Bulletin and Announcements for March 26, 2023

Dunsford United Church

Sunday March 26th, 2023 – Lent 5

Rev. Anne Hepburn

Slideshow: Helen

Sound: Carolle

Reader: Linda

†= stand as you are able

† GATHERING HYMN: VU #382 “Breathe on Me, Breath of God” 

WELCOME AND CELEBRATIONS

LIGHTING OF THE CANDLES

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

Lent is a time of repentance and reconciliation, risk and renewal;

A time to face all that which hems us in and holds us back.

We gather to name the helplessness that surrounds us;

Our abuse of power;

The harm we do to others and to the earth.

We gather to give voice to the despair within us;

The injustices that silence us;

The pain that drains us of hope.

We gather to claim God’s liberating love in the face of all the fear we know.

Come let us worship God!

† HYMN: VU #703 “In the Bulb There is a Flower”

OPENING PRAYER (Unison)

Most holy God,

We rejoice in our awareness of your presence.

As you enter our lives, refresh and renew us;

And in the power of the Holy Spirit, through whom we pray. Amen

INVITATION TO GIVE:  Let us bring forward the offering.

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

OFFERTORY PRAYER

Gracious God,

Bless and transform all that we offer;

Our faltering steps,

Our brokenness,

Our hope, our risking, our hearts,

That your covenant may be written on our hearts

and we may be a Blessed and transformed covenant people in Jesus’ name, Amen

STORY AND PRAYERS FOR THE YOUNG AND YOUNG AT HEART

SCRIPTURE READINGS

Old Testament Ezekiel 37:1-14 The Valley of Dry Bones (Read by Linda)

37 The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath[a] to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you and will cause flesh to come upon you and cover you with skin and put breath[b] in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

So I prophesied as I had been commanded, and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them, but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath:[c] Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath,[d] and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” 10 I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

11 Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves and bring you up from your graves, O my people, and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the Lord when I open your graves and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14 I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.”

New Testament John 11:1-45 The raising of Lazarus (Read by Anne)

11 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus,[a] “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather, it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus[b] was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble because they see the light of this world. 10 But those who walk at night stumble because the light is not in them.” 11 After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.”[c] 13 Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 Thomas, who was called the Twin,[d] said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Jesus the Resurrection and the Life

17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus[e] had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.[f] Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah,[g] the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

Jesus Weeps

28 When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come to the village but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 The Jews who were with her in the house consoling her saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Jesus Raises Lazarus to Life

38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

The Plot to Kill Jesus

45 Many of the Jews, therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did believed in him.

† HYMN: VU #494 “Those Hearts That We Have Treasured” (Words: Sylvia Dunstan)

Those hearts that we have treasured, those lives that we have shared,

those loves that walked beside us, those friends for whom we’ve cared,

their blessing rests upon us, their life is memory, their suffering is over,

their spirits are set free.

They still give hope and comfort, they did not lose the fight,

They showed us truth and goodness, they shine into our night.

Remember days of gladness; remember times of joy;

Remember all the moments that grief cannot destroy.

From hearts that we have treasured, from lives that we have shared,

From loves that walked beside us; from friends for whom we’ve cared,

We’ve learned to treasure kindness, we’ve learned that grace provides,

We’ve learned to be together; we’ve learned that love abides.

SERMON: “Restoring Life to the Bones”

When I announced to my husband that I had decided to go into ministry, he was not completely surprised. He had been beside me all the time; it was in the back of my mind. He looked at me with a questioning glance and said “but how will you do funerals?”

Good question to be honest…

I was always the one crying the hardest at a funeral.

Never sure why but man I was a sloppy hot mess in today’s language.

I knew it was a challenge but I also knew I felt called to ministry.

So it was a really great and lucky coincidence that a course became available at Emmanuel College that was centred on ministering to the grieving and dying. I signed up asap!

And it was exactly what I needed. We all worked through difficult family or friend losses, asking questions and clarifying the details and sorting through our feelings and personal history.

My mom answered my questions when I was working on this and helped me sort out the details that explained my roots of difficulty with funerals. I discovered that my father’s family were not well equipped to talk about death.   Therefore he was not well prepared to talk about it and that seeped down to me and my siblings.

We then had to write papers and make presentations to the class on a specific topic. I don’t remember exactly what I wrote but it must have been quite cathartic because I have never had such a hard time since. And I got an A!!

Death is a tough topic at the best of times though- many families are not well prepared to speak frankly about the facts of life: birth and death being part of that…

Try asking someone about birth control or how babies get made and you may well see discomfort and hear very awkward descriptions!

Not my father!! He could do the birth story with details- just as well since he did have 6 kids with my mom and was in the delivery room for most of us- unusual for the time…

So his strength you might say was speaking to the beginnings but not the end of life.

He got better over time and while he was alive I was ok but he died prematurely in 1980 and that probably triggered my difficulty. I did not have the language or the comfort to talk about loss. His dying at 56 sure did not help.

You can imagine that today’s scriptures are significant to write about and important to discuss.

Let’s start with the valley of dry bones. Apparently these people whose bones were scattered had been slain- killed. They were either in graves or lying around the dry valley- bones don’t degrade the way that flesh rots and tissues dissolve. They stay intact although they dry out with no blood supply.

Ezekiel’s prophecy in Chapter is directed by God: he says that these bones scattered all over the valley shall live again- shall be connected by sinews and have skin and flesh cover them. But there was no breath so they could not live. So God commanded them to breathe and to capture the four winds and live. So they did and stood up alive and restored.  This was the prophecy of the first resurrection.

The significance of this is that the bones represent the people of Israel in Exile.

The purpose of the resurrection is to return them to Israel.

I am reminded now of the last season of The Crown when the relatives of Queen Elizabeth’s father who lived in Russia were executed by the Russian soldiers.  The Romanov Family headed by Nicholas were being held prisoner and had requested to be transferred or received in the UK but had been denied by his cousin King George, who was concerned about being too friendly to Russians.

There was also a concern that Nicolas’s wife, being German, might trigger anti Royal sentiment during World War I. The Romanovs were unaware that their asylum request was denied. They were being held captive in the residence blissfully unaware of the impending execution. There were a couple of brutal scenes depicting the group murder of the family. They were then buried in a mass grave.  Later on in her reign, Queen Elizabeth requested the return of their bodies to the family. Can you imagine the task of digging up the bodies and assembling the bones?  Another situation of exiles resurrected and returned “home”.

The second reading from the gospel of John speaks to us of the raising of Lazarus.

Jesus was away from the area when Lazarus died.

In fact it was near Judea where Jesus had been threatened with being stoned, but Jesus wanted to return.

So they went back but it was too late- Lazarus had died.

Here we bump into the human side of Jesus- he wept. Lazarus was a friend and he cared about him.

But then, he put on his spirit side and raised him- and they all celebrated the resurrection of the man.

We all know loss. Some of us have lost people in different generations, older and younger. Others have only lost elders or same generation ages. It’s hard regardless.

Death puts a permanent block between us. We can talk about those we loved. We can reminisce and we can pay tribute to them in so many ways. But we can’t touch or talk to them any more.

What was left unsaid or unasked is lost.

What is also left is the chance to change a decision that had fatal implications.

I imagine that Queen Elizabeth’s father and mother were deeply grieved by the manner in which the Russian family were executed.

I sometimes try to imagine what people dying alone felt.

And if you are doing the same, you may find yourself beating yourself up over lost opportunities to share stories, or apologize for hurtful words.

It’s a big burden to do that to ourselves.

In fact its probably crazy making.

I worked as a volunteer for a time with a post suicide support group in Toronto.

We met with members of family’s who lost someone to suicide.

It was a planned series of meetings with designated topics that we would address.

Almost always people would lament the impossibility of communicating any more with the deceased. And always they would wonder what they could have done to change things. It was a heavy load of guilt and grief for them to carry.

Death is a tough topic to discuss at the best of times. But with some clear eyed practise and honesty it gets slightly easier to articulate the hard words and acknowledge the hurt and pain that is present. May you find comfort in knowing that you are not alone… 

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

LORD’S PRAYER

Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come; thy 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, the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.  Amen

COMMISSIONING AND BLESSING

† CHORAL RESPONSE: “Go Now in Peace” 

ANNOUNCEMENTS

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.  –  Carol E

Printed Annual Reports are on the table in the Sanctuary (by the light switches).

Palm Sunday, April 2nd Pancake Breakfast: bacon/sausage and pancakes, juice and coffee.  Free will offering.

Good Friday, April 7th Worship Service at 10 AM

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

CHEER MINISTRY:  Please call Linda 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.

STEWARDSHIP SECOND: Our stewardship reflects our relationship with God; our relationship with God transforms our stewardship.

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

FROM THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA

God’s Mission Our Gifts: Your April Mission & Service Stories and more! (mailchi.mp)

E-ssentials: 10 More Ways to Work Towards Anti-Racism, Türkiye and Syria Updates, and more! (mailchi.mp)

You’re Invited! Works in Action: Innovative Ministries Webinar (mailchi.mp)

POSTLUDE


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