Worship for January 17, 2021

You can join this week’s worship service by visiting here.    

Below, you’ll find Steve’s reflection and Andy’s prayers for this week.

You can find this week’s Children’s Time video here.      

Second Sunday After Epiphany
1 Samuel 3: 1-10
Music: How Then Shall I Live, I Have Called You by Your Name

Have you been dreaming more during the pandemic? There are lots of articles saying many of us have and our dreams have been changing because of Covid 19.

A lot of us are dreaming about the fears we are dealing with; like people refusing to wear masks. Stuff like insect swarms that represents the virus. My favourite was a story in the New York Times, of a woman who was home schooling her 10 year old who dreamt that the school contacted her to say it had been decided that his whole class would come to her home and she was supposed to teach all of them for however long the school remained closed. I have nothing to compare to that nightmare.

But there are dreams and there are dreams aren’t there? It feels like a dark time these days. Many of us have had those other kind of dreams delayed or broken this year.

In the reading today, we are told, “At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim, was lying down in his room in the temple; but the lamp of God had not yet gone out.” In other words, even though the word of the Lord was seldom heard and that visions and dreams were rare, there was hope that God’s voice would be heard.

A young boy, Samuel, was lying down in the temple when he heard a voice calling his name, “Samuel, Samuel.” I don’t know if it was a booming voice or a still, small voice that called to him. He immediately bounded out of bed and raced to see what Eli needed. That first time, if Eli was like most of us, he probably just wanted to go back to sleep and would have gently told Samuel to go back to bed.

A second time, Samuel heard his name and he went back to Eli. This time, if Eli was like me, he was probably a little less patient. But, the third time when Samuel ends up waking him, instead of screaming at him to go back to bed and leave him alone, Eli realizes that this might be something different. It might be a message from God. So Eli tells Samuel that if he hears it again that he should say, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”

In what was a dark time and in the dark of that night, God’s voice was heard.

I have no idea of how dark it will be when you hear this message. That is one of the drawbacks when we prepare a video message that will be posted a few days later. I realize much can change. I suspect the pandemic numbers will be worse, maybe not here, but across the rest of the country and world. There may be new violence in the US. I hope and pray that will not come to pass. Yes, I know in our own lives, things can suddenly go sideways. Yet, I also know that even if the time is darker and even though the word of God seems rare these days that God is still present and suddenly God’s presence can be revealed.

I don’t remember much from 1963, I was six. Even though I may not personally remember how difficult the situation was in the US for African American’s, I know that the situation was not good. There was the evil of segregation and blatant discrimination; the beatings and the lynchings, and the burden of systemic racism and the resultant abject poverty. There were even the voices of well meaning white clergy telling their peers in the African American community to be patient, even though slavery had ended a hundred years before. It was a dark time.

Still in that time, the voice of God came in a dream. If you are quiet and if you listen you may even hear Martin Luther King’s voice describing the vision he was given. If you close your eyes you might even be able to see Dr. King, standing in front of hundreds of thousands and proclaiming, “I have a dream.”

What a dream it was. A dream of black and white children holding hands, a dream of all people working together, praying together, struggling together, going to jail together, standing for freedom together, knowing that all will be free one day.

See, even in those dark times, when visions and dreams were rare, God’s voice broke through in a dream.

I want to recall for you the words of another great dreamer who also knows dark times, Desmond Tutu, “We all experience sadness, we all come at times to despair, and we all lose hope that the suffering in our lives and in the world will ever end. I want to share with you my faith and my understanding that this suffering can be transformed and redeemed. There is no such thing as a totally hopeless case. Our God is an expert at dealing with chaos, with brokenness, with all the worst that we can imagine. God created order out of disorder, cosmos out of chaos, and God can do so always, can do so now—in our personal lives and in our lives as nations, globally… Indeed, God is transforming the world now—through us—because God loves us.” (Desmond Tutu, God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time, p. vii)

Even in the dark night of apartheid, even in the dark time of segregation, these prophets, like Samuel before them, saw and proclaimed the light of God – recognizing that God is indeed an expert at transforming our lives and even the world through the power of love into a bright light for all to see.

In birth, in our baptism, we are given a name, the name that God calls us, whether it is Annie or Yvette, Naif or Samuel, or whatever; no matter how difficult or chaotic or dark the times, God invites us to join the dream: The dream of peace with justice for all, The dream of compassion and caring for all, The dream of dignity and joy for all, The dream that we will all be together, to break bread together and share God’s light and new life with one another.      

Our God invites us to dream, even in this time, to dream of what God desires for you, for those you love, for our community and for our world.

So, what dream is God offering to you?

For we are not alone. We live in God’s world. Thanks be to God!

Pastoral Prayers

Holy One, we pray that you would not be hidden from our sight.

We pray that your presence might be revealed to us, that the light of Epiphany, of illumination and peace, might shine in our midst.

Your Holy Spirit inspires us, O God, and calls us to share your loving presence with others. Let us be people who share Good News, who live with compassion.

God of Mercy, in this time of division and anxiety, we pray for courage.

Give us strength to be compassionate toward those with whom we do not agree.

Give us patience to see that your love perseveres in the midst of trial.

Soften our hearts, we pray, so that we might see your people as you see them –as your children, each one worthy of love.

Guide us to seek healing in our relationships, in our homes and workplaces,
in our church and our community, as we share your story of forgiveness and new life.

Loving God, light of the world, hope of ages, be with us and with those for whom we pray. May your mercy flow like a river for:
families without a healthy place to live…
people denied justice and dignity…
nations with great burdens of debt…
all those suffering from violence and fear…

Holy One, light of the world, shine your light in our darkness.

We pray this day for our friends and family…
for those who are ill in body or in spirit…
for those in hospital and care home…
for those who are struggling with grief…

We look for you, God of life, and we pray, with open eyes and hearts and lives, in the name of Jesus Christ, who taught us when we pray to say… Amen.