The View from the Mountaintop
Call to Worship
One: We give you thanks, O God for the light that is Jesus Christ. The light which was witnessed and recorded in scripture so that we may also remember. The light that descended into the deepest places of despair and was not overcome.
All: We ask that you fill our hearts with courage to face the unknown. Help us to see clearly so that we may be witnesses to your active presence in the world. At times when past and present meet, remind us of the future you call us to. In the name of Jesus, the light of the world we pray. Amen.
Lighting The Christ Candle
World Day of Prayer: You are invited to pray with Christians around the world as part of World Day of Prayer on Friday, March 4, 2022. The service has been prepared by women in England, Wales & Northern Ireland. The worship video can be viewed on the website at scugogislandunitedchurch.com
Restarting Fellowship Time: Starting on March 6th the church will be restarting fellowship time after services. Food and refreshments will be served. We ask that everyone continues to practice social distancing. Please continue wearing masks during the fellowship time when not consuming food or drink.
Craft Show: Check out the craft show on Saturday March 5th and Sunday March 6th from 8am to 4pm in the Scugog Island Community Hall.
Guest Worship Leader: We are very happy to welcome Robert Bennett back to lead worship on March 20th and 27th while Rev. Ned takes some study leave time.
Good Friday walk: Plans have started being made by the Scugog Ministerial Association to resume the tradition of leading a walk through downtown Port Perry on Good Friday morning, April 15th.
Lenten Devotionals: Available at the entrance for anyone who would like one.
Jean Law, Elsie Nicholson, Terry Petroff, John and Diane Findlay, Nancy and Don Scarrow, Debbie McIntyre, Anne Chillingworth, John Black, Lynne and Ian McLeod, Nellie Van Dyke, Tim Pelyk, Bob Currie, Derrick Linton, Sharen Bobbie, Ed and Jane Williams, Bill Statton, Cheryl Helm, Tracy Harper, Linda Fretz, and Robert Bennett;s cousin Joanne.
Hymn- “Hallelujah (your Love is Amazing)
Prayer of Confession
One: God of all creation, you speak to us from mountain tops and from the valleys. You have been at work in our past, you are active in the present, and you call us forward toward future harmony in all creation.
All: We confess that in the midst of present suffering it is difficult to see where your Spirit is moving. It is easy for us to forget your past faithfulness or feel that it is no longer relevant. We often lose hope for achieving the future you intend. Forgive us. Open our hearts and draw near to us so that we regain our awareness of your presence surrounding us.
Words of Forgiveness
For God there is no heart too hardened, no distance too great, no barrier strong enough to prevent God’s love from reaching us. We are forgiven, we are loved, we are empowered to share that love with others. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Hymn- “Though Ancient Walls”
Prayer of Illumination
O God, open our hearts and minds by the power of your Holy Spirit,
that as the scriptures are read and your Word is proclaimed,
we may hear what you are saying to us today. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 9:28-43a
Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.
On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. Just then a man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. And all were astounded at the greatness of God.
My aunt Megan told me this story about hiking the Bruce Trail with her mom, dad, and brother Mike. They were hiking a particularly hilly section of the trail. They were unaware of this at the time, but as it turned out it was one of the more difficult areas to hike, with a lot of inclines and declines. They were tired after walking for a really long time, so grandma Margaret brought out the oatmeal she had made that morning and packed up. Aunt Megan said it was the most delicious thing she had ever eaten. It was amazing. She loved it so much that she later asked her mom to make it for her again at home. She made her the oatmeal. Aunt Megan ate it and… it was awful. She couldn’t stand it. She realized that it only tasted good to her because of the physical strain of the hike. In that moment it was the most delicious thing she had ever tasted, but later it was not so sweet. I’ve had it where after a game of soccer, or going for a long bike ride, the water bottle I filled from the tap seems to taste better. The water is just the same as any other time. Maybe it only seems to taste better because my body needs the water, or maybe it always tastes that good and I just have trouble noticing most of the time.
The scripture passage today began with Jesus and a few of the disciples taking a hike up a mountain. The scripture passage doesn’t tell us if they had packed any oatmeal. We don’t know why it is only Peter, John, and James who travelled with Jesus. What we do know is why they are climbing the mountain. They are climbing the mountain to pray. Jesus would often find time to be alone to pray especially after his interactions with the large crowds who were following him. When the weight of the world was especially heavy, Jesus would pray as a way to recharge.
Rev. Sarah Henrich, Professor Emerita from Luther Seminary, points out that in the gospel of Luke there are multiple times when prayer is associated with the coming of the Holy Spirit. Such as at his baptism, “When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove.“ Rev. Henrich comments that it is the presence of God’s Holy Spirit that empowers Jesus for healing, for calling the Twelve, for enduring the temptations, and for speaking truth.
Prayer signals the coming of the Holy Spirit which makes things clear. The Spirit shines a light on truths that were hidden from the world. I wonder if there is a similarity between prayer and the coming of the Holy Spirit, and the physical exertion of a long hike that made regular oatmeal taste so good. Is there a way that prayer helps to awaken us to the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives? Not that the prayer causes the Spirit to appear, but that the Spirit is always present and prayer helps us to see it. Verse 32 of the reading tells us that when Jesus started praying on the mountain the disciples with him were struggling to stay awake. It says, “Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.” In that line I feel there is risk that if they would have missed the transfiguration if they hadn’t been able to stay awake. It is understandable that they were tired as they had just climbed a mountain. They were exhausted from the effort it took them. It says that they “were weighed down with sleep.” Their exhaustion was like a physical burden pulling them down. They were devoted followers of Jesus. They knew the importance of prayer. When Jesus asked them to pray with him they knew it was important. But they were so tired.
This feels very relatable. Lately the weight of the world has been overwhelming. On top of the everyday problems and personal challenges in our lives we have all been living with the pandemic, global supply chain issues, the protests, and now Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Our hearts are heavy and the situations in the world feel hopeless. Like the disciples who wanted to join with Jesus in prayer, we are tired. We are tired of the pain caused by the virus. We are tired of the isolation. We are tired of trying to act like we are doing better than we are. We are tired of divisiveness in politics and in the world. We are tired of divisions it creates in our families and communities. We are tired of leaders who put their own interests above the needs of their people. We are tired of violence and war. We are tired of innocent people suffering. We are tired. God we are tired.
God it feels like lately there is nothing that we can do. Nothing that will make a difference in the world. Maybe all we can do is pray? And that is something. We bring our joys and sorrows to you God. All of the weight that we cannot carry on our own and we were never meant to carry alone we bring to you. We are tired, but as we pray we are kept awake to the movement of the Holy Spirit. We lift up our prayers for the people in Ukraine who have been living through violent conflict for the last 8 years. We prayer for the families that are being separated as many flee to neighbouring countries as refugees while others stay to fight, or because they are unable to physically leave. We pray for the children who are experiencing this trauma. We pray for the soldiers who are putting their lives at risk to protect their country. We pray for all those who have died and for the families who are mourning for them. We pray for peace.
The words from last week’s scripture reading are on my mind, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” [Luke 6:27-28]. It almost seems insulting that when Ukrainian lives are in peril we would express love and pray for their enemies. In my message last week I commented about how these are hard words. They seem even more difficult this week. But one thought I keep coming back to is that Putin, like all tyrants, seeks to divide people. He has been trying to divide the ethnically Russian people from the ethnically Ukrainian people by creating new states along lines of ethnicity. His strategy has been to turn friends and neighbours into enemies and so yes we will pray for our enemies. In order that enemies might become friends and there will be peace.
We pray for the ethnically Russian people of Ukraine who share a long history with their Ukrainian siblings. We pray that they will reject the idea of divisions of ethnicity, language, and culture and work toward harmony with others. We pray for the Russian soldiers who believe the lie that are liberating the people of Ukraine, when they are actually invading a sovereign country to overthrow the democratically elected government. We pray for Russian soldiers who wanted to serve their country to defend it and now find themselves endangering countless civilians. We pray for Russians who are opposed to the war and have taken to the streets of Russian cities to protest despite the risk this puts them in. We pray that the voice of people speaking out against the war will put pressure on the government to seek a peaceful end to this conflict. As we pray we continue to look for the signs of you at work in the world. Help us to remain attentive so that we may witness your spirit moving and guiding all creation toward harmony. Amen.
Prayer signaled the coming of the Holy Spirit. When the Spirit moved in the transfiguration the disciples were able to see Jesus in his glory. Through the Spirit they became eye witnesses to Jesus’ meeting with Moses and Elijah. Through the Spirit the presence of God was revealed to them in the form of a cloud that overshadowed them and the voice of God that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” They witnessed this and although they would have liked to stay on the mountain longer, God’s work didn’t require that they build a sanctuary there. God’s work required that they go back down the mountain to the places where Jesus was needed. It is significant that shortly after coming down the mountain Jesus heals a child. It reinforces that being a follower of Jesus will lead us into the world.
May our times of prayer during this difficult time be like mountain top experiences that help us to see further. May our eyes be opened to the movements of the Spirit so that we may follow where the Spirit leads so that we may join in the work that God needs us to do. Amen.
Prayer of the People
This prayer was composed by the late Bishop Ken Untener as a reflection on the anniversary of the assassination of Bishop Oscar Romero. Romero stood with the people of El Salvador against oppression from the government. I feel that the words of this prayer are helpful in looking for hope in an uncertain future.
It helps, now and then, to step back and take the long view.
The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts; it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said. No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession brings perfection. No pastoral visit brings wholeness. No program accomplishes the church’s mission. No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water the seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something and to do it well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest. We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
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.
Hymn: “I’m Going to Live so God Can Use Me”
Receive our gifts, O God. May they be used to show forth to the world the greatness of your love. We ask this in the name of Jesus the Christ, your perfect gift and our Saviour. Amen.
Be strong and of good courage, do not be afraid:
for it is the Lord your God who goes with you,
God will not fail you or forsake you. -Deuteronomy 31:6
Go Now in Peace