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.
Seventh Sunday of Easter
Scripture: Acts 10: 44-48,John 15: 9-17
Music: Draw the Circle Wide, My Love Colours Outside the Lines
As if this year has not been hard enough, I watch the news and see the situation in the Holy Land and my head hangs low and my heart is heavy for the people who live there. I’m recording this on Thursday and so by Sunday morning my mood and my message might be completely different.
I’ve come to realize it is when times are hardest that I need the Gospel the most; sometimes because it challenges me to find strength or alternatively vulnerability; sometimes because it challenges me to remember that which is most important.
In the Gospel today, Jesus doesn’t just tell us, he commands us to love one another. Nothing could be more important, more sacred and nothing could be harder at times. Loving those who are close to us, those who we hold dear, that is pretty easy – most all of the time. Conceptually, it is easy for me to love the stranger, especially someone I’ve never met and probably never will. I can understand that in my heart.
What is hard for me is to love the soldier who attacks the Al Aqsa Mosque and the people gathered in prayer; the one who fires stun grenades or tear gas, the one who beats and injures people in prayer. It is hard for me to love the person who fires a missile in retaliation. It is even harder for me to love the pilot who drops a bomb on a building in Gaza that kills a child. Then I ask myself how I can possibly love the person who ordered the soldiers to take these morally reprehensible actions?
“Love one another as I have loved you.” – that can be so hard.
How do we love someone in the face of the difficulties of everyday life? How do we do it when there is and will never be any real relationship? How do we do it when we are challenged personally by wounds that are deep and profound?
Friends, I have to admit that I have never faced some of the harsh realities that many of you have had to deal with. I’m a big, straight white male. That means I haven’t really had to face discrimination or racism or sexism or homophobia. I’ve never had to deal with extreme violence.
I’m amazed whenever I’ve spent time with those who have faced these issues and asked them how they have dealt with it their answers have been along the same lines, they relied on their faith and a power beyond themselves to keep going – the power of God. Underlying that is the knowledge that beyond anything else God loves them.
We are told to forgive and forget. That doesn’t happen easily especially in extreme cases. As aboriginal people have said to me and others about the role of the church in the evil of residential schools and the scoop of children taken away from their families, “I can never forget. All I can do is walk with you, one step at a time.”
So it is as we try to love one another, we need to walk together, one step at a time seeking reconciliation, peace with justice and the strength of God’s love as we try to get to know the other. You know what? Sometimes it comes and not always directly but often we gain new insights and hope as we continue to try our best to love one another by better understanding who they are.
Think of Peter for a moment, the one who Jesus asks to feed his sheep. An ordinary person and in those days that would have meant that he would have carried his biases and prejudices.
Then one day when he was preaching and I can’t be sure what he was thinking when he first looked out and saw there were Gentiles there. I suspect his reaction wasn’t warm and fuzzy. He would have been taught to see them as outsiders and not truly worthy of God’s love. Then these second class people began to speak in tongues and extol God. Suddenly Peter realized that these people, these outsiders who are not part of the chosen tribe are also beloved children of God and are meant to be part of the Christian community. It is as if the scales fell from his eyes and suddenly he realized that those who he and the others had considered not to be worthy were his sisters and brothers.
So often, we think of people as being the other and we tend to forget God calls us to see them as sisters and brothers.
The Gospel tells us Jesus welcomed outsiders; foreign men and women who asked for healing for their children, lepers who were clearly cast away and he told a story about a Samaritan that I suspect most of you know.
Friends, I want to share with you a letter that was sent to Karen Reynolds,
Thank you very much indeed also for facilitating the process of introducing the Philakahle video to your church leaders who have in turn shared with the entire congregation. We are encouraged that you are now able to meet face to face in your church meetings, but we are also grateful for the YouTube technology through which many of your congregation members were able to watch our video. We are encouraged by your partnership! As we were informed in the past that your church service around the 26th April focuses on Philakahle garden project, we were praying for you during this time too. We thank God that it was a success! Please do convey our heartfelt thanks again to your worship leaders. I did watch the video of the service in which they graciously shared our Philakahle video and I am sharing it with our board members. May the Lord keep on blessing the ministry of St Paul’s church. Thanks once more to you personally for being such a passionate ambassador for Philakahle among your people.
Please send our sincere thanks, our love and appreciation to all St Paul’s Family.
Our friend Phum wrote,
Dear Alicia and Steve
I am in tears as I am watching the St Paul’s Sunday Service YouTube video of both you Alicia and Steve interviewing. Thank you and thank you for standing for Christ the Lord and standing for what is true and good.
Thank you for the continuous support towards Philakahle. They are doing a great job indeed.
Thank you for demonstrating Christ’s Mandate and permanently assignment devoting ourselves in Social Responsibility. Thank you to Shirley for her loyalty and prayers.
Alicia you have articulated the truth and the heart of our context. Thank you, thank you. You guys are looking gorgeous and young.
Another letter from the United Codiac Refugee Committee,
Najah and her four daughters have finally arrived in Canada!! They arrived in Toronto on May 11th and will be in quarantine for 3 days, before they arrive in Moncton on Friday May 14th. They will go directly to their apartment where they will quarantine for 14 days. It is such a relief to have the family here finally. The United Codiac Refugee Committee (UCRC) would like to thank everyone who helped with furnishing the apartment, including games and puzzles to keep the family busy while in quarantine. Please keep the family in your prayers as they begin their transition to living in Moncton.
Loving one another, it may not be easy. Caring for others near and far, may seem challenging but sometimes it is what helps us move toward a deeper understand of the commandment that Jesus gave us to love one another.
As a community, I hope and pray we will continue to reach out in love, in solidarity and in partnership toward those both near and far. To try to know them as sisters and brothers and to understand the differences so in the end we can more fully embrace what Jesus says to us, “Love one another as I have loved you.”
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on us this day as we lift up our hearts and our prayers. Where we experience division, you bring healing. When we feel alone, you remind us of the love that surrounds us. When we feel unequal to the task, you encourage us to rest and to be restored in joy and in hope.
Today, we hear Jesus pray that we might know your love, and how the Holy Spirit surrounded and infused Christ’s earliest communities, we are renewed, even in these are trying times, in our dedication to each other. Strengthen us to be resilient and help us to not lose hope. For all our friends and family, for our town and city, neighbourhood and community of faith, we pray for courage and compassion.
At the end of this season of Easter, we call to mind the people who have been lifted into the light of your peace. For those whom we have loved dearly, and love still; for those we have loved, yet with whom we have had difficult relationships; and for those gone before us whom we do not know, but whose life and work and faith helped bring us to this moment; we pray, and we give our thanks.
We pray also for those who are ill, in body and in spirit, that they would be comforted. For those who still must attend to health issues in the midst of isolation, or who face the transition into care and other major life changes, we pray for patience. For those working to keep us safe at risk to themselves, we pray for safety. For those working from home, we pray for renewal. For those who face this time alone, we pray for connection with others. In all things, O God, help us to seek a balance of responsibility and mental health.
God of Love, we are a community which is gathered, upheld and sent by your Spirit – your presence within and among us. In the power of the Risen Christ may your Spirit descend as wisdom, blessing, inspiration, and trust in you through all things. We pray in the name of Jesus who became the Christ, and who taught us when we pray to say, Our Father…