Welcome to worship on this 6th Sunday after the Epiphany, which lands on February 13, 2022! It is a joy to have you here this day!
The worship bulletin for this service can be found here. The bulletin will include the order and words of the worship liturgy with your responses in bold, the hymn and page numbers out of the ELW, and the full sermon manuscript. The sermon is also included on this page after the video, and the words of worship will also be on your screen. But the bulletin is provided for those of you who would like to look ahead and follow along through this means.
If you would like to enhance your worship at home, you may have some elements in your space. You can have a lit candle for the duration of the service and extinguish it during the sending hymn. And you can have something small to eat and drink for communion, further instructions will be given during the service. These are all optional, but designed to help you in your worship.
May God’s extraordinary love and blessing fill you with joy and peace, this day and always!
O God, your Word is like water to the root of the tree, nourishing, strengthening, and giving life. May your Word flow into us that we might flourish in bearing the gospel fruit of healing and resurrection for a hungry and hurting world. In Christ we pray. Amen.
I have been so tired lately. It’s been a combination of work and little sleep, parenting and little sleep, and of course, staying up late watching Fast and Furious movies on Netflix which leads to little sleep. But even if all those factors were removed, I have a feeling that I’d still get little sleep. Because to be honest, lately this pandemic has been keeping me up at night. It’s like it’s really gotten to me.
I didn’t think it would at first, as I was actually excited to try new things by being online, tweaking and perfecting our worship videos, and learning how to be really good at selecting virtual backgrounds for all the video conferencing. I actually welcomed the forced time at home, saving money on car insurance and gas, and not having to worry about waking the kids early in the morning for school. But the weeks turned into months and is now turning into years. We have a better grasp on the virus but we aren’t really out of the woods yet in spite of what some people would want us to believe. And while the numbers were looking good, then bad, then really good, then really bad to the worst we’ve ever seen, there was still hope. It felt like we were looking at the end right in the eye.
But then this Freedom Convoy started, and it feels like we went backwards like 5-6 steps.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that they shouldn’t be allowed to protest as I mentioned a couple weeks ago, but I think we can all safely say that this has escalated to beyond a protest. And whatever side of the fence you sit on with this whole thing, know that everyone and I mean everyone, just wants this pandemic to be over. I mean if a naïve little punk like me who was actually excited at the beginning of this thing can now just be done with it all, then I think everyone else would be in way beyond just the same boat. They’re like in the boat and already sailed to their destination while I’m still just here raising the anchor.
The thing that has me about this Freedom Convoy though is how divisive it has gotten. Sure, other big sensationalized protests in the past have always been divisive, but this one just feels different. This one feels like there is more at stake. This one just hits a lot harder for me than any of the others before.
And I wish it didn’t. But it does. And I think I know why. Like I said earlier, we all want this to be over. We’re all tired. We’re all fed up. We’re all in pain and scared.
This is where it gets hard. It’s hard to admit our fear. Some of us might stick out our chests, beat it a couple times and be like, “I ain’t afraid of nothing! It’s everyone else who’s afraid” when maybe you’re afraid of change, afraid of losing even more control, or maybe just afraid of looking afraid. Or some of us might stick up our chin and say, “I’m not afraid, I’m just being cautious” when you might be afraid of not having done enough, haven’t saved enough people, or perhaps were the cause of someone else’s pain and suffering. Or, maybe yet, you admit to being afraid but just have no idea where it’s coming from or how to articulate it. But I do honestly believe that we are all afraid. Afraid of the future, afraid of the past no longer being the present, afraid of things not going as prescribed in our heads. And maybe afraid of that person over there that we completely despise possibly being right.
And in this collective and unadmitted fear is where the knee-jerk reaction of protecting our individual pride jumps into action and we start outsourcing the pain. “No, they’re the ones who are wrong, they’re the ones who are the problem, they’re the ones that need to be stopped.” So in our fear and now pride, our “fight or flight” instinct activates and we end up right where we are now, people polarized in what they believe in and leaving no room for any kind of dialogue whatsoever.
I get it though, why waste our time talking to them when we know they’re so stubborn that they’ll never open their eyes and change their mind, right? Well maybe that’s why we should to talk to them, you know, to have our eyes opened a bit, and to broaden our own horizons. Now, I’m not talking about just us vs them, right vs left, red vs blue here, I’m talking human to human, sibling to sibling, child of God to child of God. We need to put down our weapons, break down our walls, open our hearts and learn to listen.
Because in that, in that squashing rivalry between fellow humans, in that cultivating unlikely communities, in that opening ourselves to the other and perhaps even learning to love them is where we find resurrection.
I know, it’s not Easter yet, but today’s second reading gives us a lot about resurrection, and how pivotal it is in our faith. Resurrection is fundamental to who we are, our identity as God’s people, our place in this hurting, hurting world. See, resurrection happens when a broken body is healed. Resurrection is when even in death we can see life. Resurrection is found in forgiveness, mended relationships, and flourishing communities. Resurrection turns our woes into blessing. And resurrection is what my hope and prayer is for the situation that we are in.
But I don’t think it is something that we can force. It isn’t something that we can coerce into happening. And it certainly isn’t a manipulative tactic to get the other side to change their mind and join us. Rather, it is something within us that fundamentally shifts. Something that humbles us enough to be just a bit more open to the opposing side. Something that allows us to see God even in the other, the ones that we so very much despise, and recognise their need of grace is just as great as ours.
See we aren’t all so different, us and them, them and us. We all bleed the same, we all fear the same, and as we are reminded of every week during communion, we all eat and are nourished the same. And we all are blessed the same and face woes the same. None of us are completely good or bad, but we all have good and bad in us. None of us have all the answers, but we all have a wide range of opinions that come from our shared as well as our unique experiences. None of us can accurately predict the future so all we can do is learn to work together to do our best to not repeat the mistakes of the past.
I know this doesn’t sound easy and maybe not really pleasant for many of us. Maybe those fears of ours run so deep that we actually like hating those we hate. Maybe our tolerance threshold for those with whom we disagree wasn’t exactly high to begin with but it keeps going lower with every passing day. But I do believe that by God’s grace, we can find it within ourselves and each other the love that has been so freely shared with us and allow it to motivate us, strengthen us, and reform us in our faith and in our interactions with God’s people.
We aren’t called to be the same in every way. We aren’t called to hail the same ideologies and flags. We aren’t called to always agree. But we are called to love. Called to love mercy and act justly. Called to walk humbly with our gracious God. This God who leads and guides us into new heights of relationship and service, this Saviour that holds us with resurrecting grace and mercy, this Spirit that brings to us healing out of brokenness, love out of hate, blessing out of woe.
Then maybe, just maybe, we are able to move forward into the future, however the post-pandemic world might look like, living the life that truly is life, full of love, community, and resurrection, and being reformed to not be on this side or that side of history, but on the side of God’s peace, and joy, and goodwill to all.
As we continue on in this season after the Epiphany, the season of learning where we see Jesus in the world, may we recognise him not just by the blessing that leads to joy, but also in the woe that leads to resurrection. Thanks be to God. Amen.