It was a beautiful day for our second service together. It was warm with full sun, but we felt comfortable under the shade of the trees. As people gathered under the branches the trees seemed to be like the pillars of a cathedral. It was a good reminder that the building isn't the church; any place where people gather to worship God can be church.
A beautiful sunny morning, with lots of space to sit in the shade of the trees.
People begin to arrive for the service and find a place to sit.
What a joy to be able to gather again!
It had rained the night before, so the gardens were well watered and looking lovely.
Service of Worship
August 23rd 2020
Lighting the Christ Candle
May the light of Christ shine in our hearts and minds.
May that light help us to see the world as God sees it.
Surprise us God. We have become too accustomed to everyday miracles that they seem ordinary. We overlook the wonders of the world. Startle us with your grace. Help us to see that your kingdom is all around us and the ordinary things of life can actually help us see a glimpse of your presence in the world. Open our hearts, open our minds, open our eyes to see you O loving God. Amen.
Music- Open My Eyes that I May See- Joslin Choir
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.
Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favor with his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy. Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” So Naaman went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said. And the king of Aram said, “Go then, and I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.”
He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments. He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.”
But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.” So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.” But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, “I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?” He turned and went away in a rage. But his servants approached and said to him, “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.
Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company; he came and stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel; please accept a present from your servant.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will accept nothing!” He urged him to accept, but he refused. Then Naaman said, “If not, please let two mule-loads of earth be given to your servant; for your servant will no longer offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god except the Lord. But may the Lord pardon your servant on one count: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my arm, and I bow down in the house of Rimmon, when I do bow down in the house of Rimmon, may the Lord pardon your servant on this one count.” He said to him, “Go in peace.”
Music- The River by Coco Love Alcon
We don’t even know her name. All we know is that she was a young girl when she was taken captive. The Aramean soldiers had kidnaped her from her home in Israel on one of their raids. She lost her freedom, her home, her family, and the future that she would have known. Even her identity was taken from her. We don’t know her name. “You should be grateful” the Arameans told her, “You belong to a great man who is very wealthy. You will live in his house and serve his wife.”
We don’t know her name, but the young servant girl in Naaman’s house is the most Christlike figure in today’s scripture reading. She speaks with the conviction of a prophet. She shows compassion to her enemies. It is her faith and her action that sets the whole story in motion.
As the servant to Naaman’s wife she would have seen Naaman regularly. She would of course notice the things that everyone saw when they looked at him; his wealth, his nobility and high status, and his strength as a mighty warrior. Yet she also saw what others did not. She saw that beneath the robes of silk and the jewels, gold, and silver was a body ravaged by illness. Naaman had done a good job concealing the sores that covered his body so that most people never noticed. He had found ways to compensate for his worsening eyesight and slower reflexes so that he could continue serving as the commander of Aram’s army. Most people only saw what was on the surface, but she could see beyond that and saw that he was suffering.
We can sympathize with Naaman. We read about how he suffers from leprosy and feel sympathy because we don’t want to see someone in pain. Even though we are separated from him by thousands of years of history we know how serious a disease can be. We know from experiences we or loved ones have had. Especially right now as our whole world grapple with COVID we know how serious it can be. So when we read this passage and see how desperate Naaman is we feel for him. He is willing to pay any price to find relief. He brings ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments. If your curious how much gold six thousand shekels is, it would be about 150 pounds of gold. So if a few grams of gold can be worth hundreds of dollars 150 pounds of gold would be worth quite a bit!
It isn’t hard for us to sympathize, but put yourself in the shoes of that young girl who was taken captive by Naaman’s army. The girl who was forced to serve in the house of the man who had stolen her away from her own home. Of all people she would be the one who would have the most reason not to feel any sympathy for him. But she had compassion for Naaman. She felt for Naaman and thought of the prophet Elisha who lived in Samaria, the capital city of ancient Israel. She knew that Elisha would be able to help Naaman, but she didn’t have to say anything. In fact as a slave there would have been a great risk to her to speak up in this situation. She could have kept silent and left Naaman to his fate. Instead she decided to love her enemy.
She said to her mistress, “If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” It is amazing that even with all that has happened in her life she still has such faith. She didn’t lose her belief in God’s power. She is certain that if Naaman goes to the prophet Elisha then he would be healed and with her words convince Naaman to make the journey to Israel. We read in the scripture how Naaman’s wife tells her husband, that Naaman tells his king and then Naaman makes his way to Israel and is healed in the Jordan river. Jesus often said to the people he healed, “your faith has made you well.” In this case it isn’t Naaman’s faith. He became angry when he heard the prophet’s instructions and only begrudgingly agrees to bathe in the river when his servants reason with him. It was the faith of the young girl that made Naaman well. In her we see a glimpse of the selfless love for others that Jesus embodied.
The example of the young unnamed girl is one that gives some hope during this pandemic. She didn’t have power and she was displaced. We don’t have the power to stop this pandemic and we are displaced from our normal routines and practices. Yet even without any power through her action Naaman was completely transformed. His body was healed, but he also seems to become humbler. No longer expecting special treatment from others due to his status and more respectful to Elisha. God took the girls action that was rooted in compassion for her enemy; God took what she did and achieved something beyond imagination.
During this pandemic I have heard many people struggle with part of their faith. Many people have made service to others an integral part of their life of faith, but are finding it harder during this time. It isn’t possible to do as much as before. But what I see in this scripture passage is that even small actions grounded in love can make a great impact.
So as we pray for an end to COVID and a return to normal, let us also offer to God the small actions that we do for others. May God take our prayers, our hopes, our works, our faith, and use it to transform the world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Music- Shall We Gather at the River Sung by the Joslin Choir
Loving God we lift our prayers to you.
We pray for the people like Naaman. Leaders whose strengths others depend on. People whose personal struggles might not be visible to others. All those suffering from illness. All who are desperate to be well once again. As well as anyone who have been transformed by a powerful experience of your grace and healing presence. Thank you God for the people in this world who are like Naaman.
We pray for people like the unnamed girl. Those who are often overlooked. The people on the margins of society. Anyone with pain in their past. As well as those who possess courage. Whose faith inspires others. People who have compassion for others, even their enemies. Thank you God for the people in this world who are like the unnamed girl.
We pray for people like Elisha. Those who share God’s word and live it each day. Teachers. Healers. Preachers. Leaders who value people over money. Those who speak truth to power. Thank you God for the people in this world who are like Elisha.
We pray for our church family and all those on our prayer list:
Doris Lynn and Bob Homji, John and Diane Findlay, Todd Green, Susie Baird and family, Gilford Pfrimmer, Brenda Stowell-Smith, Nancy and Don Scarrow, Debbie McIntyre, Anne Chillingworth, Linda Brunton, John Black
We lift all our prayers to you O God. Amen.
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.
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.
Music- Go Now in Peace sung by the York Region Community Choir