Good morning. This is God’s day so it’s a good so let us rejoice.
My name is Kim Gilliland and I’d like to welcome you to our online worship from Cottam United Church. Last week, we had three hundred people join us. I hope the message was helpful and faithful and made a difference in your life last week. We are now into week three of this very strange situation. Most people are keeping their social distancing. There aren’t as many people in the stores, many of them are temporarily closed. I know my hair is a week longer. But we’ll get through this together.
Will you pray with me please?
I just want to start off with a bit of news for our church and our community. First of all, we were blown away by your response to the food drive that we initiated last week. Andy was at the church ready to receive your offering of non-perishable items for the Essex Food Bank. You responded so well that Andy’s car bottomed out on its springs and he had to go home to get his van to get the food to the Food Bank. That’s amazing. Thank you, Cottam, for your response and for doing your part to help those who most vulnerable as we walk this uncertain road together. We are going to have someone out there every Tuesday from 10 to 12 to receive your gifts because, together, can make a difference.
The second thing is that we officially announced our new Family Minister. Linda Lord will be joining our team on May 1, 2020. Linda comes to us with a strong background in education and arts. She has a lot of experience as a therapeutic life coach and workshop leader. We look forward to seeing what God will do through her and the difference she will make both to our church and our community. Interestingly, when Linda was just a toddler, her family lived in Cottam and she attended our church, so it’s sort of like coming home for her and we are thrilled that she is.
HEALTH CARE WORKERS
So what have I been doing? I’m still screening patients at the medical clinic in Windsor although they were able to hire someone else so we now share the load which is going to be helpful. But we’re screening about 100 patients every day. I have to admit that it is a bit nerve wracking because any of those people could be a Covid-19 carrier. And while we’re doing everything possible to protect ourselves including using gloves and masks and wiping down everything on a regular basis, all of us run the risk of being exposed.
I don’t profess to be a front line health care worker. I’m more of a door keeper but I’ve quickly gained a glimmer of understanding of what health care workers are living through right now. Every time I get a cough or a bit of a sore throat, every time I feel a bit queasy or get a chill or a bit of headache or feel a shortness of breath even for a moment, I wonder if this is it. Is this the beginning of my experience with Covid-19.
I don’t think I’m the only one going through that. I expect that many health care workers are going through similar things. Not only are they concerned for their patients, they are also concerned for their families. I’ve heard that some health care workers have pulled their RV’s out of storage and parked them in the driveway. They are living in them and waving to their children out the window because they don’t want to risk infecting their families. And still, they go to work every day to be with the sick and protect those of us who aren’t. And kudos to those hotels that have opened up their room so that health care workers can stay there if they feel the need. That’s working together.
So, if you are a health care worker, on behalf of everyone, I want to thank you for your unselfish service. If you know a health care worker, let them know how much their work is appreciated because they are doing it for all of us, trying to keep us safe on the front lines of this fight.
HOW DO YOU HAVE FAITH?
I also had a different experience this week. I had a funeral. It was unusual. We could only have ten people at the service and that was difficult because Ed was a very popular and well-known person with a reasonably large family. And so choices had to be made about who could be there and who could not be. And, just to be clear, he didn’t die of Covid-19. He was 92 and full of years. He lived a full, long life, he was a good man and he will be missed. But it was odd to celebrate his life with such a small group sitting six feet apart. But we did the best we could and we honoured a man who touched us all.
My message was one of hope. I reminded the mourners that the events of Good Friday and Easter are just a week away and that, in those events, there is hope. Jesus lived to show us how to live. On Good Friday, he gave his life on the cross to pay the price of our sins. But then on Easter he rose again to defeat death, breaking the gates of hell and shattering the chains of sin so that through faith in him we can have eternal life in God’s everlasting kingdom. I reminded everyone that this is not the end. Through faith in Jesus, we will see Ed again when all things are right. That’s the message that I always share at funerals because it is a message of hope.
After the funeral, one of the mourners came up to me and asked, “How can you have faith in a time such as this?” It was a good question and an honest question. And I suspect that there are more than a few people asking that same question right now. It’s a question that demands an answer.
I paused and said this: “At a time such as this, how could I not have faith?” In my life, whenever I have walked through difficult times, it always has been my faith that sustained me. I honestly don’t know where I would be in my life without it.
Having said that, it is my experience that when difficult times come our way, one of two things will happen to faith: either it will be strengthened or it will be weakened. Whatever happens, it will not remain the same. And so, when people go through crises – personal crises such as the death of a loved one or community crises like Covid-19 – there is an impact on our faith. And it is often in a time of crisis that we come to realize where we are in our faith journey.
And I’m not immune to those effects. I remember just about four years ago when there was a concern that I might have cancer. Like everyone else, when I heard the C-word, my heart skipped a beat and I felt an instant concern. The rubber had just hit the road in my life and I remember walking out of the doctor’s office thinking, “Do I believe all of the stuff that I’ve been preaching for the last thirty-five or don’t I?” Fortunately, I discovered I do believe it and that faith helped me to walk through that time of uncertainty. Just so you know we checked it out and it seems that I’m okay.
If you are struggling with your faith right now know that you’re not alone. I’m not going to offer you any easy answers to difficult questions. All I can do is share my story about how these things impact my faith and how much faith has helped me. That, my friends, is the gift that I want to offer to all of you today.
The last point I want to make is this: today is a very special day in the church. It is Palm Sunday. On that day, Christians celebrate the arrival of Jesus into Jerusalem riding on the back of a donkey. If you know the story in Matthew 21:1-11, you’ll know that when Jesus entered the city, there were all kind of people waiting for him. Apparently, he had become quite popular because they lined the streets and waved palm branches to celebrate his arrival.
You might wonder why they did that. They did it because they saw, in Jesus, a hope that they needed. In those days the people also were going through a difficult time. They were under Roman domination as was the rest of the Mediterranean world back then. That did not sit well with the Jews and they yearned for someone to come to lead them and bring them out from under the thumb of Rome. They thought that Jesus might just be that person.
In some ways they were right about Jesus. He was there to free them. But it wasn’t freedom from the Roman Empire. It was freedom from something much more significant. As I already said, Jesus freed them from the power of sin and death.
Despite the fact that they didn’t quite get it right, they did the right things. What did they do? They expressed their hope in a better future. It was like a parade that day. There were people in Jerusalem from all over the known world, all there to celebrate the Jewish Passover feast. And they lined the streets to welcome Jesus.
In that crowd were every kind of person from every walk of life; the rich and poor, the young and old, the craftsmen and artisans and religious leaders. There were the humbled and the exalted. They were there, some in the parade, some watching the parade, waving their palm branches, all filled with hope, each doing their part.
I wish we could have a parade today but we can’t but we can share the hope that the people shared on Palm Sunday for a world, one that is not dominated by a disease. A world where people can once again gather and rejoice. A world were families are together and we can have neighbourhood BBQs and baseball and soccer games. A world which is back to normal – or at least as normal as it will get after this is over.
But to get there, each of us has to do our part. There are the brave health care workers who are standing on the front lines for us. There are the people who keep the supply chain moving and grocery stores stocked. So many people are doing their part by taking groceries to vulnerable people who can’t get out. Some of you are making special efforts to keep in touch with those who are isolated. Phones are ringing like never before. And some of you are doing your part by simply staying home where you need to be.
Friends, we will get through this together with each of us doing our part to make a difference. And when we are on the other side of this whole thing, we are going to have a celebration like Cottam hasn’t celebrated in years. Who knows? Maybe we will even have a parade and rejoice in the hard work and the hope that brought us through.
I’m looking forward to that.
just want to say one more thing. One of the traditions of the church is that on
Palm Sunday we wave palm branches to celebrate the coming of Jesus. We ordered
them months ago and they came in this week. We can’t wave them as a church but
what we’re going to do is leave them on the front steps of the church today. If
you’re walking by, please feel free to take one home. We’ll do our very best to
make them safe. Maybe you can figure out a way to place it in your front window
or attach it to your front door as a sign of hope and a reminder that we are
all in this together and that together we will get through this.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
God of Grace and Glory, the warmth of spring is just around the corner. It seems to have teased us this year but the promise of new life remains in the air. Crocus bulbs wait to sprout beneath the surface of the dark earth. Geese prepare to fly north to their summer nesting grounds. Leaves are just bursting to bud.
In this season of Lent, we have examined ourselves and our lives. We have taken time to reflect upon who Jesus is for us. We pray that as this time of reflections draws to a close we would be able to make the decisions that we need to make that will enable us to walk more closely to your path. Keep our feet upon the road of your choosing and enable us to build our lives upon the rock solid ground of your son Jesus Christ.
We lift up in prayer the front line health care workers and the response units – be their police officers, firefighters or military personnel who are about to be deployed. May they feel our support. Please keep them save as they put themselves into harms way.
We pray for those in our community and congregation who are sick or recovering this day. We pray your healing Spirit to be with them in power. We pray for those who have been laid off but are also thankful for the response that our governments at all levels are doing to help us through this crisis.
We also pray for those who are isolated. May each of us reach out them so that, even if they might feel alone, they know that they are not alone.
Holy Week comes near. Keep us mindful that the joy of the resurrection could not have been possible without the pain of the crucifiction. Thank you that Jesus died on the cross to pay the price of our sins and that we can live forever through faith in him. Thank you too that that was not the end of the story.
We raise these prayers to you in Jesus’ name. Amen.
WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE
April 4, 2020 / Palm Sunday
Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 31:9-16; Philippians 2:5-11; Matthew 26:14-27:66
CALL TO WORSHIP
Hosanna to the son of David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!
PRAYER OF APPROACH
We praise you this day, O God of Love, with songs of rejoicing and palm branches waving. We join with all Creation and all God’s people in praising your holy name. With all the faithful we lift our voices to you. Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven! As we enter into worship, we ask that you would enter into our hearts and lives to transform our visions by the power of your great compassion and mercy. We come in celebration. We come seeking your blessing. Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
We seek to follow Jesus in the times of joy. It is easy to celebrate in the good times. It is fun to join the parades, to witness the healings and watch the miracles. It is more difficult to follow through the tough times. Forgive us for ignoring and turning away from injustice. Forgive us when we are too timid to share our faith in Christ. Forgive us for failing to risk all that we have for you and your Gospel. Forgive us and fill us with the passion that we see in Jesus. Amen.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
God understands how difficult it is for us to live as Jesus lived. God forgives us and encourages us to turn our lives around. In Jesus, may we make this day the first day of a new beginning.
DEDICATION OF OFFERING
The gifts of God for the people of God. The people of God for the work of God. The work of God for the purpose of God. The purpose of God for our salvation. We give all that we have to you, O God, in grateful thanksgiving. Amen.
Palms are held in celebration. Voices are raised in praise. Jesus is lifted upon the Cross to save us from our sins. As we leave, may we remember our mission to lift up his name above every other name. Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven.