Acknowledging the Territory
As we gather here some in this building, some in their own homes, we take a moment to give thanks for the land on which we gather and to recognize how those who inhabited this land long before our ancestors arrived, cared for that land and held in its sacred trust. And so, we offer our gratitude for this land which is, by law, the unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people.
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
We often say, come to worship just as you are.
But do we really mean it?
When we come to worship, we like to look our best and we hesitate to let people see if we are upset, angry or hurting.
Perhaps today, as we gather here in our Sunday best or online, in our track pants and bare feet, we can try to be more truly ourselves.
Perhaps today, from the safety of our own homes or here, surround by friend, we can try to be more willing to bring our worries, our concerns, and our troubles.
Perhaps today, we will try to be willing to be who we truly are, trusting that God already knows and loves us.
And so as we gather in worship, let us worship God with all that we are.
Opening Prayer (in unison)
If we are honest, we have to admit that sometimes we would rather not let anyone, even God, know who we truly are. If we are brave, we know that sometimes we must face the worst parts of ourselves in order to find the best. God, help us to overcome our selfish desires to protect ourselves form other and instead to offer ourselves freely and lovingly to others and to you. Amen.
Gift of Music As Comes the Breath of Spring #373
Psalm 139 has always been one of my favorite Psalms. “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You are acquainted with all of my ways.” God knows us completely, both the good and the bad, and we’re talking not only about our action, but even our thoughts.
Our second reading is another familiar and well-loved passage. “What does the Lord require of you?”
I Got No Strings On Me
Pinocchio was Walt Disney Studio’s second animated feature, released 2 years after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The story is based on a 19th century serialized story by Carol Lorenzini. Unlike Snow White, Pinocchio was actually a commercial disappointment. Over the years, however, it has become a much loved classic.
The title character is a marionette created by a kindly old toy maker named Geppetto. More than anything else, Geppetto wishes for a son. One night before going to bed, he wishes on a star that his marionette were a real boy. As Geppetto sleeps, the angelic Blue Fairy grants the puppet the gift of life. But he is not yet a real boy. That will only happen if he proves himself brave, truthful and unselfish.
Enter Jiminy Cricket, a vagabond cricket who has found a place to warm himself inside Geppetto’s shop. After witnessing the Blue Fairy’s gift, Jiminy accepts the task of becoming Pinocchio’s conscience and helping to guide him to becoming a real boy. When Geppetto awakes, he discovers his wooden creation has been given life and he has been given a son.
The next morning Geppetto fulfills his fatherly duty by sending Pinocchio off to school. But before he has gone far, Pinocchio is waylaid by two unscrupulous con men who plan to sell Pinocchio to a puppeteer named Stromboli. Jiminy intervenes and, like a good conscience, warns Pinocchio of the disastrous consequences that could result. Although he seems to respond, Pinocchio is soon distracted and forgets all about what his ‘conscience’ is telling him.
How often are we, like Pinocchio, distracted by promises of riches, fame or some other longed-for reward? How often do we, like Pinocchio, forget about or ignore what our conscience is clearly telling us? And how often, like Pinocchio, does it land us in real trouble?
Anyway, Pinocchio end up preforming before an exuberant and appreciative crowd, singing the wonderful song, I’ve Got No Strings on Me. But after the performance, when Pinocchio tells Stromboli that it is time for him to go home, Stromboli locks him in a cage and threatens to chop him into firewood if he doesn’t do exactly what he is told.
The truth is that there are always strings attached. There are consequences for every decision we make in life regardless of whether we recognize it or not. Locked in a cage, Pinocchio is forced to recognize that his decision to follow the tempting offer of fame and fortune rather than going to school as Geppetto had told him, had led him to where he now finds himself. Despite his best efforts and despite the help of Jiminy Cricket, Pinocchio is unable to escape.
Once again, in a time of utmost need, the Blue Fairy reappears, and Pinocchio learns another lesson. When the Blue Fairy questions Pinocchio about how he came to be in this predicament, Pinocchio makes excuses, tells untrue stories, and basically blames everyone and everything, except himself.
Sound like anyone you might know? How often do we blame others for our mistakes? How often do we make excuses for the things we have done? How often do we try to avoid taking responsibility for our own actions?
But the moment Pinocchio begins to lie, his nose starts to grow. And in one of the most profound bits of wisdom in the entire movie, the Blue Fairy warns Pinocchio, “A lie keeps growing and growing until it’s as plain as the nose on your face”.
It’s a sad reality that in our world today few people seem to worry about an occasional lie. Perhaps we bend the truth in an effort to look good or to gain the respect or admiration of someone else. Perhaps it is from an honest desire not to hurt someone else’s feelings. Or perhaps it is simply because telling a lie is easier than telling the truth.
When this happens, our noses may not grow and others may not immediately be able to tell that we are lying, but we will know. And so will God. Psalm 139 reminds us that before a word is on our lips, God already knows it completely. So to God, even the smallest lie is indeed, as plain as the nose on our face.
Pinocchio tearfully admits his lies and promises the Blue Fairy he will never lie again. She releases him from his cage and Pinocchio escapes from Stromboli with every intention of keeping his promise and determined to return home to his father.
But, as so often happens, before Pinocchio even makes it home, temptation rears its head again. This time Pinocchio is offered the promise of a vacation on the Island of Pleasure, a place where there are no rules and little boys can do whatever they please.
Pinocchio gives in and, for a while, has a great time smoking and drinking and getting into all kinds of trouble. But once again, there are strings attached. In the words of the coachman “Give a bad boy enough rope and he’ll soon make a jackass of himself.”
And so, like all the other boys who have taken advantage of the freedom to do as they please with no thought of the consequences, Pinocchio begins to turn into a donkey. With the help of Jiminy Cricket he escapes the Island of Pleasure before the transformation is complete.
This time, as he heads home, nothing is going to distract him. By the time Pinocchio arrives, however, he discovers that Geppetto has left in search of him. He also learns that Geppetto set out in a ship to find him, but along the way was swallowed up by a giant whale and trapped in its belly. Sound like any other character you know?
Anyway, Pinocchio is determined to rescue Geppetto. He bravely jumps into the ocean and goes in search of the whale that has swallowed his father. He not only finds the whale, but eventually Pinocchio too, ends up in the belly of the whale himself, where he finds Geppetto.
Pinocchio then comes up with an idea. he convinces Geppetto to light a fire and to make sure it produces as much smoke as possible. His plan is to force the whale to sneeze, thus allowing the captives to escape. They climb onto a raft that Geppetto has built and sure enough, the whale sneezes and the plan works.
But the trick infuriates the whale and he chases after the raft, eventually smashing it to bits. Geppetto begs Pinocchio to swim for shore and save himself, but Pinocchio refuses. After a harrowing ordeal Pinocchio manages to carry his father to safety. But his heroism comes at a great cost. Although Geppetto is safely washed ashore, the wooden marionette ends up face down in the water, having apparently sacrificed his own life to save Geppetto.
The next time we see Pinocchio he is laid out on the bed in Geppetto’s home as Geppetto kneels beside the bed mourning the loss of his son. But this, of course, is not the end. The Blue Fairy appears and speaks to the lifeless puppet. He has proven himself to be brave, truthful and unselfish, the very things that the Blue Fairy asked of him when he was first brought to life. And just as she had promised in the beginning, Pinocchio is not only brought back to life, but this time he becomes a real boy.
A few months ago, our Bible Study group did a study on Psalm 139. The idea that God knows us completely was the source of great comfort for some people, but for others was also a bit intimidating. We asked the question, “Are there things about yourself you don’t like, things you would rather hide from others? And how does it make you feel to know that, even if you manage to hide these things form everyone else, you can’t hide them from God?”
Although the idea of being completely and utterly know by God can, at times, seem a bit frightening, Psalm 139 goes on to remind us that regardless of what we do, or say, or even think, God never deserts us or turns away from us. “I come to the end—I am still with you.”
God’s presence and God’s love will never be taken away from us, regardless of what happens. But knowing this and accepting this means that we must respond. And herein lies one more truth, or perhaps the same truth we started with, just seen slightly differently.
There are always strings attached. But those strings are not necessarily a way of controlling us. They just might be a way of connecting us, of connection us to the Divine. When we feel that connection with the Divine Mystery, however we define that presence and power, we must be moved to respond.
The Blue Fairy told Pinocchio that his response to the gift of life needed to be three-fold, to be brave, truthful and unselfish. Micha tells us that our response to the gift of life which we have received, should also be three-fold. “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” How much more real can we possibly get? Amen.
Gift of Music You Are Before Me God VU#862
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, 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, as well as all those who are on the hearts and minds of all those gathered with us … Amen.
Minute for Mission
Prayers of the People
Divine Mystery, as we gather here today, we celebrate and offer or thanks that we can once again begin to ease the restrictions under which we have lived for so long. We thank you for friend and family and for the hope and promise of once again spending time together. Today we especially think of fathers and we offer our prayers of gratitude and concern for them … We offer our prayers for those who have not been able to see loved ones and who have no hope of seeing them any time soon, those who live far away from family and close friend … We think of those who have no family to visit, those who are alone because of circumstance or because of difficult and strained family relationships… We think of those who are mourning the loss of a loved one that they will not see again…
But even as we lament these things, we also acknowledge that there are many other problems in our world that we must remember. We think of all those whose lives are turned upside down by war and violence … We think of all those who struggle with hunger, homelessness and poverty … We think of all those whose health, both physical and mental, challenges them and often leaves them feeling alone and frightened … We think of those who feel they have no where to turn, who feel isolated and hopeless … Help us to find new ways to offer hope to the hopeless, comfort to those in pain, peace to the frightened, reassurance to the lonely and love to all those you bring into our lives. Help us to remember always that you love us and that call us to share that love with other. Amen.
Closing Hymn The Church of Christ #601