Acknowledging the Territory
Although today we each gather from our own individual homes, we are reminded that we still gather on lands that are, by law, the unceded territories of the Mi’kmaq people. We gratefully and respectfully acknowledge this. We also respectfully honour the traditions and spirituality of all our indigenous brothers and sisters throughout this great land.
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 taking that light with us and sharing it with everyone we meet.
Call to Worship
We have been given a great gift, the gift of love. We have been made part of God’s family.
We know about this gift of love because Jesus lived and died and rose again so that God’s love might be lived out among us.
So we need to remember that it is not enough to say we love. We must show love in our actions.
Because we love one another, we come to know God’s love for us.
We gather to worship as God’s family, to celebrate God’s love for us, our love for God and our love for one another.
Opening Prayer (in unison)
Amazing God, you touch the earth and bright spring flowers, green buds and grasses, baby birds and new life of all kinds, bursts forth. Yet often it seem like we are afraid to grow, afraid to reach out and accept the gift of love that you have offered us as part of your family, members of a community who call themselves your children. Teach us to reach out. Teach us to risk opening ourselves to you and to one another, that together, we may build a stronger family and reap the rich harvest of your love and peace. Amen.
Gift of Music Blessed Be the Tie That Binds #602
Often on Christian Family Sunday, I tend to use non-lectionary readings that relate more to family or parenthood. This year, however, the lectionary scripture seem to fit very well with the idea of a loving family of God.
Our first reading is taken from the book of Acts. It tell of how, when Peter was speaking to a gathered group, the Holy Spirit came upon all those gathered listening, both Jews and Gentiles, and how Peter determined that if the Spirit could touch all the people, then no one should be excluded from the family of God.
Our psalm reading is a wonder song of praise and celebration. Sing to God a new song. Make a joyful noise.
1 John 4:7-21
Last week our reading from the first letter of John talked about how we love. Our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action. This week we focus not on how we love but on why we love. Let us love one another, because love comes from God … God is love, and those who live in love live in union with God… We love because God first loved us.
This familiar passage John carries on with the theme of love. According to John, Jesus tells his followers, as God has loved me, so I love you, and you must love one another as I have loved you.
A Loving Family
Most of us would like say that we belong to a loving family, regardless of whether that family is through birth, through marriage or through personal friendships and choices. Most of us would like to believe that you are loving towards our family. But I don’t think that any of us would say that we never disagree with, fight with, argue with, become angry with, or just get totally fed up with another member of our “loving family”?
Being part of a loving family or loving the family you are a part of, does not mean that we always agree, always get along, or always see things in exactly the same way. What it does means is that regardless of how often we might disagree or how angry we might get, we still love each other. Love is the key to family, regardless of how that family is constructed.
In the Gospel according to John we are told that we are to love as Jesus loved. Sometimes when we hear that it can seem a bit overwhelming. How can we possibly love as Jesus did? After all, we’re only human. Yet if we honestly look at the stories of Jesus, the way he spoke to some of the members of his particular family did not always appear to be very loving. When Simon Peter tried to talk Jesus out of going to Jerusalem where Peter knew that Jesus would be in serious danger, Jesus turned on Peter and said, “Get behind me Satan!” When the disciples were unable to cure a young boy because of their lack of faith, Jesus angry response was, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I … put up with you?” When, in the midst of a violent storm and terrified for their lives, the disciples woke Jesus, he asks, “Have you still no faith?”
Sometimes we have this image of Jesus, as always being meek and mild and never saying anything unkind to anyone. If we read the scriptures this is simply not true. There were times when Jesus appeared to be angry, frustrated and sometimes anything but kind and gentle with his family of followers.
But despite this, Jesus did always love them. When they made mistakes, or failed to understand what he was trying to teach them, when they simply couldn’t seem to believe what he was saying, he may have been hurt, or frustrated, or even angry, but he didn’t give up on them. He loved them enough to give them another chance.
Perhaps this is what we are being asked to do when we are asked to love one another as Jesus loved. Perhaps we are being asked to love them even when they make mistakes. Perhaps we are being asked to love them even when we are angry and frustrated, even when they hurt us.
And sometimes, no matter how loving a family may be, there are those within the family that we just can’t seem to get along with. There are those who just rub us the wrong way or push all our buttons. Perhaps loving as Jesus loved mean that we are also being asked to love even those people that are hardest to love, even those that, no matter how hard we try, we really just don’t like.
So how do you continue to love someone you don’t even like? How did Jesus continue to love Judas even after Judas betrayed him for thirty pieces of sliver?
I know that I have shared this story before but I think it is well worth repeating. I was talking to a mother one time, who was struggling with her son who was probably around 11 or 12 at the time. The boy was constantly getting into trouble. He was defiant, rude, aggressive, and at times, downright cruel. His mother was frustrated, angry, hurt and feeling terribly guilty for being unable to control his behaviour. One day when she came to see me she was smiling and more relaxed than I had seen her in a very long time. When I asked what had changed, she said, “You know, I finally realized something. I really don’t like my son very much. As a matter of fact, right now, with the way he behaves and the way he treats other people, I don’t like him at all. But that’s OK, I don’t have to like he, because I can still love him even if I don’t like him very much.”
None of us gets along all the time with every single the members of our family, and it doesn’t matter whether that family is our family of birth, our family through marriage, through choice, through circumstance, or our church family. There will always be some people in our family that we find it hard to get along with. There will always be those that we just don’t agree with or just don’t understand. Even those we do understand and do find it easy to relate to and easy to love can sometimes, really be annoying. But the truth is that we don’t have to always get along with everyone. We simply have to love them.
For many people loving someone you don’t like, seems like a contradiction of terms. How can you possibly love someone you don’t like, someone who has hurt or betrayed you, or someone whose words or actions you strongly disagree with? The answer to that, goes right back to our gospel reading. We are called to love as Christ loved.
Jesus did not love his disciples because they were perfect. In fact he often loved them in spite of their many imperfection. When a rich young man walked away from Jesus because he could not bear to give up his wealth, Jesus did not stop loving him. He had compassion for him even as he walked away. When a woman was caught in adultery Jesus did not withhold his love for her until she changed her ways. He loved her unconditionally. And from the cross Jesus even loved those who had nailed him there, those who mocked and jeered him, asking God to forgive them.
Loving those who are hard to love, those with whom we are angry, or those who have hurt us badly, is one the greatest challenges any of us will ever face. It is not easy and sometimes we might ask ourselves why we would even bother. If they don’t love us back, if they continue to hurt us or f they continue ito act in way that we cannot accept, why should we love them? When it comes right down to it, is it really even possible?
The truth is, that if we rely on our own abilities, our own emotions to love that unlovable person, then it isn’t possible. If we think we can discipline ourselves into loving that person that we actively dislike, we are going to be sadly disappointed. But the good news is that we don’t have to depend on our own ability.
In the first letter of John we are told that we love one another because love comes from God. But what if we were to word that slightly differently? What if we were to say we are able to love one another because the love that we express does not come from us, but rather comes through us from God?
John’s letter tells us that, “if we love one another, God lives in union with us”. And don’t forget that that same letter also tells us that God is love. So, if God is love, and that love lives in union with us or within us, then it is only because of that love that we are able to love others.
But how do we remain in union with God in order to express God’s love? How do we make and maintain that connection with the God who is love? For us as Christians, the answer is simple. We connect with God and maintain our union with God through Christ.
I remember when I was going through the discernment process before I entered full-time study to become a minister, I was taking a course on world religions. Just about ever time that I met with my discernment committee, I would excitedly share some new insight I had learned about another religion and how wonderfully exciting I found it. After a few weeks of this, one member of the committee asked me, “if you find so many wonderful things in all these other religious traditions, why are you a Christian?”
Without even thinking about it I responded, “because this is the tradition that I was raised in and, for me, I see in Jesus the clearest reflection of God’s love in action and the clearest example of how I should try to live my life.”
If we believe that God is love and if we believe that the clearest reflection of that love is seen in Christ, then it is Christ that we must try to emulate. It is Christ’s example that we must try to follow in our effort to express God’s love to those around us.
Now I’m not saying we will ever do this perfectly, at least I know I won’t, but when we start to see others through Christ’s eyes, though the eyes of love, we can begin to love even those that are hardest to love. We can begin to let go of our own emotions and allow God’s love to flow through us.
And sometimes the most loving thing we can do for someone, whether it is someone we cherish and admire or if it is someone that we simply can’t bring ourselves to even like, is to turn that person over to God. If we can ask God to love and care for them in ways we might not be able to bring ourselves to, then by turning them over to God, we are offering them God’s love.
If we can do this, if we can see all people, even those we dislike most strongly, as children of God then we can love them as our brothers and sisters without accepting or condoning what they do and without putting conditions on our love. This is what Christ did and I believe that this is what it means to love as Christ loved.
As we celebrate Christian Family Sunday today, it really doesn’t matter what type of family we are talk about, our biological family, our church family, or the whole family of all God’s children, whatever family we are talking about, we are call to love them. So perhaps the real secret to being part of a loving family isn’t to choose a loving family to be a part of, but rather to be more loving to the family we are already a part of. No family is perfect. No person is perfect. But if we love others with the love that is not only from God, but is God, then no matter how imperfect we may be, no matter how imperfect our families may be, we can truly become a loving, caring family of God. Amen.
Gift of Music Love Is the Touch MV#89
We Offer Our Gifts
At this time in our worship, we are reminded that our commitment to God also includes the gifts we offer. Normally we would be asking God’s blessing on the gifts that we place in our offering plates as well as the gifts we offer through PAR or through online donations. But today there are no offering plates so instead we remind people that as well as PAR and online donations, people can also drop donations off at the church by using the mail slot to the left of the office entry. As always, however, we need to also 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 commitment and our prayers. And so whatever it is we offer and however we choose to offer it, let us ask God’s blessing upon it.
Let us pray; Loving God, bless these gifts that we offer you today that they may be offerings of love that that they may help nurture and grow you love in our church, our community and our world. Amen.
We Offer Our Prayers
And now, although we may not have a prayer jar in which to place our prayers, let us take a moment of silence to offer our prayers for all those named in our hearts, our thoughts, and our minds as well as those whose deepest needs are known only to God hearts … Amen.
Minute for Mission
Prayer of the People
Divine Life Giver, we thank you this day for families. We thank you for mothers and fathers, for those who have given us life and those who have nurtured and cared for us. We thank you for siblings, those who share our lives in a very special way. We thank you for grandparents, for aunts, for uncles and for cousins, those with whom we share a unique bond. We thank you for children and grandchildren through whom we see the connections of life continue. We thank you for those who have chosen to commit themselves to us in relationship. For husbands and wives, for life partners and for close friends. For those who are willing to stick by us in both the good times and the bad, those who know our flaws and faults and accept and love us anyway.
We thank you for those who are there for us in times of trouble and heartache to support and encourage us, and who are there in our times of joy and celebration to rejoice with us and add even more meaning to those special times.
We thank you for those who not only encourage us to grow and to explore our faith and our place in your world, but who are also prepared to grow with us.
We thank you for those who, through their example of faith, have helped us to grow in our own faith and in our own unique understanding of who we are and our place in this world.
God, we know that this year Mother’s Day will be difficult for many people who cannot be with their mothers, with their children, or with their extended families because of the pandemic lockdown. Be with them and help them to feel loved.
Grant that because of our experiences of love, of commitment and faith through the lives of others, we may become more loving, more committed and more faithful. Just as others have shared themselves with us, give us the confidence and strength to share our love and our faith with others.
Divine Parent who is love itself, bless all our families, those of birth, those of choice, those of shared faith and those of all creation. As you have blessed us, help us to become a blessing to others in return. Amen.
Gift of Music Would You Bless Our Homes and Families #556
It seems kind of silly to say “Go out from here” when there really is no place to go, so instead I will say remember that wherever you are in whatever you are doing, God is with you, Christ’s example guides your behaviour and the Spirit who is Love itself, is with you within you always. So be at peace. Amen.