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  • Writer's pictureScugog Island United Church

First Service in the Garden

Updated: Aug 25, 2020

On Sunday we had our first service together since March. The rain that was being called for, held off; it started to pour as the last car was leaving the parking lot. It was a blessing to see some of our community gathered together again and we look forward to gathering again next Sunday. For those unable to attend we will share the text of the services, some photos, and whenever possible links to the hymns we listened to.


We set up a picnic table with speakers for the microphone and to play music.


We practiced social distancing between different family units.

(Is it just me or did they create a new back row of pews?)


The last members have been screened and we are about to start the service.



Just after the service ended and the last cars were leaving the rain started to pour!

(God was watering the garden for us! God looks after the gardens and the people)


 


Service of Worship

August 16th 2020


Lighting the Christ Candle

Light of Christ shine in our hearts. Help us to see the world as you see it.

Gathering Prayer

God of all time and space. You make every moment holy and for you there is no distinction between ordinary and sacred places. As we take these moments to worship you and as we meet together at this place to listen for your word may we recognize the movement of your Spirit around us and in us. Help us to see that whatever place we find ourselves in you are there. We lift up our prayers in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Hymn- In Christ Alone Performed by David Wesley



Announcements


Prayer for Understanding

Eternal God, in the reading of the scripture, may your Word be heard; in the meditations of our hearts, may your Word be known; and in the faithfulness of our lives, may your Word be shown. Amen.


Scripture Reading

By the rivers of Babylon— there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our harps. For there our captors asked us for songs, and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither! Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy.

Sermon


The psalmist said it took place by the rivers of Babylon, but we know that it was actually by the lake of Scugog. There we sat down. We wept. We remembered.


Its true that our situation isn’t exactly the same as the Israelites. No Babylonian armies have destroyed our country. We have not been taken away from our homes to live in exile in a far away land. Yet we have been displaced. We haven’t been able to gather together like this since March. We weren’t able to celebrate Easter together in our church. We weren’t able to share the joys in our life together as a community like we would have. We quickly found that caring for one another over the phone isn’t the same as a visit. It certainly isn’t the same as a hug! Even as we gather today things are a bit different. We aren’t able to sing together songs of joy and comfort because the act of singing presents risks to vulnerable people that we are not willing to take. We have been displaced by the virus from our normal routines and practices.


I hear people saying that they are ready for things to return to normal. I hear people say they are tired of this virus and ready for things to be like they were before. And I am so there. But then I hear people say that they are grieving because when the kids go back to school they will have to stop visiting their grandparents. Or I hear that families are having to self-isolate from one another in their own home because one partner is completely immunocompromised. I look at the data and see that the people who have been hardest hit by this pandemic were those who were most vulnerable before it happened: seniors in long term care homes, Indigenous People who in many places still do not have access to clean drinking water, the homeless and working poor. Then with countries entering their second wave and a successful vaccine not yet ready we can see that this isn’t over. We might be done with this virus and ready to return to normal, but the sad reality is that this is our new normal.


Each of us have been grappling with this. We have lamented like the Israelites this strange new world we find ourselves in. In our own ways we sat down, we wept, we remembered.

Our tormentor asks for mirth. “Sing us one of the songs of Zion” coronavirus insists. How can we sing songs of joy and praise when so many people are hurting? The Israelites hung their harps up that day. They refused to desecrate the songs of God by performing them as a form of entertainment. They hung up their harps and planned never to sing or make music again because their music was a gift for God alone. They could not imagine singing the Lord’s song in a foreign land. They believed that God was the god of their nation and that God could not be found outside the boundaries of their country. They believed they were completely separated from God with no hope of returning to God.

The people learned something in their exile. Something that completely transformed them. They learned that there are no boundaries or borders that we make that God cannot cross. In exile they would find God was on the margins among the people farthest from power and influence. God was with the lowest and least, the people who were considered last would be the first welcomed into the kingdom of God. The Babylonians intended to use the exile as a way to assimilate the Jewish people into their own culture. Instead the Jewish people developed a stronger sense of their identity. They found new ways to practice their faith. They reimagined how they would pass on their traditions. The people went through many changes, but they held onto the core of their beliefs which was their relationship with God.

They sat down, they wept, they remembered. And by remembering their relationship with God they found the sense of purpose that they needed to endure exile until they were able to return home.


There is power in their lament. We might feel that lamenting is a bad thing and that instead we should only focus on the positives. But when we are able to grieve what has been lost and offer our hurts and pains to God we might be surprised once we have let go of all that, to find what we have. As we continue to grapple with the displacement that COVID has caused we are also being reshaped. In our own mini exile we are finding new ways to live our faith and pass on our tradition. We have experienced a lot of changes and it seems more change is likely. As we continue to go through changes we will have moments where we sit down, we weep, and we remember. We will remember that our relationship with God is at the heart of everything we do as a church. May God renew in us our sense of purpose. May we emerge from this pandemic with a greater sense of our identity and prepared to meet whatever changes the future may bring. We will also remember that we are not alone. We live in God’s world. Thanks be to God. Amen.


Hymn- Spirit Open My Heart



Pastoral Prayer

God who walks with us. You know how this has been a difficult time for everyone. We have missed the chance to share time together as a community. We have had to adjust our expectations of what is normal. Our day to day lives have been disrupted. There is a lot of fear and uncertainty about the future. Comfort us with your presence, continue to walk at our side, and help us to see what you are doing in the midst of all that is going on so that we may be part of your action in the world.


There is a lot that is being revealed in this time, O God. The shortcomings of leaders around the world has been exposed. We can see the places where leaders have valued money and politics over the well being of their citizens. In this difficult time when so much is being revealed we are seeing the cracks in our society. The injustices that we might have been ignorant of, or might have closed our eyes to have had a spotlight shone on them. Every person has been affected by this pandemic, but it has not affected everyone equally. The situation for those who were vulnerable before, became even more desperate.


We pray for all who are facing desperate situations: refugees, homeless people, Indigenous communities who don’t have access to safe drinking water, seniors in long term care homes, the poor. We pray for Lebanon and the people of Beirut as they continue to deal with the devastation caused by the explosion on August 4th. We pray for all who have to make difficult decisions about how best to care for loved ones. We pray for teachers, parents, and children preparing for September.


At the same time, O God, the goodness in the world is also being uncovered. Neighbours are reaching out to offer each other support. People are choosing to self-isolate, social distance, and wear masks not just for their own safety but for the safety of others. We are seeing leaders in our communities and around the world making decisions to support people. We are filled with gratitude for essential workers and those on the front line of the pandemic have taken extraordinary action to protect the public. As we look for the goodness in the world we see it revealed all around us. May your goodness be revealed through us and our actions. May our church be a place where your love is reflected to all the world.

Continue to guide us and walk with us. We lift our prayers in Jesus' name. Amen.

Hymn- Don’t be Afraid

Lord’s Prayer

Our Father who art in heaven hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as 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.

Blessing

As we leave we go with God. As we return to our homes we return to God. For God is with us at the start of our journey, God moves with us as we make our way forward, and God is the destination we seek. The grace of God, the love of Christ and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Now and forever.

Hymn- Be Thou My Vision Performed by Nathan Pacheco


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