saviour, help us know you near.  Guide us through the grief and worry of these days, and lead us into ways of life made new for the living sake of all our fellow beings, and your world. 

We pray in Jesus’ name.

 

And we pray for those who suffer most and have the most to lose: the ones whose lives are holding on by just a thread; who are so dependent on the goodwill and the integrity (so often fleeting) of the strong; who have so little say in the outcome of their lives.  Help us be support to them as Christ is such support and help to us.  “As you did it to one of the least of these,” we hear the Saviour say; and we would follow where the Christ-light leads.  

 

And on this Victoria Day weekend, help us all to honour the best ideals of what we have come to recognize as noble, and help us walk the ways of constancy and honour for your sake.   Gracious Saviour, hear our prayers: spoken ones and silent ones and ones just barely formed, and help us know your answer. 

Dear Lord, we pray for peace; and all in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Trinity United Church Thorold 

905-227-4644  /  tuc@vaxxine.ca