Read-along Service for Sunday, February 21, 2021

First Sunday of Lent  February 21, 2021

Prelude
Words of welcome, announcements
Lighting the Christ Candle

There are many temptations we face in our lives together. We face the temptation of putting our wants above another’s needs. We face the temptation of ignoring problems such as hunger, poverty, war, and disease, with the false hope that they will go away without our intervention. We face the temptations of wealth and consumerism. We face many temptations to stray from the path of our faith.
We light this candle as a symbol our faith in Jesus Christ to help us resist the temptations of the world.

Call To Worship
We are gathered to worship our God.  We come from many places, with many burdens.  We turn our hearts to God.  Send your Spirit upon us, and make us your beloved family.

Prayer of Approach
Loving God, it is good to be here with you today. We seek to draw closer to you. Yet we know there are many things that stand in our way of being reconciled with you. For this reason, most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed. We have sinned by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart.  We have not loved our neighbours as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. Have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.

Hymn                  As the Sun with Longer Journey                                 VU 111

1.      As the sun with longer journey
                   melts the winter’s snow and ice,
          with its slowly growing radiance
                  warms the seed beneath the earth,
          may the sun of Christ’s uprising
                   gently bring our hearts to life.

2.      Through the days of waiting, watching
                   in the desert of our sin,
          searching on the far horizon
                   for a sign of cloud or wind,
          we await the healing waters
                   of our Saviour’s victory.

3.      Praise be given to the Maker
                  of the seasons’ yearly round:
          to the Speaker through the Spoken
                   in the living Breath of love
          as the ever turning seasons
                   roll to their eternal rest.

Scripture Reader: Susan Humphries
Genesis 9:8-17 Mark 1:9-15

Special Music
Homily  “The Ever Growing Covenant Begins”
Musical Response

Thanksgiving

The offering
We give thanks for everyone who continues to support TSA during these challenging times. Your gifts of support and encouragement mean a lot to us. As so many of our traditional fundraisers have had to be put on hold, your donations are vitally important. For all the gifts you share, for all the people you bless by your serving and giving as a disciple of Jesus, we give thanks.

Music                  Let Us Break Bread Together                             VU 480

1.      Let us break bread together on our knees,
                   let us break bread together on our knees.
                             When I fall down on my knees
                             with my face to the rising sun,
                             Oh, Lord, have mercy on me.

2.      Let us drink wine together on our knees,
                   let us drink wine together on our knees.           R

3.      Let us praise God together on our knees,
                   let us praise God together on our knees.          R

Service of Holy Communion

Holy Communion
Invitation to the table –
May God’s peace be with you. For you are Pilgrims who seek God, so lift up your hearts. Let us unite our hearts in thanksgiving to our God who is faithful.
Dear friends, we are on a spiritual journey to Jerusalem with Jesus. He is our pardon, our healing, and our peace! We take this journey with him, to for it is the path to life. In preparation for this journey of faith, we gather at this table where there is food for body and soul.
We praise you, faithful God for this opportunity to grow closer to you.   You answer sin with grace. You guide our wayward steps toward home. You are mending for the broken, safety for the poor, belonging for the outcast, strength for the weak, and pardon for the sinner. You reveal your kindness in every sorrow, your mercy even in death. All your creatures see your works; they sing your steadfast love. We too declare your wonder and grace as with angels and saints we sing your praise.
Gracious God, we remember the example given to us by Jesus. He fasted and prayed; he was tempted and tried. He relied on you for everything. He was obedient to you and scorned by the powers of this world. He confounded the mighty. He gave hope to the humble. He was betrayed and deserted. He died between thieves and was buried in a borrowed grave. Yet still you gave him new life. He lives even now. He is our healer and friend. He loved us well, loved us to the end, and loves us still. May our lives embody his spirit. May we share in the mystery called faith.
Even on the night of betrayal, he ate supper with his friends. He gave thanks for bread and broke it. Jesus took on the role of a servant and shared the gift of bread with all who would journey with him. Feed us for the journey we make through this life, we pray.  And so we recall how Jesus took the Cup, which is the promise of salvation. He gave thanks for the gift of new life and shared it.  He poured out his love and his spirit to bless all who would journey with him. Bless us for the journey we make through this life, we pray.

Words of Institution
Holy Spirit, come! Make all things new. Bless this bread which you have given and human hands have made. May it be for us the bread of life.  Bless also this cup, fruit of the vine and work of human hands. May it be for us the cup of salvation.  Bless all who eat and drink, that in this sharing we may know the living Christ who is with us now, and to the end of the age. Renew us by these gifts to be willing servants of your world until your kingdom comes, and every creature beholds it.

Serving of the elements

Though we are scattered physically, we are all united in the one body of Christ.
Please raise your bread with me, and repeat after me.
This is the body of Christ, broken for us all.
This is the bread of life.
May God bless this food,
to feed and strengthen us all. Amen.

Take and eat, the gifts of God, given for you. May God bless you and feed you always.
Now please raise your cup, and repeat after me:
This is the blood of Christ, shed for us all.
This is the cup of blessing, to heal me in body, mind and spirit.   Amen.       

May God bless us all as we share in this feast together.
Take and drink, for God’s Spirit is given to you.


Prayer after Communion
Thank you, merciful God, for the gladness we find in this bread and cup. For love that cannot die, for peace the world cannot give, for joy in the company of friends, for the splendours of creation, and for the mission of justice you have made our own. Give us the gifts of holy communion — oneness of heart, love for neighbours, forgiveness of enemies, the will to serve you every day, and life that never ends. Renew us we pray, we ask this in Jesus’ name, who taught us to pray together saying

The Lord’s Prayer

Sending Forth

Hymn                  O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go                        VU 658

1.      O Love that wilt not let me go,
          I rest my weary soul in thee;
         I give thee back the life I owe,
          That in thine ocean depths its flow
                   may richer, fuller be.

2.      O Light that followest all my way,
          I yield my flickering torch to thee;
          my heart restores its borrowed ray,
          that in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
                   may brighter, fairer be.

3.      O Joy that sleekest me through pain,
          I cannot close my heart to thee;
          I trace the rainbow through the rain,
          and feel the promise is not vain
                   that morn shall tearless be.

4.      O Cross that liftest up my head,
          I dare not ask to fly from thee;
          I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
          and from the ground there blossoms red
                   life that shall endless be.

Benediction
Walk in the paths of steadfast love and faithfulness.
Dwell under the rainbow of God’s love.
Proclaim the good news of God, for God’s kingdom is among us.

Postlude

“The Covenant Relationship Begins”
Genesis 9:8-17, Mark 1:9-15
First Sunday of Lent, February 21 2021
by Rev. James Murray at Trinity-St. Andrew’s United Church, Renfrew

Today we are all heading out on a journey. It is a journey that will lead us to life in abundance. The life that is worth living. We will celebrate the completion of this journey on Easter Sunday, which is the day of resurrection.
The journey towards Easter is not an easy one. To get to the new life, we must take stock of our current life, and be willing to let go of the parts that are blocking the new life from beginning. It is a journey of deep personal discovery as we embark on the great spiritual path of dying and rising. While it is a personal journey which no one else can undertake for you, it is a journey we do not have to take all by ourselves. We can help each other along the way, which means that we can be transformed both as individuals and collectively.
We make this journey together, because we Humans are relational beings. We live in relationship to one another. We are also part of the natural world. We are part of the great chain of being What happens to one part of the natural world affects us all.
It has taken us a lot of time to learn how we are connected and related to one another. The purpose of religion is to teach us what these connections are, which helps us to enter all the more fully in to a healthy and integrated relationship with all of life.
Since we are not the first people to make this spiritual journey, we are able to draw from the experiences of those who have made this pilgrimage before us.  The Bible is the collected stories and wisdom collected from our spiritual ancestors.
This morning we heard the story of one of our ancestors who learns what these connections are and how this understanding changes our relationship to the world. The story of Noah and the ark is a myth that seeks to tell us who we are and what our relationship to God is based on. The covenant of the rainbow tells us that God’s basic attitude towards us is one of peace and harmony. God does not seek to destroy or punish us every time we stumble. Instead we learn that God seeks for us all to learn from our mistakes and build a better future for all of life on this planet.
In the Bible, the story of Noah comes immediately after the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. When the problems between the sons of Adam are resolved, civilization as we know it is created. The population grows as people prosper. The story of Noah begins by God saying this society which has risen up is no good. It is wicked. People are mistreating one another, and denigrating the natural environment. At the time, they were just starting out and they didn’t know any better. The people knew God created the world, but that’s where their connection with God ended.
They knew there are bigger forces creating and shaping life that are far beyond our understanding. All the language we use for God is a metaphor for this creative force that brings this universe into being. It is a force we can experience both personally and collectively. It is a process of becoming as we learn and evolve as individuals, as a society, and as planet.
The story of Noah and the Ark comes to us from the ancient past. It comes from a time when nature was often seen as the playthings of distant gods. We can see this in the stories of a cataclysmic flood which are found in many ancient cultures. From Babylon we can read the Epic of Gilgamesh which has a number of similarities to the story of Noah. The biblical story of the flood reveals who God is to us. It offers us some foundational insights which shape the Judeo-Christian understanding of the nature of God.
This is an extraordinary story of one God who influences all of life. God does not have dominion over just one part of life or one limited geographic location. To the people who first heard this story four thousand years ago, this is a surprising new development. Back then, Gods were just of one place or one people. The God Noah deals with is Lord of all the earth, and all of life itself.
This one God communicates with human beings. This God can be experienced directly by specific human beings, including me and you. This is radically different from gods who were aloof from the world, sending lightning and rain for reasons mere mortals could only guess. This God gives humankind a reason for the devastation of the flood. This God calls for people to live moral, caring lives. 
This God Yahweh is the creator of all that is, and is committed to being in relationship with all of creation. However unpredictable this ever evolving life becomes, beneath it all is the promise God brings at the end of the story of Noah. God promises to be with us, caring for us, and seeking our good will.
The Bible speaks of this being a covenant. A covenant is like a treaty where the two parties agree to work together for a common purpose. A covenant spells out what is expected of each party to the agreement.  In this case the rainbow covenant is universal – it is for all of creation, for all of time. This is the first eternal covenant that proclaims God’s faithfulness will never end.
The promise is also unilateral – it is an act of faith on God’s part. God is making the promise independent of what creation is doing. The promise will stand whether or not humankind remains faithful. There is nothing we can do to earn God’s favour. The rainbow is God’s eternal signature on this covenant.
The rainbow is a symbol of God’s unconditional loving personal relationship which is for all people and all of life.
The promise of this life changing relationship is there for you, when you need it most. God is much more than a big idea. God is not some distant old man in the sky. God is much more than just the forces of nature at work. God is present in your life in a powerful way. God wants to get personal with you. God wants to be present in your life in a way that will change the world.
The Christian writer Corrie ten Boom once said “There is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still.” The love of God is deeper than any pit we find ourselves in. The love of God is stronger than any sin that may try to break us. The forgiveness of God is wider than anything that separates you from the people around you.
Even in the depths of a cold Canadian winter, we can see there is a rainbow which continues to shine for the good of all creation. This is why the rainbow has become a symbol of an inclusive love that transcends our limited understandings of gender, ethnicity and sexual identity.
The salvation we find in Jesus Christ is big enough to move the world, and small enough that an individual can grasp it.
This promise is given to you, to encourage you as you begin your journey towards spiritual rebirth and a deeper connection with this wild and precious life.
Amen.

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