Call to Worship
[you may want to actually light a candle]
Take a deep breath and pause.
Be present to each other.
Take a deep breath and pause.
Imagine God's love, a warm light filling you and your prayer partner.
Take a deep breath and pause.
Send love and affection to the person with whom you are worshiping.
Express your appreciation to one another for this time and this contact at a distance.
Loving God, You who are our root and our core,
You who keeps our hearts beating second by second, even though we are seldom aware of it.
Enable us to reach past the fear and worry that can so easily dominate.
In a world that has much pain and fear, and that seems to want to cascade it even more, remind us that You made us in love in the first place,
that You have a dream for us,
and that You give to us your trust and Your Presence.
Enable us to remain firm in your values of love and compassion
for ourselves as well as for others,
to be strong enough to listen and notice the cries around us,
and to discover where we can be your community and to live it.
In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
Adapted from David Lander, while at Castleton-Grafton P.C., Grafton, Ont. Gathering Pentecost 1 2020 p. 38
1 Peter 2:19-25; 3:13-17. Chapter 2:19
For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly.
20 If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God's approval.
21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.
22 "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth."
23 When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.
24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.
25 For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.
Chapter 3:13 Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good?
14 But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated,
15 but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you;
16 yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame.
17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God's will, than to suffer for doing evil.
Reflection on 1 Peter 2:19-25; 3:13-17
offered by email for Trinity UC Port Coquitlam for May 3, 2020
The Reverend Dorothy A. Jeffery
Prayer of illumination:
Between the words that I write
and the words that you read, may the Holy Spirit move. AMEN
/Adapted from the late Donald Grayston
One of the best things about leading worship here is to see so many familiar faces. I was wondering how that would happen this time while we are working as a dispersed community, but still gathering. Then I recalled that Zoe mentioned you have a new web site (www.ucpoco.ca), so I went there, and there you were. I can virtually see you. And I have added my photograph so you can see me.
The fourth Sunday of Easter is commonly called Good Shepherd Sunday, with similar but distinct scriptures each year. The beloved 23rd Psalm is one and also the familiar “I am the gate” from John 10: 1–10. Both offer well known metaphors for Christ. But on the principle that familiarity breeds, to put it mildly, neglect I am focusing on the 1 Peter reading which only tangentially refers to Christ as the Shepherd. Christ as Guardian may be a better reading.
Verse 25 underscores the contrast between past life without a proper sense of direction, versus current lives of believers with Christ as Shepherd and guardian. In this time of separation are we losing our sense of direction right now?
The short letter named 1 Peter is addressed to strangers and aliens (1:1, 2:11), a dispersed community of Christians and is delivered to the various communities by Silvanus (5.12).
In other words, those addressed are isolated from the wider society.
After this introduction 1 Peter quickly moves to blessings (1:3, 6, 10) - faith in God, reason for hope and joy, and promise that their current pain is only temporary.
Although the societal and cultural situation in 1 Peter is different from our own, it is not too difficult to see relevant parallels in our situation today. We are isolated and alone because of the CoVid-19 pandemic, in order to care for ourselves and for the wider community. From our pain and suffering comes good. And we are connected not by Silvanus delivering a circular letter to the communities but by e-mail, internet and telephone readers bringing messages to this community. We are strengthened at this time, by the Christian faith and church –Trinity e-mail and blog connections. These pre-existent communities that we trust, give us strength and comfort.
The part of 1 Peter for focus today gives several practical and spiritual messages for us all. Suffering for good, ultimate joy from dependence on God, faithful choices in challenging (difficult) times, and equality of justice. The primary concern of text is instruction concerning faithful life and witness in the world. The fundamental issue the passage raises for us today is that of equal justice for all.
Peter’s instructions address all believers within the household of God addressing the vulnerability and alienation of all believers in the wider world.
The whole section early in the letter (2:11-4:11) deals with the duties of Christians in the world as it was at the time the letter was written, perhaps the early 2nd century CE. It encourages new converts (1:14) to follow the example of Christ in bearing unjust punishment and suffering.
Jesus has sometimes been described as both a political and religious revolutionary. The imitation of Christ has been a powerful motif for Christian behavior since New Testament times.
In the 13th century Franciscan monks embraced poverty and all that poverty entailed. This was life walking in Christ’s footsteps (v. 21). Jesus embodied for his followers the freedom and joy of living in utter dependence on God. Psychologically in this time of social isolation we too may find comfort and joy in total dependence on God. Christ embraced poverty out of trust in God (v. 23) and love for humanity (v. 24). Many today are speculating about the new normal after pandemic ends – more compassion, co-operation and less measuring our success economically.
To have com–passion, to "suffer together" or to have sympathy, to "open your heart" to someone, isn't just a fuzzy feeling. In the New Testament, compassion is the divine response to human suffering.
Francis did not find joy in his worldly accomplishments, for success only breeds a concern for continued success, leading us to rest our souls in the successes we so precariously possess. Joy can be found in simply offering ourselves to God in trust, accepting what the world has to offer, while secure in God. A friend and I both noticed how much lower our credit card bills are so far in the pandemic. We do not spend on luxuries only on food – the basics that really matter. Is this a change that will last?
1 Peter speaks of unjust suffering, but a key thought must not be missed. The suffering is commendable only if is taken on voluntarily. It must not be forced on anyone; else it becomes a clear evil. If we choose to take it on because of our understanding of God, then we can bear it as a participation in Christ’s own unjust suffering. The early church searched the ancient prophecies of Israel for anything they perceived as references to Christ. 1 Peter cites the “Suffering Servant” passage in the last few sentences, (v. 22-25), directly referencing Isaiah 53:4, 6.
The 1 Peter text nowhere suggests that suffering is a legitimate condition, nor does it suggest stoic tolerance for violence from anyone. Our suffering of isolation now is for a just cause - stay home, stay safe, save lives – this is suffering for the whole city, province, country, and the world.
In our digital world one-zero choice seems to be the only choice. It limits our options – right or wrong, yes or no, fight or flight. Embedded in 1 Peter is the subtle message there are always more than two choices. There are life-giving options, options that expand possibilities, and trigger instincts with which God can touch us. Their (our) world may not be as restricted and contained as they/we think. In my own physical distancing, I find that in the weekly Zoom check-in at Jubilee UC, I am getting to know people at a deeper level than ever before. The superficiality of after church coffee time conversations has given way to deep connections - conversations about faith, science, gardens, and love of earth and family, past careers and current skills and gifts. Are you finding the same thing at Trinity with your Wednesday morning Zoom meetings?
Further is suggested an alternative ethic, do not retaliate (v. 23). “Hold fire while under attack”.
I am reminded of a conversation between a young child and a much bigger boy “I could beat you up”. Reply by the younger one “Yes, but why would you want to?” There the conversation ended. The younger child is demonstrating that God always offers a life-giving option to threat and abuse. We are called to find that option and live with it.
Fears and dangers in our own world limit our creative solutions. Anxiety about work, and health and the next paycheck can enslave our hope for the future. The trust we hear from these early Christians can teach us. As an antidote to all the ways life is frightening and dangerous, God offers a way, an expansive way.
In this Easter season, we are well aware that we will walk out of this “tomb” of isolation and fear one day. Our souls are guarded by the good Shepherd. Freedom to act alternatively in the world starts to look like a possibility. Yet we also have freedom now to pray, plan and keep community as we do today.
May we all come to and continue to know the limitless love of God in Christ and in community, AMEN
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in self-forgetting that we find;
And it is in dying to ourselves that we are born to eternal life.
*A peace prayer attributed to St. Francis.
The Disciples’ Prayer
Our Father who art in Heaven…
In the name of God who takes the risk of creation,
Of Jesus who journeyed to Calvary and beyond,
and the Spirit who kindles our hope and strength,
Let us go in peace and be witnesses of renewed community
Sent from this time of worship. AMEN
/adapted from Frances Blodwell p. 241”600 Blessings and Prayers from around the world” compiled by Geoffrey Duncan
Express your appreciation to each other for this time of closeness and prayer
Announcements and Additional service materials
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Additional familiar readings for Fourth Sunday Easter Season “Good Shepherd” Sunday.
1 "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.
2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.
3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.
5 They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers."
6 Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
7 So again Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.
8 All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them.
9 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.
Psalm 23 A Psalm of David.
v.1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
v. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters; v. 3 he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths for his name's sake.
v. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil;
for you are with me; your rod and your staff--they comfort me.
v. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
v. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.