On the Shoulders of Giants
May 29th 2022 Seventh Sunday of Easter Revelation 21: 1-6 and John 14: 23-29
Lighting The Christ Candle
Hymn- VU 626 “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say”
Call to Worship
May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us,
that your way may be known upon earth,
your saving power among all nations.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide the nations upon earth.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.
The earth has yielded its increase;
God, our God, has blessed us.
May God continue to bless us;
let all the ends of the earth revere him.
Farewell Service: Rev. Ned’s final service with Scugog Island United Church will be on June 5th.
Next Communion Service: June 5th
Copyright notice: Prayers from Celebrate God’s Presence: A Book of Services for The United Church of Canada Copyright © 2000 The United Church Publishing House.
Jean Law, John and Diane Findlay, Debbie McIntyre, Nellie Van Dyke, Tim Pelyk, Bob Currie, Derrek Linton, Sharen Bobbie, Ed and Jane Williams, the family of Madi Chard, and the family of Connor Elliot.
Prayer of Confession
Jesus, who sat at the table with outcasts and sinners, we confess that too often our words and actions
are not consistent with our beliefs.
Often we ignore the needy,
show indifference to the lonely,
and reject those who seem different from us.
Forgive us, we pray.
Empower us to reach out in love and acceptance.
Words of Assurance
God the Creator brings you new life, forgives and redeems you. Take hold of this forgiveness, and live your life in the spirit of Jesus. Amen.
Hymn VU 606 “In Christ there is No East or West”
Prayer of Illumination
O God, your word is a lamp to our feet, and a light to our path. Give us grace to receive your truth in faith and love. Amen.
Scripture: Revelation 21: 1-6
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and be their God; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”
And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.
John 14: 23-29
Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words, and the word that you hear is not mine but is from the Father who sent me.
“I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur you may believe.
Sermon “On the Shoulders of Giants”
In a letter to his friend, Isaac Newton wrote, "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." Isn’t it amazing that this man who lived from 1642-1726 and whose scientific discoveries and theories are still relevant to this day, was humble enough to recognize that the successes of his life and the discoveries he made were only possible because of the work people had done before him. Alone he would not have been able to see any further than the average person, but because of the people who had prepared the way before him, he was able to look further and discover more about the world around him. His work in turn has helped the people of our day learn more than he might ever have imagined possible.
Appropriately enough, the metaphor Isaac Newton used of standing on the shoulders of giants was not something he came up with himself, but was a metaphor that went back hundreds of years to a philosopher named Bernard of Chartres who lived during the medieval ages. The phrase was a way to explain how people could acknowledge that their ancestors achieved more and were wiser than they were, while at the same time disagreeing with the conclusions that they had come to. It is because even a short person will see farther than a giant if they are on the giants shoulders. We don’t need to be wiser than our ancestors because they lift us up to see further than they themselves were able to see.
As Jesus prepares his disciples for when he will no longer be with them, he tells them that in a little while the world would no longer see him, but they would see him. They wonder how this could be possible. How would they be able to see more than what others in the world could see? The reason they would be able to see more than others isn’t because they were better, wiser, or more devout than others. When they were able to see God’s action in the world it was because of the work Jesus had done to prepare them to see it. Jesus prepared the way for them through his words and actions. He brought them into community and lifted them up into positions of leadership so that they would be ready for when the Spirit came. So long as they kept Jesus’ commandment to love one another God’s home would be with them. Surrounded by God’s presence and filled with the peace that Jesus left with them they would be able to sense more than what others could of God’s work in the world. They would also have an important role in helping others to see and experience God in their lives.
Those who followed the disciples were able to look back at the example they had set. Generations of followers of Jesus learned from those who went before and then in turn they prepared the next generation to live their faith in the world. We have the examples of the people we have known in the church who have shown what a life of faith looks like. We can look to the past generations when we face struggles because likely they had to face similar problems. When we have learned from our past it is like we have been lifted up to see more in our present situations.
What do we see in the world? Lately we’ve seen a lot of pain. The damage from the storm and the damage it caused in many areas. The ongoing devastation in Ukraine. We live in a world where an 18 year old was radicalized with white supremist ideology and committed mass murder in a black community in Buffalo. It was an act of pure evil. And it didn’t happen in a vacuum. There were people who contributed to his radicalization and encouraged his violence. White supremacy is clearly an evil that runs counter to God who created diversity in humanity and delights in the uniqueness of every person. When we fail to name the racism that exists in our society we make space for those who are radicalizing young men to commit acts of violence. Naming and condemning white supremacy is a start, but there is a lot more that needs to be done. And then there was another mass shooting at the school in Uvalde Texas. Again it was an 18 year old who committed this act of evil. I’ve been struggling to understand how something like this could happen. And truly struggling with the fact that this keeps happening again and again. In other countries when something like this has happened people said “never again” and then took action to make sure it could not happen again. There is something very wrong in the world where 18 year olds can be radicalized to this level of violence and have access to military weapons, where young people go to school knowing that it is possible their lives are at risk from this happening again. There is something very wrong when politicians show they aren’t willing to take action to save lives if it might cut into the reelection campaigns or donations. It is difficult when the world feels so broken to see where God is or know what God is doing.
In the scriptures the role of prophets was to point out where there were problems. Sometimes they offered solutions as well. The first step though was helping people to see how what was happening in the world was out of line from what God was at work to bring about.
The passage from Revelation is about seeing more than what we can typically perceive. Living in a time of persecution for Christians in the Roman Empire, John of Patmos, author of Revelation saw more than just the bleak reality Christians were facing. He could have just written of the politics of his day. He could have simply named the evils that were taking place. But he went beyond that to see how God was present in the what was clearly a broken world. The book of Revelation offers a glimpse of God’s intention for the world. We are invited to see that God will never abandon the world. God plans to call this world home. God’s intention for people is to comfort them, wiping away tears and bringing peace.
John of Patmos drew upon biblical images and lessons from the Hebrew scriptures and the Gospels to imagine the fulfillment of God’s creation. Just as Jesus said that God’s home will be made among those who follow the commandment to love one another, John proclaims that the home of God is among mortals. God dwelling among the people remembers a time when God’s home was among the Hebrew people, in the tent of meeting, as they made their Exodus from Egypt. The end of death brings to mind the vision of the prophet Ezekiel in the valley of the dry bones where even those long dead are restored to life, or the words of the prophet Isaiah who proclaimed that on God’s holy mountain God would swallow up death and wipe away the tears from every face. Even his message that he saw a new heaven and a new earth as the old ones passed away drew on the image of God the creator who created the world through the word as recorded in Genesis. John of Patmos interwove imagery from the past, with the realities of the present day to provide insight for God’s intention with the world. He contrasted the Roman peace which was built on oppression, to the peace of God which is built on justice. He was able to make sense of the vision he received and express it in a way that others could understand because of the works of past prophets, poets, writers, and leaders. His insights were built upon those who came before.
When I was young I remember sitting on my dad’s shoulders. It was a little bit scary at times to be lifted up so high, but at the same time it was a lot of fun. I remember that as I got older it was harder for him to carry me on his shoulders. Eventually I was too heavy and I needed to walk for myself, but it wasn’t so long after that when I was able to start carrying my younger siblings a short distance on my shoulders. So then I was the one lifting the other up. Now I carry my daughter and son on my shoulders from time to time. They are always excited to be taller than their mommy and daddy. I think the lesson here is that eventually we become the giants. We rely on others to help us know the way and even as we continue to stand taller because of those who lift us up, we create a strong footing for those who come after us so that we can help to lift them up.
Jesus said “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives.” We need that peace in our lives and in our world. Especially during times like these we are aware of that. Jesus made known to his disciples the profound love of God. He also made them aware of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit moves among us and lifts us up, so that we know God does not abandon us to the pain and suffering of this broken world.
As I approach my final service at Scugog Island United Church I was thinking about how I have been standing on the shoulders of giants. My ability to have a successful ministry here depended on the work of others. Past ministers like my grandfather, Frazer Lacey, worked hard to lift up the community and keep God at the center of the church’s life and work. In his ministry he created a strong footing for those who came after to be lifted up higher. He was certainly one of the giants in my life who lifted me up. And I believe lifted many up.
And of course it isn’t just the ministers who were active in the church’s ministry to lift others up. It is the whole community of people who gather together for worship. It is the countless hours of volunteer work that so many people freely give. It is the various ministries such as the music program, the outreach to the Scugog foodbank, and the pastoral care and letter writing led by the elders. The contributions of musicians, other staff, and those who take on leadership roles with the board and on committees all build on the work of past generations and prepare the way for the future.
Even though I was only hired for a temporary 8 month appointment, which was extended because of the pandemic, I hope that the work I have done has helped to lift others, including future leaders. My prayer is that the future leader that God is calling to this church will be supported and lifted up by the community, so that they can see further and share where they see God at work. May they also lift you up so that together you may draw closer to God.
May you lift up others, just as you have been lifted up. And may you love others just as you are loved. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Hymn: VU 713 “I See a New Heaven”
Prayers of the People
Lord of all being and source of every blessing, we thank you for all good things:
For life and love,
For health and food,
For work and home,
For nature’s beauty and comfort,
For human skills and laughter,
For memory and hope,
For everything which gives us pleasure, nourishment, and strength.
God, source of every blessing, we pray for those who are in need:
For those experiencing hatred, violence, and suffering- we pray that love will transform the situation. May they be surrounded with love and the peace that only you can bring.
For those who are sick, recovering from surgery, feeling isolated and hungry for human contact- we pray for health restored and for caregivers that not only care for the body, but through their words and actions show they care about the person.
For those who are grieving after terrible acts of violence, and for those around the world who feel helpless to help but want to act we pray for peace. We pray for vision that will lead us forward and the strength to keep working for what is just and right.
For those experiencing poverty, hunger and homelessness- we pray for a just and caring society that supports the most vulnerable. We pray that they may be seen as the children of God that they are.
For all who are recovering after the storm. We pray that the support of neighbours, friends, and community has helped to make a difficult situation manageable. After the storms of life we look for the helpers, who assist us in picking up the pieces.
For this church as the community prepares for a time of transition- we pray that your Spirit will be present in a powerful way to help guide the way forward and uplift each person.
Lord our God, accept the prayers of your people. In your great mercy, look with compassion on us and all who turn to you for help, for you are gracious. To you we give glory, now and forever. 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, the power, and the glory forever and ever. Amen.
In the name and in the spirit of Jesus, we bring our gifts to you, O God. Help us to give with them a ready mind, a willing spirit, and a joyful heart. Amen.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Go Now in Peace