Sunday April 3, 2022
Life and Work of our Church
Acknowledging the Territory
As we begin our worship, we once again acknowledge that the land upon which we live, work and worship is, by law, the unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people. We offer our deep gratitude for this land and we commit ourselves to live with respect upon it, seeking justice and equality for all.
Call to Worship
When asked if he was a king, Jesus responded, “My kingdom is not of this world”.
As we gather here today, we seek meaning beyond the kingdoms of this world.
We seek to understand the call of Christ for us to become part of his kingdom.
But the path is not easy and it demands great commitment.
That is why we gather together seeking to support one another on this journey.
That is why we gather together seeking Christ’s help and guidance.
And that is why we gather in worship.
During Advent we light candles each week as we prepare with joy and excitement to welcome the one born to bring God’s light into the world. During Lent we prepare ourselves with quiet contemplation for the day when that light was extinguished. The six purple candles represent the six weeks of Lent, while the white candle, our Christ Candle continues to burn reminding us who it is that we journey with during this season of Lent.
Service of Lenten Candles
Tree of Life and Awesome Mystery (General verse)
Light of life beyond conceiving
Mighty Spirit of our Lord;
Give new strength to our believing,
Give us faith to live your word,
Give us faith to live your word
Voice 1: There are times when feelings of hopelessness overtake all of us.
Voice 2: There are times we feel as dry and worn out as the dry bones of Ezekiel’s vision.
Voice 1: It is in these difficult times that we most need to reach out to ask God’s help and direction.
Voice 2: But reaching out is sometimes hard for us. It is not always easy for us to admit that we need help.
Voice 1: During this fifth week of Lent we strive to open ourselves to hear God speaking to us in the midst of the difficult times of our lives, and we strive to listen and respond.
Voice 1: We pray for God’s help to do so. (Fifth Candle is Extinguished)
Tree of Life and Awesome Mystery (5th Sunday of Lent)
God of all our fear and sorrow,
God who lives beyond our death;
Hold us close through each tomorrow,
Love as near as every breath,
Love as near as every breath.
Opening Prayer (in unison)
Divine Love, as we approach ever closer to the time when your love was demonstrated for us on a cross, we come to you, aware of how much there is in our world that is far from the ideal of your perfect kingdom. As we travel through the last few weeks of this Lenten Season, remind us once again that it is in this journey that we find our way not only to that cross, but beyond it to you. Open us to your presence and to your promise of love and hope, as we journey together as your people. Amen.
Gift of Music
So now that we are actually allowed to sing together, I am going to invite you, if you would like to do so, to stand as we sing together our first hymn
Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God #356
Scripture Reading John 18:12, 28-38a
Today we skip ahead in John’s Gospel to Jesus arrest and appearance before Pilate.
This is actually the reading that was recommended for last week, March 27th, but I have chosen to use it today because I think it is an important part of John’s story that we don’t always talk about. In this passage John challenges us with two questions. First, what does it mean when we talk about Jesus as king or about his ‘kingdom”? And second, is the question that Pilate asks Jesus, “what is truth?”
Then the Roman soldiers with their commanding officer and the Jewish guards arrested Jesus.
Early in the morning Jesus was taken from Caiaphas’ house to the governor’s palace. The Jewish authorities did not go inside the palace, for they wanted to keep themselves ritually clean, in order to be able to eat the Passover meal. So Pilate went outside to them and asked, “What do you accuse this man of?”
Their answer was, “We would not have brought him to you if he had not committed a crime.”
Pilate said to them, “Then you yourselves take him and try him according to your own law.”
They replied, “We are not allowed to put anyone to death.”
Pilate went back into the palace and called Jesus. “Are you the king of the Jews?” he asked him.
Jesus answered, “Does this question come from you or have others told you about me?”
Pilate replied, “Do you think I am a Jew? It was your own people and the chief priests who handed you over to me. What have you done?”
Jesus said, “My kingdom does not belong to this world; if my kingdom belonged to this world, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish authorities. No, my kingdom does not belong here!”
So Pilate asked him, “Are you a king, then?”
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. I was born and came into the world for this one purpose, to speak about the truth. Whoever belongs to the truth listens to me.”
“And what is truth?” Pilate asked.
What is Truth?
The idea of Jesus as “king” is one that we struggle with each year before the beginning of Advent when we recognize “Reign of Christ” or “Christ the King” Sunday. Kingship is not a concept that tends to hold a great deal of meaning for most people today in our democratic society. As a result, we often tend to talk about the kin-ship rather than kingship of Jesus and about the dominion rather than the kingdom of Christ.
But in the time when Jesus walked the earth, kingship and kingdoms had a very different meaning than they do today. When Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you a king?” what he was really asking was where Jesus’ authority to speak came from. If Jesus claimed to be “king of the Jews” it would mean that he claimed to speak on behalf of the Jews and that his authority came from the Jewish people.
It was not at all uncommon for someone of the time to announce that they were ‘king’ of a particular group or nation because of their influence within that group. But Jesus answer to the question is something that Pilate has absolutely no idea what to do with. “My kingdom does not belong to this world”.
If Jesus had no ‘kingdom’ within this world, then there was no political power or armed force ready to fight for him. In that case, he was no threat whatsoever to Pilate or to the Roman authorities. And yet, the Jewish temple authorities were obviously so concerned with his influence over the people, that they demand his death. It must have been obvious to Pilate that they were afraid of his power and influence, but where was that power base if he was not a ‘king’?
So, Pilate asks again, “Are you a king?” This time Jesus answer is even more obscure and confusing.
“I was born and came into the world for this one purpose, to speak about the truth. Whoever belongs to the truth listens to me.”
And this time Pilate asks, “What is truth?”
This seems like a rather strange response and it is not exactly 100% clear what Pilate means by it. Is ‘the truth’ as some people would claim. that Jesus himself is the one and only ‘truth’ that pointed towards God and that only by accepting him as the divine son of God could anyone hope to be ‘saved’.
But somehow Pilate’s question “What is truth?” seems even more poignant today than ever. The constant bombardment of our society by “fake news” and by political propaganda from around the world often causes us to ask, or at least should cause us to ask, “what is the truth?”
The reality is that truth is often obscured by political agendas, by strongly held and often differing opinions, or by family, cultural, religious or personal convictions that influence how a person sees and interprets truth. And we don’t need to look far to see examples of this.
The current war in Ukraine is perhaps the most obvious example right now. If you asked someone from Ukraine and someone from Russia the reason for the invasion, you would receive very different answers. Which one is the truth?
Recent election controversies in the United States are vivid examples of what can be achieved if ‘fake news’ is promoted often, loudly and with enough conviction. And we don’t even need to look beyond our own borders for examples of the power of misinformation. A number of people in our own country today continue to believe that COVICD-19 immunizations are a way for the government to implant monitoring chips into its citizens.
Given all of this disinformation, half-truths, fake news and political propaganda in our world today, is it any wonder that, like Pilate, many people today continue to ask, “What is truth?”
Although there are definitely proven facts in our world that we can say are absolutely true, the answer to the question “What is truth?” can often be said to depend on your perspective. This is why there are times when it is so difficult for different people or different governments or cultures, to agree on what the truth is.
But to claim that there is no truth is a dangerous assertion. If there is no truth, how can there be right or wrong? If there is no truth, how can people ever agree about anything? If there is no truth, what is to prevent people from simply saying or doing whatever they choose and claiming to have ‘truth’ on their side?
For Pilate, no matter how questions he asked Jesus, no matter how many times he asked if Jesus were indeed a king, there was no way he could ever understand Jesus’ answer, especially when Jesus seemed to answer each question with a question of his own. Pilate could not understand because his truth was not the same as Jesus’ truth.
Pilate was looking at the world through military eyes. He had come to Jerusalem that week as a show of military force hoping to deter any protests against the Roman government that might arise during the Passover Festival when the city would be crowded with visitors from all over. When Pilate thought about ‘kingship’, authority and power, he saw these things only from the perspective of military strength. Therefore, he could not understand Jesus’ perspective.
Jesus’ truth was not a political or military force. Jesus’ truth was not an ideology that needed to be explained and supported with facts or with a show of force. Jesus’ truth was and is, a lived reality, a way of being that is not factual but relational. Jesus’ truth was an expression of love, lived out in actions.
This truth, Jesus’ truth, can be known only through relationship. It cannot be explained in words or supported with physical facts or evidence. It is revealed only through relationship and for us, as Christians, this relationship is revealed to us through Christ’s loving relationship with God.
This truth is not of this world. This truth is not something that can be explained using the realities of this world. It is a truth that can only be experience and understood through the reality of living in loving relationship with God through our faith in the example demonstrated for us in Jesus the Christ.
“What is truth?” Perhaps there is no way for us as Christians to answer this question other than through our actions. But if we live our lives in loving relationship with God trying at all times to put that love into action, then perhaps that is the best answer we can give.
There is a wonderful reading I came across recently which is titled What is Truth. I’m sorry I can’t tell you who wrote it, but this is what it says;
“What is truth?” Pilate stared at the tired Galilean Jew in front of him.
Jesus was silent.
Pilate’s eyes widened. “What is truth?” he repeated, more firmly.
Jesus didn’t blink. Or speak.
There were no words to reply.
Jesus was answering the question. Simply by being.
The sheer fact of his existence,
his embodiment of all that is Holy, answered the question.
The truth is never in words. It was always, is always the Word.
The truth is the person, the person named Jesus,
the person we understand to be the Christ.
He is the way, the life, and the truth. There is no other Truth.
This Truth, this person, promised we would encounter him in others.
In the hungry.
In the sick.
In the lonely.
In the imprisoned.
In the thirsty.
In the outcasts.
The Truth is in them. Amen.
Gift of Music Let us stand as we sing – My Song is Love Unknown #143
We Offer Our Gifts
As we offer God our thanks for all that God offers us, let us take a moment to offer back to God our gifts as well as our thanks. These gifts may be the financial contributions we make to our church through envelopes, through PAR or through online donations, or they may be the gifts of our time and our talent, given in service to others. Whatever it is we offer today, let us ask God to bless it.
Let us pray;
Loving God, we thank you for the many gifts and blessings that we have received and we ask that your spirit to bless the gifts we offer today. Amen.
We Offer Our Prayers
Each week we take time to offer our own silent prayers, prayers for the people in our lives that we are concerned about or who are particularly close to our thoughts. We also offer our prayers for the situation both personal and global, that cause us concern. So as we take a moment of silence now, let us remember not only our own personal worries and concerns but the concerns of our wider world and the wellbeing of all God’s creation.
Minute for Mission
Prayers of the People
Divine Love, Jesus came proclaiming the truth of your love, your peace and your justice. But those in power refused to listen. May we, as your church in the world today, listen and respond. Help us to work to make governments more aware of their responsibilities to those under their authority, whatever of their economic standing, their ethnicity, their gender identity, and regardless of their political or religious beliefs. We pray, that by our words, prayers and actions, we too may proclaim your kingdom of love, justice and peace. Help us to follow Jesus’ example, so that in all our relationships with others, something of his love may be seen and something of his nature may be understood …
Jesus taught, not just by his words but by his actions. May we, as your church, demonstrate for others by our witness and by our example, an alternative way of life, a way of life based on love and truth, rather than selfishness and complacency. Help us to keep a clear view of your goodness, so that our lives may reflect the values of our faith and not the values of the society around us …
Jesus fed the hungry, healed the sick, comforted the lonely and sad and cared for all those in need. May we, as your church, never forget our own responsibility to others. May we do all in our power to care for those in need no matter who or where they are and may we never stop fighting for the just and fair treatment of all of your wondrous creation …
Jesus came to challenge the religious people of his day. May we, the church, always be ready to challenge our own attitudes and traditions in the name of love. Help our church to become a place of healing where the anxious and depressed, the sick and bereaved and those who feel alone and worthless, may find acceptance and love. Help us to never fail in our calling to speak out against injustice and to live as a reflection of your love for all. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
Gift of Music Jesus Shall Reign #330
Go out from here now to live the love of Christ. Go out to show the world an example of all that we can be, through the love of God. Go out from here carrying the Spirit of love with you in all you do. And go knowing that wherever you go and whatever you do you are not alone. Go with God.