Last week I recorded a “service” which I was eventually able to post on Facebook. I will be doing the same this week, and hope to be able to post to our Facebook page in a more timely fashion so that the service is available to you for Sunday morning. This Sunday’s service video will also include a Time for All Ages story.
SO, SUNDAY WORSHIP IN THE SANCTUARY CALLED HOME …
- Option 1 - Set aside time on Sunday. Follow the Spirit West Service on Facebook.
- Option 2 - Set aside time on Sunday. Light a candle, read the readings for THIS SUNDAY, read and discuss my reflection on the readings, and pray.
- Option 3- “Attend’ one of the live-streaming services from another United Church through the link at SUNDAY SERVICES LIVE-STREAMING… below.
- Also remember that if you are not on PAR(Pre-Authorized Remittance), you can still contribute to Spirit West during this time. See ANOTHER WAY TO CONTRIBUTE… below.
THIS SUNDAY – The Fifth Sunday in Lent and the Second in Isolation - “You are called”
The readings for Sunday are Ezekiel 37:1-14, and John 11: 1-45.
In both the readings something miraculous happens. In the reading from Ezekiel, we here the story of the Valley of Dry Bones. Ezekiel is taken to a valley full of bones, “there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry.” And Ezekiel is asked, “Can these bones live?” You can tell that Ezekiel is hedging his bets with his answer. If he says, “No, they are dead and dry,” he could be accused of a lack of faith. Ezekiel is talking to God after all. However, if he says, “Yes, they can live,” he might get the reply from God that he is crazy, the bones are dead and dry.” So Ezekiel replies, “O Lord God, you know.” So God tells Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones, which he does. That’s when the truly miraculous happens as the bones reconnect and are covered by flesh and skin. The Ezekiel is called to prophesy to the breath (breath, wind and spirit are the same word in Hebrew), and he does. And as he says, “I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.” The God explains to Ezekiel that these bones represent “the whole house of Israel” which at that time was in exile. This is the promise of new life for a people separated from land. (Check out this YouTube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HrzBsUtUdts) In the Gospel reading we have the story of the raising of Lazarus. Lazarus is the brother of Mary and Martha, and is very ill. The sisters sent word to Jesus that Lazarus is at the point of death. Somehow Jesus is delayed and by the time he arrives Lazarus is dead and been in his tomb for four days. Martha is angry. She goes out to meet him on the road and greets him with “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” There follows a rather theological discussion of the resurrection. However, things get more practical when Jesus meets Mary, who is weeping and repeats Martha’s sentiment, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (It is at this point that we have the shortest verse in the whole New Testament, John 11:35: εδακρυσεν ο ιησους, Jesus began to weep) Ultimately, Jesus goes to the tomb, and calls to Lazarus, “Lazarus, come out!” Lazarus come out of the tomb, still bound with the grave cloths. Jesus tells those gathered around to unbind Lazarus and let him go. There is a verse in Paul’s letter to the Romans (Rom 8: 38-39) in which Paul says, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” I think that both the passage from Ezekiel and that from John are examples of this power of God that can call us even from beyond the grave. In this time when we are all in isolation, we need to hear that nothing, not even Covid-19 can separate us from the love of God. Even if we would like to yell at God and say, “If you had been here, we would not have Covid-19,” we know that “In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us. We are not alone. Thanks be to God.”
So in this troubling time, let’s wash our hands, move forward, and pray for the world.
SUNDAY SERVICES LIVE-STREAMING ACROSS CANADA
There are a number of United Churches (and some Presbyterian) across Canada who are able to live-stream their Sunday services. At least three Edmonton churches are doing this: Millwoods, Robertson-Wesley and Southminster-Steinhauer. Check out this interactive map for livestreaming services across Canada: https://arcg.is/1TaKqS (and remember to take into account time zones for churches outside of Alberta)
WHAT ABOUT HOLY WEEK AND EASTER?
A number of people have expressed concern about what we will do for Holy Week and Easter. Easter is a date on the calendar, and changes from year to year anyway. If worship services are still suspended over Easter, a highly probable situation, we will celebrate the Resurrection when we are able.
PASTORAL CARE DURING A PANDEMIC (never thought I would be writing that!)
A team has been put together to begin a phone ministry. We will be reaching out by phone to members of Spirit West to remind ourselves that we are a community of faith, even if at the moment we have to practice social distancing, and in some cases self-isolation. The team will initially target those whom we believe are most likely to be isolated. We may not always get it right. If you get a call, and think you really didn’t need it, thank the caller anyway. If you don’t hear from anyone in the next week, and really would like a call, let me know. We are playing this by ear in an “interesting” time.
If you are self-isolating for whatever reason (you are not feeling well, you are in a susceptible population, or you are just not taking chances) and you cannot get out to do shopping, let us know. There are people in the congregation who will do your shopping and deliver it to your home. Mention this to the caller from the phone ministry, or call or send an email to the church to let us know.
If you would like to volunteer as a “shopper” let me know by phone or email.
David S. has started a Casserole Ministry as part of Pastoral Care. Volunteers from Pastoral Care at Spirit West will deliver a casserole to someone in isolation, recovering from illness, or grieving the loss of family members.
We would need a supply of three or four casseroles made by members of Spirit West in tin foil pans and frozen in the church freezer available for delivery. The casseroles should be dated and labelled with all ingredients and the instructions for reheating. The supply of casseroles can be replenished as needed. If you are interested in providing a casserole please call David S. so he can keep an accurate inventory of casseroles (not too many, not too few).
Spirit West Prayer Chain
Prayer is important. We know that people still face challenges and difficulties not related to Covid-19, and we cannot forget them. Our Prayer Chain will continue to be active. If you have a prayer request, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. These requests will be shared regularly with the prayer chain.
ANOTHER WAY TO CONTRIBUTE FINANCIALLY TO SPIRIT WEST DURING A GLOBAL PANDEMIC
You are stuck home, Spirit West is not holding services, you are not on PAR, but you want to make a financial contribution to the work of Spirit West, because the church has bills to pay even when we are not gathering on Sunday. Check out the online donation option on our website spiritwest.org and click on the Donate tab in the navigation bar.
SPIRIT WEST ONLINE!
Facebook: Spirit West United Church
At the present time, the Spirit West Church office remains open.
- Norma => Noon to 5:00 pm, Monday to Thursday
- Larry => 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Tuesday to Friday
(Rev.) Larry K. Wright, CD, BA, MDiv
Spirit West United Church