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February 13 - Sixth Sunday after Ephiphany

Celebration of a New Dawn



Prelude: Blessed are You - Sarah Hart

Do you know how blessed you are when you are poor,

when your spirit has been tried, your hope outpoured?

Do you know how lovely will be your reward?

Yours is the kingdom.


Do you know how blessed you are when you must mourn,

when the tears are endless rivers in your soul?

You shall feel the hand of God that draws you

close in consolation.


Refrain

Blessed are you, blessed are you

in whatever trials and troubles you walk through.

The love of God will not abandon you.

Blessed are you.


Do you know how blessed you are when hunger comes

when no earthly drink can slake the thirst within?

It is then you find the fullness of his love

poured out upon you.


And when peace is like a rumour on the wind,

and when mercy fails to make her presence known,

hope will give you all you need to be a light

that heals the darkness.


Refrain

Blessed are you, blessed are you

in whatever trials and troubles you walk through.

The love of God will not abandon you.

Blessed are you.


O my child, there will be struggles still to come,

persecutions for the sake of love and truth.

Do not be afraid, for you are not alone.

Blessed are you.


Refrain

Blessed are you, blessed are you

in whatever trials and troubles you walk through.

The love of God will not abandon you.

Blessed are you.

The love of God will not abandon you.

Blessed are you.


Welcome

Acknowledgment of the land

We acknowledge that we live on land that was unjustly taken by treaties which were ignored in the interests of economic development and the welfare of newcomers. We have learned that those who first lived here have paid a terrible price with the loss of land, the loss of freedoms, the loss of language and culture, and too often the loss of life itself. We have made a commitment to reconciliation, but don’t really know what that means as yet. We pray that we will have the humility and courage to learn the ways of reconciliation that lead to wholeness for all and a sustainable future for Mother Earth.


Opening Hymn: Make Me a Channel of Your Peace

Make me a channel of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me bring your love.

Where there is injury, your pardon, Lord,

And where there’s doubt true faith in you.


Make me a channel of your peace.

Where there’s despair in life, let me bring hope.

Where there is darkness – only light,

And where there’s sadness ever joy.


O Spirit, grant that I may never seek

So much to be consoled, as to console,

To be understood, as to understand,

To be loved, as to love, with all my soul.


Make me a channel of your peace.

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

In giving of ourselves that we receive,

And in dying that we’re born to eternal life.


O Spirit, grant that I may never seek

So much to be consoled, as to console,

To be understood, as to understand,

To be loved, as to love, with all my soul.


Make me a channel of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me bring your love.

Where there is injury, your pardon, Lord,

And where there’s doubt true faith in you.


Collect (Together) Almighty and ever-living God, whose Son Jesus Christ healed the sick and restored them to wholeness of life, look with compassion on the anguish of the world, and by your power make whole all peoples and nations; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.


A Prayer for the end to Racial Injustice (together)

Compassionate God, who sent Jesus Christ to deliver us from all manner of injustices and inequalities, create in us new hearts and enlarged visions, to see the image of God in every person irrespective of background, race and ethnicity. May we be generous in our love of others as we work towards ending misunderstanding, racism and injustice; creating communities of human flourishing, through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


First Reading A READING FROM THE BOOK OF JEREMIAH Thus says the Lord: Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the Lord. They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes. They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit. The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse - who can understand it? I the Lord test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings. JEREMIAH 17:5-10


Psalm 1 - Finding True Happiness

Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked, nor lingered in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seats of the scornful!

Their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on this law they meditate day and night.

They are like trees planted by streams of water, bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither; everything they do shall prosper.

It is not so with the wicked; they are like chaff which the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked shall not stand upright when judgement comes, nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.

For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked is doomed.


Second Reading A READING FROM THE FIRST LETTER OF PAUL TO THE CORINTHIANS Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ - whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.

CORINTHIANS 15:12-20


Gradual: VU286 If You Will Trust

If you will trust in God to guide you,

and hope in God through all your ways,

God will give strength, whatever betide you,

and bear you through the evil days.

Who trusts in God’s unchanging love

builds on the rock that will not move.


God will embrace your pain and weeping,

your helpless anger and distress.

If you are in God’s care and keeping,

in sorrow will God love you less?

For Christ, who took for you a cross,

will bring you safe through every loss.


Sing, pray, and keep God’s ways unswerving;

so do your own part faithfully,

and trust God’s word; though undeserving,

you’ll find God’s promise true to be.

God never will forsake in need

the soul that trusts in God indeed.


Gospel THE HOLY GOSPEL OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST ACCORDING TO LUKE Jesus came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them. Then he looked up at his disciples and said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets." LUKE 6:17-26


Homily

Keep listening, but do not comprehend

keep looking, but do not understand

These words come from Isaiah who wrote to warn the Hebrews of their impending captivity in Babylon; we read them a couple of weeks ago. They are hard words, and they are us. Isaiah is here… telling of people who are deluged with information; so much that while they hear and see the 30 second clip on TV, they cannot really take it in. We listen, but do not really hear what is behind and inside the words; we read the newspaper, but don’t really understand what is written there. We are numbed by the sheer speed and volume of “news”. The speed gives us no time to think, react, assess, evaluate. On to the next story we go, marching to the speed of the 24-hour news cycle. There is no time to separate truth from fiction; rumour from reality.

We have indeed been deluged with stories about the “Freedom Rallies” across Canada. We have heard the cacophony of air horns even in Winnipeg. Where did this all come from? Are we really to believe that a few truckers took it on themselves to drive 2500km to Ottawa to protest a border restriction that both the USA and Canada have enacted?

We need to look much deeper and when we do, we will see that what has been stated as the reason for the rallies makes virtually no sense at all. We all know now that 90% of truckers are vaccinated. So where did the $10M and counting raised in one week come from? Surely not from the truckers and their families. And was the timing of this event’s beginning really just coincidently Holocaust Remembrance Day? And were those $14,999.00 donations in false names just an accident? And were the rally organizers really truckers?

No, no, and no. This was and is an organized attempt at an insurrection, led by far right white supremacists, funded by far right money a significant amount of which does not come from Canada. It is an attempt by far-right extremists to piggy-back on our fatigue with Covid and Covid mandates in place for our safety, and in place as a response to sound science

This movement draws its inspiration from the deeply rooted and sinful notion that white people, mostly men, must band together to ensure that their privilege, their “whiteness” and individual “freedom” will prevail over all others, regardless of cost and harm and violence done in the process.

Let’s really look at Freedom. Among other things freedom means the right to make informed choices about our lives and how we live them. They may be bad choices, foolish choices, compassionate choices, courageous choices, but the essence is the ability to make choices.

Scripture is pretty clear that we are in fact called to choose; to be active, not passive voices; actors in our daily life and in our common quest for a faith vocation rooted in community, not selfish individualism. St. Paul calls us to live in compassionate community in many of his letters. Jesus calls us into a broad and inclusive community of compassion and love. The story of the Prodigal son speaks of restorative justice. The story of the Samaritan speaks to us of the care for the wounded stranger. The story of the two thieves on the cross beside Jesus calls us to radical forgiveness… seventy times seven in another story.

In the secular world, our citizenship process calls us to responsible, active citizenship. Our laws of free speech are limited by the affect of our speech on others. The promotion of hatred is not free speech. The extreme demeaning of others is called liable. Harassing of others because of their view, or race, or sexual orientation is a violation of the Human Rights Codes. We have speed limits; we wear seatbelts, we have driver’s licences, we can’t carry handguns in public, our kids need measles vaccines to register in school. These law’s clear purpose is to preserve the wider freedom of community… freedom to be safe from harms we can realistically act to make less harmful, like Covid, Measles, Polio, pollution and many other harmful things.

We have won this understanding of responsible citizenship over decades of peaceful protests, vigils, prayer, education and importantly, good science. These “restrictions” actually broaden our community’s possibility of compassion, inclusion and safety, and indeed, of true freedom.

However, make no mistake, the “freedom” called for by this well-organized far right cabal has nothing to do with true Freedom. Rather it is about anarchy and mob-rule. It owes more to the long rise in individualism at all costs in our country and others over the past decades. The behaviour of those seeking to profit in money and power who nurture this movement has spawned behaviour that is akin to the early days of Hitler’s brownshirts. In contrast, remember the peaceful, non-violent protests that brought us human rights acts, and opposed racism, sexism and homophobia. Those were movements seeking inclusion; seeking a broadening of full citizenship, seeking tolerance and compassion.

Some of you may remember, as I do, quarantine placards on our doors when there was a measles outbreak. Some will remember restrictions on gathering during polio epidemics.. Those were the days of virtually 100% compliance with vaccine mandates, with grateful thanks from families whose children were released from the fear of the paralysis of polio or from measles, which brought deafness and worse to young children. Even as recently as 2020 , over 200,000 people across the world, and mostly children, died of measles.

As Christians, we cannot be silent in the face of such empty claims of freedom. We cannot, because these claims are a cloak for authoritarian, white supremacist rule, a rule for a minority of disaffected mostly white men who cannot abide the idea that all people have the same rightful claim to inclusion in a community of justice, love and compassion. We need reminding of what one German Lutheran pastor, Martin Niemoller said so powerfully of his experience in Nazi Germany from Hitler’s rise 1934 until Hitler’s death in 1945. He said this shortly after the end of the war, accusing himself of the guilt of silence in the face of fascist violence:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.


Niemoller is warning us that evil, once unleashed, is very hard to bring under control, in part because the modern liberal state and the majority of Christian denominations are wary of naming evil among others, because we have been complicit in evil ourselves so we are tempted to false gentleness and silence. The answer is not silence, but rather to name our own guilt and seek reconciliation, but equally to speak out about the guilt of others who would weaken, demean and destroy our common life.


Affirmation of Faith

We believe in God, who when there was nothing

planted the seeds of life in all creation,

green in the desert and breath in the clay of human life.


We believe in Jesus Christ, eternal seed of life

who entered the deaths of our existence,

trod deeply into our earthiness,

took into his body all our painfulness

and lifted it into the victory of love.


We believe in the Holy Spirit who waters our grief with her tears,

nourishes in us the buds of life and tenderly cherishes our growings

until they break forth into the fruits of hope and faith.

(The Glory of Blood, Sweat & Tears by Dorothy McRae-McMahon, p.81)


Offertory Hymn: CP 375 At the Name of Jesus

At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow,

every tongue confess him King of glory now;

‘tis Creator’s pleasure we should call him Lord,

who from the beginning was the mighty Word.


Humbled for a season to receive a name

from the lips of sinners unto whom he came,

faithfully he bore it, spotless to the last,

brought it back victorious when from death he passed.


Name him, Christians, name him, with love as strong as death,

but with awe and wonder, and with bated breath;

he is God the Saviour, he is Christ the Lord,

ever to be worshipped, trusted, and adored.


In your hearts enthrone him; there let him subdue

all that is not holy, all that is not true;

crown him as your Saviour in temptation’s hour;

let his will enfold you in its light and power.


Christians, this Lord Jesus shall return again,

with Creator’s glory, with his angel train;

for all wreaths of empire meet upon his brow,

and our hearts confess him King of glory now.


Black History Month Prayers of Lament

God of all, we confess that we have inherited a faith that was used to justify the theft of native lands and the enslavement of your people. From this sin, we ask for deliverance.

Forgive us for where we have failed to understand, Lord, and in your mercy, set us free.


Touch hearts that have been shrivelled by generations of suppressed empathy, and eyes that have lost the ability to see brothers and sisters who suffer from systemic injustice.

Forgive us for where we have failed to understand, Lord, and in your mercy, set us free.


Grant us courage to renounce the false teaching that we can somehow know you without being committed to justice for all people.

Forgive us for where we have failed to understand, Lord, and in your mercy, set us free.


In your mercy, help us mourn the divisions among the body of your Son, and work for healing in the places where we gather to worship you.

Forgive us for where we have failed to understand, Lord, and in your mercy, set us free.


As we name and unlearn the habits of racism, discrimination, and prejudice, give us grace to draw deeply from the witness of the movements that have always resisted injustice in the power of your Spirit.

Forgive us for where we have failed to understand, Lord, and in your mercy, set us free.


We pray with thanksgiving for the prophetic leaders who guide, challenge and inspire us today. Give us grace to follow them to freedom.

Forgive us for where we have failed to understand, Lord, and in your mercy, set us free.


The Lord’s Prayer (Cameron)


A Franciscan Blessing

May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that we may live deep within our hearts.

May God bless us with anger against the injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so that we may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them in empowering ways and so turn their pain to joy

And may God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world so that we can do what others claim cannot be done.

AMEN and AMEN


Closing Hymn CP 458 Seek Ye First

Seek ye first the kingdom of God

and God’s righteousness,

and all these things shall be added unto you.

Allelu, alleluia.


Alleluia, alleluia,

Alleluia. Allelu, alleluia.


Ask and it shall be given unto you;

seek and you shall find;

knock and the door shall be opened unto you.

Allelu, alleluia.


Alleluia, alleluia,

Alleluia. Allelu, alleluia.

Dismissal:

Go out in Love, work for Justice and seek the Peace of Christ


Thanks Be to God


Postlude: It Is Well - arr. by Mark Hayes (Piano Solo)