We Gather to Worship –   May 28, 2023


Hi Folks,


Cathy Howatt and Rev. Susan are attending the Annual Meeting of the Fundy St. Lawrence Dawning Waters Region of the United Church of Canada May 26-28  taking place at University of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown.

Next Sunday, June 4 – we will be celebrating Pentecost – wear red!

Baby items are needed at the Upper River Valley Hospital. Newborn sleepers and diapers, receiving blankets as well as personal items for moms – baby powder, soap, shampoo, combs. If you would like to make a donation, there is a hospital collection box in the foyer. Deadline for contributions is June 11th.Thank you.

Have a great week and enjoy this beautiful weather.



Acknowledgement of the Land 

As we gather here today on the traditional land of the Wabanski people, we  remember their stewardship of the land and their willingness to live in harmony with their  neighbours. We remember also the pain of stolen land, broken promises, and forgotten  treaties. 


As we gather here today, we remember also those who came to this land from around the  world, some seeking opportunity, some seeking safety and asylum, some brought against  their will. We celebrate all who came to make Canada their home, but we remember that all  were not given equal welcome or equal treatment in this land.  

Today on this Sunday when we celebrate Asian Heritage Month, we remember in particular  the story of Canadian Christians of Japanese heritage who have their own unique part in this  country’s history and in The United Church of Canada.  

Lighting of the Christ Candle

We light the Christ candle that reminds us of God’s presence in us, among us, and beyond us.

Introduction to the Hymn 

Our first hymn is a favourite of many Japanese Christians. “In Lonely Mountain Ways” was  written in 1903 by Japanese Christian educator Sugao Nishimura and seems particularly  appropriate as we speak about Japanese-Canadian Christians on “mountain paths” in the  interior of British Columbia. Although the melody is Western in origin, it has been adopted  as being truly fitting for a Japanese hymn.  


“In Lonely Mountain Ways” (Voices United 666)

Opening Prayer 

Creating and Loving God, today we thank you for the many different peoples of your world. 

Help us to live together with respect for all creation, including the human family.

Help us to  love one another and to honour the unique gifts of each person. 

Forgive us when we judge others by our own standards, forgetting that your ways are not our ways and that You love all people.

Forgive us when we prejudge those who are different from ourselves.

Teach us your ways of love and justice, that we might be the human family as you intended; that we might be bringers of your kin-dom. (silence)


Words of Assurance 

Let us hear these Words of Assurance.

In Christ we can be freed from the burdens  of prejudice and ignorance.

 In Christ we are a new creation. 

Thanks be to God! 


Listening for God’s Word 

Micah 6:1‒8 What God requires 

Listen to what the Lord says:

“Stand up, plead my case before the mountains;
    let the hills hear what you have to say.

“Hear, you mountains, the Lord’s accusation;
    listen, you everlasting foundations of the earth.
For the Lord has a case against his people;
    he is lodging a charge against Israel.

“My people, what have I done to you?
    How have I burdened you? Answer me.
I brought you up out of Egypt
    and redeemed you from the land of slavery.
I sent Moses to lead you,
    also Aaron and Miriam.
My people, remember
    what Balak king of Moab plotted
    and what Balaam son of Beor answered.
Remember your journey from Shittim to Gilgal,
    that you may know the righteous acts of the Lord.”

With what shall I come before the Lord
    and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
    with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
    with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
    the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly[a] with your God.



Acts 10:34‒43 All are acceptable to God 

34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

39 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”


Message: Our God Goes with Us 

During our message today, we will be singing parts of the hymn “Our God Goes with Us.” This hymn was written for the Centennial-Japanese United Church in Toronto on the  occasion of their move from their church building. In this hymn, the work of the Spirit is  depicted in Japanese-Canadian history and the ongoing story that led to the formation of  the Toronto Japanese United Church and its eventual amalgamation with the Centennial  United Church. The chorus affirms that no matter where we go and whatever the future  holds, we need not fear, for God goes with us and before us. Let us begin by singing the  chorus, first verse, and chorus of “Our God Goes with Us.” 



Chorus: Our God goes with us wherever we may roam, 

            Our God goes with us, makes each new place our home, 

            As God goes with us we live by faith, not fear, 

            Thanks be to God, ever ’fore us, ever near. 


1. The Spirit moved, blew boats across the sea, 

    Brooded in hearts that struggled to be free, 

    New life, new faith, new challenges to dare, 

    Through blood, sweat, toil, bitter tears, our God was there. (Chorus) 


The story of the Japanese-Canadian United Churches begins on the west coast of Canada.  

God was with the new immigrants as the Spirit “blew boats across the sea,” and they came  to a strange, new land starting in the latter part of the 19th century. God was with the  Methodist Church that took to heart our reading from Acts that tells us that all people are  acceptable to God and valued as God’s children. The Methodist Church, one of the  precursors of The United Church of Canada, established missions to the new Canadians in  the growing “Japantown” on the east side of Vancouver. A congregation was established at  the Powell Street Methodist Church, later called the Powell Street United Church.


Japanese Church – Jackson and Powell | Changing Vancouver

Japanese Methodist Church, United Church of Canada Archives (used with permission)


Many Japanese Canadians were receptive to the Christian message, and also grateful for the help with  lodgings, education, and other practical matters that the ministers and mission workers  provided. As the population grew, other Japanese-language churches were established in  the greater Vancouver area.  


However, as the community grew, it still faced many barriers based on race. People of  Japanese ancestry, whether born in Canada or not, were not given the right to vote or to  enter many professions. Schools were segregated for many years. Racist and opportunistic  politicians were more than willing to make Asians the scapegoat of economic or social  problems. The Second World War gave them the opportunity to rid themselves of what they  considered “The Japanese Problem.” 


Hymn: “Our God Goes with Us” (verse 2 and chorus) 

2. The Spirit wept as hatred’s flames were fanned, 

    As trains of tears streamed from the promised land, 

    In lonely mountain paths our God was found, 

    Faith, hope, and love making ghost towns holy ground.


Chorus: Our God goes with us wherever we may roam, 

            Our God goes with us, makes each new place our home, 

            As God goes with us we live by faith, not fear, 

            Thanks be to God, ever ’fore us, ever near. 


Soon after the declaration of war with Japan, an exclusion zone for Japanese-Canadians was  established from the coast to 100 miles inland. Their boats, cars, houses, businesses, and  properties were confiscated and never returned. Families gathered from outside the Vancouver area were housed in the squalid conditions of the animal stalls of the Pacific  National Exhibition grounds while awaiting transfer. Adult males were sent to work camps to  build roads, many of them in northern Ontario. Some opted to stay together as families and  work in the harsh conditions of sugar beet farms in the prairies, while the rest were to be  sent to hastily built internment camps and ghost towns. Taking only what possessions they  could carry, Japanese-Canadians were herded onto trains headed to the interior of British  Columbia. Encouraged by the United Church, there was some attempt to keep people of  similar religion and denomination together for the sake of cohesion and leadership within  the community. Some internment centres had a larger proportion of Buddhist and Anglican  church members, while others like Lemon Creek and Kaslo had a larger number of United  Church members and adherents. 


God was with them not only in spirit but also through the United Church presence in the  persons of ministers such as the Reverends Kosaburo Shimizu and Takashi Komiyama, and  mission workers such as Constance Chappell and Neta Sadler, who came to help in the  internment camps. Soon, thriving Japanese-Canadian churches were operating in camps  and ghost towns such as Lemon Creek and Kaslo. 


The people of the United Churches in these mountain camps and towns found their faith  tempered in the crucible of the wartime years. In the United Church they found safe, sacred  spaces and created loving communities that continued long after they were dispersed,  becoming the foundation of Japanese-Canadian United Churches in cities across Canada.  And so the mountains became a holy place, a place where faith grew and blossomed in spite  of, or perhaps in part due to, the troubled times the internees experienced. As the hymn  states,


In lonely mountain paths our God was found, 

Faith, hope and love making ghost towns holy ground. 


Hymn: “Our God Goes with Us” (verse 3 and chorus) 

3. The Spirit urged, go forth and start anew, 

    Rebuild my church, a sanctuary true, 

    Welcomed by friends, their paths entwined as one, 

    Stronger united with ev’ry rising sun.


Chorus: Our God goes with us wherever we may roam, 

            Our God goes with us, makes each new place our home, 

            As God goes with us we live by faith, not fear, 

            Thanks be to God, ever ’fore us, ever near. 


With the end of the war, the internees faced another unjust ultimatum: move east of the  Rockies or face deportation to Japan. The majority gravitated to larger centres like Toronto,  Montreal, Hamilton, and Winnipeg. As internees left the ghost towns and camps, United  Church deaconesses and ministers assisted them in finding housing, employment, and  church connections in new cities. In their new surroundings, Japanese-Canadians in general  sought to become as assimilated and integrated as possible. They did not try to establish  ethnic neighbourhoods, and most adopted more Anglo-Saxon sounding nicknames. As the  saying goes, “It’s the nail that sticks up that gets hit on the head.” 


It was the original intention that English-speaking Japanese-Canadians should assimilate  and attend their local United Churches; however, few felt comfortable doing so. As a result, English services and congregations were established for the second-generation Nisei and  their Sansei children, and these churches thrived through the baby boom years. They were places not only with extended family ties but also ties with friends who had become like family; warm and safe places to be a part of and grow in faith, where one could find loving  community and true sanctuary. 


Hymn: “Our God Goes with Us” (verse 4 and chorus) 

4. The Spirit leads; the future, still unknown,  

    Is not to fear, we trust in God alone, 

    Be with us still as we move on again, 

    Strengthen, inspire us, our Saviour and our Friend.


Chorus: Our God goes with us wherever we may roam, 

            Our God goes with us, makes each new place our home, 

            As God goes with us we live by faith, not fear, 

            Thanks be to God, ever ’fore us, ever near. 



As the number of Nisei and Sansei members decline, the future of the Japanese-Canadian  United churches is less clear. Some congregations have come up with innovative solutions.  Montreal Japanese United Church has now become a multiracial, multilingual, intercultural  church with members from many other cultural backgrounds joining the Japanese-Canadian  founders. The Toronto Japanese United Church (Nisei) amalgamated with its co-tenant  congregation, Centennial United Church, and later amalgamated with Oriole-York Mills to  form the new Bayview United Church. Such innovations are a hopeful sign that the work of  the Japanese-Canadian United Churches will be carried forward into the future. 


Although this hymn and message has focused on the history of Japanese-Canadian United  Churches, there is a message here that applies to everyone. Our God is always with us;  there is nowhere we can go where God is not present. God cannot be confined to any  particular building, or to one church or another; wherever we may go, God is there. 


Knowing that God goes with us gives us courage and strength in the midst of difficult times.  As the people of Israel escaped from Egypt, God went before them like a pillar of cloud by  day, like a pillar of fire by night. There is nowhere we can go that God has not already  been; the way has been prepared. Our God is ever before us, going ahead of us, ever near. 


Jesus said, “I will be with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). And so it is that  “the future, still unknown, Is not to fear, we trust in God alone.” 

Our God goes with us. Thanks be to God. 


Hymn: “Our God Goes with Us” (chorus) 

Chorus: Our God goes with us wherever we may roam, 

            Our God goes with us, makes each new place our home, 

            As God goes with us we live by faith, not fear, 

            Thanks be to God, ever ’fore us, ever near. 


David Kai is a retired diaconal minister and an active musician/composer; you can find him  on Facebook or www.sites.google.com/site/davidwkaismusic

© 2019 The United Church of Canada/L’Église Unie du Canada. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Non commercial Share Alike Licence. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc sa/2.5/ca. Any copy must include this notice. 


Your Generosity Matters


Activists and Two Spirit or LGBTQIA+ folks share their personal and collective struggles and gains.


The United Church of Canada affirms that gender and sexuality are gifts of God, and that all persons are made in the image of God. We welcome into full membership and ministry people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.


In February 2023, a consultation with Mission & Service partners in Asia provided a safe space for gender and sexual minorities to share their personal and collective struggles and gains. Scholars, theologians, and grassroots activists gathered to present theologies from the region, with a particular focus on the diverse and specific contexts, cultures, and challenges in Asia.


Through a series of panel presentations and in worship, participants heard stories from mass movements for social change, “revolutions toward gender justice,” and experiences of advocacy work.


Mission & Service partners included the National Councils of Churches in Korea, India, Japan, and the Philippines; Pembizo Christian Council; and All Africa Theological Education by Extension. Solidarity partners included Union Theological Seminary, Jakarta Theological Seminary, and Beyond the Boundary: Knowing and Concerns Intersex.


Your Mission & Service gifts allow programs like these to help people continue to flourish. Thank you for your generosity.

Prayers for the Family of God and Lord’s Prayer 

God, in your love,

 hear our prayer. 

Loving God, we give thanks for all that we have learned from you.

Help us to learn to love  as you have loved us.

Help us to grow beyond narrow views that regard the stranger as an  enemy and restrict the scope of your love.

Give us instead the embracing love of Jesus, who  lived and died that the whole world might be saved. Show us a new path—a path not divided by race or creed, but a path united by love, goodwill, and a concern for the good of 

God, in your love,

hear our prayer. 

And so we pray for peace in a world marred by violence, 

we pray for unity in a world divided by class, borders, race, and religion, we pray for hope in a world that often seems short on good news, 

we pray for comfort in a world that seems full of tears. 

God, in your love,

hear our prayer. 

Holy God, you have given us your peace—but not as the world gives have you given to us.

You have given us the peace of Christ that disturbs us; you have given us a Spirit of restlessness that stirs us from placidness; you have given us a vision of peace that turns us from shaking our heads and asking,  “Why?” and moves us to ask instead, “Why not?” 

Help us to move toward that vision. 

God, in your love,

hear our prayer.  

God, hear our prayers for those who suffer oppression and discrimination and for those whose lives are narrowed because they oppress and discriminate.

We pray for all who lack the necessities of life: not only food, clothing, and shelter but also  acceptance, respect, and dignity.

And God, hear our silent prayers for the many needs and  concerns that weigh heavily on our hearts. (silent prayer)  

God in your love,

Hear our prayer. 

This we pray to you, our Parent God, you who are as Our Mother and 

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, 

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. 

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. 

For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, 

Forever and ever. Amen. 



 “Wherever You May Go” (MV 216)  



We are different but we are connected as a family of God;

We go with God, who calls us to love and serve others.

We are to called to build our community;

We go with God who calls us to seek justice and resist evil.

We go into the world with respect in Creation;

We go into the world to celebrate God’s presence.  Amen.


 © 2019 The United Church of Canada/L’Église Unie du Canada. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Non commercial Share Alike Licence. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc sa/2.5/ca. Any copy must include this notice. 




May 21, 2023

Welcome to our worship service at Faith Memorial United Church on Ascension Sunday.

We are glad you joined us.

No doubt, some of you are opening up cottages this weekend or visiting loved ones.

The rain overnight was certainly welcomed.


Our flea market wrapped up with a total of approximately $3100. Thanks to all who pitched in over the week!

Please note that we are celebrating Pentecost a week later than the rest of the world—Please circle June 4 as the day to dig out your red clothes and wear them to worship!

Have a great week!


Let us pause to remember that in this region we live and work and worship on lands that are, by law, the unceded territories of the Wabanaki peoples—predominantly the lands of the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, Wolastoqiyik and Passamaquoddy. May we live with respect on this land, and live in peace and friendship with its people.


Through the gift of Christ’s love, we celebrate that we are not orphaned or abandoned, but accompanied this day and always.


We light this candle to remind us of Jesus in whose name we gather and from whom we receive strength and encouragement for our journeys.

Call to Worship:

We come to worship God,

to gather together as a community of faith, to glorify the God of all grace.

We come to devote ourselves to prayer,

to wait for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to show us next steps.

We come to remember Jesus’ prayer for us,

that we might be united and empowered to bear witness to his love in all the world.

Opening Prayer:

God of heaven and earth,

we celebrate the Christ who came to live among us.

We celebrate the Christ who would stop at nothing-

not even death- to proclaim your love for all people.

We celebrate the Christ who rose from death

to show us that there is no end to your love.

And, today, on this Ascension Sunday, we celebrate the Christ who,

in leaving this earth,

entrusted to us the task of continuing this work. Amen.

Hymn: 150 MV Spirit God, be our Breath 

Prayer of Confession

O God, like the disciples of long ago,

we confess that we have many questions too.

We can find ourselves staring at the sky,

wondering when you will return, when you will set things right on this earth.

We forget your call to us to live in the “now” by being your witnesses,

serving as your hands and feet, your voice in the world.

Help us to seek the wisdom of your Holy Spirit to empower us to do just that.

Show us your way, we pray. Amen.


Words of Affirmation

Even when we cannot see, touch or hear the presence of the divine among us,

we know we belong to God.

Just as God sent Jesus to walk with us long before the world was ready,

so, God forgives us even before we ask.

By grace, we are loved. By grace, we are forgiven.

Thanks be to God! Amen.


Readings and Reflection

Instructions for the Pivot Points

Cameron Tremble, who is both a clergyperson and a pilot, speaks in one of her blogs about pivot points. Over the course of our lives, each of us face pivot points that change everything suddenly in our lives. I think we might also call them hinge points. Like a door swinging open and shut, they suggest transition of some sort, or maybe a reorientation of our perspectives. Sometimes they call us to leave behind some former way of living as we embrace a whole new set of priorities. Sometimes these pivot points are met with joy. Other times they incite fear, uncertainty or bewilderment. Sometimes, we simply freeze and become immobilized, unsure of how to react, let alone move forward. Here are a few examples Cameron gives of such simple phrases, that when spoken, redefine our whole reality:
“We are engaged. ”
“It’s a girl.”
“You got the job.”
“I want a divorce.”
“It’s cancer.”
“I love you.”
“He’s gone.”
“I’m pregnant.”
“I quit.”
“I accept.”

How we respond to such pivot points in our lives serve to define us, strengthen us and change us. They also determine a lot about what happens next for us. We can look back on our lives and see such moments where our decisions set us on certain paths that determine the conditions for yet the next set of decisions. Some of our choices bring us regret and some great joy. All of them teach us.

They all signal transition. Something is about to shift. Or to borrow from an old R.E.M. song, they mark “the end of the world as we know it.” From now on, things will be different. Certainly, the global experience of Covid has been one such pivot point for us all.

It strikes me that both of our scriptures this morning give us examples of Jesus and the disciples experiencing pivot points in their lives. Our reading in Acts describes Jesus’ ascension. After having shown himself to the disciples in the 40 days after his resurrection, Jesus now prepares to leave them yet again. His ascension marks the end of the disciples’ earthly experience of Jesus and the beginning of the in-between times leading to his second coming. In essence, it is where we still are now. In this passage we find the disciples trying to figure all this out. They ask questions. And, like us in the midst of those pivot points in our lives, it is a time of high emotions. They are anxious and confused, unsure about their next steps. Despite all the time they had with Jesus and all that they had witnessed in what he said and did, we find them still not quite grasping that bigger picture. They are still wondering if this is when Jesus will restore Israel and wipe out all those Romans. As one commentator expressed it, we find them missing that “My Kingdom is not of this world memo.” Let’s listen as Jesus tries, once again, to explain that speculating on such things is not what is needed. Instead, he gives them instructions for what to do and how to live and then, move forward in this pivotal moment. Let’s observe what happens and listen to the next steps he gives them in this transition:

Acts 1:6-14:

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying: Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.


Jesus’ advice to them is prepare for life in a new way. Now that he is physically taken up from them, they are called to not waste their time on the “launch pad” looking up. Instead, they are redirected to look around at one another and to regroup as his followers back in Jerusalem, to pray together and to await the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. From there, they will be sent forth as witnesses of all they had seen and heard. In other words, responsibility will now rest with them to embody and communicate his realm outwards from Jerusalem to all the ends of the earth- to let his hands become their hands, his feet their feet and his voice, their voice. From this moment on, nothing will ever be the same again for them. We can only wonder what they must have been thinking and how they must have been reacting to such news.

I like what commentator Barbara Brown Taylor ponders about this. She writes, “If they had it their way, they would probably have tied Jesus down so that he could not have gotten away from them, so they would have known where to find him and rely on him forever. Only that is not what happened. He was taken away as they stood looking upward toward heaven. Then, she says, they stopped looking up toward heaven, looked at each other and got on with the business of being the church.” In time, as they looked around, at each other, at ordinary people in their ordinary lives, they discovered that that was most likely where they would find him. In essence, this is the message of Ascension- it is all about Jesus moving on so that the disciples, both then and now, can continue on.

It was their call to get on with it, to pick up where Jesus left off. To live with expectation of the Holy Spirit who will help us discern our next steps. This is exactly where we find ourselves as the church as we too anticipate the day of Pentecost, as we wait and seek to discern where the Spirit is calling us next. In the meantime, I am sure the instructions to us are similar- get on with it by living in these present times. Live your mission statement as people of Faith Memorial United Church- the one that says: To worship God through our lives

To love one another To serve all God’s creation

 Pray together. Worship together. Reach out together. Be advocates for justice. Minister to the sick. Work for the renewal of the church. Feed the hungry, clothe and shelter the needy. Study scripture together. Support policies that protect the vulnerable. Love. Carry the good news to all ends of the earth. Tell and share what you have experienced in Jesus. Continue where he left off. Don’t stop now. Take it from here.

I think this is exactly what Jesus wants the disciples to understand as they overhear his prayer for them on the night before he is crucified. It is very much a pivot point for them as Jesus expresses his hopes for them and his confidence in God to protect them, to hold them in unity and to embody God’s love through their witness. Let’s listen as if we too, are overhearing that same prayer for us:

John 17: 1-11

After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

“I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you, for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I have been glorified in them. 11 And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.


I like to think of this as Jesus saying, God, between you and me, we’ve got this for the disciples and all who come after me. I am sure for the disciples eavesdropping on Jesus as he prays, his words would provide confidence and inspiration in the midst of so much that felt so uncertain. In hearing his words, they would come to understand their next steps. They would see Jesus counting on them to be his presence in the world in the wake of his absence. They could sense his love and encouragement for them as they made their way forward.

 It is a little like this story I came across this week about an Italian composer named Puccini who in 1922 was diagnosed with cancer. Even so, he continued to work on an opera called Turandot. Many people tried to convince him not to use all his remaining days working on a piece that he wouldn’t be able to complete. But, still he kept on. A little while later, close to his death, he wrote to his students, “If I don’t finish, I want you to finish it for me.” After his death, his students did just that. They gathered his work and completed it. The opening performance was in 1926. The conductor, one of his students, took the orchestra to the place where his master left off. Then he put down his baton, turned to the audience and said, “Thus far the master wrote and then he died.” There was silence in the performing hall. Then the conductor once again picked up the baton, smiled through his tears and spoke again, “But his disciples have finished his work.”

 Jesus’ death. Jesus’ ascension. Pivot points for him, for the disciples, and for us, his disciples, his body in the world today. It is up to us to finish where he left off, the work he did not have time to complete. As together we await the fresh winds of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, may we prepare ourselves through prayer so that we too can pick up where he left off as we seek to discern the work that is both his and ours in this world in which we find ourselves. Or, as Jesus might even say to us, Friends, you’ve got this. Please take it from here.  Amen  

Your Generosity Matters

“We don’t want any camper to feel afraid to be who they are.”

Person canoeing on a lake is silhouetted against the sunset sky.

Credit: Taryn Elliott/Pexels

Rainbow Camp® in northern Ontario has welcomed young people of all sexual identities since 2012. From the beginning, Mission & Service has supported Welcome Friend Association, which runs the camp.

“Initially, we wanted to bridge the local LGBTQ community with area churches. We started the association, and then we launched the camp. We had no idea what we were doing at the time. Only one person on the board had camp experience, but we knew that young people would benefit,” says Chris Southin, one of the camp’s co-founders.

Originally a one-week camp with 14 youths, Rainbow Camp® now serves up to 50 youth each week for four weeks. Expansion plans are in the works; Rainbow Camp® Atlantic is launching in August 2023 in Nova Scotia, and a pilot is planned for the west coast. “We’ve had an invitation to duplicate the Rainbow Camp® experience in Australia and in the UK too. It’s exciting!” says Harry Stewart, also a co-founder.

Above all, Rainbow Camp® provides campers with a safe space to be who they are without judgment. “I’ll never forget our first year of camp. It was the second full day. A camper told us his mom had found a dress in his closet. He lied to her and said that it belonged to his girlfriend. He had brought the dress to camp and said he would like to wear it. High heels and sand don’t mix!” Stewart explains, laughing: “But the warmth, love, and compassion that the camper received from everyone at camp was amazing. We tell all of our staff ‘Your job is to make sure that each and every camper has the best possible time at Rainbow Camp®.’”

Southin and Stewart want the camp experience to be memorable, fun, soul-searching, and supportive. “We don’t want any camper to feel afraid to be who they are. I think that’s why so many now call it their home.” This important work was recognized with a Governor General’s award in 2021, an award that recognizes “great Canadians for exceptional deeds that bring honour to our country.”

Your generosity through Mission & Service supports safe, welcoming spaces like Rainbow Camp®. Thank you!

Let us pray

God of beginnings and endings and all the pivot points in between, God of the generations in time and eternity, we turn to you in these quiet moments to offer you our thanks and our hopes for our lives. We give you thanks for all those people who have shown us your face and taught us to follow you through the loving example of their living faith. We are grateful for their wisdom and courage which continue to inspire us.

Thank you for our life together in your church, for the community we are building. May the light of Christ shine through our lives, too, so that we offer light for the world you love as witnesses to your purposes. Help us as we seek to make your name and your ways of love, respect, justice and healing known. May we never forget that we are your body in the world, that we are the channels through which the wonders of your grace are revealed.

We thank you that from you, we learn how to love those around us. With you, we find strength to face each new day. So today we offer our prayers for those facing challenges these days and seek your guidance to respond to their cries.

We pray for those brought to mind by news headlines this week for situations of violence and deprivation, danger and devastation- for those battling wildfires, for the many forced to leave their homes, for the many who long for peace in the midst of war and terror in their countries, for the many who live in fear and who need protection…

 We pray for families going through difficult times, for all who are sick or in sorrow, for all who are lonely or despairing…

We pray for those agonizing over important decisions and responsibilities,

for those in leadership roles and for those who care for the most vulnerable…

Spirit of healing and hope, heal lives limited by misunderstanding, and bring hope for just resolutions to problems of long-standing. Open us to new learnings and to expanded understandings that come from mixing with those who offer us different perspectives. Increase in us all the spirit of generosity we need to create communities of dignity and mutual respect wherever we live on this land we call home.

Creator, Christ and Spirit, move with us into the week ahead. Grant us the confidence and strength we need each day to live according to your will and purpose in all our relationships for we want to bear witness to the love we met in Jesus who taught us to pray together saying… Our Father…

Hymn: 420 VU Go to the World 


Friends, how good and pleasant it is to be together, in person or in spirit, encouraging and consoling, provoking and inspiring.

 But now the service is ended. Now the wider service begins. Why do you stand looking up toward heaven? Go in peace — into the world, for the love of the world!”


Alleluia! Amen!


May 14, 2023

Welcome to our worship on this the 6th Sunday of Easter.

Happy Mother’s Day!

We celebrate this day as Christian Family Sunday as we think of all the positive, loving and supportive relationships in our lives, in whatever form they take for us.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to the 103 lbs of food that was delivered to the Valley Food Bank this week!

Please remember the baby and new mother items for the box in the foyer.

Also, the hall is being prepared for the Flea Market this Friday and Saturday. Please volunteer and participate through your donations!

Knitting Circle is next week after worship so don’t forget your needles and yarn!

Good news, some members of our congregation have spotted hummingbirds! Brave little souls they are in this wind!

Blessings for the week.


Let us pause to remember that in this region we live and work and worship on lands that are, by law, the unceded territories of the Wabanaki peoples—predominantly the lands of the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, Wolastoqiyik and Passamaquoddy. May we live with respect on this land, and live in peace and friendship with its people.

Through the gift of Christ’s love, we celebrate that we are not orphaned or abandoned, but accompanied this day and always.

Call to Worship:

When the way is difficult and the path is lonely, Jesus says:

“I will never leave you alone.”

When the journey is smooth, and the travelling easy, Jesus says:

“I will never leave you alone.”

When our hearts are troubled and we are fearful, Jesus says:

“I will never leave you alone.”

When the horizon is far and the call is clear, Jesus says:

“I will never leave you alone.”

God sends the Holy Spirit to walk with us.

We are not alone! Let us worship God!


Opening Prayer (written by David Sparks in Gathering Lent/Easter 2023)

Loving God, can we thank you enough for giving us life?

Thank you for the first and most incredible gift.

Loving God, can we thank you enough for the gift of family, that is those who unconditionally love and welcome us as we are, in whatever way that family is formed?

Thank you for those close and precious to us.

Loving God, can we thank you enough for the gift of faith community?

Thank you for all who pray and praise and work together.

Loving God, can we thank you enough for the gift of a rooted faith?

Thank you for the Way of Christ that inspires us.

Our God, to whom all thanksgiving be given,

in time and beyond time. Amen.

Hymn: 395 VUCome in, Come in and Sit Down 

Prayer of Confession:(from Seasons of the Spirit)

Forgiving One, unseen yet known,

it has been another week where many in our community and in our world have felt unloved and unnoticed.

We have done our best. We have loved even when we felt lost or discouraged.

We have been gracious even when we felt ignored.

Forgiving One, seeing and forgiving, knowing and loving,

we turn away from this hurt and frustration to find again

the grace we all need to love again.

Hear us.

Forgive us.


Words of Assurance

No one has seen God. Yet Jesus has shown us God, and God is love.

God is the love we find in community and the commandment we hold together.

You are loved. We are loved. All is forgiven. All is love.

Thanks be to God.


Readings and Reflection

Someone to Sit Alongside Us

You might recall where we left off in our reading from Acts last week. Stephen had been stoned to death by the religious opposition. Saul looked on and approved the stoning. After that, Saul became a leader in the persecution of the members of the church. However, a while after that, Saul had a life-changing vision on the road to Damascus that caused him to change his ways. Soon, rather than being a persecutor of the followers, he became one their most prominent supporters. This change of heart led him to travel extensively to proclaim the good news of Jesus. In our reading today, we find him in Athens. This was a city known to be a home to great thinkers like Plato and Socrates. This was a group of people who prided themselves on their great intellect. They loved to debate issues in public. When they hear of Paul’s arrival, they invite him to the Areopagus also known as Mars Hill. Some commentators say this was sort of like getting invited to a Chamber of Commerce meeting. It was a place where ideas would get tossed around, where people could enter into discussions and entertain new perspectives. It is here where Paul works to make connections with the people by searching for common ground between them. This is where we pick up his conversation with them in Acts:

Acts 17:22-31

22 Paul stood up in the middle of the council on Mars Hill and said, “People of Athens, I see that you are very religious in every way. 23 As I was walking through town and carefully observing your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: ‘To an unknown God.’ What you worship as unknown, I now proclaim to you. 24 God, who made the world and everything in it, is Lord of heaven and earth. He doesn’t live in temples made with human hands. 25 Nor is God served by human hands, as though he needed something, since he is the one who gives life, breath, and everything else. 26 From one person God created every human nation to live on the whole earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God made the nations so they would seek him, perhaps even reach out to him and find him. In fact, God isn’t far away from any of us. 28 In God we live, move, and exist. As some of your own poets said, ‘We are his offspring.’

29 “Therefore, as God’s offspring, we have no need to imagine that the divine being is like a gold, silver, or stone image made by human skill and thought. 30 God overlooks ignorance of these things in times past, but now directs everyone everywhere to change their hearts and lives. 31 This is because God has set a day when he intends to judge the world justly by a man he has appointed. God has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

The one thing that stands out for me in this text is that despite his distress at seeing all the idols and shrines around the city, he doesn’t show his irritation to them. Quite the opposite, he comes alongside them with respect. He commends them for being a people who are searching for meaning in life. He notes his observations as he walked through the city. He tells them how he noticed all their monuments. He pays attention to what matters to them. In other words, he meets them where they are. From there he searches for common ground, all while trying to respect their very different understandings. Unlike Stephen, he doesn’t point fingers. He tries to honour their culture and their seeking, all while looking for a place to begin his witness to the one God- in whom we live and move and have our being, the Creator of all that is. He even echoes one of their own poets by saying, “We are all God’s offspring, God’s children”. Then, in time, he shares God’s gift of Jesus and how God raised him from the dead. This message is met with mixed reviews by the people. Only a few are intrigued enough to become followers of Jesus.  I wonder, though, if this idea of “success” is not what we are meant to take away from his time spent with these Athenians. Maybe our takeaway here is simply Paul’s approach. Despite his obvious differences of belief and understanding, he meets them where they are by searching out that common ground. He begins by building trust and solidarity with them. He comes alongside them with love and respect, looking for points of connection and commonality. He acknowledges that, like him, they too are seekers.

I like this image of Paul coming alongside the Athenians with love and understanding, meeting them where they are and as they are.

Jesus does much the same as he continues to address the disciples in the Upper Room on the night before he is crucified. He tells them about the Holy Spirit who will accompany them in his absence. This is a passage we might call our Pre- Pentecost instructions. Jesus senses their anxiety. He knows the emotions are high in that room. Death is palpable. Trauma is all around them. Jesus has just shared one last meal with them. He has washed their feet as a symbol of service. In the midst of their confusion and uncertainty, Jesus tells them that yes, he is about to depart from them. Yet, his departure does not mean they will be abandoned or orphaned. I will send you an Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who will accompany you and come alongside you. Let’s listen to that promise:

John 14: 15-21  

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

18 “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me, and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

How reassuring those words must have been to this frightened and distraught group of followers. A promise of the Holy Spirit. The Greek word for the Spirit is Paraclete, which literally translated means “one who is close by or alongside” I like how commentator Karoline Lewis describes it- “someone to sit with us.” Think back over the times of fear and uncertainty in your own life and I am sure you can remember the persons who did just that. They came and sat with you and that was just what you needed.  No doubt, the things they said or did when they were beside you are long forgotten or perhaps were not near as important as the fact that they were there. Not to touch or hug. Not to fix you in your hurt or suffering. Not to offer platitudes, not to offer explanations or easy answers; just to be there. To simply sit alongside you. To hold space with you. They were there just at the right moment, when, as it was for the disciples, everything felt heavy and daunting.

It reminds me a bit of this much told story about a little boy who wanted to meet God. He knew it was a long trip to where God lived, so he packed his suitcase with Twinkies and a six-pack of root beer and started his journey. When he had gone about three blocks, he met an old woman. She was sitting in the park just staring at some pigeons.

The boy sat down next to her and opened his suitcase. He was about to take a drink from his root beer when he noticed that the old lady looked hungry, so he offered her a Twinkie. She gratefully accepted it and smiled at him. Her smile was so pretty that the boy wanted to see it again, so he offered her a root beer. Once again, she smiled at him. The boy was delighted! They sat there all afternoon eating and smiling, but they never said a word.

As it grew dark, the boy realized how tired he was, and he got up to leave but before he had gone more than a few steps, he turned around, ran back to the old woman and gave her a hug. She gave him her biggest smile ever. When the boy opened the door to his own house a short time later, his mother was surprised by the look of joy on his face. She asked him, “What did you do today that made you so happy?” He replied, “I had lunch with God.” But, before his mother could respond, he added, “You know what? She’s got the most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen!”

Meanwhile, the old woman, also radiant with joy, returned to her home. Her son was stunned by the look of peace on her face and he asked, “Mother, what did you do today that made you so happy?” She replied, “I ate Twinkies in the park with God.” But, before her son responded, she added, “You know, he’s much younger than I expected.”

When we look around the world today, we see many coming alongside others, more often than not to do something, to take some action. I think of the firefighters from other provinces in Canada coming alongside the crews in Alberta who are trying to contain the wildfires. I think of chaplains coming alongside people in crises in hospitals, universities and military bases. Counsellors and social workers coming alongside children and teens being bullied, partners fleeing abusive relationships, first responders coming alongside folks who find themselves in various kinds of emergencies, cancer support groups and groups like AA coming alongside each other to offer encouragement and guidance to one another, volunteers who are reaching out to distribute the basic necessities to people who are homeless or who are fleeing war and violence, teachers and mentors who come alongside students; parents and grandparents who come alongside children and simply hold space together with them.

Just this week, a friend of mine was sharing a recent experience of having her car break down in city traffic in Fredericton. They managed to get it off to the side and then proceeded to call CAA. As they waited for about half an hour, a man in a car did stop and ask if he could help. They explained they were waiting for CAA and he left. Another couple of people on foot later asked the same thing and again, my friend and her husband explained they were ok. But this time, the pedestrians offered one more thing. Would you like us to wait with you? Not to do anything necessarily, but just to be with them in their dilemma.  

In each of these examples and so many more, we experience the Holy Spirit at work through relationships of love, companionship and connections. This is how Jesus’ legacy of love continues and is embodied in the world. It is the force that would accompany the disciples in their vulnerability as they said their goodbyes to Jesus. It is the same force that promises us that we are not alone or abandoned. It is the calm presence that enters a room and brings clarity to the most challenging situations we face.

As we look back over our lives, we know that presence. We have felt it. Somewhere in my reading this week, I came across this little quote: Some people come and go and are forgotten. But there are other people who share a part in our destinies. They come, they go, but they are never forgotten. They come, they go, but even after they go… they’re still here. They never really went anywhere.” I wonder if this is the kind of reassurance Jesus gives to those bewildered disciples as he prepares to depart from them. That what they have learned and seen in him will continue on long after his physical presence is gone. The model of love, of care, of concern for others that his life revealed to them will remain with them as they continue to serve and love as he did.

I wonder if it is a little like how I was feeling after the death of both of my parents back in 2021. For a while, it felt like being orphaned. Those words of Jesus, “I will not leave you orphaned” brought with them much reassurance. Each time, even today, when I find myself reacting to something in much the same way as one of my parents would or repeating one of their many familiar sayings, I am reminded that I am not alone. In a new way, I know that they are still there. Love is the tether that continues to unite us.

 It is that same kind of ongoing love perhaps that Jesus speaks with the disciples on his last night with them. This is what will be his legacy to them. Jesus encourages those disciples to share that love, to carry it with them, to sit alongside others in distress and to remember that they are accompanied themselves as they move forward into the challenges of the unknown. The same for us. Yes, Jesus says, I am leaving you. But I am not and will never abandon you. Or as Paul said to the Athenians in verse 27 of our passage today “God is not far from any of us.” With the gift of the Holy Spirit which we celebrate at Pentecost in a few weeks time, we have someone willing to sit beside us even when we feel abandoned, challenged or even at odds with the world, God says, “I’ll be there for you, no matter what. You can count on me.” You are not alone. Thanks be to God.

Your Generosity Matters!

Countering increasing violence and misinformation

A woman holds up a pro-LGBTQ sign beside the words United against Hate.

Credit: The United Church of Canada/CHURCHx

On February 15, 2023, Mission & Service partners United in Learning, Affirming Connections, and Affirm United/S’Affirmer Ensemble collaborated to host a webinar called United against Hate.

There is an alarming increase in violence and misinformation targeted against transgender folks and drag artists. The United against Hate webinar provided context to allies who may not have known the depth of the challenges faced by the Two Spirit or LGBTQIA+ community and shared ideas on how best to support community events that regularly face protests and barriers. Panellists also offered insight into building a safe and educational social media presence, including managing challenging discussion topics.

The webinar was an overwhelming success, with the live limit of 100 participants reached. Those who could not attend were encouraged to watch the recording. Participants shared positive feedback and made action plans on how to move forward together.

Your gifts to Mission & Service help support future events that will enable Affirming communities of faith to truly live into that identity in practical and safe ways.

Let us pray:

God, in whom we live and move and have our being, we come to you in thanksgiving for the beauty of these spring days. Nature speaks to us of renewal as green leaves burst forth, as farmers cultivate and plant, as birds feather their nests and as the daylight hours continue to lengthen. We are so blessed to be able to watch it all unfolding.

On this Christian Family Sunday, we are especially thankful for the people in our lives who offer us support, love and encouragement. When we are overwhelmed by life’s stresses and challenges, they step in there. They embody the Holy Spirit’s presence for us by coming alongside us, by sitting with us, by holding space, by listening without judging or trying to fix us. They value us for who we are. May we find ways of being that kind of presence to others that we too might witness to you through our lives.

We pray this day for all who are anxious. We remember the people of Alberta who are displaced from their homes as wildfires continue to threaten. In other places in our country, we are learning of encroaching flood waters that are destroying homes and businesses. We pray for all who are coming alongside those in need. We remember families in their many forms, for folks who get along well together, for others who struggle in the face of abuse or poverty. We pray for the many refugees and asylum seekers, trying to find their way in the midst of confusion, separated by language, culture and all that is familiar. Help them through the various agencies and volunteer networks to find the support they need. In the silence of our hearts, we pray for people we know, for issues we have learned about on the news, through our minutes for mission where people call out for healing, for justice and simply a listening ear…

O God, help us as a faith community to reach out to one another, both within and beyond the walls of our building. Hold us all in your love that our relationships might be free from envy, competitiveness and divisiveness. As the Body of Christ, may we embody your love, truth and grace. Leaning on him and on the power of the Holy Spirit alive and at work in the world, we pray as one saying… Our Father…

Hymn: 333 VU Love Divine 


God sends us out into the world,

But not alone.

God sends us out into the world.

But not without support.

God sends us out into the world,

But not forsaken.

God sends us out into the world

to come alongside one another, as God, through the Holy Spirit, comes alongside us.

We go in God and God in us, blessed and filled with the promise of love and life.


We go in peace to love and serve. Amen


May 7, 2023

 Let us pause to remember that in this region we live and work and worship on lands that are, by law, the unceded territories of the Wabanaki peoples—predominantly the lands of the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, Wolastoqiyik and Passamaquoddy. May we live with respect on this land, and live in peace and friendship with its people.


For us, Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. In his name, we light this candle.

Call to Worship: (from Seasons of the Spirit)

Like the multi-coloured pebbles gathered on a beach,

we come from many places.

Like river stones, smooth from life’s surges or chipped in the world’s torrents,

we come worn and wounded.

Like precious stones, chosen, crafted and valued,

we come, cared about and loved by God.

Like the stones of a building,

God brings us together.

Come, as living stones, into God’s presence.

We come to worship God.


Let us pray;

God our Rock,

breathe into us and into this place again,

that our hearts, minds and spirits might be open

to discover you as the way, the truth and the life for us.

May this time together prepare us to do the greater work

to which you call us. Amen.

Hymn: 661 VU Come to My Heart   

Prayer of Confession: (responsive)

I lay this stone down for the many people hurt by prejudice in our community and world. May God forgive fear of others, and help build trust between us.

Forgive us, God.

I lay this stone down for the many people hurt by the misuse of religion in our communities and our world. May God forgive arrogance, and help us explore new understandings between us.

Forgive us, God.

I lay this stone down for the many people hurt by the abuse of power in our communities and our world. May God forgive greed, and help remould our world.

Forgive us, God.  (silence)

Words of Affirmation (by Frances Flock, Emo/Devlin Past. Charge, Ontario, in Gathering, Lent/Easter yr. A, 2023)

Let us move forward on right paths.

Let us follow in God’s way.

Let us travel together as God’s people:

the people of God journeying together.

Through the pastures of life,

in the depths of the shadowed valley,

among the terror of those who hate us,

we know we are not alone.

We travel together.

We travel in God’s love. Thanks be to God!

  Be Careful in Throwing Those Stones!

Last week, you might recall in our reading from Acts, we were given a very positive snapshot of the early community of believers as they gathered. We heard how they worshipped, prayed, learned and shared together. It all seemed so warm and fuzzy. In the words from Acts 2: 47, they enjoyed “the goodwill of all.” At this stage, the followers were still part of the synagogue. They worshipped together as a sect within Judaism. In time they became known as People of the Way. Yet, it was not long before there was tension. Several of the Jewish leaders were annoyed because this group was teaching and proclaiming that in Jesus, there is resurrection of the dead. Nonetheless, despite this opposition, the believers in Jesus as the Messiah grew. In time, they organized themselves and appointed elders to care for the physical needs of the members. Among these elders was a man named Stephen whose work it was to oversee food distribution, especially to the widows. Along with these duties, Stephen developed great skill as a powerful speaker. Soon, he found himself in debate with the religious leaders. They are disturbed so much by his teachings about Jesus that they have him arrested and brought before the Council. There, in chapter 6 of Acts, he doesn’t hold back in his witness. He gives a summary of their history as a people, beginning with Abraham. As he does this, he points out that over and over again, the relationship of the people of Israel with God has been one of resistance. Finally, he concludes that their rejection of Jesus is simply more of the same. As you might imagine, this doesn’t go over so well. Stephen is charged with blasphemy. And this is where we enter our reading today:

Acts 7:51-8:3

51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are forever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do. 52 Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, and now you have become his betrayers and murderers. 53 You are the ones who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet you have not kept it.

 54 When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen. 55 But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” 57 But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. 58 Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him, and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died. And Saul approved of their killing him.

That day a severe persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria. Devout men buried Stephen and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church by entering house after house; dragging off both men and women, he committed them to prison.

This story of Stephen’s stoning is certainly a far cry from where we left off last week, isn’t it? We can see lots of parallels here to what happened to Jesus- the appearance before the council, the anger of the mob, the physical torture, Stephen’s prayer to forgive his executioners. Like Jesus, Stephen’s witness is dismissed. Yet, the one thing that stands out to me here is that the people throwing the stones were not hooligans. They were not the Roman soldiers. They were the religious authorities. They were the guardians of the traditions. The church people. Why did they do this? Why had they covered their ears to his witness? I suspect it is for the same reason we oppose points of view and perspectives that disturb us. Because what he was saying was challenging them. It was threatening the good order. It was shaking them up. Like the many prophets throughout scripture, like prophets of our own time- people like Martin Luther King Jr, like the environmental spokespersons of our day, like people who speak out for justice, inclusion and equality in so many aspects of our world, often what they are saying requires too much of us. Often, we would rather not hear. It makes us too uncomfortable. So, in subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways, we find ways of silencing them.

Yet, despite the opposition to Stephen and his message, the ironic thing is that the early church, through the force of God’s Spirit continued to spread further and further, eventually reaching out to the Gentiles. God’s relentless love could not be stopped.

As I thought about this story, it made me ponder about the world we live in today. Like it or not, in this world, now more than ever, we will encounter friends, neighbours and colleagues whose ideas are very different from our own. We know from 2021 Canadian statistics, over 19.3 million people reported a Christian religion, representing just over half of the Canadian population (53.3%). However, this proportion is down from 67.3% in 2011 and 77.1% in 2001. What is even more revealing is that approximately 12.6 million people, or more than one-third of Canada’s population, reported having no religious affiliation. It is that last category that is the fastest growing.

The question, for me, that emerges in the midst of this is how can we remain open rather than fearful of those who think or believe differently or who have no identifiable affiliations? As we live in an increasingly pluralistic world, how can we engage with people without judging or throwing stones? How can we be people of the way of Jesus without devaluing others?

Somehow, I think what might be required of us is some re-examining and maybe even some unlearning. Our gospel lesson this morning may prove to be a good starting point. It is a very familiar text. You have heard it at countless funerals, I am sure. Yet, there is one part of this scripture that has probably the most misunderstood verse ever. You have seen this on roadside signs- “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Unfortunately, this has often been misinterpreted to mean something like – if you are not Christian, you are damned. Taken out of context as it usually is, it portrays Jesus almost like a bouncer at a club- arms folded and stern. Kind of like his saying, ‘Follow me or else. My way or the highway’. This is not Jesus saying ‘I am the only way.” Such an interpretation does violence to Jesus’ words by using them as a means of throwing stones at people of other faiths or of no faith. That is not who Jesus is addressing here. As commentator Karoline Lewis says, “they are not meant to shut people out but to encourage a group of distraught followers. They are words of promise and assurance, not discrimination.”

 When Jesus speaks these words on Maundy Thursday after the Last Supper, he is speaking them in a pastoral way to a group of frightened and confused disciples who are fearing abandonment. Jesus has just told them he is going to suffer and die. He knows that the disciples need reassurance for what is ahead for them. After all, they had left everything to follow him. They had pinned all their hopes on him and now he is speaking about leaving them. Everything is shifting under their feet. It is into this context, that we hear this familiar passage:

John 14: 1-14:

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, but if you do not, then believe because of the works themselves. 12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If in my name you ask me] for anything, I will do it.

So, when they ask about “the way”, Jesus says “You know the way.” We’ve been travelling it together. It is the way of peace, of healing, of inclusion and of love. So, keep on going. I will be with you. Remain open. Keep on learning and growing and living toward God. Live into what I have taught you and most of all, love one another. In this way, you will continue to be my body, my hands, my feet, my voice in the world.

In other words, “the way” Jesus is talking about is not the same as directions on a map or a certain formula or doctrine that can be pinpointed, circled or highlighted with a red pen. It is the way of love and relationship. He is talking about a way that is life-giving and open, a way that leads to peace and non-violence, and most of all respect. Being people of the way is not being people with all the answers, with everything all sewn up.  As commentator Peter Marty says, the difference between the 2 is huge. He likens it to the difference between travelling on your own versus booking through a travel agency. The way Jesus is talking about is filled with adventure and curiosity and unplanned experiences as opposed to a pre-packaged, completely planned itinerary. It is not about drawing lines in the sand and excluding people by damning them. It is not about stockpiling stones so that they can be thrown in judgement at a group or an individual who offers us a different perspective. Nor is it about condemning people of other faiths or no faith.

It’s a little like one of those St. Peter jokes where St. Peter was showing some of the new arrivals around heaven. There were many lovely rooms for all different kinds of folks. St. Peter pointed out the one for the Buddhists, the one across the hall for the Jewish folks and the one beside for the Muslims. But then he asked the newbies to be very quiet as they went by the next room. Please, he said, no noise. Why is that, they asked. Because this room is for the Christians. They think they are the only ones here!

Now more than ever, as we find ourselves living in our increasingly pluralistic world, we need to take this message to heart. Our God is too small if we think that God is God of Christians alone. Suspicion or hostility toward people of non-Christian faith groups is not the answer. Unfortunately, we see so much of it in our world. Stones being thrown. Insults being hurled. Violence being perpetuated. Misunderstanding abounding. Certainly, far from the love, the curiosity, the engagement and dialogue with “the other” that we see modelled in the way of Jesus.

I like what Marcus Borg in his book The Heart of Christianity has to say about how we can affirm our faith without stockpiling and throwing stones at others. He writes, “it is not to say as we often hear in some simplistic form like- all religions are the same, they are different roads to the same place, which, when said in this way often refers to “heaven.” He writes that usually such simplistic statements are made by those for whom religion doesn’t matter much. It is kind of like saying all human beings are the same. Well, yes and no. A white Anglo-Saxon Protestant is indeed quite different from an Iraqi Muslim. We have different histories and cultures that shape us. But we can learn to appreciate what things we do have in common while relishing also in our distinctiveness. If we emphasize the externals like how we pray, where we worship, the doctrines that divide us then it might be hard to find a common point for dialogue. But if we hear the love, the compassion, the life centred in the sacred that is at the heart of all religions, then we can come to understand one another. We can find ways of lighting candles and building bridges, affirming other pathways, without abandoning our own.”

It seems to me if we all could live into that kind of collective vision there would be a lot less need to gather stones for our stone piles. Amen.

Minute for Mission

When we hear these stories, we can see that this is a life and death matter.

Would you go to jail to proclaim your love?

Would you be willing to die?

We are blessed to live in Canada, a country that recognizes the right to love whoever you want, regardless of their gender or sex. And while we haven’t always done what is right, The United Church of Canada now recognizes that all love―including Two Spirit or LGBTQIA+ relationships―is holy and blessed by God. But those rights do not exist in many parts of the world today.

“One of our partners in Kenya has advocated strongly for the human rights of sexual minorities, and that has caused him to be in jail, caused him to risk his life to be able to do that,” says the Rev. Michael Blair. The church’s first openly gay General Secretary is now helping to advocate for sexual and gender minorities in foreign countries.

“When we hear these stories, we can see that this is a life and death matter.”

Mission & Service plays a critical role in Blair’s efforts.

Your gifts help shelter refugees as they escape repressive governments. Same-sex attraction is a crime in 71 countries, and 11 of them have the death penalty.

Mission & Service also holds consultations in other countries to discover how we can best work with our partners to protect sexual and gender minorities. “A few years ago, we hosted a consultation here in Canada with several partners and asked how we can be supportive of their work,” Blair says. “They told us we needed to come and help in their context.”

To date, Mission & Service has supported consultations in Latin America and the Philippines.

“We are bringing together leaders to explore how the church can be a place of liberation and life for sexual and gender minorities in those communities. That is happening because of the folks who contribute to Mission & Service,” says Blair.

Thank you for helping to protect sexual and gender minorities. You are saving lives and changing views around the world!

Let us pray:

God, our refuge and strength, we come before you this day seeking your help and courage to be your faithful people in our day. We know that you love us and call us to witness to the love you have shown to us. We give thanks for the many, like Stephen, and throughout history and even in our own lives who have modelled to us ways of faithful living, often in the midst of persecution, distress and hardship. We ask that we might know your presence with us that we, too, might be bold and committed to living in your ways for the long haul. Show us how we might use our gifts and resources to build up community and reach beyond ourselves.

We pray this day for all who suffer hatred, discrimination, imprisonment, or torture because of their culture, creed or personal convictions and ask that you might stand with them. We pray for all who are driven by violence or power seeking and treat others badly so that they can have their own way. Show them another way, O God. We pray for all who are alone and disconnected from society, feeling rejected or troubled in spirit. Be a place of comfort and healing for them. We pray for those who hunger and thirst for the basics of life and ask for your help in working toward a more equitable world where all have enough. We bring before you the names of those we know who mourn, who are worried about their own health or the health of a loved one… Surround them with your care. We remember all who wrestle with the deep questions of life, who feel like giving up on their faith journey, and who need your help in persisting in the struggles. May they know that they are not alone. Hear these our prayers, both spoken and unspoken, as we offer them in the strong name of Jesus, who promises never to abandon us, but who invites us to continue to live and love in the ways he has shown us… Our Father…

Hymn: 169 MV When Hands Reach Out Beyond Divides 


We continue our journey, seeking truth and wisdom for the days ahead,knowing that we are guided by God every step of the way.

We are an Easter people, called and chosen, forgiven and formed into a new community, working together to show God’s mercy and love.

We follow Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the life for us.





April 30, 2023

Good afternoon and welcome to our worship service for the fourth Sunday of Easter.


Next Sunday is Food Bank Sunday. Please remember to bring your items to contribute to our box in the foyer.


The yard sale will be happening May 19-20 in our hall. For more information or to volunteer, please contact Betty Patterson or Joyce Green.


We light this candle as a reminder of the one who said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

Call to Worship:

God, our Shepherd, invites us to this time of worship.

We are different people; each one of us is unique.

We look different, sound different, think different thoughts,

hold different opinions, feel different emotions.

We are not one in the same.

Still, God gathers us together-

with all our differences, quirks, all our gifts and challenges-

to break bread, to sing hymns, to open our hearts in prayer,

to share in devotion to the One who unites and transforms us.

As we rehearse our common story and sing our common song,

may we live into the truth we share:

Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed! Alleluia!


Let us pray: (in unison)

O God, in the spirit of those first followers of Jesus,

we gather to be energized as they were,

ready to be linked together in a community of caring, sharing and prayer.

May our faith deepen beyond personal piety and mere tradition

to become the story we tell with every breath of our lives. Amen.

Hymn: 1 MV Let Us Build a House  

Prayer of Confession:(responsive)

O God, there are times when we have not lived our faith fully.

Forgive us when we fail to be your community-

When interpersonal conflicts tear at the soul of community…

Hold us in your grace, O God.

When we lack respect for others’ opinions…

Hold us in your grace, O God.

When history becomes exclusive and relationships become insular…

Hold us in your grace, O God.

When the energy of the church is invested in self-preservation rather than acts of love…

Hold us in your grace, O God.

When our differences destroy the foundation we share in Christ…

Hold us in your grace, O God.  (silence)


Words of Affirmation:

Held in a common Love that is within, between and beyond all,

we know forgiveness and are formed into a community of love in all things.

Christ is risen!

Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!


Readings and Reflection;

Abundant Life Unfolding

The late Rev. Desmond Tutu, former South African Anglican bishop and theologian, a prominent leader in the struggle against apartheid, once said, “We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world.” When you do well, it spreads out, it is for the whole of humanity.” Frequently in his thoughts, Tutu made reference to the Zulu concept of ubuntu which, roughly translated means, “I am because you are.” In other words, our lives are contingent upon one another. God created us to be interdependent, to treat ourselves and others with the dignity they deserve. To see others, especially strangers, as fully human, not disposable. To work toward just relationships. To live together with one another and with all creation for that matter, in peace, and with respect and in a co-operative way that works for the good of all. At least, this is our ideal. It is what we strive toward.

But that is not always how things play out, is it? Even long before Covid, we heard of another epidemic- the epidemic of loneliness and isolation that so many were experiencing in our world. The absence of deep connections and a sense that we belong to one another. Coupled with that is what well-known United Church writer Jim Taylor describes as “a cult of individualism, of being ruggedly independent.” In one of his recent blogs, he writes about how our forests challenge our obsession with individualism:

He speaks of Suzanne Simard, who, in her book Finding the Mother Tree helps us see forests as living beings, a community of interdependent life. A young woman in Haida Gwai told Simard: “The Coast Salish people believe that trees have personhood too. They teach that the forest is made of many nations living side by side in peace, each contributing to this earth.”

            “Under the forest floor,” she said, “there are fungi that keep the trees connected and strong.”

            Simard’s scientific research has confirmed that indigenous insight. She has proven conclusively that the connections beneath the surface enable the forest to thrive.

            A forest is more than the sum of its trees. The forest itself is a living, breathing, organism.

             We are so immersed in the cult of individualism that, as Robert Bellah noted years ago, when we think of breaking free of individualism, the only route we can imagine is to be more individualistic.

            No matter how tall it stands, a Douglas Fir, towering in lofty isolation over a clear-cut hillside, will never say, “Every tree for itself.” Or, “I won! I won!”

            We could learn something from our trees. We are not alone. We live in an interconnected world.

We get a good example of this in our reading from Acts this morning. What we find here is a brief snapshot of the early church community at its best before things get complicated, before the divisions, the jealousy, the majoring in minors, the conflicts, the tensions and the persecutions that we will see later in Acts. In this little snippet, the mood is exciting and invigorating. The people are dedicated, disciplined and joyful as they meet together. Let’s listen to what it was like for them in those early days after the resurrection:

Acts 2: 42-47:

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

43 Awe came upon everyone because many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Such a great picture of the early church community- worshipping God and learning about their faith together, breaking bread around the table, acting in generous and hospitable ways through their care and concern for one another and making sure that any who were in need were helped. A dedicated group committed to mutual support and encouragement, to authentic and inclusive community and relationship building. A community modelled on the relationship Jesus highlights with his analogy of a good shepherd and the sheep- a relationship characterized by trust, protection, and intimate connection.

John 10: 1-10

“Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

As I reflect on the beautiful images of community in both these passages, I think of the word Koinonia. That is a word I learned way back when I was in theology school when, at the beginning of the year, we had what was called Koinonia Week. The word Koinonia is Greek for community. It was a time for developing genuine, in-depth connection with one another, both as students and faculty. It was a time for building trust between a diverse group of people and breaking down barriers as we marked the beginning of our learning year together. As with the early Christian community in Acts, it was marked by spending time in worship and prayer, in fellowship over meals, in joy and in laughter. We listened to one another’s stories and got to know one another on a deep level. In essence, we laid the foundations for building community together- a community that would strive to offer care and compassion for each other over the year ahead. Did the enthusiasm of that week last forever? Of course not. Sometimes, in our time together we would have our struggles and conflicts, our arguments and our dissensions. Yet, always, thanks to those early days, we knew that we were one in Christ.

This week I came across a great story about what being part of a Christian community is like.

 In his ministerial memoir Open Secrets, Richard Lischer talked about the first congregation he served in a rural community near the Illinois-Missouri border.  One of the nicer images Lischer invokes involved his presiding at the Lord’s Supper.  The communion ware for this particular congregation included a large silver chalice for the wine.  Each time he presided at the Table and after pouring the wine into the chalice, Lischer would lift it up over his head and dedicate it to the Lord.

People in the church were not sure why he did that, and a few worried it seemed a little too Roman Catholic as sacramental gestures go.  But in the memoir Lischer revealed his real reason: the underside of the shiny silver chalice was like a convex mirror and when Lischer lifted it up, he could see the whole congregation reflected on the underside of it.  He liked the idea of seeing all these people—who did not by any means always get along with each other—reflected as a single unity in the one cup of Christ.  It did not always look that united, but once in a while it was good to be reminded of the spiritual truth that in Christ, they are one.

For that minister, that reflection in the cup was a great reminder. So, too, that little snippet of the early church in that one moment of time, in the post Easter setting, is a great reminder to us of what it means to live with the vision of how our church, even today, still can look when we concentrate on deep community building. Let’s remember that that early church in that setting was a diverse group of people just like us. For the most part, perhaps a lot like us, they didn’t have a lot in common. Yet they had one thing that united them- the risen presence of Christ. That’s what we have too, for, like them, we live in the light of Easter. And really, when you think about it, the only proof that Jesus is risen is us- as a church community. Going forward, I am most certain that the key factor to our ability to thrive will be in going beyond our own self interest. It will require our cooperation and our mutual concern for one another both within and beyond the walls of this building. So how do we find this abundant life? How can we build this kind of authentic community? Where do we begin? It starts by each one of us committing to being a shepherding presence to one another through deep and meaningful conversations. We need the kind of conversations that cross generations, that engage not simply the people we always talk to, but also the people we seldom or never talk to. Each one of us needs to commit to honest sharing and radical hospitality and to focus on being community, especially as we find ourselves in this late Covid time. We all know that the Covid experience of isolating ourselves and hunkering down has been hard. We realized how much we needed one another.  As we go forward, we need to remember that we all have something to give and something to share to build up this community of faith, to work for the common good of all people and to embody the Spirit in our community life. We need to let our faith change the way we live and the way we interact with one another. It can start right here in this sanctuary with the people sitting next to us in the pew- I invite you to listen to a couple of them right now.

 Dialogue-You- Sitting Next to Me in the Pew (in Reaching for Rainbows, by Anne Weems, copyright protected)

Minute for Mission Being at camp solidified my strong connection with the natural world.”Bill on a mountain, looking over the valley and the mountains beyond

Credit: Bill Darnell

None of us can go a single day without having an impact on someone’s life. And we can’t always predict how what we do to help change a life might wind up changing ours, too.

Take Bill Darnell. Bill’s love affair with nature began at camp, but it didn’t end there. Far from it. Bill’s childhood experience of camp wound up inspiring one of the world’s most influential environmental movements.

“Camping had a big effect on me. I grew up in suburbia and didn’t have much access to the natural world. Camping was an opportunity to go out and be in nature. It was amazing. Being at camp solidified my strong connection with the natural world,” he says.

Bill’s early camp experience instilled such a love of nature that when he became an adult, he became an environmental activist. “When I was 25 years old, not far removed from my years in camp, I saw that they were testing nuclear weapons. That was so obviously wrong that I felt I had to do something to stop it,” he says.

So Bill and a small group of friends anxiously climbed on board an 85-foot fishing boat later dubbed Greenpeace. Together, they set sale for Alaska to stop the testing of a nuclear bomb. Greenpeace as a movement was born.

Bill’s story proves that camping experiences in childhood can lead to a lifelong commitment to care for God’s creation.

As scientists and activists sound the alarm around climate change and experts report that not spending enough time outside is having an impact on our children’s health and well-being, outdoor ministry has never been more crucial. It’s just one of the many reasons why Mission & Service really matters.

Your Mission & Service gifts support over two dozen United Church-run camps across the country. Every year, your generosity gives thousands of children an opportunity to go to camp. There, they learn life skills, meet other campers, explore faith, and spend time outside.

Like Bill, some young people may leave camp so impressed by the natural environment that they get on board a movement to take care of it. “Camping made an incredible difference in my life. I know it will make an incredible difference to young people across Canada. I give thanks to those who support it,” Bill says.

Let us pray:

God, as we learn about the early Christian church and the community that they nurtured, there is much that inspires us. Their common life of gathering together to worship and praise you, to break bread, to pray for one another and the needs of the world, and to share what they had with those in need provides us with a wonderful model of compassion, hospitality and generosity. At the same time, we know, as with any community of people, things were not always perfect. There were differences to sort through. There was brokenness by times. It was not just people pretending to be nice. Like us, these were real people.

We thank you that just as you journeyed with them, so you journey with us as a faith community. Over and over again, you show great patience with us. You point out your ways that are better than our ways. You give us courage us to share your word with reverence, enthusiasm and joy. You call us to embody your will for us and others by reaching out to those beyond our walls. Stretch our understanding of community until we realize completely that all your people are included in your household. Help us to break down walls that keep us apart, and to reach beyond ourselves to spread your love and compassion with those who need it. May we show by our lives the joy we find in being part of your community and connecting with one another. Teach us to look at each other through soft eyes, erasing the need to control or fix one another, but learning to accept and respect one another as we are. Remind us that you are not confined to this church but that we can find ourselves in your presence everywhere, in nature, in the busyness of our day to day lives and in the quiet moments of rest and reflection. Teach us to discover you in the needs of this world, in the cries of all who suffer and in the voices of the many who long for a sense of belonging and a feeling that someone cares about them. Help us to be a community that enters into those deeper conversations with one another, that models your grace in the world so that others will know and want to be part of what we celebrate as your Easter people, people of your shepherding care.

In the silence of these moments, we lift before you the names and concerns of people we know, of situations in this world where your peace, your healing, and your presence is needed, the many who struggle with illness, with grief, with a longing for purpose and meaning, for our congregation as one of the many emerging in these late covid days and trying to find a path forward, and a common vision. Hear these, our prayers, O God, as we offer them in the name of your unfolding and abundant love made known to us in Jesus, who taught us to pray saying… Our Father…

Hymn: 154 MV Deep in Our Hearts 


God, who sends us out and sustains us on life’s journey, will never abandon us.

We go with the assurance of God’s presence as we embody Christ’s community of love, hospitality, and generosity in the world.

We are the people of God.


May we go with energy and enthusiasm, ready to listen for the Shepherd’s voice in all of life. Amen.


April 23, 2023

Good afternoon and welcome to our worship service at Faith Memorial United.

Attached please find the worship service for this, the third Sunday ofEaster.

Please note that next Sunday after worship you are invited to the knitting circle after worship, so be sure to bring along your latest project! 

Enjoy these beautiful spring days!

Let us pause to remember that in this region we live and work and worship on lands that are, by law, the unceded territories of the Wabanaki peoples—predominantly the lands of the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, Wolastoqiyik and Passamaquoddy. May we live with respect on this land, and live in peace and friendship with its people.


May the light of Christ burn warmly within us and shine brightly out from us for all the world to see.

Call to Worship:

Where shattered hearts are made whole,

where wounded souls are healed,

where life is stronger than death,

there, the stone has been rolled away.

Where the lonely become our friends,

where a stranger is welcomed home,

where hope is stronger than despair,

there, we find Jesus journeying with us.

Where faith stories are shared,

where conversations reach new depths,

where the anxious find serenity,

there, Jesus is opening our eyes.

The stone has been rolled away.

The risen Spirit of Jesus is alive among us.

New life is ours. Alleluia!


Let us pray:

O God, you come and walk beside us.

You make yourself known to us in the most ordinary moments.

You accompany us into the unknown

and challenge us to see the world with new eyes.

May our time spent in worship, in community

open us to encounter you

and teach us to follow you. Amen.

Hymn: 412 VU This is the Day 

Prayer of Confession: (from Seasons of the Spirit)

When all seems lost and circumstances leave us feeling empty and afraid;

God of unwavering hope,

may your words of life burn within our hearts.  (silence)

When trust seems impossible, and our eyes remain tightly closed to the constant breaking in of your Spirit;

God of unwavering faith,

may your words of life burn within our hearts.  (silence)

When our spirits feel dry and listless and when hurt or resentment creates barriers to human care and friendship;

God of unwavering love,

may your words of life burn within our hearts. (silence)

Words of Affirmation:

Fellow travellers, alive to God’s constant word of faith, hope and love,

may we journey into life in new ways.

May we take God’s gift of presence, peace and forgiveness to heart.

Receive it gladly.

Live it with passion and boldness.

Christ is risen!

Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Readings and Reflection:

On the Way to Emmaus

Piecing it all together. That is how I would describe the early Christian community in light of the news of Jesus’ resurrection. There is much confusion and disbelief. People are unsure about the rumours that are circulating. As Jesus appears to Mary at the tomb and to the disciples in various places, their recognition of him never seems to be instantaneous. Mary, for instance, mistakes Jesus for a gardener, at least according to the way the writer of John’s gospel tells the story. As we will see in the story of the road to Emmaus, 2 disciples are speaking directly to Jesus but they don’t recognize him. I wonder why this might be. Why is it that it takes a while for everyone to connect the dots? As I pondered this over the past week though, it started to make more and more sense. How often, for instance, we speak about faith being all about the little discoveries we have as we journey, the gradual unfolding and opening of our lives to a bigger picture. Faith is never usually a ‘big bang’ kind of experience. It is more about allowing ourselves to be open to ponder, to ask questions and to link our experiences and stories with God’s bigger story. Somehow, I think it was much the same for those early followers.

In our reading from Acts this morning, we find Peter speaking to the crowds not after the resurrection, but after that Pentecost experience when the wind blew through the crowd and tongues as of fire alighted on each of them. The people are in wonder and awe. They are unsure what is next for them. They begin to ask questions because they are in need of direction. Peter attempts to fit the pieces together for them:

Acts 2:14a,36-41

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them,

36 “Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” 40 And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.

That question they ask ‘what should we do’ is a good one. It marks the beginning of the further unfolding of their journeys. It is sort of like asking okay, Peter, you have put the story of Jesus together for us, you have shown us the kind of Messiah Jesus was, now what? How can we start over again? To this Peter says, change your heart and your lives. Go forth in a transformed way to be the community of Christ. Align your actions with those shown to you in Jesus.

As I think about the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, I think they too were asking the very same kind of questions as they tried to piece together the events of the past week and earlier that first Easter morning. I imagine them scratching their heads, kicking dust as they walk along, trying to sort out fact from fiction. They are on the outskirts of Jerusalem on the way to Emmaus. What is most interesting is that Emmaus has never been located. I am told that if you go to the Holy Land today in search of the village of Emmaus, you may be pointed in as many as six possible directions at sites believed to be the location. There is very little certainty as to whether it ever really existed at all. Yet, this does not keep us from imagining the experience these two must have shared. It is the one and only time we hear the name Cleopas. The other disciple is not given a name- perhaps it is Cleopas’ spouse. We can be pretty certain that they were not part of the “inner circle”. As one commentor shares, they were not the ones who greeted you at the door, who counted offering, who served on boards or committees. More likely, they were the ones who slid into their pews and escaped quickly after worship, before anyone, including the religious leader, could greet them. You get the picture. Or, what if, as many imagine, the unnamed person accompanying Cleopas on the walk is us?  Simply two ordinary, everyday folks like you and me trying to make sense of what had taken place after a tragic week. Trying to piece together the theories, the rumours, arguing perhaps over the details. Unsure of what is next. Simply taking a walk to clear their minds, to think, to process the grief, the confusion and those feelings of being overwhelmed by life. Perhaps like the walk we take when we move back from the graveside after the burial of a loved one and head back to our cars. Or when we close the door at the doctor’s office after hearing a diagnosis of a life-threatening illness. Or when a relationship sours. Or when a child disappoints us. Even if Emmaus has never been located, we are familiar with the road. We have all walked it. We know its feelings of hopelessness. We know its bleak landscapes. We know its uncertainties.

I invite you, as you listen again to this familiar story, to put yourself in there as that other, unnamed follower on the way:

Luke 24:13-35

 13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19 He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see him.” 25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So, he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him, and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem, and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

It is not hard to imagine ourselves there, is it? We have all been in those places where we have struggled to piece it all together. We have known the experience of telling our stories over and over again. We have spoken those words “we had hoped”. We had hoped… that counselling might help. We had hoped… that treatment or surgery might solve the problem. We had hoped … that attending Alcoholics Anonymous would help. We had hoped… to find answers to our questions. We had hoped… there would be an influx of young people in our churches. We had hoped… that things would go back to the way they used to be. We had hoped…for a better outcome. We had hoped… (you can fill in the blanks).

Like those two walkers on the road to Emmaus, we too have poured out our confusion. We have known what it feels like to simply want to escape all the commotion, all the distress. Just to take some time to think, to pray, to hit the road, and to clear our minds. Yet, often, in trying to escape, we find there is no escape. No matter how hard we try to flee, the experience continues to play in our minds. I picture these two travellers reliving it all- the palm parade, the upper room, the cross, the tears, the horror. And now the rumours of appearances that are circulating.

Yet, right there and then, on the way, on that journey, there is a moment of encounter. Jesus joins them on the road. He finds them. He asks them what they were talking about as they were walking along. We can imagine their looks of shock when this stranger appears to be so unaware of the events that have taken place. Today, they might say something like where have you been, it’s all over CNN or all over twitter!  But maybe in his being curious, he is giving them opportunity to do some of their own piecing together. So, he lets them talk for a bit and share their experience, their story. Only then does he carry the story forward through scripture, processing each stage along the way, helping them to put the pieces together gradually, helping them to articulate it for their own understanding. Then, as the story goes, they arrive at the village where they invite him to dinner. At the table, he as the guest, becomes the host, breaking bread and sharing it with them. In that moment, their eyes are opened as they remember an earlier scene in an Upper Room. Quickly, despite the lateness of the day, they rush back to share the Good News with the others in Jerusalem.

It was all about the encounter. News of the empty tomb wasn’t quite enough for these two. It was only as Jesus showed up on the road of their lives that they really were able to see with their hearts what had taken place. Many people have asked over the years why these two did not recognize Jesus at first. Some ask if he was somehow disguised- kind of like that show that used to be on television a few years back called Undercover Boss. That’s the one where the boss would disguise him or herself and go out on the shop floor and work as an employee. There, they would listen for the real feelings and stories of their workers. Maybe that is what Jesus was looking for. Or maybe the reason they didn’t recognize Jesus had more to do with their expectations of where a Messiah was supposed to show up. Maybe they expected him was to appear in a more extraordinary place- like say at Pilate’s headquarters, the house of the high priest, or the temple in Jerusalem- somewhere important. Having Jesus meet them on the road of life in their disillusionment maybe had never occurred to them. Yet, isn’t that always where the Good News occurs- on the Emmaus Roads of our lives, when we are searching for meaning and purpose? Why wouldn’t a risen Christ come to ordinary people like these two walkers on that dusty road in the middle of nowhere, as they are trying to figure out what had just taken place? Think back over Scripture for a minute- how the angel Gabriel spoke to a lowly teenage girl in the backwoods town of Nazareth and how the news of Christ’s birth came to scruffy shepherds working the back shift in the fields. You see what I mean? Ordinary people like us. Ordinary places like Carleton County. Ordinary acts of love like the breaking of the bread around a communion table, like the sharing of insights at a book study, like the telling of our stories, the sharing of conversations, the laughter, the tears, the acts of generosity, the insights from strangers we meet in the course of our daily lives at the grocery store, the arena, the doctor’s office, while cooking supper, while sorting through the laundry. The resurrected life involves opening the eyes of our hearts, noticing the moments of grace that are all around us and sensing the presence of Christ walking alongside us. It may not be immediately evident. Sometimes, as it was for these two disciples, it was only in looking back with hindsight that the moment of recognition was felt as they remembered how their hearts were burning as they walked along. It was then that they were able to piece it all together. It was then that they could put their finger on it and feel the grace of God’s that was there.

It was then that they were able to see with the eyes of their hearts, to really process what the resurrection, what new life really meant and the new direction toward which they were being called.

I like how theologian Marcus Borg explains it-

“Emmaus isn’t just a single event, a story that happened a long time ago and far away. It happens again and again.” We all know times too when our hearts have been burning within us as they were for the disciples on the road. We all know those times when, often looking back through the rear-view mirror of our lives, we can identify a sense of being accompanied, of recognizing the face of Jesus in “the blessed stranger” who walks with us on the journey. The Emmaus story is our story too. It is our reminder that even in the difficult moments, when we least expect him, he is there, standing among us, inviting us to continue the journey with him as we share the good news with others. Amen.

Minute for Mission

 There is no ‘us’ and ‘them.’ We are one community.”

 Click here for video      

First there was the pandemic.

Then Russia invaded Ukraine, causing a global energy crisis and worldwide food shortages. These in turn worsened an already precarious food security situation for many communities.

According to UN OCHA, “the largest global food crisis in modern history is unfolding.”*

At a time when it feels like there’s a new crisis confronting us each and every day, it’s reassuring to know that Mission & Service partners provide real-time relief around the world on a daily basis.

Program Coordinator for Sustainable Development and Humanitarian Response at The United Church of Canada, Thivan Hoang, reminds us, “There is no ‘us’ and ‘them.’ We are one community.”

The United Church is an integral part of a multinational network of partners and ecumenical relationships in over 120 countries. That means whenever there’s an emergency, Mission & Service is there to help.

In 2020, a major explosion ripped through Beirut, killing 200 people and injuring 7,000 more. **

Thanks to generous gifts to Mission & Service, we were able to support partners to respond quickly, providing critically important tools that helped to free people who were trapped under the rubble. And as the city recovers, Mission & Service partners continue to assist in rebuilding schools, homes, and other infrastructure.

Although Mission & Service has recently focused on COVID-19 relief, there’s another looming catastrophe that requires our immediate attention. “Without a doubt, climate change worries me the most,” Hoang says. “We’re seeing increases of droughts, floods, and severe storms that have destroyed crops and agricultural land.”

The more we support Mission & Service, the better we can respond to climate calamities. “People who contribute the least to greenhouse gases are often the most impacted by climate change,” Hoang explains.

Your gifts have made―and will continue to make―huge differences around the world. Wherever an emergency strikes, thanks to you, Mission & Service is there to help.


Let us pray:

God of new life and resurrection, we praise you and thank you that in giving us Jesus, you are continually inviting us to look around and to see with the eyes of our hearts. You call us to live with respect for the gift of this earth, caring gently for each living creature, the birds of the air, the plants and trees of our fields and forests, the ocean and rivers and all that you have shared with us. May your love be made known in us as we demonstrate mutual care and respect for one another, as we offer our energy, wisdom and enthusiasm in community over conversations and silences, and through gestures of love, generosity and concern.

Like the 2 disciples on the road to Emmaus, we are filled with many questions about the past, about the future, about life itself. Sometimes we walk with hopes shattered, wondering what is next. Sometimes we are confused. Sometimes we are worried. Sometimes we are filled with doubts. We know many who walk these paths this day. We think of the people of Yemen in the aftermath of so many deaths there this week. We think of the many whose lives this moment are filled with difficult decisions about their health, or where they will live in the face of rising costs of rents, or how they will feed their households. In these and so many situations that we know, we ask that your love might be made known in the simplest of gestures and actions- a phone call, a kind word of encouragement, a deep and respectful silence as we listen, an offer of assistance.

O God, help us to recognize you in the unexpected and unlikely places and faces of our daily living- in conversations along the way, in words of wisdom and in smiles of understanding. In the name of Jesus, who revealed himself to those disciples long ago over a simple meal, and who continues to call us to share the good news of your love to this world, we pray together saying… Our Father…

Hymn:182 VU Stay with Us  


Go into the world with your hearts burning.

Find the slow wonder of God greeting your heart in new and surprising ways.

Open your eyes enough to love deeply from a mutual heart for that is how God loves us.


Go into the world with love and joy, ready to encounter Christ, the blessed stranger, on the many roads you walk and through the many people you meet. Amen. 


April 16th, 2023    

Awe and Wonder


A couple of announcements

       Saturday, April 22 — Highway Clean-up — meet at the church at 9:00am to plan sections of road to clean. This coincides with the Florenceville-Bristol Community Cleanup.

Sunday, April 23 — Official Board Meeting after church.

Land Acknowledgement

Let us pause to remember that in this region we live and work and worship on lands that are, by law, the unceded territories of the Wabanaki peoples—predominantly the lands of the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, Wolastoqiyik and Passamaquoddy. May we live with respect on this land, and live in peace and friendship with its people.

Lighting of the Christ Candle

Jesus came to share the good news of God. He came to share in our joy and sorrows so that we may know God more fully. Let us take a moment to share our joys and sorrows in community with God’s people.

(The congregation is invited to share exciting or challenging events in their lives.)

We light this candle for the good news we shared, the good news in hearts, and the good news that wherever you go, God is with us.

Call to Worship (based on Acts 2:43‒47)

We are called to be the church.

We come to learn from the lessons Jesus taught.

Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles.

We come in amazement of the wondrous things God is doing in the world.

All who believed were together and had all things in common;

We come with our own unique stories and histories, drawn together in God’s love.

They would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.

We come to learn ways we can care for God’s people and creation.

Day by day, as they spent much time together in the Temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people.

We come to share in fellowship as God’s people.

And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

We come to worship God together in community.

Opening Prayer

Holy God, as we gather today as your people, make us attentive to your call in our lives. Help us to notice the things you do among us, the things you stir in our hearts, the opportunities that surround us to share your love with others. Guide us in this time of worship, we pray. Amen.


Will You Come and Follow Me” (VU 567)  

Prayer of Confession

Holy God, we live in a world full of distractions. We are captivated and consumed with things that do not matter, often at the expense of hearing your call. Forgive us, we pray. Gracious God, hear our silent prayers as we confess those things that separate us from you and from each other…


Words of Assurance

When we come before God, seeking forgiveness as our truest and most honest selves, we are met with mercy and grace. Know that you are forgiven from your sin. God still has things to show you and continues to call you by name.

Gospel Reading

The Parable of the Mustard Seed (Matthew 13:31‒32)

31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

Conversation Time

 “What does it take to get your attention?”

“What takes up more of your attention than you’d like?”

New Testament Lesson

The Conversion of Saul (Acts 9:1‒19) Saul’s Conversion

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied.“Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything. 10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord,” he answered. 11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.” 13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” 17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 

19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.


“We are called to be the church.”

This statement from A New Creed of The United Church of Canada is daring. It is challenging. And like the other affirmations it accompanies about living in God’s world and believing and trusting in God, it packs with it some important questions that we as a community of faith are going to be wrestling with over the coming weeks.

Who is “we”?

What does it mean to be “called”?

What kind of church are we called to become?

When communities like ours try to flesh out who they are called to be, they can be guided by the subsequent lines of A New Creed, lines that speak to things like celebrating God’s presence, living with respect in creation, loving and serving others, and proclaiming Jesus. But more often than not, people are drawn to emulate an example, to model themselves on the concrete experiences of others. So we might ask:

    Are we called to be the church as we were 60 years ago, the church we remember from our youth?

    Are we called to be the big-budget church we see across town, or on TV, or the Internet, with their mega programs and staff teams and professional branding?

    Are we called to be the church that does everything, that meets the needs and responds to the aspirations of every person who comes through our door, or are we called to be the church that does a few select things really well?

     In looking for examples to follow, there is no shortage of communities of faith that get it right, and an equal number of stories of churches that get it wrong, and the vast majority of examples are some messy and confusing combination of the two. That’s why many, when looking for a church community to emulate and learn from, go back to the Early Church as described to us in the Book of Acts.          

     We might be drawn to the Early Church because of its proximity to the life and times of Jesus; some of the Early Church figures actually walked with Jesus and learned from his teaching and example.

     We might be drawn to the Early Church because of its situation as a pre-Christendom example of following Jesus; it comes from a time before church and empire became co- mingled and better reflects our reality in a post-Christendom world.

     We might be drawn to the Early Church because it was a smaller and easier movement to wrap our heads around. It was before things like denominations and traditions made the church branch out into a complex and dysfunctional family tree.

     Or we might be drawn to the Early Church simply because of the compelling picture it paints for us of what it means to be followers of Jesus. The second chapter of Acts gives us the most concise picture of what that Early Church was like. It tells us that:

     Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. (Acts 2:43‒47)

     What a compelling picture of what it means to be the church! It is this depiction of the Early Church, and a few of the stories that surround it, that will guide us over the coming weeks, as we explore what it means to be called to be the church.

     For many of us, the stories of the Early Church are compelling because they take us back to a time when the church was young. When trying to reconnect with our values and ideals, it is common to recall significant moments from our youth—those first experiences of having your gifts recognized by others, or articulating a passion for a particular line of work, or falling in love, or recognizing a problem in the world that we wanted to commit our life toward solving. Sometimes as we age and accrue experiences in this less than ideal world, we lose track of the idealism of our youth and become cynical about the world and our place and possibilities within it.

     For some, the stories and examples of the Early Church are best envisioned as the experiences of a young church, a church that was still idealistic and visionary and believed amazing things were possible for those who live in God’s world.        

     If you take the time to listen to the young people in our community, or visit the closest campus ministry supported by our church, or if you just think back to your own experience of being young, you’ll likely recognize or remember that being young does not mean life is simple or easy. The challenges may look different from age to age, but the experience of being young has always been challenging. The same can be said of when the church was young, too. The Book of Acts is full of friction and messiness and challenges.

     But a common characteristic of the young is their propensity for awe and wonder. Just think of a newborn opening their eyes for the first time, trying to make sense of shapes and colours. Imagine a toddler tasting foods for the first time and responding to what they like and don’t like. Picture a child exploring the world around them—wondering at grasshoppers, crawfish, and spider webs—or a young student riding a bus to school for the first time. Even the big kids who arrive at a university for orientation week can’t help but exhibit the qualities of awe and wonder as they take in new experiences and surroundings.

     This is where our depiction of the Early Church begins. “Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done” (Acts 2:43). The foundation of a life of faith, and the core of any community of faith, is the awe and wonder we exhibit when we take time to notice the things God is doing around us.

     There is a lot to take in. From the big, loud, and miraculous, as witnessed by Saul and the community at Damascus, when a life is changed in a moment and an enemy becomes a friend, to the small, quiet, and seemingly ordinary, as when a little mustard seed grows and becomes a home for others. God is providing signs and wonders all around us every day, if only we take the time to notice.

     We as the church are called to be a noticing people. Noticing requires slowing down and rejecting the breakneck pace of society. It means seeing with new eyes and considering the perspectives of others, including the Divine. It means putting ourselves in situations that are new and uncomfortable, that are risky and full of potential. Noticing the big and small movements of God means seeing with the heart and imagination and faith, just as much as with the eyes and other senses.

     A common description of worship is that worship is anything we do in response to the things God has already done. Worship, therefore, begins with noticing, observing, and taking in the things God is doing in the world.

     As we begin this exploration of what it means to be “called to be the church,” may we begin by noticing the works of the almighty around us. May our noticing draw forth from us awe and wonder. And may our awe and wonder take us back to a place where we believed anything was possible for those who live in God’s world. For it is this kind of hopeful imagination we will need if we are to be the church God calls us to be.


Minute for Mission

Learning about agroecology at the Dora Alicia Sorto School Farm in El Salvador

A farmer shows beans harvested from her land

Community members show their pride in a successful bean harvest at the Dora Alicia Sorto School Farm, a project led by the Association of Economic and Social Development Santa Marta (ADES).

Credit: Christie Neufeldt

The Association of Economic and Social Development Santa Marta (ADES), a Mission & Service partner, is located in an area of Central America that is very vulnerable to climate change. This hot, dry region regularly experiences drought. Mining projects have also negatively affected the environment and the people in the region. ADES and other community organizations decided to act to protect the community’s right to a healthy environment.

An example of how ADES is responding is a three-year agroecology project co-funded by the Manitoba Council for International Cooperation and The United Church of Canada Foundation, along with Mission & Service. Agroecology benefits the land and water because it recycles nutrients back into the soil. It also reduces production costs, lessening the financial burden on rural farmers.

In this project, ADES works closely with the community to grow food in a rural region of El Salvador, promoting sustainable agriculture that protects biodiversity, maintains the integrity of the land, and upholds rural culture.

The centre of the project is the Dora Alicia Sorto School Farmwhere rural families, mainly led by women, learn about agroecology. The school provides training, technical expertise, and seeds indigenous to the region. It focuses on preserving the surrounding environment and on upholding gender and human rights as part of its approach to food security.

Your gifts to Mission & Service help support ADES’ agroecology project. Thank you for your generosity!

Prayers of the People

One: God of the universe, creator of galaxies and rivers and trees, author of hope and giver of peace, there is no end to the amazing things you have done.

Help us to take it all in. Help us to learn from the stories of others. Help us to notice your presence all around us.

Holy God, you call out to us in many ways.
Make us aware of all the places where you are calling us to serve and to give of ourselves— in areas grand and humble, in forums global and local—and give us a desire to contribute in helpful ways.

Compassionate God, there are many people and situations that weigh on our hearts:
people who are sick in body or mind, and need healing,
people who are persecuted and oppressed by systems of injustice,
cherished children of the living God who feel alone and unworthy of love.

In this time of quiet silence, we lift them up to you Lord…


Hear our prayers, O God, and attend to them in your loving mercy.
We pray in the name of Christ. LORDS” PRAYER Amen.


Teach Me, God to Wonder” (VU 299)  

Sending Out and Blessing

One: Go from this place to be God’s noticing people, attuned to the movements and workings of the Spirit around us. Let awe and wonder be your starting point and the blessing of God be your guide. Amen.


© 2020 The United Church of Canada/L’Église Unie du Canada. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike Licence. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.5/ca. Any copy must include this notice.

All biblical quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.



April 9, 2023

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

Happy Easter everyone!


Call to Worship: (based on Matthew 28: 1-10, adapted from Johanna Harader    spaciousfaith.com)

Carrying Friday’s stale grief,

We come to see the tomb.

We come to mourn on solid ground,

And instead find the earth shifting beneath our feet.

We expect bloody grave clothes,

And instead see the gleaming white robe of the angel.

The angel who says, “I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he is risen.”

And our hearts swell with fear and great joy as we run to share the news:

Christ is risen!

Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Hymn: 155 VU Jesus Christ is Risen Today 

Opening Prayer and Prayer of Confession: (adapted from Seasons of Spirit)

O God, we come as Easter people, to open our eyes to new sights and sounds.

We come to find resurrection even when Good Friday hangs so heavily in our world.

We come to be changed by songs of birds and angels and find new signs of life all around us.

We come to find that we can be different when we open our eyes and ears to joy.

We come to touch and smell the good news and find that you, O God,

make all things new again.

We come to praise you. Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

Christ is Risen indeed! Alleluia!

With each alleluia, we protest the Good Friday world.

We imagine something else, and still that word catches us in our throats, and we are uncertain of that joy.

Forgive us for the hesitant alleluias,

the certainty that there must be a catch,

the unwillingness to believe wholeheartedly in the power of love.

Forgive us for our silence in the face of miracles.

Forgive us when we turn away from your presence.

Risen Christ, roll away the stones that entomb our hearts.

Shine your resurrection light into the shadows of our beings.

Drive out from our minds all that keeps us from the abundant life you offer.

Holy One, open us to the power of your love. Amen.


Words of Affirmation:

God knows our hurts and frustrations.

God understands every sorrow and loss and still invites us to find hope in things above,

like forgiveness, grace and love.

Set your mind on these things, and God will never be hidden from you.

Thanks be to God! Alleluia! Amen.


Psalm 118: 1-2, 14-24

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his steadfast love endures forever!

Let Israel say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”

14 The Lord is my strength and my might;
he has become my salvation.

15 There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous:
“The right hand of the Lord does valiantly;
16     the right hand of the Lord is exalted;
the right hand of the Lord does valiantly.”
17 I shall not die, but I shall live
and recount the deeds of the Lord.
18 The Lord has punished me severely,
but he did not give me over to death.

19 Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the Lord.

20 This is the gate of the Lord;
the righteous shall enter through it.

21 I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
22 The stone that the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.


 Matthew 28: 1-10

28 After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers and sisters to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

With Fear and Great Joy

A Sunday School teacher tells the story of trying to get her grade 3 class to recount with her the events leading up to Jesus’ death. It was a tad bit like pulling teeth. Nonetheless, bit by bit, they collectively pieced together the main parts of the passion story. Finally, they arrived at the events of that first Easter morning. She asked them, “Can anyone tell me the first words Jesus spoke to the women who arrived at the tomb?” Very quickly, one little hand shot up. “I know. I know.” What Jenny? What did Jesus say? Jenny beamed brightly: “TA DA!”

Perhaps more than anything else I can say today, those words TA DA capture the essence of the Easter message. You have to admit, it is not a bad guess on the part of little Jenny. That’s because Easter carries with it that kind of TA DA feeling. It doesn’t get any better than this. Today we celebrate God’s great reveal- a grand reversal. All is not lost! Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed. Alleluia!

Matthew’s telling of the Easter story lends itself very well to that expression- TA DA. It is the only one of the four gospels that describes an earthquake taking place as the two Marys approach the tomb. Unlike some of the other gospel writers, there is no mention here of the women carrying spices to anoint Jesus’ body. They are not wondering about who will roll away the stone or worrying about whether or not Jesus’ body might have been stolen. In fact, we really don’t know anything based on Matthew’s account about what they were thinking about as they walked toward the tomb that morning. Perhaps they were discussing all that had taken place in the past week or maybe they were just quiet, lost in their thoughts. All Matthew tells us is that they were going to see the tomb. These same women had been at the foot of the cross only 3 days earlier. Who knows, after having followed him throughout his ministry, we might wonder if in that journey to the tomb, they might have come with a certain sense of anticipation. Perhaps they remembered his much-repeated prediction that the Son of Man would be arrested, suffer and be put to death, and on the third day, he would rise again. Perhaps they were thinking that a visit to the place where he rested would help them to gain a better understanding.

Whatever their thoughts or conversation might have been, the tremors of an earthquake, along with the sight of what one commentator called “an angel with attitude”, who not only rolled back the stone, but sat upon it, must have jolted them back to reality. We are told that the soldiers commissioned by Pilate to guard the tomb fainted in fear. The angel, however, ignores these guards and speaks only to the women, telling them not to be afraid, that Jesus has been raised and is going ahead of them to Galilee where they will see him. The women then leave in fear and great joy setting out to tell the disciples, but not before meeting Jesus on the way who gives them the same message to go and tell what they had just seen and heard.

All of that is quite a bit more than simply Jesus saying TA DA! In fact, even if Jesus had uttered those words, TA DA, there was still so much more. As Gerald Manley Hopkins writes, Easter has to be a verb and not a noun. It happened. It happens and it will happen again. It was not just a single event but an ongoing reality.

That’s why the women were instructed to go and tell, to carry the story forward to the disciples. What they had witnessed was only the beginning. It significance was only realized as these same women were called to daunting action- to go and tell. It is little wonder that we are told that the women went forth with fear and great joy. I love that phrasing that is unique to Matthew’s telling of the story. The joy of the resurrection did not entirely conquer their fear. The two emotions were held together as these women went forward.

 As David Lose says, Fear and joy are not opposites. They are intermingled and inseparable. We can experience them at the same time. I think it’s striking that the announcement of resurrection doesn’t take away all their fear. Rather, it enables them to keep faith amid their fears, to do their duty and share their good news in spite of their anxiety. This is the very definition of courage. And, I would argue, courage is precisely what Easter is about … There is, indeed, much to fear in our mortal lives. And yet the resurrection of Christ creates the possibility for joy and hope and courage and so much more. Why? Because it changes everything. In the resurrection, you see, we have God’s promise that life is stronger than death, that love is greater than hate, that mercy overcomes judgment, and that all the sufferings and difficulties of this life are transient — real and palpable and sometimes painful, for sure, but they do not have the last word and do not represent the final reality.

Easter is not simply what happens at the tomb. For the women on that first Easter morning, the tomb was a necessary stop but it was not the final destination. For them, the final destination was when they headed back to Galilee, to share the good news. It is much the same for us. Easter is what happens when we live our lives and encounter Christ’s presence along the way. Easter is when we head back to our Galilees, our everyday lives, at work, at home and in the community as changed people. It’s as we share and embody the Good News of new life that the story of Easter continues to come alive in our world- like when we clothe the naked, when we feed the hungry, when we bless those who mourn, when we show compassion to the hurting and marginalized, when we set the captives free, when we are present to one another and when we do what Jesus showed us to do. It is then that we are renewed and reborn. No, Jesus’ resurrection doesn’t take away the fear and uncertainty of living in a Good Friday world of broken relationships, evil, despair, war, hatred and violence, but it does call us and lead us to work for new possibilities and new life even amidst those fears. It invites us to see beyond the wilderness, to envision new beginnings and to encounter his risen presence as we share his story of an alternative way- a way of love, a way of mercy, a way of life.

 Resurrection is a Ta Da moment indeed but maybe not so much in the sense of a one-time miracle in the past tense that happened to one individual, but an ongoing announcement of a coming hope for all people and for all creation. Not an arrival or a destination point but a beginning point to a whole new way of living- an invitation to live with courage and great joy even amidst the fears-

Friends, Christ is Risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia! Ta Da! Amen.

(In person service continues with Communion)

Hymn: 173 VU Thine is the Glory  


Barbara Brown Taylor writes, “God has woven resurrection into our daily lives. It is our mission to rise up from the ashes, brush ourselves off and live more than we ever lived before. He is risen! Risen indeed!”


Alleluia! Amen!


April 2, 2023 

Palm/ Passion Sunday

Welcome to the beginning of Holy Week. Many thanks to all our participants in our In- person service this am. You helped to give new meaning to the Palm/ Passion story for the whole congregation.

Wed @7pm will be our final sharing and fellowship time on our Lenten devotional, Good Courage.

Upcoming services this week: 

Maundy Thursday Service by ZOOM ONLY at 7pm. The link will be sent out to congregation on Thurs and will be open at 6:45pm.

  As we remember the night before his arrest when Jesus shared his Last Supper with his disciples,  please have on hand next to your computer/ipad:

               A glass of grape juice and a piece of bread/cracker

               A bowl of water

               A symbol of wilderness(something you can hold in your hand- a twig, a rock, a leaf, a plant, a shell, a feather, etc.) 

Good Friday Service IN PERSON ONLY at 10:30 am. Come, as we reflect on Jesus’ suffering in light of the world’s suffering today.

Easter Sunday with Communion– please remember your drinking box of grape juice and piece of bread/cracker


Blessings as we share the events of Jesus’ last week, and look anew at ourselves and our world.

Let us pause to remember that in this region we live and work and worship on lands that are, by law, the unceded territories of the Wabanaki peoples—predominantly the lands of the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, Wolastoqiyik and Passamaquoddy. May we live with respect on this land, and live in peace and friendship with its people.

Introduction to Worship:

There is something different about today and this week. It is only one week, but this week is a wilderness of emotion and heartbreak. Everything that could happen happens:

Celebration, betrayal, feasts and love made real, hearts are broken, and faith is questioned.

It all happens here in this one week.

It is a wildness that we know. We have wandered through it.

Each year, this journey through Holy Week is coloured by the events in our lives, in our communities and in our world.

Each year we, as the Christian community, are called to support one another in finding new meaning in Jesus’ passion.

So, we come again today to find God who never strays but is hidden behind every rock.

God’s reflection is in every puddle and every stream.

God is in all these days, just as God will be a part of every day of our lives.

Let us pray: (in unison)

Gracious God, we enter this week of contrasts.

We gather with the crowds to shout our welcome to Jesus.

But we can feel tension in the air.

We wonder what is next.

Motivate us to be a people of faith, willing to share in the journey Jesus embraced.

Empower us to witness in word and deed to your steadfast, never-failing,

liberating and transforming love.

Even now, even in this wilderness, may we find your grace. Amen.


Coming into Jerusalem: a reading based on Matthew 21: 1-11

It was a special day in Jerusalem. Once a year, the Roman governor would come to town with lots of pomp and ceremony. There would be a big parade, and people would shout and wave.

It’s not that they necessarily wanted to do that, but they knew they were supposed to do that. The Roman governor wanted to know that people were happy to see him, even though most of the people – if you asked them – would tell you they were not happy to see him.

The Romans had conquered this land and ruled it in a mean way. They told people to look out only for themselves and not care a lot for others. They didn’t care about the poorest people, disabled or unemployed, women who had no husbands, and children who had no parents. No, the Romans pretty much only cared about themselves. People didn’t like the governor, but they knew they should wave and shout and let the governor think that they liked him. It was always a good idea to stay on his good side.

But this particular day, hardly anyone was there to welcome the governor when he rode into town. He had soldiers with him, chariots, and many important-looking people, but only a few people were there to wave and shout.

Most people were on the other side of Jerusalem, where someone else was riding into town on the very same day. Unlike the Roman emperor, this person didn’t have horses and chariots – he was riding on a donkey! And he didn’t have soldiers and important-looking people with him; he had children and poor people!

This was Jesus, and the people were so excited to see him that they flocked to the streets and shouted happy things. They took branches off the trees to wave because they wanted to wave something and celebrate that Jesus was there. Unlike the Romans, Jesus told them how they should love one another and care for one another. Jesus reminded the people that God loved them; because of that, they should love each other. If someone was in need, you shouldn’t turn away from them, Jesus taught. You should offer them whatever you can and let them know that God loves them.

How excited the people were that Jesus was coming into town! They weren’t quite sure what would happen next, but they were excited because what Jesus taught made a lot more sense than what the Romans said.

Back on the other side of town, though, the Roman governor was not happy. “I wonder who’s stealing my thunder?” he muttered to some people with him. “We must find out. And we must do something about it.”

Hymn: 122 VU All Glory, Laud and Honour (waving palm branches)

Hosanna to the Son of David!

Hosanna in the highest heaven!

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of our God!

Hosanna in the highest heaven!

We light this candle as a symbol of our love for Jesus and our joy in welcoming him into our lives (lighting of Christ candle)

 The Passion of Jesus as recounted in Matthew 26-27

 As we recall the last days of Jesus’ life, we hear it told by voices from whom we do not usually hear. Listen and remember. 

Scene One: Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus (based on Matthew 26:14-16)

 14 Then one of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What will you give me if I turn Jesus over to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16 From that time on he was looking for an opportunity to turn him in.

Hymn: (Sing, “Were you there when his friend betrayed his trust?” to the tune Were You There? 144 VU)

Silver: I was there. I am the silver that was paid to Judas. (Hold up the bag of coins and shake it.)

I lived in the earth for centuries until I was dug up, melted into coins, and then passed around from person to person. This particular day, I was in the hands of some religious leaders. Suddenly, I heard Judas come rushing into the temple. He seemed really jumpy as he asked, “What will you give me if I hand Jesus over to you?” The chief priest said, “We’ll give you 30 pieces of silver.” He smirked as he held me up in front of Judas. Judas grabbed me and took off.

(Place the bag on the table and extinguish the 1st candle.)


Scene Two: The Passover Meal with the Disciples (based on Matthew 26:17–30

17 On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?” 18 He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, my time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” 19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover meal.

20 When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve disciples, 21 and while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” 22 And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?” 23 He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.” 25 Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” He replied, “You have said so.”

26 While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you; I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

30 When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Hymn: (Sing, “Were you there when they shared the bread and wine?”)


Bread/Wine: We were there. We are the bread and wine. (Hold up the unleavened bread and wine.)

            We are symbols of the food that nourishes the body and soul of each one of you. Sometimes we are kept from those who need us most. Sometimes we are shared. This particular evening, we were shared in a very wonderful way. (Place the bread and wine on the table .) Jesus blessed us and gave us to his disciples. He said, “Take and eat this bread. It is my body.” And then he thanked God and said, “Drink this wine, all of you. This is my blood of the cov­enant, poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Extinguish the 2nd candle.)


Scene Three: Jesus Prays in Gethsemane (based on Matthew 26:36–46)

36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee and began to be grieved and agitated. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.” 39 And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me, yet not what I want but what you want.” 40 Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? 41 Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again he went away for the second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Now the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Get up, let us be going. Look, my betrayer is at hand.”

Hymn: (Sing, “Were you there when he knelt and prayed to God?”)

Palm: I was there. (Hold up the palm leaf .) I’m from the Garden of Gethsemane, as peaceful a place as there is anywhere. God’s presence is truly felt there. Jesus came that fateful night with his disciples. He left some to sit and wait, but he took 3 with him to pray. He said, “I am in deep sorrow, even to death; remain here and stay awake with me.” Then he threw himself down on the ground right under my branches and cried out, “God, please, please, if it’s possible, get me out of this! Still, it’s not what I want; it’s what you want that matters.”

            Then he got up and went back to the 3 disciples, but they were fast asleep! “So, you couldn’t stay awake with me just for an hour?” he said. “The spirit indeed is will­ing, but the flesh is weak.” Twice more, Jesus came under my branches and prayed the same prayer. Twice more, he went back to the 3 and found them asleep. The last time, he said, “See, my time is up. The Son of Man is about to be given into the hands of sinners. Get up! Let’s go! My betrayer is here.”

(Place the palm on the table and extinguish the 3rd candle.)


Scene Four: The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus (based on Matthew 26:47–56)

47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him.” 49 At once he came up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. 50 Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you are here to do.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him. 51 Suddenly one of those with Jesus put his hand on his sword, drew it, and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. 52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place, for all who take the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the scriptures be fulfilled, which say it must happen in this way?” 55 At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a rebel? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. 56 But all this has taken place, so that the scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.


Hymn: (Sing, “Were you there when his friends betrayed and fled?”)

Sword: I was there. I am a metal sword. (Hold the sword high.) I look forward to the day when all swords are turned to plowshares, and weapons are used no more.

I was in the hands of a person who came with the religious leaders to find Jesus. I arrived just in time to see Judas come right up to Jesus and say, “Greetings, Rabbi,” in a very cold voice. Then he kissed Jesus on the cheek, which was the sign for them to come and arrest him. Jesus stood calmly and said to Judas, “Friend, do what you are here to do. “One of Jesus’ followers also had a sword and injured one of the high priest’s ser­vants. But Jesus spoke angrily to his follower, “Put away your sword!” he said. “For all who use the sword will die by the sword.” Then he spoke to the crowd, “Have you come with swords and clubs to arrest me as if I were some kind of criminal? I sat each day in the temple, and you didn’t arrest me then! Still, it’s happening this way to fulfill what the scriptures say.” (Place the sword on the table.) Suddenly, the disciples took off, leaving Jesus all alone with the ugly crowd.

(Extinguish the 4th candle.)


Scene Five: Trial and Peter’s Denial (based on Matthew 26:57–75)

 57 Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. 58 But Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and going inside he sat with the guards in order to see how this would end. 59 Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for false testimony against Jesus so that they might put him to death, 60 but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward 61 and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.’” 62 The high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?” 63 But Jesus was silent. Then the high priest said to him, “I put you under oath before the living God, tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you,

From now on you will see the Son of Man
seated at the right hand of Power
and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy. 66 What do you think?” They answered, “He deserves death.” 67 Then they spat in his face and struck him, and some slapped him, 68 saying, “Prophesy to us, you Messiah] Who is it that struck you?”

69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A female servant came to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” 70 But he denied it before all of them, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.” 71 When he went out to the porch, another female servant saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus the Nazarene.” 72 Again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.” 73 After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.” 74 Then he began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know the man!” At that moment the cock crowed. 75 Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: “Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

Hymn: (Sing, “Were you there when they sentenced him to death?”)

Wind: I was there. I am the wind. I am everywhere. I am the wind that chilled the crowd and fanned the fire that warmed the crowd that gathered in the courtyard outside the chief priest’s house. (Hold up the wind instrument and blow into it.)

            I saw this scared guy sneaking around after Jesus, and I recognized him. He was one of Jesus’ followers. A servant girl said to him, kind of innocent-like, “You were with Jesus, that man from Galilee.” Well, you should have heard him react! “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” he said. Then another servant girl, asked him the same thing. “I don’t know the man!” he said. Some other people were listening, and they all repeated what the servant girls had said.

            “I don’t know the man!” he yelled again. Then a rooster crowed. You should have seen the look that came over this guy’s face! He burst into tears and ran away.

(Place the instrument on the table, extinguish the 5th candle)


 Scene Six: Pilate Hands Jesus Over to Be Crucified (based onMatthew 27:1–26)

27 When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus in order to bring about his death. They bound him, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate the governor.

When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus [ was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. He said, “I have sinned by betraying innocent [ blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since they are blood money.” After conferring together, they used them to buy the potter’s field as a place to bury foreigners. For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah, [ “And they took] the thirty pieces of silver, the price of the one on whom a price had been set, on whom some of the people of Israel had set a price, 10 and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”

11 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You say so.” 12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?” 14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

15 Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. 16 At that time they had a notorious prisoner called Jesus] Barabbas. 17 So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus] Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?”] 18 For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. 19 While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.” 20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. 21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” [ All of them said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 Then he asked, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”

24 So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood;] see to it yourselves.” 25 Then the people as a whole answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” 26 So he released Barabbas for them, and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

Hymn: (Sing, “Were you there when they screamed for him to die?”)

Water: I was there. I am water. (Hold up a small basin and then pour some water into it from the pitcher.) I am a precious and essential part of all living things. This particular day, I was in a bowl near the governor Pilate. A whole group of religious leaders came to Pilate dragging a beaten-up man with them. This man, Jesus, looked close to death. But he stood tall, almost like he was going to question Pilate instead. Finally, Pilate asked, “Well, are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You say so.” Then the religious leaders made more accusations, but Jesus didn’t answer them. This time, he remained silent.

            Pilate was impressed with Jesus. It was a custom at this Passover time to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone they wanted. I think he hoped the people would want Jesus. I heard Pilate’s wife whisper to him about a dream she had. This man was innocent, she said, and Pilate should have nothing to do with him. So, he said to the crowd, “Do you want me to release the criminal Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” The crowds had been all worked up by the religious leaders to go against Jesus, so the crowd yelled, “Barabbas! Give us Barabbas!” “What should I do with Jesus, then?” Pilate asked. “Crucify him!” they screamed. “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

            Pilate gave in. And that’s when he came over to me and washed his sweaty hands. He then said slowly for all to hear, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. From now on, what happens is in your hands.” He released Barabbas and had Jesus whipped.

(Place the basin of water on the table and extinguish the 6th candle.)


Scene Seven: Jesus Is Crucified (based on Matthew 27:27–55)

27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters,[l] and they gathered the whole cohort around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and after twisting some thorns into a crown they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 They spat on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

32 As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross. 33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34 they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. 35 And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots; [ 36 then they sat down there and kept watch over him. 37 Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”

38 Then two rebels were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by derided [ him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41 In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to, for he said, ‘I am God’s Son.’  44 The rebels who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way.

45 From noon on, darkness came over the whole land] until three in the afternoon. 46 And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47 When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.” 48 At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.”] 50 Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. [ 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. 53 After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. 54 Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!” [

55 Many women were also there, looking on from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him.

Hymn: (Sing, “Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?”)

Psalmist: I was there. I am Psalm 31. Jesus remembered my words in his most difficult hour as he was nailed on the cross to die.( Hold up Bible and read Psalm 31:9-16.)

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
my eye wastes away from grief,
my soul and body also.
10 For my life is spent with sorrow
and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my misery,[
and my bones waste away.

11 I am the scorn of all my adversaries,
a horror[
b] to my neighbors,
an object of dread to my acquaintances;
those who see me in the street flee from me.
12 I have passed out of mind like one who is dead;
I have become like a broken vessel.
13 For I hear the whispering of many—
terror all around!—
as they scheme together against me,
as they plot to take my life.

14 But I trust in you, O Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hand;
deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.
16 Let your face shine upon your servant;
save me in your steadfast love.


Earth: I was there. I am the earth. (Hold up the glass bowl of earth.) I feel the joys and pains of all living things, for we are one. I am part of you, and you are part of me. God is in and around and over and under us. We live and have our being with God. Jesus’ joys and pains have been my joys and pains, and I now suffer with him. A great darkness came over me toward the end. I heard his final words. “My God, my God, why have you forgotten me?” he cried in his great suffering. Some people nearby thought he was calling out to the prophet Elijah, and they gave him some sour wine in a sponge. But it was over. He cried out a final time and breathed his last. All creation cried at that grievous moment. I shook, rocks split, the temple curtain tore, and earthquakes boomed. Even the cruel soldiers were shaken to the point of say­ing, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Pick up the package of seeds and pour its contents into the bowl of dirt and place it on the table. Extinguish the Christ candle. Pause a lengthy moment before the next scene.)


Scene Eight: Jesus Is Buried (based on Matthew 27:62–66)

62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise, his disciples may go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard[u] of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.”[v] 66 So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.

Hymn: (Sing, “Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?”)

Stone: I was part of a huge stone. (Hold up stone.) On that strangely dark day, I was stand­ing beside an open tomb that was carved into the rock. I was to cover the entrance­way when my master, Joseph of Arimathea, died and was placed in the tomb. So I was surprised to see Joseph and his helpers come with a dead body. Joseph had wrapped whoever it was in a clean linen cloth. He held the body very gently and placed it inside the tomb. Then he rolled me in front of the tomb and left. (Place the stone in the bowl of earth.) For the longest time, 2 women stayed close by the tomb, quietly crying together. They must have loved him very much.

 Hymn: (Sing: “Were you there when the women stayed and cried?”)


Let us Pray:

Holy God, we have entered this story once again in the midst of the trials and persecutions we still experience in our world today, in the midst of the cries for justice, the groaning of the earth and its creatures, in the midst of the many who are silenced and left on the margins, the many who suffer violence and abuse, emptiness and despair. Yet, we remember that we are not alone. Christ has journeyed this path and continues to journey with us. We are not alone. Death will not have the last word. There is hope, even in this wilderness. Amen

(you may take a moment in silence before you leave or you may choose to visit the wilderness tree, pausing to read some of thoughts hanging there)



March 26, 2023

Good afternoon and welcome to our worship service for the 5th Sunday of Lent at Faith Memorial United Church.

Glad you are able to tune in this way, especially on such a snowy Sunday.

Reminder: Wed @ 7pm for Lenten Devotional Book Discussion, participants with book, Good Courage, please watch for more info in next couple of days.

Next Sunday, April 2 we begin Holy Week with our Palm/Passion Worship service. Thanks to all reader participants. Please watch for your parts in upcoming communication. Also, reminder that it will be first of month so bring along your food offerings for food bank box. 

Please prepare to follow through on Jesus’ journey during Holy Week with the following services:

Maundy Thursday Worship @ 7pm. April 6- ZOOM ONLY (invitation will be sent next week in your email) You will need a glass of juice and a piece of bread at home. We will be remembering the night when Jesus ate his Last Supper in the upper room with his disciples and the events that happened then.

Good Friday Worship @10:30 am April 7- IN PERSON ONLY

Easter Sunday April 9 @10:30am with Communion ( please bring a piece of bread/cracker and a drinking box of grape juice or a grape)


Let us pause to remember that in this region we live and work and worship on lands that are, by law, the unceded territories of the Wabanaki peoples—predominantly the lands of the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, Wolastoqiyik and Passamaquoddy. May we live with respect on this land, and live in peace and friendship with its people.

We light this candle as we celebrate the presence of Christ among us and within us, the one who said, “I am the resurrection and the life.”

Call to Worship: (from Seasons of the Spirit)

Come out of the depths of the wilderness of all that has been lost.

Push away the stone and wonder what glory could be.

We believe that there is more than this sorrow.

Come into the morning light and find others waiting and hoping for love to mend hearts again.

Our souls come together to watch and to wait.

Come, let us worship God.

Opening Prayer: (in unison)

Gracious God, from the dry and lifeless parts of our living, we come before you seeking the breath of your Spirit.

We open ourselves to your life in the midst of death.

We open ourselves to your hope in the midst of despair.

We open ourselves to a new way of seeing things in the midst of confusion and uncertainty.

May your Spirit move among us, stirring our souls, enlivening our community and awakening us to the joy of new life in you. Amen.

Hymn: 382 VUBreathe on Me Breath of God  

Prayer of Confession:

New life surrounds us, O God.

The winter- hardened ground is preparing for the promises of spring.

Yet, we often find ourselves in places without hope-

places like Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones,

places where accidents and disease separate us from loved ones,

places where life and farmland are destroyed by industry and development,

places where cultures and languages disappear and people lose their sense of identity,

places where our emotions are empty and words don’t come easily.

We wrestle with unanswered questions, with feelings of despair.

We are not always sure how to find our way through this wilderness.

We confess we are often overwhelmed and ignore your call to prophesy and to be bearers of hope.

Teach us to choose to trust in you and your purposes breaking upon us through Jesus Christ, the resurrection and the life. Amen.

Words of Affirmation

God does not abandon us to death and despair.

Whatever has happened, whatever our fears for the future,

God’s compassion and steadfast love surround us.

We are forgiven. We are loved, and God invites us again to live fully.

In Christ, we begin again. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Readings and Reflection:

Coming to Life in the Wilderness

Five weeks ago, on the first Sunday of Lent, as we entered our worship space, there was this empty tree at the front. Gradually, as you recall, we added our individual thoughts to that tree- on the leaves we wrote the things we associated with wilderness, then on the feet we thought about what it means for us to be on a journey of faith, then came the water drops when we reflected on the sources we turn to as we quench our spiritual thirsts, last week we added our eyes as we thought about ways that our vision has shifted through wilderness journeys and this Sunday, the last Sunday before entering Holy Week next week, our focus is on how God calls to us in the midst of the wilderness places of our lives, the places perhaps where we are feeling the most defeated and depleted, and offers us the breath of the Spirit, bringing us hope and new life. In some ways, our readings today come to us almost as a preview of Easter.

Our first story comes from the prophet Ezekiel. It is the familiar and very graphic vision of the valley of the dry bones. It takes place during a time of exile, when the people of Israel had been carted off by the Babylonians and facing a period of communal wilderness, when things looked incredibly bleak. In face of this loss and hopelessness, Ezekiel is led by the Spirit to a wilderness filled with parched, lifeless bones- a symbol of the lifelessness of the people of Israel. In this setting, Ezekiel is called to do the unimaginable, something totally ridiculous- to prophesy, to preach to these bones. As he does so, the power of God works through him, bringing new life and promise to the people. Rather than read this passage, I invite you to listen to Linnea Good’s rendition of how these bones come to life:

Ezekiel 37: 1-14  

So there, in that most depleted wilderness, God, working in collaboration with Ezekiel, works to bring forth new life. The dry bones will not be the last word in Israel’s wilderness. The breath of the Spirit is helping to build new foundations. But only with our help.

We see this in our gospel lesson this morning as well- the familiar story of the raising of Lazarus. There is a lot going on in this story. All kinds of expressed emotions- grief, anger, regret, disappointment with Jesus, longing, feelings of frustration and abandonment- the whole gamut. Yet, as with the story of the dry bones, through it all the power of God is at work, opening a whole community to the possibilities of new life in the wilderness of their grief. As we read this lengthy story, we are going to be interrupted at various intervals by the reflections of the persons involved- Martha, Mary and Lazarus just so that we might imagine what was going through their thoughts and emotions each step along the way.

John 11: 1-27

11 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather, it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble because they see the light of this world. 10 But those who walk at night stumble because the light is not in them.” 11 After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” 13 Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.[f] Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

Martha reflects:

I could not understand why Jesus did not come. We had sent him a message: “Your dear friend Lazarus is sick,” we told him.

“Please come at once, so he does not die,” we also meant but did not say.

Lazarus had been dead and buried for four days when Jesus came. I went out to meet him and could not hide my grief and disappointment. “If only you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now, I know that God will give you what you ask.”

Jesus insisted: Lazarus would rise again. Yes, I knew that.

“I am the resurrection and the life,” Jesus declared. “Those who believe in me will live and never die. Do you believe this?”

I did, but it was more than that. “Yes, I believe that you are Christ, the Son of God, the one who comes into the world!” There – I’d said it. Now I had told him what was dawning on me about him and seemed more important than anything else.

Then I remembered Mary – how was I to move her from the paralysis of grief? Who else but Jesus could give her any hope?

John 11:28-37

28 When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come to the village but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 The Jews who were with her in the house consoling her saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Mary reflects:

I could not understand why Jesus did not come. We had sent him a message: “Your dear friend Lazarus is sick,” we told him.

We should have said, “Please come at once,” but I didn’t think we would need to. I couldn’t understand it. I loved them both, Lazarus, my brother and Jesus, my teacher. Lazarus had died; Jesus had not come. It was not until four days after we’d buried Lazarus that Jesus came. I didn’t know if I even wanted to see Jesus again.

“The Teacher is here!” Martha told me. “He’s calling for you!” I rushed out in a mix of grief, disappointment, and unanswered questions to where Jesus was. I could not stand to look him in the eye or greet him face to face but simply clung to his feet. Then I told him what had been on my mind for the last five days: “If only you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

I watched my tears mix with the dust on Jesus’ feet, and then I felt his tears on my hands as he wept. We took him to the tomb as he asked of us. “Take away the stone!” he said. Martha, ever practical, argued, “Lord, it will smell terrible! He’s been dead four days!”

 “Didn’t I tell you,” Jesus replied, “that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

 They moved the stone, and Jesus prayed in thanks to God out loud for our sake. Then he shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” We waited and watched.

John 11: 38-46

38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

45 Many of the Jews, therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.

Lazarus reflects:

The air is cold, but that’s better than the heat of fever burning me up.

It is dark, but that’s better than the mind-piercing glare of the light.

All around is silence, but that’s better than hushed voices I can’t understand.

Bands of cloth wrap me tightly, but that’s better than sheets drenched with sweat.

My tongue is dry, and my breath is stale; how can that be better than death?

The air is becoming warmer.

The gloom is dispersing.

“Lazarus, come out!”


I am alive!

In both of these stories, we see new life breaking through in the wildernesses of life. It is not hard for us to see why these stories come to us just two weeks before Easter. They are what Barbara Brown Taylor dubs as “the dress rehearsal” for what is to come. Yet, as we noted in the Ezekiel story, for this new life to happen for Lazarus, God is not working in a vacuum. God requests our help even when we are feeling at our most depleted moments, much like Mary, Martha and the whole community that surrounded them in their grief. Yes, at Jesus’ command Lazarus comes out but it takes the whole community to act in bringing about new life. The final act in that scene is when Jesus instructs them to unbind him and let him go. It takes that whole community working together to free Lazarus from the wilderness of that tomb. In our own wilderness moments as individuals, as a community of faith and in the wider global context, coming to life in the midst of hopelessness and grief to the hope of new possibilities takes all of us pitching in and doing what we can to pull the threads of the wrappings that keep us bound and unable to move forward. Sometimes, as for Ezekiel, that means using our voice to speak to the dry, parched places of our world. Sometimes, as in the story of Lazarus, it means learning to trust God by listening for God’s direction for what is next as we seek to be part of the healing and new life toward which we are being called.

We live in a world where many are bound by all kinds of stresses and pressures preventing that new life from getting in. Sometimes we even forget that the new life Jesus is talking about is not simply pie in the sky when you die. Yes, that vision of new life after death is, of course, part of it. But it is not all of it. New life, eternal life is now too. As Barbara Brown Taylor says so well, “ We can hook up with that life while we live so that eternal life is not something we wait for at the end of time but something we begin living right now, because we trust in him who lived it and lives it and invites us to live it with him.”

We do that as we build caring communities by strengthening and nurturing one another, acting, in the words of Veronica Miles, to “ remove grave clothes of self doubt, social isolation, marginalization and oppression, tearing away the wrappings of fear, anxiety, loss and grief so that unbound women, men and children might walk in dignity and become more creative agents in the world.”

We can come to this kind of new life right here, right now, even in the wilderness experiences of our living when we let the breath of the Spirit in. As for the dry bones in that valley and as for Lazarus, what seems lifeless and hopeless can be renewed. But it may not necessarily be simply the old life restored. More than likely, it will be something completely new.

As we hear these hints of resurrection today, and as we prepare to hear the story of Jesus’ passion next week in Holy Week, let’s also be reassured that no matter how bleak, how impossible and how despairing the wilderness may feel, God does not abandon us. God moments are in those wilderness times too. The Spirit is at work, calling for our assistance, our teamwork as a community, as we do what is needed to bring forth new life to even the driest and most brittle areas of our world. Even in despair, even when the world seems to be plotting against God, still Jesus says, I am the resurrection. I am the life. Here and now. Amen.  

Minute for Mission

Arwa’s family found a place to belong at Montreal City Mission.

Closeup of Arwa Credit: Arwa Nofal

In 2017, Arwa was a Palestinian refugee who had just arrived in Montreal. She had made a harrowing journey, travelling from Saudi Arabia through New York City with three children in tow. “It wasn’t easy for me. I was a single mom in a new country with new people. I was struggling for housing and looking for a job. It wasn’t easy at all,” she says.

Arwa sought help at Montreal City Mission, an outreach ministry your Mission & Service gifts support. There, her whole family found a place to belong. Arwa’s children made friends, and she benefited from training programs and events.

It wasn’t long before Arwa gathered a group of women together to form a catering cooperative called Women Weaving Their Dreams, which specializes in homemade Middle Eastern meals. The group was going strong and the women were becoming more financially secure when COVID-19 struck.

No stranger to hardship, Arwa was determined to help others through the pandemic. She initiated a sewing circle to make masks. In a relatively short period of time, the women of this sewing group made over 2,000 cloth masks for unhoused people and people with low incomes in their community. “I was so happy to help people,” says Arwa, whose extraordinary leadership skills landed her a full-time job at Montreal City Mission.

“I consider myself a lucky person that I got to know this organization. It has become not only my full-time job, not only my provider. It has become my home. I hope to see more and more women getting the same chance to have this better life for their families,” she says. “I wanted a country that could hold me and hug me my whole life long. I found it in Canada.”

Your Mission & Service gifts support people’s dreams for a better life—amazing people who make their communities and our country stronger.

Invitation to Prayer: A place in the wilderness of our world/our community/ my life where you feel the breath of God’s Spirit calling you/us to come to life… (please write your thoughts and place on our wilderness tree)

Let us pray:

Life-giving God, you are the one who hears us when we cry to you from the depths of despair and frustration. You walk with us when we are feeling weary and overwhelmed. You gift us with the encouragement of family and friends and our faith community. We thank you that we are loved by you and are called over and over again to experience the new life you offer to us each and every day of our lives. What a blessing, O God, to know that no matter what challenges we face, you accompany us through it all. Help us to trust in the new possibilities and new purpose you bring to us always.

As we look around our communities and our world, we remember the many who find themselves in the midst of wildernesses of waiting- wondering what is next, worrying about choices, anxious about family members and friends needing care. There are others among us who are searching for meaning and purpose. Others who are feeling dried up and in need of the hope you bring. Others among us have been hurt by the pain of loss and desertion, relationships that have brought disappointment, recent illnesses or deaths that have left many filled with fear, anxiety or depression. We pray for your Spirit to breathe new life and to awaken new energy in all these places in need of resurrection. Infuse us with the energy we need to work in partnership with you, to unbind one another from all that is preventing us from living the full lives you desire for all people.

Bless our churches as we live in difficult days, wondering how we can reach out beyond ourselves, how we can bring hope in the midst of the world’s pains and hungers, in the face of the climate crisis bearing down on this planet, in the midst of so much violence and insecurity. Show us ways that we might, by your grace working through us, be channels of the new life that you are breathing among us. Call us forth from the tombs of our own making, that like Martha, like Mary and like Lazarus, we may know you as the resurrection and the life, in this world and in the world to come. In the name of Jesus, your Son, who, like us, weeps in anger and grief, and who calls us always toward restoration and renewal, we pray together saying… Our Father…

Hymn: 586 VU We Shall Go Out with Hope of Resurrection 


Out of the depths, God heard our voice!

We came with burdens, bound by our fears.

We leave with hope, released to serve a living God.

Go in the strength of God who shows steadfast love,

in the courage of Christ who shares our humanity,


and in the companionship of the Spirit who breathes new life upon us. Amen.


March 19, 2023

Welcome to our worship service at Faith Memorial United Church for this 4th Sunday of Lent.

Hard to believe that we are only 2 weeks away from the beginning of Holy Week.

Our Lenten wilderness tree continues to receive your weekly thoughts. Please check it out on our Facebook site as it gets updated.

Let us pause to remember that in this region we live and work and worship on lands that are, by law, the unceded territories of the Wabanaki peoples—predominantly the lands of the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, Wolastoqiyik and Passamaquoddy. May we live with respect on this land, and live in peace and friendship with its people.

In the name of Jesus who said, “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world”, we light this candle as a symbol of the insight he brings to our living.

Call to Worship:

Come into the wilderness where the world looks different.

We come to follow Jesus who challenges us to shift our perspectives.

Come into this time of worship open to the promise of new possibilities.

We come to open our eyes to endless grace and new insights.

Let us worship and praise God together!


Let us pray:

Gracious God,
we are grateful for all that you have done for us,
for all that you are doing in us,
and for all that you will do through us.
Open our eyes to see your presence among us,
moving in powerful ways at all times
and in all places.
Open our ears to hear familiar words in new ways—
ways that will change us and challenge us
to become the people you created us to be.
Shift our perspectives this day,

that we might be transformed to look at the world differently. Amen.

Hymn: 371 VU   Open My Eyes, that I May See 

Prayer of Confession:

God of endless possibilities,

you know how we have held on to our own ways too long,

trusting in what we have come to know so well,

and believing in our own comforts.

We find it challenging to let go of the familiar

and to trust in you.

Forgive us when we have become stuck in old ways of seeing,

ways that fail to challenge us beyond long-held perspectives.

Teach us to let go of our pride and our fears

that we might look deeper at the issues of this world.

Show us how to see, to really see, and to understand

all that you are revealing to us. Amen.


Words of Affirmation:

In the letter to the Ephesians (from the Message) we hear these words:

“You groped your way through the murk once, but no longer. You’re out in the open now.”

“The bright light of Christ makes our way plain.”

Let us live as children of that light- open to God’s love, grace and direction. Amen.

Reading and Reflection:

Shifting Our Vision in the Wilderness

Who can we blame? As I listen to the news lately, it seems to me that there is a lot of focus on that question. A week or so ago, the CEOs of our country’s major grocery chains were hauled in before Parliament to discuss the rising food costs. There was much finger pointing as you might recall. MPs blamed these companies for profiteering on the backs of hard-working Canadians. Meanwhile, the executives blamed things like weak supply chains, the war in the Ukraine, general inflation, increased transportation costs and the lack of labour availability. Another day, here in our province, I saw the headline “Blame Covid for Big Unspent Bucks”.

I guess it is probably human nature to want to assign blame to life’s difficulties and tragedies. Someone, something must be at fault, we say. We are desperate to have a reason or an explanation for what is happening in our lives or in the world around us. We do it all the time. The roof leaks or the basement floods- we search for a cause, sometimes we fault the contractor who skipped an important step in the construction of the building. A divorce happens and we blame one partner or the other. A couple unable to conceive a child meets with a fertility specialist and each of them secretly wonder who is to blame. A church budget falls short. Who, or what is to blame? A young person is charged with a driving offense. Fingers are pointed at the parents- were they too lenient with their child or maybe they put too much pressure on him or her.

Who can we blame? Who sinned? That is the very question the disciples ask of Jesus as they walk past a man born blind sitting and begging by the road. Who is responsible? Is it the man himself? Or was it his parents? In the context of Jesus’ time when blindness and other ailments were viewed as punishment for sins, it was, in all fairness to these disciples, an innocent question. Yet, as you will hear in this story, Jesus resists going down that rabbit hole of assigning blame. Instead, Jesus says that his blindness has nothing to do with sin at all. The world doesn’t work that way. You’re asking the wrong question. Think of it another way, he says. Change your perception from obsessing over the past. Shift your vision. Ask yourself instead what is God doing here, how is God’s glory breaking through in the here and now and  how you can be part of it. Unfortunately, though, only one person in this story really gets this. The rest continue to scratch their heads, turning themselves inside out, trying desperately to link cause and effect by obsessing over the details of what took place. All the while, they attempt to assign blame to the parents, to Jesus as the healer and to the man himself. If you really listen carefully, this story reads much like a comedy. Yet, at the same time, it is also a sad commentary on our inability to enlarge our perspective in order to see God’s grace at work. As you hear this story, notice too that the healing takes only a couple of verses. The other 39 verses occupy themselves with the ensuing controversy and debate that keeps the whole community stuck and unable to move ahead in their understanding about who Jesus is.

John 9: 1-41 (in person service is in reader’s theatre format)

As Jesus walked along, he saw a man who was blind from birth. Jesus’ disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned so that he was born blind, this man or his parents?”

Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents. This happened so that God’s mighty works might be displayed in him. While it’s daytime, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” After he said this, he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and smeared the mud on the man’s eyes. Jesus said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (this word means sent). So, the man went away and washed. When he returned, he could see.

The man’s neighbors and those who used to see him when he was a beggar said, “Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?”

Some said, “It is,” and others said, “No, it’s someone who looks like him.”

But the man said, “Yes, it’s me!”

10 So they asked him, “How are you now able to see?”

11 He answered, “The man they call Jesus made mud, smeared it on my eyes, and said, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash.’ So, I went and washed, and then I could see.”

12 They asked, “Where is this man?”

He replied, “I don’t know.”

13 Then they led the man who had been born blind to the Pharisees. 14 Now Jesus made the mud and smeared it on the man’s eyes on a Sabbath day. 15 So Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see.

The man told them, “He put mud on my eyes, I washed, and now I see.”

16 Some Pharisees said, “This man isn’t from God, because he breaks the Sabbath law.” Others said, “How can a sinner do miraculous signs like these?” So, they were divided. 17 Some of the Pharisees questioned the man who had been born blind again: “What do you have to say about him, since he healed your eyes?”

He replied, “He’s a prophet.”

18 The Jewish leaders didn’t believe the man had been blind and received his sight until they called for his parents. 19 The Jewish leaders asked them, “Is this your son? Are you saying he was born blind? How can he now see?”

20 His parents answered, “We know he is our son. We know he was born blind. 21 But we don’t know how he now sees, and we don’t know who healed his eyes. Ask him. He’s old enough to speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they feared the Jewish authorities. This is because the Jewish authorities had already decided that whoever confessed Jesus to be the Christ would be expelled from the synagogue. 23 That’s why his parents said, “He’s old enough. Ask him.”

24 Therefore, they called a second time for the man who had been born blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know this man is a sinner.”

25 The man answered, “I don’t know whether he’s a sinner. Here’s what I do know: I was blind and now I see.”

26 They questioned him: “What did he do to you? How did he heal your eyes?”

27 He replied, “I already told you, and you didn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”

28 They insulted him: “You are his disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples. 29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but we don’t know where this man is from.”

30 The man answered, “This is incredible! You don’t know where he is from, yet he healed my eyes! 31 We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners. God listens to anyone who is devout and does God’s will. 32 No one has ever heard of a healing of the eyes of someone born blind. 33 If this man wasn’t from God, he couldn’t do this.”

34 They responded, “You were born completely in sin! How is it that you dare to teach us?” Then they expelled him.

35 Jesus heard they had expelled the man born blind. Finding him, Jesus said, “Do you believe in the Human One?”

36 He answered, “Who is he, sir? I want to believe in him.”

37 Jesus said, “You have seen him. In fact, he is the one speaking with you.”

38 The man said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshipped Jesus.

39 Jesus said, “I have come into the world to exercise judgment so that those who don’t see can see and those who see will become blind.”

40 Some Pharisees who were with him heard what he said and asked, “Surely we aren’t blind, are we?”

41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you wouldn’t have any sin, but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.

You see what I mean? A man receives his sight and everyone else loses theirs. A good thing happens- the man is given vision by Jesus but no one- not his community, not the religious leaders, not even his own parents say alleluia, praise the Lord. No one is excited about this new thing that has taken place. Instead, one by one, they work their hardest to disprove what has happened.

The neighbours debate whether he actually is the same man that used to sit at the roadside. But he is no longer in his usual place. Maybe, he just looks like him. Besides where did the healer go? What was keeping them from recognizing him? Was the man’s disability the only thing that defined who he was to them? Did they not know him as a person?  Whatever it was, the neighbours were intensely divided over what had taken place.

The religious authorities jump in next with their fingers pointing. No way, this can’t be. And who is this so-called healer and how can you claim he is a prophet of God? If he were from God, he would be following the Sabbath rules, our rules, and would not be healing on the Sabbath. We would know if this fellow was from God and he is not. We’ve got to put a stop to this. He is a sinner. How dare he subvert our authority and break our rules? He needs to be punished for messing with propriety. How dare he disrupt our set way of doing things! How dare he try to change our way of looking at the world and threaten our good order around here! How dare he rattle our world with his inconvenient truth. So, much like us when our systems are disrupted, when our way of doing things is turned upside down- even like what has happened to so many things during Covid, they did their best to get everything back to where it belonged. They wanted nothing to do with this disorienting fellow Jesus and the disruptions to their ways of doing and being.

Even his own parents can’t see what has happened. When questioned, they plead ignorance. They know that claiming that they believe in this man Jesus will be cause to have them thrown out of the synagogue. So out of fear, they pass the buck back to their son. We haven’t a clue what has happened. Ask our son. He is old enough to speak for himself.

Meanwhile, through all this turmoil, the now healed man stands alone in his story. Through each round of questioning, he reiterates what has taken place. He alone is smiling. Everyone else is deadly serious. They deny what is right under their noses, refusing to shift their vision. He alone sees Jesus for who he is- the one who has come into the world to bring sight and light. Yet, his testimony goes unheard to the point where by the end of the story when even, despite his newly found sight and insight into who Jesus is, he is cast out of the synagogue.

But that’s when Jesus re-enters the scene and overturns all the conventional hierarchies. In a conversation with this man, in the words of commentator Matthew Myers Boulton, Jesus recruits a new apostle from among this formerly excluded outsider at the side of the road. The rest of this man’s community simply couldn’t see, they couldn’t get who Jesus was. They couldn’t see the new thing God was doing through Jesus in their very midst. They were stuck in their old molds. They had got bogged down in keeping things the same- In maintaining the status quo by their rigid adherence to the Sabbath laws and the way things had always been done. They couldn’t shift their vision from finger- pointing and blaming in order to see the new possibilities and opportunities of God’s healing, love and grace that were being revealed through Jesus.

As the story concludes, it is only the healed man who could get his head around all that Jesus was doing. Only he could see, not just physically see, but spiritually see, the abundant life and light Jesus was bringing to the world. As he keeps reiterating, “All I know is I once was blind, but now I see.” Meanwhile, the rest of the people in the story are oblivious, too caught up in their old ways of blaming and finger pointing to be free enough to see, too focussed on thinking of hardships only as sins of the past rather than occasions for participating in God’s work of amazing grace in the here and now.

The religious authorities were closed to that new reality present in Jesus. To echo back to the very beginning of this story it is their sin that remains. They can’t recognize the grace of God alive and active in Jesus. They are caught in the past, in finding someone to blame. They can’t see the present possibility and new future Jesus is ushering in through his life and ministry. In essence, that’s why Jesus was such a threat to them. They were too busy looking through their rear-view mirrors instead of their windshields. They couldn’t see what God was up to.

Our Lenten journey through the wilderness challenges us to shift our vision, to see with new insight, and to listen for God’s prompting to enlarge our perspectives. This means seeing the world as God sees it.  When we learn to do so, opportunities for new direction and new life abound. In clearing our eyes, we develop new skills to see with greater compassion the suffering of our world. Once we find ways to acknowledge our blind spots, our own finger- pointing and blaming, realizing the futility of such efforts, there is no end to the possibilities of witnessing to God’s amazing love and grace. Amen.

Minute for Mission

Educating the Ministers of Tomorrow

The care of people who are strangers to one another―the importance and impact of that can’t be overstated. (See video link)

You may think Mission & Service just happens far away from your church.

But the effects of Mission & Service may be as close as your local pulpit.

Mission & Service does a surprising amount of development in your local church, recruiting new ministers and funding theological schools. It even shapes the hymn books you sing from every service.

Another important way Mission & Service supports local ministry: by providing academic bursaries for students studying to become ministers and theological leaders.

“The church has a lot to offer in terms of witness to the community and supporting people who are struggling,” explains the Rev. Dr. Jennifer Janzen-Ball, the United Church’s Executive Minister for Theological Leadership.

The money is really helpful, but the other thing that is so important to students is realizing that people throughout the church cared enough to donate to Mission & Service.

Janzen-Ball knows there’s more to a bursary than just the financial gift. “The money is really helpful,” she says, “but the other thing that is so important to students is realizing that people throughout the church cared enough to donate to Mission & Service.”

The Rev. Alexa Gilmour received one of these bursaries when she was still a ministry candidate. “I was a single parent, and I knew I couldn’t get through without support,” Gilmour says. “I felt blessed by God through people who donated and who, by giving, encouraged me on my journey.

“I have tremendous gratitude for that important role the church played in my life at that time.”

Janzen-Ball wants you to know that your gifts do matter.

“They matter both tangibly in peoples’ lives in a real way but also in intangible ways because they signal the support of the wider community,” she says. “The care of people who are strangers to one another―the importance and impact of that can’t be overstated.

“Giving to Mission & Service is an opportunity to support future and current leaders. Those gifts make a significant difference.”


Invitation to Prayer: One way that my vision shifted through an experience in a wilderness time of my life was…

Let us pray:

God of light and fresh understandings, as we continue along this season of Lent, we give thanks for the gift of light that brightens our days- for the sun that rises and sets and offers us day and night, for the moon and stars that mark the passage of time and seasons. Thank for sight and insight, for the ability to notice beauty in nature, for moments of clarity as we ponder life’s deeper questions and look toward the future. We remember also God, that you are present and active in the darkness as well- when we sleep and are refreshed, when seeds are dormant and animals hibernate undisturbed, when new life can grow safely in the womb.

We thank you for the many ways you challenge us to shift our vision, lifting our blind spots and enlarging our perception. As we look around our world, as we share encounters with neighbours and strangers alike, teach us to see with the eyes of your compassion and respond to needs that present. Make us especially attentive to those who are struggling, to those, like the man born blind in our gospel, who are marginalized, standing on the edges of our community. Show us ways that we might work together to change systems that cause suffering and pain to others. Open our eyes to see those who are denied the basic necessities of life, who live with fear or shame, the many who are on the receiving end of fingers being pointed or insults being hurled, the many who are living in the midst of war, the many who are ill and receiving treatment, the many who are acting to care and to reach out to the oppressed.  Create in us a desire to encounter others with deep respect. Enlighten us to live as people who share the gift of your amazing grace, holding the others’ well-being above personal interests. In your goodness and mercy, O God, hear these prayers of our hearts, as we offer them in the name of Jesus, who brings us light for our way as we pray together… Our Father…

Hymn: 266 VU Amazing Grace 


In the wilderness, our eyes have been opened to new insights.

God now sends us out to be beacons of light in the world,

witnesses to Christ’s healing presence and alive to the Spirit’s imaginings

for a new world.

Christ sends us out to tell our stories and to make a creative difference.


We go in peace to love and serve. Amen.