Worship Service for the 5th Sunday in Lent

Hi everyone,

So we’re still in full pandemic mode, so our worship services are still online. I thank you all for your patience with me as I still figure out the best way of doing this, and dealing with the bad soundproofing of our sanctuary (I eliminated the buzz from last week, but this week it was torrential rain and cars driving by in said torrential rain). But I’m glad you are still joining us!

The worship bulletin can be found here.

We’ll be having communion again in this service, so please if you read this before we start, have a small something to eat and drink ready for that portion of the service (and if you read this after we start, I’m sure you can find a time when you can go and get that ready during the service).

And as usual, the manuscript for the sermon is found below the video.

There has been talk about our offering during this time we are physically apart. You may have received a letter from our executive board already, but in case you didn’t, I have two links to share with you. The first is our Canadahelps profile (which is set up automatically, but we can get more involved with them if it works), which can be found here. This is easiest because if you set up a profile with them, you can easily give to a multitude of different charities with a couple of clicks. They do however charge a small fee for every donation you give.

The other is through our national church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. They’ve set up a secure online giving form, and will be giving all congregations 100% of the money donated to them (in other words, the service is free for us). That can be found here. You do have to fill it out every time, and for us to receive the donation, you have enter our name and address in the “personal message” box. Our address is:
Grace Lutheran Church
7283 Nelson Ave.
Burnaby, BC
V5J 4C2

We appreciate your support!

And without further ado, here is our worship service (that goes live on Sunday, March 29 at 10am):

If the video isn’t showing up, please click here.

Ezekiel 37:1-14
Psalm 130
Romans 8:6-11
John 11:1-45

O Lord, we wait upon you and in your Word we trust.  By the power of your Spirit may our hearts and minds be set on our source of life and peace: Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

So it seems with every passing week, we are getting one week closer to a total lockdown.  And this is tough, especially for those of us who are considered extroverts, who draw energy from being around people.  For them, total lockdown sounds awful.  Introverts, on the other hand, might have a different feeling about it all.  Introverts are those who draw energy from being by themselves, so there have been jokes floating around about how introverts are actually looking forward to a total lockdown.  The problem there is that when that introvert has 3 young kids and a really immature spouse, lockdown isn’t all that appealing. 

But I think if we’re really honest with ourselves, none of us are actually looking forward to it.  No one really wants to be completely alone in full quarantine.  I’m sure all of you watching this just can’t wait for all this to be over and be able to see each other in person again, or at very least so I’ll have something different to talk about in my sermons.

The thing is, we are created to be relational beings.  We are outfitted to be in community and communication with others.  There is a reason why we pray every week for, along with the sick and those who mourn, those who are lonely.  And it isn’t just because loneliness sucks, but because humans are just hardwired to want to be in the company of others.

Be it in a marriage relationship, a close friendship, being part of a club or community, or just being part of a family, we all want… no, need to be with others. 

So introvert or extravert, this looming lockdown is scary.  It reminds me of this movie I saw a while ago called “All Is Lost”.  The movie literally only has Robert Redford playing the sole character in the movie, who is this guy who has the worst run of luck while on his boat by himself somewhere out on the ocean.  The whole movie just follows him, how he tries to survive from mishap after mishap, and how he does it all alone.  I don’t think anything can capture that feeling of being alone like the vastness and drab landscape of the ocean.  And I think that was the point of this movie, to give us that sense of loneliness and how it can feel like utter hell and basically like death.

And now, more or less, we are facing another situation that might be like that for many of us.  Stuck home alone, without the permission to go out to see people, spend time with friends, or even go to church, and it might feel like we are dying inside.  Maybe the thought of only interacting with others online is so frightening that it feels like death.  Don’t get me wrong, I think it is important we follow the recommendations and guidelines set out by health officials in the midst of this pandemic.  We have to do what it takes in order to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and all those around us as more and more we’re seeing that it isn’t just the most vulnerable of us that are affected, but this virus can be deadly to even the young and healthy.

But I do think we need to find the hope in this situation.  We need to peel back the layers of the death and hell, and see where God is in the midst of it.  We need to be reminded that even in the face of this quarantine and loneliness, Jesus is with us, reaching out to us and calling us out of our tombs and giving us life.

And I know, this might sound really airy fairy at a time like this, almost like I threw it all together with very quickly and with little thought like I had to make sure I had enough time to record and edit this service or something.  It doesn’t sound like good news because it’s hard to live life when we are stuck at home.  I mean, that is exactly the opposite thing we do when someone tells us to get a life.  So it is hard to live any kind of life now in our own homes, where it is just us and maybe some family members and a couple of screens that lend a poor semblance of actual human interaction.

So we might feel that it’d be easier to just give up.  To just not bother.  To totally let ourselves go and fall deeper into that hole, this pit of loneliness, lifelessness, and perhaps even depression.  I admit that I found it harder and harder to wake up every morning day after day of this.  I found it harder to concentrate on the work I can do at home, the many video meetings that I’ve been attending, and just trying to keep up with this new normal for many of us.

Going back to the movie All Is Lost, I thought it was really interesting how they had this scene of Robert Redford shaving.  The guy already suffered a lot of unfortunate circumstances being in a crippled boat in the middle of the ocean, and he is literally standing like waist-deep in water, and he goes ahead and shaves.  It was a powerful scene.  Not because of his refined shaving technique, but because this scene shows that he has hope.  He has hope that he will be saved, hope that he will meet others again, hope that he will have life.  And even if he doesn’t, at least he looks good.

So that relates to what we might be going through now, that in these difficult times when our hope cannot be easily seen, it is important that we cling to that life that truly is life.  In times like these when our new normal is loneliness, our new sanity is insane, our new routine basically feels like death, it is important to hold onto the promises of God, that we are not alone, but in the company of God, the Spirit, and all the saints and each other, although even virtually.  In times like these when it seems like we can only interact with another human online or through other impersonal means, we mustn’t forget that Christ is with us, making the journey to reach us, stretching out the healing hand of God and calling us by name to come forth, and enter back into the realm of the living with the rest of our church, congregation, and community. 

So we can wake up as though we are going to live life.  We can dress and comb our hair and put ourselves together as though we are meeting all the people we would normally meet.  We can shave off our quarantine beards and be ready to live that life that truly is life, for we never know when Jesus might be on the outside of our tombs, lifting us up out of the depth of darkness, and breathes in us the life of the Spirit of joy, peace, and hope. 

I know, that is still easier said than done.  It is easier to just sleep in, eat a bag of chips for breakfast, and go full hermit mode.  So I encourage you to find where you can feel God’s presence with us in spite of quarantine.  I encourage you to find where you can see God’s love in the midst of loneliness.  I encourage you to find where you can see God breathing life even in the face of all this death, that even in our discouragement, we can lean on the joy and steadfast love of God.

As we approach the end of this very untraditional season of Lent, may we continue to see God in the midst of our scarcity, our uncertainty, and our loneliness, and trust that we are brought back into life.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

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