The Life and Work of Our Church
Please remember in your prayers this week all those named in our prayer jar.
Rev. Sharon will be on vacation from August 24th to August 30th and on Study Leave from Aug 31st to September 7th. For Sunday, August 30th and Sunday, September 7th we will be offering the recorded services prepared by UCC East for use during the summer. These services will be available online but will also be offered by PowerPoint for those who would rather gather to watch together.
Beacon United Church has purchased an Automatic External Defibrillator for emergency use within our facility. We are hoping to get as many people as possible trained in the use of the AED. It is a very simple procedure that anyone can do and there is no cost for this training. We will be scheduling a training demonstration once we know how many people are interested in it. If you are willing to attend the demonstration, please contact Shelley Melanson at email@example.com
Last Sunday we had 7 people who stayed behind after the service to look at new ways of doing some fund-raising this fall in the midst of social distancing. We will be gathering again after worship today for about 5 minutes. Everyone is welcome to join us.
United Church Appeal for the Devastation in Lebanon
The tragic explosion in Beirut on August 4 caused immense destruction, and the death toll continues to rise. You can help those affected by donating to our appeal. Your donations will be matched by the Canadian government until August 24, 2020.
The United Church of Canada has been in contact with our Mission & Service partners in the region about how best to respond to this tragedy. Please continue to pray for the injured and those who have lost their lives, as well as the families, communities, and first responders to the disaster.
Phone 416-231-5931 or toll-free 1-800-268-3781 ext. 2738 and use your Visa or MasterCard.
Send a cheque, money order, or Visa or MasterCard information with donation amount to: The United Church of Canada
Philanthropy Unit – Emergency Response
3250 Bloor Street West, Suite 200
Toronto, ON M8X 2Y4
Please be sure to note “Emergency Response—Lebanon” on the face of your cheque.
Note: As part of the United Church’s Emergency Response Fund, 100% of your donation goes directly to emergency relief with 85% of your donation responding to this designated emergency and 15% responding to future emergencies that do not receive intense media coverage. Donations to Mission & Service enable the United Church to cover all of the costs of emergency response work without deducting any fees from your donation.
You can also donate through Beacon United by using your regular envelopes and marking on them “Emergency Response—Lebanon”.
Lighting the Christ Candle
As we light our Christ Candle this morning, let us remember that the light of Christ is not limited to one space or one gathering. The light of Christ is with us everywhere. So as we light our candle this morning, let us remember that we have been called and challenged to not only recognize Christ’s light wherever it shines but to take that light out with us wherever we go.
Acknowledgment of Territory
Wherever we are in this wonderful province of Nova Scotia, we are reminded that we still gather on lands that are, by law, the unseeded territories of the Mi’kmaq people. We gratefully and respectfully acknowledge this. We also respectfully honour their traditions and spirituality along with the spirituality and traditions of the Métis people with whom we also share this land.
Call to Worship
There are times when it can be easy for us to see the Divine in the peaceful smiling faces of those who love us and those who inspire us. But sometimes we need to look much harder to see the Divine in the tortured face of human poverty, of slavery, of abuse, of pain and of suffering. It can be harder still to see the Divine in the faces of those who wield power and wealth at the expense of others. But we know that the Divine is with us everywhere, in every place and time, in every face and every story. We gather in worship seeking to encounter the Divine in the stories and in the faces we meet today.
Let us pray;
There are times. Divine Guide, when we get so caught up in our own problems and worries that we fail to see the potential that could be there just below the surface. There are times we have been too preoccupied to be willing to risk wading into the bulrushes to receive the gifts you’ve placed there alongside and among our struggles. The truth is, we do not always recognize the baby in the basket, the blessing that can arrive at the most unexpected time in the most unexpected way. Help us to open ourselves to the new possibilities that you offer each one of us each new day and guide us to reach out in faith to embrace your unexpected grace. Amen.
Theme Conversation/Current Events
What is the most surprising thing you have found when you least expected it? Oh, come on! Somebody must have a story of finding something unusual!
Many years ago a friend talked me into going with her to see a psychic. It was actually very amusing. She told me that I would win some money in the lottery, which was very interesting since I do not buy lottery tickets. She also told me I would have 4 children. Then she told me I would find a key. It wouldn’t unlock anything, but it would bring me good luck if I kept it. Years later, when I was doing some renovations on my house I was tearing up some carpet when, between 2 layers of carpet, I found a key!
We ended our readings last week with the people of Israel settling in Egypt. Today we begin the story of the Exodus. The descendants of Jacob, or Israel as he became known, are now referred to as the Israelite people. They had grown so numerous and powerful that the Egyptians began to worry that they might try to take over. The Israelites were therefore made slaves in Egypt where they remain until they were eventually led out of slavery by Moses. Our scripture reading today takes us as far as the story of Moses being adopted by the pharaoh’s daughter and raised in the pharaoh’s palace. However, we need to remember that although this story follows immediately after the stories of Joseph in the Bible, it was actually over 400 years between the time that Joseph brought his family to live in Egypt and the time Moses eventually led the Israelites to freedom.
In the course of time Joseph, his brothers, and all the rest of that generation died, but their descendants, the Israelites, had many children and became so numerous and strong that Egypt was filled with them.
Then, a new king, who knew nothing about Joseph, came to power in Egypt. He said to his people, “These Israelites are so numerous and strong that they are a threat to us. In case of war, they might join our enemies in order to fight against us and might escape from the country. We must find some way to keep them from becoming even more numerous.” So the Egyptians put slave drivers over them to crush their spirits with hard labor. The Israelites built the cities of Pithom and Rameses to serve as supply centers for the king. But the more the Egyptians oppressed the Israelites, the more they increased in number, and the farther they spread through the land. The Egyptians came to fear the Israelites and made their lives miserable by forcing them into cruel slavery. They made them work on their building projects and in their fields, and they had no pity on them.
Then the king of Egypt spoke to Shiphrah and Puah, the two midwives who helped the Hebrew women. “When you help the Hebrew women give birth,” he said to them, “kill the baby if it is a boy; but if it is a girl, let it live.” But the midwives were God-fearing and so did not obey the king; instead, they let the boys live. So the king sent for the midwives and asked them, “Why are you doing this? Why are you letting the boys live?”
They answered, “The Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they give birth easily, and their babies are born before either of us gets there.” Because the midwives were God-fearing, God was good to them and gave them families of their own.
And the Israelites continued to increase and become strong. Finally, the king issued a command to all his people: “Take every newborn Hebrew boy and throw him into the Nile, but let all the girls live.”
During this time a man from the tribe of Levi married a woman of his own tribe, and she bore him a son. When she saw what a fine baby he was, she hid him for three months. But when she could not hide him any longer, she took a basket made of reeds and covered it with tar to make it watertight. She put the baby in it and then placed it in the tall grass at the edge of the river. The baby’s sister stood some distance away to see what would happen to him.
The king’s daughter came down to the river to bathe, while her servants walked along the bank. Suddenly she noticed the basket in the tall grass and sent a slave woman to get it. The princess opened it and saw a baby boy. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.
Then his sister asked her, “Shall I go and call a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby for you?”
“Please do,” she answered. So the girl went and brought the baby’s own mother. The princess told the woman, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So she took the baby and nursed him. Later, when the child was old enough, she took him to the king’s daughter, who adopted him as her own son. She said to herself, “I pulled him out of the water, and so I name him Moses.”
Hope in Unexpected Places
The story of Pharaoh’s daughter finding a baby in a basket is one of the stories that most Sunday School children love to hear. They imagine themselves wading into a river and finding something totally unexpected. Or they imagine themselves being found by a princess and being raised in a palace. It is a story full of imagination and possibilities. But the reality is that this is not a happy story either in how it begins or in how it ends.
We actually know virtually nothing about Pharaoh’s daughter. The passage telling of the rescue of Moses is the only time she is ever mentioned in scripture. Hebrew tradition gives her a name and says she later converted to Judaism and married a Jewish man with whom she had other children, but there is no biblical evidence for this tradition, so we are left to simply speculate on who she was and why she, the daughter of the man who had ordered all Hebrew baby boys killed, would save this Hebrew baby boy whom she would later name Moses.
This is a story that is full of surprises, plot twists, and unexpected events which change the entire direction that the story takes. But the plot twists do not begin with the birth of Moses. They go back as far as the entire story of the Israelite people. In fact, they go all the way back to Abraham and his decision to leave his homeland and follow God’s call, even though he had no idea where he was going. The story of Joseph tells how the Israelites ended up becoming slaves in Egypt in the first place. It is the twists and turns, and the unexpected events and encounters in Joseph’s life that lead up the story of Moses.
We are told that when Joseph’s brothers had thrown him into the dry to die, “they suddenly saw a group of Ishmaelites traveling from Gilead to Egypt.” What would have happened to our story if that band of travelers had no appeared, or if Joseph’s brothers hadn’t happened to see them while they were sitting around eating lunch?
And if Joseph had not been wrongly jailed, he would not have encountered the wine steward who told Pharaoh about his ability to interpret dreams. If the famine that hit Egypt had not affected Canaan as well, Joseph’s brothers would never have had to come to Egypt, and the Israelites would never have become slaves there in the first place!
So the Israelites settled in Egypt and become very wealthy, prosperous, and numerous, and the new Pharaoh began to see them as a threat. Their wealth was confiscated and they were forced into slavery. This is when another unexpected thing happened. Despite their enslavement and the cruelty of their treatment by the Egyptians, the Israelites continued to not only survive, but they also continued to grow even more numerous. This was a plot twist that the Pharaoh could never have foreseen! Working the Israelites to death as slaves should have decreased their numbers. Instead, they grew.
So Pharaoh had to come up with another plan. He told the two midwives who cared for the Hebrew women that they were to kill every Hebrew baby boy that was born. Traditionally it has often been assumed that these two women were slaves themselves. But if this were true, why would Pharaoh believe they would kill their own people?
It seems much more likely that these midwives were Egyptians. As such they should have been just as concerned with the rising number of slaves as Pharaoh himself was. Logically, as loyal Egyptian subjects, they should have had no problem carrying out the Pharaoh’s order. It was after all, for the good of their country. Yet that is not what happened. Hebrew baby boys continued to be born, and when Pharaoh confronted the women about it, they lied and told the Pharaoh that the Israelite women gave birth before the midwives even arrived. If these women had been slaves it is very unlikely that Pharaoh would have believed them. This is a huge plot twist that we often seem to overlook. Help comes to the Hebrew baby boys through the Egyptian women!
But Pharaoh could not afford to give up that easily. He issued a general order that every newborn Hebrew boy was to be taken to the Nile River and thrown in. Even if there were those who refused, there were certainly enough others who were more than willing to do the Pharaoh’s bidding.
It is into this reality that Moses is born. His mother, as I’m sure most Hebrew mothers of the time did, tried to hide him in order to protect him. She succeeded for a while, but when it became clear that she would not be able to hide him any longer, she made a very difficult and rather unusual decision. She placed the baby in a waterproofed basket and set him adrift in the river.
Perhaps she hoped the river would carry him away, out of Pharaoh’s reach. Perhaps she hoped she could hide him there and come and care for him when no one was watching. It is even possible that she hoped he would be found by a kind Egyptian who would care for him.
But whatever her hopes, it is very unlikely that she could have foreseen the outcome. The baby was rescued by the Pharaoh’s daughter, returned to his mother who was then paid to care for him until he was weaned. Because of the practices of the time, this could have been anywhere up to 3 years of age and was almost certainly at least a year. He was then returned to Pharaoh’s daughter where he would grow up as a privileged child of the palace.
So many twists and turns. So many unexpected surprises. So many people doing unexpected things. And all of them, found in places and situations where you might least expect them.
The thing is that not all these twists and turns that appeared to be good, were. If Joseph had realized that being given the best land in Egypt and being allowed to flourish and grow would have led to his descendants becoming slaves, he would almost certainly have moved his family back to Canaan as soon as the famine was over.
If the midwives had chosen to save only a few of the Hebrew baby boys instead of all of them, would Pharaoh have given the general order that they should all be killed? If the Pharaoh’s daughter had realized that the baby she rescued would eventually free the Hebrew slave, leaving her without the comforts she was used to, would she have still done it?
But there is a flip side of that coin as well. At least some of the truly horrible things that happened within this story ended up bringing about something good.
If the Pharaoh had not ordered the deaths of all the baby boys would the Israelites have been so ready to risk following Moses out into the uncertainty of the desert rather than remaining safe in Egypt? If Moses had not been taken from his people and raised in the palace, would he ever have risen to a position of being able to speak to the Pharaoh on their behalf?
None of us can ever really know where the twists and turns of life will take us. We cannot know if the unexpected good fortune that comes upon us will end up being a blessing or a curse. We cannot know if the hardships or difficulties we face will end up offering us an unexpected blessing.
During my first year at Queen’s Theological College money was extremely tight. Being a full-time student and a single mother was not easy. It was during that first year that the transmission on my car gave out. I had no money to fix it and no way to continue my studies without a car. It seemed like a pretty hopeless situation. Then, just when I was at the point of giving up, I got a letter in the mail telling me that I was receiving a financial bursary that I don’t even remember applying for. It was just enough to cover the repairs.
That event has become one of the greatest blessings of my time as a student. For me, it reaffirmed the path I was on and allowed me to let go of a great deal of the fear and perhaps even guilt that I felt for having placed my family into a situation where we were literally living way below the poverty line. Today that story continues to give me comfort and hope in those times when I feel most alone and vulnerable, most uncertain if I am where I should be in my life.
Now I am certainly not saying that we should feel grateful if things are difficult or if we are facing challenges and struggles in our lives. There are many times when things happen that cause us real pain and heartache that we simply can’t understand or explain.
But sometimes, maybe not always, but sometimes, in the middle the most difficult and trying times of our lives, in the middle of the challenges that seem too great to overcome, in the middle of the bulrushes that obscure the familiar shoreline, there just might be an unexpected blessing, waiting for us to risk wading into the water to find.
None of us knows the direction the twists and turns of life will take us, but the promise of our faith is that no matter where they may lead, the Divine Presence that is the very reason we gather here each week, will be with us. And perhaps that is the greatest blessing of all.
The Gift of Music
Prayer of Blessing (Gifts and Prayer Jar)
Just as we never know how the blessings and challenges we receive in our lives will affect us, we also don’t know how the gifts we offer others, whether those gifts are financial, physical, or emotional, will affect their lives.
And so as we think about the gifts we offer through our actions as well as through the donations we make, let us offer all our gifts to God. Let us pray;
Loving Source of all that is, for all the blessings in our lives we thank you. We thank you that you are with us not only in our blessings but also in our challenges. As we dedicate our offerings to you now, we ask that they will become a blessing to others, to our world, and to our church. Amen.
And let us take a moment now to offer our silent prayers for all those named in our prayer jar and all those in our thoughts, our minds, and our hearts … Amen.
Minute for Mission
Prayers of Gratitude and Concern
In love you created us and in love, you continue to walk beside us day after day. So it is with confidence that we bring our prayers to you, trusting that you hear us. We offer our prayers for the world around us.
We pray for those who find themselves in bondage: those forced into slavery or prostitution … those oppressed by governments or economic systems … those enslaved by personal addictions.
We pray for those who struggle to raise their children in the midst of violence or poverty; those who can only stand by and watch as their sons or daughters die from starvation or malnutrition, from preventable disease, or from gang violence.
We pray for those who refuse to participate in violence or injustice, who have the courage to stand up for what they know is right, regardless of the personal cost or consequences.
We also pray for those who oppress others, who are unable to break free from cycles of violence and anger, who are no longer able to empathize with their victims. We pray for their healing.
We pray for all who suffer this day, whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually.
May your Divine Presence surround and sustain each one of them, so that they may know your love and comfort.
Finally, Divine One, we pray for ourselves and for those dearest to us. Break down the barriers that divide us from one another. Grant us compassion and humility in our relationships. Open our hearts and grant us the courage to live fully using all the gifts you have given us so that in us and through us, Your Divine Presence might be renewed and shared. Amen.
The Gift of Music
Who knows what challenges and surprises await you when you walk out those doors? But don’t worry about it. Because where ever you go and whatever challenges you face, you are not alone. The Divine One is with you always, the Christ has walked the path before you show you the way, and the Spirit walks with you and within you now and always. So go in the peace and love of our Divine Creator. Amen.