You can join this week’s worship service by clicking here.
Thank you to Steve Spencer – and all those who participated in The Rising – 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 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.
Seventh Sunday of Easter
Scripture: Acts 1: 6-14
Music: Oh a Song Must Rise; The Rising; Soil of God, You and I
Musician: Steve Spencer
We have had some really great music in our services. Thanks to all of our musicians and even Bruce Springsteen.
So is today’s reading a story about Jesus’ ability to defy gravity or something else?
But before I get directly into that, I want us to think about everything the disciples had to deal with in a matter of a few days. Grief and heart break, as they witnessed their friend and teacher brutally executed. Fear must have quickly crept in not knowing if the religious and civil authorities might come for them next. Confusion as they heard the women who encountered him at the empty tomb, then a couple spoke of walking with him on the road to Emmaus. Then excitement as he started to appear wherever they gathered; the fish fry on the beach at the Sea of Galilee, in the upper room behind locked doors.
From gardens to large gatherings – he was with them. His message was always the same, Fear not for I am with you. Not even death can overwhelm the greatest power in all of the universe – the power of God’s love. Go forth and proclaim my message, for I go with you. Then we come to today’s story, a group, probably larger than a single family bubble, are quizzing him about that question that many of today’s preachers have made their fortunes on, “Are these the end times?”
I like to imagine the sound of the voice of Jesus at times. I imagine he probably sounded annoyed at first, “That doesn’t matter. What is important is that you go and proclaim my message of peace with justice, healing rooted in compassion, hope that overcomes darkness and love, God’s love, can overcome anything, even death! – So do not worry. Do not be afraid – for God will send the Spirit to be with you. So, go! Go to the world to spread the Good News. GO!!!!”
Then he hits the up button and up he goes. His followers are left standing there gawking, looking up into the sky. Standing there, trying to figure this out. Suddenly, he was gone – they didn’t even really get to say goodbye. Once again, they had to embrace a new normal.
A new normal; things have changed a lot for us over the last nine weeks. In the good old days not so long ago: corona was a Mexican beer; high winds were what closed the bridge to PEI; bubbles were something that kids would blow. We have new understandings of those things today, don’t we? Not only has language taken on new meanings, like those first followers of Jesus, we’ve gone through many emotions over a short time; fear, anxiety, frustration, impatience and even grief.
Over the past weeks, I’ve experienced a real sense of grief. There is much that I have missed – especially people dropping into the office. But, like the first followers, things have changed and I know I have to embrace a new normal and ask myself some hard questions. Have our priorities changed? Do we need to let go of things in our lives? In our church? Are there things we want to change, or that we should change, or that we need to change so we can focus on where Jesus is calling us?
Another hard part of this time is we’ve been out of our building for over two months – But we’ve continued to worship together. Andy and I have found it hard, especially when we’re looking into a screen rather than seeing and feeling your energy, or seeing some dozing off, we just see a screen. But, as I’ve looked at the statistics from You Tube, I know there are actually more people watching these services than we have on a typical Sunday morning.
Another thing I had never considered was in an article where a New Zealander said he preferred watching the video of church because he was an introvert and he didn’t have to worry about his toddler creating havoc. (By the way, if you have ever watched Andy and I cracking up and wondered what was going on, it is often because a young person has done something that we see as delightful. We don’t worry about it.) I also know there are people who use to be active and vital in the congregation who are watching this faithfully every week. We are connecting in a different way in this new reality. It may not work for me but it seems to work for others.
I am not suggesting we give up worshipping together live when it is safe to do so. I’m just wondering where God is calling us in this new normal.
As the disciples were looking up into the sky, a pair of angels appeared to them and said, “Why are you standing here? Things are different, there is a new normal. Jesus told you what to do, go and proclaim his message of peace with justice, healing rooted in compassion, hope that overcomes darkness and love, God’s love, can overcome anything, even death! Do not worry. Do not be afraid. For God is sending the Spirit to be with you. So, go! Go to the world to spread the Good News. GO!!!!”
That is the point of this story! It’s not about Jesus defying the laws of physics! It’s about spreading the Good News! So let’s figure out how where God is telling us to go and what we’re going to do as faithful disciples. For we are not alone. We live in God’s world. Thanks be to God!
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on us this day as we lift up our hearts and our prayers.
Today, as we recall the ascension of the Risen Christ, 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; 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.
Holy One, these are trying times. We cannot be together, yet we know we need each other, and cannot grow apart. By your Spirit, inspire us; help us in our dedication to each other, even as we live at a distance. 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.
We pray today 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, we pray for patience. For those who face the transition into care, or other major changes, we pray for courage.
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. As the Risen Christ rises, 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…