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  • Rev. Daniel Benson

Is This the New Normal?

4th After Easter, Sunday, May 3rd, 2020.

Welcome, Church! In these times we are reminded more than ever, that the church is not a building but the people who come together in Jesus’ name. Therefore, I’m not saying, “Welcome to church,” but, “Welcome Church!”


Preamble / info.

In the light of the good advice from health authorities that we practice ‘physical distancing’ during the Covid-19 pandemic, we are not worshiping in person at the church building.

However, Jesus promises that where two or three are gathered, He will be there. So, we can gather in spirit, sharing the Word, hymns, and prayers that bind us together as followers of Jesus and the people of God.

We may not be in the same room, and we may not even be doing this at the same moment in time; but, along with millions of people around the world in any number of languages, we are worshiping God and caring for one another.

In preparation, you may want to have a candle handy (either a real candle or one of those little battery-operated ones). We always light candles because they remind us of the presence and beauty of God.

God be with you!

A Prayer:

“Don’t be afraid,” you repeatedly tell us, God. But it’s so hard to do that. Our world seems turned upside down and danger seems to be around every corner. We’re nervous about the pandemic, and just as we’re getting used to staying home and washing our hands every fifteen minutes, a horror unfolds in Nova Scotia, and families and communities are torn apart and people die – senselessly. And you say, don’t be afraid! Lord, of course, we are afraid, so we come to you for comfort, strength, and assurance that in our darkest and deepest moments of fear, you will be with us. Guide us through this valley of shadows, that we may emerge into the light once again. And, with your guidance, we will not be afraid. Amen.



Lighting of the candle.

In the light of the Risen Christ, we light a candle, celebrating our faith that God raised Jesus from death to life. We confess, in the truth of the resurrection, that no darkness can overcome God’s light in the world. Thanks be to God!

Music: Will Your Anchor Hold.



Scripture Readings. We're grateful for Rosie who is our church administrator and, with her family, is a member of St. Paul's. Rosie is reading this week's Scriptures: the 23rd Psalm, and Acts 2: 42 - 47.




Music: Emma playing the well-loved setting of the 23rd Psalm (Crimond).






Sermon: Is This the New Normal?




Music: “All in the Family” theme sung by Archie and Edith (Carrol O’Connor and Jean Stapleton).




Offering

In Easter God promises that life will triumph over death, good over evil, love over hate, and faith over fear. This is the Good News, given by Jesus, shared with one another. It is both a gift and a birthright of those who follow Christ.

Our offering is both a practical and symbolic act of our commitment to serve Christ and build His church. Although we can’t actually ‘pass the plate’ online, you are encouraged to continue your gift to the church, as the work of the St Paul’s and the staff continue:


· Drop your envelope (cheque or cash) at the church;

· Mail your cheque to the church;

· Go on PAR (call Rosie for details);

· Use the Donate button at the top of the page (it will take you to SPUC’s Canada Helps page where you can donate online and get an instant tax receipt).


May my gifts of time, talent, and treasure generously and lovingly offered be used faithfully to do build God’s kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven!

Music: Heather sent me this song. We don’t often do rap songs at SPUC, but listen carefully to the lyrics (it goes fast, so you may want to listen to it a couple of times to get it all).






Closing Prayer:

A Congregational Prayer in a Pandemic, by Carol Penner.

Great God: our community gathers in spirit through the marvels of technology to give thanks together.

Thank you for medical professionals and staff who work so faithfully in hospitals, clinics and nursing homes… give them strength, courage and personal protective equipment. Thank you for the diligence of scientists working on a vaccine, and the way so many have ramped up the production of essential supplies.

Thank you for storekeepers and clerks, farmers and truck drivers, police officers, firefighters and all who show up to work every day in essential services.

Thank you for those who care for children in close quarters, and all the creativity and patience they are showing.

There is so much to be thankful for, we pause here to lift up our own silent prayer of thanks…. We come to you with many needs today. Hear our prayer for those who are sick with this virus… ease their suffering and restore them to health.

Hear our prayer for those who are grieving, who bury their loved ones without the comfort of funerals, or the physical presence of family and friends.

Hear our prayer for the unemployed and business owners in this time of financial insecurity… help them survive this economic downturn.

Hear our prayer for children whose routines are disrupted and who long to play sports and visit playgrounds… show them how to have fun inside.

We pray for vulnerable people everywhere, especially refugees, and people in war-torn countries who have no access to medical care…. we need a miracle to spare them from this virus.

Finally, hear our prayer for public health officials around the world-- give them wisdom as they make decisions to reduce fatalities.

This week, when we are tempted to dwell only on our own loneliness, help us reach out to others, being the community we long to have.

Thank you for showing us new ways to be the church, the church alive, vibrant and witnessing to the risen Christ in times like these.

Amen.


And, continuing in prayer, we hold the friends and members of our St. Paul's church family in prayer: Jean Richardson, Sandra Vousden, Mickey McFarlane, Ken Richardson, Gloria Tracy, Lillian Lowens, Don Lowens, and their family, and all those whose names are in our hearts but not on our lips this day. Dear God, keep all these, your people and the peoples of the world, in your loving and healing embrace, today, tomorrow, and always.


Amen.

Benediction.

Let us go into the world with a daring and tender heart; let us go in peace, the world is waiting.

And whatever we do, may we do it as a Resurrection People: followers of Jesus, bearers of God’s Light, and living signs of the Spirit’s fellowship.

A hymn to take us into the world.



One Last Thought.

I found this poem by Lynn Ungar and felt it was perfect for the times we’re living in. Lynn is a poet and the minister of a Universalist congregation in San Francisco (she incorporates themes, images, and references from many different faith traditions). And, her poems often seem to have provocative titles and images. (Do you think?)


Toilet Paper.

How many rolls of toilet paper will make you feel safe?

How many bottles of Purell?

How much peanut butter or pasta,

bread or beer?

How much money will make you secure?

Ten thousand dollars? A million?

At what point do you say,

“I have what I need?”

Ask the Buddha. He says,

It is in the nature of all things to change.

It is in the nature of all beings to suffer.

It is in the nature of all things to die.

How many rolls will make you safe?

Wouldn’t it be better if you, yourself,

Were multi-layered, soft, and strong?

Closing notes:


· Don’t forget to extinguish your candle!

· As an exercise in keeping in touch with your SPUC family, we’re inviting everyone to open their Church Directory, find your own name and then count down the list by 1 name and call that person. They might be a good friend, they might be a casual acquaintance at church, or they may be someone you don’t know. Give them a call and wish them peace in the name of Christ, and just see how they’re doing.

· I’m grateful for Lynn Ungar for her provocative poem, © 2020, www.lynnungar.com and Carol Penner for her eloquent prayer, © 2020, www.leadingworship.com .

· The opening prayer was inspired by “Don’t Be Afraid,” by John Bell and Graham Maule, © 1995; MV 90.

· Remember to Zoom in for coffee with your friends after church on Sunday morning at 11:30, and for Emma’s hymn-a-long on Sunday afternoon at 2:00 p.m.

Rev. Daniel Benson is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: After Church Coffee

Time: May 3, 2020 11:30 AM America/Toronto

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Meeting ID: 829 432 3094

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Emma Wallace is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting. Topic: St Paul's Hymn Sing-a-long Time: May 3, 2020 02:00 PM America/Toronto Join Zoom Meeting https://us02web.zoom.us/j/6088759725 Meeting ID: 608 875 9725 One tap mobile +14388097799,,6088759725# Canada +15873281099,,6088759725# Canada Dial by your location +1 438 809 7799 Canada +1 587 328 1099 Canada +1 647 374 4685 Canada +1 647 558 0588 Canada +1 778 907 2071 Canada Meeting ID: 608 875 9725

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