Worship Service for the 4th Sunday in Lent

Hello everyone!

Here is our second video recorded worship service for the 4th Sunday in Lent.

The worship bulletin can be found here.

This service will include communion. So before we start, please have something small ready to serve as the host for the meal. A piece of bread, cracker, or something else small and ordinary. And any drink would do. This is unusual, yes, but I believe that the central figure in the Eucharist is, was, and always will be Jesus. The symbols are different but the meaning is the same, and that is Jesus is with us however we are gathered, and unites us through food and drink and the very life that has been given to us.

Below the video is the manuscript of the sermon. The sound isn’t the best on the video (I’m working on it), so feel free to read along (or just read it later). Peace be with you all.

1 Samuel 16:1-13
Psalm 23
Ephesians 5:8-14
John 9:1-41

So here we are again, another week of pandemic social distancing, and another week of worshipping together through a screen of some sort.  A couple more weeks of this and I’m going to start feeling like a full-fledged youtuber, and maybe I’ll start selling some merchandise like t-shirts or action figures maybe even toilet paper.  I can call it, “Pastor Toilet Paper, Will Ya?”

I think it’s pretty clear that people, just as I clearly am, are going stir crazy.  What is trending now besides all the rumours and fake news around this health crisis, are videos and clips of what people are doing while in quarantine.  Some of these range from hilariously creative to depressingly cringey, but it’s like in this day and age of people who’d rather stay home and watch their screens, don’t know what to do with themselves anymore now that they’re forced to stay at home watch their screens.

But I get it.  Like I said I’m going a little stir crazy myself.  And I get to go to work!  But dealing with this change is still hard, as preaching to a camera isn’t all fun and games, it takes a long time to set up properly and even after a couple takes I’m pretty sure I’ve still messed up somewhere.  It’s like every fibre of my being is rejecting this change.  It’s saying no, this can’t be right, I need to follow my own patterns of normal and can’t deal with things being so different from what they were just a week and a half ago.  I’m not saying that I’m going to rebel and go out to the bars and stuff, which I can’t anyway because they’re all closed, but it’s just so depressing thinking about how much the world has changed and continues to change at such a rapid rate.

Because it’s hard on us when things change.  We don’t like it when things look different.  We are uncomfortable when our “normal” is no longer the norm.

Well, we aren’t the only ones.  We see in today’s gospel lesson that pretty much everyone around this blind man couldn’t handle him not being blind anymore.  There was fear, doubt, and even a little indignation around the situation.  People couldn’t believe what they were seeing, but not just because what they saw was unbelievable, but because of the emotion that suddenly rose up because of this new situation.  “You mean, he’s one of us now?” or “It was awkward enough when he couldn’t see us ignore him, but now we have to ignore him to his face?” or “so then does this mean he and/or his parent didn’t sin?”

And of course, the Pharisees were the worst of all, as they didn’t even care that this guy was miraculously healed, all they cared about was that someone apparently had the nerve to break the sacred God-given law and decided to do work on the Sabbath.  All they cared about was that someone was changing their normal of staunch piety and a sheer and utter fear and respect for mostly just themselves.  All they cared about was the inconvenience that this situation will place on them and their privilege. 

So they pushed back.  They double checked their footnotes and references, and made clear their correct theological beliefs.  They even name dropped Moses, the greatest prophet that ever lived, to up their authority and intimidation game.  No way this once-was-blind man would ever take away their thunder.

And the irony was that they are the ones who ended up being blind. 

In their pompous self-righteousness, they were blind to the joy in the healing that was right in front of them.  In their unchanging narrow-mindedness they were blind to the hope found in the welcoming community that was happening right in their midst.  In their arrogant and privileged thinking that told them that only what they thought was right could be right, they were blind to the peace of the Messiah, Jesus, the Saviour of the world, present, acting, and revealing God’s ground-breaking and all-encompassing love right before their eyes.

And if I did my job correctly as a preacher, you might be thinking as the Pharisees did to Jesus, “surely we aren’t blind, are we?” and to that I’d like to imagine that Jesus would reply, “don’t call me Shirley” and then immediately after, he’d tell us that our own blindness comes not as a punishment from God, but from our certainty that we know best, our selfishness that tells us we deserve only get the best, and our narrow-mindedness that says anything less than the best, is a felony.

I get that too, I myself am often certain that I know what I know, selfish in wanting what I want, and narrow minded in thinking my way is the only way.  And I know when I am caught up in my own certainty, selfishness and narrow-mindedness, I am blind to see where and how God is moving and acting in the world.  I am blind to see where and how God can be present in the midst of a pandemic and just a few days so far of social isolation.  I am blind to see how God can be praised even through this series of tubes called the internet, in this community of ours that isn’t even together in the same building, and even as we celebrate the Eucharist later, apart and separate and taking the host from a different loaf and a different bottle.

So I have a choice.  I can choose to see and not let my own blindness stand in the way of God acting.  I can choose to be open and not stop God from spitting in the dirt that I discard and use it as an ointment and antidote to change me and my perspective.  I can choose to be humbled, and not discount the many different ways in which God can be present in life even as we know it now, separated but together, apart but united, isolated but by God’s grace, still a community.

And in that, I see joy.  I see hope.  And I see peace.  Peace in that this pandemic won’t last forever and will one day end.  Hope in that we might emerge from it stronger and better and more caring and compassionate as a people and as a community.  Joy, in knowing that even in our blindness, God is present, God is active, and God resides in our midst with hands of healing and wholeness and words of inclusion and love.

I know things are tough now, but let’s have our eyes opened to the good out there, the extra time we have with our families, the reconnecting with each other online and other means, and the broadening of our horizons seeing how we can do church and live as children of God during such uncertain and unsure times.

As we continue through this unprecedented kind of Lent, may we continue to see God living in and around us, leading us to all joy, hope, and peace.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

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