Service and More for August 16, 2020

Here is the link to the video for August 16: Clean and Unclean: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drAjZPX-xk4

Here is the order of Service:

Deep River Community Church

Online August 16, 2020:  Clean and Unclean

Introduction/Welcome

Prelude:    Nocturne     by Ernest Marsden

Opening/Approach:   In a world where seekers of power use the tools of hatred, lies and fear to divide people, we are called to create connections and bridges.  In a world ready to blame others, we invite everyone to greater wholeness and holiness. We seek the will and strength for growing our wholeness through our various encounters with Holy Mystery including sharing in worship.

We begin with our Statement of Identity:  We are an open, welcoming, and diverse fellowship exploring and striving to live the all-encompassing love of Jesus.  

Prayer of Approach:  Holy One, thank you for using this time of worship to guide us and encourage us to become increasingly clean in our minds and hearts so we may honour our humanity.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

Opening Hymn:   Open our eyes Lord  TBOP 445

Humour and Story:   The New Minister

Prayers:  We give thanks for the blessings we receive.

Thanks for communities of faith for encouragement, comfort, and stewardship of their stories.

Thanks for what is and will be provided for people we care about who are struggling with challenges in their lives.

Thanks for all those who help us and others along the way on life’s journeys.

Thanks for all those who help in time of disasters, from hurricanes to devastating explosions…

Silent prayer time

The Lord’s Prayer

Offering: From people who have a little to people who have a lot and share what they have from money to time and talents, much is given for the well-being of others and to agencies that work for that well-being, from refugee centres to churches.

Holy Mystery, we thank you for using our gifts to make your love real for those who struggle with the challenges of living in the face of scarcity and animosity.  Amen.

Hymn:     In Christ there is no East or West    SFGP 111

Reading:       Psalm 133  Sharing in worship is a blessing

                    Matthew 15:10-28  What is unclean, and the Canaanite woman

Exploration of the Word:  Clean and Unclean

Closing Hymn: Be thou my vision   TBOP 46Vs 1,2,4,5

Commissioning:

We go into the world offering love and connection,

aware of our own failings and weaknesses,

daring to love in spite of our brokenness.

Benediction

Postlude:  What a wonderful world       by G.D. Weiss & B Thiele

Humour and Story:  The members of a large church were excited about meeting their new minister as they heard how he was going to help them forward in their ministry.  When they arrived at church that Sunday, a homeless guy was hanging around the church: scruffy beard, badly worn shoes, stereotypical long coat, old hat.  All of them carefully walked around this guy without saying anything to him.  When the service was about to start, he came in and was allowed to sit at the back of the church.  The service had an opening part, then the chair of the council asked the congregation to welcome their new minister, and the guy walked from the back of the church to the pulpit to introduce himself. (True story)

Here is the Message for August 16 Online Service:

2020-08-16  Clean and Unclean

Psalm 133 is not about my message:  it is about our sharing in worship, whether in person or online.  Sharing in worship can be a rich blessing, for us and for those sharing worship with us.  Vegetable oil was a precious commodity throughout human existence until about 60 years ago for its high energy content and for its contribution to the tastiness and texture of other food.  We now know it is also important for a healthy nervous system and health in general, in moderation.  In the same way, sharing in worship has been linked to longer lives, better health, and greater prosperity along with greater happiness.  Sharing in worship truly blesses the worshippers.

Now to my message.  In Judaism cleanliness and holiness go together.  The cleanliness aspect contributed to their longer lives and greater reproduction along with setting them apart from other people.  Jesus cut the link between external cleanliness and holiness.  This was hard for his disciples to hear as it was easy to do ritual hand-washing, stay away from unclean people, and go through the other actions related to ritual cleanliness.  It is much harder to have clean thoughts.

The second part of the Gospel reading, which is the main part in the lectionary, revealed that even Jesus could have unclean thoughts.  When he described the Canaanite woman’s daughter as a dog, he revealed his inherited prejudice against Canaanites, a prejudice going back over 1000 years.  Her feisty reply helped him correct himself, and he healed her daughter.

Every one of us has a mix of clean and unclean thoughts, thoughts supporting the well-being of others and thoughts which could lead to harm to others, thoughts which separate us from the unconditional love of the Holy Mystery.  Denying the existence of those thoughts does not help.  Understanding the source of those thoughts can help us grow into a healthy wholeness.  Choosing alternative thoughts also helps.  What we think about is what we tend to become.

Accepting our frailty can help us shift how we relate to other people.  To begin, here is a story that came my way about 30 years ago.  A man related how uncomfortable he was in church because another man in old clothes and dusty shoes started sitting in the same pew as him.  One day, their feet accidentally touched which initiated a conversation.  The old man apologized and explained that he lived in an old house a couple of miles from the church.  He tried to make himself as presentable as possible including polishing his shoes, but by the time he walked the two miles to church, his shoes were always dusty.  The teller of the story described how bad he felt about his attitude and perception, and became a less unclean person that day.  For generations we were trained to link external dressiness and cleanliness with social acceptability, even in church, possible especially in church, just like synagogues 2000 years ago.

Dismissing the worth of a person because of how they look is a widespread problem in our society and includes racial aspects as well as class issues.  The people we are trained to avoid and dismiss are the people Jesus came to save, to bring to wellness.  That new minister in the story I told earlier sought to return that congregation to the mission started by Jesus.  The most successful United Church in Calgary makes radical hospitality a core value and provides a welcoming place for street people, addicts, and others.

People under 25 who are looking for a church are looking for churches with diversity, just like the schools and colleges they attend or attended and their workplaces.  This diversity needs to include race, ethnicity, and class.

There are many stories in the gospels in which Jesus challenged the culture of identifying worth by concepts of cleanliness and holiness, from the story of Lazarus and the rich man to the story of the prostitute who washed his feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. 

The people who can make us the most uncomfortable are the people who can help us the most in becoming increasingly clean inside as their relationships can help wash away thoughts and attitudes that betray our commitment to following Jesus, to serving the risen Christ.

At Renovations 2000 in Toronto, I attended a session about the establishment of a residence for people with mental health and addiction issues in a major American city.  The speaker had joined a congregation in that city where each person was to take on a mission project.  She did not know what she wanted to do.  One day, as she went to give some money to a panhandler on the street, she started a conversation with him.  The outcome of that conversation, after a great deal of work and with support from the church, was the purchase of an old hotel or apartment building which they converted into a residence for people with mental health and addiction issues.

That story suggests to me that there are no unclean people, no people outside the love of the Holy Mystery, even though all of us have problems with unclean attitudes or thoughts or habits.

So what kinds of thoughts and attitudes can we cultivate that will replace unclean thoughts?  We can choose to see developing relationships with people that make us uncomfortable as opportunities to strengthen our social skills, expand our knowledge about other people, and deepen our resiliency for dealing with difficult situations.  Instead of seeing a person in rough shape as someone who is a loser or worse, we can choose to see a person who has survived difficult circumstances.  Instead of seeing a really wealthy person has a hoarder of wealth or worse thoughts, see them as people with the potential to make significant contributions to helping other people, both materially and in sharing knowledge and relationships.

Instead of seeing a group of teenage boys as probably up to no good, see them as young people learning to find their way through life.

If we experience painful failures in our own lives, do not see ourselves as losers or stupid or whatever other negative thoughts we might have about ourselves.  Instead see ourselves as survivors who had difficult learning experiences ready to apply what we have learned to whatever we choose to do next.  Failures are an important driver of innovation, and people like Thomas Edison profited a great deal from wha they learned from their failures.

We can choose to replace negative thoughts and attitudes about ourselves and others with positive thoughts.  Just as that Canaanite woman taught Jesus to see all people as people, each of us can become people better for ourselves and others.

This is really hard to do by ourselves.  Sharing in community can be a help and sharing in communities of faith that worship together, either online or in person, can help us on our journey to more complete fulfillment of our humanity.  If Jesus can change, we can change.  In all of this the Holy mystery is with us, helping us open our ears, eyes, minds and hearts.  Thanks be to God.

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