Acknowledging the Territory
As we continue to remember our history and our relationship with our indigenous brothers and sisters then and now, let us take a moment to recognize that land upon which we gather is, by law, the unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people. We offer our gratitude for this land and we ask the Creator to help us use and share it wisely.
Lighting the Christ Candle
As we light our Christ candle this morning, we open our hearts and our lives to the light of Christ. And we commit ourselves to allow that light shine through us in all that we do.
Call to Worship
Are you awake? Are you ready? Are you excited?
What are we waiting for? What are we excited about?
I don’t know. But God knows.
Sometimes it hard to be excited when we don’t know what we are waiting for.
God challenges us to wait in hope, trusting that wonderful things lie ahead.
Sometimes it is hard to trust and believe.
In worship we seek to increase our faith and renew our trust in God. So, are you ready?
Yes, we are ready to worship God.
Opening Prayer (in unison) * based on a prayer written by John van de Laar
You call us to wait on You, Lord, but we sometimes get tired of waiting. Your call us to serve You, and to help build a better tomorrow, but sometimes it all seem to take so long. You tell us to watch for Your coming, but we’re not sure how to prepare or what to prepare for. Yet, when we stop and truly listen, something inside whispers that You’re not all that hard to find, that you are already with us and that both the waiting and the watching, are more about being open to You now, than about trying not to be surprised in the future. And so we will keep waiting, and we’ll try to stay alert, so that we can catch those glimpses of You that fill our day with hope and promise. Amen.
Gift of Music Sleepers, Awake #711
Psalm 37:1-8, 39-40
Psalm 37 reminds us that we don’t need to worry about the wrongs that other people do. Instead, we need to trust God and do what is right, believing that, in the end, God will provide what we need
Matthew tells the parable of a group of 10 bridesmaids, 5 of whom wisely brought with them extra oil for their lamps and 5 who did not.
If The Glass Slipper Fits, Wear It
Nearly 8 years passed between the release of Bambi and Disney’s next full-length animated feature, Cinderella. The story itself is ancient, although the Disney version is based on the 1697 story written by Charles Parrault who added a fairy godmother, a pumpkin coach and a glass slipper. The tale on which Parrault based his story dates back through several versions to an ancient Chinese fable from somewhere between 60 and 850 CE. If the most ancient dating is correct, the basis of this story is as old as the gospels themselves.
In the movie version, Cinderella is a young girl whose wealthy, widowed father decides to remarry in order to provide Cinderella with a mother. Unfortunately, the father dies shortly afterwards and Cinderella’s step-mother shows her true nature when she reduces Cinderella to the status of a kitchen maid and forces here to wait hand-and-foot on her own two spoiled daughters.
Cinderella’s only friends are the animals including a dog name Bruno, a horse named Major and a group of mice that live in the mansion. Her nemeses, other than her step-mother and step-sisters, is a cat named Lucifer who seem determined to get Cinderella and her animal friend into trouble.
Word reaches the household that the king of the land has decided to throw a magnificent ball in order to find a wife for his son. Every eligible maiden in the land is invited to attend. When a hopefully Cinderella asks if she too may go to the ball, her step-mother slyly replies that she may go if she gets all her chores done and if she can find something presentable to wear.
Cinderella excitedly searches through an old trunk and digs out a dress that belonged to her own mother. With a few alterations she is certain she can make it appropriate for the ball. But no sooner does she start to work on it than she is summoned by her step-mother to attend to a long and exhaustive list of chores. By the time she is finished, her step-mother and step-sisters are dressed and ready to leave and Cinderella has had no chance to alter the old dress.
What Cinderella does not know is that her animal friends, realizing what has happened, have taken on the task of refashioning the gown using scraps of ribbons and lace discarded by the step-sisters. Overjoyed with the beautiful results, Cinderella dons the gown and rushes downstairs to join the others. However, the step-sister, recognizing the bits of discarded fabric as their own, tear the dress to shreds, reclaiming what they had thrown away as useless.
Left standing alone in tattered rags as the others leave for the ball, Cinderella runs out into the garden where she bursts into tears. It is then that her fairy godmother appears. She magically transforms a pumpkin into a coach, the mice into horses and the horse and dog into coachman and footman. But the pièce de résistance is the beautiful gown that the fairy godmother produces, complete with glass slippers. Cinderella is warned however that, when the clock strikes twelve, the magic will end and everything will return to what it once was.
How quickly fortunes change. One day Cinderella is the pride and joy of a loving father and the next she is the abused kitchen maid of her cruel step-mother. One moment she is standing in rags, weeping bitterly, and the next she is on her way to a great ball looking more magnificent than she could ever have imaged.
And it is here that we find the first lesson that we can learn from the movie Cinderella. Life is unpredictable and the fates are often fickle. We can never quite know what is going to happen next.
This same lesson is pointed out in Matthew’s story of the 10 bridesmaids. The tradition of the time would have been that the unmarried women of the village would go out carrying lanterns to great the bridegroom and light his way to the wedding feast which would be held at the home of the bride. In the story 10 young women excitedly prepared for their role but, for some reason we are never told, the bridegroom is delayed. As they wait, the girls fall asleep. When they hear the shouts that the bridegroom is approaching, they get up, only to discover that their lanterns have gone out.
No one could have predicted that the bridegroom would be late. No one could have predicted that all ten bridesmaids would fall asleep. And no one could have predicted that the delay would have been so long that their lamps would be burned out. The truth is that life is unpredictable and we never know what is going to happen next.
But the story of Cinderella does not end with her arriving at the ball. From the moment she enters the room, the prince is captivated. He dances every dance with her and the beaming king is certain his plan has worked. But then the clock strikes twelve and Cinderella remember her fairy godmother’s warning, she rushes from the castle just as her dress turns back to rags, her coach disappears and her animal friends return to their original shape.
But in her rush to escape before everyone witnesses the transformation, one of Cinderella’s glass slippers, falls from her foot. And here another unexpected twist happens. The glass slipper, along with its mate, which Cinderella now holds in her hands, is not transformed on the stroke of midnight. The glass slippers remain as they have appeared, beautiful and precious.
The prince retrieves the lost slipper and when no trace of its beautiful owner is found, the grand duke is ordered to take the slipper and search the entire land until the girl whose foot fits the slipper is found. Word goes out throughout the kingdom that the girl who can fit into the glass slipper will marry the prince.
The grad duke eventually makes his way to the home of Cinderella where the two step sisters try desperately to cram their feet into the tiny slipper. But nothing they do works. The slipper is simply not theirs to wear.
In a similar way, the bridesmaids who wake from sleep to find their lamps empty, desperately try to borrow oil from those who have brought extra with them. But there is not enough oil to go around. Those who have not brought extra with them are forced to go and try to buy oil elsewhere. By the time they return, it is too late. The doors to the wedding feast are closed and they have lost their chance.
And here we see the second lesson from Cinderella. There are some things that simply cannot be borrowed from someone else. There are some things we simply have to provide for ourselves. We cannot wear a slipper that belongs to Cinderella and we cannot claim oil that belongs to another.
We may be able to borrow someone else’s possessions, but we cannot borrow their artistic abilities of their talent for sports, or writing or technology. Although we may be inspired by their positive attitude towards life, we cannot borrow that attitude or the personality traits that have caused them to develop such an attitude. We each have our own talents, personalities, and attitudes that cannot be borrowed or loaned.
As the grand duke prepares to leave the house, having been assured that there are no other young women living there, Cinderella, who has been set free from the locked attic by her animal friend, appears on the steps. She asks if she too might be allowed to try on the slipper. But before the duke can proceed, Cinderella’s step-mother trips the man who is carrying the slipper and it falls to the floor and shatters. All seems lost, until Cinderella quietly reaches into her pocket and hold up the other slipper.
And here is the third lesson we learn. We should always be prepared for the best. This is something of a switch from what we are normally taught. Usually, we are urged to be prepared for the worst. The insurance industry thrives on just such advise. And even the most peaceful countries, in the most stable of times, spend billions on national defense.
The problem with spending so much time saving, preparing and bracing ourselves for a rainy day, is that we can easily lose sight of the beauty of the sunshine. When we concentrate so hard on the bad things that could happen, we often fail to see the good things that are happening.
If Cinderella had gone off to the royal ball focused on the fact that it would all be over at midnight, she would never have been the kind of companion that would so enchant the prince. If she had focused on the slipper she had lost, rather than treasuring the one she still had, Cinderella would never have been able to produce it and thus become the princess she was meant to be. Similarly, if five of the bridesmaids had not been wise enough to bring extra oil with them, they, like the five foolish bridesmaids, would have missed out on the wedding feast.
God has given us the gift of life, not so that we can prepare for the worst, but so that we can hope and prepare for the best. To have faith in God is to trust in God’s ultimate promise of love and joy.
In his book, A Gentle Thunder, Max Lucado tells the story of an incident that happened in Walt Disney World in Florida. A crowd was gathered inside Cinderella’s Castle as the beautiful young women playing the role of Cinderella passed by. Among the crowd was a young boy whose face was badly disfigured. He stood there holding his brother’s hand. As he watched Cinderella approach the look on his face was one of excitement and joy. Just as she reached that point in the crowd, Cinderella noticed him. She made her way through the crowd to where the boy stood and gently knelt down and kissed his cheek.
We never know what will happen next. We never know what wonderful things may be waiting for us just around the corner. All God asks of us is that we be prepared, whatever the time or circumstance, to gratefully and joyously receive the amazing gifts of grace and love that await us, often when we least expect them. Amen.
Gift of Music Faith While Trees are Still in Blossom #643
We Offer Our Gifts
At this time in our worship, we are reminded that our commitment to God also includes the gifts we offer. We may offer our gifts by placing them on our offering plates, by giving through PAR or through other ways of making donations. But, as always, we need to remember that our financial contributions are only one of the many things that we have to offer. We offer our time, our talents, our abilities, our commitments and our prayers. And so, whatever it is we offer today, let us ask God’s blessing upon it.
Let us pray;
Loving God, as your spirit has continued to touch and bless people throughout history, bless the gifts that we offer you today that through your spirit they may become a blessing to others. Amen.
We Offer Our Prayers
And now, let us take a moment to remember all those named in our prayer jar, in our hearts and our thoughts this day … Amen.
Minute for Mission
Prayers of the People
Compassionate Spirit of God. We sometimes forget how fortunate we are and how many blessings we have received. Sometimes we focus so much on what we don’t have and what we hope for that we forget to appreciate what we do have.
We have peace and security in a world that is often torn apart by conflict and war, where many people live in constant fear and where violence and war are the day-to-day reality …
We have plenty to eat and safe, clean water to drink while many people die each day from starvation and malnutrition and where one out of every 10 people does not have access to clean water …
We have stability and a certain comfort with our future while many live in fear and uncertainty as they wait in transit camps behind barbed wire, waiting for the hope of a new live far from their places of birth. Even when they find a new home as refugees, many find resentment and discrimination make even that feel insecure …
We think of those who face violence and abuse at the hands of gangs, of police and other authorities, or even at the hand of intimate family members with whom they should feel safe …
We think of those who have been deserted or betrayed and find themselves alone struggling to know who to trust or where to turn …
We think of those facing natural disasters, heat wave, fires, flood, hurricanes and tornadoes, earthquakes and landslides …
We think of those facing illness, death and sorrow, their own of that of someone they love …
We think of our own families and friends, some of them happy, healthy and comfortable, some of them struggling with difficult and complex issues and situations …
We think of your church here and around the world. We think of those places where people are still forced to meet in secret behind locked doors. We think of those places where the church is growing, overcrowding its buildings. We think of those places where congregations are struggling to simply maintain their presence in the midst of increasing costs and decreasing attendance …
Compassionate Spirit, in all the situations of our lives and our world, help us to hold on to the faith that, in you, there is always hope and the promise of amazing and wonderful possibilities if we are willing to believe, to trust and to work towards a better world for all. Amen.
Closing Hymn Give to the Wind Your Fears #636
So now, go out from here in hope, because who knows what wonderful things might just lay ahead of you. And go out knowing that God is with you, Christ leads the way and the Spirt walks with today and always. Amen.