Trinity United Church
August 22, 2021
“Connection not Perfection”
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Welcome Rev David: May the peace of Christ be with you.
Welcome to Trinity United Church in Port Coquitlam, BC.
We are so grateful that you have chosen to spend some time with us, we are glad you are here.
A gentle reminder that we are experimenting on a weekly basis with our social media and the technology, and some things will work better than others. So we ask for your patience and generosity of spirit as we forge a new way forward together. We do ask that if something technical goes wrong please let the leader and the hosts work it out. It is not helpful for people to turn on their own mics and start talking, it really only adds to the confusion.
Acknowledgement of Territory
For tens of thousands of years, the lands on which we live, work and worship, have been occupied by indigenous peoples. Much of what we know as the North West Coast of North America was occupied by the Coast Salish Peoples. The territory where Trinity United Church of Port Coquitlam resides is the unceded territory of the Kwikwetlem First Nations. Our acknowledgement of unceded traditional territory is a first step in reconciliation between settler cultures and indigenous peoples and the decolonization of western systems that continue to oppress and exploit indigenous peoples and land. The work of reconciliation is daunting. The work of reconciliation will not be ours to complete, but neither is it ours to abandon. We remember these words from the Apostle Paul, “[The gift of a New Creation] is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting [our] trespasses against [us], and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.”
Let us prepare our hearts and minds for worship.
Prelude/ Lighting of the Christ Candle
Call to Worship
How lovely is God’s dwelling place!
Our souls long for the courts of God!
Even the sparrow finds a home and the swallow a nest for herself.
Happy are those who live in God’s house and sing God’s praise!
A day in God’s courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.
Happy are those whose strength is in God!
The Lord God is a sun and a shield; God bestows favour and honour.
Happy are those who trust in God
Come, let us give to God thanks and praise!
Prayer of Approach
God, you are our strength and our hope.
Through Christ, you bring us into your holy presence.
As you make us alive with the words of eternal life,
cause us to boldly witness the good news,
welcome the stranger,
and seek peace,
even in difficult times. Amen.
Hymn: “Each Blade of Grass” MV 37
Prayer of Reconciliation and Words of Assurance
Holy One, you are the God of Heaven and Earth.
Each blade of grass, every silent paw,
each icy peak and soaring wing declare your glory.
And still we are estranged from your presence.
We build great temples to your glory,
to proclaim your presence,
and still, we fail to follow your sacred word.
We make great sacrifices of prayers,
and incense and song,
but we do not live your way.
You call us only to seek justice,
and walk humbly,
and we walk in ignorance, pride, self-interest.
We live surrounded by broken relationship.
We have constructed systems of inequality and oppression.
We have been silent in the face of subjugation.
We are slow to change our ungodly ways.
Holy One, nurture the longing in our souls to remember you.
Help us hear the call to return
to the shelter of your grace,
and to build our resting place in you and you alone.
Be our sun and shield,
shower us with your blessing.
And may rivers of blessing overflow
from lives lived right.
In the name of the one
who is our shield and helm, we pray. Amen.
Friends, God is our strength and hope.
Christ is bound to us:
hand and foot, head and heart.
Let us trust in God’s forgiveness,
God’s grace and blessing.
Thanks be to God.
WE HEAR THE WORD
Retelling Our Ancient Story“Solomon Builds a House for God” Ralph Milton’s Lectionary Story Bible
Psalm 84 VU 801 (sung) How Lovely, God
How lovely, God, how lovely is your abiding place,
my soul is longing, fainting, to feast upon your grace.
The sparrow finds a shelter, a place to build her nest;
and so your temple calls us within its walls to rest.
In your blest courts to worship, O God, a single day
is better than a thousand if I from you should stray.
I’d rather keep the entrance and claim you as my Lord,
than revel in the riches the ways of sin afford.
A sun and shield forever are you, O God Most High,
you shower us with blessings; no good will you deny.
The saints, your grace receiving, from strength to strength shall go,
and from their life shall rivers of blessing overflow.
Reading Ephesians 6:10-20
10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. 11Put on the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13Therefore take up the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. 15As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. 16With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.18 Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. 19Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.
This is the witness of the early church. Thanks be to God!
Hymn: “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore You” VU 232
Let us bind to ourselves,
truth, right relationship, peace,
faith, and trust in your promise of salvation.
Teach us to pray at all times,
to be alert to your call and presence,
that when we speak and act,
we may do so boldly,
proclaiming only your Good News.
My hope is that we all know that the world is full of experiences and concepts that are strange and new to us. None of us already knows everything there is to know. As Shakespeare says, "there is more in heaven and hell than is dreamed of in your philosophy."
That means that sometimes, when a speaker is describing a new or strange experience or concept, they need to do so using images that are more familiar to the listeners.
When we use familiar images to describe difficult or unfamiliar experiences or concepts it is called a metaphor.
Whenever we are trying to talk about God, the ways of God, or an experience of God, we are trying to make the unfamiliar more familiar by using metaphors.
There are a number of obstacles to using metaphors.
One obstacle: People are lazy and try to take metaphors literally. This can be nonsense, Jesus is not a loaf of bread. When Jesus says, "I am the bread of life" he is using a metaphor.
A second obstacle to using metaphors: The image used for the metaphor can mean vastly different things to different groups of people. The image of father God to some will be one of nurturing, intimacy, comfort, and protection. But for someone who grew up with an absent or abusive father, the image will likely illicit isolation or trauma, rather than comfort.
A third obstacle to using metaphors: We can lose the meaning of a metaphor over time, when what used to be a familiar image to the speaker and listener is no longer a familiar image to the readers, hundreds or thousands of years later. At Christmas we sing about fuller's soap, but very few of us know what fuller's soap is. We have to go look it up on the Google. What used to be common knowledge has become specialized knowledge and the metaphor is no longer helpful.
Some people, like Greta Vosper would insist we just stop using metaphors. But if God is God, then there will always be an abundance of Godly aspects that are new, wonderful and strange... and metaphor is all we've got.
We need to use metaphor wisely.
Today's passage from Ephesians features a metaphor that has fallen victim to all three of the obstacles mentioned above!
Paul in no way shape or form was literally talking about armour, Roman soldiers or physical warfare. Paul is quite explicit about that and yet readers throughout history have used this passage to justify all kinds of violence. We are to proclaim a Gospel of Peace.
While the imagery of soldiers in armour might be comforting and familiar to those in the military profession and lifestyle, it is less so to the rest of us. I'm quite inclined to avoid events where I know there will be military weapons. Today, military imagery is more likely to evoke disturbing feelings rather than feelings of confidence or trust.
Traditionally, soldiers are symbols of colonialism and imperialism, both systems with which we, as the United Church, and most mainline churches, are actively trying to dis-associate our selves. We are no longer colonial or imperial forces. We are engaged in apologizing for our colonial past and making reparations for our history of imperial collaboration.
So we need to be suspicious of this image of the "whole armour of God." We need to ask ourselves, "What does Paul mean by this description?"
Throughout the letter of Ephesians, Paul refers to the first century baptismal practice.
The candidate for baptism would walk to the edge of the river, disrobe, walk into the water and get dunked, then return to the shore to be clothed in new clothes, often a white robe... when a minister wears a white robe, an alb, it is a reminder of their baptism. Technically speaking, anyone who is baptized can wear an alb.
Paul writes that it isn't just clothing the new Christian is taking off and putting on, but rather their old life is being removed; and when the new Christian puts on the robe, it isn't just new clean clothes, but a new life... and not just a new life, but Christ himself. Then Paul describes this new life in what would have been a familiar image to his listeners... a soldier putting on armour... the full armour of God.
Paul isn't talking about actual armour. He is talking about binding ourselves in truth, righteousness... the gospel of PEACE, faith, and salvation.
Today, thinking of an athlete putting on padding, binding wrists and ankles, donning a helmet, might be more accurate... For Paul to use the image of an athlete getting ready to compete wouldn't have been helpful since most athletes in the first century competed naked... it would have been a brief metaphor.
Then Paul reminds us to pray and pray and pray and finally, to speak boldly.
A word about the Word "Righteousness." Just as the image of the whole armour of God has been battered over the centuries, so has the word, "righteousness." The word is most familiar to us in the expression "self-righteousness" and isn't at all a quality we want to nurture in our communities of faith.
I find it much more enlightening and helpful to think in terms of "right relationship." When Paul uses the word righteousness of God, he is almost always describing the healthy, life-giving relationship God wants us to return to with God, with other people, and with creation. God's righteousness is expressed in healthy, "right relationship" with creation, us, and all peoples.
It isn't the breastplate of "I'm right and you're wrong," but rather the "Breastplate of Right Relationship." Then we'll notice that we are fastening the "belt of truth around your waist, and putting on the breastplate of right relationship."
Truth and right relationship are two parts of the same garment that go on together. We cannot, in fact, have right relationship without truth. Truth, holds right relationship together.
As a United Church, we are apologizing and making restitution for our colonialism and imperialism.
Soldiering metaphors are no longer appropriate. We are NOT called to pick up arms and attack, subvert, assimilate, or oppress those who are not like us.
We are called to truth, right relationship, peace, trust in God and the hope of salvation.
We are called to pray and to discern wisely.
May we resist the cosmic powers
of this present darkness.
May we put on whatever will make us
ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.
And may we place our trust
in the hope of salvation
and the word of God.
Your offering: your financial gifts, your gifts of time and skill are what make our ministry possible. If you are not already on Pre-Authorized Remittance, we invite you to participate in our ministry by making a financial gift, either by sending a cheque to the church office, or by going to our website and clicking on the donate now button.
God of Temple and mountaintop,
church and prairie,
we give you thanks for the bread from heaven that is Christ Jesus.
We humbly offer back
what you have first given us: time, money, skills…
Bless our offering, endowing our gifts with your holy power,
that they may express
your steadfast love in all the world.
In the name of the bread from heaven, we pray. Amen.
Prayers of Thanksgiving and intercession
You are our strength, our shield, and our shelter.
You are our beginning and end, our way and our purpose.
You are the bread of life and the cup of promise.
The highest heavens cannot contain you, and yet you dwell among us.
We lift our hearts to you in prayer,
praying by the power of your Spirit,
praying for the church, your creation and those in need.
We pray for the ignorant and boastful,
for those whose actions harm others
through negligence and intent;
open their hearts to compassion, wisdom, kindness.
We pray that you be a shield to the vulnerable,
raising up the weak and giving them courage and strength.
We pray for those who are ill, homeless, underpaid,
underemployed, grieving, traumatized,
and living with addiction or mental illness.
We pray that you be a sword and helm to servants of justice:
Those who strive to serve you among “the least of these:”
healthcare workers, social workers, volunteers,
teachers, first responders, firefighters, community leaders…
may they have the patience and hope to bring your light to the darkest of places.
May we fasten the belt of truth around our waist
and put on the breastplate of right-relationship
as we seek reconciliation
for indigenous and non-indigenous peoples around the world.
May we learn to trust that you provide abundance,
dignity, and prosperity for all of us.
We pray for your creation,
our shared dwelling place
that we have exploited and abused.
Put on us whatever will empower and enable us
to live justly in your world
and proclaim your steadfast love.
Now we turn to you as a child turns to her mother seeking affirmation
and comfort, praying a paraphrase of the disciples’ prayer…
A Paraphrase of the Disciples’ Prayer VU 916
Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver,
Source of all that is and that shall be,
Father and mother of us all,
Loving God, in whom is heaven:
the hallowing of your name echo through the universe!
The way of your justice be followed by people of the world!
Your heavenly will be done by all created beings!
Your commonwealth of peace and freedom sustain our hope and come on earth.
With the bread we need for today, feed us.
In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.
In times of temptation and test, strengthen us.
From trials too great to endure, spare us.
From the grip of all that is evil, free us.
For you reign in the glory of the power
that is love, now and for ever. Amen.
WE GO FORTH
Hymn: “Blessed Be the Ties that Bind” VU 602
Commissioning and Benediction I invite you to turn on your videos and hold your hands out in a sign of blessing…