Beacon United Church – June 26, 2022
Welcome & Announcements
Passing the Peace
Lighting the Christ Candle – We light this candle to remind us that the light of Christ shines in our lives and is ever with us. Help us to reflect this light to all we meet as we listen to God’s word and do God’s work.
Statement of Reconciliation:
We begin this time of worship by acknowledging that we are meeting on the land of the Mi’kmaq people. This land has been inhabited by Indigenous peoples from the beginning. We thank all the generations of Indigenous people who have taken care of this land and been its stewards for thousands of years. We give thanks for the countless ways they have assisted the settler peoples who came to inhabit the land. We also recognize the contributions Métis, Inuit, and other Indigenous peoples have made in shaping and strengthening this region, the provinces, and Canada as a whole. May the Creator hold us gently in this time as all mourn the loss of innocent Indigenous children’s lives. Meegwetch. All my relations.
(Rev. Nancy Best, All My Relations: Indigenous Day of Prayer Service 2022)
Introit: MV#122 This is the Day
Call to Worship
One: God, we come here to this place of worship from the busyness and the business of our lives.
All: Meet us in the reading of your Word.
One: Meet us in our singing and praying.
All: Meet us, for we long to know you.
One: Help us focus on your Presence.
All: Lead us with your Strength as we come together to listen and to serve.
O God of the still, small voice quiet our inner spirit. Help us to focus upon you, and you alone, to hear your voice within. There are so many other voices demanding our attention. But we cannot attend to them without you…. “Be still and know that I am God,” you say to us as you said to Elijah…. May your voice speak through us. In weakness, be our strength. In poverty, be our wealth. In depression, be our joy. In apathy, be our love. We cannot sing Love’s song, O God, unless it be your voice singing in us. Take this heart, and with this mouth make your praise and thanksgiving a reality here and now. Amen.
Hymn – VU# 401 Worship the Lord
Prayer of Confession
Holy God, we come before you this morning, yearning to come closer to the way you want us to live. Forgive us when we are too eager to point out what others are doing wrong. Help us to recognize the peace that comes in being still and listening for the small voice of calm. We need to acknowledge that each of us has the capacity to listen and learn as well as the ability to serve others and do good work. Help us find the balance that we need in our lives. We pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Words of Assurance
God promises us forgiveness. Jesus acts as our guide and our friend as we navigate through the complexities of life. The Holy Spirit abides with us with grace. Thanks be! Amen.
Prayer of Illumination
God, you show us your way in the words of scripture. May we hear and speak your word, through these readings and the teachings they share. May we, like Mary, sit at your feet and listen. Having sat at your feet and listened, help us put what we have heard into practice. Amen.
Hebrew Scripture: Amos 8: 1-12
Amos describes the questionable practices of the marketplace, which put profit ahead of justice. This description becomes the backdrop for the judgment where the inability to hear the word of God makes the once “chosen nation” a barren place.
A Vision of a Basket of Fruit
I had another vision from the Sovereign Lord. In it I saw a basket of fruit. The Lord asked, “Amos, what do you see?”
“A basket of fruit,” I answered.
The Lord said to me, “The end has come for my people Israel. I will not change my mind again about punishing them. On that day the songs in the palace will become cries of mourning. There will be dead bodies everywhere. They will be cast out in silence.”
Listen to this, you that trample on the needy and try to destroy the poor of the country. You say to yourselves, “We can hardly wait for the holy days to be over so that we can sell our grain. When will the Sabbath end, so that we can start selling again? Then we can overcharge, use false measures, and fix the scales to cheat our customers. We can sell worthless wheat at a high price. We’ll find someone poor who can’t pay his debts, not even the price of a pair of sandals, and we’ll buy him as a slave.”
The Lord, the God of Israel, has sworn, “I will never forget their evil deeds. And so the earth will quake, and everyone in the land will be in distress. The whole country will be shaken; it will rise and fall like the Nile River. The time is coming when I will make the sun go down at noon and the earth grow dark in daytime. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken. I will turn your festivals into funerals and change your glad songs into cries of grief. I will make you shave your heads and wear sackcloth, and you will be like parents mourning for their only child. That day will be bitter to the end.
“The time is coming when I will send famine on the land. People will be hungry, but not for bread; they will be thirsty, but not for water. They will hunger and thirst for a message from the Lord. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken. People will wander from the Dead Sea to the Mediterranean and then on around from the north to the east. They will look everywhere for a message from the Lord, but they will not find it.
Responsive Reading: Psalm 52 VUp.777
Psalm 52 speaks a warning against those who trust in riches rather than seeking refuge in God.
Refrain: In the presence of your people I your goodness will proclaim.
Why do you boast of your evil, O brave one,
in the face of God’s faithfulness?
Your tongue is like a sharpened razor, meant to cut deceitfully.
You prefer evil to good, the lie to speaking truthfully.
You love all words that hurt, and every deceit of the tongue!
So God will break you down forever;
break you and tear you from your dwelling,
root you out of the land of the living.
The righteous, looking on, will be awestruck.
Then they will laugh and say:
here was one who did not look to God for strength,
but trusted in great wealth and found strength in slander. R
I am like a thriving olive tree in God’s house;
I will trust in the faithfulness of God forever,
I will praise you forever, for this was your doing;
in the presence of the faithful I will glorify your name,
for it is good to praise you. R
Epistle Reading: Colossians 1: 15-28
Paul writes that if we want to know what God is like, and what God wants of us, we need to focus on Jesus the Christ. If we focus on Christ we will not be shaken and will grow faithfully on a firm foundation.
The Person and Work of Christ
Christ is the visible likeness of the invisible God. He is the first-born Son, superior to all created things. For through him God created everything in heaven and on earth, the seen and the unseen things, including spiritual powers, lords, rulers, and authorities. God created the whole universe through him and for him. Christ existed before all things, and in union with him all things have their proper place. He is the head of his body, the church; he is the source of the body’s life. He is the first-born Son, who was raised from death, in order that he alone might have the first place in all things. For it was by God’s own decision that the Son has in himself the full nature of God. Through the Son, then, God decided to bring the whole universe back to himself. God made peace through his Son’s blood on the cross and so brought back to himself all things, both on earth and in heaven.
At one time you were far away from God and were his enemies because of the evil things you did and thought. But now, by means of the physical death of his Son, God has made you his friends, in order to bring you, holy, pure, and faultless, into his presence. You must, of course, continue faithful on a firm and sure foundation, and must not allow yourselves to be shaken from the hope you gained when you heard the gospel. It is of this gospel that I, Paul, became a servant—this gospel which has been preached to everybody in the world.
Paul’s Work as a Servant of the Church
And now I am happy about my sufferings for you, for by means of my physical sufferings I am helping to complete what still remains of Christ’s sufferings on behalf of his body, the church. And I have been made a servant of the church by God, who gave me this task to perform for your good. It is the task of fully proclaiming his message, which is the secret he hid through all past ages from all human beings but has now revealed to his people. God’s plan is to make known his secret to his people, this rich and glorious secret which he has for all peoples. And the secret is that Christ is in you, which means that you will share in the glory of God. So we preach Christ to everyone. With all possible wisdom we warn and teach them in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature individual in union with Christ.
Gospel Reading: Luke 10: 38-42
This reading recalls a visit of Jesus to the home of his close friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus (although Lazarus is not mentioned in this passage). Martha bustles about the home, preparing a wonderful meal for their special guest. This is her way of showing care and offering welcome. Mary offers her welcome by being present with Jesus, taking the position of a disciple, sitting at Jesus’ feet. This story reminds us that there are two sides to the life of faith: active work and reflective study.
Jesus Visits Martha and Mary
As Jesus and his disciples went on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha welcomed him in her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat down at the feet of the Lord and listened to his teaching. Martha was upset over all the work she had to do, so she came and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to come and help me!”
The Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha! You are worried and troubled over so many things, but just one is needed. Mary has chosen the right thing, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Reflection – Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World
“Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World” is the title of a book by Joanna Weaver that I bought several years ago. It was the subtitle that appealed to me and made me buy the book– “Finding Intimacy with God in the Busyness of Life”. The book is written for women and talks about finding balance in our lives but the concept of balance in our spiritual lives and faith journeys applies to both women and men. Martha represents the part of us that works and serves. Mary represents the part of us that listens to and reflects on the voice of God. Our lives tend to become so busy with our doing, that we often lose focus of our need to sit and to listen. We are not only guilty of this in our personal lives but also in our church life.
Let’s look at the story from Martha’s perspective. She found out that Jesus and his friends were coming to visit. Wow, so much to do and so little time. The house would have to be cleaned and appropriately decorated, the meal would have to be prepared and the table set. Everything would have to be perfect for this very special visitor and all of his friends. By the time they arrived, Martha was no doubt exhausted, yet the final preparations would have to be made, the meal served and then, ugh, the clean-up. Martha is bustling around the kitchen and wait… where’s Mary? Where is she? Shouldn’t she be helping? Martha peeks into the living room and there is Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus, doing absolutely nothing – just sitting there and listening. Martha has had enough and decides to go right to Jesus. She won’t pull Mary aside and share her frustration. No, she’ll hit Mary where it hurts. She’ll get Jesus to get after her. After all, Mary will listen to anything he says!!! Maybe this will break the mesmerizing position. Maybe she’ll be embarrassed and Martha will look like the better sister because Jesus will surely agree with her. Mary shouldn’t even be in the living room with the men. That’s taboo. What will people think? What is she thinking? Does she forget her upbringing? So, Martha blurts out, “Jesus, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?” There, that felt good. But Jesus answers, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is best and it will not be taken away from her.” Martha has at least two choices now – she could turn and storm off, back into the kitchen or out of the house altogether or she could take to heart what Jesus has said. Luke ends his account of the story with Jesus’ comment so we don’t know Martha’s reaction. How would you feel?
The point of the story is not Martha’s reaction but Jesus’ reply. Joanna Weaver talks about the story as Kitchen Service vs. Living Room Intimacy. In a world that demands more and more of us and challenges us to be all that we can be, we hear that small voice saying, “Be still and know that I am God.” The Kitchen Service syndrome appeals to the perfectionist part of us – the need to do everything and do it perfectly. We obsess about details. We worry that everything has to be right. We spend hours dotting ‘i’s and crossing ‘t’s. But Jesus says, “Don’t be worried and upset about many things – only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is best.” Mary has chosen the Living Room Intimacy – sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to every word.
So, where do we find the time to follow Mary to the feet of Jesus? Where do we find the energy to serve him? How do we choose the Better Part and still get done what really has to get done? With so much to do, sitting still is difficult. I attended a conference once where one of the sessions was on mindfulness. The instructor had us sit with our eyes closed, relaxing as we went through the exercise and becoming mindful of our body centre. I was sitting with two colleagues and as the exercise ended, one of my colleagues remarked that she hated exercises like that. She found it difficult to stop and relax. She said she could only “stop” when she went to bed at night. I thought that was sad. She’s always in the Kitchen Service mode, yet, I must admit I often find myself there too. We all need to ‘be still’ and build relationship with Jesus. In fact, Joanna Weaver states that working before building that relationship is like putting the cart before the horse. We need to worship before we can work. Our lives lose focus without the Living Room Intimacy. Without spiritual food, we burn-out as we have nothing to fuel our work.
So, how do we get out of the kitchen and sit at the feet of Jesus. Jesus said, “Don’t worry”. Most of us spend a lot of time worrying about things that we don’t need to worry about. It has been said that worrying is like a rocking chair – it gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere. Worrying is bad for our physical and emotional health and it’s unnecessary – most of the time. One interesting set of statistics indicates that there is nothing we can do about 70 percent of our worries – 40% are things that will never happen; 30% are about the past – which can’t be changed; 12% are about criticism by others, mostly untrue; 10% are about health, which gets worse with stress and 8% are about real problems that can be solved. So, do you remember what Bobby McFerron’s song said? – Don’t worry, be happy!
Another thing that makes us lose focus is that we carry too much baggage around. The story is told of the man who was asked by God to carry a wagon with three medium-sized rocks up to the top of a mountain. No problem! As he went along, people found out that he was taking a wagon to the top of the mountain and asked if he would take a rock or two for them. Of course, you can figure out what happened. His load became too heavy to bear. God asked him what the problem was. What was taking him so long to do what he was asked? The man realized that he needed to let go of other peoples’ burdens and do what God wanted him to do.
There are three things that Weaver cites as causing us to lose focus. She calls them the 3D’s – distraction, discouragement and doubt. There are many things which distract us from God’s way or away from God. In the reading from Colossians today, we heard Paul’s words that Christ is the visible likeness of the invisible God. In other words, if we want to know what God is like or what God wants of us, we need to focus on Jesus. The ability to focus will help us grow a firm foundation of faith. Amos, the prophet, also warns of losing focus. When we become discouraged or begin to doubt, our focus on Christ becomes weak. This is why spending time regularly with Jesus will strengthen our focus and our faith. We long for this fellowship and a little taste leaves us wanting more and more. Amos warns that if people continue to live in sinful ways, God will destroy what is familiar to them and that they will be left hungering and thirsting – not for food and drink but for the word of God.
Working for God is important but it needs to be balanced with being with God. The service part seems to come easier for us. The keys to living room intimacy are the 3C’s – consistent practice, creative strategies and conversation. In the summers of my youth, I worshiped in Wesley-St. Matthew’s United Church in Pugwash. There is a beautiful stained-glass window at the front of the church. Jesus is standing ready to grab the door knocker of a large wooden door. The verse, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock” is written under the picture. This window has always captivated me – not only because of its beauty but also because of its message. Jesus is standing at our door and knocking. If or when we let him in, he needs to come into the living room and the kitchen.
We can all sort out what this means in our personal lives and how we can balance our spiritual lives – our being and our doing. But what does this mean for us as a church – are we sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening or are we too busy with the details? “You are worried and upset about so many things, but only one thing is necessary.” Are we, as a church, putting the cart before the horse? Everything I have read about this passage, points out that Jesus did not tell Martha that what she was doing was wrong; after all it was necessary work. However, her obsession with details was causing her to lose focus. Do you remember my story about the conference workshop on mindfulness? The relaxation exercise encouraged us to feel centered. Joanna Weaver uses the metaphor of a multiple hula hoops. Sometimes it feels like we have so many things spinning around us both in our personal lives and our church lives – like multiple hula hoops. The secret to hula hooping is not concentrating on the hoops but on your body – developing a rhythm that will center the hoops. We need practices in our lives that will centre us.
A minister was recently telling me about a student she was supervising. This student decided to go to another more fundamentalist church to see what it was like. She came back and told her supervisor that it was so basic, so fundamental. She said that the message of the whole service was that God loves you. She observed that sometimes we tend to make everything so academic and so complicated but that the people in that congregation were hearing the simple message, “God loves you!” It is stories like this of the astuteness of the younger people in our denomination that give me hope for the future of the United Church of Canada.
Luke puts the story of Martha and Mary between the story of the Good Samaritan (service) and Jesus teaching his disciples the Lord’s Prayer (reflective practice). The balance is there and the Mary and Martha story emphasizes the importance of getting our priorities straight. Do we become obsessed with the details of our worship service that we lose focus of the message or the act of worship? Do our meetings become obsessed with details that we lose focus of our service or God’s will? Does our service become obsessed with details that we lose sight of who we are helping or what God is calling us to do? Our creed/vision statement speaks of our striving to serve God. Where is the part about reflective practice? As we enter a period of strategic planning, these are things we need to examine as a community of faith. Our service will show in the community only if we sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to God’s word. They’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our intimate relationship with God and our service to others.
Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World – it’s not easy for us as individuals or as a church. But we know that God’s voice will be heard if we are willing to listen. The Scriptures beg us to be still and listen. Listening and focusing cannot be part of a multi-tasking routine in a hectic schedule. Our relationship with God requires nurturing and that requires us to consistently practice being still and listening to that still small voice of calm. It requires us to be creative – the same old thing will only cause boredom which will become a distraction. We need to vary our experiences of intimacy with God. Lastly, we need to converse with God. We need to bring our own rocks up the mountain and listen to the reply. We need to listen to what God wants us to do. Help us to choose what Jesus tells Martha is the better part. The 23rd Psalm has been paraphrased many times for many occasions. Let’s listen to this paraphrase from Japan:
The Lord is my pace setter… I shall not rush
He makes me stop for quiet intervals
He provides me with images of stillness which restore my serenity
He leads me in the way of efficiency through calmness of mind and his guidance is peace
Even though I have a great many things to accomplish each day, I will not fret, for his presence is here
His timelessness, his all importance will keep me in balanceHe prepares refreshment and renewal in the midst of my activity by anointing my mind with his oils of tranquility
My cup of joyous energy overflows
Truly harmony and effectiveness shall be the fruits of my hours for I shall walk in the Pace of my Lord and dwell in his house for ever. AMEN
Hymn: VU#374 Come and Find the Quiet Centre
Offertory Statement –
We heard today of people who did not offer the things they ought to, especially to the most vulnerable among us. Sometimes we offer what we think is best, only to realize that it isn’t what you want us to give. May we offer you now our very selves: our energy, our resources, and our time. Help us reach the vulnerable; and enable this church to be a place of refuge, help, justice, love, and hospitality.
Offering – MV#191
What can I do? What can I bring?
What can I say? What sing?
I’ll sing with joy. I’ll say a prayer.
I’ll bring my best. I’ll do my share.
God, we come before you as Martha’s and Mary’s; as do-ers and be-ers. We offer to you our time, our talents and our gifts. Help us to listen to your voice, calling us to focus our time, our talents and our gifts on fulfilling your will in the world. Amen.
We offer, in the silence of our hearts, the prayers that are weighing on us at this time. We especially pray for the names of those included in our Prayer Jar this morning.
Minute for Mission – 985 Leaders Trained in Anti-Human Trafficking
In December 2020, we shared Lakshmi’s story. Lakshmi, a teenager from West Bengal, India, was trafficked by her aunt, who promised that Lakshmi could earn money “dancing.” Thankfully, the story had a happy ending. Lakshmi’s parents contacted the Diocese of Durgapur, which runs an anti-human trafficking program supported by your Mission & Service gifts. The Diocese intervened, and on the threat of legal action, Lakshmi’s aunt returned her to her parents.
Over the year since we published Lakshmi’s story, the Diocese of Durgapur has been busy initiating life-saving anti-trafficking programming, advocacy, education, and relief efforts.
Here’s an update. In 2021, your support through Mission & Service meant that
Now that people are returning to work after COVID lockdowns, the efforts of the Diocese and ongoing Mission & Service support are especially critical.
Most of the people the Diocese of Durgapur reaches out to live below the poverty line and earn their livelihood through agriculture and labour. “They go to other states looking for work and sometimes fall victim to human trafficking. Now as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, people are again getting ready to go outside for work. We are working with these people, especially in the areas where people were trafficked earlier, so they don’t become victims,” says Raja Moses, a Project Coordinator for the Diocese.
Your generous gifts through Mission and Service support anti-human trafficking programs run through the Diocese of Durgapur, directly impacting thousands of lives. Thank you!
Prayers of the People – by Richard Einersen
O holy one, ever trying to influence and touch the hearts of your people, we thank you today for the opportunity to pause, to worship, and to reflect upon the direction our lives are taking. We confess that we so easily lose our focus. There is so much of Martha residing within us.
Help make us more like Mary.
Make us people who are more like Mary. Today we pray for those close to our hearts who need your help. In this moment of silence, we bring those individuals before you. Grant them your strength. And as Jesus taught his disciples to pray, let us pray together the Lord’s Prayer.
The Lord’s Prayer:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day, our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us; And lead us
not into temptation but deliver us from evil: for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
Hymn – VU#608 Dear God, Who Loves All Humankind
Commissioning and Benediction –
In a world that tries to impose its values on us, live the way of God. Challenge injustice, aid those in need, listen intently, and do not be preoccupied with busyness. Share what you have heard, so that, together, we may transform the world into the beloved community of God. Go with the strength God gives us, the love God gives us through Jesus, and the fire the Holy Spirit offers to keep us going no matter what. Amen.
Choral Benediction – Go Now in Peace
Go now in peace, never be afraid
God will go with you each hour of every day
Go now in faith, steadfast, strong and true
Know God will guide you in all you do
Go now in love and show you believe
Reach out to others so all the world can see
God will be there watching from above
Go now in peace, in faith, and in love
Amen. Amen. Amen.