Bulletin and Announcements for March 19, 2023

Dunsford United Church

March 19, 2023 – Lent 4

Pulpit Supply: Mark Sturman, LLWL

Slideshow: Carolle B

Scripture Reader: Lois S

Ministry of Music: Sylvia V

†= stand as you are able

WELCOME AND CELEBRATIONS

† GATHERING HYMN: VU #509 “I, the Lord of Sea and Sky (Here I Am, Lord)”

LIGHTING OF THE CANDLES

As we light this candle, may its warmth symbolize the love that radiates from our very being.

This candle represents the light of the soul.

It also represents the light of life, the light of Christ, that sparks us into a place of grace.

As we light this Christ candle, may its light be an inspiration for our worship this day.

Written by Jim McKean, while at Severn Shores U.C., Severn, Ont. P. 43.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF THE LANDS (Unison)

We acknowledge, honour and respect this land and the Anishinaabe/Mississauga

peoples with whom Treaty 20, Williams treaty, was signed, on the lands where I am,

and we acknowledge also and give thanks for the lands and people of treaties and

unceded territories of all who are worshiping. It is up to all of us to live into truth,

respect and reconciliation with all our relations.

CALL TO WORSHIP (responsive)

One does not live by bread alone.

Listen for God’s word in your life.

Worship the Lord your God and serve God only.

Give God the glory for your life.

Do not put the Lord your God to the test.

Be faithful in all you do as you share your life.

Written by George Allan, Chatham, Ont. P. 32.

† HYMN: VU #371 “Open My Eyes, That I May See”

OPENING PRAYER and LORD’S PRAYER

Holy One, these days we are not quite sure what season we are in.

Some days feel like spring. Even the flowers are pushing through the soil. And then it gets cold, and we feel the winter dragging on. Remind us of another kind of season, a season of faith, as we prepare ourselves for the joy of Easter during this season of Lent.

Clear away the distractions and old ways that block us from the adventure of travelling with you. Create space in our souls so we receive your words of love and notice you naming our names, reminding us to turn to you for strength.

Bless the journey of this season of Lent, we pray.

And may we continue praying the words Jesus taught us, Our Father, who art in Heaven…

Amen.

Written by Wendy MacLean, Brockville, Ont. P. 33.  Used with permission.

MINISTRY OF MUSIC: Sylvia V

INVITATION TO GIVE:  Let us bring forward the offering.

† HYMN OF DEDICATION:  VU #541 “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow”

OFFERTORY PRAYER

It seems odd, O God, to ask you to bless what we give. After all, almost everything is given online or digitally, so it seems distant and unconnected— almost unreal.

As you bless us and inspire in us generous spirits, may you reconnect us with others who are touched by what we donate.

In those connections, may your mission thrive, your call to action be alive within us.

We ask it all in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Written by Gord Dunbar, Kincardine P.C., Kincardine, Ont. P. 38.

STORY AND PRAYERS FOR THE YOUNG AND YOUNG AT HEART: ‘Jesus Heals a Blind Man’ – Milton Story Bible, p. 87-88.

WE HEAR GOD’S WORD

PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION

Living Word, your revelations are inspiring, unsettling, and sometimes beyond our comprehension. We give thanks for your word, which continues to be an everlasting source of wisdom. In your triune name, we ask for your grace and wisdom as we receive today’s scripture. Amen.

Written by Anne Mathewson, St. David’s Trinity U.C., Saskatoon, Sask. P. 37.

SCRIPTURE READINGS

Psalm 23 (VU pp. 749) (Lead by Lois)

God is my shepherd,

            there is nothing I shall lack.

You, God, make me lie down in green pastures,

            you lead me beside peaceful waters;

you revive my spirit,

            you guide me in right pathways for your name’s sake. 

R: The God of love my shepherd is, what can I want or need.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you are with me,

            your rod and your staff are my comfort.

You spread a table for me in the sight of my enemies;

            you anoint my head with oil; my cup is overflowing.

Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,

            and I will dwell in God’s house my whole life long. 

R: The God of love my shepherd is, what can I want or need.

John 9 – NRSV – A Man Born Blind Receives Sight (Read by Mark)

9 As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 4 We[a] must work the works of him who sent me[b] while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, 7 saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. 8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am he.” 10 But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

The Pharisees Investigate the Healing

13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the Sabbath.” Others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. 17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”

18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind, 21 but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus[c] to be the Messiah[d] would be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28 Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.

Spiritual Blindness

35 Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”[e] 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir?[f] Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” 38 He said, “Lord,[g] I believe.” And he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see may see and those who do see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.

† HYMN: VU #87 “I Am the Light of the World”

MESSAGE: ‘Open our Eyes to God’s Wisdom’

Intro – So my family and I went out to see a movie this week, a movie that I had not heard of before going to see it. It was called ‘Champions’ and starring Woody Harrelson. I am not exactly a film critic or promoter, but I highly recommend the movie. Harrelson portrays a professional level basketball coach that is seeing his career as a coach go seemingly in the wrong direction. He does some things really well and he knows the game extremely well. The problem is that he does not seem to get that he needs to understand the people around him, in his life, his players, etc. He might have the best designed systems and plans drawn up, but he just doesn’t seem to understand the people around him, understand them as unique with strengths and needs, as human… not just cogs in a wheel or system … or the development of his goals. That lack of awareness of people leads with to do some self-destructive things.

The coach learns these life lessons, that he needs the hard way, by coaching a team of young people with intellectual disabilities. He learns the team can have success … if he learns about them as people. It is a powerful movie which demonstrates how a man with gifts and intelligence in his craft can be rather blind to realities all around him and right in front of him. The coach does not seem to succeed in his life until he overcomes this ‘blindness’ about the people that surround him. He is taught this by an unlikely group of people, mainly people with Downs’ Syndrome … and play basketball! Can they ever play basketball!

The Gospel Lesson this week involves Jesus helping a man seemingly overcome physical blindness, as in lack of sense of sight, from the time of his birth. The passage starts with the disciples having a theological discussion that represents some of the thinking of the day – that physical disabilities or illnesses could have been the result of either himself or members of his family having sinned. We know today of medical, genetic, accidental, chromosomal causes of these conditions, but back before our modern medical understandings, these were common beliefs. Jesus puts these questions to rest, saying it was not as the result of anyone’s sin, but he sees it as an opportunity to demonstrate the power and love of God. So it tells us Jesus makes some kind of a concoction of mud and spit that he puts on the blind man’s eyes and tells him to go wash in the local pool. And voila, the man has his sight restored. He tells his neighbours, and they are astonished and want to know more. The healed man tells them about Jesus performing this act. People are interested in Jesus, but he has gone from the scene by then.

Then enter the Pharisees, local religious leaders. When they hear the news, they are suspicious of the story, the way many of us today might be suspicious of religious faith healers that we hear about. They first question whether the man was actually ever blind, or if it is the same blind man or just someone who looks like that blind man. They refuse to believe that Jesus could do these kinds of things, especially when he is not one of them, one of the respected, educated, powerful of the society. They cast aspersions on Jesus the way we often hear people of opposite political parties put down opponents today. They even bully the healed man and accuse him of being a follower of Jesus (which he may be now that he is healed!). When they cannot get anywhere with the man, they question his parents, who direct them back to healed man, saying he is an adult, he can answer for himself! They repeat the claim that the disability must have been the result of sin.

Near the end of the passage, Jesus hears of the Pharisees treatment of the healed man and his family and returns to defend them and engage in debate with these leaders. He essentially turns the tables on them and accuses them of being blind and having sinned. The healed, formerly visually-disabled man testifies to what Jesus has done for him and worships Jesus. The Pharisees still refuse to see ‘the light’, the truth that this man is revealing about Jesus.

So, what do we take from this story? What themes or messages do we explore? I was blessed this week to have a fascinating discussion about this passage with a classmate named Heather, who is both from the disabled community and does a lot of writing on the Ethics of Ability and Disability. She has explored this passage in the past at length and preached on it as well. I asked Heather, from the perspective of a disabled person, what is the most important message from this passage. We went on to discuss many different ideas.

We talked about the nature of healing, did Jesus not so much ‘cure’ the man of blindness, but restore him to dignity and community, so ‘heal’ him but not cure him. This is an angle I have heard discussed before at length.

We discussed the fact the pharisees concerned with whether Jesus was healing on a Sunday, and issues of the law and their own power … but blind to the fact that Jesus’ action were about people, in this case about a person, that the pharisees and society might have seen as broken, or less valued. In focusing on the legal and power issues, these learned leaders totally missed what the blind man could teach them and reveal about the nature of God … and the mission of Jesus.

In refusing to ‘see’ what the healed man was revealing to them, the Pharisees are exposed as the people who are really ‘blind’ in the story. Jesus turns the tables on them and uses their own flawed thinking on them, in connecting their own ‘sin’ with the blindness they displayed to what was really important in the story… the love of God towards people revealed in the message of and ministry of Jesus. Jesus demonstrates that removing the hardship and pain of this man, showing compassion for him was more important than the fact that the healing was done on the Sabbath. Jesus’ message was about the compassion towards another human being. The Pharisees were about keeping the traditional rules and maintaining their power. The blind man was the teacher, showing and telling people about the message of Jesus… and the nature of God! The Pharisees, unfortunately, just would not listen, or understand what was being put in front of them. In this way, they were ‘blinded’ either by traditional thinking (ever heard the expression, ‘we’ve never done it that way before’) and dogged adherence to old rules, or to maintaining their own power base. Or maybe they were ‘blinded’ by all the above!

Do we ever see people ‘blinded’ in this way today? Maybe refusing to acknowledge facts, ideas or information because it is being presented by someone we usually disagree with? Or blinded to new ways of thinking because ‘we have never done it that way before!’?

Are we ever ‘blinded’ or ‘deaf’ to what God might be telling or showing us, because we are distracted by other things going on in our lives, other concerns? What are our ‘blind spots in life? The coach in the movie ‘Champions’ was blind to the realities of the people around him, and was missing the ‘big’ picture, or to use a favourite expression of my father’s, ‘could not see the forest for the trees’. What pieces of the Wisdom of God do we miss?

I want to conclude with one last important suggestion of my classmate, Heather. She strongly stressed to me to consider this point. The blind man in the passage is the ‘subject’ of the story and not the ‘object’. He is an active character that speaks for himself and shows the power and message of Jesus. So often both in Biblical narratives and in other literature we see today, disabled and marginalized peoples are passive objects of the story that have actions done for or to them, but have little agency or importance. Jesus flips that script and makes the traditionally powerless individuals be the active agent of this story, at the expense of the traditionally powerful, who actually become the objects of the lesson. Such is the transformative and disruptive power of the message of Jesus, who shows us the message and Wisdom of God.

Hear these messages and themes echoed in the UCC Song of Faith:

So ,God creates the universe and with it the possibility of being and relating. God tends the universe, mending the broken and reconciling the estranged. God enlivens the universe, guiding all things toward harmony with their Source.

Grateful for God’s loving action, we cannot keep from singing.

The Spirit challenges us to celebrate the holy not only in what is familiar, but also in that which seems foreign.

Jesus announced the coming of God’s reign— a commonwealth not of domination but of peace, justice, and reconciliation.

He healed the sick and fed the hungry. He forgave sins and freed those held captive by all manner of demonic powers.

He crossed barriers of race, class, culture, and gender [may we add Ability to this list!]. He preached and practised unconditional love—love of God, love of neighbour, love of friend, love of enemy— and he commanded his followers to love one another as he had loved them.

UCC Song of Faith. (2006)

Listening and looking for what God is directing towards frequently isn’t easy. Recognizing our own blind spots frequently isn’t easy. Often accepting change and new wisdom is often difficult for all of us.

The good news is that God walks with each of us on our journey of discovery. Through our relationship through prayer, God walks with each one of us, always and offers us new ways of doing and seeing things, like the people who witnessed Jesus’ healing of the blindman. God walks with us in risky and challenging times, and times in life when we are or feel defeated. God walks with us in our successes and celebrations and jubilant times. God walks with all of us, know matter what gifts, skills and talents we possess and choose to share, what we have done previously in life, what our background is, who we love or how much money we have in the bank or what our blind spots are. God loves us all, always. Thanks be to God!  Amen!

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

All Merciful tender God,

You have given birth to our world,

Conceiving and bearing all that lives and breathes.

We come to you as your daughters and sons, your children,

Aware of our aggression and our drive to manipulate  others.

We ask you to forgive us,

And by the gentle touch of your Spirit

Help us to find a renewed sense of compassion,

That we may truly live as your people.

We pray for people in our communities, loved ones suffering due to injury or illness in body, mind or spirit.

We pray for concerns in our own hearts, knowing that you listen, even when we have trouble hearing your response. Amen

WE ARE SENT OUT IN FAITH TO SERVE

COMMISSIONING AND BLESSING

Go out from here, secure in God’s promises. Take with you the knowledge of God’s presence. Offer to all the hospitality and the welcome of Christ, whose love provides a home for every heart. Amen.

Written by Fern Gibbard, Penticton U.C., Penticton, B.C. p. 39. 

Go now into the world, with a daring and a tender heart –

go in peace, the world is waiting.

And whatever you do, do it for love,

remembering that you follow Jesus.

And may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,

and the love of God,

and the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit

be with us all, now and ever.

Amen.

*Prayers taken from Gathering LE 2022-23. Used With Permission

† CHORAL RESPONSE: “Go Now in Peace”

ANNOUNCEMENTS

ANNUAL REPORTS can be found at this link: https://dunsfordunitedchurch.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/2022-Annual-Report.pdf Printed reports are on the table with the collection plates.  

ANNUAL CONGREGATIONAL MEETING: Sun. March 26, 2023

There will be a potluck lunch following the worship service. We would invite each person attending to prepare a bit of “Holy Humor” to share with the group after the potluck. This could be a few (tasteful) jokes, a humorous story or poem, a fun song from your favourite musical or maybe a little skit! The more participation we have, the more successful we will be at providing an enjoyable fellowship time for all. Once we have all had a belly full and a belly laugh, the meeting will start at 1PM. 

FEBRUARY 2023 FINANCIALS are attached.

MILK BAG MINISTRY: Would you like to help make milk bag mats?  Come to the church on Wednesdays at 10 AM. 

CHEER MINISTRY:  Please call Linda M when a church member/family needs to be remembered with a card: thinking of you; get well; special birthday/anniversary wishes, or sympathy.

Please keep in your prayers: Mary Lou; Emma J; Abigail recovering from an accident.

STEWARDSHIP SECOND: Use generosity and gratitude to bring light, truth, and wholeness.

https://united-church.ca/sites/default/files/2022-12/stewardship-seconds_jan-june-2023.docx

FROM THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA

E-ssentials: Mission & Service Results, Faithful Footprints Retrofit Tours, It’s Your Call Podcast, and more! (mailchi.mp)

Embracing the Spirit: An Interview with Grosvenor Park United’s Brenda Baker, The Listening Post Barrie, and more!  (mailchi.mp)

POSTLUDE


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