Praise the Lord
May 15th Fifth Sunday of Easter Psalm 148, John 13: 31-35
Lighting The Christ Candle
Hymn- VU 333 “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”
Call to Worship
This we know: the earth does not belong to us,
We belong to the earth.
This we know: all things are connected,
Like the bond that unites a family.
This we know: we did not weave the web of life,
We are merely a strand in it.
This we know: whatever we do to the web of life,
We do to ourselves.
Let us give thanks for the gift of creation,
Let us give thanks
that all things hold together in Christ.
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, Elsie Nicholson, Terry Petroff, John and Diane Findlay, Nancy and Don Scarrow, Debbie McIntyre, John Black, Nellie Van Dyke, Tim Pelyk, Bob Currie, Derrek Linton, Sharen Bobbie, Ed and Jane Williams.
Prayer for Creation from Job 12: 7-8, 10
But ask the animals, and they will teach you;
the birds of the air, and they will tell you:
ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you;
and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
In God’s hand is the life of every living thing,
And the breath of every human being.
All creation praises God.
Prayer of Confession
Forgive us, Lord, for mentioning our garbage in our prayers. We would rather enjoy the fruits of creation and forget about the consequences. Forgive us our polluted water, our toxic soil, and sulphurous air. Forgive us all the dumped surpluses, the slag heaps, and the piles of scrap.
We thank you for the signs of your forgiveness; for the plants and trees which grow even in the most unsightly ground; for the animals and birds who learn to live in secret places in our urban sprawl, and turn our rubbish to good account.
We thank you for those who deal with our garbage, who keep our streets and houses healthy; who guard us against poisons and radiation, or who turn our waste into new riches.
We pray for those for whom others garbage is the only source of food and wealth, picking through others’ leavings, in the search to keep their family alive.
Most generous giver, from whose creation there is enough for all and to spare- and for whom nothing is garbage- make us careful and generous with one another. Amen.
Hymn VU 289 “It Only Takes a Spark”
Prayer of Illumination
Loving God, you speak to us in so many ways: in the song of a bird, in the babbling of a brook, in the voices of our friends, in the hug from a loved one, in the songs we sing, and in the stories of the Bible. Speak to us now through the reading of scripture. Help us to hear your voice and follow the way of Jesus. Amen.
Scripture: Psalm 148
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights! Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host!
Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars! Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!
Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created. He established them for ever and ever; he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.
Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command!
Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars! Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds!
Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth! Young men and women alike, old and young together!
Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven. He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his faithful, for the people of Israel who are close to him. Praise the Lord!
John 13: 31-35
When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
I’d like to start with the words of a prayer from Julian of Norwich, the mystic and theologian who lived in the 14th century and wrote several books about visions she had received of Jesus after experiencing a severe illness. In one of her writings she shared this prayer, “God, of your goodness, give me yourself, for you are enough for me. I may ask nothing less that is fully to your worship, and if I do ask anything less, ever shall I be in want. Only in you I have all.”
This idea of praying for less than what is enough reminds me of a story of a boy who asked his minister to pray that he receive a B on his next test, so that he could pass the class. The minister said, shouldn’t we pray that you get an A? And the boy answered that he wanted to be realistic and an A on this test just seemed too impossible for him. I think when Julian of Norwich prayed that she may ask for nothing less than what is fully to God’s worship, she was saying that sometimes we undervalue ourselves and seek less than what we need. It’s like praying for a B on the test instead of an A because we don’t think we are good enough to get the A. With God we have enough, without God we are always lacking.
Worship is an act ascribing worth to something. If our words and actions show that we ascribe the highest worth to accumulating wealth, then money is what we worship. If our devotion was focused on gaining power, our worship of power would continue to leave us wanting because we would never have enough. This can be seen in Christian history and in several places around the world, where the Church has turned its attention to winning political battles at the expense of worshiping God. Worship focused on God, however, recognizes that God is the source of all creation and the sustaining energy that all things rely on.
Psalm 148 is a call to praise God. It is an invitation to wonder at the beauty of how God can be seen in all creation. And a recognition that God alone is worthy of our worship because anything else would not be enough and leave us lacking what we truly need. The Psalmist tells us that the sun, moon and stars all praise God in their way. As do mountains, hills, trees and animals. Verse seven even says, “Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps” Even sea monsters praise God! I’m not sure how they would. Perhaps they do it by not eating God’s prophets, like Jonah? Or maybe they show God honour by saying a prayer first, “Dear God, thank you for this sailor I am about to receive.” The sea monster would praise God as only a sea monster could. It’s like C.S. Lewis wrote, “a mole must dig to the glory of God and a rooster must crow. And each of us must find how we can best lead a life to the Glory of God.”
This week as I struggled to get my son back to sleep when he woke much too early, I could hear the birds beginning their morning songs. I was thinking how it is easier for me to imagine the bird singing its song as somehow more worshipful and pleasing to God, than a slug leaving a trail of slime. A bird singing to the glory of God seems natural, but a slug leaving a slime trail to the glory of God doesn’t seem right. The author C.S. Lewis also pointed out that often people consider some things to be more spiritual than other things. The works of a musician whose music is sung during our Sunday worship we can easily see as spiritual, while the works of a bricklayer or seamstress we might not see as spiritual. But the works of any person become spiritual in the same way, by being offered to God. If someone has a God given talent for music and they use that gift to the best of their ability it is spiritual because it gives glory to the God who created them. Likewise if a person has a God given gift for sewing or building homes and they use those gifts to the best of their abilities it is just as spiritual and honours God who gave them their gifts.
We are all members of the one body of Christ. But we are different parts of the body with unique gifts, challenges, and needs. We don’t all have the same gifts, so the ways we offer our worship will be different. For some, the most authentic feeling of worshiping God might be in the singing of hymns and reflective times of prayer and contemplating the Word. For others it might be through outreach, maybe volunteering at a soup kitchen or foodbank. Maybe it is through helping family, friends, and neighbours in ways that you would never have considered an act of worship. Calling them up when they are having a hard time, going for a drive together to run errands when they aren’t able to alone, changing out the winter tires for a neighbour, or picking up groceries for someone unable to leave their home. Just by authentically being who God created us to be we offer our worship. Just as the sun, moon, stars, earth, winds, and creatures praise God just by being.
The Psalm shows an equality among people where all people regardless of status, gender, or age are called to praise God. Kings, princes and rulers are called to give praise just as all other people are. There is no partiality or favour shown to one over the other. The vision of all people and all creation united in giving praise to God is inspiring.
But the vision isn’t lived up to. Instead of the vision of equality offered by the Psalm, we live in a culture that rewards individualism. Instead of all things joining together in offering praise, it is each part praising itself over the other. Those with power lift themselves up higher, just as those without sink lower. And the call to join with creation in praising God is lost as animals go extinct, forests are clearcut, and as pollution fills the environment. We live in a deeply divided world, where the call to join together in praise can easily get drowned out by all the other noise.
We can look at the world and see that not all parts of creation are given the respect as things made by God. I think that a passage from Proverbs effectively expresses our modern day situation. Proverbs 13:23 “The field of the poor may yield much food, but it is swept away through injustice.” The earth that would produce abundance is not able to because of injustice; the poor who would have been able to provide for themselves if the situation was different, find that circumstances beyond their control have created hardships. We can see this in the situation in Ukraine. The devastation caused by Russia’s invasion is an injustice that has swept away the opportunities generations of Ukrainian people have worked for. The aftermath of this invasion will be felt for many years to come.
With injustice and devastation on our minds the Psalmist’s call to unite in praise could easily be forgotten. But even when we miss this call or can no longer sense God’s presence in our lives, God doesn’t abandon creation. The scriptures assure us that from the Genesis of creation until it’s fulfilment, God is motivated by love for the world. God won’t prematurely leave the world to its own problems.
God’s love for the world is revealed in Jesus. For God so loved the world…even to send Jesus to save it. The gospel is not just good news for us, but good news for all the world. It is a sign of God’s commitment. A reminder of God’s faithfulness. In Jesus we see the extent God goes to renew the world. In Jesus’ birth, God removed any barrier that may have existed between the spiritual and physical. In Jesus’ life and teachings, people learned how to lead lives of discipleship, and loving service. In his death, God took on all the pain, suffering and burdens that we carry. And in the resurrection we see that nothing can separate us from God, not even death.
Canadian theologian Douglas Hall said this about being disciples of Jesus, “Discipleship of the crucified Christ is characterized by a faith that drives its adherents into the world with a relentlessness and a daring they could not manage on the basis of human volition alone.”
In the church community we are driven by the Holy Spirit to go out into the world and we are motivated to achieve results beyond what we might believe possible. Discipleship is directed toward the world that God loves. We join with God’s action to reconcile and make new. In this we will find our way to live with respect in creation and to be united with creation in celebration. Each of us are called to use our own God given gifts to worship God as only we can. And to close, these are the words of reassurance Julian of Norwich heard Jesus say in her vision, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”
Thanks be to God. Amen.
Let us now lift our voices in praise to God the creator as we sing, “Praise the Lord with the Sound of Trumpet”.
Hymn: VU 245 “Praise the Lord with the Sound of Trumpet”
Prayers of the People Saint Francis of Assisi
Lord, make us instruments of your peace; where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
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.
Ever-present God, with this offering, we present also ourselves: all that we have been, all that we are, and all that we shall become, and our resolve to walk in your way. Accept us and our offering, we pray for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
May the grace of God, deeper than our imagination;
The strength of Christ, stronger than our need;
And the communion of the Holy Spirit, richer than our togetherness;
Guide and sustain us today and in all our tomorrows.
Go Now in Peace