You can join this week’s worship service by clicking here. Thank you to Terri Croft 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 and Andy’s 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.
Fifth Sunday of Easter
Scripture: 1 Peter 2: 4-10
Music: It’s a Song of Praise to the Maker; The Swan (Saint-Saens); Our Father
Musician: Terri Croft
I’m lucky, I’ve spent a lot of time in holy places where people go for pilgrimages; the Church of the Nativity and the Church of the Resurrection both are built from limestone and completed around 335AD.
Some churches, like those, can inspire a sense of awe, a connection to our sacred story. Others say something about who they are. St. Paul’s may not overwhelm you with a sense of God’s holiness. New lighting isn’t awe inspiring or even noticeable but it speaks volumes around what we believe about being good and faithful stewards in caring for God’s creation.
The author of Peter understood the importance of buildings. In large part because he knew the Temple in Jerusalem, the holiest of holies, had been sacked, destroyed, gutted and all that remained of Solomon’s glory was a wall.
So, he writes about what is truly important, what is foundational to our faith, our cornerstone, Jesus. And he calls us to become like “living stones”.
As I think about my faith journey, I realize I’ve encountered a number of living stones; people who have foundational in helping me to grow in faith.
Many of you know I grew up in a strong Roman Catholic family. A few of you know, I became an agnostic in high school and then an atheist in university.
Shortly after I started my first full time job, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. In 1981, chemo wasn’t pretty and diagnostic tools weren’t great. She was miserable for months. Then on a Friday, she was suddenly transferred from Grand Falls to Saint John for emergency surgery the next day – Saturday. I remember listening to the surgeon tell us they opened her up and saw that the cancer had spread and there was nothing more they could do. It was devastating.
On Sunday, I sat alone with Mum. There was a Gospel group singing down the hall. (Remember, I was an atheist.) I didn’t like their message so I got up and closed the door. Mum in her softest voice said to me, “I need to hear them.” She didn’t say she liked them, or that she was enjoying the music, she said she needed to hear them. My arrogance and anger were forced to take a back seat. I don’t remember what they were singing, I just remember her words, “I need to hear them.” Recognizing her life would soon be over she turned to God, a power beyond herself. In the days to come, God gave her strength and grace to face not just that moment but her mortality.
A couple of years later, I accepted a job in Grande Prairie. I don’t remember talking that decision over a lot with Sue; I was still pretty arrogant and a male chauvinist. Shortly after we arrived, she said she was going to church on Sunday. I remember being a little incredulous. She reminded me that her family had moved a lot and that one of the first things they did was to go to church. It was a place where they could connect with people and find a sense of community. I begrudgingly said I would go with her.
I was shocked by how warmly we were greeted at St. Paul’s. I recognized she was right, it was a place where we connected with others. I learned it was a community whose values were important. It was a community rooted in compassion and caring, one that valued all people, where peace with justice was proclaimed; a community where I learned how to see the face of Christ in others.
Then there was one of my profs at AST, Shelley Finson. I was warned about her by some of the other men. Shelley was no shrinking violet. At the start of my final year, I asked her why I should take her course in Feminist Theology. I expected a somewhat warm interaction. Instead, I got Shelley. She basically told me to make up my own mind about whether I could learn anything in the class. (Remember, I was (and still am) a little arrogant.) There, I learned the value of listening to the experience of others. About how the foundation of faith is more about asking questions rather than having answers. She especially helped me understand that God’s presence was often found in people’s struggles.
Many go on pilgrimages to Bethlehem and Jerusalem to see the sacred monuments and places. They are beautiful and awe inspiring stone churches. But they are just stones.
Peter talks about you and I as living stones.
Where I found Christ in my time there was not in the religious places but in the hearts and souls of the Living Stones. The people who try to live out, the way, the truth and the life;
the people who look at Jesus and see in his struggles their struggles. We are called to be Living Stones upon which the church is built. Living Stones who believe the truth of our story is built on the cornerstone, on Jesus. The one who tells us that God loves us and gives us others, so together we can learn and grow and see the glory of God reflected in knowing that we are not alone, we live in God’s world. Thanks be to God!
For our families, friends and loved ones
For relationships with which we struggle, and for those who challenge us
We pray for the Spirit’s gift of grace, trusting in God’s guiding presence.
For the sick, the lonely and those suffering loss
For those living with mental illness or struggling with addiction
We pray for the Spirit’s gift of compassion, and the courage to be a companion on the way.
For those who are unemployed or unsatisfied in their work
For those who feel pressure to live up to the expectations of others or feeling a sense of failure
We pray for the Spirit’s gift of hope, and the strength to offer true friendship.
For those who, even in this world and age of plenty, are hungry and thirsty
For those pushed to the margins and silenced by poverty and despair
We pray for the Spirit’s gift of mercy, and the faith to act on God’s promise for all.
For peacemakers and justice-seekers, and for the victims of war they strive to help
We pray for the Spirit’s gift of peace, and the resolve to advocate for justice.
For times when we struggle with our faith, longing to know your peace and presence
For the gift of being brought safely to this day, and all that the future may hold
We give thanks for your gifts, God of Spirit and of Grace
We thank you for our story of faith, the story which reflects all our hopes and concerns
The story of your love which is written on our hearts.
And for our mothers; for our aunts and sisters and cousins; for friends and cherished ones who been like mothers to us; for teachers who nurture our faith and hope and belief in ourselves; for foster mothers, step-mothers, adoptive mothers and spiritual mothers, we give you thanks, O God. We pray with those who have warm and close relationships with their children; we pray with those who feel heart ache, or distance from their children. And always, we give thanks for this family of faith which nurtures all our children with love and support.
Guide us as we share your love with your world.
Help us to choose ways which honour the dignity of your people.
Bless us as we go into this week.
We ask it in the name of Jesus, the Risen Christ. Amen.