Lent 1 – February 18, 2018

Links of Interest/Bibliography:

Linda Yates on Zombies

Kushner on When Bad Things Happen to Good People

Theo Wilson on going undercover

Wikipedia: Lazarus of Bethany

Washington Post on School Shootings


Words of Welcome
3 breaths – one for the people who are here right now & for those who can’t be – one for the people who have come before us (our parents, congregation, early settlers, Mi’maki, disciples, Jesus) – one for the people who will come in the future (our children & grandchildren, the future congregation of St. Luke’s)
Lighting the Candle & Ringing the Singing Bowl

Hymn Come and Find the Quiet Center VU 374

Call to Worship

One: This is our time to prepare for worship.
All: It is the time to set aside all of the hurt and exhaustion from the past week.
One: This is our opportunity to offer thanksgiving.
All: It is our opportunity to recognize all of our abundance and offer thanks.
One: This is a place to share.
All: We share the good and the bad. We learn to celebrate together, to work together and to help when and where we can.
One: This is what it is to worship.

Opening Prayer

Caring God, we pray that our worship today will renew our spirits, encouraging us and inspiring us to work towards the common good. Amen.

Hymn Holy Spirit, Truth Divine VU 368

Theme Conversation What is Lent?

Readings John 11:1-44
Linda Yates on Zombies

Musical Response Holy Spirit Hear Us VU 377 v1&2

Sermon When disaster strikes…

The part of this story that jumped out at me this time around was that Jesus stayed an extra two days before heading back towards the gravely ill Lazarus.  Mary and Martha, when they finally get to see Jesus, are actually mad at him.  He had tried his best but work got in the way, and he simply could not get back to them in time.  So Jesus lamented.  All of this I understand and can relate to.

Usually I’m in full on zombie mode for Lazarus.  It’s not because, I’m a Walking Dead fan or on the side of the White Walkers.  It’s more because of an experience I had with a group of 5 year olds when I was working with a Beaver Colony in Middle Musquodoboit.  One of the 5 year olds had experienced more tragedy in his young life than the other 5 year olds.  We’d had a number or conversations about his Aunt and Uncle, who had both died in separate accidents in the previous two years.  He liked to visit their grave when we were outside playing, just check on them and then head back to the rest of the group playing in the church yard.  One night he invited his two besties to go with him, so I went too, just in case.  He explained to his friends that they had died, and he and his sisters and mom had planted flowers there for them and put in solar lights so that they would see the light and remember they were loved. They stood there for a moment in silence, and then looked towards the woods where the dusk was settling in a little faster and one of them said – “that’s where the zombies are!” and they ran back to the rest of the kids.  I didn’t blame them or think much of it at the time.  The woods were a little gross looking with faded silk and plastic flowers caught in the undergrowth and lots of old man’s beard hanging in the trees.  But the next time I heard one of the same trio of kids refer to zombies, I realized the five year olds at least were using the term zombie to refer to things that they didn’t fully understand and found just a little unsettling.

A few months later, Linda’s video interview came out and her thoughts on zombies and their relation to the resurrection due to people’s misunderstanding always stuck with me.

If you aren’t up to date on zombies in popular culture, a fun question to ask is “What do you need to survive a Zombie Apocalypse?”  The answers you’ll get range from very practical items, to ridiculous.  Let’s face it, regardless of if we like it or not, we’re stuck with a zombie fascination for a few years yet.  Personally, I think the people who are most fascinated with the living dead zombies are people who need a very unrealistic escape from the everyday.  That there is something worse than what they currently have to deal with.

I’ve been trying to wrap my head around a lot this week. Between dealing with Ash Wednesday and Lent theology and how best to portray that in a way that still upholds tradition without shaming people. And then I heard about the shooting in Florida.  Now, I don’t know any high school students in Florida, and currently I don’t have any live tv, so I didn’t see any traumatizing images, but I am a person over the age of 18, who contributes to society, so I did take some time to reflect on this incident and what I, personally, can do to improve the situation we are left to deal with.  In case you’ve never dealt with an ADHD mind, either passive or active, let me pre-warn you: pretty much everything goes off on a tangent.  So while Ash Wednesday and mass shootings were my two major thinking topics this week, as sure as a squirrel distracts a dog running towards it’s human’s whistle, I went off topic too.  I thought about the theology of the past around confession and the needless things that people were told to go to confession about.  I thought about hurtful words masked in the “guise of prayer”.  I thought about the #metoo movement and it’s impact on everyone.  I thought about the things churches can do to offer a little bit of hope and resilience to people who find themselves in a minority position most of the time.  I thought about bullying and the role it plays in the mental health of so many adults and children.  I thought a lot about gun control and the evolution of the necessity of guns, I wondered about the attraction of semi-automatic weapons and tried to think of a practical use for them other than a zombie apocalypse.  (And for the record I don’t think I’d need one to survive the zombie apocalypse.) I thought about mental health and the gaps in our system and I wondered if the system in the US was worse.  I thought about how so many people require everything to be binary – a one or the other choice, when there is no clear answer and how we’ve even cultured our politics to be binary.  Either you agree with everything I believe, or you are against me. Binary thinking lead me back to the lesson for today and the binary thinking we sometimes use when reading the Bible.   It has to be all fact or it has to be all fiction.  Binary thinking doesn’t fix anything other than a computer program.  It didn’t fix the situation for Mary and Martha, nor will it fix society’s issues with violence.  I don’t really know what fixed the situation with Mary and Martha.  I don’t know how Lazarus died, or exactly what Jesus did other than to speak to him, to bring him back to life.  I don’t even really know if it was a literal death or a metaphorical death.  I know that medical technology then certainly wasn’t what it is now. I know that Jesus saw the compassion that Mary and Martha’s faith family had for them during their time of crisis.  I know that Jesus felt deeply about the whole situation, especially after listening to what the sisters had to say.  I know Jesus was criticized for helping others, but not helping Lazarus.  I know the criticism bothered Jesus or he wouldn’t have been troubled by the whole situation.

I don’t know, all the details of the story, but I know the family of Lazarus was in crisis.  I know that often in crisis, we say things we don’t mean.  I know that often when disaster happens, we look for a reason, for someone or something to blame.  There’s not always an answer to the blame question, especially during crisis.  This week after yet another school shooting incident in the US this year, social media blew up with people looking to place blame.  Some blamed a lack of gun control, some blamed a lack of religion in schools, some blame mental health, some blame radicalism.  This is one of those times we can’t afford to have binary thinking.  It was all of these things and probably more that contributed to 17 deaths on Wednesday.  All we can do is try our best to fix the places we can see as problematic as best as we personally can.  For my part, I’m going to tame down my all or nothing thinking and try to neutralize radicalism with love.  I’m still going to question semi-automatic weapons and mental health systems, but I’m going to do so with the whole situation in mind and not just one or two areas.  I’m going to continue to work to create safe spaces and communities of trust, where people might turn when they are feeling alone. After all, we’re not dealing with robots or zombies.  We’re dealing with complicated human beings with many complicated feelings and situations.  There are far more than two alternatives.

Music Minstry Fix You (Coldplay)

Minute for Mission

Offering Invitation
Two weeks ago, our Sunday School decorated some simple paper bags with messages of love the children wrote or drew themselves. The bags were then filled with a few small treats and sent to Brunswick Street Mission with a few of our families. For people feeling lost and alone, these messages of unconditional love were very meaningful. Our children and teens offered from their abundance of love a very meaningful gift.

Offertory We Give Our Thanks MV 187 (thanks, hands, hearts)

Offertory Prayer
May these gifts, those given through PAR and our commitment to give be seen as the gifts they truly are. Amen.

Prayer Music Lord, Prepare Me to Be a Sanctuary MV 18

Prayers of the People & the Prayer of Jesus
Ending with the sung Prayer of Jesus. During the Prayer of Jesus, you are invited to use the translation and language of your choice. A variety of translations and expressions of the Prayer of Jesus (also known as The Lord’s Prayer) can be found in Voices United pages 916-927.

Commissioning & Benediction

Musical Blessing Go Now in Peace, Guided By the Light MV 211

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