Worship Service for 4th Sunday after the Epiphany

Hi everyone,

Welcome to worship for this 4th Sunday after the Epiphany, landing on January 30th, 2022! We are glad that you made it here today!

The bulletin for this service can be found here. The bulletin will have the order, words, and responses of the worship liturgy, the hymn and page numbers out of the ELW, and the full sermon. The sermon is also on this page after the worship video and the words of the liturgy that you need to know as well as the hymn lyrics will be on your screen. But you can download the bulletin if that is what would be more comfortable for you.

For an enhanced worship experience online, you can have prepared in your space a lit candle for the duration of the service and put out at the closing hymn, and something small to eat and drink for communion. These are all optional, but intended to strengthen the connection you feel with Christ and the community at large.

May the love of God hold you and keep you and empower you for your life’s service!

If the video doesn’t work, please try clicking here.

God of love, Spirit of life, open our hearts and abide in us, that we might follow your calling for us to be your people in the world, loving you and neighbour in faith, through Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Undoubtedly you have heard of the “Freedom Convoy” that is going on right now, which is basically a protest organised by a group of truckers who feel like the vaccine mandate put on them is too much.  Regardless of how you feel about this or any protest, it is their right to do so and I hope that the situation remains peaceful and comes to a mutually satisfactory conclusion.

However, I don’t think that is what will happen.  Sure, it has been peaceful so far as I know at least, but I personally never believed that such protests like these ever really work.  They don’t incite the change that they want, they don’t accomplish their goals, they don’t have their demands met.  All that happens from my observation, is that innocent bystanders are inconvenienced, people on the opposing sides of the issue get angrier at each other, and unfortunately, violence seems to creep its ugly head in there somewhere.  There is no room for dialogue between the opposing sides, rather it becomes a test of wills to see who can hold off longer.  And even if one side gives in, there isn’t really a victory in that as it’s just a surrender.  It isn’t a change, it isn’t a shift in paradigm, it isn’t actually peace.

Don’t get me wrong, I do support the right to protest as I’ve mentioned before.  And there are many protests out there that are about things that I do feel need to be talked about.  What I’m questioning are the methods of protest, and what the true goals of the protest even are.  Like do the protestors actually want dialogue and change?  If so, I see them going at it in completely the wrong way.  Or do they just want to act out of their anger and indignation over whatever the situation they are protesting and mess things up with violence and hurt?  If that’s the case, then really, mission accomplished.

I get it though, people want to be heard.  Everyone does.  But also in many of these protests I see “being heard” only happens through violence and rioting.  So the protest is heard, alright, but the message that is given might not be the one as originally intended.  All that happens is a strengthening of the divide between us and them.  Nothing changes.  Again, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying people should stop protesting or they shouldn’t have the right to do so, I just think that we shouldn’t fool ourselves in thinking that these kinds of protests could actually do anything to change anyone’s mind.  In my opinion, such things only bring out more anger and hatred and probably frustration when things don’t get anywhere, which could then lead to that violence that ironically so many protests try to avoid.  It doesn’t always happen that way, but whenever you get a group of people together all hyped up, it becomes a real possibility.  It’s just part of the protest’s DNA.

Case in point, we see this in the protest that we read about in our gospel lesson today, where the people fighting for what they thought was best for Israel trying to throw Jesus, their new enemy, off a cliff. 

Well, maybe it wasn’t an offical registered protest that was organized on social media per se, but the idea was the same.  The people were protesting against what Jesus was teaching, and what they now find that he’s about.  And what that is about apparently is peace, grace, and love.  I know right, the horrors.  No wonder they want to throw him off a cliff.

Of course, the protestors would probably say that it’s more than that and that I’m not seeing the bigger picture and that I’m just listening to what the mainstream media is saying and not thinking critically for myself, I get that kind of deflection and justification all the time.  But when it really comes down to it, all Jesus actually said to them was that God’s love is bigger than just the small nation of Israel. 

Today’s text starts exactly where last week left off, with Jesus telling them that the scripture was fulfilled in their hearing.  The scripture of being called to preach good news and freedom, and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour, remember that?  People liked what they heard up to that point as today it sounds like they were impressed with Jesus’ wisdom and oratory skills.

I mean, what’s not to like?  Good news?  We can handle that.  Freedom?  You know we’d welcome it.  Year of the Lord’s favour?  Heck yes that sounds like it’ll be really beneficial for us.

But unfortunately Jesus wasn’t done.  He continued with how Elijah and Elisha, the great prophets of the Old Testament, were called also to the Gentiles to bring to them good news and God’s blessing, just as they were called to the Israelites.  And that is where the people lost it.  You mean to tell me that this passage out of Isaiah, the one about the good news, freedom, and the Lord’s favour wasn’t just for us?  You’re telling us that we aren’t special and God’s only people?  You said you’re here to preach good news and freedom, but that is more good news and freedom for the others, to us it is bad news and oppression.

Sheesh, no wonder they wanted to throw Jesus off a cliff.  He was changing everything, their way of thinking and seeing the world, their way of living as privileged people, their way of arranging the hierarchy within God’s love by putting themselves right on the top.   And above all, this Jesus has the audacity to suggest that we can love those who we otherwise would deem unlovable. 

But just as they were ready to toss Jesus overboard, in some hilarious way, Jesus just walks through the crowd and peaces on out of there.  I know, right?  It’s like, what?  But it’s to show us how even in the people’s raging anger, Jesus isn’t stopped.  In their protest against any change that doesn’t suit them, the message of Jesus walks away unscathed.   In their effort to silence Jesus to keep things status quo in terms of their privilege, the grace that Jesus preaches is extended even to them: those who don’t listen, those who don’t want to understand, those who will resist any kind of variation to their current narrative and would even fight against it.

See this grace extends even to them just as it extends even to us.  This grace extends to the Gentiles just as it does to the Israelites.  This grace extends to those we don’t like and agree with, just as it extends to those who they don’t like and agree with (i.e. us).  This grace covers all, whether we want it to or not.

And while that might seem unfair and uncomfortable and maybe a bit awkward because there are a few folks out there that we might not want to see forgiven, it is actually a gift in that serves as a reminder of how nothing is big enough to remove any of us from the love of God through the grace of Christ.

We’re reminded in our second reading for today, the “love chapter,” how this love is revealed by God, through us, and by the power of the Spirit.  While we often associate this with a married couple, it was written to describe the love we have for each other, our friends and family, our neighbours around the world.  Putting it that way, if we are in a place and are strengthened to give and receive this kind of love, well, it really changes things, doesn’t it?  Because honestly, we kind of like to hate people.

But if we were to remember how God’s grace covers us all, how God’s welcome into God’s kingdom is extended to us all, how God’s love reaches us all, then perhaps we can be motivated and empowered to love our neighbour like that as well.

So regardless how we feel about protests, whether specific ones or just in general, let’s look for the love that might be embedded in them or seen through them or in spite of them.  When we look at our neighbours that we don’t agree with or find a little pleasure in not liking, let’s try to see them through eyes of grace and God’s love.  When we hear about the broken world and the mess we find ourselves in, let’s try to understand that God continues to be in our midst and on both sides of that coin, that we might be able to see how God isn’t out to divide us, but to bring us together in peace and, you guessed it, love.

As we continue through this season after the Epiphany, may we see the grace of Christ covering us all, that our defenses against each other might come down a notch, enough to allow us to maybe, just maybe, love.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

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