Sunday November 7th, 2021 Remembrance Day
Acknowledging the Territory
As we do each week when we gather in worship, we pause to take a moment to recognize land upon which we gather is, by law, the unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people. We offer our gratitude for this land and those who have tended it before us.
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 say and all that we do.
Call to Worship
Remembering the generations who have gone before us,
We gather in this place of peace to worship.
Remembering the courage of those who have stood up for what they believed, regardless of the consequences,
We gather in this place of peace to worship.
Remembering those who have changed and reshaped our world by their acts of courage, faith, loyalty and love,
We gather in this place of peace to worship.
Remembering all who have suffered and died in the name of war,
We gather in this place of peace to worship.
And so as we come, seeking to find, through remembering our past, God’s call to the future,
We gather in this place of peace to worship God.
Opening Prayer (in unison)
Our opening prayer today is a prayer that was written by Rev Gord Waldie of Grande Prairie, Alberta specifically for a Remembrance Day service.
Let us pray;
God of many names, another year has come and gone. Once again, we gather in this place to remember the 11th day of the 11th month. Once again, we pause to remember the fallen, men and women from many different lands who answered the call of their country and never returned. God of peace, just as the guns fell silent on that day so many years ago, allowing people to hear the sounds of hope and promise again, may our hearts be quieted this hour. And in that silence may we hear the screams of the dead and dying. In that silence may we hear you calling us anew to a world of peace and justice. God of life, in this time of prayer and song and memory awaken us to your life-giving presence. May that sense of your Spirit within and among us empower us to be people of peace, true peace. Help us remember that true peace comes not from victory on the battlefield but through justice and abundant life for all people of the world. This we pray in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, who was called the Prince of Peace. Amen.
Hymn: God! As with Silent Hearts #527
Service of Remembrance
*Reading of Names
*One Minute Silence
Scripture Readings 1 Kings 19:1-18
Last week we heard about the building of Solomon’s temple. Today we jump ahead approximately 100 years. As a result of the heavy taxation levied on the people to build the temple in Jerusalem, following Solomon’s death, the kingdom of Israel split in two. We begin today at a time when one of Solomon’s ancestors, Ahab, ruled the northern kingdom. He married a Phoenician princess named Jezebel, who worshiped the god Baal. Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to prove whose god was more powerful. Elijah won, but then went on to kill all of the prophets of Baal. This is where we pick up the story today.
1 Kings 19:1-18 Good News Translation
King Ahab told his wife Jezebel everything that Elijah had done and how he had put all the prophets of Baal to death. She sent a message to Elijah: “May the gods strike me dead if by this time tomorrow I don’t do the same thing to you that you did to the prophets.” Elijah was afraid and fled for his life; he took his servant and went to Beersheba in Judah.
Leaving the servant there, Elijah walked a whole day into the wilderness. He stopped and sat down in the shade of a tree and wished he would die. “It’s too much, Lord,” he prayed. “Take away my life; I might as well be dead!”
He lay down under the tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said, “Wake up and eat.” He looked around and saw a loaf of bread and a jar of water near his head. He ate and drank, and lay down again. The Lord‘s angel returned and woke him up a second time, saying, “Get up and eat, or the trip will be too much for you.” Elijah got up, ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to walk forty days to Sinai, the holy mountain.
There he went into a cave to spend the night.
Suddenly the Lord spoke to him, “Elijah, what are you doing here?”
He answered, “Lord God Almighty, I have always served you—you alone. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed all your prophets. I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me!”
“Go out and stand before me on top of the mountain,” the Lord said to him. Then the Lord passed by and sent a furious wind that split the hills and shattered the rocks—but the Lord was not in the wind. The wind stopped blowing, and then there was an earthquake—but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was a fire—but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the soft whisper of a voice.
When Elijah heard it, he covered his face with his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him, “Elijah, what are you doing here?”
He answered, “Lord God Almighty, I have always served you—you alone. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed all your prophets. I am the only one left—and they are trying to kill me.”
The Lord said, “Return to the wilderness near Damascus, then enter the city and anoint Hazael as king of Syria; anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king of Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. Anyone who escapes being put to death by Hazael will be killed by Jehu, and anyone who escapes Jehu will be killed by Elisha. Yet I will leave seven thousand people alive in Israel—all those who are loyal to me and have not bowed to Baal or kissed his idol.”
Why Are You Here?
The prophet Elijah is one of the most important prophets in the Hebrew scriptures. He first appears during the reign of King Ahab when he warns the king that there will be no rain or even dew in the Kingdom of Israel until Elijah himself tells them otherwise. The prediction of this drought is especially significant because Baal, the god that was being worship throughout the Northern Kingdom of Israel was the Canaanite god responsible for rain, thunder, lightning, and dew.
Elijah is then sent by God to the town of Zarephath in Sidon where he lives with a widow and her son for 3 years. In that entire time there is no rain and no dew. When Elijah first arrives, the widow tells him that she has only enough oil and flour to last herself and son for one meal, but instead she prepares a meal for Elijah. Miraculously the meager amount of oil and flour that the widow possessed, lasts the entire 3 years and when the he dies suddenly, Elijah restores him to life.
At the end of those 3 years, Elijah is sent back to King Ahab. We are told that he then challenges the 450 prophets of Baal to build an altar and call upon their god to light the fire to consume the sacrifice. But no matter what the priests do, no fire appears. Then Elijah rebuilds the altar to God that had been destroyed. He digs a trench around it and pours water over the altar and the sacrifice until the trench is filled. Elijah prays to God, and immediately a fire from heaven comes down and consumes not only the sacrifice but the water, the wood and even the stones of the alter itself, scorching the ground all around. Elijah then orders that all of the priests of Baal be put to death. It is interesting to note that apparently, God never actually told Elijah to kill Baal’s prophets.
So this is where we pick up the story in our scripture reading today. Jezebel is furious and vows to kill Elijah in retaliation for killing all her prophets. Elijah has just had one of the biggest successes of his entire ministry and instead of basking in the light and warmth of victory, he is on the run, fleeing into the desert in fear for his life. He has done everything that God had asked of him and yet nothing seems to be going the way he has hoped. What more could God possibly expect from him?
Is it any wonder the Elijah just wants to give up and die? Yet even now, God won’t let him be. He is given food and water and he then travels another 40 days into the desert until he comes to Mount Sinia. It is here, that God speaks to Elijah. And what God says is this, “Elijah, what are you doing here?”
What am I doing here? All the frustration, exhaustion, disappointment, and anger spill out and Elijah lets God know exactly how he feels! “What do you mean, what am I doing here? I was following you! I’ve always followed you and I’ve done everything you told me to. No one else has. Everyone else has broken their promise to obey you. They’ve torn down your altars and they have killed all your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me to!
And God quietly responds, “Go and stand outside, and I will pass by.” At this point, I’m not quite sure why, but Elijah obeys and goes outside. He is immediately overwhelmed by a ferocious wind, but God is not in the wind. Then there is a great earthquake, but God is not in the earthquake. Then a great fire erupts, but God is not in the fire. Then Elijah hears a still small whisper and in that silence whisper, Elijah hears God.
Now let’s be clear. Just because God is not in the wind, earthquake or fire as Elijah stands on the mountain, that does not mean that God cannot speak through these elements. The Hebrew scriptures often speak of God’s voice as being like a wind that splits the trees and shaking the ground. And we just finished a story of how God spoke through fire by lighting the altar, when Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal. But this time God spoke instead through a whisper of silence. And what did that whisper say? It says exactly the same thing it had already asked, “Elijah, what are you doing here?”
Now Elijah, not yet ready to give in and so he repeats his rant. I’m the only one who has always followed you, who has always remained faithful. All the others have broken their promises, torn down your altars and killed all your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me!
God’s voice whispers back, “No, you’re not the only one. You’re not alone.”
Elijah is told to go back and anoint others to help him with his work. But he is also reminded that even when he feels most alone, he is not. He is not the only one who has remained faithful. 7000 others have refused to bow to Baal. 7000 … a symbolic number that we would likely translate as thousands and thousands.
I think there are times we all feel a bit like Elijah. There I times that, no matter how hard we try, things just don’t to work out. There are times we feel like we have accomplished nothing and we just want to give up. There are times we feel overwhelmed and alone, like nothing I do really matters. But I believe that when we find ourselves alone and isolated in that desert of despair, much like Elijah was, God is still there, quietly whispering to us, “Why are you here?”
I’m not sure how many of you have heard the reports over the past 6 months about the number of nurses who have left the profession. Some have retired but others have chosen to seek employment outside of the nursing profession. I recently heard a report saying that the same thing was happening within the clergy. People are feeling overwhelmed, burned out and exhausted. Covid despondency has set in and people are feeling “why bother?”
Yet that still small voice continues to whispers, “Why are you here? Go back. There is still work to be done. But don’t worry, I will give you companions to help you. You just have to reach out for them. You are not alone.”
And we are not alone. Early on in this pandemic the catch phrase, “We’re all in this together” was everywhere. But it kind of feels like we have forgotten that. Many people are expressing feeling of being more isolated and more alone than they have at any time since this pandemic began.
And this is not the only time that this has happened. I think that, like Elijah, we sometimes seem to think that everything depends on us and we have to struggle through things alone. We’re not always good at recognizing the people who are there to help us, or at reaching out to them when we do recognize them. It’s much easier to hide in the cave than to risk stepping out into the whirlwind, earthquake and fire.
But that still small voice continues to challenge us, “Why are you here? Stop worrying. You are not alone.”
Today, as we mark Remembrance Sunday, I can’t help but wonder how many of those we remember today heard that voice calling to them. I’m sure many of them must have wondered why they were there, but I’m also sure that that same was there, whispering in their ears, “You are not alone.”
And so, perhaps today the example of their willingness to risk stepping out into the whirlwind of bombs, gunfire, devastation and death that surrounded them, can inspire us to face whatever whirlwind, earthquake or fire we may be asked to overcome. Perhaps we can learn to trust, as they did, that we are not alone. Perhaps we can find the courage to reach out, so that together we can find new and better ways to follow the call to be God’s people and to build a better world for all God’s children everywhere. Amen.
Gift of Music Come and Find the Quiet Center #374
We Offer Our Gifts
It is true that none of us can do everything alone. But when we are willing to do our part to help, we never know what can truly be accomplished. And so, we take a moment now, to offer whatever we can, and to commit ourselves and our gifts to God. So regardless of what our offering today may be, let us take a moment to ask God’s blessing upon it.
Let us pray;
Loving God, today, as we remember those who have offered so much, we ask your blessing upon what we offer now, our gifts of time, of talents, of resources and of commitment. Bless all the gifts we offer, that they may help to bring this world a bit closer to your vision for us. Amen.
We Offer Our Prayers
And now, as we took a moment of silence earlier to remember all those who died and suffered in war, let us take a moment to remember all those who suffer today, those named in our prayer jar and those named in our hearts and minds … Amen.
Prayers of the People
Let us continue our worship as we once again come before God in prayer;
God of peace and love, through Jesus of Nazareth you have called us to be people of peace saying, “Blessed are the peacemakers” and reminding us that we are to love our neighbour as we love ourselves regardless of whether we consider that neighbour a friend or an enemy. Through him we have come to know that justice and kindness are the only way to peace.
Yet we know that our reality does not always reflect this knowledge. We know that there are times in our world when injustice and hatred gain such power that we see no alternative but to fight. We offer our gratitude for all those who have been willing to sacrifice everything, even their own lives, in order to stand up against hatred, abuse, discrimination and oppression. We mourn their loss and we mourn the circumstances that made such loss inevitable.
We mourn also those whose lives have been forever altered by the ravages of war. We remember those who returned from battle changed forever.
We remember those whose bodies where shattered and broken.
We remember those whose minds and spirits were damaged beyond comprehension by what they saw and experienced, those who continue to suffer the ongoing effects of war today.
We remember those whose lives were torn apart by the loss of loved ones, fathers, brothers, sons, daughters, sisters and mothers who went away to war and never returned.
We remember the innocent victims caught in up in the fighting around them, those that are often callously referred to as “collateral damage”.
We remember those that our own nation fought against, those we learned to call enemies, those whose ideas, beliefs or sense of national duty called them to fight on the opposite side in battle.
We remember those who still hear the call to battle today.
And yet beyond all of this, we hear again your call to be peacemakers and to love all people as neighbours.
God of peace and love, when people around us disagree with us or think differently then we do, teach us to listen and understand.
When we see war and conflict around the world, teach us how to make a difference and to become peacemakers through our own words and actions.
When we see people being hurt, abused or discriminated against, teach us to stand up and speak out.
When we see people living in hunger and poverty, teach us to give generously of what we have.
When we see people who are hurt and angry because of things that have happened to them, teach us to listen and to truly care, becoming an example of your love.
When we feel overwhelmed, discouraged or defeated by the stresses, challenges and sorrows in our own lives, teach us to reach out to friends, to family, and especially to you.
And when we stop and see all you have given us, teach us to be truly thankful.
In our lives, our neighborhoods and our world, teach us we pray, to live more fully into your call of peace and love. Amen
Closing Hymn Dear God, Who Loves All Humankind #608
And now as we leave this place may God grant us the wisdom, the courage and the strength to live out God’s message of justice and peace in all that we say and in all that we do. And may we go out from here knowing that in all things, God is with us, Christ’s example leads us and the Spirit guides and accompanies us each step of the way. Go with God.