You can join this week’s worship service by visiting: https://youtu.be/1aXhxNjLuyE
Thank you to Brenda Barnes, Carolyn Dunlop, Don Fawcett Judy Kennedy, and Marcia Kilpatrick and Steve Spencer for sharing the gift of music with us this week.
Below, you’ll find Steve’s reflection and prayers for this week. 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.
Eighth Sunday After Pentecost
Scripture: Matthew 14: 13-21
Opening Hymn: How Great Thou Art. Words: Boberg 1895, Music: Hine 1949
Special Music: More Voices #194, Bread of Life, Feed My Soul: Stephen Spencer 2005
I know many of you appreciate these services. I know at least one person prefers watching on line because she gets up leisurely, has a coffee and sits in a comfortable chair. I also know, she can adjust the volume, fast forward or mute me if she wants too! She has developed a different routine to cope with this reality.
In spite of this example, the routines that helped to order our lives are in disarray these days. Even something as ordinary as going for groceries feels strange. Doing church this way is also very different.
I started taping in the sanctuary again because someone said how much he missed seeing the church. But, it is a very different experience for me in here. I look into the camera on the phone and I see myself with a slight time delay. I try not to focus beyond my phone because unlike some of the major league stadiums where there are silhouettes of people in the stands all I see are the empty pews. I miss you sitting in your regular spots. I realize, we are creatures of habit; we get comfortable doing certain things, going places at certain times, sitting in a regular place, most golfers have pre-shot routines to help them settle in and get comfortable. Then something changes and we try to adjust; but, in a world in chaos, routines seem even more meaningful and they are a source of stability.
For us, the breaking of bread is an important; because it was so important to Jesus. In the Gospel stories, he is often going to, sitting at, or coming from a meal. He loved to sit with others, to share food and drink, laughter and companionship, deep and meaningful discussions.
Today’s story takes place on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. It is a place I would love to take all of you. It is the north of Israel close to the borders with Lebanon and Syria in a somewhat lush and mountainous area. In many ways it is idyllic and because it is so lush and peaceful and pastoral. It is where I can best imagine Jesus.
I spent a few days there to get away from all of the conflict that I routinely witnessed on a daily basis. It was a welcome break from going to the crossing point in Bethlehem at 4 am to monitor human rights violations, or offering a protective presence to elementary school children from Israeli soldiers or recording the devastation of Palestinian property or visiting those who had been shot by Israeli snipers. The Galilee is a tourist area, there are wonderful restaurants and hotels. Probably, the best meal I had was at a resort owned by the Church of Scotland and I stayed in a small apartment they made available for human rights observers. I was able to refocus and change some of my routine. As I sat and looked at the Sea of Galilee I couldn’t help but think about this being where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount and how he helped the people refocus on what is important and how I wished people would accept his teachings:
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice: for they shall have their fill.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they that suffer persecution for the sake of justice, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus refocused people with his teaching and then in a very real sense he helped them change their routine. He invited them to sit and he shared the little food he had. The crowd opened their hearts and offered each other what they had. Many talked about his teaching and how those are the ways to truly follow God.
Perhaps, jolting them out of their routine allowed them to envision a new possibility.
Perhaps, being jolted out of our routines will help us also envision new possibilities.
There have been major upheavals for many:
Some are fearful of becoming ill or unsure of the future,
Some are trying to work, parent and teach.
Some are not sure about heading off to college or what to do next.
We’ve been shaken from our routines but we’ve started to develop new ways.
Instead of clamoring to go “back,” we can turn, and face into a future that is uncertain, but rife with possibilities to build a church that reflects the values that Jesus invites us to embrace in the Sermon on the Mount and the ideal that he modeled when he shared the bread and the fish, if we share, there is enough for all to eat and drink, that all are welcome at the table.
Our building may be locked but the God and the world beckons us longing for peace with for justice and hope rooted in compassion.
May this meal transform not the bread and juice but all of us to follow Jesus more closely.
May God be with us.
God is with us.
Let us open our hearts.
We open them to God and to one another.
Let us give thanks to God.
It is right and good to give our thanks and praise.
It is right and good that we give you our praise, Holy One,
– You made a covenant with Noah and placed the rainbow in the sky as a reminder of your promise.
– You lead Moses and the Miriam out of enslavement to liberation and into a land of abundance.
– You called forth the prophets, Isaiah and Jeremiah; Amos and Hosea to spread your word of peace, justice, hope and compassion.
Even though, the people turned away you remained faithful and sent Jesus:
Born in Bethlehem he became a refugee in Egypt.
Raised in Nazareth and baptized in the Jordan River.
He then went to the Galilee where he preached the Sermon on the Mount and shared a meal with thousands.
He journeyed along the Mediterranean coast, through Samaria and then he set his face to Jerusalem.
Through all of this:
He rejoiced with all who rejoiced and wept with all who wept.
He healed the broken and spoke your word of hope.
He worked wonders to reveal your glory and offered your peace to all.
For all you have done, we offer our praise and thanksgiving:
Holy, holy, holy God
Source of life and love!
Heaven and earth are full of your glory!
Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is the One who comes to bring your peace
with justice to earth.
On the last night with his friends,
Jesus took bread, the common food of
the people, he blessed and broke it,
and passing it said,
“Take and eat for this is my body, broken for you.
Whenever you do this, remember me.”
After supper he took a cup of wine, the
common drink of the people and
blessed it and passing it said,
“Drink this, all of you, this is the cup of the new
Covenant. Each time you do this, remember me.”
Remembering Jesus in this way,
we join with all across the ages
as we proclaim the mystery of faith:
Christ has died.
Christ has risen.
Christ will come again.
We offer our prayers for all those yearning for the good news and the promise of a new day:
We pray for all who are in sorrow or in pain….
All who are ill or alone and all affected by the pandemic…
All who live with fear, oppression or hunger…
All who live in places of war and terror…
All whom the world counts as last and least…
We pray for your church around the world…
We pray for the nations of our world as they strive for peace with justice….
We pray for the earth, and the fragile web of life we share…
We pray for the day when all can rejoice in your vision of a new heaven and a new earth
Send your Spirit upon us and these
gifts, that all who share in this meal
may be the body of Christ:
Through Christ, with Christ, and in
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
all glory is yours, God most holy,
now and forever.
Breaking of the Bread and Pouring of
Sharing the Bread and Cup.
Prayer after Communion.