Worship Service for September 20th
Scugog Island United Church
Sunday, September 20th 2020
Worship Leader: Mr. Robert Bennett (LLWL)
Prelude: music played by Marilyn
Lighting the Christ Candle (Leader).
Call to Worship (Leader):
Who is like the Lord our God, whose glory and majesty cannot be compared. High above the nations is our God; above the heavens is God’s glory. Let our happiness be found in God, and our hope in God’s love.
Hymn: JOYFUL JOYFUL WE ADORE YOU (# 232)
Gathering Prayer (Leader):
Magnificent God, you who have revealed yourself throughout the Ages, spur our inquiring minds; that, questioning after complete knowledge of you, we may gain an even better sense of your unfathomable being and unspeakable grandeur. In the name of the Living Christ we pray. Amen
Scripture: Exodus 33:12-23 (Leader)
Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.” The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.” And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”
Here ends the Reading. Let us bow our heads in prayer:
O God, we sometimes grow frustrated at our inability to grasp more of your divine nature than we do. At times, we allow ourselves to doubt your existence, your activity, your daily presence in our lives. Continue to reveal yourself to us; and if we cannot behold your face, then let us be content with your handiwork in Creation. In Jesus’ name we ask this. Amen
(Mr. Robert Bennett LLWL)
In September 1980…after 143 days and 5,373 kilometres covered, Terry Fox stopped running outside of Thunder Bay, Ontario; his primary cancer had spread to his lungs. Before returning to British Columbia for treatment Terry Fox said, “I’m gonna do my very best. I’ll fight. I promise I won’t give up.”
For a moment now, lets recall in our minds an image of Terry Fox during his Marathon of Hope…
Anyone who actually witnessed Terry Fox running across Canada would probably have had equal amazement whether they were looking upon him as he approached, or as he was leaving-- seeing him front view or from the back.
[Later Add-on during the Service: within the past couple days, someone of Leadership in the USA and in Canada has died. Tributes pour out for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, with a common expressed sentiment: “ she inspired me! “ Here in our country, tributes are being made for former Prime Minister John Turner.
I met the man twice: once when he was PM and campaigning before the Sept 1984 Election; and, how’s this: the day after the Liberals (led by Jean Chretien) won a resounding victory and decimated the PC Party to 2 seats in 1993, I happened to cross paths with John Turner -- now out of politics -- at the St. George Subway station…and I congratulated his Party for their Victory.]
“ God says to Moses…then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”
I remember that evening in June 1973 when my Mom, my father’s Aunt Margaret and I went to the Shaw Festival Theatre in N-O-T-L when it was officially being opened…and we stood outside hoping to get a glimpse of visiting PM of India Indira Ghandi. No sooner had her car arrived, suddenly someone jumped onto it. Mass pandemonium broke out: women of Indian heritage dressed in the traditional Sari screaming and stampeding.
I managed to shove my way through the crowd to catch a glimpse of Mrs. Ghandi from behind as she was being rushed inside. I was shocked by how TINY she actually was! I didn’t get to see this famous world leader as hoped…only from the back.
Moses cannot see the face of, but will see the back of God. He is not permitted to see God face-to-face. Moses is restricted in his actual contact with God.
For the past 6 months, and for the indefinite future, due to COVID-19, how we interact with each other…is restricted-- its not as we would like. Being, by nature, an affectionate person…it is so very difficult for me to not be able to shake a hand, give a hug to someone---especially to you here!
One must keep one’s distance. It has to be so!
The Scripture I’ve chosen for today illustrates this ancient believe of the people of God: God is so great that God cannot be seen face-to-face. But God can be experienced and known, for as God said to Moses, so God says to us: God’s goodness surrounds us. God‘s greatness exceeds all of our understanding. Whether one can actually “ see “ God, what is most important in this story is…the incomparable, cannot-be-described-in human language…greatness of God.
Previously, I have shared with you snippets of one of the most important experiences of my life: participating in a Study Year Program thirty-six years ago at the University of Freiburg, in then-West Germany with 22 other Canadian students! One of them would become an important friend to me: a young woman from suburban Montreal named Alison.
What I admired about Alison -- but didn’t always agree 100% with -- was what she shared with me of her Christian faith.
Recently, through Social Media, she shared with me her belief of God’s place in this COVID-19 Pandemic:
God knows the virus…is allowing it but has authority over it. Nothing happens without (God’s) knowing and permitting. But we also know from (God’s) word that (God’s) purposes are good and whose promise is to preserve us. (God’s) intention is not to harm us but for us to prosper. Not the way the world perceives prosperity but to prosper in our spiritual lives. (God) hones and forms us as we lean on (God), who urges us to live in Christ so that we may show (God’s) love through our good works. (God) promises to sustain us, teach us through the hard times and deliver us out the other side. For us now it is not just the other side of COVID but the other side of eternity. This world is not it. If (God) is for (us) then who can be against us?
What I believe my friend is saying is: that God is Great and All-Knowing. God is over us and earthly happenings and intends for good for us. As for the part about our good works…I believe that God wants for us to be actively responsible for our well-being, that of others, and all of God’s good Creation.
I have another friend Susan, who shared this with me recently:
“ My favorite saying is ‘Don't ask God to guide your footsteps unless you're willing to move your feet.’ In (God’s) watching over us and keeping us safe there is an expectation that we have a duty to make (God’s) job easier by not doing stupid things. Like….not going out in a pandemic without a mask! “
Living…responsibly! A term that has become and will continue to be prominent in this COVID-19 Time, of course, is SOCIAL DISTANCING. Moses engaged in a form of distancing….but lets say it was HOLY DISTANCING-- demonstrating the difference between God the Creator and God’s created children.
In this trying time….we have had to and will continue to have to…make changes in how we physically interact. But story after story we are learning about through the mainstream News and Social Media demonstrates how people are interacting and being connected even when physical/social distancing must be done.
This message is posted on the Terry Fox Foundation website:
On Sunday September 20th, we ask that you continue to support cancer research by participating in and fundraising for your Virtual Run. We leave it up to you to choose how to celebrate your Terry Fox effort – walk, run, dance, hike – on a favourite route and with your favourite people. Most importantly, we need you to honour the day by fundraising for cancer research. This year, the Run’s theme is “One Day. Your Way.” Due to public health concerns, we will participate in spirit, not in person this year.
Participate…in spirit, not in person this year.
During their Meeting, God doesn’t say to Moses you cannot be near me…but that Moses cannot see God’s face. For Moses and for us today, God can be approached… spiritually.
God, who is Omnipotent, All Knowing….does call us to reach out to God’s self…and to our sisters and brothers in Creation. Especially in a time such as this, there is the need for people to be connected, to know that we can work together to get through this….modern-day Plague! That we may find the good of God in each one of us!
Lastly, this is one of my favourite moments in the Musical Les Miserables: when these words are sung out:
“ To love another person is to see the face of God. “ ( R )
In whatever ways we can in this trying time, let us love God and love one another…for GOD IS LOVE…and by so doing, we can spiritually SEE GOD. AMEN
Hymn: HOW GREAT THOU ART (VU # 238)
Let us bow our heads for Pastoral Prayer. First, before I speak, lets each spend a moment in silent prayer bringing to God what is most pressing in our mind and heart and soul….
O God, we cannot possibly know or understand all that happens in this our home on earth…but we look to you in hope for guidance and strength and courage in difficult times-- especially at this time of Global Pandemic. Be with all who are affected by COVID-19. May all people know that even in the darkest of times, you are with us. Be with all health care professionals as they seek to work for healing, for restoration of health. Be with us all, O Lord, and guide us as we will strive to do our part and live safely and responsibly. Still our worried and troubles minds, hearts, and spirits, O God. Remind us whenever we feel despair that you are God of Hope and Promise…and you are Love. Walk with us, assure us of your presence. Thank you, God….and now lets listen to THE LORD’S PRAYER (Recording)
Hymn: PRAISE TO THE LORD, THE ALMIGHTY (VU # 220)
Commissioning and Benediction (Leader)
Go Now in Peace (played by Marilyn)