We’re hosting a public event in the midst of a pandemic, it’s true. But we’re not really “hosting” it, and, while it is public, it doesn’t require any large gatherings or physical proximity. It will get you out and connected to other people, though. What is this magical event, you ask?
Morden Chalk Walk
Rain, shine, and everything in-between!
Here’s what you are invited to do!
1. Grab your chalk.
2. Think of some words of encouragement, kindness and gratefulness.
3. Head out (while keeping your distance from the fine folks you don’t live with!) and spread the word!
4. Go for a walk around town. Find hope and feel loved.
1. Be respectful and kind. Always.
2. Stick to public sidewalks and your own driveway if you can.
3. Ask permission if you’d like to share some good words/art by someone’s place of work or somewhere that is not on public property (our essential services that are still open and helping the community need to feel the love too!).
4. Avoid drawing under overhangs where the chalk won’t wash off in the rain.
5. If it rains…head out again on the next sunny day! This can go far beyond these dates!
6. If you live in the country…consider a road trip into town to contribute!
7. Have some fun! And keep looking up to see the goodness all around (even in these difficult/uncertain times)!
How can we rest in the reassurance of God’s love for us in Christ? Michael points us to the prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21, inviting us to imagine God’s love all around us and within us, God’s love in the all-pervasive presence of Christ by God’s Spirit.
As it looks like we’re in this for the long haul, we encourage you to stay connected with our MMC church family in safe and healthy ways. Many MMCers are phoning each other, using video messaging, or meeting up for 2m/6ft walks. Many are worshiping in our homes, joining the congregation in spirit, via our Sunday “virtual worship services” online.
We’d like to provide additional ways for us to connect as a church. To do this, we invite all MMCers who can do so to sign up for and download a video meeting app called Zoom. For PCs, you can download and install the Zoom client from Zoom.us. For iPhones or iPads you can find the ZOOM Cloud Meetings app on the App Store. Android phone users can find it on Google Play.
Another option, for computer users who don’t need the full app, is to click on one of the Zoom meeting links you can get from the church office or pastors. The first time you do this, it will take you to a website that will either automatically download the Zoom app or provide you a link to click to “download & run Zoom.” Then, if it asks, click to “Run” the program that downloads to install it.
If you’d like to join one of our online Zoom meetings but you’re having trouble setting it up, contact Pastor Michael by phone, text, or email. He will call you back and help you get it up and running—not right during a meeting, but hopefully in time for the next one!
This app is free to use for any length of time for two people video chatting. It is free for 40 minutes at a time for any group of 3 or more. Use it to connect with each other: have another household “over” for supper, or for after-supper tea, or for a games night!
Here are regular church events that will be available via Zoom:
Tuesdays, 11:30-12:00: Sharing & Prayer – Sharing joys and concerns together, and spending time in prayer.
Thursdays, 11:00-12:00: DIBS – Drop-In-Bible-Study: bring your texts and thoughts and questions, and we’ll talk.
Fridays, 11:30-12:00: Sharing & Prayer – Sharing joys and concerns together, and spending time in prayer.
Please check your email or contact the church office or one of the pastors if you’d like to get the meeting link for these (or the meeting ID and password).
Let’s stay connected, even as we’re keeping a healthy distance!
Pastor Lawrence offers this reflection for us to start the week.
I purchased two folding benches last week. I had been thinking for some time that having a bench or two would be very useful at our family gatherings.
You see, we’re quite a bunch when we get together, what with our kids and grand kids, and grand kids’ significant others – soon to be our grand kids too – and our great grand kids. We’re 26, if everyone can make it. We extend our dining room table to the max, and bring up two folding tables from the basement, so we have one long table that takes up the dining room and most of the living room. (It’s important to me that everyone is at the same table for the main meal.) Then we bring up chairs and more chairs, and pull up the couches, and put cushions onto them so people can reach the table from there. Once everyone is seated, it’s hard for anyone to move.
Now wouldn’t a couple of benches be nice? At least eight trips up and down the stairs would be saved by bringing up two benches, rather than ten chairs. A bench doesn’t have legs sticking out to trip on, like folding chairs do. A bench with five people takes up less room than five chairs – especially if the chairs have arm rests.
So I think buying the benches was wise.
But here’s the thing. I almost didn’t buy the benches. Due to restrictions on the size of gatherings, we can’t gather as a family now anyway. Our kids were planning a fiftieth anniversary party for Carrie and me, and it had to be cancelled. Who knows if we’ll be able to gather at Easter? I confess, I was feeling a little gloomy.
But then I told myself – no – this will pass. Eventually things will be back to normal, and we’ll be able to make plans for a family gathering, and actually count on being able to carry them out. So, as an act of faith that, with God’s help, we will get through this time of limited contact with each other, and thus get good use out of the benches, I went ahead and purchased them.
Ideally, we would gather together in worship, catching up on each other’s lives, being encouraged by each other’s smiles, weeping with each other in our tears, joining our voices in songs of faith and hope and praise, lifting up our prayers to God, hearing God’s voice to us through Scripture and story and thoughtful reflection. However, since we cannot gather in person at this time, let us join together in spirit in this service of worship.
Preparing for Worship
We continue our Lenten journey with Jesus on this Fifth Sunday of Lent. The theme for this Sunday is “Show Us How to Hope in the Depths of Darkness and Death.” It is a timely theme for us. How can we hope in a time of such uncertainty, filled with loneliness and longing, surrounded by stories of sickness and death?
If you are able, consider lighting two candles to begin this service. These represent our Lenten journey with Christ toward the darkness of the cross. At the end of the service you will extinguish one of these candles. We began Lent with six candles lit, and we have extinguished four of them so far.
Call to Worship
Here is the Call to Worship led by Peter H. Please read along below as you listen.
Leader: In ancient times, God asked the prophet,
“Do you believe these dead bones can live again?”
People: The prophet answered, “O God, you know!”
Leader: In the time of Jesus, he asked Martha,
“Do you believe I am the resurrection and the life?”
People: Martha answered, “Yes, Lord, I believe.”’
Leader: Today God asks,
“Do you trust joy can come after the mourning?
That your weary bones can live again?”
People: We answer, “O God, show us!”
Song of Praise
Listen to this song chosen by Joel and Erin K. for us. Joel notes that this song, and our Song of Reflection later, are “songs that we’ve found meaningful over the years.” This is “You Have Redeemed My Soul (Psalm 107)” from Enter the Worship Circle.
We cannot collect the offering as we normally do, but you can continue this act of worship in support of the church’s ongoing ministries. You can mail a cheque to the church office. You can drop your offering at the church office this week or contact the church office for someone to pick it up. Also, you can give online if you have an Access Credit Union account—please see the information here.
Affirmation of Faith
Here is an Affirmation of Faith led by Dorothy R. Please read along below as you listen.
Leader: The Lenten season calls us to reflection and repentance. Let us confess together.
All: Into the silence of the void our Creator spoke, bringing life.
The Cosmic Christ and the Holy Spirit hovered over the waters—
matter from nothing,
flesh from dust,
life from lifelessness.
We believe Jesus can bring life out of nothing,
but three days is a long time to wait.
Jesus, in our waiting for new life, give us hope.
We look to you, the Resurrection and the Life!
Community Life & Prayer
For announcements related to our church community, please see the eBulletin emailed to those on the church email list.
This week in our prayers we especially remember:
Those affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak here and around the world. Pray for the sick and most vulnerable to receive the care and protection they need. Pray for those experiencing secondary effects such as economic hardship, disappointment at canceled plans, lack of child care, loneliness, mental ill health, and more. Pray for wisdom for governments and health authorities as they respond to this outbreak. Pray for our church and community. May God have mercy upon us.
Our Christian Education Committee: Larissa P (chair), Erin K, Andrea T, Arlene H, Carri K, Kathy F, and Kristy L H. Pray for our spiritual learning and growth as a church during this time of physical separation. Check out emails from pastors, the church website, and the church Facebook page for ideas.
Those facing significant personal challenges, especially those among us who are ill, who are particularly concerned about COVID-19, who are experiencing economic hardship or severe loneliness because of physical distancing measures. May each one experience God’s sufficient grace, and our compassionate care, over the coming days.
Those with special reasons to rejoice, even in the midst of difficult times. May they know God’s delight in them. May we all experience bright moments of joy, guilt-free, in these difficult times.
Us as a church during Lent, that we would walk into the depths of our darkness, and the world’s darkness, with courage, persistence, and compassion—faith, hope, and love. “We always give thanks to God for all of you, remembering before God your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess 1:2-3).
Michael offers this prayer for us today. When Michael says, “With praise on our lips,” respond with “We give you thanks.” When Michael says, “Lord, in your mercy,” respond with “Hear our prayer.”
Join the Klassen family in singing STJ 53 “O God in Heaven.” You will find the lyrics below.
O God in heaven, grant to your children
mercy and blessing, songs never ceasing,
grace to invite us, peace to unite us –
O God in heaven, author of love.
Jesus, redeemer, help us remember
your pain and passion, your resurrection,
your call to follow, your love tomorrow –
Jesus, redeemer, saviour and friend.
Spirit unending, give us your blessing:
strength for the weary, help for the needy,
hope for the scornful, peace for the mournful –
Spirit unending, comfort and guide.
Here is the Scripture Reading from John 11:1-45, adapted from The Voice translation. The Scripture is read by Peter H. (narrator), Randy S. (Jesus), Irene S. (a disciple, Mary, a person), and Loretta L. (another disciple, Martha, another person).
Erin K. has shared these words from Sally Lloyd-Jones’ book, Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing. If you have children, share these words with them. Remind them of these words in the week ahead.
Every morning we enter a new day. Who knows what the day will bring?
Which is why he tells us not to be afraid. He has already gone ahead of us into the new day. He knows the way, what will happen, all we’ll need.
In the morning we can put our day in his hands. And let him bring into our day–into our year!–whatever he has for us.
And then, in the evening, we give it back to him. And trust him with all that happened in it.
Here is Michael’s meditation on our Scripture texts: “Show Us How to Hope in the Depths of Darkness and Death!”
Moment of Reflection
The Lenten season calls us to reflection and repentance. Spend a few moments in silence, considering these questions:
Have you ever experienced deep sadness, even despair? How did you find hope again?
Is there someone in your life who needs you to “sit with them” in their darkness, to weep with them like Jesus did at Lazarus’ tomb?
What might you do this week to connect with God and affirm God’s presence in your life?
Song of Reflection
Listen to this song chosen by Joel and Erin K. for us. Joel notes that this song, and our Song of Praise earlier, are “songs that we’ve found meaningful over the years.” This is Gungor, “Beautiful Things.”
Extinguishing the Light
During Lent we are extinguishing one candle each Sunday as we follow Jesus toward the cross. Here Peter H. leads us in this. Please read along below as you listen. If you lit two candles at the beginning of the service, you can extinguish one during the pause in Peter’s reading.
Leader: Jesus is the Light of the World!
People: Jesus is the Light of the World!
Leader: You are the light of the world!
People: We are the light of the world!
Leader: During our Lenten journey with Jesus toward the cross, we walk with Jesus into the shadows of this world. It can often seem as if the night is winning, as if evil and injustice will prevail. Each week during Lent we will extinguish a candle to symbolize this journey with Jesus into darkness. (Pause to extinguish a candle)
Leader: “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night,’
All: “Even the darkness is not dark to you, O God,
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.” (Ps 139:11-12)
Listen to this Benediction over us, prayed by Peter H.
Join the Klassen family in singing STJ 78 “Sizohamba Naye (We Will Walk with God).” You will find the lyrics below. Let us go into this week ahead, walking with God in faith, rejoicing in hope, until God’s reign has fully come!
We will walk with God, my brothers, we will walk with God.
We will walk with God, my sisters, we will walk with God.
We will go rejoicing till the kingdom has come.
We will go rejoicing till the kingdom has come.
Sizohamba naye, wo wo wo, sizohamba naye.
Sizohamba naye, wo wo wo, sizohamba naye.
Ngomhla wenjabula, sizohamba naye.
Ngomhla wenjabula, sizohamba naye.
With calls for social distancing, even some people in quarantine or self-isolating, many of us are finding ourselves with more time than usual on our own. This is hard for all of us, to differing degrees, but it is also an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to recover sabbath: practising rest, practising solitude, practising meditation, practising prayer, practising silence.
These are practices our forebears knew well. How many of us remember our mother or father, or our grandmother or grandfather, sitting with an open Bible early in the morning or late at night, mouthing silent prayers of thanksgiving or petition?
Yet rest, solitude, meditation, prayer, and silence are not practices many of us are familiar with for ourselves. Our busy, crowded world has pushed these practices away from the ordinary everyday and made them strange, unusual, unfamiliar. During this “enforced sabbath” we can recover these practices. With all our fears and anxieties floating around us and within us—many of them legitimate—we may find in these practices a new measure of peace, and inner strength, and even joy.
Here are a few ideas for developing a pattern of regular prayer on your own or with your family.
Create a time for prayer.
This might seem easy—you’ve got all the time in the world, now, right? But you still need to carve out this time. Turn off Netflix, set aside the phone (unless you’re using it for your prayers!), and create a time for quietness, for reflection, for prayer. Five minutes, ten minutes, a half hour—whatever you need, whatever you can do.
Create a space for prayer.
We often think “spiritual things” don’t require “physical space” and “physical stuff”—but that’s not true. We need physical space to pray. Sometimes, of course, that’s just wherever we are, whenever we need to pray. But when we can, it’s helpful to create a space set aside for prayer.
Maybe it’s a favourite walking path through town or by the lake, if you’re able to leave your home. Maybe it’s a favourite chair by a favourite window, a mug of tea in your hand and soft music playing. Maybe it’s at the kitchen table with pictures of your family in front of you. Maybe it’s a “shrine” you create in a quiet corner, with icons of Jesus set out around you, or a candle lit to represent the presence of Christ with you and within you.
Establish a posture of prayer.
I don’t just mean “physical posture”—though that is important, too, whether you are walking, standing, sitting, kneeling, or lying down. Find a comfortable physical posture, but one that will allow you to stay alert.
Even more, though, I mean your mental “posture,” a “posture of the spirit.” Take a few deep breaths in silence. You may find it helpful to imagine, after a few deep breaths in and out, that you are “breathing in the Spirit of God,” then “breathing out my fears [worries, anger, despair, etc.].”
It may be that this “wordless praying” is all you can do. Perhaps that’s all you need. If so, that’s fine. If you want words to pray, carry on.
Find words to pray, and pray them.
These might be words of gratitude for the good things you have, the good people in your life. These might be words of praise to God for who God is, how God has shown love and faithfulness to you. These might be words of lament, pouring out your sadness or disappointment or fear or even anger before God (God can handle it!). These might be words of faith, expressing your trust in God even through difficult times. These might be words of petition, lifting up other people to God, lifting up yourself to God, praying for specific needs.
These might simply be words like, “Spirit, enfold me in your presence,” or “Lord have mercy,” or “God, help us!”
You might find Scripture to be helpful in finding these words, especially the Psalms, which have been a prayer book for Jews and Christians for centuries. Here are a few specific Scripture passages you can check out if you need suggestions:
You might also find it helpful to use words others have written. The church has been passing on prayers for centuries, prayers tried and tested through every imaginable circumstance (even plagues). There are creative pray-ers writing fresh prayers all the time and sharing them with others. Here are some suggestions to check out:
“Take Our Moments and Our Days”: an Anabaptist prayer book,with Scripture readings and prayers and suggested songs that follow the church calendar (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, and ordinary time); available in book form to buy or borrow here (v. 1) and here (v. 2), or as an app for your phone here (Apple) or here (Android).
“Leading in Worship”: an online collection of worship resources by Carol Penner, Mennonite pastor and now a professor at Conrad Grebel University College; there are many excellent prayers on Carol’s website here or shorter ones on her Twitter feed here.
Finally, here are some resources we’ve used among us before, created by Pastor Michael:
“Lord, Teach Us to Pray”: a handout available here on “Praying in the Pattern of the Lord’s Prayer,” along with a prayer Michael wrote called, “The Lord’s Prayer for All People.”
“Soul-Shaping Prayer”: a blog post available here adapted from a sermon on prayer, giving further ideas on praying short, memorable prayers that shape us from the inside out.
May God bless and keep you during this time of sabbath.
May God’s face shine upon you, and be gracious to you.
May God embrace you in God’s very presence, and give you peace.