UPDATE : We are working through some technical issues with the recording of the August 8 service. We will post the service as soon as these issues are resolved.
Thank you for your patience!
Join with us on the labyrinth for in-person worship beginning at 10:30 AM. Bring your masks, lawn chairs, (maybe a hat and water too!) as we socially distance worship together!
Weather permitting! The in-person worship service will be cancelled in the event of inclement weather. Check our website for updates.
Note: No access to the church building is permitted at this time.
**A recording of today’s outdoor service will be posted here as soon as it is available.
Contemporary English Version
25 We are part of the same body. Stop lying and start telling each other the truth. 26 Don’t get so angry that you sin. Don’t go to bed angry 27 and don’t give the devil a chance.
28 If you are a thief, quit stealing. Be honest and work hard, so you will have something to give to people in need.
29 Stop all your dirty talk. Say the right thing at the right time and help others by what you say.
30 Don’t make God’s Spirit sad. The Spirit makes you sure that someday you will be free from your sins.
31 Stop being bitter and angry and mad at others. Don’t yell at one another or curse each other or ever be rude. 32 Instead, be kind and merciful, and forgive others, just as God forgave you because of Christ.
5 Do as God does. After all, you are his dear children. 2 Let love be your guide. Christ loved us[a] and offered his life for us as a sacrifice that pleases God.
Small Things Count
So, this passage from Ephesians – part of a letter written to the people of Ephesus, possibly about 30’ish years after the death and resurrection of Christ – – I have to be honest. The first time I read it in preparing for today, I was NOT impressed. In fact, I didn’t get all the way through it before my mind started going in dark, angry places.
In my inside voice, I was yelling …. “Seriously God? We aren’t out of this pandemic yet and THIS is the passage for today? More do’s and don’ts?? More rules?
For the last 18 months we’ve been told where we can & can’t go, who we can & can’t be with, what direction to walk in which aisle in the stores …wear a mask, everywhere … no large gatherings – no funerals, no weddings … no inside church …. I haven’t been able to visit my parents in over 18 months …. I just recently enjoyed my first hug from our grandson since all this started…
This isn’t fun anymore, God … nothing is the way it was ….”
And in the midst of my anger and my lamenting, a light went on…
The Apostle Paul is credited for writing this letter to the relatively new believers – new Christians – in Ephesus. Paul had spent time there teaching of the church created and sustained by God, sharing Christ’s teachings, and the sacrifice Christ made for us. Paul was building a new church, a new community of believers. This would not have been an easy thing to do in a city that was wrought with corruption and heavily populated with people who practiced witchcraft, sorcery, idol worship and other pagan religions.
For those who followed Paul’s teachings of Christ and became Christians, their way of life was different now. Things weren’t as they once were. Things weren’t necessarily easy for them. Not everyone converted to Christianity. Those who did would continue to be surrounded, persecuted and pressured by those who didn’t. The letter from Paul offers support and encouragement for the new believers, encouraging them to stay strong … to stay together. Things may be difficult, but you are not alone. God is with you.
Earlier in this letter, Paul praises the readers for their solid Christian reputation. He reminds them that Jesus is the source of their salvation and the heart of Christianity’s good news.
In our passage this morning, Paul offers practical advice – ways to encourage, build up and support one another – ways to live the Christian faith:
- Speak the truth, in a loving way
- Don’t allow your anger to turn to sin; don’t let it damage relationships
- Don’t steal; work earnestly and share what you have with those in need
- Speak positively; use your words to build others up, not tear them down
- Give forgiveness, even when it isn’t asked for
- Walk in love; it means putting others before ourselves, wanting and working for the best for and in others, being patient and kind, and hoping and believing in others. Love is an action!
The more we put this advice into action, the more we each help to encourage, build up and support one another….the more we build up the body of Christ.
The end of the passage encourages us to be imitators of God. Let others see God in us. Perhaps a tall order. But maybe not impossible.
It brings to mind a story that many of you have likely heard before, but it encourages me, and makes me smile every time I hear it, so I hope you don’t mind hearing again.
One day, a little boy wanted to meet God. He knew it was going to be a long trip to where God lived, so he packed his suitcase with drink boxes and cookies, then started on his journey.
When he had gone about three blocks, he met an old woman. She was sitting in the park just watching the pigeons. The boy sat down next to her, opened his suitcase, and took out a drink box.
He was about to take a drink when he noticed the woman sitting next to him not only looked very sad but maybe hungry as well, so he offered her one of his cookies.
She gratefully accepted it and smiled at him. Her smile was so beautiful that the boy wanted to see it again, so he offered her a drink box. Again, she accepted it and smiled at him.
The boy was delighted! They sat there all afternoon eating, drinking and smiling, but they never said a word.
As it grew dark, the boy realized how tired he was, so closed his suitcase and got up to go home. He had gone only a few steps, when suddenly, he turned around, ran back, and gave the woman a huge hug. She hugged him back and gave him the biggest smile that he had ever seen.
When the boy got home and opened the door, his mother was surprised by the look of joy on his face. She asked him, “What did you do today that made you look so happy?”
He replied,” I had lunch with God.” and before his mother could respond he added, “You know what? She’s got the most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen in my life!”
Meanwhile, the old woman, also radiant with joy, returned to her home. Her son was stunned by the look of peace on her face and asked, “Mom, what did you do today that made you so happy?”
She replied, “I ate cookies in the park with God.” and before his son could respond, she added, “You know, he’s much younger than I expected.”
Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile,
a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to lift someone up, to turn a life around.
For me, it’s what today’s reading tells us.
In spite of my lamenting earlier, in spite of the things this pandemic has meant we can’t do, many of us have seen or experienced so many examples of what we can do…positive things …things that continue to build people up … build up the body of Christ … and like the little boy and the old woman in the park … they may not seem like big things to the giver, but to the recipient, they make a difference. I believe they are examples of this community doing as God does. I believe they are ways of letting others see God in us.
There are so many, but some examples that come to mind right away:
- Phone calls, cards, and emails sent to check in on friends who aren’t well, who live alone, ….people you can’t be with yet. We can’t be together, but we don’t have to be apart.
- Providing rides to & from cancer treatments and medical appointments –that takes a lot of heart, a lot of love in the best of times, but maybe even more so during a pandemic
- Stepping up to do gardening, shopping & errands for those who need help … those overwhelmed by medical issues
- Special deliveries to say we are thinking of you & miss you
- Donations of money, diapers, food & more that have continued in a safe way to support those in need in our community
- Being able to enjoy the beautiful gift of SJR’s music when we can’t be physically together, but can still worship as a community together, online … some of us still in our pyjamas
- the ongoing requests for Prayer Shawls … it is indeed a blessing to be able to continue crafting, requesting, and giving prayer shawls, no matter the state of the world.
In the last 4 weeks alone, the prayer shawl ministry of SJR has ensured that no less than 12 shawls have been delivered. Some were for those who are grieving, some for those who are ill,
some for those who need support, some for those who are celebrating a good thing in their life.
Our Prayer Shawl Ministry has been a part of this faith community for over 15 years. It takes all of us to make it happen: the crafters; the people who recognize a need and request shawls; the people who ensure the shawl gets to the person for whom it is intended; all of you, this community of faith, who support this ministry and give the final blessings on each shawl, making it complete.
Today, together, we will offer blessings on these shawls so that we can share the love of God with these tangible hugs.
We are not yet at a point where we can pass shawls through the congregation, but we know and trust that no matter where you are, God hears your prayers. God knows where they are needed.
In your bulletin, you should find an insert with a blessing liturgy that we can share together.
Prayer Shawl Blessings
Adaptation of liturgy by Sarah E. Weaver 2011
God of love, joy and comfort, in this time of worship,
we join in celebrating one of the ministries of this,
your church, your community of faith,
St. James’-Rosemount United Church.
We give thanks for the opportunity, in love and compassion for all of your children, to share a tangible gift of your love, a prayer shawl.
We know that you are always present in our lives and that your love transcends all. We pray that a prayer shawl will be a physical reminder of your presence, your eternal love, to those who will receive them.
Generous God, we thank you for bringing us together.
We thank you for those who created the yarn,
those who brought it to market,
and those who stocked the shelves.
We are blessed by the loves of the many people who make the crafting possible.
Compassionate God, we ask you to bless all of the people who will receive these shawls, many of whom we don’t know yet. May they feel the love, comfort and peace of your presence.
May God’s grace be upon these shawls,
warming, comforting, enfolding, embracing.
May they be a safe haven,
sustaining and embracing,
in good times as well as difficult ones.
May the ones who receive these shawls
be cradled in hope, kept in joy, graced with peace
and wrapped in love.