This worship service will go live on May 17, 2020 at 10am, and we will be happy to have you! Keep in mind that if you watch at that time, there will be a live chat on YouTube where you can greet your fellow worshippers! To get there, just click the title bar on the video itself, or the link directly below the video. But also feel free to watch from just here as well!
The worship bulletin can be found here. The sermon manuscript is also below the video.
I’m sure by now you’re familiar with our communion practice, but in case you aren’t, if you wish to participate please have a small something to eat and drink ready for that part of the service.
Thanks for watching!
Holy God, through your Spirit, our helper and advocate, open our hearts and minds that we be sparked with the word of life and share it with others as we seek to live in the world through the love of Christ, with whom we pray. Amen.
Well, it sounds like things are slowly starting to open up in our province, with the provision that we operate with the safety of everyone in mind. This means we still maintain social distance as much as possible and wear masks and gloves and stuff when necessary. This comes as a bit of a sigh of relief, as it signals that our efforts have paid off and that the end might be coming near.
However, on the flip side of this, there is still some lament and grief that we need to deal with. While we are looking at opening retail stores, hair salons, and office buildings, we are likely not going to be opening churches for worship any time soon. Why not? Well, it turns out that church worship services (those meeting in person, that is) makes for some easy communication of diseases. With the gathering in a relatively confined space for an hour or so, with all the singing and projecting breath outwards and inhaling it deeply, with the sharing of a limited number of bathroom facilities, it is just really hard to be able to conduct our regular church life safely. So it’s been recommended by experts, the media, and my colleagues that we take our time when it comes to meeting together, that we shouldn’t rush it, and we need to somehow quell that sense of urgency some of us feel to just get back into this space again.
And it’s tough.
It’s tough because I miss being in the same room as you all. It’s tough because I miss hearing you singing together in worship, even when it’s those awkward Sundays when barely anyone is here and those who are, aren’t the greatest singers and we sound awful. It’s tough because I can’t hear you all laughing, whether it is with me or at me, and I can’t feed off the energy that you put out when we are physically together. It’s just tough.
So I guess, it almost feels like our isolation period gets extended. It feels almost like we’re being punished and kept away from something that could be very life giving for us. It feels just like we’ve been abandoned, left alone to fend for ourselves without anyone on our side.
Strangely enough, Jesus’ words to his disciples that we read of today seem to have known that this was going to happen. “I will not leave you orphaned,” Jesus says as he continues in his way of preparing them for his death by saying goodbye “I am coming to you.”
This probably sounded great to the disciples at the time, that while they probably didn’t even understand what Jesus was saying or talking about, Jesus saying that he won’t leave them orphaned would be very comforting and reassuring that he will never abandon them as that is a fear that many of us have constantly in the back of our minds. Hearing this for the first time outside of the context of his arrest and death would sound awesome because I, at least, would take it to mean that Jesus will never leave us and will always protect us. Knowing that Jesus is making this promise would be so calming as it sounds like he’s saying that things won’t ever change and will always stay the same.
Well, how did that work out for them disciples?
Not long after this, Jesus is taken away by the authorities, put on some mockery of a trial, and is hung on a cross for doing not much more than radically loving people and bringing hope to where there seemed to be none. Talk about being orphaned. Talk about being abandoned. Talk about things changing.
Jesus wasn’t lying though, he wasn’t about to leave them orphaned. Jesus isn’t about to leave us orphaned. Rather, Jesus sends to them and us the Spirit, the Advocate, one to help us in our times of need, our times of abandonment, our times of uncomfortable and disheartening change.
This comes to us at a perfect time, as I recently learned that we are entering what is called the “third quarter of isolation”. This is something that happens to sailors serving long terms on a submarine, astronauts serving a long mission in space, or apparently Willem Defoe and Robert Pattinson in the movie “The Lighthouse”, which is used by the author of this article to get me to click on it and read it. It is a phase in times of extreme isolation when moods become cranky and tension becomes high and the feeling of loneliness supersedes everything else. It comes after the first two phases of isolation, first of confusion and rejection of what is happening and then a honeymoon stage where things are seen as “not so bad”. But then we enter into this third phase in which we can see and almost taste the ending, but we aren’t quite there and we are frankly kind of tired of it all.
So in this third quarter of isolation, Jesus tells us that he won’t leave us orphaned. In this time in which change feels greater than ever, Jesus says he sends us an Advocate and helper. In our feelings of abandonment and loneliness, Jesus can be seen all around us through the Spirit and in all things good and pure, even when we don’t know or expect it.
The article also mentions that while this third quarter is really difficult, many of those who have gone through it want to go through it again. Weird, I know. But they found that this period, while difficult, is also a time of growth, self-discovery, and learning to appreciate life in a different way. Now, I’m not saying that we should all do this again in a couple years, but I’m saying that there is hope to found in this quarantine that we might emerge better people. There is a peace in knowing that we aren’t alone in what we’re feeling and that we are supported by each other and those around us with love and grace. There is Jesus to be found in all of this, present in the Spirit, with us through this situation, and reminding us that there is good even in this, that as we learn and grow and remain connected to our community, we might appreciate life, love, and all that God has done and continues to do around us in our homes, our cities, and even in our scarce interactions with people online or behind a mask or plastic shield. For in our quarantine we are not abandoned, in our loneliness we are still loved, and in our isolation we are not left orphaned.
This week our photo challenge was to show us how you attend the these worship services at home, like where you sit, what you watch on, or what is around you at the time. The point of this was to see how we are able to see God even in our homes, how we encounter Jesus through the means of technology, how we interact with the Spirit when we are quarantined, and I hope we will catch a glimpse of how we worship collectively but also apart. Here are the submissions:
As we near the end of this Easter season but continue living our Easter lives, may we continually see God among us through Jesus by the Spirit, not leaving us orphaned but present, loving us, caring for us, and granting us peace. Thanks be to God. Amen.