Easter VI

Robert Indiana, LOVE, 1966–1998, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

Gathered through the power of the Holy Spirit, we worship God with gladness. We encourage you to pray over the words that follow, and follow the links within the liturgy. Thanks this week to Jenny and Heather!

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY

To celebrate Mother’s Day, people were invited to send along the names of mothers, step-mothers, or maternal figures they wish to honour. Here is our list:

Ethel
Carol
Marilyn
Helen 
Mary Frances
Helen
Florence
Mary
Elsie
Gerry
Myrtle
Su
Ida
Sohair
Lara
Norma
Mernie
Becca
Mary
Ruby
Dorothy
Ann
Beverley
Helen
Dana
Bella Jane
Jo-Ann

PRELUDE: “Dreamcatcher” (Gaudet)

OPENING PRAYER 

Our God, as a gentle rain soaks the earth,
may your peace and love fall upon us,
bringing growth and life.
Soak into our innermost being.
Quiet all that makes us anxious.
Help us to linger in your presence,
open like the soil that welcomes the rain.
Mindful of the growth you give—grow in us.
Mindful of the comfort you share—comfort us.
Mindful of the healing you bring—heal us.
We pray in Jesus’ name this day. Amen.

HYMN OF PRAISE: “Come, let us sing of a wonderful love”

Come, let us sing of a wonderful love,
tender and true, tender and true;
out of the heart of the Father above,
streaming to me and to you:
wonderful love, wonderful love
dwells in the heart of the Father above.

Jesus the Saviour this gospel to tell
joyfully came, joyfully came,
came with the helpless and hopeless to dwell,
sharing their sorrow and shame:
seeking the lost, seeking the lost,
saving, redeeming at measureless cost.

Jesus is seeking the wanderers yet;
why do they roam? why do they roam?
Love only waits to forgive and forget;
home, weary wanderers, home:
wonderful love, wonderful love
dwells in the heart of the Father above.

Come to my heart, O thou wonderful love;
come and abide, come and abide,
lifting my life till it rises above
envy and falsehood and pride:
seeking to be, seeking to be
lowly and humble, a learner of thee.

PRAYER OF CONFESSION

God, you touch our lives
with mystery and hope.
We come to this place today,
ready to see your power working through us,
ready to experience your love and mercy,
ready to open our hearts in the spirit of confession.
It is reconciliation we seek:
with our sisters and brothers,
with those we overlook,
with those we have wronged in any way—
and even with the earth itself.
Forgive us, God,
and set us free to serve you once more.
Amen.

ASSURANCE OF PARDON

God will give us what we need:
strength for today,
hope for tomorrow,
and forgiveness
for all that is past.
Amen.

SPECIAL MUSIC: “Joy Is Like The Rain” (Medical Mission Sisters)

FIRST READING: Psalm 98

Sing to the Lord a new song,
    for he has done marvelous things;
his right hand and his holy arm
    have worked salvation for him.
The Lord has made his salvation known
    and revealed his righteousness to the nations.
He has remembered his love
    and his faithfulness to Israel;
all the ends of the earth have seen
    the salvation of our God.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth,
    burst into jubilant song with music;
make music to the Lord with the harp,
    with the harp and the sound of singing,
with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—
    shout for joy before the Lord, the King.

Let the sea resound, and everything in it,
    the world, and all who live in it.
Let the rivers clap their hands,
    let the mountains sing together for joy;
 let them sing before the Lord,
    for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
    and the peoples with equity.

SECOND READING: John 15.9-17

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

Robert Indiana, AHAVA (Love), Israel Museum, Jerusalem (Photo by Talmoryair, CC BY-SA 4.0)

HYMN OF PRAISE: “We are one in the Spirit”

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
And we pray that all unity may one day be restored
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
They will know we are Christians by our love.

We will work with each other, we will work side by side
We will work with each other, we will work side by side
And we’ll guard each one’s dignity and save each one’s pride
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
They will know we are Christians by our love.

We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand
We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand
And together we’ll spread the news that God is in our land
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
They will know we are Christians by our love.

REFLECTION

My late mentor, the Rev. Doug Paterson, once said that anyone who says they don’t believe in original sin has never met a toddler.

He was kidding, of course, but it does underline the extent to which a toddler will always be at the centre of everything—for good or for ill. Loudest, most destructive, most adorable, and always demanding the most attention. But then they grow out of it—well, some grow out of it.

Think of it as part of the rule of 80-20. The kids may make up 20 percent of the family, but they get 80 percent of the attention. And why stop at the kids? In any human activity, there are basically 20 percent that get 80 percent of the attention. 20 percent of drivers cause 80 percent of accidents. 20 percent of industry creates 80 percent of the pollution. 20 percent of workers tend to do 80 percent of the work. Even preachers fall into this: 80 percent of our sermons tend to come from no more than 20 percent of the Bible.

How did this come to be? Back in olden times, preachers preached passages of particular prominence, along with lots of alliteration. They would gravitate to their favourite passages, and return to them with surprizing regularity. To remedy this, some wise people invented the common lectionary, meaning more of the Bible shared over a three-year cycle. Your favourite passage would then appear only once every three years, by which time you might have something new to say.

Yet still, the three-year cycle of readings represents little more that 20 percent of the overall Bible. Thus, 80 percent of sermons tend to come from no more than 20 percent. Still, the idea was sound. And of course, I would take this a step further to suggest that within a particular passage there is always a verse or two that gets all the attention—akin to the rule of 80-20. Share ten verses, preach on two, and the rule returns.

How does that work? Well, imagine that like toddlers, there are verses that demand your attention. The most famous example, perhaps, is John 3.16:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

But some have argued that the verse that follows says much the same thing, but with a slightly different focus:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

In verse 17, John clarifies God’s intention—not to condemn but to save—and therefore explodes any suggestion that God is simply waiting for us to fail. It speaks to the believer’s fear, and sends grace instead.

I share all of this because our passage from John 15 has the exact same issue: a single verse among many grabs our attention and tends to be the one we lean toward. (For our online worshippers, go back and reread the passage and guess which one I’m referring to).

I’m referring to verse 13 (“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”) Amid all the loving, the mutuality, the desire to remain in his love, we get a single verse that takes us straight out of the passage and on to the cross. In the most technical sense, this is called intertextuality: one verse suggests another, or another story, or another theme. And since there is no bigger theme that Christ’s passion, you can see how verse 13 tends to draw our attention away.

This verse is about love. And it does fit with the theme of ‘abide in my love.’ In some ways, it’s a request before Calvary to remain in his love come-what-may. Because truly, there is no greater love than laying down your life for others. But this need not lead us away from the real lesson of the passage, found just a verse earlier: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

If you participated in the Maundy Thursday service, you will recall that this verse is at the heart of the service. Maundy comes from the Latin mandatum, the word that gives us “mandate” in English. In this sense, the command to love one another is our mandate, or our mission—however you want to call it. There, amid all the final instructions that Jesus shares before his passion, only one rises to the level of a mandate: love each other.

In our online “static” service, Heather has played “They’ll know we are Christians by our love,” a classic contemporary hymn that really states the obvious. Since our mandate is to love each other, and abide in the love found in Jesus, and since God is love, it seems rather obvious that they’ll know we are Christians by our love. Or is it?

Well, if you’ve been in church for longer than 10 minutes you’ll know that it’s not always the case. Like the twelve, people in church bicker (but not at Central, of course). Like the twelve, people in church seek pride of place (but not at Central, of course). And like the twelve, people in church are given to doubt, and even disbelief (but not at Central, of course). And even pastors have been known to sprinkle a little sugar on their message to make it go down better (but not at Central, of course).

Like any mandate, the command to love each other is aspirational. We work toward a mandate, and sometimes we achieve it, even if only for a time. But it’s still our mandate, and it’s still the reason we exist. We abide in Christ’s love, we love each other, and we show the world the power of love. We can do no other. And whatever happens, and however the world responsed, we begin and end with love—we never condemn, we only seek to save through the love, the same love we have received.

May God help us to remain among the 20 percent that are doing 80 percent of the loving in this town, and fulfil our mandate, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

God of all,
We close our eyes and see mothers,
both literal and metaphorical,
a network of nurture and love,
encouragement and forgiveness.
examples we can follow.

God of all,
We close our eyes and see the faces of those we know and love:
neighbours and friends, sisters and brothers—
a community of kindred hearts.
Keep them safe from harm,
and encourage them in the face of sadness and fear.

God of all,
We close our eyes and see the faces of those we hardly know:
strangers, visitors, forgotten friends—
the ones who need an outstretched hand.
Give them hope,
and remind them that there are many who care.

God of all,
We close our eyes and see trouble everywhere,
for India, and other places overwhelmed by hardship,
we pray this day.

God of all,
We close our eyes and see what cannot be unseen:
injustice, cruelty, oppression, malice,
the careless disregard for the sacredness of human life.
Stir our hearts,
and help us to be agents of your peace.

God of all,
We close our eyes and see the love of God represented in our fellowship.
In me, in you, in each of us.
Help us keep your command, and abide in your love,
In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

THE LORD’S PRAYER

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,
and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.

HYMN: “In Christ there is no east or west”

In Christ there is no east or west,
in him no south or north,
but one great fellowship of love
throughout the whole wide earth.

In Christ shall true hearts ev’rywhere
their high communion find.
His service is the golden cord
close binding humankind.

Join hands, then, people of the faith,
whate’er your race may be.
All children of the living God
are surely kin to me.

In Christ now meet both east and west,
in him meet south and north.
All Christly souls are joined as one
throughout the whole wide earth.

BLESSING

Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way,
and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless
until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. Amen.
—1 Thessalonians 5:23

God be with you till we meet again;
loving counsels guide, uphold you,
with a shepherd’s care enfold you;
God be with you till we meet again.

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One thought on “Easter VI

  1. As usual this was inspiring and provides strength and insight for the coming week. Thank you aall for your superb contributions to this service. Happy Mothers Day to Heather and Jenny (soon to be a Great Grandmother).

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