Trinity United Church
Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 9, 2021
“Connection not Perfection”
Today we welcome Robert Nicolson, who leads us in worship today.
Welcome to Trinity United Church this morning. Today is traditionally celebrated as Mother’s Day, or more recently, as Christian Family Sunday. Thank you for joining us online. Your presence with us this morning is indeed a blessing.
Acknowledgement of Territory:
Some Algonquin peoples believed their cultural hero, Nanahbozho, relocated to the far north after he finished creating the Earth. He lit large fires, which reflected back to his people in the form of the northern lights. This let them know he was thinking of them, even though they were far apart.
The symbolism in this story reminds me or our biblical story of the great flood and the rainbow reminding us God’s care.
We, acknowledge that we are on the unceded territories of the Kwikwetlem First Nation. We thank them for having cared for this land and look forward to working with them in partnership as we continue to build this great community together.
God, creator of us all, we gather to worship you.
We come as individuals, we come in family units, we come as neighbours and friends.
We come here where we are known by name, welcomed with all our fragilities and strengths.
We gather with kindred spirits who long to live faithful to you calling.
Guide us, inspire us, challenge us, comfort us, and nurture us in this time of worship so that we might be enabled to return to our daily lives ready to engage fully with all of your creation. We pray.
Prayer of Confession:
O God, you know how difficult it is to live in relationships, and yet you call us to do so. At times it is hard to be fully present to our siblings and others in our nuclear family and within this Christian family. Our patience may be short, we sometimes don’t really listen, we may be tired , or angry, or hungry, or lonely, or . . . whatever it is that keeps us from living and caring for one another, help us to know that you are always with us, loving us so that we may love others.
Hymn: "Would You Bless Our Homes and Families" VU 556
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Prayer of Forgiveness:
Through all the joys and all the struggles of living in relationship, one truth is offered to each and every one of us:
God has loved us, God is loving us and God will always love us.
Thanks be to God for this unending gift of love.
While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.
This passage is sometimes referred to as the Gentile Pentecost. In the first Pentecost we saw the Holy Spirit poured out allowing those gathered to experience and to manifest of the Kingdom of God. However, the gentiles were not included. Today’s text marks the start of that inclusion.
I must confess that I sometimes have trouble understanding the meaning of what appear to be supernatural events described in the bible. I have learned to adopt the attitude of John Dominic Crossan where he states:
“My point, once again, is not that those ancient people told literal stories and we are now smart enough to take them symbolically, but that they told them symbolically and we are now dumb enough to take them literally.”
I do believe, however, that we can have experiences that touch the Holy and I want to tell you a story from my own past how this can happen.
Hymn: "A Song of Praise to the Maker" MV 30
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Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
Message pt 2:
John’s message here and elsewhere is that only those who accept Jesus as the Son of God are considered by God to be God’s children.
We need to take this in context.
It is generally accepted that John’s Gospel was written sometime around the year 100 CE and possibly by the followers of a school John established at Ephesus in what is now Turkey.
That makes it 70 years after the crucifixion and 30 years after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.
Ephesus was a large Roman city on the Mediterranean where one would find visitors and traders from throughout the known world. The city was full of temples to the various Roman Gods and there was a fair-sized Jewish community as part of the diaspora. It is not clear whether at this time Rome recognized Christianity as anything more than a Jewish sect.
John was passionate about Jesus’s the new covenant and that Jesus was the messiah who would return, soon, as the end-of-days was approaching. He wanted to save as many as possible from the ensuing apocalypse.
This, of course, didn’t happen, and we see things much differently today.
We, too, live in a diverse society. Fifty years ago every family on our block on Langan Avenue here in Port Coquitlam was of white European ancestry. Today below us there are two families from the Middle East. Across the street is one family from Korea and another from China. Our next door neighbours above are from Fiji.
Diversity is a fact, but inclusion is a choice.
Acknowledging and understanding diversity is the first step towards creating communities which are truly equitable and where people feel as though they belong.
We know, instinctively, that a sense of belonging creates situations which are healthier in which to learn, to work and to participate. Where we used to talk about tolerance, we are now moving towards celebration and cultural humility as our collective understanding grows.
What can we do?
Stay curious. Read widely. Ask questions. Make personal connections with those who have different religious backgrounds. Whatever we do to educate ourselves will give us new perspectives, or help us “walk in someone else’s shoes.”
That perspective, and commitment, will continue to develop our church family.
Hymn: "Who Is My Mother" MV 178
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Prayers of the People:
Our faith blesses us with stories of others who have sought to live in life-giving relationships.
As we remember these siblings in faith, remind us of your guidance and presence with us.
Let us pray —
God of Ruth and Naomi, who embraced each other despite differences of race and cultural traditions and chose to be family for one another.
For all who choose to be family, may your love and hope be sustained day by day.
God of Simon and Andrew and James and John, who left the familiar to build new community with Jesus and his followers.
Though faithful, they had moments of doubt, of fear, of denial.
In our moments of doubt, fear, and denial, may we remember to trust and to take one step at a time.
God of Hagar, Abraham, and Ishmael; God of Sarah, Abraham, and Isaac; God of the complicated, and the jealous, and the broken, remind us that this too is real and that you walk with us through these troubling times.
God of Mary and John, called to relationships that stretch beyond blood, to care for one another.
You invite us too to reach out in welcome, support, and care for one another.
God of the past, God of the present, God of tomorrow, help us to live in relationships that seek justice, love kindness, and ground ourselves in you love for us.
*Kin to One Another, Jackie Harper, Used with permission.
The Lord's Prayer
Hymn: "Go Make a Dif'rence" MV 209
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