Read-along service for Sunday, April 28, 2024 – Camping Sunday

Trinity-St. Andrew’s United Church
Order of Worship
April 28, 2024 –  5th Sunday of Easter – Camping Sunday

Prelude
Words of welcome, announcements

Lighting the Christ Candle
In this season of resurrection, we light this candle as testimony to God’s enduring faithfulness.  May the light of the risen Christ scatter the darkness of our hearts and minds. For God’s undying love and kindness shines for all to see. 

Choral Introit

Call To worship
The spark of God’s creative love has kindled a fire, and so we gather together to share in its glowing warmth. God’s spirit of compassion is the warmth that fills our hearts. The truth of Jesus’ teaching is a light that shows the way for us. The Holy Spirit invites us to experience this spark of divine love, and then we are invited to pass it on.  Today we join our hearts and voices together as one to share the gift of God’s love and to pass it on.

Hymn                  It Only Takes a Spark (Pass It On)                              VU 289

  1. It only takes a spark to get a fire going,
    and soon all those around can warm up in its glowing:
    that’s how it is with God’s love,
    once you’ve experienced it:
    you spread God’s love to everyone,
    you want to pass it on.
  1. What a wondrous time is spring when all the trees
    are budding,
    the birds begin to sing, the flowers start their blooming;
    that’s how it is with God’s love,
    once you’ve experienced it:
    you want to sing, it’s fresh like spring,
    you want to pass it on.
  1. I wish for you, my friend, this happiness that I’ve found –
    on God you can depend, it matters not where
    you’re bound;
    I’ll shout it from the mountain top;
    I want the world to know:
    the Lord of love has come to me,
    I want to pass it on.

Prayer of Approach
Creator God, We thank you for bringing us together in this place. We gather to celebrate your presence among us. We give thanks on this day as well for how you are present in our ministry at Camp Lau-Ren and the lives that are touched by its faithful witness. We thank you for all the people in our lives, and especially those who have gathered with us.  We also thank you for all of creation; the hills and trees, the rocks, the water, the animals of field and forest. We thank you for your love for us; the love that we in turn share with one another.  Open our hearts to receive your word, to learn more about creation and your love.  Guide us in your love and the spirit of creation so that we might be encouraged to bless others just as you have blessed us.  Amen.

Scripture Reader:       Leslee Gervais 

First Scripture: Acts 8:26-40
Gospel Lesson:    John 15:1-8 

Hymn   I’ve Got Peace like a River          VU 577

  1. I’ve got peace like a river,
    I’ve got peace like a river,
    I’ve got peace like a river in-a my soul.
    I’ve got peace like a river,
    I’ve got peace like a river,
    I’ve got peace like a river in-a my soul.
  1. I’ve got joy like a fountain,
    I’ve got joy like a fountain,
    I’ve got joy like a fountain in-a my soul.
    I’ve got joy like a fountain,
    I’ve got joy like a fountain,
    I’ve got joy like a fountain in-a my soul.
  1. I’ve got love like an ocean,
    I’ve got love like an ocean,
    I’ve got love like an ocean in-a my soul.
    I’ve got love like an ocean,
    I’ve got love like an ocean,
    I’ve got love like an ocean in-a my soul.

Homily “Making the connection”

Special Music

The offering
We give thanks for everyone who continues to support TSA and our many ministries. Your gifts of support and encouragement mean a lot to us.  You can get more information about making a donation by contacting the church office or by visiting our website. 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.

Offering Song             Your Work, O God, Needs Many Hands           VU 537

  1. Your work, O God, needs many hands
    to help you everywhere,
    and some there are who cannot serve
    unless our gifts we share.
  1. Because we love you and your work,
    our offering now we make:
    be pleased to use it as your own,
    we ask for Jesus’ sake.

Offering Prayer
Loving God, we are truly blessed to be part of your wondrous Creation. We are thankful to have family and friends and neighbours that we can depend upon. As you have blessed us we, in turn, seek to share a portion of that blessing with others through the gift of our time, our talent, and our tithes. We share what we have so that the warmth and light of your love will spread to everyone. By our words and our deeds may we join the chorus and shout it from the mountaintops, for once you’ve experienced it, we want to “Pass it on”. Amen.

Hymn         Lord, I Lift Your Name On High / Seek Ye First Medley

Lord, I lift Your name on high
Lord, I love to sing Your praises
I’m so glad You’re in my life
I’m so glad You came to save us

You came from heaven to earth to show the way
From the earth to the cross, my debt to pay
From the cross to the grave
From the grave to the sky
Lord, I lift Your name on high

Seek ye first the kingdom of God
And His righteousness;
And all these things shall be added unto you.
Allelu, Alleluia

Man does not live by bread alone,
But by every word
That proceeds from the mouth of God.
Allelu, Alleluia

Ask, and it shall be given unto you;
Seek, and ye shall find.
Knock, and the door shall be opened unto you.
Allelu, Alleluia

Alleleluia, alleluia.
Alleluia, Allelu, Alleluia

Alleleluia, alleluia.
Alleluia, Allelu, Alleluia

Pastoral Prayer, Lord’s Prayer

Hymn         I Can Feel You Near Me God (Jump for Joy)             MV 48

  1. I can feel you near me God I can feel you near
    Yes I know you’re with me God I feel you here
    I can feel you near me God I can feel you near
    Yes I know you’re with me God Heaven is here.

Refrain:     And I’ll jump for joy I’m singing Alleluia
                   Jump for joy for you
                   I will jump for joy I’m singing Alleluia
                   Jump for joy for you.

  1. I can feel you loving me yes I know you care
    God I know you’re loving me always everywhere
    I can feel you loving me yes I know you care
    God I know you’re loving me I know you’re there.      Refrain

Benediction
May the light of God’s love shine in your hearts every day. May the peace of Christ be always with you.  And may the community of the Holy Spirit fill your hearts with joy. Go now in peace, and pass it on. Amen.

Choral Amen                Amen, Amen, Hallelujah, Amen               VU 974

Postlude

‘Making the Connection’ Texts: Acts 8:26-40 John 15:1-8
By Rev. James Murray at Trinity-St. Andrew’s United Church, Renfrew. April 28, 2024

I am proud to say that I am the product of Camp Lau-Ren. Those weeks spent on the sandy shores of the Ottawa River played a huge role in my spiritual formation. The spiritual connections made there opened me up to a deeper understanding of how I can experience God in my life. Living together in community is a dramatic shift from the regular routine we are used to at home, so it pushed us out of our comfort zones. My home church in Carleton Place was responsible for leading that week.  It was amazing to see the adults from our congregation acting in a more relatable way. It offered us new challenges we never thought possible. I was even part of the first canoe trip organized by the camp. We paddled from North Bay down the Mattawa River and then down the Ottawa River back to the camp. Experiences like that are once in a lifetime moments.  The evening vespers service spoke about God in ways that a Sunday morning church service never could. One of the best parts of camp life was the music. The songs we sang were full of energy and joy. And that was a good thing, because back then the church services back home on Sunday morning always began with everyone singing “Boring, boring boring, Lord God almighty!”

I do recall one year coming back from camp, and on the following Sunday our congregation did dare to put down their blue Hymnary books and sing “Pass It On” in honour of that week of camp. And at the right moment, a group of us kids did the shout out of “Hey World”. After the service, we were soundly chastised by one of the elders of the congregation who told us such exuberance had no place at Zion Memorial United Church.  It was then I realized that joy is a subversive power. It is a subversive power because it can’t be regulated.

When I read passages like the one from John’s gospel, Jesus also had some subversive ideas that cannot be easily regulated. Jesus compares his relationship to God with a vine. God is the roots of the vine, Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches. We are invited to abide in him, be joined to him, so he might grow in us. In time you won’t be able to tell where the vine ends and the branch begins.  It is a wonderful image of the kind of relationship we can have with God. It isn’t a hierarchical relationship, with God up there and us down here. It is God and us, all intertwined together, abiding in a deeply mutual relationship. This image Jesus offers us shows how faith is something we are to experience and embody together.  It is an ongoing relationship with long term consequences. It is together we experience the risen Christ. It is as part of an ever growing community that we are to live out this very social faith. It is no accident that one of the best known blessings in the Bible speaks of the ‘fellowship of the Holy Spirit’. We experience God as part of a social relationship. This is why being together for worship is important to us. We seek to grow together. We are to be like those vines, intertwined with the branches.  This means when one of us is hurting, or out of balance, we do not face such a situation by ourselves. We are surrounded by people whose lives are intertwined with our own. We are supported by their lives, and their love.

This sense of our lives being intertwined together with God is what makes the story of Saint Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch possible. When we give of ourselves in love, powerful things can happen. There was every reason why Philip should not have spoken to that Ethiopian Eunuch. The man is an outsider. The Bible is very explicit in saying the Eunuch should not be allowed in to the Temple.  In the Book Deuteronomy in Chapter 23 at verse one it says quite plainly a eunuch is not welcome in the family of God. This means he will never be welcomed into the temple. He will never be welcomed anywhere by people of faith.

Yet an angel tells Philip to go speak this man. This man is the royal treasurer for the Queen of Ethiopia. He is wise and pious. He has travelled thousands of kilometres looking for where he belongs spiritually.  Being a eunuch, he will have no family. He doesn’t belong to anyone. Yet here he is, reading passages from the prophet Isaiah. These verses are speaking to him of the one who is cut off, without children or hope. Philip explains how these verses apply to Jesus. Jesus was cut off. He had no family of his own. He left no children behind, and yet Jesus has created the largest family in the world.

The Eunuch asks if there is any law which would prevent him from joining this new family. He wants to know if he can be baptized, right then, right there. Philip has crossed a line, and he knows it. The only thing Philip has to go on is the example of Jesus. There is a verse in Matthew’s gospel that Philip probably remembers very well. Jesus said to his disciples that ‘‘Not everyone can accept my teaching on this, but hear me out. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.’ (Matthew 19:11-12) Even today Biblical scholars are struggling to understand exactly what Jesus meant by this. Yet Philip appears to be acting on Jesus’s shocking words. Philip knows he will be breaking every rule in scripture by baptizing the Ethiopian eunuch. By accepting this much despised man into the Christian community, Philip boldly redraws the definition of who is acceptable in the sight of God. He redefines who is lovable.

Philip knows he has been put on the spot. Nervously, Philip looks around the desert. The eunuch then spots a pool of water. At this point Philip must have thought to himself, “Man, they were upset when I baptized that group of Samaritans last week. Wait until James and Peter hear about this one. What will God think of next!” So right there, in the middle of a desert, there is water. Philip baptizes the Eunuch. In this new family, water is thicker than blood.  This courageous act of faith happens because Philip knows his own abiding connection with God is not diminished because someone who has been historically considered to be deviant, defective and different is now for the first time being included in the list of those who are loved by God. The vine grows stronger every time some new growth is added on. And the Bible tells us there is great joy in heaven every time this happens. So if heaven is full of joy at moments like this, then shouldn’t we be joyful as well?

All those decades ago around a campfire at Camp Lau-Ren I learned a song that captures this sense of joy when faith is shared and love grows.

Love is something if you give it away,
Give it away, give it away.
Love is something if you give it away,
You end up having more. 

It’s just like a magic penny,
Hold it tight and you won’t have any.
Lend it, spend it, and you’ll have so many
They’ll roll all over the floor.

(Magic Penny by Malvina Reynolds)

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