Second after Pentecost

Antique Very Rare Dutch Delft Tile Baker & Oven Circa 1625-1650 | Delft  tiles, Delft, Dutch tiles
Delft tiles “incorporate scenes from Dutch life – farm workers, windmills, tulips and sailing ships taken from the local landscape – alongside images of everything from biblical stories to mythological creatures.” (House & Garden). Today’s selection of 17th and 18 century tiles relate to the elements of communion.*

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. Prayers in this service are adapted from Celebrate God’s Presence (UCPH). Thanks this week to Jenny and Heather!

PRELUDE: “Now to your table spread” (Ireland)

OPENING PRAYER:

Eternal God,
we come to you with hungry hearts,
waiting to be filled:
with a sense of your presence;
with the touch of your spirit;
with new energy for service.
Come to us, we pray.
Be with us.
Meet us in the bread and wine,
and allow us to taste eternity.
Empower us as your people,
that we might worship you,
and act in the world for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

HYMN OF PRAISE: “All who hunger, gather gladly”

All who hunger, gather gladly;
holy manna is our bread.
Come from wilderness and wand’ring.
Here in truth, we will be fed.
You that yearn for days of fullness,
all around us is our food.
Taste and see the grace eternal,
taste and see that God is good.

All who hunger, never strangers,
seeker, be a welcome guest.
Come from restlessness and roaming.
Here in joy we keep the feast.
We that once were lost and scattered,
in communion’s love have stood.
Taste and see the grace eternal.
Taste and see that God is good.

All who hunger, sing together;
Jesus Christ is living bread.
Come from loneliness and longing.
Here in peace, we have been led.
Blest are those who from this table
live their lives in gratitude.
Taste and see the grace eternal.
Taste and see that God is good.

PRAYER OF CONFESSION

If we say we have no sin, Lord,
we deceive ourselves,
and we neglect the truth.
In humility and faith we confess our sin:
things done and things left undone,
things avoided and things ignored,
things said and things left unsaid.
Our burden is heavy,
but we trust in you to ease our load and set us free.
Come, Lord Jesus, to make us whole.
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.

Dutch Delft tile depicting a farmer carrying a scythe

SPECIAL MUSIC: “Like a river of tears” (Oldham/Klusmeier)

FIRST READING: Psalm 138

I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart;
before the “gods” I will sing your praise.
I will bow down toward your holy temple
and will praise your name
for your unfailing love and your faithfulness,

for you have so exalted your solemn decree
that it surpasses your fame.
When I called, you answered me;
you greatly emboldened me.
May all the kings of the earth praise you, Lord,
when they hear what you have decreed.
May they sing of the ways of the Lord,
for the glory of the Lord is great.
Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly;
though lofty, he sees them from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve my life.
You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes;
with your right hand you save me.
The Lord will vindicate me;
your love, Lord, endures forever—
do not abandon the works of your hands.

SECOND READING: 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1

13 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.”[a] Since we have that same spirit of[b] faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. 15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.

HYMN OF PRAISE: “We gather here”

We gather here in Jesus’ name 
His love is burning in our hearts like living flame 
For through His loving Son the Father makes us one 
Come take the bread come drink the wine 
Come share the Lord

No one is a stranger here, 
everyone belongs; 
finding our forgiveness here, 
we in turn forgive all wrongs.

He joins us here He breaks the bread 
The Lord who pours the cup is risen from the dead 
The One we love the most is now our gracious host 
Come take the bread come drink the wine 
Come share the Lord

We are now a family 
of which the Lord is head; 
though unseen he meets us here 
in the breaking of the bread.

We’ll gather soon where angels sing 
We’ll see the glory of our Lord and coming King 
Now we anticipate the feast for which we wait 
Come take the bread come drink the wine 
Come share the Lord

REFLECTION

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen on Zoom, but on what is unseen beyond Zoom. Since what is seen on Zoom is temporary, but what is unseen (beyond Zoom) is eternal.

I think I mentioned before about the highly “curated” world some have created for Zoom. Appropriate artwork, a plant or two, lighting just right, doors closed to block noise and wandering family members. Some, of course, preempt the entire curation process by simply selecting an engaging background: palm trees, outer space, or that view from the end of the dock.

A lot of ink has been spilled in the age of Covid about the meaning behind what you present. Books say “look at me, I’m clever.” Diplomas on the wall say “trust me” or maybe “take me seriously.” An open door in the background says openness, or maybe it says you’re one of those brave people who can arrange their desk with their back to the door. I’m not one of them.

Whatever message you send, intentional or unintentional, curated or uncurated, it’s not real. We have advanced to the point where we can present ourselves to the world the way we choose, for good or for ill. One of the primary objections to social media—Facebook or Instagram—is that it breeds the abiding sense that other people are having better lives: more adventuresome, more meaningful, more beautiful. But it’s not real, it’s an illusion we create, or an illusion we consume.

Of course, with all technology, there is a lively debate about whether we would be better off without it. Philosophers would step into the sermon at this point to remind us that the minute someone invented the bicycle it guaranteed that someone would be the first to fall off a bicycle, in the same way that the invention of the telephone pretty well guaranteed that someone would call and offer to clean my ducts. Phones don’t phone people, duct cleaners phone people.

So we can’t turn back the clock, but we don’t have to accept our reality either. And this seems to be the subtext of Paul meditation on reality found in 2 Corinthians 4. Jesus has died, and Jesus has risen, and Jesus will come again to take us to himself. Outwardly the followers of Jesus were aging, some wasting away, some sleeping in death, but Paul says “do not lose heart,” for you are, in fact, being renewed day by day. The momentary affliction that is holding you down today will be replaced by an eternal weight of glory.

And I’m sure some were convinced. Some understood that the promise to return in glory didn’t have a date attached. Some knew that brothers and sisters in the faith would pass before that great and glorious day, and trusted that all would be sorted in eternity. Some were able to “trust the process,” words that never fully convince anyone, while others were not able to trust the process. And for the unconvinced, Paul had more to say:

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.

It’s amazing really, the extent to which Paul could make good on his promise to be “all things to all people.” To those familiar with Plato he had one message, and to those who had never heard of Plato, he had another. Ironic that Paul, the tentmaker, had a foot in each world, and could speak to both.

To the Platonist, or those who knew about Plato, he seems to be making a reference to The Allegory of the Cave. In the allegory, his fictional cave dwellers are chained in a cave, facing away from the light, only able to see shadows of the world behind them. Some try to turn around, only to be blinded by the light of reality, and some may even escape—to see the full reality of the world beyond the cave. But there is more: anyone who tries to return to the darkness of the cave to warn the others will be disoriented and stumbling about as they enter, which will only serve as a warning to the cave dwellers that escape may not be worth it.

Paul is suggesting that those who live in a land of shadows need to see the light, regardless of the risk.

To the practical, or those who knew about practical things, Paul returns to tentmaking. Tents are great, tents offer a temporary solution to a practical problem, but tents are easily destroyed. Fortuitously, we have a building from God built for us, not made by human hands, but eternal in the heavens.

Back to the cave reference, Plato (and Paul) give us an allegory that fits any number of situations. Anyone who feels timid, or troubled, or overwhelmed, can find themselves in the Allegory of the Cave. Venturing beyond the known, the familiar, the comfortable, will seem like a risky endeavor. Anyone who has created a false reality for themselves, or has had a false reality imposed on them, will understand the Allegory of the Cave. Indeed, anyone who is tired of the way we have structured life in the cave of this society, will understand the power of the allegory to encourage some and inhibit others. Some want to escape the cave we have created, and others are happy with shadows.

The last fews days have been difficult for most, and most of all for Canadians that live in this land that once belonged to others. We are the heirs of a society that lived in the cave of superiority, the abiding belief that the shadows on the wall meant that our culture, language, and religion were better than the culture, language, and religion of the Indigenous peoples who have called this place home for countless generations. And now, in recent years, some have come to see reality, and others have not. Part of our work as a church is to convince ourselves (and others) that the reality of our past is hard to face, but facing it is the right and true thing to do. But there is more.

Some in the church will be tempted to define our relationship with First Nations as a social justice issue, something to champion with them and for them. The additional layer of reality here, however, is that it’s not a social justice issue for a church that operated residential schools. It would be like if I assaulted someone and then became a champion for victim’s rights. We need to be about reconciliation, and right relations, and repairing the damage we helped cause.

What is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Such is the Christian hope. The earthly tent we live in, the tent of superiority, and structured inequality, and state-sponsored violence will be swept away in time, leaving an eternal dwelling place, the place God would have us dwell. And then, at the last, all will be one—on earth, as it is in heaven.

May God help us as we seek this place. Amen.

Antique Delft tile with a church and a farm in a typical Dutch landscape, 17th century Harlingen

THE GREAT THANKSGIVING

Prior to the Zoom worship, you are invited to gather the elements, bread and wine (grape juice).

God be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift our hearts in prayer.
Let us give thanks to God.
It is good to give God thanks and praise.

Loving God, Source of all,
we thank and praise you with our lips and with our lives,
that, having created us and all things through your Word,
you welcome our prayer and praise.
For the goodness of creation
and the glory of redemption, we praise you.
For the law of holiness, inviting our obedience,
and the call of prophets, rebuking our disobedience,
we praise you.

Therefore, with all that is, seen and unseen,
and with all the faithful of every time and place,
we join in this hymn of praise and thanksgiving:

Holy, holy, holy God,
power of life and love!
Heaven and earth are full of your glory!
Hosanna through the ages!
Blest is the One who comes to bring your justice to earth!

Loving God, Holy One,
we offer you praise and thanksgiving over this bread and cup,
because in Jesus Christ, your only Son,
you have joined yourself forever to us,
uniting heaven and earth.

Now, therefore, we gratefully remember:
Jesus’ birth into our humanity,
baptism for our sin,
compassion for our suffering,
intimacy with our frailty,
rebuke of our pride,
bearing of the cross with its death,
and rising from the tomb by the power of God.

On the night before he died,
it was Jesus who took a loaf of bread,
gave you thanks, broke it, and said,
“Take and eat; whenever you do this, remember me.”
Likewise, after supper, he took the cup, saying,
“This is the new covenant; remember me.”

We proclaim Jesus,
crucified and risen,
our judge and our hope.

Loving God, creative Power,
blessing your name, we seek your Spirit.
Come to us and bless these gifts of bread and wine,
that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ;
the sign and seal of our forgiveness in him,
and our adoption as the children of God.
As we eat and drink together,
make us one with Christ and one in Christ,
a sign of his eternal reign in all the world.

This sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving
we offer you, loving God,
through Jesus Christ, our Saviour,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. 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.

FRACTION AND DISTRIBUTION

PRAYER AFTER COMMUNION

We give thanks, almighty God,
that you have refreshed us at your table
by granting us the presence of Jesus Christ.
Strengthen our faith,
increase our love for one another,
and send us forth into the world
united in courage and peace,
rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.

HYMN: “Let us talents and tongues employ”

Let us talents and tongues employ,
reaching out with a shout of joy:
bread is broken, the wine is poured,
Christ is spoken and seen and heard.
Jesus lives again; earth can breathe again.
Pass the Word around: loaves abound!

Christ is able to make us one,
at his table he set the tone,
teaching people to live to bless,
love in word and in deed express.
Jesus lives again; earth can breathe again.
Pass the Word around: loaves abound!

Jesus calls us in, sends us out
bearing fruit in a world of doubt,
gives us love to tell, bread to share:
God (Immanuel) everywhere!
Jesus lives again; earth can breathe again.
Pass the Word around: loaves abound!

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.

*https://www.houseandgarden.co.uk/gallery/delft-tiles

One thought on “Second after Pentecost

  1. Thank you for the beautiful service this morning. Jenny, I loved your song, “Like a river of tears.” It is such a beautiful song and you sang it so well! I also loved your message today Michael and I always appreciate how you make your messages relevant to our lives today (as well as the humor you inject into your sermons! so wonderful!). Thank you Heather and Jenny for the wonderful music today. It was an amazing service and I look forward to seeing you all later this morning on Zoom!

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