Sunday September 11, 2022
Life and Work of our Church
Introit VU# 579
The church is wherever God’s people are praising,
singing God’s goodness for joy on this day.
The church is wherever disciples of Jesus
remember his story and walk in his way.
Carol Rose Ikeler 1959 © 1963 W.L. Jenkins. All Rights Reserved. Used and adapted by permission of Westminster John Knox Press. LicenSingOnline#605486
Acknowledging the Territory
As we begin our worship, we take a moment to 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 use and share this land wisely.
Lighting the Candles
As we prepare to light our Christ Candle this morning, you will notice that there are 3 additional candles as well. The first is to recognize the tragedy that occurred last Sunday in the James Smith Cree Nation near the village of Weldon, Saskatchewan. We take a moment of silent prayer to remember the 10 people killed, the 18 wounded, their families and the families of the 2 suspects in these attacks.
We light this candle for comfort, for healing and for peace.
Our second candle honours a life that marks the end of an era. Queen Elizabeth the Second has reigned for longer than many of us have been alive and certainly as long as most of us can remember. Her life has had a profound effect throughout the world and she is considered to have been generally respected and admired. We take a moment of silence now as we mourn her loss with people around the world. We light this candle to honour and remember.
The third candle marks the anniversary of horrific events of September 11th, 2001 when almost 3000 people were killed and over 25000 more were injured. The pain of this memory continues to haunt us, as it should, and today we take a moment of silent prayer to remember.
We light this candle to remind ourselves not to forget the past but instead to use it to build a better future.
Lighting the Christ Candle
And as we light our Christ Candle this morning, we are reminded that regardless of what is happening in the world around us, God’s Light and God’s Spirit are still here, actively at work in the world today. Once again, we commit ourselves to follow and to share that light.
Call to Worship
We gather here knowing we cannot change others.
We gather here knowing we cannot change the past.
But we also gather here knowing that the one thing we can change is ourselves.
We gather here knowing that it is only when we are willing to change our own attitudes and behaviours that we can change the world.
And so, we gather here seeking the courage, the strength, the wisdom and the faith to follow our Divine Creator into and everchanging yet ever blessed future.
This morning I have decided to share with you as an opening prayer a prayer written for September 11th by Rabbi David Wolpe. It is a prayer that calls us to not only remember but to move forward in hope.
Dear God, how do we pray for what was lost? We cannot pray for deliverance or a miracle, for the tragedy has already burned itself into our souls. Children have grown fatherless. Families are long since bereaved. We know there is no prayer to change the past. So we pray to live with memory, with constant love, with the promise both to combat evil and to cherish goodness. Do not let our pain cloud our hopes or crush our hearts. Help us grow through this tragedy, and all the pains we face in life, and sustain our trust in You. Amen
Gift of Music Dear God, Who Loves All Humankind VU# 608
Today we return to using the Narrative Lectionary which we began last September. This lectionary challenges us to see the Bible, not as individual verses or specific themes that connect various verses, but rather as a collection of stories. Today we begin with the story of Noah. This story actually fills five full chapters of the book of Genesis so today we will hear only three sections of this story but they give us a picture of what this story is all about.
Genesis 6:5-22, 8:6-12; 9:8-17
When the Lord saw how wicked everyone on earth was and how evil their thoughts were all the time, he was sorry that he had ever made them and put them on the earth. He was so filled with regret that he said, “I will wipe out these people I have created, and also the animals and the birds, because I am sorry that I made any of them.” But the Lord was pleased with Noah.
This is the story of Noah. He had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Noah had no faults and was the only good man of his time. He lived in fellowship with God, but everyone else was evil in God’s sight, and violence had spread everywhere. God looked at the world and saw that it was evil, for the people were all living evil lives.
God said to Noah, “I have decided to put an end to all people. I will destroy them completely, because the world is full of their violent deeds. Build a boat for yourself out of good timber; make rooms in it and cover it with tar inside and out. Make it 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. Make a roof for the boat and leave a space of 18 inches between the roof and the sides. Build it with three decks and put a door in the side. I am going to send a flood on the earth to destroy every living being. Everything on the earth will die, but I will make a covenant with you. Go into the boat with your wife, your sons, and their wives. Take into the boat with you a male and a female of every kind of animal and of every kind of bird, in order to keep them alive. Take along all kinds of food for you and for them.” Noah did everything that God commanded.
After forty days Noah opened a window and sent out a raven. It did not come back, but kept flying around until the water was completely gone. Meanwhile, Noah sent out a dove to see if the water had gone down, but since the water still covered all the land, the dove did not find a place to light. It flew back to the boat, and Noah reached out and took it in. He waited another seven days and sent out the dove again. It returned to him in the evening with a fresh olive leaf in its beak. So Noah knew that the water had gone down. Then he waited another seven days and sent out the dove once more; this time it did not come back.
God said to Noah and his sons, “I am now making my covenant with you and with your descendants, and with all living beings—all birds and all animals—everything that came out of the boat with you. With these words I make my covenant with you: I promise that never again will all living beings be destroyed by a flood; never again will a flood destroy the earth. As a sign of this everlasting covenant which I am making with you and with all living beings, I am putting my bow in the clouds. It will be the sign of my covenant with the world. Whenever I cover the sky with clouds and the rainbow appears, I will remember my promise to you and to all the animals that a flood will never again destroy all living beings. When the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between me and all living beings on earth. That is the sign of the promise which I am making to all living beings.”
The Day the World Changed
When our Faith Formation team met last month, we discussed upcoming services. I remarked that, because September 11th fell on a Sunday this year, I felt we should do something special to include that event in our worship. David remarked, that was the day the world changed.
Despite the fact that 21 years have passed, 9/11 is still a vivid part of our collective remember. I’m sure that almost everyone here could tell you exactly where we were and what we were doing when we heard that a plane had crashed into the twin towers in New York City. We watched in stunned disbelief as our world changed forever.
That day our world became a whole lot bigger and a whole lot smaller all at the same time. It became smaller because places and people who may have previously seemed very distant from us were suddenly part of our everyday reality. It became bigger because our own personal, isolated, comfortable little lives burst open to include much more than we expected and much more than we were prepared for.
Our world changed and we changed. We lost some of the innocence that we had been privileged to enjoy. We lost our ability to convince ourselves that, no matter what was happening in the rest of the world, in our own little corner we were safe and secure.
But perhaps we also became more aware of and began to understand more deeply the painful realities that others face on a daily basis. We could no longer isolate ourselves from the rest of humanity. We were forced to accept the fact that everything that happens in this world has a direct effect on us, whether we like it or not.
The thing is, that although we might have become more aware of it, we have always been connected to the world around us and to what is happening beyond our own small comfort zone. A volcanic eruption in one part of the world can affect weather globally as it spreads ash and smoke. A chemical spill in waters half way across the world can devastate fish stocks and marine life and impact our own aquaculture. A war in Ukraine can send gas prices skyrocketing. And a virus that appears in a small area that most of us have never heard of, can spur a worldwide pandemic. Although many people talk about September 11th 2001 as the day that changed the world, the reality is that our world is constantly changing, every single day.
It is up to us, however, to decide how we will respond to a changing world. We can become angry and yell and scream about how unfair it is. We can blame others, complaining that they are unjust, self-absorbed, uncaring or even pure evil. We can become overwhelmed, feeling like it is all so far beyond our control. We can give up, giving in to the attitude of “Why bother?”. Or we can accept the fact that change is going to happen, and we can seek way to respond. We can even decide to do what Noah did when his entire world changed. We can trust in God.
Now some people will say that’s a very naive reaction. Are we supposed to simply accept the feeling of powerlessness that often seems to overtake us in time of tremendous change and uncertainty? Are we supposed to throw up our hands and assume that nothing we do can make any difference? Are we supposed to sit back and wait for God to step in and fix everything?
Well, that is certainly not what Noah did. Genesis tells us that the people of the earth had become incredibly wicked and evil. Violence had spread everywhere. There was no one whose behaviour was not deplorable. No one, that is, except Noah. And so, according to the story, God decided to destroy the entire world and to save only Noah.
But Noah didn’t simply sit back and let things happen. Despite all that was going on around him, Noah remained faithful to God, living in fellowship with God. Noah continued to pray and to seek God’s guidance. And when Noah heard God speak, Noah listened. I can’t help but wonder if this was actually a one-on-one conversation between God and Noah, or if the Divine was screaming out at the world to change and Noah was the only one who actually listened.
Because Noah listened, he found himself with work to do. And it was not easy. The beautiful image we have of animals marching two by two up a ramp into a huge boat where they would peacefully float to safety while the rest of the world was destroyed, is far from the reality of what this must have been like for Noah. Building such a huge endeavour must have been costly and time-consuming and it must have resulted in a great deal of ridicule from those around him.
And try to image spending more than 4 months in a space about the size of this church with only your family and Thousands of birds and animal. Not only would you have to fed, care for and clean up after all those creatures but you couldn’t even open a window for the first 40 days because you are in a huge boat being tossed about in a massive storm.
Escaping from the violence and wickedness of his world was not easy for Noah and it came at a great price. Noah left everything he knew behind in order to trust in God.
There are times that I feel like our world today is just as overwhelmingly violent and evil as it was in Noah’s time. Wars, terrorism, gang violence, domestic violence, hate crimes, mass murder, rape, assault and violence of every kind dominates the nightly news. And as it that wasn’t enough, television shows, movies and video games seem to glorify and normalize violence. It seems like today, in the words of Genesis, violence has spread everywhere.
Yet despite everything, Noah trusted God and his trust was not disappointed. Now that doesn’t mean that it was “happily ever after” for Noah and his descendants. Even after the ark finally came to rest on dry land, even after Noah was able to release all the animal so that they could fend for themselves and he no longer had to care for them, it still was not easy. Noah and his family had to start from scratch and build themselves a whole new life. They had no home, no community and no one but themselves to rely on. But they had God’s promise that they would not have to go through all this alone.
We also have the promise that no matter what happens in our lives or in our world, we will not have to face it without Divine comfort and guidance. If we truly listen and pay attention to that Divine guidance, if we trust and believe that there is a power beyond what we understand, like Noah we will learn to face whatever life throws at us. But like Noah, it also means that we have to do our part. We cannot simply sit back blindly hoping that things will get better and that somehow everything will miraculously turn out the way we hope.
The scares left by 9/11 has not miraculously disappeared. There are still those who live in anger and hatred and who would readily inflict just as much violence on those they blame. There are those whose pain and anger has turned to aggressive Islamophobia. But there are also those who have spoken out for peace, those who are trying, not to repay the violence suffered, but to begin to understand and mend the causes of that violence.
The pandemic has also left its scares. Despite mask mandates, vaccinations and isolation, COVID remains a frightening reality in our lives and we face a world has changed. The poorest, in our own country and around the world, have often been the heaviest hit. Our world faces huge increases in costs while wages and pensions have not kept up. With more and more jobs, meeting and programs going “virtual” more and more people are continuing to feel isolated and alone. The World Health Organization estimates that issues of depression and anxiety increased by more than 25% in the first year of the pandemic alone.
And today, many people around the world are asking what effect the death of Queen Elizabeth will have.
For Noah, in the flood and in its aftermath, the world changed. On September 11th, 2001 the world changed. Over the past 3 years, living through a world-wide pandemic and the consequences of that, the world has change. And this week, in ways we cannot yet even begin to guess at, with the death of the second longest reigning monarch in all of history, the world has once again changed.
Yes, our world has changed, but that is nothing new. Our world has changed and continues to change and there is nothing we can do to stop it. But we can decide how we respond to the changes that are and will continue to happen all around us. We will need to ask ourselves some tough questions. If the world is already changing, how can we work within these changes to make things better? Are there things that we can do to change our world? And what is God calling us to change, to give up or to build? And perhaps most important of all, are we listening? The good news is that rainbows still appear in the sky and God still promises to guide us, to care for us and to accompany us no matter what the future might hold.
Gift of Music When Pain of the World VU# 598
We Offer Our Gifts
As we respond to God’s promise of love and care no matter what the future may hold, let us respond with our gifts. In this church we do not pass the offering plates but ask you, if you chose to support the work of this church to place your offering in the offering plates at the back of the church or to make arrangement to give through PAR or through online donations. And so as we sing our offertory response, we bring forward some of those gifts.
Offertory Response Tune# 549
For all your goodness God, we give you thanks.
And so we offer you, all that we have and do,
To serve and honour you and give you thanks.
© no Copyright
As you have blessed us in all that you have given us, we ask that you will bless the gifts that we bring that they too may become a blessing. Amen.
We Offer Our Prayers
God is always as near as our next breath. God always listen when we pray, whether those prayers are written down and placed in our prayer jar or whether they as said in the silence of our hearts. So let us bring our silent, personal prayers to God with confidence, knowing that they are always heard … Amen.
Minute for Mission
Prayers of the People
Loving Creator, in whom we live and experience all that this world has to offer us,
we pray for a world crying out to feel loved, wanted, cherished and unique…
We pray for a world torn apart by conflict and war…
We pray for a world that lives uneasily in a climate of fear with no clear vision for future days…
We pray for a world that thinks less of others than of self…
We pray for a world where division between nations, race, religion neighbour and family leads to distrust…
We pray for a world that is short on happiness, too busy to enjoy this world you have created, too preoccupied with living to appreciate life…
We pray for a world where spiritual longing is satisfied by fashionable notions and temporary solutions with no thought for tomorrow…
We pray for a world that needs to know your love, your hope, your peace, and your joy, a world that needs to know it is special, unique and is uniquely loved…
We pray for a world that has changed and that continues to change, for a world that offers us new challenges and new opportunities each new day…
We pray for a world where we find new ways to follow, to love, to serve, to cherish and to create a better world not just for ourselves but for all of creation. Amen.
Gift of Music How Firm a Foundation #660
So now, go out from here in faith, trusting that no matter what the future holds, you will never have to face it alone. Go knowing God is with you, Christ leads the way and the Spirit walks with you now and always. Go with God.
Choral Blessing #298
When you walk from here,
when you walk from here,
walk with justice, walk with mercy,
and with God’s humble care.
© Words and music; 1991 Borealis Music. Used with Permission. OneLicense.net#A-723756