You can join this week’s worship service by clicking here. Thank you to Mary Parlee 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 Andy’s reflection and Steve’s pastoral 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.
Sixth Sunday of Easter
Scripture: John 14: 15-21
Music: This is the Day; Holy Spirit, Come Into Our Lives;
Canada’s National Fiddle Day Two-Step
Musician: Mary Parlee
They call it “the reveal”. There’s a home renovation show I like to watch featuring Mike Holmes, a Canadian builder and contractor, whose catch phrase is, “If you’re going to do it, do it right.” For many seasons, Holmes has been tackling poor renovation jobs that plague home owners, correcting the mistakes other contractors have made. There are two moments that occur in every episode which are really satisfying. The first moment is when the bad renovation work is torn down, the space gutted and made a blank canvas again in order to rebuild.
The second moment is what they call “the reveal”, when the home owners are brought into their newly renovated and repaired home for the first time. It’s a dramatic moment, because they now see their living space in the way they had envisioned, the way they had hoped it would be the first time. Many home owners become emotional, even, with the relief they feel at their home finally being “made right” by Holmes.
These moments, of something great being prepared in secret, and then revealed, are not only moments of external change – walls, floors and paint – but of internal change. Something shifts in the lives of those to whom a new perspective is revealed.
To an extent, revelation in scripture operates the same way. The gift of new life was revealed to Mary by a divine messenger; Jesus’ divine nature was revealed to the disciples on the mountain; the resurrection was revealed to the earliest followers at the empty tomb. In each, the work of God was hidden from view for a time and then – suddenly, wondrously, joyfully – revealed.
In order for a “new thing” to be revealed, however, the things that were and are must pass. In today’s story, the Risen Christ speaks with his followers for the last time, telling them that, “In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me…”. The new reality being revealed is not – for the disciples, at least – being prepared in secret; yet, it’s still surprising, and not necessarily welcome. We are almost always more comfortable with the way things are, which is certain, than with the future, which is uncertain.
The disciples must have had questions about why and how and what the future would look like. Preempting their distress, Jesus tells them that he is “in” them, and they are “in him.” That is, they will not see his face, his body, the person they identify as Jesus; but they will see his compassion, his courage and his love in themselves and in others. Jesus calls this the Spirit of Truth; the Advocate; the Comforter.
What is being revealed, then, isn’t of a new thing per se, but of a new perspective. It’s a “re-revealing” of what has always been true: that in God we live and move and have our being.
In describing the phenomenon of nostalgia, or of longing for the past, the poet David Whyte writes that, “Nostalgia is not an immersion in the past, (but) the first annunciation that the past as we know it is coming to an end.”
I’ve been struck by the number of reflections online which have described what we long for in just this way. So many of us are feeling uncertain about the future, but also learning that the way things were wasn’t good enough. Living in the time of COVID-19 has been a kind of revelation: a truth hidden from our view at times, now made manifest in our lives. The problems we knew we had as a society have been exposed, just as surely the challenges we faced as individuals and in relationship have been exposed, as well.
Our failure to address homelessness and poverty were laid bare as we faced quarantine during the winter: what would become of those who had nowhere to self-isolate? The fractures in our relationships were revealed as we were forced to be with some people all the time and not be with so many others. Our relationship to our work, and the lifestyle it creates, has been tested as some of us work from home and others of us continue to risk our health to keep working.
What is being revealed isn’t new, exactly; it’s not a special knowledge that had been hidden from us before, now suddenly and uniquely available. What is being revealed is what we already knew, but hadn’t taken the time to address properly or fully.
Julian of Norwich was a 14th century Christian who wrote Revelations of Divine Love, the oldest existing text written by a woman. In it, she talks about revelations of God not as answers to prayers or novel answers to long-held questions, but as invitations to deeper exploration. To have something revealed to us, then, is not like receiving special knowledge or a solution to a problem, but is more like beginning a journey. Revelation is both the invitation to reflection and the experience of self-discovery and growth.
As a result, for Julian prayer is not a request for something around us to change, but for something within us to change. Perhaps this is why prayer was so important to her. Prayer helps us to still the busyness in our brains, in order to see more keenly how God is present in our lives. So that, rather than projecting our fears onto God and demanding a heavenly intervention – we pray for the courage and compassion, the patience and insight, to align ourselves with God’s intention for us and for creation.
This is what we do in our prayers each week for God’s people and God’s world, when we ask not that God will solve the challenges we face – poverty, homelessness, violence, illness, grief – but that God will give us the strength to think and speak and act in ways that will help us to help others. In this way, we believe not that prayer is magical, but that it helps us to align our lives as they are with the lives we want to live: as people, as communities, and as the world. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Holy One, you invite us to be your people, to be a community of faith. Yet, in these days, everything seems unsettled, and strange – for we are in a time of flux. A time when even our old relationships and old ways of being community can no longer be as they once were. We wonder about what it means now to be a community and a community of faith. In these days, we need your guidance and your grace.
Be with us as we try to figure out what it means to bubble and sort out who is in and who is out in our lives, what will this time mean for us as a your people, how will we come to grips with this new reality.
Loving God, you know we long to be together with others. We long for what once was and yet we know that is not wise or even safe for ourselves – for those we know, for those we love to be all together. Calm us.
In this time of anxiety and turmoil, of change and of isolation, many of us face hard choices. Choices some of us do not want to or cannot make. Be with us as we struggle. Grant us the courage we need to open our eyes and envision a new way forward.
We remember, in the Upper Room, when the disciples were gathered with Jesus, that they did not fully understand or comprehend what he was saying to them for they could not yet see or understand the time they were in and all that was about to happen. They too had to learn to see a new way; a way that has lead to today, when we gather in this new and somewhat strange way.
Holy One, Bless us with wisdom, compassion and insight, as we struggle in this time. Give us patience to know that not everything is clear, that we will stumble but that through this as through all things you will be with us and help us to see in a new way.
We pray for ourselves, our families, our community: help soothe our anxieties and calm our fears, help us to discern how best to care for ourselves and others, help us to breathe and slow down our racing minds, help us to open our hearts to your deep love for us, help us know what we need to see in a new way.
In this time, we know there are many who are taking risks and doing things in new ways to help care for us and others and we pray for them. For those making calls and checking on neighbours, for those doing the best they can to brighten the day, we give you our thanks.
We pray for all whose world has been turned upside down; for those who have lost work, for those who are sick, and those who are grieving, we pray, for all who are affected in any way by the pandemic all around the world… For all people we pray, for safety, for health, for wholeness.
In spite of the pandemic, in spite of the fear and sense of loss, help us, O God, that we might see each other and your world more clearly and closer to the way you see each of us; as your beloved children, as your beloved creation. And together we pray in the words Jesus taught us, Our Father…