Wolfe Island United Church
March 29, 2020
Welcome to Worship
Artwork created by Maggie Crothers
Student Minister: Elizabeth Amirault M. Div.
Musician: Robert Douglas
Wolfe Island United Church
March 29, 2020
(* indicates – standing, as able)
Welcome faithful ones. Know that you are in my thoughts and prayers every day. You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Welcome to our time of worship.
Lighting of the Christ Candle – If you have a candle available, please light it before you begin to read the service. Take a moment to centre yourself and feel the presence of all of us with you today. Though we are scattered like dry bones in the desert, we will be reunited through God’s breath, reanimated, made alive and new.
I wish the peace of Christ to be with all of you
And also with you.
* Hymn: “Morning Has Broken” VU 409
Call to Worship:
God is the Creator of Life and calls us out of our dark places, offering us the grace of new life.
When we see nothing but hopelessness, God surprises us with the breath of the spirit.
Come out from your complacency and routines, to be set free from our self-imposed bonds, and be filled with the spirit of life, compassion, and peace. Let us come to worship God.
Prayer of Approach:
Gracious, Living God, there are times when we feel dry and empty, like the dry bones Ezekiel saw in the valley. Breathe upon us, O God, and revitalize us, reanimate us, reawaken us, rekindle in us the fire of your Spirit, that we may share fully in the grace and the life you give. Amen.
* Hymn: “Breathe on me Breath of God” VU 382
First Testament: Ezekiel 37:1-14. New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
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 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 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: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude. 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.’ 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. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 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.
Gospel: John 11:17-45. New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.” 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.” And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 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. 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.”
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 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.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 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.” When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 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.”
Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him
* Hymn: “Spirit of the Living God” VU 376
Sermon: “When our Bones are Dry”
Let us pray. Dear God. In our darkness, be our light. In our sorrow, be our joy. In our unrest, be our comfort. And in all we hear and see, bring us nearer to you. Amen.
Well I have to say that it has not been a good week for me. I think I am feeling the tension of being home every day and of not knowing what the future holds for us all. It is difficult to pull myself away from the daily updates of the Federal and Provincial governments, especially when we are informed that our neighbours to the south had considering bringing the military to just south of our border to stop Canada from spreading COVID-19???? I must say that was a strange decision since New York City is currently showing the most increases in cases, much more than our entire country…. Do you see what happens? My mind begins to swirl out of control and creates “pandemic” proportions of anxiety. No matter how many Facebook posts that say; “this too shall pass”, or “God is with us in this”, I find myself becoming jaded and asking, “how would you know”, “HOW DO YOU KNOW”. Where is God anyway?
I go grocery shopping once per week, I don’t need anything urgently, just supposed to get perishable items. I get into the store and I find myself wondering if I should buy one or two of things, if I buy this, I will need that to go with it. Before I know it, I have double, maybe even tripled, the amount of stuff I had intended to buy and not sure where I will store it. I truly am not trying to hoard! I don’t have any idea how long this will go on; I don’t want to go to the store more than once per week. Pandemic proportions of anxiety. I drive home feeling lonely, wanting to cry, I ask God, “Where are you in this? Are you here? How do I know?”
My husband Paul has a number of underlying health conditions. To this, his physician called and said to Paul that he should stay home, and if his work suggested he go in, to call the Doctor and he would be excused as it is not safe for Paul. That provides me with fear and dread. If I bring it home to him, oh my! Pandemic proportions of anxiety. Where is God in this?
I think I could truly say that I can relate to the people of Israel when they say, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.” It feels as though my bones are dry, scorched in the dry of the desert. I truly feel cut off completely, even though I receive phone calls and emails and Facebook posts every day. What would it take to bring me back to life? To provide some animation to my lifeless body, to restore some hope that God is with us.
For much of my adult life I have been able to relate to Martha of the Gospels. I prefer John’s version of Martha in the story we heard today of Jesus arriving at the house of Lazarus. I especially like this story since I learned that John uses Martha’s belief in Jesus in the same way that the other Gospel writers use Peter as the rock upon which Jesus builds his church. Think about the audacity that Martha brings to this exchange; “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” If you had only been here. Where were you? Where are you, are you still with us God?
The trust that Martha shows in Jesus, “Do you believe this?” she is asked. “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world” is her answer. I share the belief in Jesus that she does. I also share in the chastisement of “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things” that we find in Luke’s Gospel. Feeling as though my worries and my busy-ness are not valued in our Christian faith. The better way?
For those of us who are “Marthas”, we are wired to control things, to take charge and get things done. We are those people, yes men can be Marthas too, who worry about others, who practice Christian hospitality, who connect, who shop for, who pray for, who like to work behind the scenes to bring organization to the chaos. Even in her belief that Jesus has the power of God to raise her brother Lazarus from the dead, she still was thinking about the practical for she says; “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” No wonder we Marthas are having a tough time right now. Yes Elizabeth, you are worried and troubled about many things. Mary has chosen the better way…but if it weren’t for me, she wouldn’t have a worship service to read today. 😊
It is hard to hear God’s voice during panic. In this pandemic proportioned anxiety, I feel as though my brain is a frozen block of ice. I need space and time away from this non-stop news of death and illness. With my rattling dry bones, I join Paul to go for a drive. In the safe seclusion of our car, we drive northward, into nature, into solitude. We don’t get out of the car, but we do open the sunroof. I think about the wind, the breath of God that put life into the dry bones of the people of Israel. All around me are the same homes, water, trees that I have seen thousands of times when we have passed this way. Some normalcy, something familiar. “Breathe on me, breath of God, fill me with life anew.” That is what is circling in my head. I can feel my brain thawing, moving with new ideas. As we drive, I use the time to find focus for my mind so that I can finish this sermon.
I am reminded that in the scripture we read that Jesus cried, he was so moved by the loss felt around the death of Lazarus and he cried. It shocked the people who had followed he and Mary to the tomb. He cried, he felt sadness, he was distressed. I feel sadness and distress. I feel the fear of the healthcare workers, the grocery store staff. “Breathe on me, breath of God, fill me with life anew.” Are you here God?
One thing I am sure about is that words have the power to bring us back together as one people. When I wind down from my pandemic proportions of anxiety, I remember that in the midst of all of this chaos and unknown, people are coming together. Where is God in this? I see God in the people who send a message or a phone call to say, “I am going into town, do you need anything?” When our new neighbour is without a battery for her Blood Glucose Meter, we are happy to bring one to her door, knock, and stand down the hall to say hello and wish her well. She was happy to receive the battery, a small thing but happy to be connected. It was like God breathed into us all, gave us meaning, animated us.
Ezekiel was speaking with God, his trust in God and his courage to follow God to the desolate place in that desert, like Martha with her courage of faith. These scriptures remind us that when God speaks, it is to set people free, restoring light, and bringing life back to long-dead places. When God speaks to us, God breaths into us a new life, like the one God breathed into us at our birth. In Ecclesiastes 11:7, after we have been told that to everything there is a season, and that all things come to an end and return to dust, that breath returns to God. Nothing is ever lost, just changed.
In March of 2011, I watched a program called “Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie.” Suzuki was giving a speech that was intermixed with stories from his life. In one part of the speech he concentrated on the air we breathe, and its chemical make-up . One element he spoke of was Argon gas, an inert gas this is breathed into of our bodies but not use by our bodies so is released int its original form to be breathed in by the next person and released again fully intact. Suzuki went on to say that there was a possibility that the Argon gas we are breathing today right now, wherever you are, could be one of the same particles that was breathed by Jesus! So, God’s breath is the same now as it was at the beginning of time. But in this age of COVID-19, make sure you go outside, away from others, before you take a deep breath in of God!
So where is God in all of this? When I cry like Jesus did at the loss and distress. Where is God in this when my unanimated bones lay rattling in the desert sun? Where is God that we must stay indoors, away from loved ones? Well, if we believe David Suzuki, and I sure do, then God is in the air we breathe.
Listen, because like Ezekiel, God will call us. God will breathe into us and will fill us with life again. God will remind us that we are God’s and that nothing ever goes away, it just changes. God will wipe away our tears when we cry, melt our frozen brain when we are in panic and love our Marthaness when we need to get things done. When you listen for God’s voice speaking into your life, it is likely telling you that thing you most long to hear. You are not alone. I am with you, always.
May those who have ears, hear the word of God. Amen.
* Sharing God’s Blessings: VU 543
Please consider providing your offering by dropping a cheque in the mailbox of Doreen Joslin, leaving a cheque at Fargo’s store with “Wolfe Island United Church are of Doreen Joslin” on the envelope or sending an e-transfer to email@example.com. Thank you.
* Offertory Prayer:
Ezekiel saw a vision of new life transforming death. Take these gifts, O God—bits of lifeless metal and dead paper—and transform them for your life-giving work in the world. Bless us with the same kind of transformation, that we may become your hands and feet for new life in this world. Amen.
Sung Prayer: “Lord, Listen to Your Children” VU 400
The Prayers of The People and the Lord’s Prayer:
Gracious God, God of all compassion and consolation,
your breath alone brings life to dry bones and weary souls.
Pour out your Spirit upon us, that we may face despair and death with the hope of resurrection and faith in you.
Help us to dance with the spirit, the breath of life, which calls us out of the valley of dry bones and into the Kingdom of God, both a present reality and the grounding of our future hope.
Our loving parent, and loving parent to Jesus our brother.
You revealed a way of life, inscribe your law on our hearts that in this life, we may be your body here on earth.
Help our hands to hold the sick and suffering.
Help our feet to walk with the poor.
Help our ears to listen to those who live in despair. May our eyes be affixed upon the suffering of the cross and the hope of the empty tomb so that we may live as Easter people.
Gracious and compassionate God, through the power of the Spirit,
you know our faults and yet you promise to forgive.
Keep us in your presence and give us your wisdom.
Open our hearts to gladness, call dry bones to dance, and restore to us the joy of your salvation.
Like Jesus we say “Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me.”
Hear us as we offer to you our prayers from the deepest reaches of our being. (silence)
We know our prayers are answered and your love for us knows no end.
We continue to pray that prayer that Jesus taught his disciples and us to pray saying,
Our Father, who art in heaven….
* Hymn: “Spirit, Spirit of Gentleness” VU 375
* Commissioning & Benediction.
When your bones feel dry and lifeless, call on God to breathe new life into you.
When you are drawn to tears by the cruelty of the world, know the Jesus understands your sadness and cries with you.
When you hear God’s voice calling you to bring near the scattered of us, go and do it with courage and be blessing, by the Parent God who gives you life, our brother Jesus who guides your footsteps and the Holy Spirit who envelops you into the loving care of God. Amen.
* Choral Blessing: (inside front cover of Voices United)
Scripture Selections for Palm Sunday, April 5, 2020
Psalm 118: 1-2, 19-29
Sermon: “Hosanna – on a donkey?”
If you need to contact Elizabeth Amirault you can call her cell phone at (343) 363-0754. Her email address is Minister.WIUC@cogeco.ca.
Due to concerns around the spread of the COVID-19 virus and the instruction from Public Health Officials with reference to “flattening the curve”, Wolfe Island United Church has chosen to cancel worship services indefinitely. We will keep you updated as to when we will be meeting again in person.
Worship will be posted on the Wolfe Island United Church website after 9:30 each Sunday morning.
Join us at: https://wiuc.ca/