You can join this week’s worship service by visiting here.
Below, you’ll find Steve’s reflection and prayers for this week.
You can find this week’s Children’s Time video here.
Fourth Sunday of Easter
Scripture: John 15: 1-12, The Vine and the Branches
Music: Called by Earth and Sky; Go, Make a Diff’rence
Jesus said, I am the vine you are the branches. I think Jesus wants us to recognize that truly we are all interconnected through him – no matter how distant or how different we are.
One of the ways that I am reminded of this teaching is through St. Paul’s relationship with the Philakahle Well Being in South Africa over the past 14 years. They are across the ocean and almost as deep in the southern hemisphere as we are in the north. So as we are coming into spring, they are into their fall and the harvest season. In many ways, their lives are about as different from ours as I can imagine.
I hope we will always remain connected with that other part of the vine in western South Africa; they are a visible and sure reminder that through Christ we are interconnected across the globe. And just as we pray for them, they pray for us.
One of the differences that we may not necessarily think of between people here and there is around food and our diets. We probably realize that we eat many different things but how we get our food is quite different. Most of us hop in our cars and drive to a Sobeys or Superstore. Meanwhile, they rely primarily on a local market. Also, many of the people there grow as much of their own food as possible.
It strikes me that last year when many locally turned their hand to gardening because of the pandemic, that we should have been in touch with them for advice about what would lead to a successful harvest for us.
Karen Reynolds contacted Philakahle a few months ago to see if they might be willing to prepare a brief video for us and they enthusiastically responded. So the people who are watching this service online or attending in person will actually hear from Joseph Dladla about the garden project and the amazing work they are doing.
One thing that impressed me is the way they try to ensure that the whole community is involved. One of the most important aspects is doing a community assessment to determine who has the greatest need. Often these are families that are led by their “Gogo”, their grandmother who are looking after children whose both parents have died as a result of HIV/AIDS.
The selected families are invited to a Garden and Nutrition Workshop where they learn;
– How to farm in God’s way, which they believe is through organic gardening,
– How to prepare nutritious meals from their garden,
– How to care for their gardens by ensuring the plants are well looked after in a very hot and dry part of the world.
The families are given heavy fencing material to keep the livestock and wild animals from eating their crops. They have many of the same critters as we do but they also have their own unique and special ones, like giraffe, that we would see as exotic.
Philakahle makes a special effort to involve children. Not only do they teach them about growing food but also how to earn income from their surplus produce so they can buy other necessities or to invest in other ways of producing food or income.
The video tells about someone who bought chicks so he would eventually have eggs for the family and be able to sell grown chickens. Some of the children use the surplus from food sales to buy craft supplies so they can make things to sell.
If you are able to watch the video you will see these things, but more important, you can hear the deep sense of appreciation in Joseph’s voice, he concludes by saying they are grateful for our partnership, “it empowers our people and brings us hope. We are thankful for our partnership and support.”
They do not see our contributions as charity but as a way that our part of the vine helps empower their community so that all may have a brighter future. The youth are not just growing food for this time; they are building skills and developing values that will serve them throughout their lives. Yes, we are offering support and it truly is an investment in their future and in the generations to come.
On a different but related note, one of the strange things that I keep on a bulletin board in my office was a gift to St. Paul’s from Phum, a woman from Philakahle who some of our people met at the Tatamagouche Center. The group she was with had been brought to Canada for a few weeks to study at the Coady Institute at St. FX in Antigonish. Later she came to Riverview to visit Shirley and Bob Childs and Alicia and Alonzo Leger.
At church on a beautiful summer day, I was told just before the service that Phum would really like to sing for our congregation. It was an unexpected and wonderful gift, she has a great voice.
Normally, if we have a guest musician we will compensate them but this was unexpected and I was unprepared. After the service, I grabbed my wallet and stuffed a $20 into an envelope. Usually, we would have given her more but that was all I had at the time. It was a small token of appreciation for someone I knew needed that $20 far more than I did.
A few days later, Shirley Childs brought me an envelope from Phum, in it was a “toonie”, a gift back to the church. $20 isn’t a lot of money to most of us but for her at that time it would have been a help. She knew it was a gift and yet she wanted to offer a portion, a tithe, back to us.
We often learn about generosity and caring from others as we are growing up. But sometimes, even when we are adults, even when we have taken courses in stewardship at a theological college; it is an unexpected person who teaches us more about generosity in a single act than all of the text books in the world.
On this day, I would invite you to offer a gift to our friends at the Philakahle Well Being Center. Last year, we cancelled our appeal for Philakahle. Normally, we would have a special coffee and conversation and invite you to make a donation, we would usually have envelopes in the bulletin but this year we can’t do those things. So, we invite you to make a special contribution in support of Philakahle. (Please just indicate on the envelope that it is a for Philakahle.)
As Jesus said, “I am the vine and you are the branches.” In that same passage he also says, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
So, let us reach out in love and generosity to our brothers and sisters and invest in our futures together.
Loving God, in this season you bring us the promise of resurrection, of renewed and new life. The creation is beginning to green in this part of the world, trees are budding, flowers are opening, peepers are peeping and there are even signs of grass greening. Meanwhile in South Africa, it is the season of harvest as their winter approaches.
Help us embrace this time and to recognize the beauty and wonder that surrounds us, in the creation and your people.
We give thanks for your generosity in all things and that you have shown us that by giving from our hearts we can be transformed as individuals and as a community of faith.
On this day, we give thanks especially that Jesus came to break down the barriers between us and to widen our understanding of being connected, for as Jesus taught us you are the vine and we are the branches, no matter if we live in Canada, South Africa, Israel or Palestine.
Today we especially remember our brothers and sisters at the Philakahle Well Being Center. Be with them, as they are with us. Bless them especially with a bountiful harvest this year and may they be spared from the worst of the pandemic in South Africa.
We give thanks that some justice has been rendered for George Floyd. May our nation recognize our problems with racist attitudes and systemic racism and may we use the verdict in Minnesota as a way to examine what we need to change so that justice may prevail for all people.
We pray for all who are in need;
For all who hunger and thirst,
For all in need of shelter,
For all who feel alone and abandoned,
We pray for those who live in the midst of violence,
For those who have lost hope or faith.
As we and all those around the globe continue to face uncertainty because of the pandemic, we ask that;
you give wisdom and insight to those working to fight the new variants,
energy and stamina to those administering the vaccines,
and compassion to those who are caring for people who have fallen ill or suffered other effects be they social or economic.
We pray too for all who are grieving, on this day we remember the family of Ron Davis and we pray for Fran and the rest of the family, we also remember to the family of Rev. Yvette Swan and we pray for Malcolm and the rest of the family. May they find strength and grace today and in the days to come.
We pray for all in need of healing,
For all who are carrying burdens that are too heavy for one alone.
Today we also give thanks for the marriage of Lee Anne Gibson and Shawn Ward this past week.
We ask these things through our brother Jesus, who teaches us to pray:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.