Worship Service November 8, 2020
Words of welcome and announcements
Act of Remembrance: Laying of the cross
Reading of the names
Minute of Silence
The lighting of the Christ Candle: As we light the Christ Candle today, let us think about how it is a symbol to bring us closer to God. The solid candle represents God the creator, the light from the flame is the light of Christ shining through us and out in a world that so desperately need to feel that presence, and the warmth of the candle flame is like the Holy Spirit that guides and goes with us wherever we go. So as we gather, may we feel God’s presence with us and seek God’s guidance for our lives.
Acknowledgment of Territory As we gather, we acknowledge that we live and work within the unceded lands of the Mi’kmaq people. We acknowledge with respect to their culture, their traditions, and their spirituality. We also acknowledge the traditions and spirituality of the Metis people.
Call to Worship and Prayer of Confession: Let us pray. O God, the very source of life, be with us as we gather on this Remembrance Sunday. Help us to feel your presence, to hear your voice speaking to us, and become examples of your vision for your world. Guide our thoughts and actions to be more like those of Christ.
As we pray, we recognize that too often we have not been the people we should be. Our world continues to struggle with wars and greed. We are thankful for the lives of those who went before us to give us our freedom and the blessings of life in this place we call home. May we show our appreciation for those who sacrificed all by seeking fairness, justice, and peace for all people. And when we find that challenge difficult, may we remember that you are with us; that your strength is stronger than our weakness; that your ability to forgive can inspire us to let go of past hurts and let us join in creating a vision of what this world can be. We ask your forgiveness for those times that we have strayed from your example or for our inability to act or to speak out when we see wrongs committed. Forgive us, and help us to continue to seek your path to a better world. Amen
Assurance of Pardon: God offers forgiveness and an opportunity to live life in the fullness of the spirit if we seek it. How blessed we are to know the love and forgiveness of God. When we falter, God is there to pick us up. We are not abandoned. If we can be blessed in such a great way, let us too commit to forgiving others and helping to create a kinder and more just world, knowing that God is with us along the way. Thanks are to God for this steadfast love and forgiveness.
Theme Conversation: In preparing for this Remembrance Sunday, it struck me that I was born the son of a veteran and that as my life unfolded, I became the father of a veteran. I recall the gut-wrenching feeling the day my oldest son announced that he was going to serve on active duty in Afghanistan. I knew that for two earlier generations, my family and my wife’s family both had sent brothers overseas who did not come home. I prayed. I prayed for the safekeeping of my son. I also prayed that he would still be the kind of person we raised and loved when he returned from whatever horrors he might see during his time there.
We were lucky. Those prayers were answered. My son did come home and he was mostly the same as the person who left us to try to bring peace to a troubled land.
I also prayed for peace – that somehow humankind would discover that there are ways to solve differences that don’t involve violence and destruction; that people would seek understanding instead of argument; that the idea of our common good as the inhabitants of this planet that God has given us, is attainable for all, and that all people can live with dignity and respect for each other. We are still working on those prayers.
I also realized how thankful I am. My generation was blessed with the opportunity to grow up at a time when we were not engaged in warfare. For this, I will always be grateful, but I know I owe that blessing in part to those whose names we read at the beginning of this service as well as those who served with them.
Today I want to share a story of personal discovery and then reflect on what we might take from scriptural teachings that could guide us where we want to go – if we are only willing to listen and act.
Our first reading is from Genesis – the part of the creation story where God creates man in God’s image. We find another reference to the significance of one’s image in our second reading.
Genesis 1: 24-31
Matthew 22: 15-22; 34-40
Romans 12: 1-2; 9-21
John 15: 9-17 No Greater Love
Music: Eternal Father Strong to Save
Meditation: The Faith of the Fallen: Our Struggle to Find Peace
Let us pray. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, oh God, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
Have you ever noticed that sometimes an unexpected message comes that inspires you or makes you stop and think about a deeper meaning? This past week I was cleaning out the bottom drawer in the pantry and I came across a stack of books that had been there for many years. When I opened them, I discovered that they were my grandmother’s cookbooks. Some notes were tucked between some of the pages. I discovered that some of these notes were letters my mother had written to Santa Claus. She is just hearing about this now. It appears that my grandmother kept these precious letters close to the books that she might see and use often.
I knew that during WW2, my grandparents often offered servicemen opportunities to join their family for meals and special occasions. I realized that some of those meals were based on recipes that were in these cookbooks. And then another pamphlet appeared. It was promoting the purchase of Victory Bonds to help fund the war effort. On the cover were the words, “What of the Faith and Fire within You”. It made me think of those who gave their lives in war, and the faith that they had, committed to protecting the country they knew from enemies they had never met. So this morning I invite you to think about the faith of the fallen in humanity’s struggle to find peace.
Next door to my childhood home the Wyman Road was the farm that belonged to Captain Wilfred Wyman. As I was growing up, Captain Wyman’s widow lived there, cared for by her daughter until she passed away. We visited often to check on them and to assist with chores. I was aware that the family had lost a son and brother in the first World War. His photograph hung in the house in an elaborately painted frame, looking out with ever-youthful eyes as those still living in the house grew older. Eventually, both mother and daughter passed away and the house was to be sold.
I was assisting as the remaining relative was cleaning out the house to prepare it for sale. Tucked away on a shelf high in a closet I discovered a shoebox containing letters that had been sent home from that lost son during his service in World War 1. The letters gave a remarkable description of what it was like for a keen young Yarmouth boy as his life was transformed by the hell on earth he experienced in war. He talked about the cold and missing his first pay because he was sick and couldn’t sign the payroll. He described the horrible conditions on the passage across the Atlantic and how wonderful the barracks seemed to be when they reached England compared to sleeping on the ground in tents while in training. He was awed by the sights of England.
And then he experienced war. He described his first experience at the front. He was shot through the leg and lay in the mud for about 24 hours. He described his recovery in the hospital only to be stricken with appendicitis and the need for surgery. During his furlough recovering, he had the opportunity to visit Scotland where he met a girl and fell in love. He talked about being sent back to the front and his disillusionment with his superiors. He talked about the life of a private and what they could expect. He described laying in his tent in France and the sounds that reminded him of the waterfront here in Yarmouth. He missed home. He talked about being infested with lice and how the soldiers would turn their shirts inside out to get a bit of relief from them. He described a care package he received from the Saturday Night Club, a group of women here in Yarmouth who prepared packages for those serving overseas, and how the “Minard’s Liniment was good for one’s feet after they were soaked in mud and water for two or three days.” He told his mother not to worry when he was being sent to the “speedy part of the line where they rush the plow and speed the telegram.”
And then there was the telegram. Young Wilfred Wyman was killed on November 6, 1917 in the battle of Passchendaele. There was the silver cross, and the large bronze medal with the words, “For King and Country” that came to be known as the dead penny, and the box of personal effects including his wallet that contained a photo of the Scottish girl he had fallen in love with. There was a letter from the chaplain describing the circumstances of his death and a letter saying that a package sent from home that arrived after his death was distributed to his comrades. The collection created a remarkable image of what so many young men experienced during those tragic years of war.
Through all of these letters, there was a message of strength. He repeatedly told his family not to worry about him. He appeared to have a faith that sustained him in the worst of imaginable circumstances. No matter what happened, he would be all right.
Let’s think about our scripture readings today. In the reading from Genesis, we read that God created man in his image. Connect this to the reading from Matthew where Jesus tells the Pharisee who asks about paying tax to Caesar – “Whose face do you see on the coin?” and the following instruction, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s”. When you look in the mirror, do you recognize that you are in God’s image? That this instruction from Jesus suggests that, just like the coin bearing Caesar’s image should be paid to Caesar, shouldn’t we then give ourselves as bearing God’s image, to God?
When I think about the unspeakable losses of wartime, the brothers and fathers who didn’t come home, the uncles that I never met, I wonder how humanity can continue to fail in its search for peace. The driving force of greed and the love of power is so destructive. Our scriptures today give us a simple proven way to find the peace that we all so deeply need. If we can only learn to love one another as God had loved us, think of what we can accomplish. Acts of kindness have the ability to diffuse anger and help us recognize our similarities more than our differences. Christ showed us the way. It is up to us to seek that way for ourselves and our world.
Mixed among the letters of Wilfred Wyman were the occasional postcards that were given to soldiers to send from the battlefield. They were pre-printed with messages and the soldier could cross out anything that didn’t apply. One of the phrases that were evident in his postcards was the phrase, “I am well”. If you think about what I described in his life and death, you might think that no one in that situation could describe their circumstances in that way. Our fallen soldiers had faith that things would be ok. I think that there is a permanence in that postcard message, “I am well” that is profound. Faith sustained our fallen when the world around them was falling apart.
What about ours?
Some of the medals that were struck to recognize men for their service in World War 1 bore the words “The Great War for Civilization” or “The War to End All Wars.” Sadly, we know that lasting peace did not follow World War 1. We should understand by now that the legacy of war is a bitter one. We should realize that there must be a better way to settle our differences.
Jesus did offer us an alternative to war. “ Love your neighbour as yourself. Love one another as I have loved you.” Isn’t it time we gave it a try?
We have been blessed – by the faith of the fallen who have gone before us, and by that great love they gave in laying down their lives for us. May we honour those blessings in the way we live our lives.
Thanks be to God for the gift of faith, for the message of the healing power of love, and for a path forward that no threat can destroy. Amen.
Hymn: O God Our Help in Ages Past
We Offer Our Gifts – Let us pray as we offer our gifts, ourselves, and our own prayers.
Dear God, as we offer our gifts today, we ask your blessing on them, that they may be used to spread a message of love and peace in our community and in our world. And with those gifts, we offer ourselves as instruments of your peace and architects working for a better world.
In our silence, we remember those who are named in our prayer jar and those prayers that are known only to us. (Silence).
Minute for Mission
Prayers of the People and the Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray.
Dear God, on this Remembrance Sunday, we offer our thanks for the opportunities and blessings we have received that were bought by the brave souls who went before us. Help us to treasure the gift of freedom and seek fairness and justice in our interactions with others. Help us to be living examples of neighbours showing love for each other.
We pray for all those who experience the harsh reality of war still. May those who are given the task to lead be granted wisdom and the understanding that love can triumph over hate, that kindness can diminish cruelty and that greed is counterproductive. Help us to find ways to share the blessings of the earth that you have given so that all might have enough and none too much.
We pray for our community, our province, and our country as we continue to battle the coronavirus. Help us to exercise caution, patience, and respect in the days, weeks, and months ahead. Bless and help our medical staff in their search for treatments that are effective.
We ask your blessing on our youth; those who will inherit a world that we have not always treated as you would have us to do. Help them to understand your law of love, that they might be better able to create your kingdom on earth.
We pray for all those who are sick in body, mind, or spirit, and all those who mourn. Grant them your healing presence and your comfort. Help them to know that you are ever-present.
And now we pray together the prayer that Jesus taught us;
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,
The power, and the glory, Forever and ever. Amen.
Hymn: Abide With Me
As we leave this place today, may we go with a deep appreciation of all those blessings that were purchased for us through the lives of those who have gone before us? May the faith of the fallen inspire us to live in faith, showing love for our neighbours and for those who are difficult to love. And as we go, let us know that we do not go alone; that God goes with us; the light of Christ shines in us, and the Holy Spirit guides our path. Go with God. Amen