Monday, February 21, 2011

Sermon for the Service prior to the Annual Meeting

This service of healing and reconciliation is an opportunity for us to celebrate the presence of God, our creator, our savior and our constant lover; - it is an opportunity to acknowledge our grief, our sin, our failure;
- it is an opportunity for us to know, that is, to more fully realize, that we are, each one of us is, an expression of God’s love and a full member, a full part of the Body of Christ, as it is manifested in this congregation of St. Paul’s Church;
- it is an opportunity to seek forgiveness, to receive forgiveness and to experience the fullness of God’s love in our healing;
- it is an opportunity for us to recommit ourselves to God and to one another, to make a pledge that we will do better for one another;
- it is an opportunity to be in communion with God and with one another.

This worship reflects our belief that God’s purpose for all of us is a life of wholeness, as expressed in the life and teaching of Jesus. A ministry of healing is an integral part of our Christian witness.

Each of us is in need of healing, but a ministry of healing also has a social dimension:
- The healing of divided communities and nations, and the healing of the earth itself, has its place alongside he healing of broken bodies, hurt minds and wounded hearts, and of the hurts and divisions within ourselves and our community.
- So too, our prayers are complementary to the work of medicine and other forms of healing, which are also channels of God’s loving and transforming purposes.

In our prayers, we are not seeking to change God but to change the world in which we live and move and have our being; and we trust that our prayers will be answered, although we do not know when or how healing will happen.

During the laying-on of hands, if you wish to seek prayer:
- for yourself,
- on behalf of someone,
- for an issue in your life, in this parish or in our wider community,
- or for a crisis in the world, you are invited to come and take it in turn to sit at one of the chairs in the middle of the church.

Also, if you wish to share in the laying-on of hands, please come to the chairs and place a hand on the shoulder of one of the people in front of or next to you. Or you may choose to take part by remaining in your place and join in the prayer for the laying-on of hands on Page 5.

Jesus says, “‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’” So come:
- you who are burdened by regret and anxieties,
- you who are broken in body and spirit,
- you who feel deeply within yourselves the divisions and injustices of our world.
Come, for Jesus invites us to bring him our brokenness.

One of things we learned from the feasibility study (and it was perhaps the most important thing), was that people truly care about St. Paul’s Church:
- we care about one another,
- about the buildings,
- about the finances,
- about the ministry,
- about the worship,
- about every aspect of parish life.
Not a surprise, but without a doubt, it is good to know.

Every healthy community possesses the ability to acknowledge its imperfection. Sometimes we hurt and frustrate one another; when that happens we need to seek forgiveness and grant forgiveness. It’s not always easy to forgive but we try.

And I’m not so foolish as to think that just because I say we will forgive one another that we actually will.

Forgiveness takes time and if someone’s not ready… well, when you are, in the words of Boomer when there’s a promise of another weather forecast, “we’ll be here!”
- We’ll be here when you are ready to acknowledge your sin.
- We’ll be here when you are ready to forgive us.
- We’ll be here because God is.
- We’ll be here because God calls us here, calls us into community.
- We’ll be here because no amount of sin or brokenness is greater than the good (the God who is) in each of us.
- We’ll be here!
- The Lord is here.
- We’ll be here!

Note: Some of the thoughts expressed in this sermon were found in the Iona Abbey Worship Book.

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