We’re glad you could join in worship today! You can find the worship bulletin here and the sermon manuscript is found below the video.
We will be celebrating communion. If you wish to participate, please have a bit of food and drink ready for that part of the service. You may wish to light a candle as well, but that is up to you.
The video for worship will go live on May 31, 2020 at 10am (PST).
Almighty God, by the power of your Spirit, speak to us in the language of our hearts, that we might hear your voice with understanding and answer your call with confidence, through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.
Here we are apparently at the actual end of the Easter season. For some strange reason, I always thought Pentecost starts the new season but it is actually the end of Easter. Go figure. I’ve been doing this for like 11 years now and I yet again wonder how on earth I even graduated… as I’m sure many of you often wonder yourselves. Either case, we are on the cusp of a new season, and it just goes to show you that aside from Christmas and maybe the beginning of Easter, these church seasons mean pretty much nothing to any of us. And we even get the Christmas season wrong too!
I don’t blame any of you, though. I didn’t really know the church seasons myself growing up, and apparently not even that well as a pastor. Although I try to remind everyone basically every week of what season we’re in, that doesn’t mean we really understand what the season is about. We do for the regular seasons, I mean we know spring is when things start growing, summer is when our clothes start shrinking as well as our bodies as we learn different ways of sucking in our bellies. Fall is when school and the new TV season starts, and things go really brown. And winter is when we all collectively decide to not leave our homes whenever there is snow on the ground, at least us in the Lower Mainland, because those 3-4 days of snow are brutal.
Anyway, the church seasons are similar in that each one is somewhat unique and tells us something about ourselves and God. We start the year with Advent, or Christmas Jr., not quite Christmas but everyone treats it as such. Here we anticipate to coming of the Saviour. Then actual Christmas, where we celebrate the arrival of that Saviour. Following that is Epiphany and the time after Epiphany, when we learn more about this person Jesus and the love and grace he shows all people. Then Lent is a time of reflection, repentance, and preparation, which leads us to Easter. And of course Easter is the season that we are apparently still in, and we celebrate all that God has done in forgiving us, saving us, and welcoming us into God’s kingdom.
And so that leads us into the season that apparently starts next week, and that is the season after Pentecost, or Ordinary Time as it is sometimes called, and it is a time of application, where we, empowered by the Spirit, can take all the information that we’ve learned over the past half a year and use it in ministry, in service, and just in the community to which we are all called.
That’s what this season is for. The season coming up, that is. That is why it is like half of the year. That is why the colour for it is green, the colour of growth and expansion. It is the time that we take what has been given to us, what has been taught to us, what has been instilled in us as God’s children, and see where and how the Spirit just runs with it. And we go along for the ride.
And so we have been in this pandemic now spanning almost 3 seasons of the church. In the past 12 weeks of us trying to figure out how we can be a church still, all we could do really was to rely on God’s wisdom and guidance through it all, even when we’re still not sure where we’re doing. And it might feel worse now that we see some churches opening their doors again but then told maybe they shouldn’t have done that, we see stores opening up but we know our congregation can’t join their ranks in that, we hear about the different phases in our province and we wonder when will it be when we can finally meet in person to worship again.
That got me thinking about the timing of all of this pandemic stuff. It all started, for us at least, on March 15, the 3rd Sunday in Lent. How appropriate that right in the middle of the season in which we are called into reflection and repentance and many of the devout give up something near and dear to them for a spiritual discipline and fast, we are forced to give up the church and worship traditions that we’d known and practiced for years. And then as we moved into Easter, many people including myself thought it would be a great celebration to get back together in resurrection and new life of our worship together, but that didn’t happen. But, I still did see resurrection and new life, but it just wasn’t as many of us thought it would be. Funny though, the definition of resurrection and new life relies on there being a death first, an end, a “letting go” of what was. And new life does just that. It brings something new. See, resurrection isn’t a regurgitation of what was, but rather a reimagining of what could be.
Jesus’ resurrection didn’t bring him back exactly as he was, he wasn’t recognised, he wasn’t believed in, and he didn’t even stay in the flesh. Rather, it was a re-imagination of ministry, of community, and of kingdom living. And that is where I believe we are at the cusp of the “green” season. I believe we are being put in a position where we need to reimagine our church, our worship, our way of life. I believe we are put in a unique place in history, in that we are on the forefront of a revival in the church, a reimagining, a resurrection. But for that to happen, just as with Jesus, there has to be a death.
And in that death as we read today, Jesus had breathed on his disciples, on us, the Spirit.
The Spirit of new life. The Spirit of resurrection. The Spirit of peace.
I know, for many of us, this is intimidating stuff to reimagine the church. For many of us, the thought of moving out of our comfort zones of what always was raises our anxiety levels. For many of us, especially those of us who don’t even know the church calendar for crying out loud, this push into new ministry, this start into new service, this call into new action is just… well… terrifying.
And I don’t think we’d be the first ones to think that. In fact, I’m pretty sure every generation of the church, when faced with a leadership decision, felt afraid. I’m sure every single disciple and Christ-follower since the original disciples and Christ-followers felt unsure and uncertain of how they’ll do and how they’ll be able to do what they do. I’m sure every single person who has claimed the name of Christ has felt the ever-dreaded “why me” when it comes to looking at creative ways of being the church. I know I have, and I know I will again. And if I’m honest, I might be feeling that a bit right now.
But in that, we mustn’t forget that we have the Spirit. We have the Advocate. We have the Helper. We have the one sent to us by Jesus to act as Jesus with us, who in turn is the “God with us”. We are called to perhaps scary prospects, but we aren’t called to do it alone. We have God this Spirit, we have God our Saviour, and we have God the Sovereign with us, in us, and through us, empowering us to do what is faithful and good and true.
And in our fears and anxiety, we might find that we have been doing what we were called to do all along. For we are called to be people in the world, living in community and relationship and love. And that was the theme of this week’s photo challenge, in hopes that we be reminded of our community and relationships, and how we could perhaps see the peace of Christ in the midst of that as we move forward into the season of church growth and reimagining. Here are the submissions:
I hope these pictures of community and relationship has reminded you of your calling as God’s children, your position as joint-heirs with Christ, and you as recipients of the Spirit of God’s peace.
And now as we officially end the Easter season, may we continue to see God the Spirit move throughout all the seasons, calling us into faith, calling us into growth, calling us into reimagination. Thanks be to God. Amen.