You can join this week’s worship service by clicking here. Thank you to Laura, Allan and Evah Bordage for sharing the gift of music with us this week. There’s also a short video for children which you can watch by clicking here.
Below, you’ll find Steve’s reflection based on the scripture for this week, as well as Andy’s pastoral prayers and the poem used in the Benediction, Blessing for the Broken-hearted, by Jan Richardson. Our weekly e-newsletter will continue to keep you up-to-date on what’s happening at St. Paul’s. If you don’t currently receive that, and would like to, please contact us and we’ll happily add you to our mailing list.
In these exceptional times, please do stay in touch, with us and with each other. The peace of Christ be with you all.
Third Sunday of Easter
Scripture: Luke 24 (select verses)
Music: God Weeps; Spirit, Open My Heart; True Colors
Musicians: Laura, Allan and Evah Bordage
The Gospel sounds strangely like today. Two friends are fleeing Jerusalem, filled with fear and grief because they had just watched their friend Jesus be brutally murdered. They wondered, were they safe? Could they be the next target for the Roman or religious authorities? Maybe, they would be safer if they practiced physical distancing and got away from the others.
Today, we are filled with our own fears and grief. Some concerns are pretty mundane. Like, how bad do I look today? Then there are the more serious issues: I wonder when I cough or feel something different is it a symptom? Some are worried about their finances. What have the markets done? How bad is it? We worry about the effects on those whose medical treatments have been delayed and how social isolation will affect some people’s mental health and well-being.
I want to go back to that Gospel story, to the two followers of Jesus were joined by a stranger who wanted them to see what Jesus taught and modelled in a new way; about welcoming all, and restoring dignity & teaching resilience; about God’s mercy and especially God’s limitless love, and how he was always offering generosity and seeking to build a faith filled community. The stranger helped them to see Jesus in a new way.
Through the pandemic many have been responding by seeing new ways to follow the path of Jesus. People reaching out to neighbours and strangers alike, getting groceries and prescriptions, calling and checking in on others. There are those who have used their resources to offer additional financial support because they know others can’t. Compassion, support, generosity; these are ways we love our neighbours.
Through the pandemic we have watched our governments do the best they can. But, we have also come to see in a new way some of the gaping holes in our social safety net. Some provinces have broken down and called in the military to care for our elderly who helped build this country. We’ve learned shelters aren’t what homeless people need. They need places where they can live with dignity.
I worry that we will emerge from this “Great Pause” and we will be pressured into reverting to our old ways without considering what we’ve seen that needs changed. I’m glad to see some have started talking about seeking solutions and new alternatives. I’m especially glad the Senate is talking about a Guaranteed Basic Income. There is hope.
Then there are the tragic events in Nova Scotia. I know the grief and pain that many of us are feeling; some of us know someone who was killed. In the Maritimes, there is not six degrees of separation but only one or two, we are closely connected. There are no words to describe the devastation. . We wonder how something so horrific could happen? But, there is no rational explanation for this event because it is rooted in evil. We feel dumbfounded and overwhelmed, So, we often use the words, “They are in our thoughts and prayers”. . .
Friends, thoughts and prayers may not be enough. They aren’t enough if all we do is utter the words and just move on. Prayer is sacred. Prayer is a way of seeing God’s desire for us and the world. God may tell us there may be little we can do directly, that we cannot change the world, that we cannot fix these problems but we can continue to hold those in need in prayer.
But, God may tell us we can accompany people who are grieving by listening to their anguish and sorrow and letting them talk without trying to solve the problem or offering advice. Or God may guide us toward being generous in some way. Or God may lead us to having a hard conversation with a child or grandchild or adult about what it means to love our neighbour and that violence is always unacceptable. Or God may push us toward engaging the harder question of what has changed in our society that would cause yet another affluent, privileged, straight, white male to perpetrate such violence?
Some are using the word “strong” at this time, Nova Scotia Strong, Moncton Strong. A beloved colleague, Robin Brown-Hewitt posted the following:
“What does Strong mean? I can say strong if strong means that as a whole community we agree to take a long hard look at the rot feeding violence in our culture… if strong means a declared intention to eradicate the stench of sexism, chauvinism, racism, injustice, poverty… if strong means armed with compassion and not guns… if strong means we all realize our community is only as strong as its most vulnerable member and we dedicate our energies to the well-being of all.”
I believe God has created us to have the strength to deal with these issues and that we are more capable of moral courage than many suggest.
Friends, these are not the best of times, but for many of us have seen worse. This is a time and opportunity for us to see anew what Jesus taught and to reflect on our relations with one another, and think critically about shaping the world so it more fully reflects the values of not just saying we love our neighbours but transforming ourselves and helping to make God’s world more neighbourly.
For we are not alone. We live in God’s world. Thanks be to God. Amen.
God of the Road, you walk with us in all things, no more so than in our sadness and grief. There are many for whom the tragedy in Nova Scotia this past week has taken family and friends. There are many more who are left to grieve, to confront a feeling of emptiness, unable to fathom why. For those who are suffering, we pray for your comfort and presence. Be near us, God of mercy and strength. May we cherish all life as sacred.
In times like these, we become more acutely aware of how much we depend on people whose names we don’t know. Doctors, nurses and researchers; police, fire and emergency services; grocery store workers and gas station attendants. In our thanksgiving, O God, we pray for those for whom to be first, or to be at the front of the line, means to be the first to answer the call to help at risk to themselves. May time not diminish the thanks we give for the sacrifice that others are making on our behalf. May memory not fail us when it is time for us to show our support them with our time, our taxes, and our attention to the vulnerability they meet with care.
God of Love, help us also to see that the pandemic we face is a condition of our life today, but is not life itself; that we are not defined by what afflicts us, but by how we respond; that a public health crisis has also given rise to public unity. Help us to continue to be people of action. Help us to take initiative in caring for each other, to connect with those whom we know and love, and with those whom we know are lonely still.
Self-giving God, in broken bread you reveal your invitation to hope. In a simple act of friendship, you reveal the pattern of our lives: beauty in simplicity, brokenness shared with friends, healing found with each other. Whatever brokenness we carry today, O God, we know that you have set the table for us to share it, with you and with each other. Help us to listen for your voice in the voice of others. Help us to see your will in the times to which we have been called. Help us to heal by turning to one another with courage, joy and love.
We pray these things in the words that Jesus taught those who follow his way, Our Father…
Blessing for the Broken-hearted (Jan Richardson)
Let us agree for now that we will not say the breaking makes us stronger or that it is better to have this pain than to have done without this love.
Let us promise we will not tell ourselves time will heal the wound, when every day our waking opens it anew.
Perhaps for now it can be enough to simply marvel at the mystery of how a heart so broken can go on beating,
as if it were made for precisely this— as if it knows the only cure for love is more of it, as if it sees the heart’s sole remedy for breaking is to love still,
as if it trusts that its own persistent pulse is the rhythm of a blessing we cannot begin to fathom but will save us nonetheless.