March 27, 2022 – Annual Meeting
Life and Work of our Church
Our service today was put together especially for Annual Meeting Sunday by the United Church of Canada.
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.
Service of Lenten Candles
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.
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 we see only what we want to see.
Voice 2: There are times we turn a blind eye to the problems of those around us.
Voice 1: There are times we close our eyes because to truly see what is happening in our world would be too painful.
Voice 2: During this fourth week of Lent God calls us to open our eyes, to look honestly at our lives and the lives of those around us, and to look for ways in which we can make a difference.
Voice 1: We pray for God’s help to do so.
Fourth Candle is Extinguished
Tree of Life and Awesome Mystery (4th Sunday of Lent)
Give us eyes to see you clearly
Make us children of your light;
Give us hearts to live more nearly
As your gospel shining bright,
As your gospel shining bright.
Call to Worship
Friends, for the sake of love, we are here
Gathering as the body of Christ
Reflecting on our call to be the church
Deciding how best to embody Christ in the world
Striving for justice, compassion,
humility, and peace
Letting the unity of our oneness in Jesus draw us together:
We are not alone we live in God’s world. We believe in God: who has created and is creating, who has come in Jesus, the Word made flesh, to reconcile and make new, who works in us and others by the Spirit. We trust in God. We are called to be the Church: to celebrate God’s presence, to live with respect in Creation, to love and serve others, to seek justice and resist evil, to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen, our judge and our hope. In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us. We are not alone. Thanks be to God.
Opening Hymn “We Are One” (Voices United 402)
Prayer of Approach (unison)
Generous God, giver of every good and perfect gift, we lift our voices today to express our thanks and praise. For family and friends, for our homes and this church community, and for your abiding and life-giving presence, we say thank you. For your love, which knows no bounds, and for empowering us to share your love with others, we sing your praise. Make us deeply aware of your presence today―this Annual Meeting Sunday―as we gather together to worship, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
―Adapted from Called to Be the Church congregational giving program.
Our Annual General Meeting is a time to look back on the things we did as a community of faith together through the year and celebrate what we have done that matters most to us. It’s also a time to think about the year ahead and consider where God is calling our church not only within this congregation but also in our community and in our world.
As we all know that this past year has not been what any of us really expected. (hold up strip of paper) Covid-19 once again put a new twist into the circle of this year. (twist piece of paper once and tape it together) But, despite everything that has happened and the distance that has often separated us from each other, we did not come out of this year divided, (cut paper along center line) we came out, maybe looking a little different, but still one church. Along the way, however, that one twist has ended up causing a number of other unexpected twists along the way.
(un-tape strip to show twists)
The thing is that no matter how many twists life may throw at us, (take strip of paper and twist it twice and take the ends together) there is one thing that never changes. Nothing we can ever do or nothing that can ever happen to us, (cut strip along center line and unfold to show two interconnected circles) can ever separate us from the love of God that always, in every situation, remains connected with us.
Let’s Pray; God, thank you that throughout this past year, with all it’s twists and turns you have remained with us. Remind us to trust that you continue to remain with us in the year to come. Amen.
Our first reading this morning is taken from the book of Deuteronomy. It is the passage commonly known in the Hebrew tradition as the Shema, the passage the Jesus quoted when asked what the greatest commandment was.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Our second scripture is from Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth where he is encouraging unity within the church by using the image of the human body as an example of how each part must work together.
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.
If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members In the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.
Sixty million cells. Sixty thousand miles of blood vessels. Thirty-six million heartbeats every year. Three hundred billion red blood cells produced every day. The human body is a complex, interconnection, miraculous system, and that, Paul says, is also the Christian community.
But Paul wasn’t talking about just any body. He was talking about Christ’s body. A holy body. He told the community in Corinth that they were to be the “body” that Jesus would be if he was physically present with them.
For us the image of being “The body of Christ” almost sounds cliché. We have heard that we are “the body of Christ” so often that we hardly pay attention to what that means. But let’s take a moment to really think about the magnitude of what Paul is saying.
You are―we are―the body of Christ. Amazing!
There are 100 billion neurons in the brain. There are 54 bones in your hands alone, and each hand also contains approximately 100,000 nerves, broken down into 20 different types of nerves that allow you to touch and feel.
And every single second, there are 25 million new cells being produced. Your body is constantly evolving. Approximately 330 billion cells are replaced each day, equivalent to about 1 percent of all the cells in your body. The human body is a complicated, interconnected creation, designed for life.
And according to our scriptures, for Christians, the purpose of life is love. Jesus’ body was designed for love, so our Christian body, as the body of Christ, is also designed for love. Beacon United Church, as part of the body of Christ, has continued to faithfully joined God’s mission of love over this past year.
We may have missed our sacred space and grieved not always being able to gather in person the way we would have liked, but the love is still very much alive.
In 2021, we were indeed the body of Christ. Despite times of lockdown, we continued to provide weekly worship services, sometime online and sometimes both in person and online. We were able to continue to offer help to those in need through our Session fund as well as through working with the Salvation Army on their Christmas Kettle Campaign and the Knights of Columbus on their lunch program.
We have worked the wider body of Christ through our collective Mission & Service Fund, and despite the financial challenges caused by the pandemic we were able to once again exceed our M&S goal for the year. Together, we have supported partners in pandemic relief efforts to help provide personal protective equipment, safe shelter, sanitation stations, public awareness communications, and food hampers. We have helped to provide over 8,360 full vaccinations to those living in the global South and East and $500,000 in COVID-19 emergency funding. In addition, $240,000 was distributed to partners in our region alone so that we could continue to help close to home. The pandemic did not diminish our mission. The central call to love as Jesus loves was and is the same as it has always been.
When we meet as committees or teams this year and as we meet today to reflect on the year past and on the year to come, we aren’t just ticking off agenda items. We are meeting for the sake of love.
When we are discussing our budget, our discussions are an expression of love. When we are making required repairs and updates to our building, when we are setting up ZOOM and Face Book Live connections, when we are working and planning for the future of our church, that work is an expression of love. When we are recording minutes, balancing books, and doing all the behind-the-scenes coordinating and organizing―we do that for love. When we are trying to figure out how best to comfort spirits and soothe hearts even while we feel dislocated ourselves―we are all about love.
Today, on this Annual Meeting Sunday, I’m not going to tell you anything new, anything you don’t already know. I’m just going to remind you and remind myself of why we are here and who we are as a church. We are the body of Christ.
And what does that mean? Well … Jesus reached out his hand and touched people who needed healing. He laid his hands on those who were sick and dying and extended forgiveness to sinners. He ate with people that no one else dared to even associate with. He told stories and parables that changed peoples’ hearts. He listened to the yearning of countless souls. He got down on his knees to wash his disciples’ feet and he brought children onto his knees to teach lessons about what’s important. He wept and sweated in the garden of suffering. He stretched his arms on the cross. And at the end of it all, he appeared to his disciples to show them that new life is possible. Jesus used his entire life and his whole being for love.
Paul challenges us with the words, “You are the body of Christ.” In all that we say and in all that we do, let us never forget this challenge. We are the body of Christ. We are the love of Christ lived out in our church, in our community and in our world, for the sake of love. May we continue to embody that love throughout 2022. Amen.
Your gifts help transform lives, inspire meaning and purpose, and build a better world here at home and around the world through our community of faith and through our ongoing support of Mission & Service. So let us joyfully and generously share our gifts. Let us pray.
Gracious and loving God, bless the gifts we offer as one body of Christ. We pray they bring healing and hope to everyone whose lives they touch. Amen.
While we have seen many challenges this year, we have also experienced many blessings. Let us pray together with thanksgiving for the year gone by and hope for the year ahead.
We give thanks for all those who made time to reach out to isolated members of our community this year. During a time when so many suffered from isolation, receiving a phone call meant knowing someone cared and made people who were struggling feel less alone….
We give thanks for leaders who met far more than usual this year to try to adapt to new ways of being the church. Their faithfulness and commitment anchored us and ensured that our ministry would continue, come what may….
We give thanks for all those who encouraged us on our most difficult days and applauded us on our most successful ones. Their encouragement and support energized us to continue to listen for and lean into God’s call….
We give thanks for all those who ensured we could continue to worship together. We are thankful for those who spent extra time cleaning, adapting to protocols, and ensuring that our building was as safe as we could make it during this time of pandemic. We give thanks for those who helping to set up and run online worship so that every one could have access to regular worship services. Their support meant we could join with others as we open our hearts to the peaceful, loving presence of the Spirit….
We give thanks for the work of our Session Fund, knowing that those who were already vulnerable are even more so as a result of the pandemic. We are grateful knowing that every gift we gave brought a little more love into the world….
We give thanks for those who gave generously to Mission & Service. By joining with caring members across the country, we were able to have an enormous impact, helping to transform lives at home and abroad in concrete ways….
We give thanks for all the behind-the-scenes volunteers, those who ensure our finances are in order, who maintain our building, who take minutes at meetings, who willingly take on whatever tasks are needed to insure the continued health and strength of our church community. Together, these humble tasks are the backbone of our church and truly enable our ministry to happen….
God of deep blessing, continue to enfold us in a spirit of gratitude. Let it carry us into the year ahead, choosing to focus on your abundant grace and faithfully responding to your call. We are the church for the sake of love. In every decision going forward, let love be our guide. And so we continue to pray in the way of Jesus, as we say together;
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 who 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, for ever and ever. Amen
Let us go from here seeking justice, loving kindness, and living humbly with God
Let us go and be the church for the sake of love.
And now may God our Creator, Christ our Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit our Sustainer abide with all of us this day, this year, and forevermore. Amen.