Dunsford United Church Bulletin – May 2nd, 2021

5th Sunday of Easter

Rev Anne Hepburn

Welcome and Celebrations

Hello friends!

Call to Worship

Gather in dear ones.

Wherever you are this morning, despite whatever doors are locked,

to keep you in or out, we have found a way to be together.

We are not alone; we live in God’s world and as God’s people, we make a scared commitment to open our hearts and minds to what word the spirit might offer and to what nudging, what questions, what grace might be given in this time.

Please join in this time of worship.

(Written by Juanita Austin, Gatherings 2021 p.30, used with permission)

Lighting of the Candles

Let the Light of Christ remind us of our connection to the holy.

Acknowledgement of the Lands

We acknowledge honour and respect this land and the Anishnabeg/Mississauga people with whom Treaty 20, Williams Treaty, was signed, on the lands where we are, and we acknowledge also and give thanks for the lands and the people of treaties and unceded territories of all who are worshipping. It is up to all of us to live into truth, respect, reconciliation and right relations.

Prayer of Approach

Gracious God

You are our sacred space within a swirling storm;

You are our source of calm amid the chaos.

Help us to become more aware of your constant gentle presence.

We ask for your strength to sustain us,

Your love to replenish us,

And your peace to fulfil us.

In this time of worship, in this time of pandemic,

May we be reminded and reassured that we are truly yours.

In the name of Jesus the risen one,

we pray. Amen

(written by Joy Cowan, Gatherings 2021 p. 31, used with permission)

Hymn: “One More Step Along the World I Go” VU #639 (Words: Sydney Carter)

One more step along the world I go, one more step along the world I go,

from the old things to the new, keep me travelling along with you:

And it’s from the old I travel to the new; keep me travelling along with you.

Round the corner of the world I turn, more and more about the world I learn;

all the new things that I see you’ll be looking at along with me: 

And it’s from the old I travel to the new; keep me travelling along with you.

As I travel through the bad and good, keep me travelling the way I should;

where I see no way to go you’ll be telling me the way, I know: 

And it’s from the old I travel to the new; keep me travelling along with you.

Give me courage when the world is rough, keep me loving though the world is tough,

leap and sing in all I do, keep me travelling along with you:   

And it’s from the old I travel to the new; keep me travelling along with you.

You are older than the world can be, you are younger than the life in me,

ever old and ever new, keep me travelling along with you:

And it’s from the old I travel to the new; keep me travelling along with you.

Offering

While we can‘t take up the offering as we used to do in the sanctuary, it is still an important part of our ministry. We acknowledge and thank you all for your contributions to the church whether via PAR or other means.

“For the love of the world Jesus offered everything he had, even life itself. In response to his generosity, we offer our gifts and our lives to God. Amen”

(Written by Frances Flook Gatherings 2021 p.37, used with permission)

We Hear God’s Word 

Acts of the Apostles 8:26-40 Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian[a] eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.

31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

32 This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading:

“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
    and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
    Who can speak of his descendants?
    For his life was taken from the earth.”[b]

34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” [37] [c] 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

John 15:1-8   Jesus is the true Vine

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Reflection/Sermon: The story of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch

Two parallel stories in this text.

The surface story if you want to think of it that way is one of evangelism.

Philip is one of the disciples of Jesus who is moving on after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.

He is sent by God to a desert road leading from Jerusalem to Gaza.

There he sees a chariot with a courtier of Candace, the queen of Ethiopia reading a scroll.

The courtier was returning from worship in Jerusalem which is a long way from Ethiopia- approximately 1500 miles.

This person was a highly regarded member of the queen’s palace as he was in charge of all her treasury.

Additionally, he is identified as a Eunuch. I was puzzled about that- I mean you can’t tell everything from a quick glance at a person!

Our understanding of the term Eunuch is, as you may imagine, rather different from the biblical versions.

And there are several.

One is as you would be aware – a castrated male.

The second meaning is someone unfit for marriage.

The third is an official in a high place in society.

In this passage we hear that the Ethiopian is a highly regarded official of the Treasury in the Queen’s court.

He clearly was very motivated to worship and learn- no zoom for him!!

Philip asks what he is reading and if he understands it and his response is that he needs help.

So, Philip teaches him about Jesus by using the Isaiah text as a leaping point because it prophesises about a Messiah’s fate.  The teaching about Jesus includes baptism so, when they see water, the Official suggests that Philip baptize him.

Now this is an interesting point. They are in a desert and all of a sudden there is water?

God’s hands are all over this text, aren’t they? An official with great power worships in a Jewish temple and then gets converted by Philip sent by God on a desert road where suddenly water appears to permit baptism into the Christian Faith.

The second approach we can take to this text is perhaps equally significant even if it seems rather more literal.

God sends Philip, a middle eastern man and disciple of Christ, to teach a man of darker colour about Christ. Moreover, this particular male does not conform to heterosexual norms if we look through different lens.

Now both textual readings and interpretations refer to a man of colour but in some ways that seemed less prominent to me in my first example probably because there is no reason to believe that Jesus a middle Eastern Jew would be light skinned haired as so many of our Sunday school portraits suggest!

But it is important because what it tells us is that people of colour from Africa and indeed around the local world are as interested in faith as anyone locally. It signals a serious level of inclusivity in what was then a much more restricted world in so many ways but especially racially and travel wise.  For example, many people then could not travel for a variety of reasons- financial especially.

Our current restrictions however frustrating are light years ahead of the early days of Christianity.

Thinking of those who left to start churches far away from Galilee and Jerusalem makes me ponder the difficulties and dangers felt by those travellers. 

The issue around sexuality is also curious.

As some of you know, having gone through the Affirming process here at Dunsford, there is actually little said in the Bible about sexuality that is not clarified by translation experts. The use of words such as eunuch for more than one definition casts great doubt on those who say that anything but heterosexuality is wrong.

It was a great privilege for me while working in Toronto from 2013-2017 to sit on the committee which looked at the feasibility of making Toronto Conference Affirming. It took 3 years of consulting with every stake holder committee and group to get there but it worked.

The motion passed in May 2017 by an overwhelming margin- 93% for the conference to become affirming.  

In our early days of the task force for Affirming we were looking primarily at the conventional understanding of sexuality and differences. But we rapidly moved to considerations of gender transitions and safety, separate washroom for single users etc. Then as we considered all forms of difference, we also expanded to include deafness/vision issues/autism/mental illness.

The advantage of expanding the affirming definition was that we considered the needs of those on the margins who often do not get counted – whose needs are not identified. We looked at meeting sites that did or did not accommodate those extra needs. As a result of the decision of Toronto Conference to be affirming, new guidelines came into place. For example, no meetings could be held in places where anyone’s needs could not be met.

In the middle of this process there was a general council meeting down east. I don’t recall all the details, but it was most unfortunate that one attendee who was there was disabled and the site was inaccessible. People who were at that GC were dismayed and upset that a site had been chosen that did not meet everyone’s needs. That proved to be a strong endorsement for our direction.         

Yesterday after I wrote the 1st part of the sermon the verdict on Derek Chauvin came down.

You probably know him as the Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on George Floyd’s neck for over 9 minutes, killing him. Recorded by a young woman who saw the entire arrest, her video was one of the sources of evidence leading to the trial and of course of the subsequent firing and charges laid against not just Chauvin but the 3 other officers who stood passively by as Floyd died by suffocation.

Lynchpin- dare I use that word? Another example of language that has history in the oppression of BIPOC populations.

Some day soon I will spend some time talking about such weighted fraught words and phrases.

The killing sparked weeks of violent protest in the USA and resulted in a significant series of riots and speaking out on all forms of media.

(A measure of the establishment’s anti-black racism is seen in the extraordinary show of force whenever a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest was scheduled. To be ironically contrasted with the very apathetic resistance of the insurgency on the Capital to the white homegrown terrorists who tried to interfere with the vote count for President Biden.)

The other officers who participated by aiding and abetting the murder of George Floyd will be on trial this summer.

It is evident in social media and through the press, that the killing of George Floyd has captured and enraged a huge angry citizenship. It is heartening that many officers who testified against Chauvin broke ranks. Equally that many non BIPOC peoples like us are more informed and concerned about the injustices that have traditionally plagued people of colour and other marginalized populations and a gift to us all that the presence of cell phones and other advanced technology has helped to uncover and share these atrocities.

It is my hope that as we move forward with justice for all we will remember that everyone’s humanity is as important as our own and enshrine it in our establishment practises.

Prayers of the People

In the wake of Easter glory the disciples wanted to return to their busy lives, but they had moments of fear and uncertainty; they felt lost and alone.

Then Jesus said Peace be with you.

The words of Jesus brought joy to their souls and hope to their spirits. The disciples were ready to hear again the words of comfort proclaimed to them.

Then Jesus said Peace be with you.

Thomas did not feel the joy or accept the spirit of hope. He lived with fears and doubts that he could not vocalize. Thomas felt that he was all alone, cut off from the rest of the group.

Then Jesus said peace be with you.

Moments come and go when we feel alone and abandoned.

There are times when we feel uncertain about the future. We too live with fear.

Then Jesus says to us

Peace be with you.

And we say Thanks be to God. Hallelujah!

As we pray, we recall all those among us who are struggling with illness and fear, isolation and uncertainty.

We hold them in our hearts as we pray for peace.

Amen

(Written by Bill Steadman Gatherings 2021 p. 47, used with permission)

Lord’s Prayer:

Our Father who art in heaven. Hallowed be they name. Thy kingdom come they 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 and the power and the glory, for ever and ever, amen.

Hymn: “All Things Bright and Beautiful” VU #291 (Words: Cecil Frances Alexander 1848)

                   All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small,

                   all things wise and wonderful: in love, God made them all.

1                 Each little flower that opens, each little bird that sings,

                   God made their glowing colours, God made their tiny wings.  R

2                 The purpleheaded mountains, the river running by,

                   the sunset and the morning that brightens up the sky;  R

3                 The cold wind in the winter, the pleasant summer sun,

                   the ripe fruits in the garden: God made them every one.  R

4                 The rocky mountain splendour, the lone wolf’s haunting call,

                   the great lakes and the prairies, the forest in the fall;  R

5                 God gave us eyes to see them, and lips that we might tell

                   how great is God our maker, who has made all things well.  R

Blessing/Commendation

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.  

DUNSFORD UNITED CHURCH

Church Office Hours: Wed. 9-5 Tel: 705-793-2511

Email: dunsfordunitedchurch@bellnet.ca

Visit our new website: www.dunsfordunitedchurch.com

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