Dunsford United Church – Easter – Sunday April 4
Rev Anne Hepburn
WELCOME AND CELEBRATIONS
Hello friends! It is a blessing to be with you again.
CALL TO WORSHIP
Easter Joy is for you and for all. Easter Hope stirs in creation. Let your spirit swell. Let the borders of your compassion expand. We join our voices and our lives to share this joy and hope as we worship together.
LIGHTING OF THE CANDLES
Let the Light of Christ and the flame of the Affirming Candle. Draw us together as we ready ourselves for worship. We gather with the assurance that we are not alone, and all are welcome.
(Gatherings 2021 p.42 Dora White, used with permission)
ACKNOWLEDGMENT 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
This day is marked as Holy in our experience, and so we come before you O God to find ways by which we may live your message of hope and goodwill. We look for new beginnings in our personal lives and in our life as a community. We seek the eternal truths of your message even as we struggle with the challenges of each new day. Be present with us in your word today as we continue to search for ways to be both a faithful and a faith filled people. We pray all of this in Jesus’ name Amen.
(Gatherings 2021 p. 47 Bill Steadman, used with permission)
HYMN: “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” VU #155 (Words: Lyra Davidica)
Jesus Christ is risen today, hallelujah! Our triumphant holy day, hallelujah!
Who did once, upon the cross, hallelujah! Suffer to redeem our loss. Hallelujah!
Great Spirit Holy Wisdom Child of Life, in these days of early spring we wait and watch as life blossoms and opens on vine and stem. In this strange season of pandemic open us too Loving God, as we wait and watch for healing and understanding and a new world to arise. In Christ you invite us to see with new eyes and feel with wider compassion. Meet us in the places where we are wounded. Meet us in the shadows of our souls where we have not yet mined the gold of your life in us. Awaken us to this new day that you are co-creating with us, in spirit and truth, in life and love and joy.
(Gatherings 2021 p. 45 Wendy MacLean, used with permission)
MINISTRY OF MUSIC: “Morning Has Broken” VU #409 (Words: Eleanor Farjean)
Morning has broken like the first morning, blackbird has spoken like the first bird.
Praise for the singing! Praise for the morning! Praise for them, springing fresh from the Word!
WE HEAR GOD’S WORD
Old Testament: Isaiah 25:6-9: On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever. Then the Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.
New Testament: Mark 16:1-8: When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
HYMN: “Thine is the Glory” VU #173 (Words: Edmond Louis Budry)
Thine is the glory, risen, conquering Son: endless is the victory thou o’er death hast won.
Angels in bright raiment rolled the stone away, kept the folded graveclothes where the body lay.
Thine is the glory, risen, conquering Son: endless is the victory thou o’er death hast won.
REFLECTION/SERMON: “Going to Galilee”
Today is Easter: a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus!
Dunsford has always made Easter a big deal – hats and joyful gathering, anointing the cross with flowers. It is a special Sunday service which this year, as last, is taking place remotely.
And what makes it very special for me is my return to Dunsford United Church.
It has been almost exactly 7.5 years since I was the minister here. I have thought often of you.
I have returned to take a funeral service for Doug Thurston and visited Laura Thurston Campbell when she was ill. I should stress that both of those were by express invitation and with the generous consent of the presiding minister. More recently I was delighted to be invited to and welcomed at the dedication of the park nearby to the memory of Laura.
The people of Dunsford never left my thoughts. And now I am so grateful for the opportunity to walk with you again. We will walk together to Galilee as cited in the Mark reading. What is the significance of Galilee? For Jesus it was home- he grew up in lower Galilee which is separated from Upper Galilee by a deep valley and river. There were tensions between the two areas.
Galilee was where much of Jesus teachings were done. The sermon on the Mount was preached here and many miracles occurred in the area. I understand that you have been walking in a bit of wilderness with the departure of your former minister, Sharon. Covid has been a huge contributor to financial issues, and you are trying to discern a new way forward. I don’t know if you have heard about the life cycle of a church, but you likely recognize that where you are is a low energy stage of congregational life. That is not necessarily a bad thing although it can be discouraging. Low energy is not no energy! In fact, low energy can allow for more time to reflect rather than rush around doing!
Low energy is the rest that renews and allows you to regain the strength to become higher energy again.
I know that for those of you involved in the church council and search committee, you have been very busy and perhaps overworked. I hope that you will be able to back up, sit down and rest a spell as we start to move forward together. I have also been in a sort of wilderness.
A couple of years ago I was not ready to return even for a few weeks of coverage when Sharon was on holiday. At the time I thought it was because I was unwilling to make changes. But in truth as time went on, I realized that I was weary in a different way.
I had left a challenging congregation when my mother became terminally ill. My Godmother had died after a rapid decline and my precious puppy of 17+ years had died. I was tired and discouraged.
I could not find the energy to more than put one foot in front of another for some time.
For the months after I left my last church I was mostly preoccupied with my mother’s care.
Fortunately, she was living in a very well-run retirement residence and received excellent care from the wonderful staff there as well as her GP and the Palliative Care team from Mt Sinai Hospital.
Equally fortunate was that I am one of 6 and most of the others were able to get to Toronto to visit. Those who could not, called frequently.
She was able to decide how she wanted to be cared for and dictate to a large degree the location and comfort measures. And it all went as hoped. She died peacefully pain free in her own bed surrounded by family. I became busier after she died in late 2017. My younger sister and I were appointed to be the executors together and it went remarkable well.
But as some of you know, being an executor is still tiring and sometimes a challenge. So, it took me some time to regain my energy for life in general. And then as you all know COVID 19 hit us all last March. I knew that I was ready to re-enter ministry life when I heard that you were without a minister and my first reaction was how can I help?
The text from Mark addresses the events of the women the morning after the sabbath as they are free to leave the duties of the house to go care for the body of Jesus. It is early in the morning as they make their way to the tomb and they worry aloud if they will be able to push the stone away from the entrance.
The women who are doing this have come through horrifying difficult days much more than any of us could probably comprehend. They watched in agony as Jesus was baselessly accused, abused verbally, physically attacked and ultimately crucified like a common criminal. They had gotten to know him and trust him. His wisdom, faith and care for others had inspired them. They had assumed some of the ministry of Jesus by extension. Helping others who were on the margins, feeding the hungry caring for the homeless maybe even taking supplies to those in encampments.
So, they had followed for up to 3 years as Jesus grew into his ministry. He was a real magnet for those who saw a need in their world. For those who thought that the social structure was too rigid that the leaders of the political and religious systems were perhaps too powerful and not flexible enough to look at the real suffering in the world around them.
Although COVID 19 has caused a lot of turbulence in our worlds, I find it curious that some of the outcomes for churches have been positive. I am not of course thinking that the sudden plunge into hi tech presentations by zoom is an easy one. Nor do I think that being sequestered at home without a chance to hug someone or have a coffee visit is a good thing. We all need social engagement and most of us are feeling the lack of that. Mental health is a major issue these days and those who are working from homed or even retired at home are feeling the isolation and depression that loneliness causes. But we can still gather by zoom!
We can make decisions and hold meetings and plan for the future by Zoom. It seems to me that we have a new way forward that will allow us to meet and worship and care for this congregation this building and this community in a wider variety of ways.
Remember the last verses of the Gospel reading when the young man in the tomb said to the women “do not be alarmed Jesus has been raised. Tell the disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you”. Let us follow that prophetic path to the future with hope and Easter joy in our hearts. Amen
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Come to us God like fresh water, softening the soil of a parched and weary land. We confess that hurts and disappointments harden our hearts, frustrations and failures dry us out. Come to us God with life giving power. Free us from resentment, reluctance and reserve. Remind us that in your forgiveness we are free. Forgiven, may we be forgiving. As we pray we also name the concerns of our hearts; our community and neighbours who are bereaved and saddened by sickness and death, worry and personal constraints. Care for them we ask you, in Jesus’ name we pray.
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: “Guide me, O Thou Great Jehovah” VU #651 (Word: William Williams)
Guide me, O thou great Jehovah, pilgrim through this barren land. I am weak, but thou art mighty, hold me with thy powerful hand. Bread of heaven, bread of heaven, feed me till I want no more, feed me till I want no more.
DUNSFORD UNITED CHURCH
Church Office Hours: Wed. 9-5
Visit our new website: www.dunsfordunitedchurch.com
Supply Minister: Rev. Anne Hepburn, Cell: 416-305-1247
Confidential Email: email@example.com
Envelope Steward: Kathy