written sermon for February 7, 2021

Rev. Pamela McNeil                                                                                                                                                             Date: Feb 7, 2020

Text: Isaiah 40: 21-31; Mark 1: 29-39             Mission: Serve in community

Perhaps like me, you have spent many evenings outdoors under the blanket of stars as described in the reading from Isaiah. – maybe you remember playing well into the evening as a kid, or you sat with a group of friends outside on a summer night, hearing the sounds, smelling the campfire, and feeling small under the great expanse of stars. This image of a starry night is especially appealing and I am inclined to think that this is probably as close to creation and the creator as one can come.

This passage was particularly resonant with people of Bible times. The picture painted by Isaiah is of God who ‘sits above the circle of the earth’ stretching the dome of the stars across the cosmos – a God above and greater than anything. These words kind of gave criticism to the Israelites who were in exile because of their lack of loyalty to God the creator.

You see, the people of God had slipped into habits of honouring stars and worshipping sun and moon gods. But the image presented by Isaiah reveals there is nothing greater than God – not stars, or any other cosmic being. The universe unfolds perfectly in God’s plan.

This image of God’s greatness – God’s omnipotence – is important to keep in mind as we explore the work Jesus does when he leaves the synagogue and enters the home of Simon Peter.

Peter’s mother in law, whose joy and pleasure is to greet people in her home – her domain – is unable to welcome and attend to Jesus and his companions. She is ill with fever.

This is not a simple cold. I’m told that the original Greek word describing her illness indicates that it was very severe – a condition that usually resulted in death. The account of Jesus’ ministry to her is touching. Jesus ‘raises her up’ – this woman who is un-named in scripture is physically and spiritually lifted up by Jesus – Her fever immediately leaves her and she is able to get up and resume her role of greeting her guests, serving them and welcoming them to the table

Now some may protest the subordination of placing this un-named woman in the role of a meek servant, doing the bidding of others. And here is where a true point of this account comes to light:

Women are frequently the ones in scripture who take on the role of Christ-like living, but this is not about the woman –

In fact, this un-named woman is far from being a meek, unliberated person. She is the first person in the gospel of Mark to embody true discipleship.

This is about being a servant. It is about Jesus’ role as a servant. It is about how the things that Jesus does show us personally the greatness of God who stretches the heavens out like a tent over creation.

The healing of the woman is living proof of a gracious God who, even in greatness, is not above caring for us.

This account is also about community. The woman’s encounter with Jesus ‘lifted’ her – removed her burdens, and filled her with strength. The woman is returned to her guests and her community where she is able to contribute and has a position of worth.

The woman’s healing is followed by many healings that evening. All in the community who were ill and possessed by demons were brought to Jesus. The people are nameless, and their being healed is evidence of God’s power and loving care. The community was enriched by the restoration of its population.

Jesus comes to restore humanity’s relationship with God and with each other.

I thought about community when I received the family Christmas photo from our son. The photographer placed the parents behind a waist high limb of a tree. It is a hefty limb, so all 4 children are sitting on it. The 1 year old sister is sitting at the highest point – the branch is on an angle so she is hanging on to her eldest brother’s shoulder for dear life. The eldest brother, to keep from being knocked off balance by his sister is holding on to the middle brother’s arm with a death grip. The middle brother is body slammed against the youngest brother for stability, and the youngest brother is at the lowest point in the slippery sloping branch and he ‘white knuckles’ his mother’s hand tightly as she holds him from sliding off.  The entire group of course, is held safely by the parents. I love how they are all connected, physically and spiritually to each other. That is community.

As part of a community, when things go off balance, others are there for support; when a neighbour begins to slide, they can rely on the community for support; when someone is sad, they have a community to grieve with them. We live in a wonky uncertain time, and being part of a community is strengthening and more important than ever.

 The young people who were confirmed this past summer commented on how weird it felt to be the only young person in the congregation on random Sunday mornings. In other words, they missed that part of the community that is like them. How do we need to be lifted up to see they are part of the community in a different way?

A church community that works together is able to accomplish great things. Lone single believers can speak of God’s greatness, but as evidenced by our parish and congregational projects, together we are much more effective.

So, this account of Jesus healing the woman is also about the value of community where each person has a role and has value.

At the end of the passage, Jesus leads his disciples to the next community to teach about service, to restore community, and this is done as a witness to God’s greatness.

We are the people in the next community. We are blessed by Jesus’ presence in our lives every day. How does this blessing stir us to serve, to be community and to witness and marvel at the mystery of God’s greatness?

Worship service for February 7, Epiphany 5

V1. Longing for light, we wait in darkness; Longing for truth, we turn to you. Make us your own, your Holy people. Light for the world to see:

Chorus: Christ be our light! Shine in our hearts, Shine through the darkness. Christ be our light! Shine in your church gathered today.

V2. Longing for peace, our world is troubled. Longing for hope, many despair. Your word alone Has power to save us. Make us your living voice: Chorus

V5. Many the gifts, many the people. Many the hearts that yearn to belong. Let us be servants to one another, Signs of your kingdom come: Chorus Text: and music: Bernadette Farrell b. 1957, c.Published by OCP Publications Used with permission.

hymn 237 LBW; hymn 379 LBW

Serving today: presiding pastor – Rev Pam McNeil; musician -Linda Yenssen, caretaker- Eric Zimmerman

Thank you for joing in worship today. Apologies again for not having space to upload the hymns today.

Removing the unclean spirit: sermon for January 31, 2021

Astounded is a rare word in the NRSV Bible- it is used 14 times in the New Testament to be precise and except in one case it always refers to the actions or words of Jesus. Actions and words that authoritatively shake up traditional ways.

We have heard before that Jesus will bring a new way, and this morning we have a chance to examine what that means.

Jesus taught in the temple and on the hillside in ways that brought people to examine their actions and their understanding of the law.

The tradition was to teach the law and never stray from it so to avoid the wrath of God. If you did the right things, God would love you….? But Jesus taught that loving God and each other was the point and not just keeping the law- God loves us anyway.

Jesus taught that the law only worked if it is led by the gospel of love. He asked people to examine the spirit of the law. In other words, when we love God and love one another, loved them even more than our-self, the law falls in place naturally – obedience to the law comes from a loving heart.

In Deuteronomy we read that God created humans to be in relationship with God. This perfect relationship of God’s desire is called “The Kingdom of God”.

When the people were freed from slavery in Egypt and had travelled through the wilderness, God gave them the 10 commandments. We read that the people were so terrified of the sound of God’s voice that it almost destroyed them. Perhaps it was more like the things God was asking that they didn’t want to hear – things which put an end to their new found self-centred life. They really did not want to listen to God – not listening was more tempting.

This stone that I hold can represent the temptations and sinfulness that fills people. (put the stone in the small burlap bag) The people found themselves holding on to this ‘unclean spirit’, thinking it would build them up, put them in control. ~ In fact it only weighed them down and kept them in the wilderness for a longer time.

God said, ok, if you can’t listen to me, I will send prophets, but the message from the prophets was not appreciated either – and the people killed and abused the prophets. You will read about this if you are entering in to the February Bible Study of Jeremiah.

The message from the prophets simply encouraged people to love God, but the people would rather love themselves, feed themselves, worship themselves, cultivate prestige for themselves (Put more stones in the bag.) They filled their lives with unclean spirits, with temptation and man made false gods. ~

 In our lives we probably carry a few stones of sinfulness around with us too. We want to be in control of how we love, who we give money to, who we invite to the table. That’s trouble because we usually are too selective. There is a temptation to decide who is worthy of our love. This is much like the man with an unclean spirit who spoke to Jesus in the temple – “what have you to do with us Jesus of Nazareth?” These are the words of someone who would prefer to hoard their love and kindness, ~ someone who would rather tick the boxes of doing the right thing rather than opening their heart to self-sacrifice in love.~

Sometimes we put ourselves first, look after our own interests with some to spare, sometimes we hurt others, – (add a few more stones to the bag) ~

We all have the stones or an unclean spirit that we carry around, most of them are small stones, but there probably are one or two bigger ones, and maybe even a burden that is huge – regrets or bad choices. (the bag is pretty full by now) and we wonder if we will ever walk free.

Jesus says be quiet evil one and come out. (Begin to place the stones around the baptism font) Jesus says this with the voice of love, not a voice of terror. Jesus’ authority comes from the knowledge that the kingdom of God is as near as it has ever been. Jesus speaks with authority because Jesus is filled with a different spirit.

That same spirit fills us at our baptism when we are marked as a child of God and filled with the Holy Spirit.

All these burdens that we could carry around have been drowned in the waters of our baptism. (Push the stones into the water) Our heavy burdens are drowned – they die at the moment of our baptism and the space created is filled with the Holy Spirit to strengthen us.

That is the action of a God of love.

Believe this and go forward in a path of love and caring for others, founded gratitude for God’s love.

Today I invite you to find a stone and place it where you can feel or see it regularly, to remind you that unclean spirits and tempting desires have been given to Jesus and we are set free. ~ J  Perhaps when we are able to gather again in the church, you can select a stone from the font. We will leave them here for a while, reminding us that sin in us has died, drowned in the waters of Jesus’ love and sacrifice. We need carry it no more.

Our hearts are filled with the Holy Spirit to astound us!  We are free to find ways to lovingly feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, stand up for those who are persecuted, and to love God with total abandon.

Without the burdens of sin we have the opportunity to see the kingdom of God at hand, – a kingdom where all have what they need, living in loving relationship.

This is God’s deepest desire, this is God’s plan. Let those stones go (dump the rest into the font ) – they have already been dumped into the waters of God’s love and banished forever.

As we approach Lent in the church calendar, our journey to God through baptism and covenant will take us on a meaningful and joyful path. I pray the words from scripture and our meditation will touch every one of us as we journey together on Sunday. May we be astounded!  Amen.

Worship for Sunday, January 31, 2021: the Fourth Sunday of Epiphany

Order for Confession

Holy God, – You search us and know us. You are acquainted with all our ways. We confess that our hearts are burdened by sin –Our own sins and the broken systems that bind us. We turn inward, failing to follow

Your outward way of love. We distrust those who are not like us.

We exploit the earth and its resources And fail to consider generations to come. Forgive us, gracious God, For all we have done and lift undone. Even before the words are on our tongues, You know them: Receive them in your divine mercy. Amen

aploogies, this account has reached maximum usage, and will not allow me to upload the hymns. Join in LBW 248, Dearest Jesus at they Word; LBW 315, Love Divine, All Love Excelling; And WOV 783, Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God

Serving today: Presiding Pastor – Rev. Pam McNeil; Musician – Marlene Dietz; Hymn Leader – Dave Dietz; Church caretaker and bell ringer – Eric Zimmerman

Follow me and I will make you fishers of people!

Follow me and I will make you fishers of people!

This is probably a familiar passage and it has been a rallying cry to ‘right’ those who are wrong.

To build on the words of poet laureate Amanda Corman, ( i couldn’t resist) this often means that rather than leaving what “just is”, the call to be ‘fishers of people’ has been distorted to appear to be “justice” – the right thing to do. It usually misses the mark by a long shot. 

Christians have their own history of damage and annihilation in fishing for people – the crusades, and residential schools at the top of the list followed closely by modern day exclusion and shunning of people who didn’t fit into a less than righteous view of small ‘h’ holiness.

We feel the urgency of this mission, but don’t always get it right, but don’t worry, we are not alone in getting it wrong.

The disciples themselves felt the urgency to drop everything and follow Jesus- urgency as described by the apostle Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians, Urgency where spouse and responsibility and grief and joy pale in comparison – great and unstoppable urgency.

They felt that but even so, the disciples soon became distracted from their following and were tempted by their vision of what Jesus would make of them – fishers of people – maybe the most important fishers of people – maybe even, the most important people- and so it goes. It is humorous to look ahead and see these same two brothers, James and John- sons of Zebadee – as they argue over who will sit in the important place beside Jesus. When the focus is on the “I will make you” part of Jesus’ words at the seashore that day, imaginations run wild with visions of importance.

The disciples’ enthusiasm to follow Jesus was overshadowed by their personal desire for greatness.

But if we stop and truly hear Jesus call, the only invitation he issues is to say “Follow me”! That is all we are called to do. Simply.  Follow.  Jesus.

The rest is the work of Jesus. The “I will make you fishers of people” is what Jesus promises that HE will do!

God through Jesus will accomplish God’s will, and we see this all too clearly in the story of Jonah – part of which we heard this morning. God wants Jonah to go to Nineveh and tell the people to repent and return to God.

Jonah is so smart that he knows better than God – Jonah himself judges the people of the city  and declares them to be so disobedient that they will NEVER change – Jonah judges them as hopeless and he runs in the opposite direction, But that didn’t work out too well for him and Jonah ends up where God wants him to be- Down Town Nineveh! We might make note that willingness to follow is not always necessary for God to accomplish God’s purpose – as this account shows.

However, Jonah is still pretty sure that God is wrong (why is it so difficult to learn) But in a manner of humoring God, Jonah walks through the streets – maybe even mocking the people – Hear ye! Hear ye! 40 days more and you’re all going to be done for!

But Jonah finally completed the work God called him to do. Jonah finally spoke to the people.

So when we hear the call to follow Jesus, what does that sound like and what does that mean for us?

Understanding how that call will play our in our life requires a close relationship with Jesus. When we follow a sports celebrity or an artist we learn as much as we can about them. Then we have a sense of their goals and plans and celebrate with them in successes. It is the same in following Jesus. Learn as much as we can about Jesus, loving what he loves.

Right now it is a privilege to work with the young people in the congregation to explore and build on a relationship with Jesus – to question our understanding and to build strong faith foundations. Hold these young people, Presley, Travis, Lesley, Nathan, Dylan, Marie and Ben and ourselves in your prayers as they and we explore stories of Jesus’ love for us and truly hear Jesus’ commandment to love God and love one another.

Pray for ways to follow Jesus in love.

Loving as Jesus loves means that our heart aches when we hear news stories of children being held in cages, when we hear accounts of young people deprived of hope who complete suicide, accounts of injustices that we are not able to fix. Sometimes only our understanding is broken.

Quite often, following Jesus means making an effort to understand.

At one point in my life, I had an opportunity to work with children whose parents were residential school survivors. Many of the young people had been in trouble with the law and had a high chance of continuing on that path. They spoke of loss of their language and traditions that marked milestones in their life – of the knowledge that something was missing leaving them with an emptyness. Of course, their parents did not know the traditions, so the children floundered and trouble found them. I met them when they were in a week long enrichment setting, learning about their heritage. I may have mentioned this before, but I was astounded with the attention of these young people – these restless, trouble makers. They sat for hours listening and learning as a wise elder shared what had been taken away from these people.

Sometimes following Jesus means to lovingly desire and seek to understand others. Jesus is calling each of us to follow him. How we hear the call is as unique as each of God’s children. We are called to follow Jesus in love and to be loving. And make no mistake, there is an urgency to this call. We cannot be distracted by thinking we need to tell God what to do. We need not be the judge of who is worthy. We are called to follow Jesus’ commandment to trust and love God, and love one another. God will do the rest.

Worship for January 17, 2021 The Second Sunday after Epiphany

Serving today: presiding pastor Rev Pam McNeil; Musician Marlene Dietz; Hymn leader Dave Dietz; Epiphany Liturgy written by Rev. Rick Pryce, Lunenburg Lutheran Parish, Nova Scotia.

Worship Service with Communion, and Social time for CHRISTMAS 2020, Carols, Candles, and a visit to the stable.

Welcome and Gathering
The Word in scripture and song
Social time and visit to the stable

Presiding Pastor: Rev. Pamela McNeil; Greeter: Laurie Zimmerman Hopf; Readers: Mike Bender, Harry Bender, Glenn Jacques; Hymn Leaders: Madison Bender, Harry Bender, Dave Dietz, Darlene Divers, Eileen Rehkopf, Darrell Rehkopf; Pianist: Marlene Dietz; Organist: Pam McNeil; Communion Assistants: The Tuesday Afternoon Bible Study Group; Social Time Entertainment: Ruth Mae and Rob Rehkopf; The Rehkopf Singers – Darlene, Eileen and Darrell; Tour Guide at the Stable: Mark Diebel.

May you be filled with the presence of The Christ Child.

Worship service for the Longest night Dec 21 2020

Thankyou for joining in worship this evening.
Pastor Leanne and Pastor Pam are available for conversation and the following help services are available 24 hours/7 days: Ontario Community services: dial 211; Canadian suicide Prevention hotline- dial 833-456-4566. Mental health and physical health require professional care.

Hymn and image credits in order of appearance:

Comfort, Comfort Now my People: text: Johann G. Olearius, 1635-1711; tr. Catherine Winkworth 1829-1878

Of the Fathers Love Begotten: Text: Marcus aurelius Clemens Prudentius, 348-413; images from @CanadianPaintings: in order – “Chopping Wood” by Allen Sapp 1972; “woman with Doves in a Canadian Landscape” by Sarah Robertson n.d.; “Cardinal” by James Fenwick Lansdowne 2002; “Deer in the Morning” by Eddy Cobiness 1976; “November off Elsmere Island” by Doris McCarthy n.d.; “The Excitement of First Heavy Snow” by William Kurelek 1974; “rising Mist” A.J. Casson 1965; “Comox Valley” E.J. Hughes 1953

T’was in the Moon of Wintertime: text John de Brebeuf, 1593-1649; c1927 The Frederick Harris Music Company

I Want To Walk As A Child Of The Light: Text and Music Kathleen Thomerson, b.1934 c1970, 1975 Celebration. Image credits: first image – “Quiet Moment of Gratitude” by Christi Belcourt. Image 2, 5 and 6 clergy stoles images used with permission Jenny Gallo | c 2020 Carrot Top Studio | carrottop studio.com  – image 4 – Halifax Lutheran Church of the Resurrection; image 7- Mary and Jesus by Parker Fitzgerald and Brittany Richardson.

The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns Text: Georg Weissel, 1590 – 1635; tr Gracia Grindal b. 1943; Music J.A. freylinghausen 1704. Text and arr c 1978, 2006 Augsburg Fortress

As The Dark Awaits The Dawn Text: Taize community, Music: Jacques Berthier, 1923-1994 c 1984 Les Presses de Taize, GIA Publications Inc.

The sending prayer is used with permission: Jan Richardson, “Winter Solstice: Blessing for the Longest Night” in The Advent Door, Entering A Contemplative Christmas, accessed December 20, 2018, http://adventdoor.com/2011/12/19/winter-solstice-blessing-for-the-longest-night/.

This service was inspired and adapted from Discipleship Ministries: The Cathedral Church of Saint Andrew, Honolulu, HI, “Blue Christmas: A Service of Reflection for the Longest Night,” accessed December 20, 2018,  https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/blue-christmas-a-service-of-reflection-for-the-longest-night.